Meet J.C. Nugent, writer of high fantasy. After growing up in central Florida (‘think of it as a black hole that inspired my writing as a way to escape the event horizon’), J.C. now calls home just off the Gulf of Mexico. He recently completed his first novel, A KNATT’S TALE: 17-year-old Milo the knatt can save his family from a rampaging dragon, but if he slays the beast, he will doom the kingdom.
J.C., thanks for being here. Please start off by telling us who inspires you.
R. A. Salvatore, and not just because he’s my favorite author. He set out to write the kind of fantasy he liked at a time when there were very few authors out there and no Internet. I’m over this whole gritty and grimy is better and that, “I’ll wear black until they make a darker color,” I see going on across the industry, so I write the kind of fantasy at the other end of the pendulum. Just remember, if you’re writing for a trend, you’re already too late to join it.
Tell us about your writing process.
You don’t get to call yourself a novelist until you finish your first novel, or so I was told. It took me ten years to finish my first novel, three months to finish my second novel, and I completed my third novel’s first draft during NaNoWriMo 2014.
My current writing process is probably the best: I write until it’s done. Step one involves brainstorming, followed by outlining for step two. I used to free-write, just going with the flow as the words came to me, but again, that first novel took me 10 years.
And against all advice of professional writers (and by that, I mean those who write to put food on the table), I start each project with a Pilot pen and a Mead notebook. I swear, they’re going to be my official sponsors before I’m through.
What are your writing routines? Listen to music? Lock yourself in a room? Write outside?
Writing to put food on the table means you don’t wait around for the perfect cup of tea, the right music, or favorable weather. I want to be a professional, published novelist, so I have to get these words out whenever and wherever I can. I do some of my best brainstorming during my long commutes and dictate into the phone to play back later. I’ll probably post these recordings on my site in future just to give readers an idea of where my characters come from or when something occurred to me that later made it into the books. (Who didn’t love seeing that sheet of J.K. Rowling plotting out one of her novels?) Probably my favorite instance of this is where I sang to the phone, working out a song featured in my first novel. Want a taste? Well, sure!
Three tree roots on the ma-gic door,
Reach real high for number four.
Big, big, small, then big again,
The highest one will let you in.
No fair. We want to hear you sing this!
When you’re not singing, what struggles do you face as a writer?
Writer’s block is a struggle for all of us, right?
It is. I have thoughts on it myself.
I recently needed a big fight in my novel, a siege I’ve been writing towards for weeks, but I kept putting it off. My subconscious worked the problem while I was playing video games and catching up on the DVR, and when I started writing, I kept going for an entire week. A typical chapter for me is nine to eleven hand-written pages (roughly 250 words per page), but by the time I got writing on this siege, I cranked out thirty straight pages.
My chief advice is always to write until it’s done, but I include one caveat: don’t force it.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
I color-code my process. All of my brainstorming is done in blue ink on college ruled paper, and all of my first drafts are in black ink on the pages that follow. The first edit comes when I type up that first draft, because the brain does what it wants. I’ll sometimes change a word as I go only to realize I used the new word a few sentences later. I’ve learned to trust that first draft, getting it from the notebook to the screen, but then it’s back to paper. I print out my entire first draft, one double-spaced chapter at a time and red pen it without mercy.
Did you hire a professional editor? What are your thoughts on hiring one?
I ran the beta readers through their paces and had a friend help with proofreading the punctuation, but I’m looking at a professional editor for sure. The investment in editing will show to readers, and I can think of few things worse than reviews citing things a good editor will catch. I’ve hired an editor for my Query and Synopsis, and she’s been fantastic. If I don’t get my first novel into the hands of a publisher next year, I’ll run the whole MS by one or two editors and publish it myself.
I am actively hunting for an agent, likely because self-publishing scares the ink out of me. Over the last two #PitMad events, I got a couple favorites from agents. The first passed after a few weeks, and my proposal is in the hands of the second now.
Oh, that’s very exciting! You must now be working on a marketing plan.
This is where I spend most of my time when I am not actively writing. I took the plunge and got my website, but it’s just sitting there while I work on growing my brand with Twitter. I engage in hashtags centered on writing and a few weekly writers’ hours, and I work to stay on message. It’s important I not let my personal feelings on subjects leak into my brand, but I will always advocate vocally about two topics: sexual assault awareness and child hunger. Staying on message and vowing not to spam people with automated messages or account managing services makes for slow going but steady growing.
Any final words of advice for new writers?
Always get those words out any way that you can. Write until it’s done, and to borrow a quote, ‘if you feel like stopping or giving up, remember why you started.’
I’m working on a series of short stories about the “Fire Brands” to get some content on my website. These take place in the same world as my novels, so I’m planning a cross-over in the future. I just want to build up a few of these first to release on a set schedule.
If I’m breathing, I #amwriting. My goal is for 27 novels of “A short SERIES,” and with only three complete novels so far, I have a long way to go. Why 27? It’s simple: What is talent without ambition?
Connect with J.C. on Twitter: @AShortSeries. Or visit his website for more about his writing.
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