Visit the next Author installment here: James Peters
~The Words of Bek – Becky Paroz
Did you always want to be a writer or did you kind of fall into it? Tell us the story of how you came to identify yourself as a writer.
I used to write in school (many years ago) until my Senior English teacher pretty much killed my love of it. I then spent many years in the construction industry undertaking massive amounts of technical writing, but never really thought of that as writing. I was investigating an option for friends who write, and the contact I was talking to challenged me to write something. 12 anthology contributions later, I kind of got the bug to write. I have published my own non-fiction book. I have contributed to over half a dozen magazines around the world, and won some awards for my writing. I have been involved in a best selling anthology most recently this year, which was a wonderful achievement.
At some point in the last five years my view of myself started to include an identity of a writer. I realised that I had been writing for most of my life, including the technical aspects of writing business and project plans, procedures, website copy, and business reports.
I’m still trying to differentiate between the identity of writer and author, but it’s more of an intellectual exercise than a huge part of my psyche. I’m interested in what other people think is the difference between the two labels. I think I am both.
As a writer, are you a reader? What genres do you read and do you read more frequently in the genre you write in, or avoid it completely?
I was a reading addict way before it was cool and there were memes about it! My mother stopped reading my Charlotte’s Web as a child, before she finished the book. I was so upset, I taught myself to read, and never stopped! I Was reading Dickens, Conan Doyle, and Hugo before I was a teenager, and then I discovered sci-fi (Heinlein and Pratchett being my fave) and fantasy (McCaffrey and Eddings being some of my first). I used to read the side of cereal boxes as I wasn’t allowed to bring a book to the table, and I volunteered in the library for most of my senior schooling years in order to be near and touch my precioussessssss!
I was dragged up in a caravan for most of my childhood, so owning a library of over 3000 books now is one of my childhood dreams come true. And honestly, thank all the gods for libraries because I could never feed my addiction solely on my wages!
Tell us about your first writing experience. How does that compare to where you are now?
What I call my “first” writing experience is when I wrote creatively for a non-fiction anthology published in the USA called “The Female Leader”. It was so freeing to just write ideas and weave them together to a point, but without any rigid structure, just around a concept. All my technical writing is to a standard and a format and a template, so this was just so relaxing, and interesting. It felt a bit like freedom, which I think is the point I caught the “writer” bug. It was probably why I then contributed to so many anthologies; I could just write to an idea and make it whatever I wanted. I then wanted to practice short form writing, and so began my magazine contributions – trying to write the same concepts but in 800 words, instead of 3500. I am now working on 2 other non-fiction books, and a fiction book. I think I have developed into a much more creative style than when I first started, and I am definitely enjoying even more freedom to create a fiction novel.
I think writing is like anything, a craft you practice, and while I am really good at the technical side, I can see me growing in more skill as I explore writing fiction more. Hopefully this is the start of some great fun!
We all know the ‘just write’ memes if you are following any writers page, so apart from that, what’s the best advice you can give to someone new?
I think every writer is going to offer the same advice, just write, but to be more specific, try and work out what type of writing works for you. I am a binge writer, a word vomiter as I call myself. I work best when I can be alone with my world and write several thousand words at a time with little to no interruption. I really get into a zone and don’t want to come out of it. I find it hard to just write 1000 words, unless I am writing for one of the magazines I contribute to. Which is the entire article. Another really big thing for me that I am still trying hard to unlearn, is editing as I go. Because of the demanding and deadline drive nature of technical writing, I usually edit and check my work as I go. I think that is really detrimental to creative writing – fiction or non-fiction. I believe it is much better to get it all out, then go back and almost start again once you have the concept poured out. You can be more focused on how it fits the entire story and you will have developed your skills further once you have finished the first draft of a book. You can use those skills to improve the start of a book, which you can’t do when you are first starting out. Start with the end in mind, then get to the end, and start again.
What’s your biggest obstacle to writing and how do you overcome it? Most of us know that it is time, so try and let us know when you are best at your writing, and why that doesn’t work, and what you do to counter or overcome that problem.
Time is always the issue. For me it is the demands of others. I run several businesses, am a coach, a mentor, and consult to a few clients. So I have random requirements of me at all hours of the day, as I do like to be available to my clients in every area. Really hard as a binge writer to allocate an entire day and not expect someone to need me! I’m also a night owl, and would love nothing better than to write for most of the night when everything else is still and quiet. However I have all these demands during the day, and 2 Ridgeback puppies that are very cuddly and need lots of love. They just turned 18 months old and are still in training. So my ideal writing times are their (and my clients’) sleeping time, which means, that’s my sleeping time too. I am still working on how to make my timetable work around my writing, instead of my writing around my timetable. I try and schedule one or two days a month, unsually a weekend, where I am unavailable and binge write then. In the meantime, I am writing blogs, copy for websites, articles for magazines, and that just get done in between all the others things!
Self-published or traditionally published? Tell us why that works for you?
Self Published all the way for me! I am a control freak, so the idea of letting someone else creatively managed my project is just this side of hellish! I am an engineer, risk manager and compliance expert, so I research everything. After several years of researching this industry, not only do I realise how “skewed” it is to privilege, I also see how exclusive it is. If you aren’t somebody, you are nobody. I hope to be a part of that change, along with other authors, who see that it is the value of the words, not the publishing house that makes a book worth reading.
Traditional has its place, but its not for me. I think each author needs to work out what is important. For me, the story is just as important as how it looks to the world, aligned with my vision.
Here is your chance to plug a book. Tell us about it and why we need to read it?
As its my page, my books are already plugged over a the “in-print” page. I was recently very privileged to be given a #1 best seller status for the anthology ChangeMakers IWD Edition [inert link to purchase] along with 21 other women who were involved in the project.
I think that there is a story, or part of story, in that book that just about everyone could relate to. It is a really powerful collection and I absolutely recommend giving it a go.
I say just read. Read until you find the book that you were looking for, that you needed to read. It could be a fiction, or a non-fiction, but just read. Everything, and anything. If you read the same as everyone else, you think the same as them. Seek out the weirdos and the obscure, the lesser known and the recently published. Support the unknown names, tell your friends, and tell the author especially, that you loved their book. It never gets old to hear that something you wrote was powerful enough to affect another human. The series of interviews to follows will have books mentioned in each one. So this is more about plugging a love of all books – go explore!
Next project? Where are you in your writing journey and where to next for you?
Like all writers, I have several projects on the go. I am trying to finish my first draft of my fiction novel, and I have 2 non-fictions in various stages of progress. I want at least one of these published in 2020. Depending on how well received my fiction is, I hope to be able to produce a few more and turn it into a series. Plus I have a few magazines that I write for, but I really would like to get paid to write more – as we all would!
What’s your favourite genre? Tell us about one book from that genre that changed your life or outlook in life?
I think science fiction is my favourite. I keep coming back to it and it’s the sci-fi ones I read the most. The book that opened up my world was Mort by Terry Pratchett. He is funny, clever, smart, smart ass, and has a huge amount of social commentary included in his Discworld series. Mort was the first one I read and I was amazed to find an author that wrote in a way that I could relate to, in a manner that reflected a lot of the ways I viewed society. No one else compares to Sir Terry Pratchett, and his is a great loss to the literary world. He also led me to other authors, such as Neil Gaiman, so I have him to thank for that too.
The most personal question of all, what does writing give you? Why do you do it, what’s the point, and what does it provide in your life that you can’t fulfil by any other means?
Writing is freedom for me. A way of expressing so many thoughts, ideas, concepts and commentary, in a variety of interesting ways. Writing for a book is a different style to writing for a magazine, which is different again writing technically or for copy on a website. The power of words can change people’s life, I know that because they change mine constantly. The way in which I think, view the world, the way in which I interact with people. That is the power of words, and to wield them with influence and wisdom, is a truly great gift.
Bonus Questions (If you wrote both, feel free to answer both!)
Non fiction writers
What is the hardest thing you had to learn about putting together a factual book? Talk about how you verify facts, or try to display the information, especially if there are a lot of photos or diagrams. Offer some advice for the audience who might want to try non-fiction.
Non-fiction is an interesting one. There is as much variety in non-fiction as there is in fiction. I think the things for me way the order in which to present information. My book, The Words of Bek, is a collection of speeches and think pieces, magazine articles and poetry, so there wasn’t a lot of “facts” to present. However, I still wanted it to have some flow and so that was mainly what I struggled with – how to put all these pieces together to make something that kept the readers engaged. I think I could have presented it in a myriad of ways and it still would have worked, and therein lies another lesson – that done is sometimes better than perfect. You can spend so long on getting something that is really important to you just so, but you need to remember that the book is for your readers, and that you at some point want them to read it. So knowing when enough is enough, and letting the book out intot he wild, is another really important part. I think that really applied to non-fiction, because you can keep refining, and adding, and polishing, but at some point, only you, the writer, will find those details relevant. Readers want to read – so give them something to read!
There is a lot of information about world building, character driven plots, and showing not telling. Discuss briefly how each of the elements of your book came together and which part do you love the most – the world you’ve built, your characters, or the story itself? I know, it’s like picking a favourite child, but give it a try.
I’m still working on all of these parts, so I will come back and answer this question amore fully after I’ve published my first fiction! For now, I am definitely in love with my main character, and she is a lot of fun to write.