I’ve never done a writing tag before and until a few months ago I didn’t even know what one was! If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, a writing tag is ten set questions that relate to a writing theme, for example, character, routine or dialogue. An author answers these ten questions in relation to their own WIP (work in progress) or process and then they tag another writer to do the same.
This writing tag came from the YA author Kim Chance who has an active YouTube Channel you can find here.
1.CURRENT STORY: What is your current story idea that you’re working on right now?
Right now, I’m completing my Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Critical Thinking and Creative Writing. Part of my dissertation is producing a 10,000-word novella, so most of my focus is on that! The project is a time travel narrative and the central themes are women’s bodies, identity, technology, will vs predestination and hidden knowledge. However, I am also adding a few minor tweaks to my soft-boiled crime novel and editing a YA fantasy series (published under a pen name).
2. SPARK OF INSPIRATION: Do your ideas begin with characters, plot, world building, or something else entirely?
In terms of writing, my stories never begin with character. In terms of reading, character is often the reason I stick with a story. Hmmm, that’s rather interesting…maybe I should do a blog post on that? Anyway, the initial spark of inspiration for my YA series was a plot idea. However, my crime novel was driven by a curiosity to explore specific themes. When it comes to short stories, again, the need to explore a particular theme or personal curiosity is often the driving force, that and competition deadlines!
3.BRAINSTORM: How do you puzzle piece your story elements together? Do you start with the ending and make your way to the beginning or vice versa?
The climactic scene of my crime novel occurred to me while driving home from work. At the time, I was 20,000 words into the manuscript, and being the huge Stephen King fan that I am, I decided to write without an outline. As a result, I had no idea where the story was heading. Even though this particular scene did not end up being the novel’s “true” climactic scene, it provided some much needed direction. Now that I knew where my characters were going to wind up, I could work my way backwards and figure out how they got there.
Some people warn against outlining, but it definitely has its place. Though the actual writing of the story occurred in chronological order, my approach to outlining and writing was loose and tactile. At one point, I was struggling to get a sense of my story as a whole, so I wrote all the key plot points onto palm cards and began playing with the order of events, adding and removing scenes as I saw fit. Not only did this open up a ton of possibilities in terms of structure, it was an effective way to “see” the book as a whole while also injecting a sense of play into what can become a mechanical left-brained process.
You don’t have to figure out every scene and plot turn, but I think it is immensely useful to have some idea of where you are heading.
4. KEEP OR TOSS: How do you know when you want to keep or dump a story idea?
You know an idea is worth pursuing if your thoughts tend to drift towards it naturally. Though the actual writing may be challenging, if your thoughts constantly return to the same group of characters, a plot premise or a string of dialogue (I often “hear” my characters in conversation with one another), then that’s a pretty good indication that you’re onto something. That being said, writing is doing, not thinking. A story that is intriguing in your mind may be flat and dull on the page. If this happens, you can either tweak the story, polish the prose or accept defeat and move on to something else. Unfortunately, you won’t know if a story is going to work until you write it.
5. ORIGINAL IDEA: How much of your original idea for your story is actually used once everything is finished?
Outlining is a useful tool, but that doesn’t mean that your writing can’t be fluid or spontaneous. Often, the story will tell you where it needs to go, and if it doesn’t, that’s why you have an outline!
If you have to force your scene to fit an outline, forget it. Write the scene the way it wants to be written and adjust the outline accordingly. If the new scene really doesn’t work or if it stuffs up the trajectory of the whole novel, your choices are simple, either a) scrap the scene and rewrite it as per the outline b) tweak the scene so that it does work with the outline or c) be brave and change the trajectory of your story.
In terms of my WIP, the core premise has remained consistent for the past four years: a woman meets a ghost with amnesia. However, every detail around that premise has changed.
6. HIDE OR SHARE: Do you share your book ideas with friends or keep them a secret?
I keep them secret! TOP SECRET!
About eight years ago, I had an idea for a novel that was 1/3 fiction, 1/3 biography, and 1/3 memoir. The aim of the book was to thread different time periods and multiple first-person perspectives into the tapestry of a family drama, and I told everyone who would listen how I planned on doing this.
The result? I killed the story.
By talking about my idea and inviting others to express their opinion on the project, I nutted out my themes, plot, structure, and characters. I eliminated all mystery. When I sat down to write the story I’d been TALKING about for months, I got ten pages in and quit. It was boring. I’d already figured out every finite detail of the story and it was D.E.A.D. Dead. Since then, I’ve always remained tight-lipped about my projects.
I have two takeaways from this experience. Firstly, most people don’t care about your creative project. They want a single sentence answer/update and then they would very much like to talk about something else, thanks. This lack of care may mean that they offer half-baked opinions or shallow critiques because they simply want the conversation to move on. Secondly, don’t give away the story’s magic. The last thing you want is for someone to muddle up your story with all their opinions before you’ve had the chance to familiarise yourself with said story. If you discuss your project in depth with others, you are wiping out all mystery (which is the fun part) and you are losing your grip on the delicate relationship between you and the work. I don’t want to talk the story out of my body, out of my bones; I need to keep it with me and in me until it’s truly ready to be read by others.
7. DREAM: Have any of your book ideas originated with a dream/nightmare?
I wish I could say yes, but truthfully I’ve never had this experience. That being said, I’ve got a closet full of nightmares that could easily fuel a gruesome short story collection.
8. DOPPLEGANGER: Have you ever had an idea for a story but then see a similar premise in a book/tv-show/movie?
ALL THE TIME! I remember writing the first draft of my crime novel and seeing a re-run of an early Criminal Minds episode where the serial killer was embalming their victims. Though my protagonist is not a serial killer, she is an embalmer. The fact that the episode went into some depth regarding the embalming process and the professional in general unnerved me deeply, and for a few days after, I was worried that my story had lost its edge.
9. BIG SCREEN INSPIRATION – Have any of your favorite movies/tv shows sparked ideas for scenes in your book?
Not explicitly no. However, all films and TV have influenced me as a writer in regards to story structure, narrative pull, pacing and plot. Actually, that being said, an earlier (and much darker) version of my crime novel reminded one beta reader of True Detective Season 1, but the mood of the manuscript has shifted since then.
10. NOSTALGIA: What’s the oldest/first story idea you remember coming up with/writing down?
When I was eight, I wrote a story about a girl named Cindy who lives in a small town overshadowed by a mysterious and menacing castle. With her best friend in tow, Cindy decides she’d like to meet the occupants of this eccentric home. Unfortunately, the residents are not friendly town folk, but ancient Romanian vampires. Sucks to be Cindy. This brilliant short story, cleverly titled Vampire Story, remains my personal gold standard when it comes to writing.
Now it’s your turn! If you enjoyed this post, consider answering these questions on your own blog/vlog. If you have any comments regarding my responses, feel free to leave them below.
I hope you have a wonderful and relaxing weekend. Happy writing!