Today we have a guest to talk about her book, but also the writing process that built and created the world she writes from. I met Honor at the beginning of October. Her passion about her novel, Jaunten, was as easy to see as my own love for Juniper Crescent. But when it came down to processes and the day to day book work, we couldn’t have been more different. I went the traditional route, with an agent and a publisher. Honor went all on her own and self-published.
But, enough about me, I’ll go ahead and hand this over to Honor.
“Jaunten” started as a dream. A really awesome, engaging, very realistic dream. Every night I went to bed, eager to see the story play out, eager to know what happened next. There was only one problem: I always woke up in the same place! It was frustrating beyond belief. I always woke up at exactly the same point (about chapter three) and my subconscious refused to go beyond that point. After three weeks of this, I threw in the towel and decided that something had to be done.
In an effort to get my subconscious out of the rut it was in, I sat down and typed out what I knew. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. I had dreamed everything from first perspective, so when I started writing it all down, I automatically assumed that my main character was a girl.
I stumbled to a halt about 12 pages into writing, not sure what the problem was as I obviously knew what happened next. Puzzled, a little irritated, I went to bed that night. I didn’t dream anything but when I woke up the next morning, the first thing out of my mouth was, “Oh, that’s why! You’re a boy!” A little bemused, I nonetheless got up and changed the pronouns from she to he, and then we got down to business.
My desperate plan worked – my subconscious got a move on and I got to see what happened next. Being wacky and fairly uncooperative, my brain did not supply the whole story in proper sequence. I got scenes at random, often towards the end of the story without any connecting information. In an effort to get it all straight, I kept writing it down.
One year after I started I sat down and connected everything into one main body—and blinked. I’d just finished a novel. Only the story wasn’t done yet, I still had a lot of things I wanted to do, and my main character (Garth) was still giving me scenes of what happened next.
For another two years, I kept writing things down, occasionally talking things through with my mothers and friends as I got stuck on some detail my characters hadn’t seen fit to give me. I never set goals for myself – I never gave myself a minimum of pages I had to write everyday. I tried it once and couldn’t write a word for three weeks. I don’t know how other professional writers manage that. I can’t even sit down and write a story from start to finish. My story creation process is like a huge jigsaw puzzle. I write scenes and chapters as they come to me and then when the main body of the story catches up to that point in the timeline, I paste the scene in and continue. My muse doesn’t work any other way.
There are things that help me get my muse in motion, especially when its being fickle and uncooperative. Music helps me a great deal. For some reason, Garth really likes “Crashed” by Daughtry. The main theme to “Remember the Titans” was also a good song to put on. Quite a bit of my inspiration actually came from the music that my brother writes. His music is epic, giving you the feeling that you can move mountains if you only tried, and fits the mood of my books perfectly.
Another thing that got my muse back into motion was to go hiking. Something about being surrounded by rich soil and ancient trees always got Garth into a talkative mood. (Thank heavens, otherwise I’d probably still be stuck!) If you’re the type of person that can’t move forward without an outline and at least a few character sketches, more power to you. I don’t recommend my methods as they are rather haphazard. It’s just how my mind works, and as long as it works, why fix it?
For all aspiring authors that aren’t sure how to tackle this great, crazy idea in your head, I have several pieces of advice:
1) If you haven’t developed your own writing style yet, do this: pick your top five authors and study how they create a story. Take apart their writing style and see what it is about it that you like. Take notes on the techniques that you think work the best. What did they mention while describing something? What didn’t they mention? How did they suck you into their world? etc. Then put together all of your notes and try to employ the same techniques.
2) Write, write, write and write some more! Practice does make perfect and that certainly applies here. A lot of professional authors would shoot me for saying this, but writing fanfiction is actually a great way to practice. It helps you develop your writing techniques because you aren’t distracted by trying to create characters or a universe at the same time. It also gives you instant feedback from your online peers on what did work and what you need to improve on.
3) Jump your English teacher after class, tie him to a chair, and interrogate the man on the finer points of grammar and diction. No, I’m serious! Nothing is more annoying than to be really involved in an excellent story and yet be constantly jarred back into the real world because the author keeps slipping up on the proper use of grammar, or they keep using words that are too trendy to fit into their literary world. You wouldn’t go to battle with a rusty sword that had a loose hilt, why would you go into the literary world with a shaky sense of grammar and limited vocabulary?
4) Everyone says this, but: Write what you know. I don’t mean limit yourself to only what you’ve experienced (we wouldn’t have fantasy and science fiction if people did that!) but incorporate into your story things that you have seen for yourself. People you know, incidents that has happened to you, funny quirks that people often do, that sort of thing. These elements bring a reality to your story, something that your reader can automatically connect to, and with that connection a sense of familiarity. We all like things that are at least a little familiar and that’s especially true in the book world.
5) Finally, do NOT hang all of your hopes on query letters and literary agents. Great heavens, but I spent too much time on that. I tried for three years to get published the old fashioned way only to discover that most of the great publishing houses only accept one new author every year. ONE. Their methods aren’t up to date anyway. Amazon and Barnes and Noble both allow you to publish ebooks on their sites for free and only charge you a 30% commission for each book sold. That means you get 70% royalties, folks, and you don’t have an editor twisting your arm to make changes you don’t agree with. You also hold all literary rights to your work and aren’t locked into a contract that gives you no room to maneuver like you would if you signed up with a publishing house. (Take it from me, I’m a paralegal, I’ve seen what these contacts lock you into.) With the right internet advertising (facebook, blogs, tweets, etc.) you can spread the word about your work just as effectively and make far more money off of it.
If you have questions on how to publish your book, writing your book, or the basics of internet advertising, I am happy to answer any questions. Send me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if you’re curious about my world you can visit my website at http://www.adventmage.net46.net/.
PS. You can find Jaunten here.