The last of the writing meme

blackxlupin asked three questions.

What aspect of your writing do you think has most improved since you started writing?
I've gotten much better at expanding my stories and managing the writing process for longer works. I'd been lurking in fandom for six years when I finally started writing in the summer of 2009. Writing fic was something I'd never thought I could do, and I was terrified that the ability would disappear as quickly as it had arrived. My priority was finishing stories, not expanding them to their fullest potential. When I started to explore longer narratives, I struggled to keep them organized. I'd always written scenes in whatever order they occurred to me, which was fine for a 3,000 or 5,000 word story. When I was trying to write 10,000+ words, I'd end up with a disorganized mess. Dating Older Men and Other Adventures in Growing Up took more than a year to complete because I didn't know how to organize my writing process. Writing longer stories is still time consuming, but I rarely get miserably stuck the way I used to.

If you could give your fledgling author self any advice, what would it be?
Just chill. People won't unfriend you if you don't have a brand new story every week. Abilities don't mysteriously vanish overnight, so you don't need to worry that you'll wake up one morning and not know how to write anymore.

I really admire the way you use theme in stories. Is it something you start out with consciously, like, "I want to write a story about guilt/loneliness/...", or is it more Stephen King-like, where you write a first draft and then see the potential for theme and work to develop it in the second draft?
This is an extremely flattering question! To be perfectly honest, I had no idea that so many of my stories had a theme at all. I can think of a couple explanations. One is that I'm very conscious of the idea of emotional resonance -- that a story needs to have an emotional hook that ordinary people can relate to, even when the characters are having wacky adventures in space or fighting evil super villains. When I wrote The Proper Treatment of Sexorexia way back in 2009, I remember really worrying about how I would make Gaila a sympathetic character. Even though it's mostly a comedy about awkward roommates at Starfleet Academy, I also wrote about homesickness and culture shock because I think a lot of us have been through that.

I also suspect that the stories that have strong themes are the ones I've written to tell myself something I need to hear. My mom is an alcoholic, and I spent most of my adolescence and a lot of my adulthood grappling with her addiction. I've written a lot of stories about people learning to make it on their own, and quite a few about people working out tricky situations with their families. I wrote When We Used to Be Friends after my mom refused to celebrate my thirty-third birthday, and I need to write something totally honest about what it's like to grow up with an alcoholic. In January of this year, I realized that my mom is too toxic to have in my life, and I immediately started writing a story for myself about someone moving on with a chosen family. We'll All Float On Okay is about Leia getting close to Rey, but it's actually about me giving myself permission to let go of my mom and focus on my friends instead. Burn My Past to the Ground (The Epistolary Remix) is much more explicitly about my life, because it's about Veronica dealing with the fact that her mom might as well be dead, but there's not a funeral or a socially-sanctioned grieving process for when you have to cut a relative out of your life. That one ends basically the same way as "We'll All Float on Okay," which is the affirmation that you really can choose your own family.
I so hear you. I so very much hear you. I'm tempted to write about some of the stories I've written and talk about where bits of them came from inside me, now, too.
I understand so much - I have written about a lot of things reflecting on what I've dealt with as well, and they really helped me come to terms with those feelings I otherwise would have bottled up inside.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write out these insightful replies!

Difficulty of managing the writing process with longer form stories is something I'm struggling with myself right now, so it's reassuring to read that more accomplished writers have had the same problem--and that it is something one can improve at with practice.

It's interesting that you start mostly from emotion (one likely to resonate with the audience, at that) and not so much a "topic" or a "moral/philosophical statement". I often try doing the latter and end up with a forced feel to my stories; I definitely see how your approach would keep my characters much more in-character.

You absolutely are very good at theme, I'm surprised to hear this isn't something you knew about your stories. :) We don't share many fandoms, but in Star Trek, it really comes across in your Gaila stories, as you've mentioned, and your Luna story "Journey of a Thousand Miles" in another example.

I can definitely relate to what you wrote about your mother and how story-writing is something you do to tell yourself what you need to hear--it reminds me of that quote that goes around writing memes from time to time, "I don't know what I think until I write it down." It never seems to work for me when I'm doing it intentionally, but when it catches me by surprise, those are some of the most satisfying writing moments for me.

Thanks again for taking the time to write such well thought-out responses, and I'm sorry it took me such a long time to reply. Real life has been hectic lately, and I'm only just getting caught up. I hope it's been treating you well, and best of luck with your chosen family!