November 17, 2012

And I Answer

You ask, I answer!  Here comes Part II of the question-and-answer session - and there is going to be a Part III as well, so if your particular question hasn't shown up yet, fear not.  In some cases several people have asked a similar question, and so I consolidated my answers for ease and space.

becca asked...

1. Do you plot and plan, or do you work off of a basic idea?

In general, I’m a plotter and planner. For The Soldier’s Cross I wrote a massive outline, but I seem to recall scrapping it about two points in. For Wordcrafter, which is my complete-but-never-complete novel, I had general ideas in my head and a list of chapter titles to guide me. The White Sail’s Shaking and The Running Tide were written by the seat of my pants, and it was a very difficult ride; I don’t think I’ll be doing that again any time soon!

I like to have some ideas written down before I begin, even if it’s just a corkboard of individual words to boost my memory. Right now I’m outlining Tempus Regina, and trying not to make it as detailed as the one I had for The Soldier’s Cross; I like a bit of room to maneuver!

2. How do you come up with character names?

Characters tend to present themselves to me with the glimmerings of a personality, most times with a name attached, sometimes without, sometimes with a name that I’m not sure I’ll keep. With the scraps of personality, I can usually determine what kind of letter would suit them; then I run through that letter page of a site like Behind the Name until I find one that just “clicks.” I don’t usually do it based on the meaning of the name, but it’s interesting how often that name ends up having an appropriate meaning for the character or story.

3. Has anyone ever compared your writing to another popular author’s?

Not to my knowledge! I’m sure one of these days someone will; it seems to be a common feature of professional reviews.

4. What time of day do you usually write in?

I don’t have a set time where I open up my work and dig in; in general, it’s whenever I can snatch a moment. However, I do like to start writing immediately after I get up and prepare for the day. It starts the day off productively and encourages me in my other work as well.

5. Is self publishing for mediocre writers?

Ooh, touchy question! I’ll try to answer thoroughly and honestly. I do not believe that self-publishing is only, or has to be, for mediocre writers; sometimes it is for writers who cannot find any other niche. One example of this that spring to mind is Arthur C. Custance, an anthropologist and Christian whose works probably weren’t immediately taken by a publishing company because they were so unorthodox. He self-published, and was eventually taken up by Zondervan. Self-published books can be good, and there are a number of good reasons for going this route.

That said, I do think there is an alarming trend in publishing wherein writers skip the “traditional” process either through laziness, a lack of commitment, or a belief that editors have nothing to offer them. This is a dangerous position. Traditional publication is difficult, and often frustrating; I know that. But it also offers great benefits, not least because it provides a sort of filter for the literature being funneled onto bookshelves. I’m not saying it’s a perfect filter, or that it doesn’t often seem to be broken entirely. Bad books (heaps of them!) get by, and some good books probably don’t. But if you bypass it entirely and have every Tom, Dick, and Harry author (a hairy author? Ew!) releasing their books as soon as they’ve finished typing, we will be even more swamped with poor “literature” than we are now.

Self-publishing is something I believe should be considered long and hard before an author chooses that path. It can be used well, and sometimes bypassing the publishing houses is a good idea. But it can also be, and I think is being, abused.

6. If you found out that something was going to happen, and your writing would no longer be of any importance, would you still write? 

I love this question. It’s so unique! Simple answer: yes, I would still write. I don’t do it now to make an impact, although of course I hope it might. I write because there are stories in my head and I have to express and share them, or I wouldn’t be complete. I do “write for publication” in that the desire to share my work is part and parcel of why I write in the first place. But if somehow the whole industry went bust and everyone stopped reading entirely, I’d still write. Maybe I would only be able to express the stories to my family; and that would be all right by me. Maybe I would have to work at another job during the day; that would be all right, too. The need to create is too strong for me to stop because of a piddling matter of importance.

7. Can you write as well in a notebook as you can on a computer? 

I typically find that my writing is more polished on the computer than in a notebook, probably because of the ability to backspace and rewrite. I do, however, enjoy writing in a notebook; they say you use a different part of your brain when doing so. At any rate, I feel more free when writing by hand, but have a greater sense of accomplishment when typing.

8. With writing, and blogging, and other computer related business (mine is selling photography), do you find half of your life is spent on the computer, and do you ever fear your wasting time writing? 

I do spend a great deal of time on the computer, but schoolwork, reading, and family time give me a wider range of activities. I never really feel myself to be “wasting time” if I am indeed writing or doing other related things. When I start spending time rambling through my blogger feed or Pinterest pictures, then I realize I’m procrastinating and must move on to something productive. But because writing is what I do, and because I’ve always been encouraged in it, it never gives me the sense of time lost.

9. Do you find one page chapters permissible in some cases? 

Most things are permissible in some cases! I have seen one-page chapters in a few books—only The Gammage Cup is springing to mind—and they were quite acceptable. As long as that one page is really set apart and on its own, there’s no reason it can’t be its own chapter. I personally wouldn’t make a habit of it, but one or two in a book isn’t going to end the world.


  1. Hey that's exactly the same way as I feel about notebooks! I enjoy it but I feel like I've accomplished more when I write on the computer.

  2. Chapter headings sound like a great idea to help you keep on track! Never thought of that. That's something I usually fill in afterwards.
    Ha! I use the same method for name picking once in a while - behind the name, alphabetically.
    And thanks for your thoughts on self publishing! It can almost make you feel ashamed to admit you're self published, because of the connotation. There ought to be some standards. Not to say my work is perfect - it's not. But self publishing can get out of hand with some folks.
    Note book vs. computers - you summed up my thoughts! :)
    Thanks for answering all of those! You inspire lots of people.


  3. In the Red Rock mysteries, almost every other page is the end of a chapter and the start of another. The way the author does it though makes you want to read what happens next because he writes them really well with balanced suspense.
    Now in Peter and the Starcatchers, I think there are more than two or three chapters that are only a page long and it does get annoying sometimes.

  4. Great answers! Enjoyed.


meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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