I’d like to welcome, B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Author Gwen Dandridge to Layered Pages to talk about her writing. Gwen, why do you write?
I’m always the odd person out on this question. Everyone else says “because I must.” Not me. I write because I want to know what happens to my characters. They grow as a write and revise. My time spent at the computer or scratching out dialogue at a coffee shop breathes life into them and day by day I see where the story takes them. This is fun! I’m intrigued by the process, the fact that day by day a story grows and characters develop. They wouldn’t exist if I didn’t create them.
How has writing impacted your life?
Any creative undertaking changes your life. It turns you in a new direction and just the doing of it affects who you are. I’m not one to say that I’ve become a better person because of writing. I’m still me, warts and all. But writing has provided me with new avenues on interest. Friends look at me funny when asking about the “Raising Ferrets” book in my house. Or the research into medieval dyeing. Or the many, many other subjects that I’ve delved into for a writing project.
Most importantly, I’ve made many friends spread across multiple continents. People I would never have interacted with before writing but now we correspond and critique each other’s manuscripts. These are the people who understand when writing is hard, when plots need tightening or characters need additional depth.
What advice would you give to beginner writers?
Just the usual advice.
Get a writing group.
Write regularly, every day if you can.
Get lots of feedback on what you write. Listen to that feedback. Learn the craft of writing by reading books
Read books on writing
Commit to going to workshops/conferences about writing.
Do not rush to submit your work. Make sure it is polished and re-polished.
Here are some specifics to check.
Make sure each of your characters have their own arc, not just the protagonist.
Try to have each chapter end on a page turner.
Do your research. For example, make sure you don’t have new world foods in medieval fantasies.
Strengthen your verbs.
Check that you don’t repeat the same word over and over.
Avoid using “Suddenly.”
Be careful with your point of view that you don’t “head hop.”
If you are going to self-publish, do the following:
- Do your research. Make sure you know what is out there. Read many, many books in the genre you are writing.
- Know the basics for the book you are writing. In children’s literature, (YA, Middle Grade, Picture Books, Chapter Books) each one has specific guidelines. Make sure you know them.
- Take your time. Revise until your plot is tight, the characters breathe and the dialogue snappy.
- Put the manuscript aside for three months and then reread.
- Get a good cover.
- Be careful with how you format the inside of your book. Make it look professional.
- Make sure that you have a professional editor edit your book.
- Decide how you are going to market your book once it is published.
The end result should be a product that you love and wish others to enjoy.
My romance with fantasy was started when at age eight I discovered libraries, in libraries were fairy tale books. After that, I always expected to find a fairy beneath each flower, each rustle of leaves.
From there I went on to Walter Farley’s Stallion books. But my love went into a full blown affair at an Outward bound trip when half-way down the Colorado river one of the men talked about reading the Hobbit. I’ve been hooked on fantasy ever since.
I’ve been the SCBWI co-coordinator for Santa Barbara County and still function as the listserve administrator for the tri-county region.
My degree in psychology has only been used to understand dragons.
I worked as a system’s analyst (Oracle databases) at Santa Barbara Community College but much of my outside work time is spent doing art of various sorts: stained glass, pottery, basketry, large boulder mosaics, silk wall hangings, etc. I have a B.A. in Psychology, a two year certificate in Computer Information Systems and many classes in Writing, Art and Art History. I bake regularly and garden seriously (I have over 40 different fruit trees on the property).
Reading is my passion as is notable by the walls of books in my house.
My golden retriever and my husband keep me active hiking and roaming the Santa Barbara hills.