*As a side note, I encourage anyone looking at this page to also go onto their favorite authors’ websites. It’s a great way to find answers to all your questions and even some you didn’t think you had. Especially because not all writers have the same experiences and/or advice.
Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere, everything, and everybody.
Sometimes all it will take is a song or somebody mispronouncing a word and my mind shoots in a hundred different possible idea directions. Other times, it requires pain staking dedication as I play around with various situations or possible outcomes. I can remember so many times when I was told: “No ifs, ands, buts, or maybes” by my school teachers. But, if you were anything like me, you kept on saying them anyways – even if it was just in your head, to avoid being reprimanded. Now, as a writer, that’s the biggest part of my job: playing around with “ifs, ands, buts, or maybes” and I love every minute of it!
Here are some specific examples of idea inspirations that have happened to me:
1) I was vegging out in my dorm room, writing a manuscript that I would later scrap, while my roomie was watching something on the television. I was mid-sentence when I heard the trailer of an upcoming movie playing and, in a second, a novel with a juicy plot and the whole shebang popped into my head. I immediately jumped off of my bed, on the top bunk, and ran to see if the movie trailer was anything like the plot swimming around in my mind. Luckily it wasn’t and now the story is completely my own.
2) Another idea came when I did something quite embarrassing and was so thankful that nobody would ever have to bear witness to my humiliation. Then a few seconds later I thought: Hey, what if this was a story? (As a side note, this is actually one of the books I’m currently working on and yes, I’m still mortified people will one day find out!)
3) When I heard a Jake Owen’s song for the first time and I wanted to know what kind of characters would love and hurt each other so badly. They immediately popped in my head and still haven’t left.
4) When I asked myself: What’s the worst possible secret anyone could ever keep? Then a secret came to mind and the burden became its own story.
5) I could seriously go on, but I think you get the point.
Do you believe in Writer’s Block? If so, how do you deal with it?
I do think there is such a thing as Writer’s Block (WB) but I don’t, however, believe that it stops you from writing. Usually if someone has WB then it means a variety of things, but mainly only two. One, the person is going in the wrong direction with their story and/or they aren’t approaching it in the way that it craves to be written. Two, they are either too afraid or too bored to continue writing.
I’ve, personally, run into every single one of these problems and I’ve dealt with them all differently. The first one, in my case, usually tends to be the easiest to deal with. Many times, I’ve gotten an entire chapter of a story written, only to erase it all and start fresh because something just seemed “off” somehow. Whereas, the second problem is more along the lines of my personal nemesis.
I don’t tend to get bored while writing, because I don’t like to write boring things. If I’m not entertained at all times, then I know my readers won’t be, so I try to stay away from dull happenings. However, the fear that is associated with writing gets me every, single, flippin’ time. More often than not, I’m consumed with insecurities and doubts that never seem to fully go away. Trust me, I’ve even gone months without writing simply because I was too afraid. I almost failed my Senior Thesis/Comprehensive because my fear immobilized me or, rather, I let my fear get the upper hand. But never once did I not have something to say or write about. I always had story ideas running through my head, but I let my fear stop me from actually doing the writing.
So, my question to all people with Writer’s Block: is it really the wording that eludes you or is it something else? If it’s the words, then take a break and go do something else for a while. Sometimes stories need to have a breather and stew a little bit in order for all the ingredients to make the perfect recipe. But if it’s not a lack of words and it’s something else, then you need to find the courage to address that problem for what it truly is.
How do you start a book or story?
Usually with a general idea with where it’s going and who it’s about. I’ve noticed that I tend to write the first chapter or the first few paragraphs long hand and then transfer them to the computer. From there on, I write via the computer.
Starting has never really been a problem for me, except for a select few cases. Usually my problem comes about a chapter to three chapters in. That’s usually when my fear or anxiety kicks in and I feel like a failure at, not only writing, but life as well. Sometimes it amazes me how masochistic writers tend to be, but you’ve got to love it!
How long is a book supposed to be?
Oh dear. There are a variety of answers for this. Mainly because books come in all sorts of funky shapes and sizes. But it’s important to note, right off the bat, that a book’s length is determined by word count and not page numbers. Therefore, in the book world, there are usually around four kinds of written works:
1) Flash Fiction: Stories that generally range under 1,000 words
2) Short Stories: Stories that generally range between 3,000 – 30,000 words
3) Novellas: Stories that generally range between 40,000 – 60,000 words
4) Books: Stories that generally range between 80,000-120,000 words
5) Monsteriously-Goliath-I-Rock-Your-World Books: Stories that are insanely popular, usually written as a part of a series and predominantly, if not always, by a famous and/or highly regarded author. These stories generally range above 120,000 words by leaps and bounds.
*Keep in mind that this is not a set, unbendable rubric and it can fluctuate at any given time.
Has your work ever been turned down?
The weird thing is I thought my heart would be broken into a million and a half unrecoverable pieces when I received my first rejection, but it wasn’t. Oddly enough, I kind of just shrugged and moved onto the next project. Now, I’m not going to lie and say I never play the “what if” game and imagine what it would have been like to get a phone call, email, or even a tiny little ant-burning-under-the-microscope sized smoke signal – because I do. All the time. Sometimes I even fantasize that a mistake was made and that the powers that be, somewhere in New York, are kicking the butt of a junior editor for making such a major, career altering mistake.
But never do I stop thinking about the next contest, the next writing sample, or the day when I’ll finally be published.
What do you think of completely rewriting something from scratch?
I think it depends on the work.
I once wrote close to a 100,000 word manuscript before I decided to scrap it and start from scratch. In my case, I decided that my original idea wasn’t good enough and writing the story was the only way for me to figure that out on my own. However, it also allowed me to evolve my idea into a new one, one that I’m ten times more eager to write because I know it’s a way better idea. You’d never know that my new idea came from the ashes of my old one, unless I told you, because they’re pretty much night and day from one another in almost every way: time period, genre, and whatever else you can come up with. So that’s a good example of scratching something and possibly using the scraps to create something new and hopefully better.
Veronica Roth is a good author to look to for advice in this arena. She’s well known for getting around 30 pages into a manuscript before throwing it out completely, or so she’s said many times on her website/blog. Furthermore, if you click HERE, you’ll see where she talks about how many drafts her hit book, Divergent, went through before the final publication. You can also find it under the article entitled: “How Much It Changed” and please, keep in mind, that all of these drafts were after having started over.
On the flip side, it’s not good to continually be starting over. Sometimes, even if the story is bad, it has to be finished just for the closure that finishing a piece of work can give you. Furthermore, even if the writing is bad, that’s no excuse not to finish your work. I’m continually amazed by people saying that they’ve stopped writing because their work is bad. Well, so what?
One of the only book length pieces I’ve ever written wasn’t the next knock-your-socks-off-New-York-Times-bestseller but I learned so much from writing it. It took me three months to write it but it took me four more until I finally had the guts to finish it off with the last chapter. And yes, it was bad writing, but it was a GREAT writing experience. There are so many times when I’m feeling sorry for myself and I turn back to that original piece and see how far I’ve come as a writer and I’m so unbelievably proud it’s almost shocking.
Ultimately either option is good, but take your time in making your decision and remember that eventually you’ll have to finish something, so why not now?
What do you say to people who want to become writers?
Do you want to become a writer or are you already a writer?
Most people, including myself, don’t realize that they’re already writers – they’re just not published. I for instance, never considered myself a writer until college, but I wrote ALL THE TIME in middle school and high school. I had just never met somebody who called themselves a writer and I, therefore, assumed a writer meant someone who was a published author – something I obviously was not.
It wasn’t until I went to college and met other students, who were unpublished, and sat down for my first writing class, in which the professor proclaimed that just by being there meant I was a writer, that I finally acknowledged that the word “writer” could most certainly be applied to me. Now that I’m older, I believe that everybody is a writer. I don’t, however, believe that everyone is a serious writer.
My advice to those who want to become serious writers? Read, write, and edit – in that order. When you’re done, start over. When you become more experienced, mix it up. When you finish your first manuscript, even if it’s as melodramatic as the raunchiest soap opera on American television, celebrate your tush off and cry like a baby because you’ve finally finished something and it’s a tremendously big deal! You are a serious writer because it’s no longer just a dream but a reality. And when you’re done celebrating go back and read, write, and edit some more until the rest of the world sees what you’ve already seen in yourself all along.
What genre do you like to read?
I’m probably that rare breed of existing creatures that likes to read almost every genre. The only genre I’m not the biggest fan of is Horror but I’ll still read one every now and then, just to keep my heart pumping.
What genre do you like to write?
Oy, you had to ask. Maybe it’s because I like to read across genres but, for some reason, I don’t have one specific genre that I choose to write in. As it is, I currently have story ideas invested in the following genres: Sci-Fi, Romance, Horror, Fantasy, and etc. The age range also varies.
What are you currently working on?
A juggling act, really. Currently, I have many works in progress (WIP) but there are largely three that are receiving most of my attention. Each of these three WIPs are of differing genres. One is a Coming of Age story set twenty years ago, another is a Romance, and the last is a YA Fantasy.
Do you base your characters off of anyone in real life?
No, not really. I’ll certainly use characteristics of people that I do or don’t like and implement them as the traits of some of my characters, but I definitely don’t steal the whole person.
What is your stand on FanFiction?
My stance on FanFiction (FF) is that I love it! I never knew about FF until college, when a good friend was appalled that my writerly self hadn’t yet discovered it. Now looking back, I could both praise and bodily harm her for introducing me to such an addicting writing outlet.
I used to read FF religiously, after first discovering it, but slowly mellowed out and ultimately stopped altogether – especially now that I’m set on writing my own novels. However, I do miss it, a lot actually. It was the one place where I found other people who loved stories and characters so much that they never wanted any of it to end, just like me. I think, on some level, that it’s the greatest admiration any author can truly ask for.
Having said that, I also firmly believe that FanFiction should only be used in the way that it was originally meant and/or intended. That’s to say, if used wrong, it’s nothing more than plagiarism. And plagiarism is a huge NO-NO in my book. Many people, who disagree with my stance on FF, continue to label FF as just that – theft. I heartily disagree. Mainly because a true FF author doesn’t claim the rights to any story and/or characters from a published author’s world, nor do they profit in any way from the stories they’ve written. For the most part, all the FF’s I’ve read cite the original work because, ultimately, a true FF’s profit is in the value of the read. Therefore, a FF writer’s goal is to promote the original author’s work through continuing to read about the very characters that stole their heart to begin with.
Furthermore, any original author can request that no FF be made of their books. A popular author who did just that is Nora Roberts and the FF website has strict rules and regulations to monitor that her request is respected. I applaud FF for honoring Nora Roberts request, even if I don’t necessarily agree with her request in the first place. Although I can understand why, considering her popularity and the scandal with Janet Dailey.
For the most part, I completely agree with Tamora Pierce’s stance on FF and I encourage anyone, on either side of the argument, to take a look at what she has to say. You can find it on her author webpage under FAQs or just click HERE. I, like Tamora, developed and fine-tuned my writing skills with FF, and it gave me the confidence in my abilities to finally go off and write my own stories. For that, I will be forever grateful.
Have you always been a writer? Did you always want to be a published writer?
Yes, I’ve always been a writer, even when I didn’t know it.
No, I didn’t always want to be a published writer.
My first love was with words. I have so many memories of reading and playing made up word games. There wasn’t a book I didn’t want to devour and there wasn’t a library that went unturned in my eagerness to know more. And that was a fete, let me tell you, because my family moved all the time.
Anyways, I was first and foremost a reader but there came a time when the things I was feeling and/or thinking didn’t seem to be in print or available when I wanted them. My remedy? I began to write. I started off writing poems, which later bled to prose. I wrote about anything and everything, anyone and no one. I had a wonderful start to my writing career because I had no idea it was even a career. I had complete freedom and no expectations, either set by myself or by other people.
It wasn’t until I got older, when a high school teacher asked me if I’d ever considered getting my stuff published, that I began to start seriously considering becoming an author. Then of course, I fiddled around with the idea, after all, writing isn’t really a financially acceptable occupation. Eventually I decided to follow the dream because, honestly, I never really thought about not writing. I was just being busy trying to find a way to do it without having to have a “real” job on the side. I didn’t have much luck with that, so now I’m a post-grad working and writing in hopes of one day being published.
What’s your opinion on plagiarism?
Ugh, you don’t want to know – but you should anyways.
I am completely against plagiarism and those that don’t take it seriously. In college I had two encounters with plagiarism, one through pure coincidence when I stumbled upon a fellow writing major stealing another’s work and the other when a friend asked me if I would write a paper for her if she would pay me. Both encounters enraged me.
As a writer, it is a constant scary, nightmare of a thought in the back of my mind that one day I may possibly wind up having someone plagiarizing my writing and have to defend the very art I bled over. I dread it, and if you’re a hardworking writer, you’d dread it as well. There is absolutely nothing okay with stealing the work that another person has struggled so hard to create. There is no excuse.
Working at a college, I have since come across more instances of this nasty little deed and it’s shocking how many people think it’s okay. Well, I for one do not think it’s okay. Ignorance, laziness, and I-didn’t-know-ness are not plausible excuses. In the real world, it could cost you millions, as it should. If you don’t believe me, look at the case of Janet Dailey plagiarizing Nora Roberts.
The act, itself, is cowardly and selfish. I feel saddened for people who have so little confidence in themselves that they feel the need to steal something from someone else and call it their own. And I encourage those who bear witness to such acts to step forth and say something.
How long does it take you to write a book or short story?
It varies. The first full length piece I ever wrote took me around three months. But since then, I’ve been dragging my feet and haven’t finished anything of substantial length. As for short stories, that’s relatively a lot faster. I finished four short stories in five months, out of which, only two of the short stories I’d consider publishable. I also finished another short story in a week, dragging out the edits afterwards.
If there’s anything I’ve learned about writing, it’s that there is no set timetable. I went to a lecture by Kristin Cashore a few years ago and she said something that resonated with me for a very long time. Basically, someone raised their hand and asked her this very same question and, if you know anything about her, you know she has a long writing process. After she explained this, she went on to say that she never understood why so many people were in such a rush to finish their stories. This really stuck with me. Then, later, I read about the advice that Stephen King gave to Neil Gaiman about enjoying the ride while you’re still on it.
There’s something to pay attention to here…
TAKE YOUR TIME.
There is no need to rush and hurry and waste what could be more quality driven work. There’s an art to writing, an enjoyment that goes too often ignored in a writer’s search for fame. Trust me, I know. I think about getting published all the time. Whether it’s for the ridiculously fictitious amounts of money, the potential love of an adoring fandom, or the security in not having to work a job I don’t like when I could be pretending to be a full time writer all day, every day. But with each of those achievements come new responsibilities and new catches.
So take your time and enjoy the ride while it lasts. The story will get there as long as you continue writing, even if it’s just one word a week.
What’s your writing process?
In one word: confusing.
I don’t really have much of a process anymore. I used to, definitely, but not so much anymore. When I was in college, my favorite time to write was either 10am-3pm or late, late into the night when my roommate was freaking me out as she laughed in her sleep. If those times didn’t work out, then I’d write whenever I had the time available, even if that meant writing in class (but let’s keep that between us). As for where I wrote, that would usually be either at my desk or in the library on a swivel chair I was fond of.
Things are different now.
Now, I have a fulltime job with a weird schedule, an attention needy dog, and additional responsibilities that try their hardest to max out my time. But, in a lot of ways, I felt busier in college so… there really isn’t any excuse. Suffice it to say, I try to write whenever I can now, I just don’t have a specific time and place anymore.
How do you manage to make time in your life to write?
If there’s a will, there’s a way.
It’s hard for a lot of people to come to terms with this saying, including myself, because it’s essentially saying that if you don’t get it done then the fault is on you. When I was in college, I wrote like crazy. I worked three jobs, went to school full time, was the Editor for our campus magazine, wrote for the newspaper, had internships, and so on and so forth. But somehow, someway, I made time to write around 3,000 words a day. That’s 3,000 words for my own personal stories not, in any way, homework related. Now however, I seem to have all the time in the world but I’m barely scraping by with 300 words a day – and that’s on a day when I’m goal driven!
My point is, whether you like it or not, the cold hard truth is that you’ll make time in your life for the things that you are passionate about. So, if you are passionate about writing, come hell or high water, you WILL be sitting, standing, or lying down at some point in your day to write. It’s as simple as that. Now, that doesn’t mean that there’s never going to be a day where you’re so insanely busy that you seriously just don’t have the time to scribble some words down. That’s okay. We’ve all had days like that. There’s no reason that you should have to transform into a kickass Navy SEAL and go without sleep for a whole week just to keep up on your writerly toes. Even the SEALs have a few hours of sleep during Hellweek.
So, if I want to go to bed feeling accomplished and wake up wondering what’s going to happen next in my story, then I have to have something finished to look at. So I don’t look at it as “managing” anything, I just do it and get it done – end of story.
When and how did you start writing?
I’ve always been a writer. As a kid, I loved writing in top secret diaries, teleprompting when my brother and I would pretend we were news anchors, and don’t even get me started on writing up hundreds and hundreds of plays that I forced all of my friends and family to either watch and/or actively participate in. Later, when I got older, I began pouring all of my angsty heartache into poems or long, drawn out schpeals that I’ve now labeled as melodramatic rampages. Also, I was, and still am, a huge believer in letter writing. Still, it wasn’t until my later years in high school and my early years in college, that I began actively writing stories that I would willingly show another human begin.
Have you gotten any big breaks yet?
Other than on my vehicle? No.
Okay, that was lame, I apologize.
But seriously, I’m very realistic about my writing. I know that a lot of what I’ve written isn’t publishable because it was more of a learning experience than anything else. However, I feel that I’ve truly grown as a writer in the last few years and now the stuff I’m bleeding onto the page is actually of some worth. Which means, I haven’t tried to get anything published until around fall of 2012. Which also means, I’ve only been trying to get short stories published while I’m working on my novel and have only submitted to a select few competitions.
Trust me, the world will know when I get a big break, or at least, the people looking at this website will!
Do you review any books?
Yes, among friends, but I hadn’t really intended to do so on this website.
Will you be posting any of your work? If not, is there a place we could go to and see it online?
No, for plagiarism reasons, I don’t feel comfortable posting my work anywhere online. I do have a FanFiction account that has a completed story but it was something I wrote years ago, when I was a beginning writer, and even though I look upon it fondly, I won’t reveal my old username. But I encourage any over achievers who have nothing better to do to try and figure it out if you’d like.
*As a side note, if I ever get published, I’ll alert the media AKA my blog/website so that any followers can see my work.
Will you read any of my books, short stories, FanFictions, or poems?
Sadly, no. Since I am an up and coming writer, I don’t want to take the chance of any future lawsuits being laid at my door. Please understand that this, in no way, reflects on you as a writer.
Do you really think you’ll ever be published?
What inspires your stories?
Life and all that it entails: living, dying, feelings, relationships, moods, people, places, experiences, celebrations, problems, diseases, births, successes, love, hate, beauty, ugliness, actions, deeds, smells, sounds, sights, miracles, crushes, surviving, and everything and anything else that one can imagine.
Do you listen to music when you write? If so, who do you listen to?
Not all the time but I will occasionally. As to what I listen to, that depends on my mood or the book I’m writing at that point in time.
Have you ever met any actual published authors?
Yes. Most of my college professors were published in some way. However, if you were looking for more specifics, I’ve also met: Audrey Niffenegger, Kristin Cashore, Adriana Trigiani, and Bill Persky.
Do you know anyone who’s published?
On a more personal level? No.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
Did you go to college?
Yes, I went to a liberal arts college.
Do you have any pets?
Yes, a Yorkie Terrier mix.
Would you ever want to become a writer full-time?
Only every day.
Where do you live?
The land of the free, the United States of America.
Why do you blog?
Because I’ve always wondered about the personal journey that a writer undergoes as they grow in their craft.
How often will you post articles on your blog?
Whenever I feel like it. I don’t have any set agenda or schedule in mind.
Did BrittaHages.com use to be called CyberWriterRamblings.wordpress.com?
Yes! It took me a long time to decide on my writing pseudonym and then it took me just as long to get enough guts to buy the website. I mean, doesn’t buying a website make it official to a certain degree?
Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
Let your writing grow just as you have and when you start to write, make sure you really feel it.