What goes on inside the writerly mind?
Let’s sit down with our 1000 Word Sprint Contest winners and see what’s up.
(Click HERE to read the stories.)
TODAY: 1st place winner Amanda Ruehle
Amanda Ruehle was born in Albuquerque, NM, and now resides in the great, green area of the country known as Western Washington. She lived for three years in Sasebo, Japan and has great ambitions to live in Spain or Italy someday.
Amanda shares her house with her long-suffering husband (love you, dear!), three boisterous boys, two dogs, a gecko, a bearded dragon, and a turtle. When she isn’t writing, she is busy driving a school bus, chasing after her boys, or running her small clay sculpture business. Sleep often seems to be an optional activity.
Amanda first started writing creatively in high school, but she didn’t really get going until college, when she would write stories in the backs of her notebooks when she got bored taking notes during her biology and chemistry lectures.
She currently has two published titles in her Cyan Series, Mystian Dawning and Blazing Sunset, and has the third in the works. She is also branching out into anthologies and is thoroughly enjoying working on common projects with large groups of talented authors!
DAN: Did you write your story for the contest or was it part of a larger piece, like a book you are working on, or was it something you had written before?
AMANDA: The original version of this story was written as part of a flash fiction contest I entered a few years ago. As participants, we were given a genre, a setting, and an object and had forty-eight hours to come up with a thousand words of awesome— or not. I really liked where this one was going, so I dusted it off, edited it a bit (again!), and gave it a chance at a second life. Mystery is not my preferred genre, to be sure— that would be fantasy— but I found out it can be a lot of fun!
Are you considering using this piece for a book?
I think this story is pretty complete as it is. Short format writing is challenging, especially for someone like me who is used to writing full-length novels, but it’s great practice for getting an entire story out in just a few words. Honestly, I think I might do a disservice to this little story if I tried expanding it any further.
Tell us about your writing process. What is the journey from idea to published piece /completed story?
I am definitely not a very organized writer. I spend A LOT of time mulling over ideas and plotting out storylines in my head. Sometimes, the ideas just pop in there, but more often, I have to coax them out of hiding. In my novels, I do this by reading and re-reading scenes I already have written or by mentally running through the overall plot and just seeing what comes to mind.
Getting it all down on paper (or typed out) is the hardest part of all of it for me. I don’t write well with an audience, and I have three boys and a husband running around my house all the time, so I usually to the actual writing after everyone is in bed. Sometimes, it’s good to be a night owl! Probably the oddest quirk about my process is that I VERY rarely write my stories in order. I just plunk out whatever scene is flitting through my head at that particular moment and then organize them all later. For my last novel, the last section I wrote was actually toward the middle of the book.
Of course, then there is the editing part, but I don’t like to talk much about that. Editing is a painful, necessary evil. And humbling. I remember thinking the first time I got a piece back from an editor that I had just learned that I was not nearly as awesome as I thought I was.
Where do you do your writing?
Really, it can be anywhere and at any time. Mostly, it’s on my computer in my bedroom. Preferably with the door locked and with noise-canceling headphones on. I find it hard to write without some music playing. But I often carry a notebook and pen around with me, and if the mood strikes, I’ll jot a few lines down before the idea vanishes on me.
Do you have a writing goal you want to achieve?
My first two books are part of a series, and I would love to get that series finished. There’s so much about that world in my head that would be amazing to be able to share with others. And hey, if I can make enough money off the stories to be able to quit my day job, that would be incredible, too!
What helps you the most when it comes to writing?
When I was in college, I found that I could write and write and write with little outside encouragement, but as I’ve gotten older and the everyday responsibilities of life have multiplied, I’ve realized that I need some sort of accountability in order to make writing a priority. I have a few writing buddies that are good at bugging me and helping me stay on task. I try to do the same for them, as well. Without them, I’m not sure I’d ever get any of my projects finished!
What does writing success look like?
Writing success for me tends to change depending on when you ask me. Right now, a success for me is just getting some time to myself and actually getting some words written down. I have plans to adhere to a more consistent schedule over the summer, when I’m on hiatus from my day job, so that I can start looking at success as finishing and publishing my stories— whether that continues to be as an indie author or if I decide to look back into more traditional publishing. I’ve often thought that it would be amazing to find an agent.
What are you working on now?
A lot! I’m about 70k words into my third novel, which is really where my heart and soul is, as far as telling stories goes. I was just published in an anthology around Easter, and I’ll be getting back the rights to that story in July, so I’m working on getting that all formatted up and polishing up its cover (cover design might be a new hobby for me! It was a lot of fun!). Aside from this 1000 Word Sprint contest, I am already contemplating a possible story for the next contest coming up on this blog
…and I am scheduled to be published in two more anthologies— one around Halloween and one during the summer of next year. I probably ought to get to work on those!
There are a lot of writing contests out there. What drew you to this one?
A good friend of mine, Anne Clare, finished second in the last contest held on this blog. She was so excited and sounded like she had a good time, so I just had to come over and check out the fun!
How did you hear about our contest?
After my friend reblogged her second-place finish in the last contest here, I subscribed to the blog myself. I heard about this contest when Dan first posted about it!
Have you ever entered a writing contest before?
I have! A few years ago, I participated in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction competition. Made it to the third round before being eliminated by a group of some amazing writers. I’ve tried to take what I learned there and apply it to what I’ve written since.
Will we see you again in the next Word Weaver Writing Contest?
I am intrigued by it! It is definitely under serious consideration!
Did you know the piece you submitted was special?
My stories are kind of like my babies, so I tend to think they’re all special. I’m not always convinced others will feel the same way, though, so I’m very happy you seemed to like this one as much as I did!
What’s next for you?
I’m going to hang on for dear life during this last week of school, and then I think I might just sleep for a week!
What was Dan’s critique process like?
It was really easy and painless! I sent off the story, he read it, and then I got an email back with his thoughts. He was very encouraging. There was one thing he said that left me hanging, though: he said that there was a little cheating, but he didn’t tell me how! HOW DID I CHEAT, DAN? Put my anxiety to rest!
(It was only a little, and I said readers would be okay with it.)
How do you choose character names?
Usually, I’ll hear a name while I’m out and about, or in a movie or on TV, and it’ll catch my attention and settle down in my mind as a brand-new character.
I almost do that same thing. I hear a good name and I write it down, but I don’t imagine a character right away. (I suck at names, so this is how I cheat at that now.)
A few of my characters are named for and based on people I know in real life. The main bad guy in my first two books, however, has a fun name-origin story. I first named him while I was still in college. I was feeling particularly snarky and grumbly one day in classes, so I combined parts of the last names of three of my professors and came up with Lahoflon. That name has stuck with him to this day.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Benedict Cumberbatch. I don’t care who he plays. Even if he wanted to play one of my female characters, I’d go for it. Just get the man and his beautiful voice in there!
Seriously, though, he’d make a great Firestorm— an enchanter who will probably show up in all of the books in my series. He made his first appearance in my first novel, Mystian Dawning.
How hard was it to send your book into the world? Looking back, what can you tell new authors about that experience?
My first novel was traditionally published, so I didn’t have the “Publish” button, per se, but I can tell you that writing that query email, attaching the file with the story I’d poured so much of myself into, and then hitting the send button was one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve ever done. My story was originally intended for an audience of one— me— and I never planned on sharing it with anyone. It was almost like a journal, in a way. I hadn’t recorded my deepest and most intimate thoughts in it, of course, but it was a profoundly personal and meaningful creation, and I was extremely wary of any other eyes poring over it. I knew that in order for it to become what I wanted of it that it would be judged, critiqued, edited, and more or less manhandled by people who didn’t hold it in as high as regard as I did, and that scared me more than just a little. But in the end, the story came out much better on the other end, and I learned so many things that I believe have made me a better writer. It was a lot easier to go ahead and hit that “Publish” button for my second book, which I opted to indie publish.
So my advice for new authors is to just go ahead and take the leap. Push that button. Put your baby out into the world and help it spread its wings.
– Amanda Ruehle
And put serious consideration into the comments offered by editors, beta readers, reviewers, and anyone else who has taken the time to read your work and give you their opinion. You’d be amazed at how much a fresh perspective can open up new possibilities for improving your work.
Gang, join me in congratulating Amanda on her big win.
I hope we’ll see more of her in the future, but here’s where you can find out more about this talented writer:
www.facebook.com/groups/mystianmenagerie (I don’t have a dedicated readers’ group yet, but I do share bits of my writing in this group, as well as my art.)