Authors discuss their writing techniques.
Hi, I’m Mark O’Bannon. Welcome to this rare look into the secrets of storytelling from published authors. Today, I’m joined by New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder, the author of the Study Series (Poison Study, Magic Study and Fire Study).
Life as a Writer
How did you get into writing?
What started me writing was boredom at work (shhh…don’t tell ;). My work was either crazy busy or dead dull – it was during those dull times that I started jotting down the stories that had been swirling around my head.
When did you first realize that you have what it takes to be a writer?
After my first novel, Poison Study sold. Up until then I wasn’t sure I knew what I was doing. I’m still not sure – when I start each novel, it is like a leap of faith, but now when I get stuck, I look at my books and remember I did it before, I can do it again.
Where do you get your ideas from?
I get ideas from every where. And everything I do is all fodder for my writing. All my experiences, all the people I’ve met, all the classes I take, all the books I read, movies I watch, newspapers, magazines, etc… It is all fuel for the fire of my imagination. I advise aspiring writers to go out and experience life, take classes on anything that interests them and talk to people. I have a notebook full of notes and ideas from my various experiences. I don’t lack for ideas, but for time.
How do you develop your ideas into a story?
I usually start with a character in a bad situation, figure out what motivates them and what they want more than anything else. Then I decide who or what is going to get in her way and then sit down and write. I discover the rest of the story as I go.
What kind of stories do you enjoy working with?
I’ve been writing mostly fantasy and science fiction stories for both adults and young adults. My stories all feature a strong female protagonist, have action, adventure and a touch of romance.
What genres would you like to explore in the future?
I grew up reading mysteries, so I would like to write one someday. I also like romantic suspense and think that would be fun. And I would like to write a picture book for kids as well.
Do you work from an outline?
Nope. I’m a pure seat-of-your-pants writer.
How do you build your story?
I give my main protagonists and antagonists goals and then put obstacles in their way. How they deal with these obstacles and the consequences of their actions determine how the story will go. My poor editor has realized by now, that the synopsis I send her before the book is written is my best guess at the time, and the story I write won’t match it at all.
For you, what makes a great hero?
Someone who is willing to make sacrifices for others.
If one of your characters were to describe you, what would he/she say?
Evil and sadistic ;> My characters face danger and betrayal and horrible situations. They suffer and are frequently asked to go the distance. I’m sure they hate me.
How much time do you spend researching the setting for your stories?
For my fantasy novels, I don’t do a lot of research. I create my worlds from my imagination. For my YA dystopian novels, Inside Out and Outside In, the characters are living in an enclosed space, basically a huge metal cube, so I needed to make sure they had the right type of machinery, like air cleaners and waste-water handling systems in places so they could live Inside. For those books, I had to do more research so I had the science and engineering right. Otherwise, I’d hear about it 🙂
What settings would you like to explore in the future?
I’d like to set a story in an inner city environment, and would like to do one set in space.
Do you like to know the purpose of your story before you sit down to write it?
Nope. I discover as I go and sometimes don’t know the purpose until I finish or until I’ve read the book a dozen times.
Do you have any favorite lines from your stories?
Yes. I have a couple.
From Poison Study – Valek uses darts laced with a sleeping potion to knock out two opponents instead of fighting them and he says, “It’s a dirty way to fight, but I’m late for lunch.”
Also from Poison Study – Yelena asks Valek what happened to the prior food taster and he says, “He didn’t have the stomach for it.”
Valek got all the great lines
And this from Touch of Power – Belen is warning Kerrick to be careful, “…things happen that are out of your control.”
Kerrick gave him a tight smile. “You mean I’m not omnipotent?”
“You’re not even semi-potent.” [Belen]
“Is that even a word?” Kerrick asked.
“He probably means you’re impotent,” I offered.” [Avry]
Do you have a routine? A certain place to write? Do you listen to music?
I do have a routine. I write from 10 p.m. at night until 3 or 4 a.m., then sleep until 10 or 11 a.m. I have an office in my house where I do most of my writing and I do listen to music. Before my dog passed away, I didn’t listen to music as it was too distracting, but when she was gone, it was so quiet in my office (she snored!), so I started listening to music.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
I do a variety of things. First, I take a break – sometimes all I need is some distance from the story. Second – I take either a long walk or a long shower. If those don’t work, then I send my pages to my agent. He reads them and then calls me. We talk about the story and brainstorm. Usually during that phone call, I’ll get an idea on what is going to happen next. I don’t have a fourth as I haven’t needed it yet!
How do you go about fixing a story?
The same way I deal with writer’s block. If I know something is wrong, I’ll ruminate about it and if I still can’t figure out how to fix it, I’ll call my agent. When I receive comments from my editor and I don’t know what to do, I’ll call her and ask what she is looking for. Usually when she explains why she wasn’t happy with a certain section or twist, I can see her point and fix the problem.
How do you know when to stop?
For me, ending a story is an instinctual thing. I’ll get to a certain point or action and just know that’s it. It’s hard to explain. As for knowing when to stop revisions, deadlines play a big part in that. I only have so much time to work on a novel and when my deadline arrives, then I send it in. I do get a chance to revise a couple more times before the book is printed. For new writers you have to remember it’s never going to be perfect and after five or six revisions that is enough and it’s time to start submitting.
Words of Advice
What words of advice would you give to new writers?
Persistence! I’d been writing for ten years and submitting for eight before I sold anything. Learn the craft of writing as well as the business of writing and attend writer’s conferences and classes if you can. Consider that time an apprenticeship. Be wary of predators, if someone is asking you for money it’s a bad sign! Get feedback on your stories from fellow writers before submitting. Joining a critique group is very helpful. I also find that if I let a story sit on my desk for a few weeks I can pick out all the problems, typos and inconsistencies easier. And I agree whole heartily with Stephen King’s advice in his book, On Writing. He wrote, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” And don’t give up! Ever!
I have writing articles on my website for anyone who’s interested in learning more. Here’s the link: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/advice.php
So, what is YOUR plan for the zombie apocalypse?
I’m heading to North Carolina with my family. My friend Judi has a farm and a walk-in gun safe loaded with weapons. She and her husband are both sharp-shooters 🙂
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written?
The main protagonist in my first book, Poison Study inspired a young lady so much she decided not to kill herself. For that act alone, I’d say that was the best thing I wrote and no award or best-selling title can ever beat that.
What are you working on now?
I just finished revisions for the second book in my Healer series, Scent of Magic. This fall, I’ll be started the third book, Taste of Death. Right now I’m on vacation at the beach 🙂
I’d like to thank today’s author, Maria V. Snyder for being with us today.
I’d like to thank you as well. Please check out the other great interviews in this series with authors, and remember to keep writing! The next published book could be yours.
– Mark O’Bannon
About the Author
Maria V. Snyder switched careers from meteorologist to novelist when she began writing the New York Times best-selling Study Series (Poison Study, Magic Study and Fire Study) about a young woman who becomes a poison taster. Born in Pennsylvania, Maria earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Meteorology from Pennsylvania State University. She worked as an environmental meteorologist until boredom and children drove her to write down the stories that had been swirling around in her head. Writing proved to be more enjoyable, and Maria returned to school to earn a Master of Arts degree in writing from Seton Hill University. Unable to part company with Seton Hill’s excellent writing program, Maria is currently a teacher and mentor for the MFA program.
However, Maria’s past meteorological experiences were put to use writing her award-winning Glass Series (Storm Glass, Sea Glass, and Spy Glass), and her environmental experiences with her Insider books (Inside Out and Outside In).
Maria lives with her family and a black cat name Valek (a.k.a. the bug assassin!) in Pennsylvania where she is hard at work on the second book of her Healer Series, Scent of Magic.
Visit Maria V. Snyder online:
Readers are welcome to check out her website for book excerpts, free short stories, maps, blog, and her schedule at http://www.MariaVSnyder.com.
Maria also loves hearing from her readers and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a list (and links) of all Maria’s books and to read the first chapter of them, go to: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/books.php
To read free short stories and for excerpts of Maria’s stories in various anthologies, go to: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/shortstories.php
Written by Mark O’Bannon
Mark O’Bannon is the CEO of MEOw Publishing and is the author of “The Dream War Saga.” His books include: “The Dream Crystal”, “The Dark Mirrors of Heaven”, and “Aia the Barbarian.”
You can find Mark on Google+ and Twitter. Over the past 15 years, Mark has taught Writing, Self-Publishing and Internet Marketing for authors. Visit his blog, “Better Storytelling” or his website, www.MarkOBannon.com