Melinda VanLone writes fantasy and science fiction, freelances as a graphic designer, and dabbles in photography. She currently lives in Rockville, Maryland, with her husband and furbabies. When she’s not playing with her imaginary friends you can find her playing World of Warcraft, wandering aimlessly through the streets taking photos, or hovered over coffee in Starbucks.
What inspires you to write?
I’ve always loved escaping into a story. If I could crawl into a book and live there, I’d be a happy girl. Writing lets me have that escape, and lets me direct the fantasy world I’m living in. A win-win!
Tell us about your writing process.
I think I’m a hybrid. At least, so far. I do outline. I spend several days outlining and refining the basic story before I start writing it. I’ve discovered that for me, the writing goes much faster if I know approximately where I thought I was going with it. That said, each scene sometimes takes on an unintended life and direction and I don’t try to stifle that. I let it flow, then examine how it fits with the story I thought I was telling. Sometimes that means a new outline. Sometimes that means tossing a bunch of words that don’t really fit and don’t lead anywhere good. It’s so easy to chase after a white rabbit! By having a rough outline (and I do mean rough), I can tell much faster if I’ve strayed after bunny trails, or if I’ve stumbled onto a really awesome twist.
I use Scrivener, which is the most amazing software ever created for story crafting. I can write a scene and then tuck it away in a folder for future reference. I can rearrange scenes and story beats. I have everything I need for the story right there. All the research, the websites I might have used for reference, character sketches complete with photos. Everything. It’s just so easy to keep everything organized!
I always start a story by doing character sketches of the main players. If I don’t know who they are, I can’t tell their story. The plot is driven by them and their actions, so it’s vital I know who they are. I don’t bother to learn their whole life history, but I do get to know the basics and most importantly what drives them NOW. Once I know that, I can outline.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
My characters tend to talk to me as I type. Sometimes words just flow from my fingertips to the virtual page without a lot of direction from me, and that’s when I know the muse, or my characters, are talking. Their personalities will shine through. I think once I typed something like “where the hell are you going with this? I’d never do that. I wouldn’t be caught dead here.” And I thought…you’re right! You wouldn’t. And deleted the whole scene.
What advice would you give other writers?
Keep writing 🙂
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I’m an author entrepreneur, to borrow the phrase from Chuck Wendig. Several things led me to that publishing path. First, the process of querying is long, tired, and I’m not getting any younger. The time it takes for the traditional publishing wheel to turn is just too slow for someone who’s writing career started a bit later in life. Second, while talking with an agent she encouraged me to self publish, because urban fantasy does the best in e-books, and because traditional publishing had not yet grasped how to handle e-books. I had to agree there. Third, because either way you choose you’ll be doing your own marketing and promotion, and I figured if I’m doing all the work, why should I only get 10-13% of the $$? And finally, I chose this path because I have a lot of education and experience in publishing already. I have a master’s degree in publishing, and my first career was in graphics for the publishing industry. I know the ins and outs, the behind the scenes madness, all of it. It seemed silly to let all that experience go to waste.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think the world will always want and need storytellers. The rest is just pesky details.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?
urban fantasy (contemporary fantasy), science fiction, dystopian
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print