FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (F.A.Q.)
Below are the ten most common questions I get pertaining to my writing. As with everything else I do, I am constantly learning and developing my writing styles, processes and techniques.
WHAT GOT YOU INTERESTED IN WRITING?
As a child, I was read to every day by my mother; she also compiled a short biography for me filled with photos that I enjoyed reading. I also loved listening to stories. My life has always been surrounded by books; my favorite place to visit was the library. In addition, to motivate myself to keep writing, I spend a lot of time in bookstores, telling myself, “Your books are going to be here someday.” I was also fortunate to have wonderful teachers who encouraged me to read and write.
Ever since I realized that there were actual people who wrote my favorite stories, I wanted to become a writer. I was eight, and had all the time in the world. I figured that if people could use writing as a medium to express ideas and tell stories, then so could I. I also wanted to express ideas that I thought would fascinate my readers. I wanted to pull them into my fantasy world, so I could motivate and empower them to change our real world.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS/INSPIRATION?
My ideas come from many different places. The media helped a great deal. When I noticed what topics interested people, I wanted to write about that. My friends shared their ideas, whether it's building on an existing thought that I put on the mental back-burner or creating something new. Also, my cat, Nuevo, who passed away a few years ago, used to subconsciously feed me ideas and calm my nerves just by lying on my bed; or at least I believed that. My current cat, Benjamin keeps my lap warm while I type.
In my opinion, if you're trying to write, it helps if you switch up your scenery. Writing in the same place with the same things around you can be a bit boring (unless, of course, that stability is what helps you write – everyone is different). Most of the time, I write at the computer in my bedroom, but sometimes I do it on a notebook at my local library or bookstore, or on the subway, or even in class (Shh!).
HOW DO YOU CREATE YOUR CHARACTERS?
Every single character I’ve ever written about (including the ones in The Shadow Twins) contains a small part of my personality. Like some of my characters, I’m serious, slightly intuitive, protective of my friends and family, and tend to want to be in control of everything that heavily involves me. However, my characters are constantly developing, and so am I. After the “setup” of my character is complete, and the sides of their personality have gotten a chance to appear in the manuscript, I can sort of see that some of my characters are like some of my friends, too.
DO YOU EVER GET WRITER'S BLOCK?
Yes, I get writer’s block. Some authors will tell you that writer’s block doesn’t exist, but I believe that there are days where you sit at the computer and you just can’t write a single thing, no matter how hard you try. I think it’s because of either a lack of motivation, or that there’s something else that you’re subconsciously more focused on. Maybe you have exams to study for. Maybe your boyfriend/girlfriend broke up with you. Maybe you are unsure about what to write next. I’d say the best thing to do would be to occupy your time with something you love, like reading. Writer’s block can be a pain, to say the least, but fortunately, it subsides…eventually.
CAN YOU FORCE YOURSELF TO WRITE?
I don’t think you can, especially when it comes to expressing creativity through stories. At least, I can’t make myself write creatively. The ideas just come to me, usually when I’m trying to fall asleep at night. Once, when I was thirteen, I had to write a song for a book we’d just read in class. For three hours I’d tried to come up with a single line, to no avail, so I gave up and went to bed. Then, at midnight, I got up and finished the entire song in about half an hour. If you have to write an essay or assignment for a class, you may have to cut off all contact/distraction with the rest of the world, sort of; sit at a desk, and make yourself write. Some people work best under pressure, but, personally, I let my mind work spontaneously and then ideas seem to flow much clearer and better. When they do, I can finish a short story within a two hours or so. Despite all this, I do believe in the practice of daily writing, to form a habit. Even if you have nothing to say, just write, “I have nothing to say.”
WHAT DO YOU MOST/LEAST LIKE TO WRITE ABOUT?
When I started writing, at age eight, most of my stories fell within a small margin. They were mostly about a girl who moved to a new country and had to start a new school and make new friends. I think I wrote like this because it was what I knew. My family moved to the small Caribbean island of Grenada from Canada while I was eight, and I was a girl in a new country, who had to start a new school and make new friends.
My stories were hand-written, as I had almost no idea how to use a computer. Now, I’ve written about a wide variety of topics, to include: superheroes, vampires, werewolves, fairies, aliens, and then some. My favorite topics to write about are also my favorite topics to read about: action-adventure, fantasy, romance and science fiction; some of them cross over. While I enjoy reading mystery books and thrillers, I currently don’t have the patience to write one.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO WRITE A BOOK?
This depends on how much you write at a time, and the length of your book. Sometimes it can take weeks, sometimes it can take years, decades even! At times, you can approximate, based on your planning: if you expect to write one chapter a week, and you estimate your book has forty chapters, it’s going to take forty weeks (about ten months). In my opinion, you must also allow time for research on the topic that you are writing about. One of my novels takes place in Paris, and I Googled everything I could about the city, from popular restaurants and hotels, to famous landmarks and attractions, even street names! The duration from writing the beginning of my first book, to the end of my fifth book, spanned from September 2008 to August 2011.
HOW LONG SHOULD A YOUNG ADULT (YA) NOVEL BE?
There is a spectrum, but, honestly, this depends on the publishing company. From what I’ve read, the mainstream young-adult novels are between 45,000 and 80,000 words. My first novel, “The Shadow Twins,” is a little over 80,000 words. However, I’ve completed manuscripts that are almost 180,000 words. It’s not to say that if the book doesn’t fall within that range it won’t get published. It’s just the standard.
WHAT'S YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
I get this question a lot. I think the most important thing to writing any book is to have the right amount of motivation. If you don’t have enough motivation, you’ll start writing the first couple chapters or so, and then stop because you’ve run out of juice. Speaking of running out of juice, when my ideas for writing start to flow, I immediately set up the plot of the story—chapter by chapter, going into as much detail as I can about the initial incident, the characters, the conflicts and the climax. I call it a ‘plot setup.’ That way, if I get sidetracked or forget what I’m supposed to be writing about, I check the setup and get back on track. The setup also helps me to fit writing into my schedule – I can choose which chapter to write and when. It is also helpful to do corrections after you write down the plot setup. If you keep editing as you write, you may lose some invaluable ideas.
WHY DO YOU WRITE STORIES?
I love ‘why’ questions. I write stories because they allow me to imagine new worlds of which I am the Creator and in which I can make anything happen – infinite possibilities! It is an extremely powerful feeling, when you are in control. Sometimes, the ‘real’ world doesn’t function as I would like it to, so retreating to a world of fantasy or vivid imagination is a safe, temporary escape. And, my friend, that transitory haven, is very exciting and comforting; it helps me cope with any challenges of the real-world. As a bonus, writing is fun!