I met Elizabeth Kauffman at an Author’s Night at our public library. I was so impressed with her focus and commitment to her craft that I had to invite her to be my guest on Meyette’s Musings. Welcome, Elizabeth. Please tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Elizabeth Marie Kauffman. I am a 22-year-old author and lover of all things fantastical and mysterious! I was born overseas–on the Gold Coast of Australia–which certainly helped to embed a deep love for travel and adventure within me. About two years ago I graduated with an associates degree in film and media production. However, this spring I will be heading back to college–via online classes–to continue and get my bachelors degree in history and English.
I started writing when I was very young. I was homeschooled, so when my parents discovered my love for the written word, they would assign me short stories to write as homework. One day, when I was about 12 or so, I got it into my head that I would expand one of my short stories into a full novel. I was so determined that I finished my first draft at over 300 pages by the time I started high school. Of course, this was a first novel written by a young teenager, and the writing definitely mirrored that, so it would need some major editing and rewriting if it were ever to see the light of day! However, writing one book gave me just the push that I needed to jump right into my next novel: The Sword of Teneraz. The rest is pretty much history… The Sword of Teneraz was published shortly after my 18th birthday. A few years later–it took a while since I had an intense year-plus of college in the middle of this time–I published its sequel: The Wolves of Langoor. During this time I also wrote my first novella–a holiday Christian romance. I am now working on the third and final book in this fantasy series–The Chronicles of the Sword of the Kings–and am chomping at the bit to write the next dozen or so book ideas that I have cluttering my brain!
Three novels by age 22 is amazing. How would you describe your writing process? Do you outline? Let the muse lead you? Or something else?
I have heard so often about the benefits of outlining and how much faster you can write if you outline your story first, so I decided to give it a try when writing The Wolves of Langoor. However, I was greatly disappointed to find that, not only did it actually slow me down, it threatened to stop me all together! I then realized that my personal style of writing is much looser than outlining allows you to be. I like to jump into an idea and just sort of float along wherever the story and the characters take me. I jot down ideas as I get them–for instance, if I dream up a great idea, or if I think up a scene during a down time at work–then I compile all of my ideas in one place, and from there I can get a rough idea of how everything will play out. I do, however, recognize the importance of having at least a rough idea of how you want the story to end before you begin. I haven’t always been successful at this, unfortunately, and I always regret it later as I experience writer’s block and a multitude of delays in my writing because I wasn’t fully prepared.
To summarize my method, I write by SOP (“seat-of-your-pants”) rather than by outlining. This means that I don’t always write in chronological order. If I’m stuck in one section at the beginning of my book, but have an idea for how to write a scene at the middle of the book, or towards the end of the book, I will jump ahead to write that scene before going back to where I was already writing. Sometimes I will have a bunch of threads going at the same time, all from different sections throughout the same story.
So you are a pantser like me. I’ve also tried outlining and found it didn’t work. What is your research process like? Do you enjoy it?
Researching is something that I believe to be so incredibly important when writing fantasy! It has also been something that I have grown in during the journey of writing The Sword of Teneraz, etc. When I first started out, I had a bit of the mindset that I find a lot of young fantasy writers tend to have: that is, that as long as you are working in a fantasy world you can basically do whatever you want. You want people to fly? Sure, you can throw that in there! Want a tree to grow upside down? Yup, it’s totally fine for you to include that in the world. Within reason, this can be true–it’s called fantasy for a reason, after all! But I have also found that as my writing matures I lean heavily towards preferring to follow the path laid down by the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien and Terry Brooks. I would rather take the time to really develop a world with fully formed cultures, and languages, and traditions, than just throw in elves or dragons or magic just because I can. I had already set up my world and cultures in The Chronicles of the Sword of the Kings with less detail than I wish I had originally used, but I am taking full advantage of this way of crafting a world for my next fantasy series.
To create my worlds I like to use a lot of ancient tradition from our own history. I particularly love to pull in various legends from the Celtic, Gaelic, and/or Old Norse traditions. They have long fascinated me, and I really enjoy being able to bring elements of the languages and cultures into my writing. For instance, in The Chronicles of the Sword of the Kings I will sometimes have the characters speak in a language that they call “The Language of Old,” when in reality I simply took Old Norse and modified it a bit to fit my needs. Maybe one day I will be able to craft my own intricate fantasy language from scratch as J.R.R. Tolkien did with Elvish, but for now I must be content borrowing from history.
Writing fantasy is far more involved than people imagine. (No pun intended…well, maybe a little.) What is the best piece of advice about writing that you ever heard or read? What would you tell aspiring writers today?
Writing takes discipline. Set aside some time each day to write and stick to it! It doesn’t have to be a long time, just start out with whatever you know you can accomplish–even if it’s just half an hour. You can add on time as you grow in discipline. Once you have set a goal for yourself of how long you will write each day, make sure that you keep to it! That time is your writing time. Keep this time sacred. Even if you have writer’s block, don’t just give up and say “I can’t write today, so I might as well wait until tomorrow”. If you’re completely blocked and just really can’t put any words on paper, then spend your time researching, reading the works of an author you aspire to be like, or participating in some other activity that inspires you: some of my favorites are taking a walk, doing stretches, or simply finding someplace interesting to sit with a notebook and write down a description of what all five of my senses are experiencing (what do I see, what do I hear, what do I feel, what do I taste, and what do I smell?).
Once you have the discipline, you will have a solid foundation to build the rest of your writing career upon.
One other thing that I would tell aspiring writers is to not be afraid to take the time to explore and really discover your own individual voice in the written word. Be sure to read a vast variety of genres and writing styles and try experimenting on your own. Do you prefer writing in first person, or in third? …Or even in second? Do you write best in the style of the old classics, such as how Robert Louis Stevenson or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote? Or do you take a more modern approach? Do you write for children, young adults, or adults? Do you like to play with your words, or are you more serious?
I myself am still in the process of experimentation. To date I have mostly written fantasy, although I have dabbled a bit in romance. Now, although I am still going to continue with another fantasy series, I have also begun/planned a series of short steampunk mysteries, a few historical fantasy adventures, a historical romance, a modern thriller, and another mystery that will be set in Victorian England. There are so many wonderful genres and I am still so young, that I can’t imagine just sticking with one! And so I will experiment and try different styles of writing as well as the different genres. Then, later on, I can settle down with just one genre if I so choose.
Have fun with your writing, and most importantly, love what you write!
That is great advice for any writer. Thanks for visiting with me today, Elizabeth. I wish you all best with your writing.
Contact Elizabeth at:
Author Website: http://elizabethmkauffman.wix.com/author