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Frequently Asked Questions

 

Where did you get the idea for the Aredyrah story?

I didn’t pick the story; the story picked me. About five years ago I was trying to draw a fantasy character that refused to cooperate. In his place another kept appearing on the page, much to my dismay. For some strange reason a red-haired boy, wearing black gloves and riding a horse, kept pouring out of my pencil. I had no idea who he was at the time, only that he was very determined. I almost tossed the picture into the trash, but a little voice told me to keep working on it. The more I drew, the more the voice became that of the boy, whispering his story into my ear. I soon realized that I either needed to write the story down, or make an appointment for a CT scan. Needless to say, I didn’t make the appointment. Of note, I learned early on that the boy has a temper. The drawing is now framed and hanging on my office wall. The glass has cracked—twice. Lesson 1: Never make Ruairi mad.

Had you written anything before this?

No, only what I was assigned to write in school. In other words, nothing for fun. I never had any ambitions to be an author. This experience came completely out of the blue, and I thank the Universe every day for it. Lesson 2: Always listen to the Universe.

Who do you think your audience is?

I wrote the story with the young adult reader in mind. Depending on their maturity level, younger readers might enjoy it equally as well. I am finding adults are particularly drawn to it. I’m happy to say that the series is finding acceptance amongst a wide range of readers.

What advice do you have for new writers?

There are lots of “experts” out there that are only too happy to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. If you listen to everything everyone tells you, you’ll never get anywhere. If you have a story to tell, then tell it. That’s the main thing. In the beginning don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, whether you use too many adjectives or adverbs, your chances for getting published, all that stuff. Those things can come later. Just enjoy the wonderful feeling you get from exploring the world you have created and the characters that have drawn you into their lives. There is plenty of time to study the technical side of writing, something you will eventually need to know if your audience is going to enjoy reading your story as much as you enjoyed writing it.

How can one learn the craft?

It takes time and practice, but here are some suggestions:

1. Read, especially books in your favorite genre. More than likely this will be the genre you write in.

2. Study. There are hundreds of books about the writing craft. Have more than one on hand. You don’t have to read them all cover to cover. As you come to a question within your own writing, research that particular topic. Keep a book about writing by your bed, in your purse or in the car, in the bathroom, next to your favorite easy chair. I recommend:

The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack M. Bickham
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
100 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Gary Provost
Rewrite Right by Jan Venolia
On Writing by Stephen King
Sometimes the Magic Works, by Terry Brooks
Let's Get Creative: Writing Fiction that Sells! by William F. Nolan

3. Gather your writing tools. Keep the following reference books handy:

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B.White (or something similar)
—A Thesaurus
—A Dictionary
—Chicago Manual of Style

4. Always have a pencil and paper within reach no matter where you are. Scathingly brilliant ideas will flash into your brain when you least expect them. You may think you’ll remember them, but trust me—you won’t! You need to be able to jot your ideas down in a hurry. I would also recommend keeping a journal of notes, pictures, and any research information you find that can be used to enhance your story.

5. Take a class. There are continuing education courses available at local universities and community colleges, but if they exceed your budget or don’t work with your schedule there are other options such as the Internet or through writers groups.

6. Join a writers group. Writers groups are affordable and offer a wealth of information and networking opportunities. Most host guest speakers, writers’ conferences, contests, and group publications. They also give you a chance to mingle with like-minded people. It’s easy to lock yourself in your room, lost in your own world and tied to the computer, but if you do it will be much harder for you to grow as a writer.

7. Join a critique group, but only when you are ready. A first draft of your story is not the best writing sample to share with others. Iron out as many kinks as you can beforehand. You should go into a critique group ready and willing to learn, but don’t go expecting the group to educate you if you haven’t even bothered to educate yourself. You can gain a great deal from a critique group, but do your part, and don’t expect them to be your editors. There’s a difference between critiquing and editing. Editors are professionals who charge for the service. Critique groups are free and provide evaluations, support, and the opportunity to learn from multiple members.

What’s the hardest thing about being a writer?

There are many challenges, most of them wonderful, but the hardest thing is learning how to accept negative criticism. Most writers will tell you they embrace their books as if they were their own children. And in a sense they are. The stories and characters were, after all, born from the author’s heart and soul. Just as it’s hard to hear someone criticize your human child, it’s hard to listen to them criticize your imaginary one. But it goes with the territory, so there’s no way to avoid it. Just try to keep the criticism in perspective: who is giving it and why, and is there any benefit to be gained from it. Take what positives you can, then toss the rest away. To do otherwise will just drag you down.

Are you available for speaking engagements?

Absolutely! I love to speak on the topic of writing and welcome the opportunity to share the news about my books. I live in Florida, so am available to speak anywhere in the state. If it’s elsewhere, contact me and we’ll talk. I can be reached through the Contact link on my website.

© Tracy A. Akers, 2006