She grew up in small towns in Northern California, running around barefoot in the woods and climbing trees with a notebook to write down stories. She lives with her family, including two rescued cats, in a house full of books.
She writes and self-publishes fantasy novels for teens and adults.
What inspires you to write?
Life! I started dictating stories to my mom at a young age, and began writing them as soon as I knew how. I keep a diary to record my personal life and I write stories to record my ideas that spring from my experiences. There’s a part of my brain that constantly narrates the world around me and asking “what if?” about how things could turn out differently.
Reading is also a huge inspiration for me. I’m an avid reader, and finding a good story often makes me want to write one of my own. I read fiction for pleasure and I read non-fiction that teaches me new things and makes me think. I love to experience things for myself, but when that’s impossible, reading and learning about it is the next-best thing. Through reading about other people’s experiences, I feel like I get to live many lives and have far more opportunities than I could as just one person.
Tell us about your writing process.
I’ve gradually trained myself to be more disciplined in outlining and taking notes about my stories so that I can keep track of them. My current writing process goes something like this: I take copious notes both on paper and digitally, using software (Evernote) that syncs between my computer and my phone. (Since discovering this capability on my phone, I no longer have to carry a notebook with me everywhere, but I do often have one just because I love them.) I research topics that are related to my story, and these can often branch out in many directions and tangents, because I never know what may inspire me.
When I have a character in my head, that’s when I know I have a story. It starts with getting to know the person and what they want, and then I plan out the rest of the story as their journey. I write notecards in my software (Scrivener) with scene outlines, starting with the highlights and then filling in the blanks. I try to keep the outline flexible so it can change with new ideas that I get as I write. At my most detailed, I only describe about 75% of my scenes of a novel, and leave the rest to add as I go. Short stories are more loose: I think about the beginning, the main obstacle that the character will overcome, and a vague idea of the ending. From there, ideas for subplots spin off endlessly. I have to trim things down in the second draft because my story can go all over the place–but at least the outline keeps me mostly on track. (I used to have to rewrite most of the story in the second draft because I was so disorganized.)
When I have my outline, I write the story in linear fashion, from beginning to end. I try not to go back and rewrite things so that I can keep moving forward, so I take a lot of notes for myself about what I will fix later. Many parts of the story may change as I write the first draft–characters, subplots, even the ending. I’m a perfectionist so it can be hard to keep going, but I remind myself that my first draft should just get finished and then I can work on improving it.
The first draft is for my eyes only. When it’s finished, I print the whole thing out from my computer into a massive stack and tear into it with my red pen. Entire scenes may be cut, others rewritten, characters and subplots slashed or changed. (My cat likes to help with this part by sitting on my papers and preventing me from doing any work!) When I’m satisfied that the result is a cohesive story, then I type it all back into the computer. It’s time consuming, but I feel like reading it on paper helps me see things that I would normally miss.
Finally, I enlist the help of as many as a dozen beta readers garnered from fellow writers, friends, and family members. I have them read the story and give me their feedback, and then I collect all of it together for comparison. Integrating beta reader feedback is difficult because I get differing viewpoints, but they challenge me to think about my story in new ways and decide what is truly important in the story that I want to tell. Even if I don’t use all of their suggestions, my beta readers are invaluable for showing me how they reacted to the story.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I’ve learned that while my characters may have valuable suggestions and insights, I can’t let them run away with the show. I think of myself as a director of a production that has to work with many different actors. Sometimes our interpretations may differ, and I can accept their feedback, but in the end I have to be in control. My characters may complain (and sometimes I try to appease them with writing “extras” that don’t go into the final cut), but I trust that I know what kind of story I want to tell.
What advice would you give other writers?
Don’t stop writing. Not everything is going to be perfect or publishable, but the more you work at it, the better you will get. Write for yourself first, and trust that in the end, it is your story and only you can decide what you want. Keep learning about the world and challenging yourself to try new things. Also, read everything: the good, the bad, the ugly and the boring. Then think about why you did or did not like it. Question the advice that you get and discard anything that isn’t useful. And finally, learn the rules (grammar, spelling, etc.) first and then play around with how to break them. This way when you break or bend the rules, it’s mindful and has an impact on your reader, instead of just being sloppy. (Reading everything will help you learn the rules more naturally, and how other writers break them effectively.)
How did you decide how to publish your books?
My main focus has always been on getting my stories to readers who will enjoy them. Before I knew about self-publishing and ebooks, I posted my stories online, and I loved the instant feedback that I got. The hard part was deciding when I thought my stories were good enough to offer them for sale. I followed the development of the self-publishing industry with great interest and I am very excited about the wide variety of stories that are available now.
To other writers interested in publishing, I would be hard-pressed to give better advice than what’s already out there. I encourage new authors to research every type of publishing option available to them and think carefully before making a decision. There are many great resources out there which describe the benefits and drawbacks of each option to help you decide what is best for you.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I’m excited to see how publishing continues to evolve. I think that as new options become available, this just adds to the benefit of writers and readers. I love how much variety is out there now for stories that I can read and ways for me to find new authors. I hope publishing will keep expanding and everyone can find what they want: authors writing stories for readers who love them.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print