Have you ever wanted to know what goes through a writer’s head during the writing process? What inspires them or the challenges they’ve faced along the way? Well, I am thrilled to share a new series of interviews with new, emerging and established writers who are willing to pull back the curtain on the mysterious craft of writing and share the insights they’ve learned along the journey.
Kicking off our first Q&A in this series Maree, a PhD student from Australia who is known for sharing fun writing videos on TikTok that help to inspire others to write about books as well as enjoy writing as a hobby. So let’s dive into the questions!
What type of writing do you do?
I like to write fantasy novels. I enjoy exploring different sub-genres of fantasy, but most of all I love writing stories about interesting characters, specifically those who are dealing with chronic illness and mental illness in the midst of dramatic fantasy settings.
How long have you been writing?
Ever since I could hold a pencil! I started writing short stories and poetry as a hobby when I was around five, and wrote my first novel at eleven.
What was the first story you ever wrote?
Oh, gosh. I can’t remember the details that far back, so we’ll go with the first novel. It was like the WINX club but with very Harry Potter vibes. A group of fairies who attended magical schools all around the world found out a way to communicate with each other and discovered a plot by small trolls (imagine the pink haired toll dolls. Literally.) who were under mind control by an evil witch villain. I don’t remember how the fairies foiled the witch’s plot (or what it was), but I do recall the showdown taking place beneath a bridge by a dried-up river. It was…quite the time.
@mareesbooks Editing is the most important part of the writing process!!!!! #Author #authortok #authorhumor #authorsoftiktok #writer #writertok #writerhumor #writersoftiktok #book #books #foryou #fyp #foryoupage #fypage #fypシ ♬ original sound – Mason Denver
How do you find time to write?
For me it’s more making time. I always go out of my way to write. When I’m busy at work I can be working 60+ hours and commuting 30 hours a week, so my time is absolutely consumed. In these cases, I often record myself saying my writing aloud during my drives (helps keep me alert too!), and I transpose it on one of my off weekends each fortnight. Other times I write early in the morning before work, or late at night (even when I am absolutely shattered). Writing is a calming experience for me, it’s my way of slipping into my happy place, so I make time at every moment I can (I have absolutely been known to dictate my stories into my phone while making dinner, doing laundry, you name it).
What tools do you use to write?
I love MS [Microsoft] word. Yes, it’s glitchy, and it’s not fun to use when you get into the higher word counts or start using track changes (a literal nightmare), but it’s a comfort place to me. Having always written there, it just feels right. Hate the app though. On my phone I’ll write in the native “notes” app, or use voice memos. I like writing by hand even though it hurts me. My favourite notebooks are the spiral bound softcover notebooks Fringe Studio, or the Spirax No. 595A notebook, and I love the 0.2mm Artliner 220 finalisers and Stabile paintball M 0.5 pens.
Do you listen to music while you write?
Depends on my mood. As someone who is easily overstimulated, I really enjoy silence. So, I’ll often just put on my noise cancelling headphones and lose myself in the world I’m writing about. Sometimes I don’t have that kind of focus, so I’ll put on an ambient track that fits with the scene I’m writing, or whatever plays Cate’s [oh that’s me! Thanks Maree!] sent me recently (cause she finds the best ones!). Sometimes I’ll put on instrumentals or movie soundtracks because they make the scenes more impactful, but if I do that, I’ll always edit without it because I know whoever reads the book won’t have that same music, so I need to make sure its impactful without it too.
What is your writing/editing process?
I try to go with how I feel. I always start with an outline though. I work out a word count goal (usually 90,000 or 100,000) and divide that by how long I know my chapters will end up (I always write chapters around 4,500 words, I can’t help it). From there I’ll write bullet points of what is happening in each chapter and organise it into a proper story structure. Then, I start from the beginning and write each chapter consecutively. However, if a scene from further in the book comes to my mind, I’ll write that out in another document and add it as I go. If I feel the need to edit what I’ve got to get a clearer picture of where I’m going, I’ll do that, if I really want to skip scenes, I’ll leave square brackets  and do that too. As I go, I’ll take notes of things that don’t feel right, or need to be changed. (I’m a vibes person, I just feel it). Once I’ve finished the first draft (I can’t zero draft, it just backs me into a writer’s block!), I’ll go back and change what needs to be changed to create the second draft. Then, I proofread, do a quick line edit, and sent it out to my friends and family who want to read it!
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What parts of writing do you find challenging? What do you find easy?
Every project presents different challenges. The most challenging part of the project I’m currently working on is to write with a more commercial style, to be both pithy and pretty. It’s hard to strike the language balance between something that’s deep and insightful whilst also being fun and simple to read. I worry that the style I’m using is too barebones, but then I remind myself I don’t want it to be a masterpiece, I just want it to be addictive.
What’s your best piece of writing advice?
I have two.
- Take your time. I think a lot of people underestimate how much effort it takes to ace pacing. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always found the slower and more carefully that I write, the better the pacing.
- PRACTICE! There are some people out there who seem to be able to write one book, get a deal, and be a bestseller. But that’s not the course for everyone, most people need to practice, and there is nothing wrong with that! Naturally, the more you do something, the better you will be. And there’s no shame in writing practice novels. Writing doesn’t need to be commercialised to be validated, it is a great hobby!
What authors/writers have inspired you?
The most influential writer in my life was one I came across about seventeen years ago now, she was the first writer that showed me what style was. I have never thought of a person’s writing style before, had never encountered the idea of voice. I was about ten or eleven years old when I first came across this, and I remember sitting down looking at these words thinking, she’s got a voice, and I love that voice. She uses specific words that make her writing feel whimsical. It transported me to a place in my head that felt touched with magic in a way. I think it fulled the magical well I reach into whenever I want to write. That might seem weird, I don’t know. Her name was Taylor.
(Swift, that is.)
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a dark academia fantasy inspired by my PhD. That is, if my PhD was a fight to the death. Cliché as it sounds, think the Hunger Games (Dark Academia’s version).
What are you currently reading?
House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J Maas.
Thanks again to MareesBooks for sharing your insights into your writing process and the great advice! You can follow her on Instagram and TikTok at @mareesbooks, and I highly recommend you do. She creates fantastic videos that are affirming and motivational if you’re looking for a writer to follow online. Having been lucky enough to preview some of the chapters from her current project, I can safely say this is a writer to keep on your radar, for great things are to come!
@mareesbooks When I’m in the zone, I can write all day 🥳 #author #authortok #authorhumor #authorsoftiktok #writer #writertok #writerhumor #writersoftiktok #book #books #foryou #fyp #foryoupage #fypage #fypシ ♬ original sound – Verbavigor
For more writing advice and tips click here.