I was honoured recently to be asked to take part in an interview with the @CoffeeCommunity profile on Wattpad, all in aid of the fantastic Open Novella Contest – a multi-genre contest to write a 20k novella. The contest has been a huge hit so far, with hundreds of entries and is being featured by multiple profiles across the site, with a chance to win big prizes, including signed books, e-books and the chance to have your story critiqued/polished by experts. The @CoffeeCommunity profile have been reaching out to various Wattpad Stars, Ambassadors, Watty Award Winners and emerging talent, to ask them about their writing process, editing, inspiration and top tips and I was thrilled to be included in the list of some amazing, inspiring Wattpadders.
Hi, Lindsey, thank you for taking the time to get involved with the Open Novella Contest on Wattpad. It’s great to hear from authors like yourself and get to know a little bit about what motivates you to write longer works of fiction.
LC: You’re very welcome! Thank you so much for asking me to join in on the fun and good luck to everyone participating in the contest!
So, to begin, tell us a little bit about yourself as an author on Wattpad. For anyone who hasn’t met you before, how would you describe your fiction?
LC: I’ve been writing on Wattpad now for about five years. My short story The Fan was Featured about three years ago, which is when it pretty much blew up for me and I really started to get noticed, and not long after that I was asked to join the Wattpad Partnership Program (now known as Wattpad Stars) which enabled my work to be paired with brands such as Universal Pictures and the A&E TV network in the States. Somehow along the way I’ve managed to achieve almost 7 million reads across my combined works, including over 2 million alone for my #1 Featured novel, Playing Dead. I’m probably best known for my urban fantasy novels and have two series’s on Wattpad, the very amateur Dark Sanctuary, and the hopefully less amateur The Whitechapel Chronicles, plus I’ve recently started a new UF standalone Hedoschism. I would describe my fiction as dark fantasy with a disturbing edge. My first love was horror fiction, so if you’re looking for a sizzling urban fantasy read, don’t be too surprised if I throw a few unsettling and gut-churning moments your way! I love to take fantasy elements and entrench them into a real setting, whether that be vampires living in the underbelly of modern-day London or spider-eating Grandma’s picking victims at county fairs in the Deep South.
Writing for sustained periods is a hurdle that every writer, beginner or experienced, faces from time to time. What powers you through those longer bursts of creativity and keeps you focused?
LC: Goodness, great question and I wish I had some secret formula to reveal to all those budding writers out there, but the truth is I am the WORST procrastinator, particularly when writing novels, which can be mammoth projects to undertake. Writing a novel or indeed, a series, can be a hugely daunting thing, especially when you’re desperate for it to take off like a firework, rather than fizzle away like a damp squib, and the tendency to lose focus is something that still haunts me with every project. It’s easier to give up than it is to keep writing. One thing I have discovered recently and would advise to anyone who, like me, has the uncontrollable urge to give up and procrastinate instead, is this: TURN OFF YOUR PHONE. Hide it in your underwear drawer. Let the battery run down to zero. Throw it into an oubliette. Okay, maybe don’t do that, but, if you’re a big social media fan or get distracted by the internet, ditch the damn phone. Phones are a serious risk to creativity, social media is the path to Hell and Hell is a place where people post pictures of their dogs wearing Halloween costumes, where ordinary citizens become raving lunatics and where Trump hangs out when he’s not at the golf course. Seriously. Turn off the phone and just write. I did this recently and was shocked at how much I wrote in just a few hours. For me, it’s definitely going to be the way forward to boosting my creativity and productivity.
What top tips would you advise for getting a novella or a longer piece of fiction off the starting line? What kind of story developments motivate you to see it through to the end?
LC: Now, this is an interesting question because five years ago, I would have just said wing it, sit down and start writing and see where it takes you. I did that with my first series, Dark Sanctuary, but to be fair, I think the disastrous consequences of that is evident in the story itself. These days, things are a little different. Every writer is unique, so I’m kind of loath to tell anyone to do this or do that, but I don’t write anything now without at least some semblance of a plan. For me, getting a novella or novel off the starting line, is all about being able to see the finish line in the distance and know exactly where I’m heading. I start by plotting my first and last chapters and then it’s about how to arc the story through from start to finish. Sounds easy when I say it like that, and of course, it’s not easy at all and things will always change as I’m writing, but I find that having a plan is invaluable, as is fleshing out your characters before you start. You can’t write a novel if you don’t know who your characters are. What do they look like? How do they move/walk/gesture? How do they speak (a good tip here is to ensure they all sound different so that if you removed dialogue tags, would your reader know who was talking – try it, it works, honest!)? What’s their back story (you don’t have to tell your readers this straight away, but it’s important that YOU know)? Get your characters and plot bedded down and you’re ready to don your running shoes and get off that starting line like the Mo Farah of the literary world.
How much do you edit on the fly? Or do you prefer to edit after you’ve finished the initial draft?
LC: Oh, I edit ALL THE DAMN TIME. I can’t actually move on to writing the next chapter without re-reading and editing the previous one. I haven’t quite decided whether it’s actually a failing of mine that I do this, or whether it’s a good thing to strive for perfection, but it doesn’t seem to be a habit I’ll ever be able to break. I must admit, however, that sometimes I think it cripples me a little in that I struggle to just sit down and keep writing, because I’m too focused on editing a previous chapter. Trust me when I say that every Wattpad chapter I upload has been through a gruelling journey of at least five-ten edits before I post, which is probably why it takes me so bloody long to write a book!
Personally, what kind of novella — be it any style, theme, or genre — would you like to see emerge from the Open Novella Contest?
LC: I’m going to forgo the whole question of theme or genre, because to be fair, I am obviously a big fan of anything paranormal/fantasy/horror, but to me, that’s not the most important thing here and these days, I’m discovering I’ll read just about anything as long as the writing is good. What I would like to see are brave writers. Writers who, no matter what genre they chose, are brave enough to buck trends and not strive for the popularity route, writers who dare to be individuals. Wattpad is a place where trend and popularity is key and I see many wannabe writers falling into the trap of chasing popularity by churning out clone fiction of what they think is popular, I also see well-established writers switching genres or writing particular themes, because they want to chase the reads and capture a certain audience. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be popular and gain reads, but if you’re going to do it, do it by being yourself. Be daring with your novel, be willing to push boundaries, challenge your readers. I want to see brave fiction by brave writers!
Lastly, because we’re always curious… What was your first ever experience with the power of the written language?
LC: Okay, this is probably going to sound weird, particularly as I don’t even remember the name of the poet or the poem itself, but I remember reading a poem in the school library when I was a kid that has NEVER left me to this day. The poem was about a boy who hated the moths that came into his bedroom at night, and I vividly recall the part where the moth forced its way into his mouth, which yeah, is a pretty damn freaky poem to be hanging around in a school library, and absolutely contributed to my life-long fear of moths and my life-long love of horror. I’ve never forgotten that poem. I’ve never forgotten how petrified I was, but how utterly fascinated I was by it at the same time. To me, that’s the ultimate power of the written language – poetry or fiction that pulls you in, captivates you and stays with you for your whole life.
It’s been great hearing from you, Lindsey, and thank you for sharing your valuable knowledge in storytelling.
Best wishes in your future endeavours from the Open Novella Team.
Find the interview here plus interviews with other wonderful Wattpadders.