Friday, May 28, 2010

Answers: Dragons, Picard, and My Drinking Habits

Answers! They are all posted today for your reading pleasure. Hope you all have a lovely long weekend. Nick works Monday, so no fun for me. Hmph.

Morgan Ives: What's your favorite book on writing?
Uhhh, I don’t have one? Sorry. I probably should read a few books on writing, but I’ve kind of lived my whole life seat-of-the-pants. Reading about how to do something sucks the fun right out of it for me.

I mean, I couldn’t even follow the lego instructions as a kid because it felt like they were stifling my creativity.

Everything I’ve learned about writing, I’ve learned by screwing up. A lot. Though I can tell you one thing, everything started to improve once I read this blog:)

Emily White: What is your favorite color pen?
I like blue if I can have it.

Josin L. McQuein: Quick, what's the square root of 672? Just kidding, put down the X-Acto knife.
*puts down knife*

Color's already covered, so gel pen or rollerball?
Gel! Maybe it’s my left-handedness, but the rollerball always gives me trouble.

Erinn: What's the most overrated TV show on TV now? What's the most underrated?
Hmmm, I don’t watch much TV, so I haven’t seen enough shows to really know what’s overrated. Maybe I would say TV in general is overrated? But I will say you HAVE to watch Deadliest Warrior on Spike if you like weapons, history, and talking smack.

Which Manga was better as a manga instead of an anime?
I couldn’t get my hands on manga as a kid. I’m only 26, but just a decade ago you couldn’t just walk into Barnes & Noble and pick up a translated manga. Every time I go there now my teenage self fumes with jealousy.

No, if you wanted manga it was likely in Japanese, and I didn’t know enough to justify shipping it from Japan. Also, I didn’t have the cash.

So I lived on what I could get, and that was mostly anime though not as much as I’d have liked. The internet was still pretty new back then too, so I had to shell out 25 bucks for one VHS tape at the one store that carried it.

Oh, the days.

Thus I haven’t read enough manga to actually know the differences. I hope someday to rectify this. I just bought a couple of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and Fruits Basket, so maybe I’ll be getting to know the differences soon:)

C. Michael Fontes: Here is a simple one. Do you use any styled guides, and if so, which one(s)?
I lived on The Chicago Manual of Style when I was doing my editing minor. I haven’t looked it up lately, but that’s what I go to if I have questions.

Jennifer: Do you listen to music when writing?
Yes. I usually have certain Pandora stations for different books. Currently, I’m listening to a lot of Paramore for Transparent. A little Linkin Park, Evanescence, Fallout Boy, Cartel, etc. The ninjas were a combo of Hellogoodbye and Evanescence for the battle scenes. I also listened to a ton of Owl City while editing that one. When editing, I usually opt for “calmer” music.

Talli Roland: Er... do you drink wine? If so: white or red?
I’m, uh, Mormon. For reals. I’ve never had wine. When I lived in CA, I ordered a virgin pina colada and took a sip. It tasted funny. My dad checked it (he’s a convert)—not virgin. That is about the extent of my interaction with alcohol.

Oh, and Nyquil.

salarsen: Ugh, Talli took mine. What make of laptop/computer do you use??
I have a MacBook. I love it. I’ve always been a Mac fan. Not a fanatic, but a fan. It’s not like I have an iPhone or iPod, even. But I would love an iPad—I think it’s the first e-readerish device I’ve seen that I’d actually like to have. I won’t go there, though, that’s a full post waiting to happen.

Matthew Rush: Do you drink beer and if so Lager or Ale?
See Talli’s answer above. Basically, I don’t even know the difference between the two.

And do you and Nick ever game together?
We played World of Warcraft for almost five years together. He started before me, when we were dating. Actually, he got it midnight release. I’d watch him play and it looked so fun, though I’d never played an mmo before. I was a playstation/Nintendo baby. I grew up on Final Fantasy and all that.

Then I stole my brother’s WoW account when he left on his mission, maybe four months after the game released. I was hooked.

We just recently stopped playing, but I’d like to play something else if I had time and the game is cool. We also play DDR together, and we jumped around from a few mmorpgs here and there.

Abby Stevens: What is your favorite mythological creature?
Do ninjas count? If not, I really like dragons. All kinds of dragons—eastern and western versions. That’s one book I often think about going back to, my dragon book.

Nick: Kirk or Picard?
Picard. But if you mean romantically then neither. I like Picard because he looks like my dad. That, and I’ve never actually seen a full old school Kirk episode. And of course there's this video:

(new) Kirk or Spock?
Don’t make me choose! They’re both hot. And funny. And smart. Which is a fatal combination for me. You should know that;P

Neurotic Workaholic: How do you decide what to cut out of your drafts and what to keep?
Simple answer: I cut the stuff that sucks.

Longer answer: It depends on the book. Some books I overwrite, so there are scenes that don’t contribute or can be smashed together into one stronger scene. Other times it’s an issue of taking a wrong plot direction, so I have to cut that out and rewrite it better. Or I introduce a character that doesn’t pull their weight, so I have to kick them out and use another character that’s more important to the story.

Recently I, uh, cut the whole book and started from blank document. I chose this route because there were so many changes that it would be easier to do that than go through every chapter and edit, tweak, cut, etc.

It was a scary choice, but I’m very pleased with the results. The old stuff isn’t in the way—I’ve been able to look past it and create the story I believe was supposed to be there in the first place.

Liz: Do you have a critique group? If so, how did you find them?
Yup. I found them through blogging. You might even know Kiersten, Renee, Kasie, Sara, Carrie, and Steph. I hope you do, because they’re way cooler than I am.

There are lots of places to find crit groups, I’ve written a long post about what to consider here.

Myrna Foster: What's the last thing one of your kids did that totally cracked you up?
Dino Boy sings the Imperial March everyday. At one point he’d wake up singing it and come into our room singing it. Talk about an awesome way to start the day. It’s like living with a mini Darth Vader.

Now the Ninja Girl is singing it too, and it’s pretty silly hearing a 2-year-old do that. It kind of sucks out all the menace. I can’t help but laugh.

Nikkilooch: Do you write in chapters or one long story? If it's one long story, how do you divide it up later? If in chapters, do the breaks feel natural or do you just say "Ok, time to stop here."?
I write in chapters. When I think about a story, it naturally comes in these little chunks, almost like episodes for an anime or something, complete with commercial breaks, hehe.

I’m one of those people who gets easily overwhelmed. Chapters for me are something small to focus on. I’d get so turned around and stressed out without them.

Also, I believe there’s an art to chaptering. Kiersten does it amazingly well—I can’t wait for more people to know just how well. Chapter pacing needs to propel a reader forward. Chapters need to be their own complete stories almost, like short stories. They need to have their own rising action and mini climax. I like to have that planned out some.

I also prefer shorter chapters, since as a reader I need lots of small stops with my kids bugging me. So it needs to be tight, compelling, and able to keep me thinking about it when I have to run and get juice.

Pen: What is your favourite weapon of choice in your writing? (assuming you have one)
Ummm, words? Either that, or nunchaku.

I’m not exactly sure what you mean, but if you mean like a story device, I suppose I love the Big Surprise/Twist. I almost always have one in my stories, and I love love love when my readers say, “Wow! I didn’t see that coming!”

Ruth: How do you find the time? For writing, for family, for...everything?
It’s more of that old adage—I don’t find time I make time. I sacrifice things like TV and sleep and sanity. I try to put my family first at all times, but I’ll be honest and say that doesn’t always happen.

It’s a balancing act. I used to have a lot more time to write than I do now, but I don’t beat myself up because of that. I do what I can with the time I have. Sometimes that’s a sentence, sometimes it’s a couple thousand words.

The most important thing is to do something and don’t beat yourself up for all the things you can’t do. We’re human. Even me, despite the rumors:)

Unboundscribe: How do you get inspired when you feel burned out...for months?
I stop trying to be inspired and I just get to work. As I’m working, I often find the spark of inspiration again. Because here’s the hard truth—if you want to write as a career, it’s not about inspiration all the time.

It’s your job to write. Imagine if an accountant woke up and was like, “I don’t feel inspired to do taxes today. I’ll just not work.”

If you write as a hobby, then you shouldn’t feel bad about long breaks or not writing when you’re inspired. But if you want this for a job, you have to treat it like a job. Sadly, the work doesn’t get easier when you’re published—it gets harder. You have deadlines and expectations and people hoping to feed their families off your creative work.

So when I feel burned out (and I talked about one of my worst burn outs here), I give myself a little break to find my center again. Then I get back to work, at which point I discover that I do love what I do even when its hard.

Mary Aalgaard: What's your favorite snack to nibble on while writing?
I’m not a snacker while I write, but I do like to drink something. Usually diet Code Red or water.


  1. Woah, I feel like I know you so much better now. And you know your sci-fi/fantasy stuff. Good answer!

  2. Oh my gosh. Seriously, that video. Great questions and even more fabulous answers! It's always fun to read posts like this.

  3. Wow, great answers Natalie! Thanks for opening up for us so much.

    You're a Ninja loving Mormon? That's like crazy cool.

    Today's guest blogger is THE Elana Johnson!

  4. That video...oh man, so hypnotic. And it's an easy answer: Picard wins over everyone!

  5. Warning, this is a very random and jump-aroundy comment. I blame Locutus of Borg.

    YAY for Gel pens!

    (Don't feel bad about the not liking liquor thing. Some of us non-Mormons can't stand the stuff, either. Blech. >.< )

    LoL, Picard totally gets points for that video (and you know, actually being able to act unlike certain other starship captains who basically make a living making fun of their lack of acting skills.) But he loses points for the stupid Prime Directive. My favorite Star Trek was DS9.

    For New Star Trek, Spock gets points for making "Live Long and Prosper" mean... something... totally... different. :-D

    You're raising an Imperial Trooper??? Traitor!

    And now that I realize you're younger than me, I kinda hate you a little. ;-P

    ver word: kning -- the ruler over the Knights Who Say Ni!

  6. Big smile. Really enjoyed the answers and the questions. Seriously? Picard or Kirk? LOL!

    (P.S. -- Hope you don't mind, we put a link to one of your articles into Best Articles This Week for Writers.)

    Have a great weekend.


  7. Nice answers! It's so great to learn more about you!

    Have a wonderful weekend :)

  8. "Oh, and Nyquil."

    Haha. Dude, that stuff can be potent!

    My answers (as if anyone cares): Picard, b/c he's awesome, and Spock, b/c he's got the strangely sexy eyebrows. (Though yes, Kirk has the expectedly sexy eyes.)

  9. Wow, you answered them all. Nice. You may have just swayed me on a MacBook. I've been debating...

    Enjoy your long weekend, too.

  10. Great answers! Thanks for sharing and for letting us get to know you better!

  11. Great answers! It's always fun to get to know other writers even better. :-)

  12. Gross, you like BLUE ink?

    Well, I guess since you like dragons, Picard and drinking, we can still be friends. ;)

  13. Tere, perhaps you misread—I don't drink. At all. Unless you mean the Code Red and water...because I'm EDGY like that.

  14. That Picard video is like 40 species of AWESOME! I miss Data. And Jordi was too cute!

    Your critique group is the kewlest critique group in the world. You guys make me feel like the Trix bunny, " A rabbit can dream!"

    PS Have you ever noticed the Nesquik bunny gets Quik, but the Trix bunny never gets any Trix. sup with that? lol!

    PPS, Thanks for the book, starting tonight! Psyched! :)

  15. Thanks for sharing the Imperial March tidbit - very funny!

  16. Manga: Highly recommend Fruits Basket. It goes much, much farther than the anime (not surprising). It's a good ending too! Also, highly recommend Ouran too--lots of differences there--I've been reading the translated scans online since it takes them forever to get them over here in bound volumes in the States. But I always buy the volumes later!

    Also, not missing much with wine or alcohol in general. I can count the number of times I've tried it on one hand. Well, not counting the communion wine when I was growing up in Catholic church and that was like one sip a week. And the smell of beer is enough to make me sick. :P

    Have a great weekend!

  17. Tip:

    Lots, and I mean lots of free Manga is on this site called seriously, it's more than anyone can read in a lifetime.

    Thought you might like that.