Composed in this blog post are thirteen frequently asked questions in which I have been asked personally, have witnessed others ask, or have unveiled during research. Taking each question, I answered each one based off careful consideration and my own writing experiences.
Frequently asked questions are common amongst many subjects. From cooking to clay sculpting, sewing, scrapbooking, and more. Even writing has its own list of common wonders.
FAQ #1: Do I need to include an antagonist in my story?
When I wrote my first book, I had a mixture of poor plot and poor characterization. Both are critically damaging for the so-called “perfect novel.” I learned many things about characters after finishing the 300 page less-than-masterpiece. First, protagonists and antagonists should both exist in a story. Originally, I had created characters in my story just for the sake of existing. Reanalyzing, many of them offered nothing towards the greater good of the book. Now, I firmly believe that all characters must offer something and give meaning to the story. This means that an antagonist should be developed. Quite frequently, the antagonist is the main source of conflict. Conflict is what a reader searches for. The conflict is what intensifies anticipation and the itch, urge, push, for the audience to want and need more.
FAQ #2: How much backstory is too much?
Backstory is often times considered bland, boring, and pointless. Going “back in time” just to have the reader become caught up can make their interest dwindle. Backstory does hold relevancy and importance to what made the character arrive to this point in time and what life events are still directly impacting them. From that standpoint, backstory is necessary. However, because it is taking the reader to the past, it can something pass as dry writing. To make the backstory in your writing more fun and rhythmic to read, do not insert a lot of thick paragraphs. Take advantage of dialogue and quick exchanges, as that can create a so-called beat for the reader as they read. Making backstory more entertaining can help the reader not dread the inevitable. Likely, a reader is not hoping and wishing to read a twenty page chapter about backstory. It’s a lot, it’s an overload. Give the most important facts and deliver them in intriguing doses.
FAQ #3: Should I edit as I write?
Over the years, my opinions and thoughts regarding editing have shifted. But I will share what I believe as of now. Through my response, it is likely that I might bash the original teachings of the writing process. The ones taught way, way back in Elementary school. Sorry, but the process just might be a bit faulty. First off, writing and editing are different. Editing is more in-depth and requires, to a certain degree, dissection of your story. It is breaking down the text into pieces, before tearing them into tinier crumbs. Taking on the role of an editor requires consideration to the true meaning, from sentence to overall theme. Eyes of accuracy amongst grammar and more is also key. While editing does consist of much detail, writing, in the simplest sense, is organizing words that match, make the most sense, describe, and empower. Writing needs to be read, re-read, updated, and changed as more chapters become added to the story. That right there, folks, is editing. To make sure information stays precise and accurate, editing shouldn’t necessarily be saved for the end. Give each chapter the proper time it needs to be developed. Then, read a string of chapters together to catch yourself up and remind yourself how the story did advance and should continue. Edit as you go and numerous times after the draft has concluded. Editing isn’t conscious of a schedule.
FAQ #4: How do you write?
I like to think I write well and ambitiously. But I know that wasn’t the answer you were hoping for. Though, this question is an odd one to answer. Each writer writes differently because the stories they wish to tell differ and so does their signature style. The outlining and preparation process prior to the first word also ranges from writer to writer. This question is extremely open ended and would result in many various responses with each author that was prompted. Writing is just putting the proper word right besides the next. But to begin writing you must know what you want to write about, who your characters will be, and all of the ins and outs of your plot. Without the motivation, determination, and passion you will not survive in the writing world. Not everyone is a perfect fit for the written word.
FAQ #5: What should I write about?
Always write what you want. My favorite writing quote, which also happened to be my senior quote in high school was, “If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it.” – Beverly Cleary. I truly, truly believe that and refuse to question my plots because I know they are different than what is currently on the shelves. It is best to write what you know, what you are familiar with, and what you are feeling. Write within the genres you like and enjoy the most. While sticking with what you are most knowledgeable about is important, feel free to explore, experiment, try something new. A large portion of writing is research-based. For example, complete research on a certain job you wish a character to obtain. Study up on a certain diagnoses in which you want a character to live with. Do not be afraid of research when it comes to the integrity and future of your unfolding novel.
FAQ #6: Should I outline?
I have come to discover that outlining is a more loose guide rather than a solid set of mandatory structure. Outlining gives great opportunity to organize and plan characters, the escalation of plot, the exact point in time where the conflict climbs before recedes. An outline provides a base to begin and a general understanding of how all points of the story will connect by the time the final page is scripted. I do encourage outlining, but only to do so up to a certain point. An outline should provide space and opportunity for spontaneous ideas, scenes, and more. It is okay to venture out of the outline and to not have it control you. Remember, you are fully in control of your story. Feel free to flip and change elements of your outline.
FAQ #7: How do I get over writer’s block?
I read a quote once. I can’t remember its exact words or who even spoke the quote, but its premise stated that writer’s block does not exist, but is rather a sheer sign of laziness. I disagree with this statement. In fact, I think writer’s block is a sign of being a true writer. However, what is laziness is claiming that there is no time to exercise your artisticness or creativity. Writer’s block can make a writer hit a wall and question all of the words that followed this unexpected disturbance. The ways to overcome and conquer is different for each writer and the results upon each attempt will vary. You see, each diagnoses of writer’s block lasts for an undetermined length of time. Sometimes a week at minimum, while other cases last for a month or more. Medication can’t necessarily be perscribed, unfortunately. But some precautions can be made. My recommended list is as follows: listen to music, read a book, watch a television show, look around outside, people-watch, work on a hobby, etc. You may want to try to not think about your story for a few days prior to returning with fresh eyes and a rested mind. This can give your mind a break and the perfect amount of time to replenish your daily supply of content and words.
FAQ #8: Should I publish under a pseudonym?
Personally, I have no plans to publish under a pseudonym. I do plan on using my first and middle name, however, dropping my last name completely. The name in which one publishes under is clearly a preference with a solid reason behind the name. If you want to publish under your actual name, go for it. If not, come to a decision on the pseudonym and then go for it! In my opinion, if your story is stellar enough, the name you publish under will mean very little.
FAQ #9: Is it okay to write more than one book at once?
It can be hard to balance the writing of a single novel, so taking on more than one book can make the struggle multiply. But it can be done. I typically do not write multiple books at one time, but that does not mean I am not planning future books while I am working on a particular story. I think it is okay to want to write more than one book at one time. It can definitely keep the storyline flowing as well as your inspiration. However, avoid neglecting a particular story for a long period of time. Try to give each book balanced attention in order to avoid forgetting its progression, themes, and character goals.
FAQ #10: Do you ever hate writing?
Hate? No. Dislike? No. I truly always love writing. I enjoy it more than anything else on the planet and floating through the universe. Seriously. That is not to say, however, that there are moments of struggle, doubt, and second-guessing. But what part of life is absent of all those things? The thing about writing is that the times of struggle can only lead to success and a vivid sense of relief and satisfaction when overcome. Writing is all about flow, so you have no choice but to go with the flow of the writer’s block, deleted pages, swapped plot ideas, etc.
FAQ #11: How do you find time to write?
Writing is high-priority for true writers. For us, it is easy to scope out time to do so. Many writers set a specific time during the day in which they dedicate to sitting in front of notepad, typewriter, computer, etc. Certain times of the day can positively inspire writing, whether that be morning, afternoon, or even the wee hours of the night. If you look, time can exist for anything you truly want to do.
FAQ #12: What if people hate my writing?
It is crucial to avoid the mindset that just because you wrote something does not automatically make it good or semi-decent. However, because you did write something the power exists for it to be good. It is inevitable that people will not like your writing. But to the same token, many people will enjoy it and find each word worth-while. Not everyone will be a fan of what you write and how you write it. It is always a good idea to be open to critiquing, workshopping, and improving.
FAQ #13: How diverse should my characters be?
We live in an age where diversity is pushed and strived for more than ever. Many people expect diversity to reach the characters in which they read. Beyond basic appearance such as eye color, hair color, and other small appearance details, I do not describe my characters in great length to reveal diversity, such as religion, culture, race, etc. I do not do it for discriminatory reasons, but I think it is up to the reader to visualize a character with their own reasons and assumptions. By not declaring a character to be a specific race, the reader is able to imagine for themselves. However, since each person on the planet is so vastly different, it makes sense to have characters reflect the many personalities, interests, and appearances that people have in real life. It can make a more relatable story and your readers might admire you for that. When I develop characters, I do not picture them to have a specific race or be involved in a certain religion. I consider them more in terms of how they will fit into the story and what they will offer as well as how they will grow from page one to page one hundred. While many people search for diversity, just because a novel is absent of such things, does not make it a bad story.