On Writing

i totally didn’t kidnap deborah o’carroll for an interview. pfft.

I HAVE ANOTHER GUEST … I KNOW, I KNOW – am I being slightly over social? I’ve agonised about it, but I think it’s going to be okay.

I have the glorious Deborah O’Carroll with me – of her own free will (!!!!) – so sit yourself down (or don’t), grab a cup of tea (or coffee or NOTHING!) and settle in; we’re in for (another) treat.

***DON’T READ ON … if you don’t want book recommendations, VITAL TIPS on participating in NaNoWriMo, and a banquet of scintillating conversation***

Quick! A confirmed book-hater is heading your way – what’s the book you lob at their head to make them change their mind?

That all depends on if it needs to be a thick book (in order to knock some sense into them) or simply the best book! Or maybe both! In the first case, a dictionary should do the trick. In the second, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, because it’s my absolute favorite! Or if both, then a hardcover single-volume edition of The Lord of the Rings because it’s huge AND the best, a.k.a. my other absolute favorite! (Yes, I can have two — shush — because I’m making up the rules here!)

Stories – what draws you to them?

What DOESN’T draw me to them? I love the way stories can draw me into a new world to explore, with characters who feel like friends, and can show me new things about life in an interesting way. But mostly I love the FUN of stories because life is too short to not have fun. 😛

… and what’s the one thing that would make you hurl a book across the room in mild disgust/ferocious loathing? Or maybe you have two things. OR THREE!! DO TELL!

Killing off a favorite character = number one cause of hurling books in loathing. XD UNACCEPTABLE. Ahem. Also having a tragic ending. Worse if it’s both together! (Milder cases also include: being super dark, being super dystopian, or, sometimes, love triangles. XD)

What’s something that you’ve read that’s really, truly impacted your life?

OH BOY. Many things, but one that leaps to mind right now is Stephen R. Lawhead’s Bright Empires series. That impacted me in multiple ways (like pounding into my head that coincidences doesn’t exist), but the biggest was in the character of Mina. She was the first female character I’ve read who I WANT TO BE (other than Eowyn and Princess Eilonwy, but hello, who doesn’t want to be them?), and showed me things about the kind of person I want to be, and that you can survive — nay, thrive — in totally unexpected ways. (For some reason, the usual Accepted List for those entering their twenties seems to be one of three options: have a 9-5 job, get married, or go to college. Leaving out the fourth option, which is doing your own thing!) Mina is whisked out of her humdrum modern London existence and thrust into 1600s Prague in an alternate timeline. Instead of wallowing, she gets out there and DOES SOMETHING, and it’s sort of spoilers to go on too much about it, but she basically becomes an entrepreneur with the bestest kaffeehaus ever. She carves a place for herself in the world while being the nicest and bravest person and CAN I BE HER? She’s a major role-model, and definitely one of the reasons I’m an editor today. Mina’s the actual bomb and I love her! (And she also reminds us that, you know, if you happen to be stuck in 1600s Prague — in case that’s somewhere on your vacation list — even if you love it there, it’s okay to be missing 21st century showers.)

Is there a book that you haven’t yet read but would like to AND ARE YOU GOING TO WRITE IT?

YOU BET. SO MANY. I have a list. XD I want an excellent world-hopping book with all of the whimsy (in the Diana Wynne Jones tradition). I want a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling. I want a super epic, awesome (but also fun!) urban fantasy heist book that’s not super gritty. I totally have plans to write all of these! Preferably soon! Those are just on the top of my wishlist. 😀

How do you fit writing into your day-to-day life – what’s your routine?

Um. I don’t. *hysterical laughter* I have been far too busy this year to keep up a regular writing schedule, so I don’t even remember what regular writing IS LIKE. I just write if I have time to fit it in. However, I’m going to make room for it during the insanity that’s NaNoWriMo, and I’ll probably fit it in my writing in the mornings (oh, say it’s not so) or late at night. I don’t really have a “routine” but I should probably make one, at least for November. *nervous laughter to join the hysterical laughter so they can be best buddies and my constant companions throughout the coming month*

What keeps you motivated? Not in a ‘ah, look I just might do this’ way but more ‘ARGHHH THERE’S A T-REX AFTER ME LET ME RUN IN HEELS TOWARDS MY GOAL!!!’?

Firstly, I’m not a heels person, so I promise I’d be in much more sensible footwear for running from T-Rexes toward goals or in any other direction. And secondly, deadlines! They are both the bane of my existence and the power to my engine. Sometimes I think they’re the only reason I get anything done. XD There’s nothing like having that review book due tomorrow or that NaNoWriMo clock ticking down toward the Final End of Doom to get you in gear with a healthy (or unhealthy? Who’s counting) dose of panic. And as far as writing goals, I’m kept motivated by having a lovely writer friend who keeps me accountable, and I know I’ll have to admit I didn’t finish the thing if I miss my goal, so that’s a total motivator!

Is there anything you wish you’d have known when you first started out as a freelancer?

Things about time and money and organization. XD It sounds obvious, but one should always know these things. Like that Taxes Are the Bane of Life, and also the golden rule: Things Always Take Longer Than You Think (so you should make more time for them than you thought you needed, and should probably charge more than you do. *nervous laughter*). Oh, and detailed record-keeping. Hugely important. You learn all these things fairly quickly, but it’s nice to know them in advance. 😛

As a copy editor/proofreader – what’s the number one mistake that you see writers make in their manuscripts?

Incorrectly punctuated dialogue and dialogue tags. MY WORD. Everyone has done it at some point, so I understand that it’s hard (I was there once, myself, as a smol writer, before I knew better — or rather as a young writer, since I am and always will be smol. #heightchallenged) but once you learn it, it’s not ALL that difficult to do properly. The easiest way to remember it is to think: “Would this make sense as a sentence if I removed the quotation marks?”

AND LASTLY: You’re doing NaNoWriMo … can you give a hot tip on HOW ON EARTH TO SURVIVE IT – NAY THRIVE?!

Two things! Timers, and STAY AHEAD.

Timers, because wordsprints/wordwars are your best friends — and you can do them with your other best friends (a.k.a. your writing pals) or even just set a timer and sprint/war against yourself (guaranteed to win!). If sprints aren’t your thing, at least set a timer to make yourself write during that set time (whether it’s ten minutes, twenty minutes, or an hour), and no matter how slow you write, you WILL have words to show for it when the timer “goes ding when there’s stuff!” (In this case, the stuff is words. And, if we’re very lucky, also story.) Then take a quick break before starting again. When the timer’s running, you may not do ANYTHING other that write, which includes checking the internet!

My other brief tip is to make sure you stay on par each day as much as possible — or get ahead if you have extra time, so that you can skip a few days later on, which will also happen, because Life is a Thing. But once you dip below that daily goal, it’s going to be mentally harder to catch up, so staying on track is HUGE. 1667 words per day. If you haven’t quite made it, set that timer again and soon you will! You can do the thing! I believe in you and so do all those unwritten words waiting for you! (And also all of our characters, who will quietly judge us if we don’t write them more, so that’s also a great motivator. *cough*)

Thanks for having me, Ness — your questions were highly superior and I had a blast being here! Huzzah! And thanks, blogly readers, for putting up with my rambunctious ramblings and exclamation point addiction!

Thank YOU for popping over!


You can politely stalk Deborah on her website here and read about her recent millionth word mark right here. If you want YOUR dialogue to be perfectly tagged and punctuated, head over right here.

(And if you just want to smile – go right here.)