Writer’s Corner: JJ Clayborn

Writer’s Corner: JJ Clayborn

This week we are talking with multi-genre author JJ Clayborn. You can find him on his website: http://www.jjclayborn.com, or on his facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jjclaybornauthor.

1. How long have you been writing and what is your proudest accomplishment so far?
I wrote my first stories when I was in Middle School and won a writing award for a short story in 8th grade. But, I didn’t start seriously writing until 2008. My proudest accomplishment is still Exodus, simply because it was my first novel. I’m proud of all of my books for different reasons, but nothing will take the place of that first book.

2. What advice would you offer new writers?

A couple of things. First, and perhaps most important, would be to write. Write something every day. It doesn’t matter what, just write something. The more you write, the better you will become. The second thing would be read. Read a lot. Read everything you can. Find out what other people have done in terms of voice and story, find out what you like and what you don’t, and what the general population likes, and what they don’t.

Third, don’t be afraid to try. The worst that will happen is that your work isn’t good. But, that’s not a terrible thing, because you can always improve and get better. You just have to be ready to take that leap and put it out there.

3. What is something that you struggle with the most when you are writing?
For me, it’s two things. First, the initial brain-storming session. Sometimes I come up with a great idea, and then… something. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out the ending. The other thing I struggle with is research. I love to do research. I love for things in my books to be as detail oriented as possible. As such, I research a lot. I’ll spend hours looking up specific details that are only in the book for a paragraph. My problem is that sometimes I can get sucked into the research rabbit-hole.

4. As a writer, do you have any literary pet peeves when reading books?
I have some, but now that I’m on the spot, I can’t think of them. In general, I dislike First-person-present tense. I also dislike Second-Person-Past tense. Perhaps my biggest pet peeve is when authors don’t even try to make something realistic. I get that not everything is going to be realistic because it’s fiction, but there are some that it’s impossible to have suspension of disbelief. I think that’s such a big issue for me because I strive very hard to make things real. I try to limit myself to one unbelievable thing per story.

5. When you decided to put your books out for sale, did you go Indie, small press, or with an agent? And what factors contributed to that decision?

I actually decided to start my own small press. My main reason for doing this was because I knew that once I started writing, I was going to write a lot of books. Given all of the factors for my situation, it seemed like the best bet for me. This option definitely isn’t the way to go for everyone. I have some business acumen, which helps. I know the business end of things, which isn’t something that many authors have.

If you go the traditionally published route, take the time and find the right agent to fit your needs and style. If you go the self-published route, slow down. Don’t be in a rush to publish. Get the book edited, get a decent cover on it. Take your time with it.

6. Are you working on anything new?
I’m always working on something new! My first crime-fiction book, The Fall, just came out yesterday. I also just finished up an interactive fiction book that I’m giving away to people who sign up for my mailing list. I’m actively drafting Planetside, the second book in my Starsong Chronicles series. I’m also in the planning phase of a few other books.

7. Would you describe yourself more as a “pantser” or an “architect” type of writer? (someone who makes it up as they go along – writing by the seat of their pants, or someone who plans meticulously)
Is there a Master-Architect category? I’m only half-joking. For the most part, I’m a planner. I plan everything. My typical M.O. is that I outline every book before I even start. For large projects, like the Starsong Chronicles, I have multiple books outlined in advance. I also have a custom, private Wiki that I use to keep track of everything. But, I do leave some room for organic twists and shaping of the plot. I like to describe it like I’m installing the lattice framework and allowing the vines of the story to weave through them.

8. What is your writing process like?
I sit down at the computer and I type. Seriously, though. I plan it. I plan about an hour a day. I am either writing, editing, planning, or researching, but I’m doing something. Some people don’t understand how I write novels like that. 1,000-1,5000 words per day, every day, and you can easily produce a draft of a 65-70,000 word novel in 3 months, even with other commitments. The trick is that I do something with it every day.

9. Do you use any special tools or programs to help you write?

Yes. And no. For writing I use Microsoft Word, or sometimes Google Docs. I’ve tried Scrivenr, but I didn’t like it. It was great for writing things in chunks, but getting the formatting to work right was always a pain.

I use Wikidpad to keep a private encyclopedia. I love Wikidpad and I cannot say enough good things about it. Since the Starsong Chronicles is an entire series, I use Wikidpad to great effect to keep it all straight. My Starsong Wiki that I use had thousands of entries already.

I use Astrosynthesis to keep track of star maps, as well as the integrated Fractal Mapper. I also have a lot of great things to say about Astrosynthesis. For the meager price, it’s well worth the money if you write scifi. I also use Google Maps a lot. I have a lot of tools that I use to support my writing.

10. Is there anything else that you’d like to share with readers or aspiring writers?

For my readers, I hope that you come to learn and trust that nothing I do is without purpose. I hide lots of hidden things in my books. Everything is important to some degree. I have a lot of attention to detail and I hope that this is not lost on you. If you liked my work, leave a review and let me know. If you didn’t, leave me a review and let me know that, too!

For aspiring writers, practice. Practice, practice, practice. Every day. Write. Read. Write some more. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or try new things. Mistakes are one of the best tools for learning what doesn’t work.