Writer’s Workout Interview

For (unbelievably) coming in 3rd place in their Writer’s Games this fall. I am grateful to WW for providing this amazing contest. It’s a loong six weeks, but free, extensive feedback on all six stories is a crazy perk. If you haven’t done it, you should consider their Spring contest for sure. You will be so tired, but also feeling pretty good about yourself as a writer crossing that finish line!

Below is the copied interview. The link to it on their website is here: https://www.writersworkout.net/janna-miller

WW: What made you want to participate in the Writer’s Games this year? 

JM: A woman (MM Schreier) from a writer’s group I belong to mentioned that she did these games every year and how fun they were. I was intrigued by the idea of such an intensive contest and thought this was just the thing I needed in my life. My weekends were boring anyway.

WW: Was there anything you were worried or nervous about coming into this year’s Games?

JM: Being new to the contest I was worried most about formatting, but the practice event was a great exercise to help calm those fears. I also worried that I might not have time to write every weekend. 

WW: What kept you motivated to participate in each Event?

JM: It really was exciting to see the prompts drop. Like a mental obstacle race where you weren’t sure which direction to go in first, so you just plunge down the hill and hope for the best, surprising yourself by running the whole way.

WW: Did life ever get in the way during the Games? How did that affect your writing?

JM: Certainly. Family life doesn’t stop, so you get creative with writing times. Thankfully, my kids are late sleepers on the weekends and I can write in the car if my husband drives. Two of the weekends had other writing contests as well, so those were particularly hard. Strangely, sometimes having more to do can make you more efficient. I submitted with only minutes to go at least twice! 

WW: What was your favorite Event and why?

JM: That one is tough choice. I really liked writing the Dialog Only, since that is something I am usually strong in. It’s like creating a verbal ping-pong game. I think my favorite piece though, came from the Fake Truth challenge because I got to go deep to create this whole world and character, while just showing the tiniest bit.

WW: Was there an Event that was more challenging for you than the others?

JM: The On This Date event was the hardest for me, which is strange, since it is a genre I like. I had never written historical fiction with a time constraint though, and the amount of research required for a culture I knew nothing about was difficult.  I want to be as sensitive as possible and keep the focus to a human interest story, but I also want to be accurate. At one point, I had 12 different tabs up on my computer, trying to get the details right! 

WW: Which genre do you normally write? How did that help or hurt you during the Games?

JM: I normally gravitate towards anything speculative —  sci-fantasy, fantasy, and dark fairy tale in particular. I did default there when the prompt allowed it. It is so difficult to stretch past the norms you usually write in. But, as we know from exercise, if it hurts to stretch, you better do it some more! 

WW: What first inspired you to start writing?

JM: Like many have said, the reading and the writing go hand in hand. When you read so many amazing stories, you feel the power of the written word as magic and want to create a little bit of that on your own. I wrote a lot early on, but life got in the way, and there was a big break with lots of living. I came back to it a year and a half or so ago. with the greater confidence of age and life experience.

WW: Whose work do you find most inspiring? Why?

JM: Oh, that is hard to answer! There are so many works out there that have had a profound impact on me: Ursula K LeGuin, Madeline L’Engle, Guy Gavriel Kay, Issac Asimov, Tamora Pierce, etc. I pretty much read Terry Pratchett on repeat. What they all have in common is the creativity of story with amazing characters (and even a few moral lessons to take away). I am such a reading nerd.

WW: What is the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten and who said it?

JM: The best writing advice has come from the many people who so kindly beta and review my work, mostly from online forums like Writers Workout! All the times I thought I was being perfectly clear and found I was really living in my own mind, were pointed out by gentle (and not so gentle) readers. Sometimes the harshest/most blunt reactions have made me stop and figure out new ways to say the same thing, but better. I always grow and learn from other people, when they read my work and when I read theirs. If any of those people happen to read this interview, I hope they know how appreciated they are! 

WW: What advice would you give to people thinking about participating in next year’s Games?

JM: Jump in! It’s a writing marathon! Do your best, but don’t overthink. Keep the finish line in mind, but above all, enjoy yourself! At the end you will be six stories richer and a lot more fit! Your abs won’t look any different, but those writerly muscles will be so buff!

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