I participated in NaNoWriMo, or the National Novel Writing Month challenge, this past November. This is the first time I'd ever entered the challenge, which is to write a novel, or 50,000 words, in 30 days. Lots of my friends had participated before, but I'd always held back. I didn't think I could accomplish that kind of challenge because of my particular writing style. I'd always written sporadically and sometimes manically, writing for 12-18 hours at a stretch for a couple of days and then not writing for days. I wrote Blue Mountain Magick, my longest book at 108,000 words, in 3 months, writing obsessively over long 4 day weekends.
I always wrote in spurts of creativity. I thought that was how it was done. You sat back and waited for the muse to show up, then you rode her until she was worn out. Then you waited again (preferably drinking whiskey and chain-smoking). That was my concept of how creative writing was done - how "real" writers did it.
When I began going to writing conferences and workshops and meeting other authors, I marveled at their discipline. I met successful writers who wrote every day and many aspiring or emerging writers who held day jobs and wrote on their lunch breaks or woke up to write from 4-6am before going to work. I met editors who want their authors to produce, and produce regularly. But I persisted in my idea that this wasn't for me.
I decided to give NaNo a try because I'd been stalled in my writing and I thought maybe I could get a jump start if I was prodded a bit. I signed up and joined a support group and found I would have to report my word counts - publically - every day. Accountability!
Our first step was to set personal goals. My 2 goals were to write 60,000 words, instead of the target 50,000, and to write something every day. I held myself to those goals, writing many nights after work when I would not have written otherwise just to get a word count to turn in before midnight.
I fell short of my 60,000 word goal, although I did complete enough to "win" the challenge, ending up with 53,000 words. But I accomplished the more important goal of writing every single day. The muse wasn't always there, and the writing wasn't always great, but I wrote. I produced. And I learned that my writing style is whatever I make work for me.
25 Monday Jun 2012 Posted by Cera duBois in Visit with My Friends
Welcome Clare McKay as she talks writing and her book Laramie Moon.
Open with a little about yourself. When did you start writing, how long and what do you write?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I grew up in a house full of readers, and it wasn’t unusual to get up in the middle of the night to get a glass of milk and find several people still up, sitting around the table and talking about the books they were reading. We went to the library every week, and when I’d read through the children’s section of the library, my mother let me graduate to the fiction stacks. Her favorites were historical novels and romances, so it was natural for me to pick them up.
When I was about 12, I started a correspondence with the British author Rosemary Sutcliff. She wrote YA and adult historicals about King Arthur and the Romans in Britain, and she was kind enough to answer all my questions and encourage me to pursue writing. In college I majored in history and literature and became a fiction snob, so after college, I tried to write literary fiction. I was determined to write the next “great American novel.” I worked on my masterpiece off and on for years, but I never got around to finishing it. I didn’t particularly like my characters, and my heart wasn’t in it.
My daughter actually re-introduced me to romance. She loves paranormal romance and fantasy, and her books were always lying around. I got hooked on Anita Blake and the Black Dagger Brotherhood and then just devoured romances – paranormal, historical, suspense. It took me a long time to figure it out, but it finally dawned on me to write what I loved. After that, writing came easy.
I write urban fantasy and paranormal romances where the paranormal elements operate alongside the real world, mostly hidden but crossing over and involving characters from both worlds. Right now I’m writing a contemporary Western Alphas series – cowboys and werewolves, what’s not to love!
I was something of a romance snob for years too. I swore up and down I’d never write it…Well, best laid plans and all that…LOL Every book I ever came up with has always been a romance. And I love the Black Dagger Brotherhood. I hadn’t read it until this spring when it was suggested I read it to possibly attract that audience during my blog tour…Great stuff!
What can you tell us about Blue Mountain Magick that isn’t in the blurb or excerpt? Was it an easy write? How long did it take you to write it?
Blue Mountain Magick was my first book, and it literally flowed out of me. The story came to me almost complete, and I plotted it in one sitting. It’s my longest book at 108,000 words, but I finished it in three months.
Don’t you love when a story flows like that? I’ve had a few, but lately I’ve been struggling.
Are you a pantser or plotter? What can you tell us a little about your writing process?
I am definitely a plotter. I have to know where I’m going although I may change directions along the way. I always begin with a character, and my character is usually intrinsically linked to a setting. I rough plot the whole book and write up character lists. I will also do some preliminary research, especially on the settings or occupations/background of the characters.
Jim Winter, my hero in Laramie Moon, is ex-military, and I needed him to fly a helicopter, so with a little research, I discovered the Night Stalkers, the US Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment. They were a perfect fit. In the book, it’s just a bit of backstory that provides some motivation, but it was essential for me to know his whole history to write him convincingly.
Once I begin drafting, I usually write straight through to the end, revising a little as I go along. My biggest help has been finding a compatible critique partner. If I could give any advice to beginning writers it would be to search out a critique partner or group and not give up if it doesn’t work out. I tried several times before I found my perfect fit.
Now as a panster, I don’t do research unless and until I need to while I’m writing…Then I fix what I screwed up until I did the research….LOL
If you could be any fictional character—including your own, who would you choose and why?
I have lots of favorite characters, from David Copperfield to Antigone, but I wouldn’t particularly want to be most of them. If I could be a fictional character, I think I’d want to be Claire Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books. I can think of worse things than traveling through time and being married to Jamie.
All great characters!
What is your favorite TV show or movie?
Currently, my favorite TV show is probably The Walking Dead, although zombies are not sexy! I’m also a big fan of True Blood, Supernatural, Lost Girl, Criminal Minds, and Bones. I love my DVR. When I have time, I can sit down and have a marathon of all the shows I’ve missed.
I like Lost Girl… I only allow myself two TV shows a season…
Okay, since I write both vamps and cowboys, I want to know, which is sexier: Vampires or Cowboys?
Vampires are sexy with their ageless beauty and experience. I fell in love with Lestat. But I’m a Texas gal at heart, and I’d have to go with cowboys. I grew up thinking nothing was sexier than broad shoulders in a clean white shirt, a tight butt in dress jeans, and long legs ending in boots, and I still feel that way.
Of course, you could write a vampire cowboy…. I did. Austin in A Hunter’s Blade is one (releasing this winter).
Alpha werewolf Jim Winter has it all – a pack that respects him, a successful ranch, and his choice of willing females – but he only woman he wants is the one he can’t have. A guilty secret and a promise keep him from claiming Sissy as his mate.
Sissy Hunt has always loved Jim, but she’s tired of being the only 25 year old virgin werewolf in Wyoming. Frustrated and ready to get on with her life, she gladly accepts an invitation to join a neighboring pack, but she runs from heartbreak straight into the arms of danger.
Jim and Sissy will have to face the specters of their past if they want to survive and have a future together.
I write fantasy and paranormal romance. I love having the ability to create new worlds and new histories. My first book LARAMIE MOON will be coming out soon, so stay tuned.