When I was younger, I could write anywhere and could listen to any music in the background while I wrote. That’s less true the older I get. The best place for me to write now is someplace that I can have silence. Occasionally, I can still listen to certain songs while I write, but those moments and songs are rare.
A lot of times, I get writing done when others have gone to bed or kids are napping. My wife is supportive of my writing time, so there are times when we don’t have anything else going on that she helps me carve out time to myself. If the weather is nice, then I love being able to get some time to write outside, especially if I’m able to go to a park or someplace where I can be by myself.
So, there are several places that I consider best for me to write, but usually it involves quiet and alone time.
How about you? What if you write, draw, compose, or create in some way, what is the best environment for you to work? Also if you have any questions for a future Q&A, drop it in the comments below!
Author Q&A: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?
There’s a lot of writing advice out there, and some of it is contradictory. You’ll hear some recommend to never use adverbs while other people think adverbs are our friends. Truth is, you can overdo and underdo almost anything. Good writing takes practice and you find your balance over time.
The best piece of advice that I’ve personally received is: Know your first draft isn’t great. Don’t edit as you go. Just get the words on paper and then go and edit when you’re finished.
I’ve had far too many stories end up going nowhere but the trash heap because I got bogged down in editing, didn’t make progress, and grew bored or rushed off to another idea. I still have a strong desire to edit as I go, there’s a perfectionist in me. However, I now force myself to hold off on editing until the end, unless it is a major plot point that needs changed, or an inconsistency that I notice.
This has allowed more stories to make their way to completion.
How about you? What is the best piece of writing advice that you’ve received? Also if you have any questions for a future Q&A, drop it in the comments below!
Author Q&A: Which of your stories did you enjoy writing most?
This one is a little tough, because when you’re writing a story or a book, especially when the words are flowing well, each one is your favorite in the moment (at least that’s been my experience). If I don’t like writing a story, I don’t usually keep writing it. That said, thinking of everything I’ve written, my short story “Burn” (in my collection Of Stars and Space: And Other Stories) is my favorite.
That might seem odd in that it wasn’t the easiest story for me to write.
The idea for “Burn” came about after reading a lengthy article on Burning Man several years ago. That inspired me to write a story that was originally meant to be about a father and his two sons taking a trip to the festival and their experiences there. I stopped, started, scrapped, and rewrote for a year and could never make the story work the way I wanted.
Then, I shifted focus. I saw a show where a main character was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease and she had to face the reality that she was going to die young. (If you’re not sure what Huntington’s is, visit: https://hdsa.org/what-is-hd/overview-of-huntingtons-disease/. The short version is that it’s a genetic brain disease that causes physical, mental, and emotional breakdown during what is usually a person’s prime years, and leads to early death. There is no present cure.)
The story took on new life. It became the tale of a young man diagnosed with Huntington’s who decides to do all he can to “burn brightly” before the disease takes its toll. It’s an emotional roller coaster as he comes to terms with his mom’s death (also related to the disease), goes on adventures with his brothers, and marries the love of his life, all with the knowledge that his days will be cut short.
I love the story because it ultimately is about the meaning of life and making the most of each day, something we can take for granted when we think we have decades still before us.
Oh, and Burning Man still makes an appearance, but more of a background event. Jackson, the older brother of Chris (the main character), returns from a trip to Burning Man with college pals and tells Chris about the fun he had. With Chris still in high school, the two decide to put on a backyard version with their brother Tanner and Chris’ best friend, Alex. A flaming effigy finds a place at the story’s beginning and end, ultimately becoming a metaphor for Chris’ life.
Science fiction. I’ve loved stories, especially stories about space and other planets, most of my life. This true whether you are talking novels or cinema. Honestly, when I was younger (middle school / high school), I did judge a book by its cover. I would go to the library or the bookstore and often select a book if it had a spaceship on the cover.
As an adult, I do more research into the book and don’t concern myself with the cover as much. 🙂
Author Q&A: Who have been your favorite authors as an adult?
Michael Crichton. When I was a teenager, Crichton was at the height of his popularity. I enjoyed reading many of his books, especially those with more of a SciFi flair. That carried into adulthood. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years ago but the books his estate has released since his death have been fun to read too.
CS Lewis. I didn’t read Narnia until I was in college, but I love the stories Lewis tells in that collection, as well as his Space Trilogy. Till We Have Faces is probably my favorite work among his fiction. I have also benefited greatly in my spiritual life from his non-fiction.
Ray Bradbury. I read Fahrenheit 451 as a high school assignment, and picked up Something Wicked This Way Comes on my own soon after. As an adult, though, I’ve come to enjoy his short story collections such as The Martian Chronicles (which inspired a work of my own called Of Stars and Space) and The Illustrated Man.
Fredrik Backman. I think Beartown may have been the first Backman book I read, then I went back and picked up some of his “older” writings like A Man Called Ove. There is something about his storytelling and style that resonates with me. He is on the short list of authors from whom I will purchase a new book without even reading the description.
How about you? Who have been some of your favorite authors? Drop a comment below. Also, if you have a question for a future Q&A about writing or books, I would love to hear it.
Thinking back, there are three who come easily to mind.
Vicki Grove. She is a local author near my hometown. We read some of her books in class. She would also visit our elementary school and talk about life as an author.
Gary Paulsen. Hatchet, of course, is a classic. I also remember reading The River, Canyons, and Dogsong among others. He knew how to capture a boy’s sense of adventure.
Finally, Louis Sachar. His Wayside books have always stuck with me in their quirky humor. In fact, I’ve loved being able to read them with some of the foster kids we’ve had, and even sing along: “I’ve got one sock, looking for the other. One sock, looking for it’s brother…”
The thing that really struck me about Sachar was the interaction he would take with his fans. In the fifth grade, I believe, we had to write a letter to one of our favorite authors and I chose him. He wrote back, a very nice handwritten letter. Sometime later, I sent him another letter and talked about wanting to be an author. Again, he sent back a letter that was quite encouraging.
Those are the three that came quickly to mind.
If you have a question about writing, my books, or me as an author, I’d love to hear it. Please include it in a comment!