E.D. Linquist and Aron Christensen first started publishing serialized fantasy and science fiction several years ago. Since then, their literary collaboration has gained quite a following among the growing community of weblit readers across the globe. In the following interview, I talk to E.D. about writing and the role of webfiction in the future of publishing.
You can learn more about E.D. Linquist and Aron Christensen by visiting their website http://looseleafstories.com
What inspired you to start writing?
One day, it just sort of happened.
As a girl, I had always loved reading. In high school, I wrote a few short stories that have luckily been lost to a few computer reformats. And then, a few years into college, the idea for my first book, Anvil of Tears, just stuck in my head. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I was having a hard time in school. I was never terribly studious and I had swapped majors nine times and never really settled into anything. My husband, Aron, encouraged me to write the story. It seemed like something that I could finally focus on, something I could finally love.
What sort of lessons have you learned since you started writing fiction?
Wow, where to start? Anvil of Tears was written with a lot of passion and no planning. I didn’t know where I was going and I didn’t want to know. I just wanted to run and feel the metaphorical wind in my hair.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a fun ride and I’m glad I took it, but I quickly learned that it wasn’t the best way to write a novel. Without a plan or outline, I had no idea how to direct the characters, how to get them to go places and do things. The result was some pretty ham-fisted plot development and thin motivations.
No plan also meant a lot of dead-end writing. I had to cut entire chapters out of Anvil of Tears. It broke my heart. I suppose that was my first lesson. It was hard to throw out days or even weeks of work, but if it didn’t work, it just didn’t work. I had to let the pages go. All that mattered was the final product, the book. I would do whatever I had to in order to make the novel as good as I could.
The biggest thing learned was that every hour of planning before I write saves me ten hours later. I’ve become a firm believer in outlines. I know where I’m going to end the story before I ever begin writing. Sure, the outlining is tedious and the least fun part of writing, but it’s invaluable during the actual writing of the manuscript.
How have your writing habits changed over time?
The biggest change is how I write the first draft. When I started Anvil of Tears, I wrote maybe two pages a week. I agonized over every word, intent on making every one perfect. There would be no second draft, I swore. The first one would be perfect!
Only, it doesn’t work that way, in my experience. There’s too much to juggle on the first draft. The focus has to be the plot and characters. Fixing and beautifying the prose comes later. On the second draft, I can devote all of my time and energy to the language.
What is your typical procedure for getting a novel from initial conception to publication?
When we have an idea, Aron and I pack up the computers and go out to the local diner, away from all the distractions at home, and write the first outline. We order as many batches of hamburgers and shakes as he have to until we’ve covered the basic story from beginning to end.
That sits for a week to a month while we polish some other project, then we go back over the outline. We make sure that it still makes sense, fill in details and characters. Once we’re happy with the outline, I begin on the first draft. That’s pretty much a solo endeavor. Aron reads, edits and proofs every chapter as I finish it, but I write most of the prose myself.
After the first draft is done, Aron and I both do a first round of edits and changes. Then we send it out to a group of beta-readers and other editors. They all finish the book at different rates, giving me plenty of time to go through each batch of corrections and feedback and make changes to the manuscript.
Once we’ve gotten red ink back from everyone, I do any rewrites necessary and then a double read-through for consistency and coherency. Aron does the final read and then it’s time for formatting. We set up a print and ebook file while I see about cover art. I may do that myself or commission an artist. I prefer the latter, when we can afford it.
Then it’s time to publish. We drop the book and run out to have celebratory frozen yogurt.
How do you prepare for a writing session?
I don’t prepare much. As soon as I can see straight in the morning and I’ve had some breakfast, I check where I am in my outline and then get to work.
What inspired you to delve into webfiction?
I wanted people to read my stories. At the time, ebooks were not much of an option. Kindles were in their first generation, and Nook was just a rumor. Printing self-published books was (and still is) pretty expensive per book. Without bookstore shelf space to get my book out there, I turned to the internet in an attempt to reach my readers.
What have you discovered since starting to publish your work online?
Mostly, I’ve learned not to be afraid. There will be negative comments, harsh reviews and even plagiarism. But all of that means that people are reading, and that’s the important part.
What role do you see weblit and webserials playing in the not-so-distant future?
The part that interests and excites me is the interaction between myself and the readers. I don’t know if I would say that this necessarily is the future, but what I would love to see is reader input on the progression of the story. Currently, I write my novels and finish them before they ever go up in webfiction form. If I discover that the readers an uninterested in some aspect of the story, it’s a little too late to fix it.
The Dead Beat, our short fiction serial, is the only one we are writing as we go. I’m not getting it yet – mostly because I’m not sure how to ask for it – but I would love to get reader input on where to go, what kinds of stories would they be interested in? Ones that focus more on the main characters? More about the setting/world? For now, I can only guess at what the readers wants.
How will paid webserial subscriptions that offer extra content affect the future of the syndicated format?
For us? Probably none. We don’t generate much extra content, and what we do, we offer packaged the same as the serial or book.
There has been some suggestion that webserialists produce material that is of a different style than traditional novelists. What are your thoughts on this given your own experiences as an author?
Well, as I said, I write most of my books simply as novels, then serialize them later. I don’t know that it’s the best way to do a webserial. I had to cut scenes in awkward places and pacing in some segments was not great. It’s not the same as writing an actual webserial, like The Dead Beat.
If you’re going to write a webserial, I would recommend that authors write fast and hard. Keep things jumping, keep them moving. Keep the reader interested through each section and excited enough to come back. Also, don’t give the readers a lot of information to remember between sections. When they’re only getting chapters or scenes a few times or week, it’s easy to forget the details.
With a book, it’s easier to spend time developing backstory and to move the story at a more leisurely pace. A reader can go through at much of the book in one sitting as they like, or that they can squeeze into their day. When writing a webserial, remember that you’re parceling out the story and pace the narrative accordingly.
How did your collaboration with Aron Christensen come about?
We were freshly married when I first started writing, but had been dating for several years. He was already a part of every aspect of my life. When I struggled with writing, I leaned heavily on Aron.
At first, it was just emotional support, but it quickly became clear that Aron had a lot more to offer. He had always been better-read than me and when I started complaining about plot problems, he had solutions.
The more I wrote, the more I needed Aron’s help. Up to my eyeballs in juggling the plot and characters and prose, it was often hard to keep track of everything. Aron helped me keep it all straight and then improved it when I stumbled. By the time I was finishing In the House of Five Dragons, he was contributing actual prose, mostly in the fight scenes.
For years, Aron fought being listed as my co-author, but I eventually convinced him that his help was vital to our books and he reluctantly agreed to let me put his name on the cover.
How do you go about the collaboration process?
I lean on Aron every step of the way. I come to the table with the basic idea or story premise that I want to write, and then we work together to turn the idea into an actual plot. Aron helps me with the worldbuilding and character creation.
Once we lay the groundwork, Aron’s biggest job is to hold me to the details we agreed to. Not that I can’t change them, but he grills me to ensure that the change is a good idea. He makes sure that characters act consistently or in-arc. It can be hard to hear that I’ve wandered off-course, but Aron’s always got input on how to get back to center.
One of the biggest contribution is the fight scenes. He has 18 years experience in the martial arts, while I have exactly zero. When I write fight scenes, they tend to be pretty bland. One guy punches the other, or shoots him, and the other guy does the same. Rinse and repeat three or four times and we’re done. Well, that’s not very exciting. Aron either choreographs or actually writes just about all of our fight scenes.
As for the actual mechanics of how we collaborate, we take a lot of long walks to the local frozen yogurt shop. We argue about what we want sometimes, but even the fights always help us strengthen the author/co-author relationship, and – more importantly – the book.
Do you have any websites and/or resources you recommend for writers?
For writing the outline and first draft, I like yWriter: http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter.html
It helps keep characters, objects and events sorts and easily accessible.
For critique and feedback, my favorite tool is Google documents. The comment and chat system is nicely integrated. When a beta-reader finds a problem, he or she can note it where everyone can see. That way, I don’t get five manuscripts back, all with the same errors marked. Google docs also makes it easy for the beta readers to talk to each other, too, and give different opinions on an issue.
For posting webfiction, I love Pandamian: http://pandamian.com/
It quick and easy and makes managing a webserial quite manageable. Plus, it has ebook exports for most formats.