Imagination and a keyboard: Interviewing J. C. Buchanan

Hello everyone! Today I have a very special post for you! I’ll be interviewing one of my fellow young author friends, J. C.!

I first met her, and another author friend, Riley, last July at the Realm Makers conference. We had an amazing time and became fast friends. Since then, we’ve kept up through FaceTime to talk, laugh, and encourage each other.

Just recently, J.C. has published her fourth book, Proof of Purple! You can check it out, along with all her other books, here.

Now, on to you J. C.!

1. What started you on your writing journey?

When I was 5, I told my mom I was going to publish a book and put it in the library. I didn’t realize that scribbled pieces of paper stapled together weren’t library quality 🙂 When I was 9, I decided I actually wanted to make that happen, and by the time I was 12, The Hidden Amethyst was released!

2. What was the first piece of creative writing you wrote?

The first “book” that I wrote was called The Boy Who Got Covered in Macaroni. It was for my brother, and it was about a boy who ate too fast and his food exploded.

3. How ’serious’ is your writing? Do you consider it a career or just a hobby?

I’ve always been serious about my writing. As I said, I decided to publish a book when I was 5, and that desire just never left! I know beyond a shadow of a doubt this is a gift God has given me, and I want to do the absolute most that I can with it.

4. Who would you recommend your most recent book, Proof of Purple to?

Probably 5th grade and up. I’m targeting it more for YA, but younger readers could totally read and get it—no mature content. 🙂

5. Describe Proof of Purple, in three words.

Friendship, perfection, betrayal.

6. How has your life and personal experiences entwined with the subjects of your books?

While writing my books, I definitely try to draw on my own emotional experiences to understand my characters better. In my first three books, there aren’t many connections to my actual life experiences (unless you count that in The Hidden Amethyst, I named every character after one of my friends;). However, Proof of Purple does correlate with my personal experiences to the extent that friendships are extremely important to me, and like my characters, I definitely feel it when tension arises.

7. What do you consider, the ‘key to success’ in writing?

Don’t be ashamed of your writing, and let others read it! I used to be so protective of my writing and didn’t want to show anyone, and it got me in trouble because I’d get months into a story without seeing that it wasn’t going to work in the long run. This book, with help from a few amazing friends, I’ve learned to open up and it has been so, so crucial. In my experience, when you’re confident in your writing, not embarrassed about it, and willing to let others offer insight, you can get so much farther than had you worked alone.

8. Were there any differences in your writing process between the four books you’ve written?

Slightly, but honestly, not much. I always do a super-rough first draft, and then basically just keep revising and writing new drafts until I’m happy. The only big thing I can think of is I didn’t outline The Hidden Amethyst, but I outlined You’ll Be Like Faye and never looked back.

9. Which of your books is the saddest? Most exciting? Funniest?

I’ve had many people tell me they cried at the end of YBLF, so that’s probably the saddest. The Hidden Amethyst wins the award for the funniest in my mind, but probably only because I was so young when I wrote it that today I have to choose whether to cringe or laugh, and it’s just easier to laugh at it. But realistically, it’s probably the most exciting. It’s one hundred percent action/adventure.

10. What’s in your ‘author’s toolkit’?

One of the most influential writing books for me has been Gail Carson Levine’s “Writing Magic.” I also employ Pinterest as my main “author tool”. Music is key—I have to listen to music to write. Beyond that…my imagination and a keyboard do the rest.

11. What’s the coolest author related experience that’s ever happened to you?

When The Hidden Amethyst came out, I took a risk and sent a copy to my favorite author at the time, Suzanne LaFleur, just for fun (who is still one of my favorite authors). A few months later, she personally mailed me a hardcover copy of her newest book with a note inside about how much she enjoyed reading my book. It was the best day of my life.

12. What can we expect to see from you next?

I’m currently working on another futuristic/adventure novel that I MEANT to finish over NaNo, but…didn’t happen. :\ My condensed outline was 38 bullet-points, so it’ll be a good long while before it’s here, but I’m still SO excited. 🙂

J. C. Buchanan is an 18-year-old homeschooler, Christ follower, avid reader, and writer. Her first book, The Hidden Amethyst, came out when she was 12, followed by You’ll Be Like Faye when she was 14. She also has released a short novella sequel to You’ll Be Like Faye, entitled Far Away FayeProof of Purple is her third full-length novel, but she plans on many more to come. Follow her online at jcbuchanan.com.

How to Get the Words Down: 7 Tips for Writing your First Draft

The biggest thing I struggled with before I published Honey Butter were first drafts. Specifically: finishing them. My brain is impatient and always coming up with new ideas. I’d be writing one one day, and a different one the next. I have many unfinished manuscripts as a result.

Something that I learned which helps me, is to write the first draft fast before I get board of it. That’s why NaNoWriMo worked really well for me. I forced myself to just Get the Words Down. (See what I did there? 😉 )

You might not have the same problems I do, (at which I congratulate you) and the same things may not work for you that do for me. As writers, we are all wonderfully different. However, I do hope you will find something useful here. I’ve met many aspiring authors for whom this was their chief trouble. If you are one of them, then you have come to the right place. 🙂

These tips were first posted to my instagram account, which you can find here.

1 – Get Excited!

And no, the title is not ‘Get Excited.’ It is ‘Get Excited!’ Exclamation points all around!
But okay, seriously. It is scientifically proven that when you enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll do better at it. Think of those book or TV series you love. How you can’t wait for the next episode/book to come out! You make fan art, fan-fiction, have animated discussions with friends, and whenever you have a spare moment you relive your favorite parts in your head. Or may it’s not even a story of any kind. Maybe it’s basketball, robotics, ceramics or origami. (fun fact, those are a few of my hobbies.)

Whatever it is, it’s never a chore to do anything related to ‘fill in the blank’.
That’s the way writing should and can be. If it isn’t like that right now, don’t be discouraged. That doesn’t make you a bad writer. Actually, that makes you a better writer than me, because I absolutely cannot write a book unless I’m excited about it, at least at the beginning. Later in the process, there are definitely things we just have to push through weather we want to or not. But when you’re writing the First Draft, when you’re just Getting the Words Down, you should try to be at least a little excited.

Robert Frost once said “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” And to that I would like to add “No excitement in the writer, no excitement in the reader.”

So get excited about yourself excited about your story. Interview your characters on fake talk shows, draw fanart, make Pinterest boards for scenes and ideas, (you can check out mine here 😉 ) dress up as your characters. Whatever it takes, get excited! And someday, there will be other people that you’ve never met, getting excited over your story too. Trust me.

 

2 – Freewriting

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of freewriting before. If you have, I encourage you to do a little today. If not, let me walk you through it: Get a sheet of plain paper and a pencil. Sit down at a table or desk in a preferably quiet, distraction free place. Set a timer for five to ten minutes. Write.
Writing anything. Write the first thing that comes into your head. Don’t worry about punctuation or spelling. Don’t try to be clever. Just write what you’re thinking. Have fun! Make mistakes, write messily, and embrace it all. DO NOT stop moving your pencil until the timer is up.

Next, read aloud what you’ve written. Quietly. Loudly. Whatever. Just go over it. You might be surprised. You might find a gem somewhere in there. If not, that’s okay because you were writing! And writing is the first step to becoming a writer! Yay for you!

Freewriting is a great way to help with writer’s block, in loosens up your writing muscles. It reminds you that a first draft does not have to be perfect.

You can pick a theme for your freewrite beforehand, or you can just go with the flow.

 

3 – Save Everything

Yes, you heard me. EVERYTHING. I don’t care how horrible you think it is. Save it. Maybe you won’t ever show it to anyone, maybe it won’t end up in the finished draft, and that’s okay. But still, save it.

Okay, but why? Why save everything?

Here are a few of the many reasons why:

1. Even if a scene isn’t going the way you want it to, there may still be a few gems in it. A particularly clever metaphor, or some witty jokes that you could transfer into a different scene. If you full out deleted all that, you’d miss out on the good bits that you could use later.

2. It might grow one you. I can remember several times when I wrote a scene one night and hated it. But after reading it again in the morning, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I remembered. Sleep on it before you delete it.

3. Someone else might like it. Writing is an art, and art is all a matter of opinion. You may not like something you wrote, but your brother or sister or friend may absolutely love it! Not to mention that you are your worst critic. Because you wrote it, you’ll look at it way differently then someone who’s reading it for the first time.

4. You can look back and see how far you’ve come, which will give you a lot of self confidence. We improve as writers the same way we grow taller; gradually. From your short term point of view, you’ve always been the same height, but it’s only when you look back on at the pencil marks on the door frame that you realize how much you’ve grown. If you save what you write, it’s like making marks as you grow. In the first draft of Honey Butter, I wrote some really weird things that I now look back on and laugh at. But it reminds me that I’m always growing and getting better, and so are you. 🙂

I have a document for each book I write titled ‘Snippets’ where I copy and paste paragraphs and pages of writing that I ended up cutting out. I also save each draft separately instead of editing the first draft once I finish it. Try it!

 

4 – Don’t Unveil an Unfinished Masterpiece

Also known as: don’t let just anyone read your first draft, especially before it’s finished.
When you first start writing your story, it’s still new. You and the characters still need to get to know each other. You have magic to play with and towns to explore. The last thing you need at this stage is an outside opinion, feedback of any kind will transform your mindset before you even know what you were thinking in the first place.

A side note, I actually do something that not many writers I know do: I let people read my first draft.

Most of my writer friends are probably staring at the screen in disbelief, but hear me out.
Some parents and siblings I realize, are not great editors, but somehow I was blessed with the best dad on the planet. He always reads my first drafts, and then we have long, super fun brainstorming sessions together. Later on my mom and siblings join in and become the best and funniest fans I could wish for.

I do not, however, allow anyone in my family to read my book before I’ve FINISHED the first draft, and I would advise you to do the same.

 

5 – Do NOT Edit

Going hand in hand with not letting anyone else read your first draft is; don’t let your inner editor read it!

The Inner Editor is a concept that the authors at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) came up with. By the way, I highly recommend checking out NaNoWriMo, it’s what helped me to complete the first draft of Honey Butter. But that’s another post.

The Inner Editor is an obsessive perfectionist who sits on your shoulder while you write. And they HATE messy first drafts.

Messy first drafts are a part of writing though, so when you start on a new book, send your Inner Editor on vacation. Accept that what you write at first is going to be a mess. A beautifully wonderfully raw creative mess. And whatever you do, DON”T EDIT. Sentence structure, scene order, typos, and even some character development can wait until later. For now let your mind spill with magic and you hands flutter like fairy wings over the keyboard.
Now go write and book your inner editor’s ticket to the land of fine print.

 

 6 – Take a Walk

This is a short tip, but the gist is that It is scientifically proven that you are 10% more creative after you take a walk. So today, try to work in a walk before you sit down to write. Or maybe take a walk in the middle of your writing routine. If you can, walk outside and where there’s trees. Trees are also scientifically proven to calm your brain. If you can’t go outside then walk around your room. Or take your notebook to the park and walk for a while. Let your mind wander, don’t think about anything particular; just walk. Then sit down on a bench a do a little freewriting and see what happens.

 

7 – Be Yourself

There are no real rules when it comes to writing. Or painting. Or sculpting. Or singing. Or any and all art. Don’t take any advice too seriously. Not mine, not the blogs you read, not your parents or teachers.

You are the Author.

You are in Charge.

I’ve seen blog posts before on finding your writing ‘Voice’. But really, I think the only tip you need to find your voice is this: Be Yourself.

Writing lingo: I use it all the time. You’ll often hear me talking about chapters, scenes, flat characters, protagonists, antagonists, plot, subplot, opening hooks, cliffhangers and climaxes.

But what if none of that existed?

Imagine for example what writing would be like if you had never heard the concept of chapters? What would happen then? What about character roles? What if you didn’t put your characters into boxes of heroes, villains, sidekicks, and minor characters. What if they were all just people? Then what would your story be like?

The reasons we use things like chapters and character roles are good reasons. And I’m not saying  you should disregard them. But sometimes we as writers get so caught up in these rules that we forget to be creative.

A first draft is all about breaking the rules.

Take another walk. Don’t think about any outside influence. It’s just you and your imagination. That’s when art happens. That in and of itself is art in its purest form. That is when anything is possible.

That’s all for now! If you have any subjects you would like me to blog about, let me know in the comments and I’ll look into it. Now go write and –

Keep Writing!

– Millie

A New World to Explore (For Both Me and You)

Here we are among the summer sunsets the burnt the blue sky. Chalk flower gardens and a bright array of paint colors. Here where sidewalks loop around Winchester court, and the noise of family bubbles from inside.

But now, there’s a new adventure calling.

Slowly withdraw from summer warmth, let the sound of slapping flip-flops fade, the paint colors blur, although not dim. They will never lose their brilliance.

But now the rushing of the leafs of the trees grows in volume. The sky is dressed bright and clear in autumn blue. The world is sweet and sunshine is a song. No sidewalks, no houses. Only the sweet earth beneath our feet. Only ground dappled in light and a sky dappled in clouds.

Betwixt Valley and Glen in a corner of these mystical lands, a girl in a long green cloak comes down from the way, in her eyes a depth of wisdom and the innocence of wonder, before her the quiet greeting of tree and flower alike.

Here is the coming world that I now present to you…

Lydia Green of Mulberry Glen

I hope you enjoyed that little snippety-snippet. Think of it as a bit of a teaser trailer. The synopsis will follow it sooner or later. (That rhymed!) And yes, I realize that that was a very dramatic way to reveal a title.

What can I say? Drama is my expertise!

But yes, I have indeed released the title of my new and upcoming book; Lydia Green of Mulberry Glen. It’s a bit of a relief for me to call it by its proper name now instead of just ‘the fantasy book’. No doubt you will be hearing a lot about it in the coming months.

As for progress on Lydia Green, (or LGMG as I sometimes shorten it to), I am happy to say that after pushing through some inoperativeness on the story’s side (definitely not mine) I am now well on my way to finishing the second draft. After that, I plan to send it too beta readers.

As you might remember if you’ve followed along on my previous book journey, I used beta readers on my third draft for Honey Butter. The reason I’m using them earlier this time is that I’ve learned a lot since then. Many beta readers have strong ideas that would involve bigger plot changes than I was at first prepared for, I did my best to give these ideas full consideration and implementation with Honey Butter, and while I think it did an alright job of it, I think I could have done better and perhaps been even more opened minded if I had given the Beta readers an earlier draft. So that’s what I’m doing this time with Lydia Green.

But besides directly book related updates I have another interesting tidbit to be made known to you as well.

In just a few days I am going to London.

My dad’s work sometimes involves business trips out of the country, whenever that happens; he usually takes one of us siblings with him. It’s an enormously fun and educational experience. I learn so much about culture and history!

Needless to say, I am extremely excited!

Plus, these trips, and how much I learned from them, was partly what inspired me to make Laren a Roadschooler.

Anyway, that was my big Christmas present this year. No doubt I will find an abundance of literary inspiration in London.

That’s all for now! Most likely my next post will be recapping my trip (something crazy to think about now), so stay tuned for that, and feel free to speculate theories about what might happen in Lydia Green of Mulberry Glen. It’s a book that is beginning to gain momentum!

Keep Writing!

– Millie

Duck, Duck, Goose: How to use Metaphorical Objects

Let’s begin at the beginning and define our terms. What is a Metaphorical Object? Here are the lexical definitions.

Metaphorical: a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance.

Object: a material thing that can be seen and touched.

In literature, we tend to use metaphors for description.

“He was the lion of the battlefield”

“The butterfly of her pencil flitted over the paper.”

Metaphors are an extremely powerful literary device, and sometimes they can carry the message of the story on their shoulders. (That’s another metaphor for you.)

You can make the message of your story about 10 times stronger by using metaphors, and in this post, I want to show you one of the ways to do that: metaphorical objects. Let’s start with an example and then find out what makes it work.

This example is from an old Christmas movie you might be familiar with, called It’s a Wonderful Life.

In the movie, the main character, George, has a lot of problems going on in his life (as all main characters should). In his house, there’s a staircase, and the top of the first post in that staircase is broken. Every time he walks up the stairs he absentmindedly puts his hand on the top of that post, and accidentally takes it off. Then, looking annoyed, he puts it back on or sometimes slams it back on in frustration.

But then, at the end of the movie, after he’s learned some important lessons, he does it again. Walks up the staircase, and accidentally takes the top off the post. But this time his reaction is different. He gives a laugh, kisses the post-top, and sets it back in its place.

The End… Kind of. Let’s take a look at what happened here: The broken stair post represented everything that George felt was wrong with his life. But at the end of the movie, when he learns to be thankful for what he does have, his reaction is different. He’s even thankful for a broken stair post because even with all the problems in this world, it’s a wonderful life!

Okay, but why does this work? And how?

Let me introduce you to something I call the duck, duck goose concept.

Remember playing that game? Duck, duck, duck, Goose! You never know when the person walking around the circle is going to say goose, or who they’re going to tap on the head. It’s the same with hot potato, musical chairs, and metaphorical objects. Every time the George pulls the top off the post, it’s duck, duck, duck… Then you trigger your object when your readers least expect it; something about the process changes, and… Goose!

Books are all about change, character growth, plot twists… Etcetera. If something doesn’t change from the beginning of your book to the end, then there’s definitely something wrong.

Your metaphorical objects can represent that change, or foreshadow it, using the ongoing duck, duck, goose method. In my book, Honey Butter, the metaphorical object was a major part of the plot, and I used my ‘goose’ for a plot twist.

If you haven’t read my book yet then skip the next section, as it contains spoilers, and go straight on to the next example.

Spoilers Begin!

In Honey Butter, the main character, Jamie, collects paint cards. She has her box of paint cards with her at all times, it’s more than just a hobby, it’s an obsession.

Jamie is rather self-centered at the beginning of the book, but as the story goes on, she not only makes an incredible new friend, she learns to be grateful for the people in her life that she already has. One by one, she begins to give away the paint cards in her collection, each time she grows closer to someone, she gives them one.

She’s giving away what she used to reserve only for her, and the more she gives away, the less she needs them for herself. And each time she gives them one, it’s duck, duck, duck…  Goose! But I can’t give away the goose, now can I? My metaphorical object plays a larger role than most objects, so I would be giving away the big plot twist.

Spoilers Ended!

Here’s another example, this one just made up.

12-year-old Ruby is bored with normal life, always making big plans, and always in a hurry. Every morning she goes downstairs, pours hot water into a cup of tea, and then hurries back upstairs to makes big plans about an adventure she’s going to go on – someday anyway. But she works so long every morning that the tea get’s cold, and when she finally comes back downstairs, she takes a sip, frowns, and pours out the rest of the tea. (Duck…)

Day after day throughout the story this ritual is repeated. (Duck, duck.) But then at the very end, Ruby has learned an important lesson, that adventure can be found anywhere and that the little things in life matter. In the last chapter, she doesn’t go upstairs to do her planning while the tea cools, instead she stays downstairs and drinks her tea with her family. This time, the tea is still hot. (Goose!)

Okay, enough examples. How do you make your own metaphorical object? Below are a few of my suggestions for creating them. Note I say ‘suggestions’.  When it comes to creating a book, there is no wrong, only write.

Tangible Object

I think part of the reason this kind of metaphor is so powerful is that the object is literally part of the story. The characters can touch it, smell it, and maybe hear it, depending on what it is. For this reason, both the characters and the reader have a closer connection to it. It works really well when it’s an item the character cares about, say, a special mug. If your reader cares about the mug, they not only care that the problem is solved but how it should be solved. They wouldn’t, for instance, want the character to smash the mug or buy a new one. If the object represents the character, then buying a new mug would mean trying to be a new version of themselves. It’s just another way to make your readers root for the character.

Not Too Similar

This goes for all metaphors, not just metaphorical objects. The things you are comparing should only be the same in the way you are comparing them. You wouldn’t, for instance, say that a frog was as green as a toad.

Don’t Overly Acknowledge

The metaphorical objects lose some of their power, I feel if it’s acknowledged too much. It takes away some of the magic. This is where show, don’t tell really has to be used. And remember, you don’t need to spell out every last detail for your readers. The beauty of a book is that it can be interpreted many different ways.

For instance, with my tea example, we wouldn’t want Ruby’s mother to say something like; “Ruby dear, you really need to remember to drink your tea, it gets cold every morning!” She might, though, sigh and shake her head as she watches Ruby pour it down the drain.

A Few Ideas

Now we get to the fun part: playing with some different versions and spin-offs of this duck, duck goose concept.

The examples I showed before have the ‘goose’ happen at the end, representing the character’s transformation. But there are really many other ways to do it.

Instead of representing character change, it could represent environment or community change. Or the relationship between characters. Maybe the ‘goose’ is what sets off the climax.

It can also be a great way to provoke emotion in the reader, for instance maybe there are two friends who have a watch that they share, and they take turns wearing it every day. (Duck, duck, duck…) Then one of the friends moves away and the other friend has no one to exchange the watch with anymore. (Goose!)

There could also be more than one change. Then even perceptive readers won’t see the second one coming because they think the ‘goose’ already happened.

It’s like saying ‘duck, duck, duck, Moose! Just kidding, Goose!’

Take my last example with the watch. The two friends exchanging the watch each day was the duck part. Then one of them moving away was the goose part. But what if it wasn’t? What if the friend moving away was ‘moose’. Then maybe the first character starts exchanging the watch with a new friend, and that was the ‘goose’.

So what do you guys think? Where have you spotted metaphorical objects before? What are other ways to use them that I haven’t covered? Do you think this could work in your own story?

Keep Writing!

-Millie

Upon the Backs of Old Drafts

I was sketching on a piece of scrap paper a few days ago. Jotting down a few ideas and scribbling out a few pictures for the fantasy novel I’m currently readying to write the second draft of. I happened to flip the scrap paper over and couldn’t help but laugh at what I saw on the back. It was a page from my first draft of Honey Butter, none of which remains in the final printed and bound book.

There are plenty of pages like these floating around our house, and here I was, drawing up ideas for my second book on the back of the first. Was it only a year ago that I wrote those misspelled, hastily typed words on the paper before me? And now I was doing it all over again with a new story, which will climb from draft to draft to draft and finally publication.

But I think it’s an interesting idea: you may have finished a story, but it will never be finished with you. You build upon what you have already written; you write upon the backs of old drafts.

In the same way, 2018 will build off of 2017 as the new year stretches out before us, inviting, and full of possibility.

And yes, it is indeed January 19th, and we are indeed several weeks into the new year. So this post is a bit late, isn’t it? But it’s still the first month of the year, even if it is not the first day, so I don’t think it’s too late to jot down a few plans and hopes and dreams and schemes for the year ahead. And considering the fact that last year I wrote down ‘finish and publish Honey Butter’ with a tentative pen deep within a private journal, and that it DID happen…this year, I’m going to aim high. Shoot for the stars and you might hit the moon they say! Although personally, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to hit their head on a star in the first place, considering the fact that they are balls of fire, the moon might be preferable.

Alright, enough with the witty wordplay! (For now anyway.) Here are a few of my goals for 2018!

Get Honey Butter into Barnes and Noble

I told you I was going to aim high. This, admittedly, is the one I’m most apprehensive about. But I’m going to try anyway, and you don’t know until you try. Who knows what might happen?

Twenty Reviews of Honey Butter on Amazon and Goodreads

Here’s the part you guys can help me out with. 😉
Okay but really, I’m already halfway there, and it shouldn’t be too hard to get ten more reviews on Amazon and Goodreads in the next year. I see twenty as a decent amount, and if we reach it I will be happy to do a giveaway or book signing or something along those lines in celebration.

Publish Another Book

This may be my fantasy novel or my poetry book, or if possible, both. We’ll have to see what happens. Either way, I will be working hard on both of these. Wish me luck!

Publish Honey Butter as an Audio Book

Yes! That’s right! I’m recording an audiobook for Honey Butter! You have partly my little brother to thank for that. He listens to audio books twenty-four seven and has been asking me to make one of Honey Butter for a while now. It’s slow going, but I should definitely have it done sometime this year.

Also, just to let you guys know. I am currently 50 followers away from 500 on Instagram, once I reach 500 I am planning to do a giveaway of my book and some cute paint card bookmarks that I made. So if you have an Instagram account and haven’t already; go follow me! Just search millieflorenceauthor.

That’s all for now I suppose. But I have a good feeling about the year ahead. Who knows how much adventure it might contain!

Keep Writing!

– Millie