Saturday, May 30, 2020

Great Questions From A Novice Writer

These are from Deanna Harrison who’s thinking of becoming a professional writer and, from the nature of her questions, it’s obvious that she’s put a lot of thought into it. I like the questions a lot and I’m pretty find of my answers as well. Deanna has given me her kind permission to reproduce the Q&A right here. Maybe this will help others looking to jump into fictioneering.

1. How do you stop switching tenses?

Well, you decide whether your story takes place in the present or the past and try to remain aware of that as you write. If you mess up, you can fix it in re-write. If you miss it there have other people proofread it for you for mistakes. Rewriting is the key! Get to love rewriting.

2. If you had the choice between publishing yourself or an agency/company which would you choose?

The e-book goldrush is over unless you have oodles of money for marketing. If not, you need to go with the publisher. That DOESN’T mean you shouldn’t self-publish first to establish copyright and get the attention of a publisher.

3. Do you start creating a character or world-building first?

I start with the character and a vague notion of the setting. But not every writer works that way.

4. Do you know if right away a story will become multiple books or do you write it and decide it after it's published?

I decide before I start writing. I know before I begin if it’s the first in a series or a one-off.

5. I know it is OK to skip around writing different chapters. That way you can meet a set quota you give yourself. But what if it's too far ahead in the story?

You absolutely should skip around if it keeps your momentum going. You can’t go too far ahead because you can always rewrite. As long as you’re making progress, keep writing.

6. How do you know when not to write say, said, mumbled, or other forms of explaining emotions in a sentence. 

Depends on the book and my intended audience. I usually stick with just “said” or “asked.” When I write westerns, I run the gamut; declared, bemoaned, cried, bellowed. The audience for those seem to prefer it that way.
But, for the most part, the emotion of your characters should come out in dialogue or at least be implied. I use physical gestures sometimes to convey unspoken emotions.

“I’m not frightened at all,” she said, her knuckles white where she twisted the hem of her apron.

7. Do you know of any good sites to help lookup words/items that you don't know but can describe them to get its name? 

I often just Google similar words and see what I can find. And read, read, read. Stock up the memory holes with new words and phrases. A writer collects words the same way a sound effects technician collects sounds.  I’m always stunned at the number of words I can recall while writing that I didn’t even know that I knew.


  1. Chuck,

    I love this:

    "I’m always stunned at the number of words I can recall while writing that I didn’t even know that I knew."


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