- Why it’s important to finish our work before sharing it with readers.
- How being in touch with the world and our lives can help shape our writing.
- Resources for digital art and book covers.
Feed your imagination, don’t try to reign it in.
Welcome to the thirty second episode of Interviews from the Void, where I interview writers about their writing process, discussing the mechanics and physicality of the craft.
In this episode, I chat with YA and urban fantasy writer Sarah Beth about her stories.
From THE FAYE’S SECRET:
“It’s impossible to stay focused on her homework with a ghost staring at her. Every time Abby lifted her eyes from the page in front of her, the woman would be standing there, blood covering her white lace blouse.”
Arthur: This is a very engaging first line for a book. In another interview with fantasy writer Bill Ricardi, he talks about the first line and paragraph being his promise to the reader. How did you come up with your starting line and paragraph for THE FAYE’S SECRET?
Sarah: Honestly, it takes a lot of time for me to solidify the opening pages of a story. Some people have trouble with the middle, or the end, of books. For me, it’s always been the beginning. The first chapter of TFS evolved a lot, the first chapter now is completely different to the first draft. The presence of a ghost was always there, but even that has changed a lot since draft one.
Arthur: Tell me more about your writing journey. What experiences in your life have shaped your writing career?
Sarah: As cliche as it sounds, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I’ve always had an overactive imagination, making up games and worlds for me and my friends to play. I think I wrote my first real “story” when I was around 10. It was probably 20 pages, handwritten, at best. I wrote stories throughout high school, but when college came around I just didn’t have time. It wasn’t until last year (4 years after college) that I felt lost and unsure of where I was going with my life. On a hike close to my home, I remembered I had wanted to be a writer. Why had I stopped? I went home from that walk and signed up for NaNoWriMo. I think that time away from writing fiction, focusing on growing myself and my education, shaped my writing a lot more than any degree ever could. I haven’t looked back since.
I think that time away from writing fiction – focusing on growing my self and education – shaped my writing a lot more than any degree ever could.
Arthur: You’re a Wattpad writer. How successful has this been for you? Do you publish e-book copies of your books as well?
Sarah: I’m currently working on querying TFS, I want to try the traditional publishing route first. I’m not against e-books or self publishing, but I want to give it a shot. I actually found WattPad when one of my writing friends suggested it to me. I was looking for feedback and critique, and thought it would be a good place to get that. Although I haven’t had much luck in the critique arena, I’ve found amazing friends through the platform. Those friendships are why I’m still on the site and have started uploaded the first sequel to TFS.
Arthur: How do you promote your work on Wattpad and elsewhere?
Sarah: I use Twitter a lot, probably too much, ha. There was a time when I was constantly entering awards on WattPad, trying to get TFS out there, but I’ve taken a break from them. I post snippets on my personal Instagram (Sarah_Beth09) sometimes, but mostly it’s all Twitter.
The idea of being able to capture something as beautiful as a mountain range at sunrise, either in a photo or through writing, feeds my soul.
Arthur: What is your editing process?
Sarah: Ooph. Does “slowly go insane” count as a process? Kidding, mostly. When I wrote TFS, it was for NaNoWriMo 2017 and it was a wreck. I spent the next three months adding 30k words to it. Usually, I know scenes off the top of my head that need work, and I’ll start there. Otherwise, I just start from Chapter One and move through it. While working on the sequel, I made notes as I went on things I knew I wanted to change or spice up. That is going to help so much when I start editing that manuscript.
Arthur: Do you write each chapter for your books in chunks, then put them on Wattpad? Or do you have the entire book written beforehand and put one chapter on each week?
Sarah: I like to have the entire book written before I start posting. I always get too much anxiety that I’ll get behind or something will come up, and then I’ll be letting my readers down. That fear is what stopped me from writing fan fiction a number of years ago. That being said, I usually just have a first draft, nothing edited yet. Currently, I’m editing a chapter a week, as I get ready to upload it to WattPad. So far that’s working!
Landscapes and nature have always called to me, it’s what I love to photograph and describe in my writing.
Arthur: Your book covers are fantastic. What is your design process? Do you have any resources you could share for other writers looking for great book cover design?
Sarah: Oh, thank you! I’m kind of in love with them myself. The cover for TFS was actually done by a WattPad user, her nickname is JuJuBok. I’m not very confident in my digital art skills, so wanted to have someone make a cover for me. But when it came time to make one for THE FAYE’S KEEPER, I decided to give it a shot. With advice from a friend, I used apps like SplitPic and Typorama. I searched for images that I thought would work, and then played around with them using the above apps. It took awhile, and I made a few different covers, but I’m pretty pleased with the outcome.
Arthur: You’re also a photographer. Does photography influence your writing, or does your writing influence your photography? How?
Sarah: I love photography, but I wouldn’t feel confident enough to call myself one, ha! For a long time I wanted to be a photographer for National Geographic (dream job!) but life, and college, had other plans. Landscapes and nature have always called to me, it’s what I love to photograph and describe in my writing. Photography definitely influences my writing, as some of my friends would probably say. Description is kind of my favorite thing. The idea of being able to capture something as beautiful as a mountain range at sunrise, either in a photo or through writing, feeds my soul.
I know where the story is going to go when I first start it.
Arthur: Do you have a “target market” for your writing?
Sarah: I’ve classified TFS and its sequels in the Young Adult age group, but in reality they’re for anyone between the ages of 14-90. Young Adult, as well as a lot of Upper Middle Grade, books are my favorite to read and write.
Arthur: Do you have any exercises or techniques you use to improve your writing? What can you tell me about them?
Sarah: Not really! When I’m not writing, I’m reading a lot or taking in other forms of storytelling like movies and television. It all inspires me, gives me knew ideas of how to do things. Feed your imagination, don’t try to reign it in.
As a reader myself, I like books that begin with some form of tension already present.
Arthur: Do you find it more difficult to create beginnings or endings for your books? How do you approach developing both beginnings and endings?
Sarah: As I sort of mentioned above, I struggle with beginnings. I usually have a vision of how I want the book to begin, as well as end, but writing those first few pages is like torture. If it wasn’t for feedback from friends and fellow writers, I would probably take weeks to write that first chapter. Endings though? Easy. I know where the story is going when I first start it, so getting those final moments on paper doesn’t bother me. All of that being said, I am a pantser through and through. I don’t outline, I hardly write anything down (aside from character spreads), so I kind of just wing it all. Somehow it comes together!
Arthur: Katherine Karch has a couple of great articles on engaging our readers by using words which indicate the passage of time, or character movement and interactions. Do you have specific tools or words you use to engage your readers early in the story? How do you hook your readers from the beginning?
Sarah: This is a tough one. As a reader myself, I like books that begin with some form of tension already present. You (the reader) may not have any idea what that tension is, but it’s there and it’s palpable. That’s the sort of thing that draws me into a book, and that’s what I try to do with my writing. Give the readers just enough to make them curious, enough to make them keep turning the pages, until they find the answers.
Thank you so much Sarah for a very insightful interview. I wish you the best of luck in your querying process for THE FAYE’S SECRET, but we should all keep an eye out for more of your work on Wattpad.