How do you begin a new project? Are you a plotter (outliner) or a pantser (free writer)?
Ideas for my writing, whether short stories or novels, begin with the experience of a place. That becomes the seed that grows into a tale. It is not only the setting you could view in a photograph, however beautiful, but the feeling, emotion, and sensation of the place.
While hiking in the woods of Vermont with my family, we encountered a waterfall along the trail that cascaded into a bowl formed in stone. One of my daughters and I jumped into the invigorating, frigid pool of water. The memory of that sensation amidst the breathtaking beauty of clear water, stone features carved from eons of water flow, and hearty vegetation, later sparked the idea for a story. My mind spun a story leading up to that place and to an ending from that place. Throw in a few characters along the way and The Field Trip was born. Two-thirds of the story takes place along Long Trail in Vermont. The novel is "An adventure mixed with a touch of fantasy. Add a twist of love." Some might classify it as light science fiction.
In a mystery thriller currently undergoing final editing, Three Remain, the inspiration stemmed from frequent walks in a heavily wooded area of Michigan combined with a recollection of a spectacular meteor shower I witnessed in the night sky over that location. Nearly two-thirds of the story transpires in that rural area from landscapes and surroundings burned in my mind.
I begin a story with an outline I put hours and hours of work into creating. I define characters and plot in the outline. But as I write, the outline falls aside as the characters and plot takes on lives of their own. A new main character may appear because he or she or it want to be part of the adventure. The plot may meander to areas I did not intend or want it to go. So, to answer the question, “Are you an outliner or free writer?” I have no freaking idea.
Do you write long-hand with a pen/pencil and paper or do you write on a computer?
Oooow…oooow…I know the answer to this one! I can’t write long-hand. I can sign my name but that’s about the extent of my long-hand ability. I began writing by printing on paper with a mechanical pencil. I drafted three and a third novels that way. I slowly evolved to work more directly with a computer. All my work now is created on my computer. Only when the computer is not available to me, do I revert to writing (in print) on paper with a mechanical pencil.
Do you write every day? What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?
I usually write every day unless life gets in the way. Most of my writing is done late at night, or in the early hours of the morning, like three or four AM. I discipline myself for time not to work on my next novel, otherwise I would spend too much of my waking hours writing. Family, and other interests like eating need attention, as does writing website posts, and continuing to pursue marketing avenues.
Have you ever tried writing outside your “comfort zone”? If so, what were the results?
I am enamored with writing novels. I have one published (The Field Trip), and an upcoming novel, (Three Remain) in editing, a third drafted, and concepts for two or three more in mind. Short stories are not in my comfort zone. Short stories invoke other writing disciplines unnatural to me, but I recognized the benefits of first getting short stories published. So, I wrote some. They all began with the intent of being science fiction, however transformed somewhere during the writing process to other genres. For example, one turned into a Holiday animal superhero tale, and another into a humorous mystery. Fortunately, a few were picked up for publication in anthologies. I will continue to write them occasionally, but they remain outside my comfort zone.
What are your favorite writing and research tools?
This is the easiest question by far. My answer: My laptop. I prefer backlit keys, although the one I use now doesn’t have. That make me sad. I like pretty lights.
How many drafts does it usually take to bring your manuscript to “The End” and ready to submit to your editor?
There is not “usually” for me. Certainly more than twenty or thirty, but there is no upper limit. Whenever it’s as close to “being ready” as you judge. I believe it’s a significant benefit for critique readers to get it before your editor. Once you’re over hurt feeling about it not being perfect, more edits are in store before the editor sees it.
Are the names of the characters in your writing important? What about the titles? How do you choose them?
Is your name important? The characters are real people (or whatever else with feelings) too. Yes, character names are important otherwise they might not behave themselves and just sulk throughout the whole book.
I believe book titles are critical for getting a potential reader to take a chance on the book. It’s a first impression of the story. Understanding I have no expertise in choosing the best title, this is what happened on my upcoming book.:
The working title for the new novel has been “Sunshine at the Oasis” since its inception. I have assumed this would be the published title until both my editor and an individual who I rely upon for insightful critiques both said, "No, sounds good but doesn't capture the essence of the story."
My Argument for “Sunshine at the Oasis”:
“I like it and it does have meaning for the story.”
The debate ensues.
Those opposed: "There's no oasis in the story."
My argument: "But yes there is." And then I proceeded to define "oasis" and why it relates to the storyline.
Those opposed: "No, I don't agree. And 'Sunshine' doesn't give proper attention to all the main characters in the story."
My argument: "But it has a double meaning and…"
Those opposed: "No. Get over it."
My argument: "But…"
Those opposed: "No."
The title of my upcoming novel has changed from 'Sunshine at the Oasis' to ‘Three Remain.’
It is the right title for the book.
How do you react to a negative review on one of your manuscripts?
I assume since the question used the word “manuscript” that this references before publication. Once over the inevitable bitterness, I let the reasons for the negative review swim around in my head for a while and decide if adjustments in the story should be made.
What was your favorite scene or poem to write, and why was it so enjoyable?
I have a few favorite scenes in each book and they usually result from the ultimate solution to a section of the story I struggle to write. This usually happens during one of the many edits. For example, in “The Field Trip” I felt I needed to add more interplay between two characters. I struggled to imagine an appropriate passage for the purpose for nearly two days until a friend mentioned running out of gas during conversation. That sparked the idea for a scene nearly a chapter in length concerning the characters being in a helicopter that was running dangerously low on fuel. That became one of my favorite scenes in the story. Well, I didn’t actually write it. The two characters wrote it for me.
What is your best advice for beginning writers?
Write, don’t just talk about writing. You’ll figure out the rest eventually if you’re passionate enough. I’ve been a part of a few writer’s groups and I discovered that over 95% of the writer’s that talk about writing a novel, either never begin, or find a personal excuse to stop. If you want it bad enough, do it. Learn as you go. Writing is learning. When I read the first draft of my first manuscript, I groan. It’s horrible. It’s terrible. But, it was a beginning.
Written by R.A. Andrade...
On The Shelves of The Scriptorium!