Highlights

  • Practice is the best way to improve our craft.
  • Reading is essential for great writing.
  • The important of reading in our writing lives.

I always loved to write from a young age.

Welcome to the forty-seventh 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 young adult writer Brenda Drake.

Arthur: Tell me about your writing journey. How did you start in the craft and what was your journey to your first book?

Brenda: I’ve always loved to write from a young age, but I didn’t get serious with it until I remarried and stayed home with the kids. That’s when my husband asked (because I must’ve been a little clinging after our wedding) if I had any hobbies. I told him that I liked to write and he said I should do that. So I threw myself into writing and reading up on how to get published. My first book was a mess. I queried it, and it didn’t get a single request. It wasn’t until I started submitting Library Jumpers that I began getting requests for partial and full requests from agents for the manuscript. After a bumpy road, Library Jumpers landed with Liz Pelletier at Entangled Teen, and the rest is history, as they say.

Arthur: How have you developed your writing voice and prose? Once your first draft was completed, did you go back and rework your prose, or was it great to start out with during the first writing?

Brenda: I had to do a lot of revising for the book. Though the prose and voice came naturally to me, it’s always a great idea to do many revisions to make sure the book is the best you can make it. My voice and prose developed by writing. I believe practice is the best way to improve it. In his 1999 book On Writing, Stephen King said something like, if you want to become a better writer, write a LOT. And read a lot.

My voice and prose developed by writing. I believe practice is the best way to improve it.

Arthur: What is your approach to outlining? Can you provide a few specific techniques you use?

Brenda: I use a plot graph marking turning points and main plot changes on it. I don’t make it too detailed. It’s just a road map to where I want the story to go. It’s skeletal, and I flesh out the story as I write.

Arthur: Many stories center around a theme or conflict which drive the story forward to a satisfying resolution. Do you structure your stories around conflict? How do you determine what your conflict will be?

Brenda: I do structure my stories around a main conflict. Themes, I either know them upfront or they develop during the writing. But I’m always looking out for them so that I can continue them throughout the story. I’m not sure how I determine what the conflict will be. I have an idea of a story, and usually, there’s a conflict already in that idea.

I structure my stores around a main conflict.

Arthur: Did your Library Jumpers series start out as a trilogy? Or did it evolve?

Brenda: Yes, it was always a trilogy. Each book has its own plot arc, and the trilogy has an overarching one that starts with book one and ends with book three.

Arthur: I’m always fascinated by how writers come up with their stories; the story behind the story, if you will. What is the history behind your series, The Fated? What inspired you to write this story and how did you develop the characters?

Brenda: The Fated came about while I had a tarot reading in New Orleans. I thought it would be great if someone could change anyone’s fate with a touch of a tarot card. Of course, there would be consequences, since nothing should ever come that easy.

When I’m more engaged in writing and reading my work is better for it.

Arthur: Some writers are saying now that the “traditional promotion” of social media is no longer having the same returns it once did. Do you agree? How have you promoted your work? What has been the largest return on your investment (time or otherwise) for marketing and promotion? 

Brenda: I do agree. It’s changed a lot since a few years ago. I try to find where my readers hang out most and engage as much as I can with them. In reality, it’s what your publisher puts into the book that makes a difference. Finding readers in today’s distractions is difficult. I think we’re all adjusting and trying to figure it out right now. I have no answers.

Arthur: Do you have any specific writing techniques you employ to hone your craft?

Brenda: Reading and writing a lot. As Stephen King suggested. I do find when I’m more engaged in writing and reading my work is better for it.

I just write what I love and what I believe will fit the market. The rest is luck.

Arthur: What is your writing flow? Is it a daily exercise? How do you balance your time between work, life and writing? How did your writing progress from its early beginnings into a great full-length novel?

Brenda: I live by the seat of my pants. I’m so all over the place. I need balance, but whenever I try to work on a schedule, something happens or needs to be done right then and throws it out of whack.

Arthur: Do you have a specific “target market” you hope to reach with your writing? Do you know if your books will sell before you write them?

Brenda: There’s always a target market I’m thinking about while writing my books. I hope that I’m able to reach them. I never know if my books will sell before I write them. I just write what I love and what I believe will fit the market. The rest is luck.

I’m always ready to write, especially when it’s something that intrigues me.

Arthur: How did you build your audience?

Brenda: Getting your book noticed in such a vast sea of books published each year is tough. Building your audience is not some recipe you can put together and there you have it. It’s all about getting your book in the right readers’ hands and hoping they’ll stick around for more. It’s tough to tell what will be successful and what will flop. I just jump in and pray.

Arthur: What is a future writing project you hope to complete one day, but perhaps aren’t ready to write yet? What is keeping you from starting? What do you need to improve to start it?

Brenda: I have a future project waiting for me to finish. I love it. But with all things, finding the time between releases and personal duties is tough. I figure I’ll get to it during our holiday break and hopefully keep plugging at it until it’s done. I’m always ready to write, especially when it’s something that intrigues me. It’s just that life gets in the way sometime. It’s rude like that.

Thank you, Brenda, for sharing your writing wisdom with us. Be sure to check out her book series and her forthcoming works.