Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ask C.J.

Because I get emailed or messaged questions throughout the week, I decided to start compiling them and answering them here twice a month in a column. It saves me time (I am already woefully behind on replying to things!), and gives others a chance to get answers to questions they might also have.

This week, I'm going to tackle 5 questions I was recently asked.

1. Miss Katie asked on Twitter "What do you do when facing writer's block?"

I determine what exactly is stopping me from writing. I don't believe true writer's block exists, but I do think our brains sometimes tell us a) something isn't working in the story, and we need to stop and search for the problem and a variety of solutions or b) our well of creativity is running dry, and we need to refill it.

If something isn't working, I retrace my steps to the last place where everything WAS working, and then start thinking through other possible scenarios until I see which way the story wants to go. Sometimes that means sitting down and listing every possible thing that could happen in the story until a clear picture forms. Sometimes that means calling one of my CPs and talking through the difficulty until the solution is obvious. (Side note: One of those convos is what lead me to decide to rewrite Defiance and include Logan's POV.)

If the problem is my well of creativity is running dry, I go fill it up. For me, that means watching a movie or a tv show in the same genre as my story, reading a great book, or just taking a break and running around with my kids. My brain is still working in the background.

I'm going to be honest, here, and you might not like it, but I think half of the time we say we have writer's block, what we're really saying is that the story is tangled up or the writing is hard now and the shine has worn off and we just don't want to make ourselves sit down and continue. Part of what separates those who've finished books and moved forward in their quest for publication and those who haven't is the discipline to write even when we'd rather light our laptop on fire and walk away. This is a really valuable skill to master early on because once you're contracted and under deadline, writer's block just can't raise it's ugly head for long at all.

2. Katie also asked: What advice do you have for those writing their first book?

I actually wrote a post on that, so I'll send you here. But in addition, I'm going to say that above all else, don't quit. Finish the book. Learn what you can from that experience. And start the next one. The only way you guarantee failure in this business is by quitting.

3. Aqsa Naveed asked: Do you like the good guy in a book or do you dig the bad boy?

Both! It all depends on how the character is written. I adore a well-written, fully fleshed out character. I love the ones who step up to be heroes and the ones who are twisted and scary. And if by "bad boy" you meant the angsty bad-boy-turned-reluctant-hero, I also enjoy those if they're done well. Character development is one of the things that can make or break a book to me. If I understand the character's motivations, and I feel like I'm under his skin, I will follow him anywhere.

4. Simon asked: How do you get all the physical description and personality about a character onto the page when you first meet that character?

You don't. If you try to, you'll have written what we call an "info-dump" and you'll be revising that right out of the manuscript. :) Don't worry, all of us did that when we started out. It's part of the learning curve. The best method is to weave in bits of description throughout the story, and to keep the description as minimal as you can without failing to deliver the character. You want just enough to let the reader have an idea of the character without putting in so much that it's a struggle to remember all of those details the next time the character enters a scene. As for personality, don't tell us anything. Show the personality through that character's dialogue and actions, and through the response of other characters.

5. Keli asked: How many wardrobe malfunctions have you dealt with during your release, if any?

No wardrobe malfunctions! No one is more shocked by this than me. It flies in the face of everything you've come to expect from me! After all, there is precedence for a clothing disaster while I'm up on a stage. And for me not paying close attention to my undergarments. Well, generally just not paying attention at all.

But luckily, no wardrobe malfunctions during an author event yet. However, I do have multiple events scheduled throughout the fall, so I'm sure I'll break my winning streak soon enough.

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