Why did you choose creative writing?
Writing is a great creative outlet for introverts and overthinkers. Those who know me well can attest that I have never been a quick thinker. My answers had to be carefully measured, which often made me the quiet one in the room. I’ve also always been better at expressing myself through writing, and it often takes me some time to craft a reply.
Did you do a lot of writing when you were younger?
I was a reader when I was young, but not a writer. I learned how to read when I was very young. There’s a story my mom told me, where I was just four years old and I was on a train trip with my parents, and fellow travelers were amazed that I was able to read a newspaper with understanding at such a young age. This ability meant I devoured books and became a knowledge sponge.
Unfortunately, the strict school curriculum I was subjected to didn’t offer opportunities to be creative. Essay assignments were mostly about analyzing poems or books with a strict emphasis on history. That was when, feeling discouraged, I turned to the sciences. I concentrated on math, chemistry, and physics, as these provided me with clear structures that I could lean on. Writing essays became a mindless activity to just get by and get a good mark, not something that would further advance my understanding of creative writing.
Did immigrating to Canada change your mind about creative writing?
Not at all. I was eighteen when I immigrated to Canada. I entered Canadian high school with only a basic understanding of English. I remember sitting in the school hallway during my break period when one of the teachers came over to talk to me. I had no clue what they were saying, and only after a while did I realize that I had been asked to take my winter jacket off. When the teacher left I felt everyone's eyes on me, and that moment got imprinted in my memory. Being proficient in English felt like an unattainable goal.
I buried any dreams to do any creative writing in favor of the scientific subjects that I knew well, and which would allow me to get into University and find a good job, where poor English skills and accents were not major obstacles to succeeding.
I never abandoned books, though. I began to read more and more. First in Polish, but slowly I started to read in English as well. I always carried a book with me wherever I went, a habit that I keep to this day. My vocabulary continued to improve, but even though story ideas began to come to me, it was not enough to convince me that I could write.
When did you gain the confidence to write?
Writing and confidence don’t necessarily come together. I’ve heard many writers say this, and it’s true. When I sat down years later to write the first story, I still felt like I was kidding myself, because who wants to read a story written by some immigrant with broken English. I eventually put it on paper with the intention of one day lighting it on fire.
I found the process of writing relaxing and enjoyable. My introvert self loves diving into the story and its characters, and exploring human emotions. Each evening I look forward to spending some time with the heroes and villains. I even enjoy editing, modifying and rewriting the manuscript.
After six months of writing I became attached to the story and eventually gave it to my husband to read.
What motivates you to keep pushing forward?
Now that the publishing target date has been set for March 2022, I’m experiencing a lot of fear and uncertainty, but I wouldn't be here without the army of family and friends standing behind me giving me the courage to continue. To write. And to never let go of my dreams.
The idea is to write a fifty thousand word novel in thirty days. An average of fifteen to seventeen hundred words a day for thirty days straight.
Doable? Yes, and no.
You can write two thousand words if you put the time in and put your mind to it. You have an idea, and putting it down on paper is the easiest task.
Most likely the quality of your words, sentences, and ideas won't even be close to the final product that you’re going to want to publish. There are some who can write a great novel in a month. These are experienced writers in their genre, and their focus is typically on the number of books they can sell and not necessarily on the quality of what they write. Don't get me wrong. You could write an interesting book that sells, and many writers do that. However, if you want an intricate plot and character depth, you will need to spend some time making it right, researching, and rethinking your writing. Those quick writers are also very familiar with the expectations of their readers. They can produce a book every couple of months and start selling them instantly. However, I would like you to notice the writers that are famous for their work. Most of them are releasing a book a year, and even sometimes skip a release.
Margaret Atwood published her first novel in 1969. To date, she has released only seventeen novels. The most recent one was in 2019. That is 0.3 novels a year. Of course, Steven King or Clive Cussler can write more than one novel a year, but for established, famous writers, this is more the exception than the rule. (Shh ... Some popular writers also have ghostwriters. They don't write all these books themselves.)
Yes, you can write a great novel or novella in thirty days, but I guarantee most participants won’t write anything close to publishable. It takes a long time to find your way as a writer.
What NaNoWriMo does is give you encouragement to write. So put your story on paper. Write it down, NaNoWriMo or not. The world wants your story, so start writing.
Because of the number of stories and plots that I put in my books, I don’t believe I have experienced writer’s block. I have lots of ideas that I would like to put on the pages. If I do not know how I want to write the next scene, I can always jump to a different scene that is clearer in my mind.
What I experienced in the last few weeks is what I would call writer’s fatigue. With many changes to the manuscript, I had spent on average about 90 hours a month writing, editing, or working towards publishing the first book, such as researching the cover design. That’s on top of my regular full-time job.
My brain was also going over and analyzing different scenarios and improvements to the same story. Thoughts have turned to absolute mush frequently where I lost track of which version of the story I was editing. Did these two people meet already or will they meet later? Did I already reveal this piece of information? Unfortunately, stepping away from the manuscript did not help in the long run, and I quickly found myself in the same situation.
How did I fight that?
What did I learn?
I need to work through the process of book writing one item at a time. One of the early mistakes that I made with my book was to rush things because I thought I could easily accomplish the tasks in front of me. I set my deadlines tight, and I was ready to put in the time and effort to get things done. This left me with no room to step away and breathe, and I kept pushing myself to do more writing and editing. It also caused a lot of anxiety trying to get things done, especially when others were waiting for me.
In the end, the initial publish date that I was planning to have the book ready for had to be moved because of external factors. This meant that all the stress and the unhealthy attitude towards writing were pointless. The book will proceed on its own timeline that I won’t be able to influence in its entirety. I don’t think I can get away from putting the long hours into writing because once I sit down to write and I immerse myself in the story; it is hard for me to stop. However, I can be smarter with deadlines because writing is supposed to be fun and not stressful.
Photo by: Zoltan Tasi unsplash.com/photos/0khu-rgbjzo?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditShareLink
When readers pick up a novel, they relate to its characters and sometimes even relive their stories. To have these kinds of reactions from the reader, the characters need to follow one simple rule: be believable
Making Sābanto's characters believable was very important when I created them. Here are a few points on the thought process of developing characters:
A Character Style Sheet is a separate document when you dump all you know about the characters. Their past, present and future aspirations. There is a process called Character Interviews that can help with writing Character Style Sheets. The character interview format provides a list of questions, helping the author build a detailed overview of the characters based on their answers.
I procrastinated with writing a Character Style Sheet but I found it helpful once it was completed and it helped me find inconsistencies in the book.
Sābanto tries to portray characters with a lot of history to shape them. I define their actions and motives and allow them to learn and grow. Are they believable and relatable? I hope so and I’m looking for feedback on that from my readers.