Author Colleen Story visited this blog once before, and shared her guest post Your Writing Matters: How to Banish Self-Doubt, Trust Yourself, and Go the Distance. Today I’ve got the privilege of interviewing her, and I think you’ll find her answers inspiring, educational, and motivational.
What books do you recommend for an aspiring author?
I’ve read a lot of books over the course of my writing career. Those that stand out that I’d recommend include:
- Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schmidt
- 20 Master Plots by Ronald B. Tobias
- The Anatomy of Story by John Truby
- 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
- Overwhelmed Writer Rescue, by Colleen M. Story (my own book!)
What’s your go-to source when you need inspiration?
I have a few things that help me tap into my creative side. Music is one of the main ones—I have a few playlists that help me sink into the fantasy worlds in my stories. If I’m stuck, going for a drive or out to a movie can help me “think differently” so that I can come up with a solution. And sometimes the best ideas come to me while walking my dog or taking a hot bath.
Do you create elaborate outlines for yourbooks? If so, can you explain the process (briefly)? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants? If so, do you have any tricks you use to keep yourself from crashing?
I’m a pantser, meaning that I don’t outline my books. I tried early on but found that doing so made me lose interest in the story. If I outlined it, I couldn’t write it. I lost interest. The magic for me lies in the discovery. I usually know where to start and where the story will end, but otherwise, I like discovering it as I go.
This approach is messier than writing with an outline, but it allows me to come up with more original ideas than I would otherwise. It is possible to get stuck in the middle. I plow through that first draft as best I can, which helps me see more clearly the story I want to tell. After the first draft is done, I will often outline at that point. Then when I go back in subsequent drafts, I can make sure the pacing and structure are where they need to be.
I do think that studying story structure can help all writers. It has helped me to internalize what each story needs so that I can proceed more easily in my intuitive way.
What was the greatest challenge you faced when writing the book? How did you get through it?
The Beached Ones was the hardest book I’ve written to date. (It’s my third published novel and 6th published book.) I got stuck in the middle of it and couldn’t figure out how to get unstuck. I tried everything—reading craft books, taking a break, rewriting, brainstorming, etc., and nothing worked.
Then I went to see a movie one night and experienced a breakthrough. I realized that I needed to use a different approach than the one I’d been using. Once I figured that out, I was able to finish it. But for a long time, I wondered if I’d ever reach that point!
If you have a writing ritual, can you share that here?
I don’t really have a writing ritual. I just sit down with my laptop and write. At most, I may make a cup of tea and choose a playlist on Pandora. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of being willing to put in the work each day.
In what genres have you written, and which one of them gives you the most satisfaction?
In my fiction writing, I’ve written mostly in the fantasy genre, though I’ve played around with different sub-genres, like epic and supernatural/paranormal. But I’ve also written nonfiction books for writers, which are entirely different.
Both are satisfying in their own ways. I love helping writers succeed, and I often teach workshops on the topics I cover in my nonfiction books. Those personal interactions are extremely enjoyable.
My fiction comes from an entirely different side of me—I’d say, the deeper, more intuitive, and reflective side. I tend to sort of channel my stories—I feel them coming through me rather than purposely wrangling them onto the page. Seeing these stories go out into the world where readers can enjoy them is deeply satisfying.
What one piece of advice can you offer to a writer who has yet to tackle the publishing world?
One of the most common pieces of advice I share with writers is to focus on the work. It’s very easy to get caught up in the trappings of the writing life—getting published, having readers/fans, and chasing that golden ticket to writing fame. We all have those dreams, but if you’re called to write, it’s likely for another reason. (Your soul doesn’t care if you become famous, in other words.)
No matter if you become the next bestseller or never publish a single story, if you focus on writing as a daily (or almost daily) practice, you will notice positive changes in your life. I guarantee it. Writing is magical that way.
What one piece of advice can you offer to the more experienced writer who is having a bad day/week/year/decade?
All writers go through tough times. I’d suggest first talking to a friend who will listen and understand. (Another writing friend is perfect.) Journaling helps—get your feelings out in a healthy way. Maybe take a break and do something restorative.
Then you have to decide whether you want to keep going or not. I address this question in my book, Your Writing Matters. It’s not always an easy decision, and it’s one all writers should carefully consider.
The writing life is not easy. But no matter what, the writing is always there for you. Returning to your love of writing while blocking out all the rest usually helps.
HE CAME BACK, DETERMINED TO KEEP HIS PROMISE.
Daniel and his younger brother grew up in an abusive home. Daniel escaped. Now an established stunt rider, he intends to go back to rescue his brother. But then one jump goes horribly wrong . . .
He recovers to find himself in Iowa, unscathed, yet his life has drastically changed. His best friend won’t answer his calls. Even his girlfriend is hiding something. Increasingly terrified, he clings to the one thing he knows: He must pick up his brother in San Francisco. In five days.
From the isolating fields of Iowa to the crowded streets of San Francisco, Daniel must fight his way through a fog of disjointed memories and supernatural encounters to face the truth and pay a debt he didn’t know he owed.
About the Author
Colleen M. Story is a novelist, freelance writer, writing coach, and speaker who loves animals, music, and the great Pacific Northwest.
Her novel, Loreena’s Gift, was a Foreword Reviews’ INDIES Book of the Year Awards winner, among others. Her next novel, The Beached Ones is forthcoming from CamCat Books on June 14, 2022.
Colleen has written three books to help writers succeed. “Your Writing Matters” helps writers overcome self-doubt and determine once and for all where writing fits in their lives.
Her previous release, Writer Get Noticed!, was a gold-medal winner in the Reader’s Favorite Book Awards and a first-place winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards. Overwhelmed Writer Rescue was named Book by Book Publicity’s Best Writing/Publishing Book in 2018 and was an Amazon best seller.
With over 20 years as a professional in the creative industry, Colleen has authored thousands of articles for publications like “Healthline” and “Women’s Health;” worked with high-profile clients like Gerber Baby Products and Kellogg’s; and ghostwritten books on back pain, nutrition, and cancer recovery. She continues to work as a full-time freelance writer, helping clients create informative and inspiring communications in a variety of media formats.
Colleen frequently serves as a workshop leader, writing coach, and motivational speaker, where she helps attendees remove mental and emotional blocks and tap into their unique creative powers.
Go to Colleen’s website for free chapters of her books.THE BEACHED ONES Book Tour Giveaway