Monday, April 15, 2013

All Day Q&A!

Time for my only regular feature—the Q&A! Ask any question you'd like to in comments, and I will answer as soon as I can. All types of questions are welcome. You may ask more than one. If you prefer to ask on Twitter, go for it (the reply just won't be as long). I will answer all questions that are sent in before I wake up tomorrow morning:)


27 comments:

  1. I find I keep coming up with ideas for new books and have trouble picking what project to move on to next. Do you find the same, or do you spend longer coming up with one idea at a time?

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    1. Paul, I'm definitely in the "lots of ideas" camp. And sometimes I do have trouble picking what to write next. Other times there's an idea just begging to be written for one reason or another. I'm not sure why.

      When I can figure out what to write, though, I usually mess around and take it easy if I can. I take that feeling as a sign that maybe those ideas aren't fully developed yet and need a bit more time. Usually when I wait, the strongest one will eventually float to the surface. Then I'll pick it up and run with it:)

      I sometimes get asked if I write down my ideas as well, and my answer to that is no. I've found the strongest ideas stick in my head and refuse to be ignored. Writing them down confuses me. I only start writing something down (notes, outlines, chapters) when I've become committed to the project.

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  2. Do you sometimes wish there was another couple of hours in a day? I find myself thinking there's never enough time to get everything done, writing wise.

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    1. Ha, William, I just want LESS things to do:) The days are long enough as it is—I think I'd always find things to fill them up with.

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  3. I love Q&A days! Thanks for doing another one. :)
    This time, my questions are about goals. Do you write with word count goals? What goals guide you through revision? Personally, I love writing first drafts toward a certain daily word count, but I'm floundering in revision because it's not as easy to measure how much I'm revising. How do you know if you're revising productively?

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    1. Toni, I used to have a word goal of 1k a day. I would usually exceed that, but now I'm more lucky if I make it there with all the things on my plate. For some reason, that has always been the marker of "A Good Writing Day" for me personally. I think it varies for everyone. And I also don't beat myself up if I have "bad" days.

      As far as revision, I set my goals based on chapters. Revision easily burns me out, so I calculate how much I need to do to get it done in a certain time frame. Like, say I have 28 chapters. If I do 2 chapters a day, I'll be done in 14 days. If I do 4 chapters a day, I'll be done in 7. I usually like to spend about 2-3 weeks on a revision round, so I'll portion out my chapters accordingly.

      Now, if I have to write new scenes in revisions, that usually takes me a whole day to rewrite a new scene, so I also allow time for any of those kinds of things.

      I also rarely work on Saturday, and I never work on Sunday. I really think it's important to take a break from the "job," even when it might still technically be a "hobby." That's part of my goals, because I'm often tempted to work, work, work and that's not healthy.

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  4. Finished reading Transparent last night, and really enjoyed it. I will admit, however, to being a little disappointed with the ending (no spoilers, I promise!). Do you think you'll ever go back and write 'The Continuing Adventures of The Invisible Girl'? And also why/why not?

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    1. Hi, David! I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I will take your disappointment as a compliment because it seems you'd like more:)

      When it comes to sequels to TRANSPARENT, I am not opposed to writing more, neither am I against it. What it comes down to is if my publisher WANTS more. If I can't sell the sequel, I'm not going to write it, you know? That sounds very shrewd of me, but I've heard enough of my friends complaining/suffering through sequels to know that I want a guaranteed payment for my work. Work that will likely be super difficult.

      So. I guess the answer is "We'll see." I always felt TRANSPARENT was a self-contained story, but that there is much more to explore if it was wanted. Right now, I really hope for more, but understand if it doesn't happen.

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  5. How did you find your critique partners?

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    1. I'm on the verge of asking that question every time, too. Just to see if it gets any funnier or not.

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    2. I like to find the cutest authors and stalk them until they realize we should be bestest friends. Then I sit outside their house with binoculars all day, waiting for them to write.

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  6. Thanks for letting us pick your brain!

    What do you do when you know you don't know what you're doing? (Confusing, I know.)

    I finished drafting my novel and got all pumped up for revisions. I then quickly realized I have no idea what I'm doing. I've looked at author "revision checklists" and I'm still at sea. I looked and Nathan Bransford's revision checklist and found myself answering "I think so..." to all the questions listed.

    I thought maybe it's too soon to worry about it, maybe I'm still to close to the work? But then I remembered I finished in November, (yay NaNo!)

    When I look back through your blog you give good advice on your process for revision, but you seem to know already what needs to be done. I am only aware of one major issue, (timeline, shmimeline...) that needs fixing. How do you have such a comprehensive grasp of what the issues are in your finished draft?

    Thanks, Natalie!

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    1. Bethany, I'm not sure how long you've been writing, if this is your first ever novel or second or tenth. But from the questions you're asking, I'm guessing you might be a little newer to this. Sorry if I am wrong. I will answer the questions that way, but if you tell me "Uh, no I've been writing for 15 years you jerk," then I will answer them again, but differently:)

      So I'm currently writing my 15th novel. And let's face it, that is A LOT of practice. What I've learned about revision has come from many places, but the biggest one of all is actually DOING revisions. It's kind of like childbirth, you know? There's no way to know how it goes until you go through it.

      While it can be super overwhelming to start a revision (I always cry and freak out every time, I promise. Even now), you have to jump in and TRY. You probably won't get all the issues the first time. You may not even know all the issues, but you have to start somewhere and accept that there will probably be more to do down the line.

      My revision process also improved greatly when I started to have my work critiqued and ALSO when I critiqued others. When you reader for other people, you start to see things you wouldn't in your own writing. Then you realize you do the same thing and it doesn't work, and then you learn.

      I'm far from perfect, but my firmer grasp on revisions comes from a lot of plain trial and error. I've just revised *so many times* that I know my pitfalls and crutches and struggle points. I'm not sure there's any other way to figure that out besides revising a lot and learning how you write.

      It's such a process, you know? A scary process where you learn all your flaws as a writer—and sometimes as a person. But both the book and you come out better on the other side.

      I have no idea if that helps. If you need more clarification, please feel free to ask more questions:)

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    2. Yup, this is my first book I've actually finished. And, for that reason it's hard for me to admit it will probably never see the light of day. I was just hoping the "trial and error" part of the process had a fast-forward button. Rats. :)

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    3. I always believed in every draft I wrote. You have to. It's okay to believe that maybe you'll only have to write this one book and it'll be published:) It's also okay if that doesn't happen.

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  7. Okay, another question popped in my head:

    How do you organize your drafts? My first 13 chapters are one giant file, and then I began making new file for each chapter. But when I start making changes, (I'm doing in on paper first, my brain works better that way,) how would you recommend I organize it? I'm tempted to just make the changes to the existing files, but then I panic and think, "what if some of my changes suck and I want to go back to the original?"

    Any thoughts would be appreciated!

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    1. Bethany, I don't have any super fancy system. I write my entire draft in one document and usually title it with a 1 after. When i start a revision, I save the document again but with a 2. Then 3, and so on and so forth. I know, SUPER creative. But having revisions separated ensures I don't "lose" anything if by chance I need to find something i changed.

      But for the record, I have NEVER gone back to an old draft version. The revision is always better.

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  8. How did you land your job with Torment? What are video game developers looking for when they hire a writer?

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    1. Becca, it was one of those very rare cases of "who you know." Everything I've done in publishing has been dry—plucked from slush, knew no one, never been to New York, you know? But along that road I made friends with a writer living in Thailand with his wife and gaggle of foster kids. He wrote about pirates. I wrote about ninjas. Many jokes were made. We would read for each other here and there.

      Well, that guy was Adam Heine, who worked on the original Torment. I really had little idea of his past work, but he approached me about the game and I said HECK YES. I didn't know for sure if it would happen until pretty late into the Kickstarter, since it all depended on funding. But I am SUPER excited and I feel really lucky!

      I'm not really sure what ALL game devs are looking for when hiring writers, but the Torment team is clearly focused on people who care about a story and character, which are things that are integral to the game's tradition. So they were looking for writers that would also care about that. I wish more games would feature this kind of attention to story:)

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    2. Thank you! :3 Oh, and if I haven't already said it, congrats on Torment and Transparent! Can't wait to get my hand on a copy! (Psssh....stupid college taking all my extra money that I'd rather spend on books.)

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  9. How much did you research for Transparent and House of Ivy & Sorrow? Do you research as you go or do you get as much done as you can before you start writing? What are your favorite resources?

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    1. Momlarky, for TRANSPARENT I did a fair amount of research because it has more scientific routes. The book gets categorized in many different ways, but the concepts at the world's roots are biological science. This is why I call the book Bio Punk.

      I did some research on mutation and also a lot on the Cold War, since that was when the mutation-responsible drug in TRANSPARENT was created. I read things, but I also watched a show called Stan Lee's Superhumans that featured people today who do have pretty extraordinary mutations/abilities. And of course I took a lot of inspiration from my favorite comic: The X-Men. Except I wanted the mutations to have a firmer biological explanation.

      In contrast, HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW was very little research. It takes place in a mad-up town, I crafted the magic system on my own, and I just plain made up most of it. I did some minimal map referencing in Iowa (where it takes place), and stuff like that. Nothing I would call real research.

      As for sources, I've found asking librarians is awesome. They give you stuff and are so helpful and it saves a lot of time to ask the pros. Wikipedia is always a good place to start, and a lot of times I search Netflix for documentaries. There are a lot of them on there.

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