On Writing

Why do you write? You mean I had a choice? Damn!

Seriously though, I’ve always had a story rattling around in my head. As a child I loved to explore new worlds and have adventures as someone else. The natural progression would have brought me eventually to acting, professional storytelling, or writing. In High School writing won. I can’t act and I’m adverse to public speaking. Writing gave me an escape, a chance to explore the worlds in my mind, and a way to create and express myself. It’s something I need to do.

What is your work routine? I try to wake up early in the morning, brew some coffee, apple cider, or herbal tea, and pull out my day planner to schedule my daily tasks. I usually devote 40% of my day to writing, 40% of my day to client work, and 20% to business related tasks. If I have time before I need to wake the kids for school I pull out a pad of paper and a my plot outline and start writing the next part of my story. After the kids are off to school and my morning walk is out-of-the-way. I start writing.

My writing routine looks something like this: I open my current work-in-progress and read through the last two pages or a scene from the day before, making corrections and adding layers as I read. This stretches my creative muscles for the 2,000 word sprint. I only give myself about 2 hours to make it to my goal. Some days I make it, others times not so much.

If I feel inspired to write some more I might do that if I have no pressing work that has to be done first. If there are things, like client deadlines that need to be met, business paperwork that needs to be filed, or other business task, then I’ll move on to emails (1st time) and take an hour to answer what I can. I return to emails before clocking off for the day.

Around noon I head out for my second exercise time of feeding the kids or in the summer cleaning the ditches. The afternoon is devoted to writing my co-authored books and book designs, and any other business related tasks that keeps Ruis Publishing running in the black.

Where do you get the ideas for your books? Everywhere. Books, news articles, movies, commercials, dreams, life, my kids, while taking a shower, cleaning house and mowing the lawn. Ideas are all around, it’s just a matter of asking “what if?” My Lord Hades came from the myth of Hades and Persephone. Loving Khyrsolia was born from a Norse mythology and a situation where a killer tiger was stalking a tribe. Loving the Goddess of Love, evolved from an event in My Lord Hades.

What is your writing process? Once I have the idea for the book, I start writing out ideas for characters, plots, subplots, scenes, and a summary outline that plot out the main points of the story that I know at the moment. If the book is part of a series I make sure that everything flows with the timeline. Next I use my beat sheet or story evolution chart to plot out the story flow.  Once the outlining is finished, I write it while it is still fresh in my mind. Some things change as the characters evolves and I have to make changes to my outline to reflect this. If I find I’m having a hard time writing, I’ll take a break to figure out why. It’s a good indication that something is wrong with the plot. It also saves me time. It’s the best process I’ve found that works for me.

Why did you chose self-publishing? Half way through my second novel I started to study the publishing industry and I didn’t like what I read about the traditional publishing world. I want to enjoy my children. I have a ranch and a household to run. I want to enjoy writing for the sake of writing. I didn’t want to write for the need to crank out book after book so that I won’t be forgotten. I didn’t want an editor to tell me what I had to change or do with my book because it was the current trend. I didn’t want the pressure of writing what the industry believes sells rather than what I enjoy. So I decided that self-publishing was the better option for me.

Do you have any advice to give other writers? Write what makes you happy. Be that fantasy, fiction, romance, thrillers, non-fiction, horror, or erotica. Do what works for you. If that’s writing everyday, then write every day. If that’s creating a project folder of maps, research, character sketches, setting sketches, outlines, etc. Do it. If it’s just writing without a plan, have fun at it. Don’t let anyone tell you what you must do, or the right way to write. We are all different and as long as we all end in the same place, a completed written work, who gives a shit how we got there.

Do you have stories that sound good in concept but suck when you write them? Will they ever be published? At last count I have 23 stories started, 7 published, and 18 abandoned in my filing cabinet. Usually this happens when I have a spark of an idea and no planned ending to write toward. Those whose ideas really suck usually end of the in trash and burned in my woodstove. Sometimes I cannibalize fragments of stories for future work. The Raven King, one of my current works-in-progress, is just such a story. Once I figured out the problem with it and cut out all the scenes that made it a mess, the basic plot was a sound one.

What are your favorite and least favorite things about writing? I love planning. I love figuring out who my characters are, what they look like, what they want, what I’m going to make them do, and the world they live in. I like outlining the story, but not to death. I’m not going to be drawing detailed maps are fill out pages of unless information about my characters. As long as I know where to start, where they are going to be mid-story, what the climax should be, and how it all turns out, that’s enough planning for me. The first draft can be scary, especially at the beginning, but it’s still fun. It’s the later work, like editing, revising, and proofing that are my least favorite things. It’s necessary for a good book, but very tedious. It gets to the point I almost hate my books and never want to read them again. It’s one of the reasons beta readers are so important.

Where do you get your ideas? From all around me. Ideas can be sparked by an image I see, a scene in a movie, a word or phrase, questioning what is already being done, books, my kids, or a dream. They’re then added to my “Ideas Files” either on my hard drive or in my folders. Once I have an idea, I play the “what if” game. What if Hades wasn’t the man everyone thinks he was? What if there was a reason behind Aphrodite’s affairs? What if Odin isn’t the nice guy? Brainstorming “what-ifs” enhance the plots of the story from one dimension to many.