Start Strong With Morgan Wright
Interview by C. Scott Frank with Morgan Wright (guest).
Originally published on May 7, 2018 on Afterwords
C. Scott Frank:
Morgan is an inspiring writer and fascinating person! If you're not following her on Twitter, you're absolutely missing out. Let's hear about her writing.
To begin, I should say that I lead a slightly unconventional life- I’m of Belgian nationality, have lived in Spain for about 13 years, yet I write and study in English. Currently, I’m in my third year of studying a BA (Honours) English Literature and Creative Writing at the Open University which I began at 16.
I started writing at a very young age, my earliest imaginations triggered by C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (both the movie and the novel) and then Gothic oeuvres such as Dracula, The Sandman and all works of Edgar Allan Poe.
Thus inspired, I mainly write fantasy novels and short stories (with a specific focus towards medieval fantasy with thick Gothic undertones) though I’ve also dabbled somewhat in historical fiction and horror.
What inspires you and/or why do you write?
My mother always says I was born with a pen in hand. And it’s true. I’ve always been somewhat of a dreamer- my imagination taking me to the strangest of places sometimes- and I’ve always thought in storylines. Everything I saw, everything I heard... I turned into stories.
I remember that as a child I’d create imaginary characters in my mind, thinking about how they would look, what they would feel, what society they would live in and how that society would differ from our own- I’d act out the scenes in my grandparents’ garden (usually with barbie dolls which would resemble hideous monsters more than barbies by the time I was through with them). But it wasn’t until I turned 7 when my mother took me to see Narnia that I got my first real taste of fantasy. Shortly after I began putting my own creations to paper, my addiction to the Gothic and fantasy genres growing to epic proportions.
Writing became my life and I knew even then that there was nothing I would ever want to do more.
Describe your process as best you can:
My writing process usually starts with a dream. For some elusive reason, every Thursday night of the week, I have a dream that furnishes me a new idea for a story. On Friday morning, you’ll always find me reaching over to my nightstand for my iPad and quickly typing down what I’ve dreamt while it’s still fresh in my mind.
Other times - and this is during waking hours- I get ideas randomly, sometimes simply looking at the shapes of clouds (as cliché as it sounds if I look at something with a discernible shape long enough, an idea will come to construe itself around that single image, and voila! New story.).
I always write a rough outline on my iPad first. Then I pass over to paper and start looking for what works and what doesn’t before developing a more concise outline, filling in all the details - the characters, the plot, subplots... everything and anything I can think of.
After that I simply start writing my first draft longhand and try not to get distracted by incoming Twitter notifications.
Sometimes my stories take a surprisingly different route from the outline I had planned, but I prefer having a fixed focus before starting. Otherwise- and I speak from experience- I end up with a monstrous first draft that requires tons of major revisions, practically forcing me to rewrite the whole manuscript from start to finish. Having a clear outline generally avoids that.
Once I’ve completed the first draft, I type it over onto my mac- editing small issues as I go along- and then the real editing process begins.
What is your favorite tool or resource? (Like Scrivener, Grammarly, a blog, etc?)
I have two tools that I use actively. Pages (for mac) and Scrivener. I first pass over my longhand first draft to Pages and thereafter do further edits and rewrites in Scrivener to keep track of my changes whilst keeping myself organized.
Biggest challenge for you, and how have you overcome it? (Or how are you working to overcome it!)
Striving for a perfection that is unachievable.
The work never matches the ideal the writer has to begin with and this, for me, often resulted in tons of unfinished projects. If I started to get anxious about something I was writing and my inner critic emerged, asking ‘Is this good enough? What if it isn’t good enough?', my lack of belief in myself would have me tossing the story to work on another idea, and then the same pattern would repeat itself again and again. I got stuck in this vicious cycle that prohibited me from getting my work ‘done’ and it made me wallow in self-doubt all the more. I’m loath to admit it, but piles of dusty, half-finished manuscripts still litter the hidden bottoms of my drawers, waiting for me to return to them.
Then one day I just stopped striving for that unachievable perfection and wrote without constraint. I didn’t toss my work, I didn’t let nagging thoughts taunt and I saw my work through to the end, even allowing beta readers to read what I’d written and the affirmation I found there was exactly what I needed to grow confident about what I was doing.
My family has always been my greatest supporter, always standing by me through the good and the bad, and then about a year ago I joined Twitter where I was shocked (in a good way) at the support and loyalty of the thousands of amazing people I’ve met there. They have done wonders for my self-esteem. I still battle the everlasting question ‘Is it good enough?’ but I’ve also come to understand that that’s simply a less-fortunate part of our job description.
So, to my family and all my twitter followers out there for helping me get over my insecurities- thanks guys!
What do you consider your biggest strength? (Don’t be shy!)
Wow, hard question. I actually had to start asking around to answer this properly. My beta readers have told me my biggest strength is how I draw people into my stories right from the first sentence (their words, not mine). I was relieved to hear that because I always spend a lot of time on the openings of my stories for this very reason and to get that kind of validation as a writer is... divine, really.
Capturing readers' attention from the opening page is what we all aspire to do. Do you have any tips for other authors for how to get there?
The first line, the first paragraph, the first page. These are crucial to a story. They either reel the reader in or make him set the book aside.
The first thing I focus on is making the reader care. Who is this character and why should I sympathize with him? Start from there and see where it takes you. The first few lines of novel or a short story have to convey a promise to the reader, a promise that you’ve woven a tale so grand that it’s worth following it through to the end.
So make your story tantalizing, write it in such a way that the reader can physically not deter himself from reading more. And the only way to achieve this is by writing, writing, writing... and then writing some more. Practice makes perfect, I guess. Do a lot of something consistently and you’ll inevitably get better.
Basically, the main rule I adhere to with all my stories is this: start strong and end strong. Great starting lines sell your first story, great ending lines sell your second.
Any other advice for authors, based on your unique experience?
Well, there’s only one thing and it’s the only thing that really matters:
Don’t change your writing on account of anything or anyone. A writer’s work is the personification of their soul. If you forego that, you forego who you are. Know that not everyone will love your stories and that not everyone is supposed to. No work is universally loved. This goes for anyone in the creative industries. Rather picture this: Imagine you did write the perfect novel, one that everybody loved... what would there be left to write about?
Writing perfection means you can’t grow. It means you can’t change. And the beauty of writing is that it does change. The fact that we become better writers by writing consistently is what keeps us going. We always want to get to that next stage that makes us go: ‘Ah, I’ve done it. Now onto the next challenge.’
Where can other authors or readers connect with you and find your work?
I’m mostly active on Twitter as it’s my preferred platform so any readers and authors can get in touch with me there.
I also have a blog (literaryavenue.wordpress.com) though I’m a very infrequent blogger as my twitter followers can sadly attest to (it’s been months since I last posted something- oh the shame!), but if anyone contacts me via the Contact Form there, I’ll endeavour to reply as quickly as I’m able. I’m currently unpublished and juggling multiple projects simultaneously. After years of being indecisive about which novel to publish, I’m going to see which of my latest works gets finished first and that’ll be the one I’ll publish.
In the meantime, I’m also working on a collection of short stories (‘The Company of Wretches’) which I’d like to publish by the end of this year. While working on this collection, I may also have a short story coming out via a separate channel so I’ll keep everyone updated on both this and my other projects via Twitter and my blog.
Recently, I wrote a book review for Penguin Random House on ‘Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration and the Artistic Process’. It’s an incredible book-I definitely recommend writers in search of motivation or writers presently in a state of writer’s block... and just writers in general really, to read it.
I’ve also been granted the honour of working with Kimberly Coleman from Crassus Media (crassusmedia.com) on her bestselling series ‘Calendar for Writers’ (a two-year creative writing planner) where Kimberly Coleman herself, a few other great writers and myself have written pieces to inspire writers to write throughout the time they have the Calendar (years 2019-2020). This Calendar is the largest so far and will be available for preorder in midsummer and available in print on Amazon and at your local bookstore as of October this year.
A major thank you to you, Cameron, for giving me this opportunity! It truly means the world to me. And in the spirit of throwing around good vibes:
Best writing wishes to my fellow writers!
C. Scott Frank: Wow! Now I just HAVE to get out there and write.