Remember that crazy time I posted a Dutch interview… The horror, right?! Lucky for us, Maria Staal, together with Eva Kattz, has another book out, and this one’s in English!
So who are Eva Kattz and Maria Staal, authors of Fiction Builder! Outlining and Plotting your Novel in Three Constructive steps?
Eva and Maria are two friends who, unknown to each other, both set out to write fiction. Eva wrote a number of short stories and novelettes and became reasonably comfortable playing around with words. However, any attempts beyond 30K words inevitably fell apart. Maria at least managed to make it to a 50K words first draft, but without the help of a decent outline, her story became hopelessly stranded in a curiously plot-less world.
While Eva went looking for a How To book or course to help her finish her more extensive outlines, Maria realised she was so new to fiction that she still adhered to the Greatest Myth in Writer’s Land, otherwise known as ‘a magnificent story will come to you if you just sit down behind the keyboard and write!’ They decided to throw their resources together and soon discovered they could have been far more creative and productive years before, if they just had known how to outline properly.
Together they developed a new writing technique that starts where all the other How To Write books stop. Eva’s intuitive approach and vast knowledge of writing techniques perfectly combined with Maria’s practical, pioneering spirit. Now, they both use their own Fiction Builder method to write successful genre fiction.
What is Fiction Builder! about?
Our book is a guide for every author with loads of good story ideas, but who struggles with completing an actual first draft. They end up thinking they are ‘bad’ writers, or, worse, that they lack talent. Fiction Builder! is meant to show these authors that there’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ writer. Anyone can develop their writing skills, and plotting is a vital part of that.
How is this book different from any other writing books out there?
Eva: In my early days as a writer, I spent most of my (extremely modest) surplus income on How To Write reference books. I used to read them as I waited for the bus, at night before going to sleep, and even when I was having a bath. (Some of these books still bear the scars.) One of the first things I learned was that becoming a good writer is a very individual process. No description of any writing technique was ever the same. I thought I was going nuts.
Over time, of course, I began to see the overlap, and I did learn a lot. But, one of the things I never found an adequate explanation for was plotting. Apparently, this technique is considered so highly individual that every author has to ‘discover’ it for themselves.
Maria and I came to the conclusion that this is a rubbish argument. Our book doesn’t use the ‘whatever works best for you’ line. At least not when it comes to plotting. Plotting is just as much a writing technique as all the others and there’s no reason to mysteriously ‘fade to black’ as if plotting were somehow a secret.
Why did you decide to write Fiction Builder!?
The answer to that question is very simple. Because we could. We both felt that the absence of a decent book on plotting was a huge omission. There are SO many books out there, covering every aspect of the craft, but none of these actually tell you anything besides ‘you need to plot.’ Very helpful.
So, we decided to write our own guide. In order to come up with a decent method, we also had to analyse our own writing process (at the time) and we were actually amazed how much there was still to learn as we wrote the book. Goes to show that, as a writer, you’re never really done learning. Personally, we’re both really happy about that.
Now that sounds helpful! Tell me who will benefit from reading Fiction Builder! exactly?
Also easy: anyone who writes fiction. You’re often told that you can’t call yourself ‘Writer’ or ‘Author’ unless you’ve been published or otherwise established. Also rubbish. Anyone who wants to write and who does so, is an actual writer.
Our book is aimed at the beginning writer, mainly because it’s easier to learn something when you’re just getting into the whole process, but we do hope this won’t stop other writers from checking out Fiction Builder! The bottom line is: if you have trouble finishing your manuscript, consider if plotting might be the solution (and it almost always is).
What is the best writing advice you were ever given?
Eva: That’s a trickier one. As I mentioned before, I’m mostly self-taught so there was never anyone to take me by the hand. But, if there’s one piece of advice I would have liked to hear, it’s ‘try to learn from your mistakes’. Every writer, experienced or beginner, goes through phases of agony and self-doubt. Nothing you write is ever good enough and your career is basically over before it begins.
I’ve had so many of those moments, I stopped counting. But, every time I learned something new, it was like being awarded a gold medal. And, over time, those moments accumulated. Now (particularly during a low point), I can look back and see how much I actually learned. Just don’t expect everything to happen at once.
Maria: I would add that, with regard to non-fiction, it’s very important that you’re 200% familiar with your chosen subject. You’ll become an expert as soon as your book is published, so you need to make sure you really are the expert.
With regard to fiction: think of a setting, and think of a character.Then think of some of the most horrible things the character could come up against, and make sure they have a way to claw their way back to a normal life. A hero who can’t look after themselves is not a real hero.
Curious after the book and want to connect to Maria and Eva?
You can get the super useful Fiction Builder! Cheat Sheets for free by clicking here or here.
You can find Maria on her website, Facebook, and under her pen name, and Eva on her website and Facebook page.
Fiction Builder! is available for the special launch deal of 99ct!
Ebook: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Kobo, Barnes & Noble
Paperback will be available in the next few weeks
(The Amazon.co.uk links in this post are affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you buy through these links.)
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