On July 22nd, Matthew Cox released Caller 107, a YA contemporary-paranormal book. With a few published books already under his belt, Matt makes writing a novel look easy. I asked if he would answer a few questions about writing… and he did. I loved his honest answers and suggestions, especially what he considers the most difficult aspect of being a writer and his advice about character development.
I’m adding Caller 107 to my Want to Read list. Please stop by the Goodreads and rafflecopter links at the bottom of the page. Now, on with the interview:
Matthew, are you a panster or a plotter? How do you approach a new idea?
Plotter. With one exception (Caller 107) everything I write, I’ve outlined first. Years ago when I first started writing, I’d never be able to finish anything (at the time I was just writing without a plan). I decided to outline so I knew where the story was going, and that let me finish. I tend to prefer storylines with subtle clues and intricate undertones, and underlining lets me keep all the stuff straight during the writing.
When you’re writing, your word count is amazing. How do you manage such a high level of productivity?
I have been told my word count is rather high. My drafting speed varies a bit with motivation and time – When the story really wants out my average is about 4000 words on a day when I have to work, and I’ve gone over 10k with ease on a day off. My record is about 18k words in one day (though that was an 8am to midnight bender). I’m going a bit slower on my current WIP as I am happily distracted by things (like the Caller 107 release).
As best as I can say, my output is due to a couple of things working together. First, I type about 110-140 words per minute depending on the groove I get into and how often I have to backspace/correct stuff. On a good roll, I can type about the same speed people talk.
Secondly, I am an outliner, so I get most of the sitting, staring at the wall parts of writing out of the way as I build the outline. When I’m drafting, I already know where the story is headed (though it can, and often does, change).
The last part is a combination of focus and having nothing else to do J I used to be addicted to online gaming (World of Warcraft specifically) and I’ve channeled that drive into writing. When I’m not with friends, at work, or asleep, I have this irresistible urge to sit down and work on the next manuscript.
What is the most difficult aspect about being a writer?
Getting over that initial fear of a bad reaction and letting the world see my writing for the first time. The cycle repeats itself in smaller versions each time I come up with a new manuscript, but it’s getting much easier.
What are your top three nuggets of wisdom you would like to share with unpublished writers?
Make believable characters. Readers will not like a character that constantly acts contrary to what their nature seems to be – or if they have no nature and are just a shell. Grounding a character (be it protagonist, antagonist, or minor character) in a true sense of being keeps things genuine. It even helps avoid getting stuck because if you know your character, you know how they’d react in a situation.
Write the story you want to tell, not the story you think the market wants. The more into the story you are, the better it will come out.
Once you’ve finished a draft, let it sit for a week or four. Then go back and do an edit pass. Then go back again and read it out loud to yourself.
What is your favorite part of the writing process?
Typing “The End” after the first draft. It’s a combination of the sense of accomplishment at finishing, plus the start of the editing process.
Do you have any suggestions for editing drafts?
Be on the lookout for filtering, avoid weak/explanatory dialogue tags, and use adverbs only when unavoidable. Also, delete “very” whenever it happens.
What do you think is the most important element a story should have?
Barring a farcical comedy, I’d have to say logic or sense. With obvious leeway given a story’s plot and world, things need to happen for explainable reasons. It lends to the believability of the world and the characters. For example, if a character is shooting at a robot with a high-powered rifle and the bullets are just bouncing off of the robot, and then he whacks it with a crowbar and damages it – that makes no sense. Plot holes, logic holes, try to keep things cohesive. (Again, barring comedy where breaking this cohesion is done for effect.)
Do you have other stories in the works?
Yes. I’ve got two more installments in the Division Zero series done and in various stages of production. The Awakened series 1 (Prophet of the Badlands) is due out in November. Part 2 of that (Archon’s Queen) is done with editing and waiting on a release date. Part 3 (Grey Ronin) is sitting on someone’s virtual desk at the publisher now. Part 4 (Daughter of Ash), I just finished drafting a few weeks ago and am about to begin edit 1 on. Also, I have a MG fantasy (Emma & The Banderwigh) on submission with CQ, as well as an anthology of short stories. Also, a collaborative effort with author Tony Healey (Operation: Chimera) is nearing completion (in terms of cover art and such. The book is done, but there’s no release date yet.)
I wrote a blog about self-doubt being a new demon I encountered. Do you have any writing demons?
Self-doubt is a big one for me as well. I always hear people say that writing is supposed to be tedious, difficult, time consuming… Perhaps I’m having a spate of luck, but the stories fly out of my head onto the paper and feel almost ‘too easy.’ I spent a long time wondering if I was doing it wrong because it didn’t feel like torture to write.
If someone wrote a book about your life, who would star as you?
Oof. Umm. So far, my life has been pretty boring. The only answer I could come up with for this is a 1980s Chevy Chase… Well-meaning schmuck that seems to constantly have bad luck.
Check out Matthew’s new book: Caller 107. Here’s the back cover blurb:
When thirteen-year-old Natalie Rausch said she would die to meet DJ Crazy Todd, she did not mean to be literal.
Two years is a long time to be stuck between two people that want nothing more than to destroy each other. A tween crush on the larger-than-life jock from a local radio station is the only trace of a once-happy life ruined by warring parents.
Whenever WROK 107 ran a contest, she would dive for the phone, getting busy signals and dead air every time. She never expected to get through, but at least with her best friend at her side, it used to be fun.
Before her parents ruined that too.
Her last desperate attempt to get their attention, falling in with a dangerous group of older teens, goes as wrong as possible. With no one left to blame for her mess of a life but herself, karma comes full circle and gives her just a few hours to make up for two years’ worth of mistakes–or be forever lost.