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Q&A on My Writing Process

May 20, 2016

What's the first thing you do when you get a story idea? 
I usually just let it sit in my head for a long time before actually writing anything. If I don't forget about it and I can't think about anything else for a few days, that's a promising sign. At that point, I start to type my ideas on a note on my cellphone, and once it gets long enough to think it will turn into something, I transfer it to my computer to format as a document and begin writing. So a story idea goes from my head to my phone to my computer.

What's the hardest part about writing for you? 
It really depends on what I'm working on. Something that comes naturally for one story might be very difficult for another. Usually, it's just finding large chunks of time to write, and editing/revising can be a drag.

How do you find names for your characters? 
Baby websites! And a lot of time comparing names and trying to make sure they fit well with the character. This might seem trivial, but I tend to spend a ton of time picking names, because I think names can really change the vibe or feel of a story and its characters, at least in my head.

Do you outline your stories/What is your writing process like? 
I don't tend to outline my stories, although I do know people who prefer to plan like crazy before jumping into a project. I don't think there's one right way to write a novel, and I really think it varies from writer to writer. My process is usually as follows: I sit down at my laptop, write whatever comes into my head, and join my characters along for the ride. That's not to say it comes naturally, because it usually doesn't; I just mean that even when I have a plan for the ending of a story, I don't tend to think ahead from one page/chapter to another. However, every novel is very different. There's one story I'm currently working on that I don't think I'll ever be able to self-publish because it's just a 200-page document of different scenes in no particular order. In my head, I know how the story goes, but I don't think I'll ever be organized enough to put each section in the correct order, because it's very difficult and time-consuming, and I usually just prefer to write more scenes or work on different stories.

Do you base your characters off of people you know in real life? 

No, or at least I try very hard not to. However, it's inevitable for some aspects of my characters to be similar to aspects of people I know in real life, because it's impossible not to let my own experiences and people I know from affecting my writing to some extent. There is no way that I could ever create a character who is in every aspect unlike everyone I've ever known. 

How long did it take you to write your novels? 

Tess Embers took a little over a year. When Winters Cross took about four months. The first draft of The Bug Zapper only took one month, since I wrote it for NaNoWriMo. That makes it seem like every story I've written has taken a shorter amount of time than the last, but there are also a lot of stories I'm working on since before I released When Winters Cross, so it really just depends on the story.

What gives you inspiration? 

Mostly people. I tend to just absorb everything around me, such as people, conversations, scenery, other books, etc., and then I use my combined experiences to find motivation for new stories.

Do you try to finish every story you start writing? 

Definitely not! I finish every book I start reading, but writing is different. It's important to remember that there is a difference between giving up and simply choosing to stop working on something. I find that if a story stops feeling important or inspiring to me, it's healthier not to force myself to work on it. It's important to be committed to finishing certain stories or projects, but it's also important to enjoy what you're working on or at least to make sure it's important and worth your time. However, I would suggest that you never delete a story, even if you think that it's horrible or poorly written or has no hope whatsoever. They don't take up much space on your computer, and you never know when you might want to go back and read it, add to it, or take out a few quotes, scenes, or aspects for something else you're working on. I have a folder on my laptop labeled "Novel Graveyard," and there are 37 documents in there.

Do your family members help you write? 

No, but they are very supportive. However, my parents, brothers, and a few extended family members often read my books before I release them to help make final edits and check for typos, formatting errors, etc. 

Do you write your first drafts by hand or on the computer? 

I write my stories on my MacBook Air. However, I write journal entries in an actual notebook.

Do you find it easy or difficult to kill off characters in your books? 

I find it very difficult, especially if I loved the character or was attached to the character. I would argue that I'm more sad about writing a character's death than reading one, even though it's my own choice in my own stories. I don't think I've ever really "killed off" a main character in any of my novels, at least not in the ones I've self-published, mostly because I find that there's no need for it in the types of stories I write. I feel like (at least on the internet) a lot of people assume that YA authors such as John Green or Kiera Cass "kill" their characters just to be evil or because they think it's easy. So I'm going to repeat something that John Green has said in the past: acknowledging in my novels that death exists does not make me a murderer.

When you write by hand, do you write in cursive? 

No. I learned in third grade, but it wasn't enforced since then, and I was never very good at it, so it just slows my writing down rather than making it any smoother or faster. I do know a few teenagers who still write in cursive.

Do you keep a journal? 

Yes, but I use it to process events, rant about things, ramble, and jot down my thoughts. It's not very organized, and it doesn't really do a good job of actually documenting my day-to-day life.

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