You CAN write your book and you can do it like a pro! Victoria McCombs will be joining me in guiding you through plotting, character development, and dialogue.
In this Author Blog Series, you'll gain the knowledge, courage, and tools to start your book, get out of Writer's Block, finish your novel, and get that baby published! You'll learn from talented authors and book influencers as they navigate you through all aspects of the writing process.
Click here to read other posts in the series for authors like Angela Anne, Danae L. Samms, and J. McSpadden.
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Let's Meet Our Author
Victoria McCombs is a married mother of two boys. She lives the dream of all authors, being blessed to stay home and write in her city of Atlanta! Join McCombs on her journey via social media as she prepares to start an Authortube channel in the near future.
Author Interview Questions
1. Writing is daunting. Sharing an intimate part of you with the world and even with a single piece of paper takes bravery. Putting all those intimate parts into a book is even more difficult. What advice might you have for authors who are afraid to write their book?
I was afraid, too! Afraid that my writing wouldn’t matter, that it wouldn’t impact anyone and that I’d be a waste of my time. But then I joined the online writing community through Instagram and found thousands of people just like me who all had the same fears, and together we encourage each other to push through! What started as a nervous hobby has become a relentless passion and I’m so grateful that I put myself out there.
2. There's a monster in the closet for all writers: Plot Holes. What techniques do you use for creating a complete plot line?
A lot of people ask me how much of the story they need to have plotted out before they start, and my answer is: About half of it.
I get out my sticky notes and pin them to the wall where I write out everything that I know I want to happen in the book in the order that I want it to happen. (This always changes by the end of writing the book, and that’s okay!)
Once I have my main plot set out, I weave in smaller plots throughout. I think of where I want to build suspense and how I can leave clues for the reader that build up to later surprises. So much of my writing has hints in earlier chapters, and this can only be possible if I have an outline to show me where I’m going.
A lot of authors stop at the outline, but I have another writing trick to take your plotting to the next level. Next to my plot, I write down my themes and recurring ideas that I want throughout the book. This can be things like a recurring joke among the characters. For example: In my current pirate book, the main character is made fun of for his lack of facial hair.
“Ey? What’s this? You can’t be captain, where are your whiskers?”
The poor chap is quite sensitive.
Or the darker tones that we get as a ship is following them but not attacking, and they begin to go mad. Or my theme of the brother/sister bond. And the second main character who constantly wrestles with her view of the world around her and what is right and what is wrong.
These are continuous themes that I weave through the novel, and I write them on the side of my outline to be sure that they are properly included throughout.
3. How do you form well-rounded characters when writing your book?
If you follow me on Instagram, you know I live and breathe for these character wheels. I love the phrase: Simple plot, complex characters. Good characters can make your book stand out.
Before I write, I make a list of my top four characters. For each character I write a physical description, a motive, a secret, and a backstory. Motives are so important for your character! What do they want? The rest of the plot is them trying to get it and something standing in their way. Usually one of my characters will go through a deep change from good to bad or vice versa, but you don’t have to do that.
I create my character wheel.
I put my four characters on sticky notes on the wall in a diamond; then draw a line connecting them to each other. Between each of the characters, I write their relationships with each other. And each relationship is different.
For example, in Harry Potter he has a relationship with Hermione and Ron that is different than his relationship with Dumbledore, that is different that his relationship with Hagrid… and so on. And the side characters have their own unique relationships with people around them.
When I know how my characters interact with the ones around them, it makes my book more dimensional.
4. What can you tell us about your personal writing process?
I’m funny as I write; I can’t write unless the room is clean. I need an organized space around me, the dishes to be done, and myself to be put together for the day.
I’m the same way with my book. I write the first chapter, then I edit it. I don’t constantly go back and edit each chapter, but I have to know that I’m working on a clean manuscript in order to continue! I do keep a list at the end of my book of things I want to go back and smooth out, but I’ll still go back and polish up paragraphs as I write, so I know my manuscript is decent. My editing phase is much shorter because of this.
5. Do you have any advice for writers for creating the most authentic dialogue?
I LOVE DIALOGUE. Description is another beast that I struggle to defeat, but dialogue is one of my loves.
My biggest advice here would be to forget about being formal. No, “Hello, how are you?” You know how on tv people never say goodbye when they hang up the phone? Be like that. Delete the fluff. And let your characters say random things. “Mom’s coming by later.” Followed by, “I need a drink.”
Let it be witty. Let it be unique. Let your character’s surprise the readers with the things they say.
6. A book's introduction is tricky to say the least. There's more than plenty enough information to give a reader to immerse them into your world, and poor fantasy and science fiction authors really have it the hardest. What advice for you have to keep the introduction of your book interesting?
Start at an exciting incident.
In your first paragraph you want to give your readers a reason to keep reading. Hook them right away with questions that need to be answered, or with an idea so intriguing they can’t turn away. I don’t think the first chapter is time for beautiful descriptions. Those can come later. But give that good hook and action right away so the readers feel like they have to keep reading, then dazzle them with the beautiful descriptions.
A lot of agents won’t read past the first page if they don’t feel drawn in. So give them a reason to stay.
7. Were you a young writer, late bloomer, or something in-between? What encouragement could you give to other who began writing at a similar stage?
I was a young writer. I began writing books in elementary and never really stopped. But the difference came a few years ago when I decided to stop writing for fun and try to make something of myself.
The thing that helped me the most was researching articles about everything from ‘How to write the first chapter,’ and ‘Writing convincing arguments between characters,’ to ‘Grammar mistakes you didn’t know you were making,’ and ‘How to structure your sentences in novels.’
More than that, I started reading with intention. I looked at how other authors whom I adored were doing their first chapters and putting together their sentences and creating their dialogue. I found a style that worked for me and it made my writing so much stronger. I was no longer shooting in the dark, hoping that my writing was good. I was researching how to make it strong and could be confident in what I’d created.
8. What do you do to combat Writer's Block or when stuck in a particularly complex scene?
Some writers move past the scene and come back to it. I don’t know what it is inside me that can’t move past an unwritten scene, but I can’t.
I sit at my computer and try. I pull out sentence by sentence until I’ve made small progress, and I continue to build on that. It’s painful sometimes. And it takes a while. But then, after hours of work with only a few hundred words to show for it, I suddenly find myself writing four hundred more words in what felt like five minutes, and I’ve pushed through the block.
If you wait for writer’s block to pass, it will take forever to write your book. Discipline is needed if you want to be successful. You can always read articles, watch TED talks from popular writers, or read your favorite book.
Irregardless, you have to get back to your computer and try.
Writing is a beautiful, yet intense craft. If you're nervous to take the leap and start, don't doubt yourself! Ask for support and guidance from your writing community, practice, and read books and articles like this.
For more on the writing process from our bi-weekly author interviews,
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More on Victoria McCombs
My debut novel, The Storyteller’s Daughter, is a YA Rumpelstiltskin retelling coming out July 14, 2020 from Parliament House Press.
It is part of a companion novel series, with the second book coming out early 2021. I am so excited to share this book with the world!
Caught in a lie, Cosette calls upon an old magic to save her and find Rumpelstiltskin trapped in a magic deeper than she bargained for.
You can pre-order the digital copy on Amazon here
Or add to your goodreads list here
I’m currently writing a Pirate novel called Once a Pirate!
No man knows for certain what awaits them on that island. Some say the old pirate faked his death to lure people after his treasure to their demise. But thanks to a dark deal he bound himself to, finding that treasure is Arn’s last hope.
Emme needs to get to the island too, but not for the loot. After her mother, Arabella the Ruthless, drowned at sea, Emme vowed she’d never sail with pirates. But a cruel discovery leaves her survival dependent on a nut from that island, and Arn as her only way of reaching it.
With more secrets between them than truths, Arn and Emme cross the high seas to an unreachable island. But when a black ship appears in the night to follow them, never attacking, their minds begin to go mad, and it becomes clear they won’t all reach that island alive.
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