Shawn Urban [stefras]
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
I have been reading since I was a child. My parents actively encouraged reading and I fell in love with story when I was really young. Poems, folktales and Childcraft Library books were probably the first things I read, though obviously I read Tolkien voraciously after The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings were read to me. I grew up as a writer under the wings of Tolkien's works.
I began writing to write - rather than for school - in the summer between Grade 5 and Grade 6, after my Grade 5 teacher read the Hobbit and LOTR to our class.
My parents were probably my first audience, though I remember reading to friends, my brother and my class.
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
I prefer reading and writing fantasy, though I like experimenting with other genres and many forms. Most of my work is on paper and not digitized. You can read some of it on in my member page (Stefras) on the Write Group wiki, http://bit.ly/writewik, which links to other samples of my writing.
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
I am a lucid dreamer; my stories usually start with dreams. I tend to write in two ways: 1) impulsively, in one sitting; and 2) with various degrees of planning. I often write in the morning and edit, review and take notes on possible directions of my current project before going to bed. This way some of my dreams, with conscious direction, deal with some of the issues from my editting and note-taking. I often garden after writing in the morning.
I write on paper with pencil, eraser, dictionary, thesaurus and writer's handbook, then type this up at night. Often I revise and write more while typing, as the story unfolds while I review it.
What type of reading inspires you to write?
Actually, I get ideas from anything I read, and indeed from many experiences. I do like listening to imaginative or scientific music while writing and editting.
What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
Beyond the obvious ingredients of character, problem, conflict, story structure, style and other story mechanics, fruitful stories require a recipe of wonder, imagination, playfulness and anticipation.
What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
I mix the two in different works and in single works, depending on point of view. However, I prefer third person.
What well known writers do you admire most?
I enjoy many authors. I think variety prevents stagnation and tunnel-vision; my library is rather large. If I had to choose writers, Tolkien, Lewis, Dickens, Brooks, Card and Eddings have strongly influenced me. Folktales and tale motifs are also a rich source of story enjoyment and ideas.
What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
A character needs his own dreams, goals, relationships, life and personality. I develop, and so create characters, as my stories demand them. Main characters obviously take a little more backstory and planning. Most of mine emerge to fulfil a story role; so the role exists before the character. Others hop into the story; somehow they know that they are important before I even realize they exist.
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
I don't think my written stories are composed to be read aloud; I read with my inner voice. However, the various writing groups I have belonged to seem to like my stories as I read them.
Having said that, I can make up a story on the spot as I tell it. I usually do this in English classes when I want to illustrate points I am trying to teach, such as flashbacks.
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
I write for me. I write for the story; I want to read it too. I write for the experience; I love creating and imagining. If I do not write for an extended period, I get ansy until I do. I write to explore, to learn, to build my craft. I write for fun, for flow and for the satisfaction of creating something I can see and share.
In my experience, if I like what I write, so will others. If I entertain myself, so others will be entertained. I hope to share the story - and the experience. Wonder drives my stories.
Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
What an interesting question. No, I do not write as a means of personal therapy. I will keep it in mind though.
Like any potential source of inspiration, internal conflict can be a creative force, a distracter, or a writing block. I think it depends on circumstance and story.
Does reader feed-back help you?
Yes, as does listener feedback. I learn a lot about the problems and strengths of the stories I write from my readers and listeners.
Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
No, I haven't.
Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
Yes. A second or third pair of eyes, ignorant of the story in my mind, can judge the readability, consistency and enjoyment of the written story.
Do you believe you have already found "your voice" or is that something one is always searching for?
Voice is something the reader or listener experiences and is an interplay of writer style, and reader or listener background and inner voice. I always try to break my style in order to keep my writing and stories fresh. I like experimenting with my imagination and writing. And I strive to fit my style to the content of each story.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
I don't. I write while it is fun and take a break when I get blocked or tired. I don't keep track of word count, how long I have been writing nor the rate at which I am writing. I focus on the story and let it mature to its natural size and at its natural pace. I find that timing plays a big role in creativity; I don't believe it should be scheduled nor otherwise restricted. I write regularly, but in spurts of varying lengths. In this sense, my writing is punctuated.
What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?
Sometimes I like silence; sometimes I like noises: music, television or outside noises. I usually write in a reclining chair, but I move around, sometimes writing on my deck or other places. I prefer not to have others near me as I find my attention divided between my writing and them; they always win.
As I mentioned in the question about my creative process, I use pencil, paper, dictionary, thesaurus and writer's handbook to write. I also keep a notepad and sticky notes on which I record ideas that come to me and loose leaf to write restless impulse works on. Sometimes, I also have other stories, poems, novels, art, concrete items or research near me. These items are typically story-specific.
Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?
It is interesting. I mix up how I write. Usually I write on paper and my computer simultaneously. What changes I make in one medium, I transfer to the other. I used to write on paper only and saved typing on my computer until the "final" draft. I also write some short stories entirely on my computer. Poems I typically write on paper. Long stories get the mix.
I print for two reasons: 1) to analyze writing that has grown so completely out of hand that I can't read and edit it on the computer, and 2) when I am done a section, scene or chapter of my writing and want to keep a harcopy of it, typically for editting. Hardcopies record a history of story and writing development, whereas computers do not unless several files or versions of a story are saved. I prefer the paper versions, which are less likely to be accidentally erased or replaced, and do not clog my computer up.
I revise my "final" on my computer; previous drafts usually get revised on paper. I also edit and proofread on both my computer and paper. Though I use an eraser, typically I only do so on notes and sections of writing transfered to other paper. Otherwise I strike out passages I dislike or edit.
I draft several times.
What sites do you frequent on-line to share experiences or information?
This is actually new to me, not sharing, researching and practicing on-line, but doing so with my writing and actively seeking out other writers or resources there. I have yet to settle on any favourite sites, and prefer at this point to explore.
I am still married to books, magazines, articles and face-to-face encounters with other writers as my primary source of information, prompts, cross-feedback and sharing.
I am the current leader of The Write Group, http://bit.ly/writegroup, and have been busy building our online presence for our members. So essentially, I am building our own sites from which we can connect with others. These sites our's connect to will be the ones we will frequent. It is my hope the list will be ever growing.
Having said all that, I have seen some exceptionally creative writers' sites and look forward to a time when I too have such a site for fellow writers and fans to communicate with me through.
What has been your experience with publishers?
I have published some scientific papers and writing, but never approached a publisher nor an agent for a contract. I am a greenhorn when it comes to marketing.
What are you working on now?
I am working on two long stories (novels), one more actively than the other, several short stories, a couple of poems and any short writing that pops up. And short writing tends to pop up often.
I also write two blogs, http://bit.ly/stefbridge and http://bit.ly/stefdigsub, the first of which is my writing blog while the second is my professional teaching blog.
I am kept happy and busy.
What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
Show someone. Really, pick a friend, pick an acquaintance, pick a stranger. Join a writing club. Don't ask for an opinion; let their reaction while they are reading it, and their comments and questions after they read it tell you what they think about it. Remember that nothing is totally good nor is anything totally bad. Instead of asking what overall impression your readers have, ask them what did not work and what did. Take their constructive advice about strengths and weaknesses of your writing or story to heart, read your work with a critical and hopefully distanced eye, but make your own changes where changes need to be made. Most of all, grow. Grow and have fun. Never crush your own dream. Everyone is a storyteller. Writing is just a way to communicate your stories. Let your imagination pour into your writing; let it tell its stories. Keep dreaming and keep telling; never give up or put aside. Write while it is fun.