I’m delighted to share the writing day of Marya Miller, a wonderful person who I met through social media. Marya is an excellent storyteller with some fantastic ideas. Not long ago I read her collection of short fiction, Tales of Mist and Magic, and fell in love with the characters, Granny Maberly in particular.
Enough of me, anyway, here’s the writing day of Marya Miller.
Marya is a professional copywriter and ghostwriter with a long history in the fields of editing, publishing and freelance journalism. Her work has appeared in a variety of computer and equine magazines, as well as local newspapers (and two Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies). She is also a musician and artist, as well as a professional storyteller, training under the immortal Alice Kane at the Storyteller’s School of Toronto. She is currently engaged in writing the Dragonish series, a set of novels and short fiction anthologies. You can read a story from her currently-published Dragonish anthology (available on Amazon.com) at http://www.maryamiller.ca/dragonish.
There’s a huge gap between writing non-fiction and fiction – they are night and day – but I find alternating between the two of them rejuvenating. The need to produce polished copy for never-ending client deadlines keeps me disciplined, mentally invigorated and writing every day. Copywriting takes a lot out of me, but surprisingly it is not hard to turn to fiction and write in my limited spare time: Returning to Dragonish after my copywriting job ends for the day feels like pure play. It is exciting, magical and rejuvenating.
I find most of my inspiration in memories, music, mythology and nature. I was born and grew up in Scotland, where the latter three were practically built-in as part of everyday life — with history and the Gaelic language. For me music comes a close second to writing: Whenever I can, I take breaks and play one of my two Celtic harps. As for writers, my influences are Holly Lisle, K. M. Weiland, Marie Andreas, Valerie C. Willis, Ursula K. Leguin, Kevin Hearne, Terry Pratchett and, of course, Tolkien. It always comes back to Tolkien.
My sister and I used to play in ruined castles on the moors above Eaglesham, and in the highlands. Our tiny flat sat on the edge of the Gorbals, a particularly grim part of Glasgow, but we lived for rare weekends when my father could afford to drive us out to the countryside in an old cream-and-black Hillman California he had fixed up and restored. There were also trips to Loch Lomond, various sea ports, and Loch Ness. We climbed the Trossach mountains regularly. On one memorable trip to the north-east, we encountered a ghost piper in Glencoe – an event I still vividly remember.
Our car also used to break down a lot, which Teresa and I loved: It meant we could wander off among the sheep and make little dams in streams, or play Cavaliers and Roundheads in the wild wind and the heather. My father and older brother told the most wonderful stories—ones that totally came to life—so fantasy in all forms was our favourite escape. I’m all for imagination and escape! It gives you the strength and the sense of humour to turn around and face life again.
Nowadays, I am mobility-impaired and can’t get around without assistance, but I am rejuvenated by drives among the forests and mountains of north-western Ontario—and I love wheelchair-accessible National Parks such as Pigeon River, right on the Minnesota border, which make it possible for me to “walk” in the forest again, in real life. All of these places inspire the island of Dragonish. North-western Ontario reminds me of my native Scotland; particularly our little mountains and the light. (We even have a Loch Lomond near here.)
Every day always starts with a fresh green smoothie. I have several serious health conditions, and I find if I don’t start my day out that way, I end up in the Emergency Department after a few days. I put vegetarian protein powder, spinach, kale, fresh or frozen berries, half a banana, water and ice in my little Magic Bullet One-Shot and that settles everything down, sharpens my brain and gives me the energy to tackle the day’s writing challenges.
My first task, after that all-important smoothie, is to write for my clients. The only set writing goal I have every day is to produce XX words for the current client copywriting project. If I do that, everything else just flows, and I’m able to adjust the rest of the day around my health challenges. On really bad days, client work swallows all time.
On most days, I do briefly break to check the forums and social media. Listening to what people love and hate about fantasy is one of the best research methods you can indulge in. Writing for me is not just about sitting down in a seat and producing several thousand words. It includes research, reading, interaction with other readers and writers, and structuring and planning my books.
I’m not a fanatical planner, but I’ve had two excellent teachers in K.M. Weiland and Holly Lisle, and I find that following K.M.’s story structure method and character arc planning, and Holly’s brainstorming and story development strategies, gives me incredible confidence in my stories’ pacing, flow and impact.
On days when I’m not nearing a client deadline, I like to take a reading break from 1-2 p.m., when my brain is most tired. I leave my office, lie on the couch with a good book, and enjoy an hour’s peace and escape, just for me.
At 2 p.m. I go back to work and usually work till about 5 p.m. Most of the time, I’m so eager to get back to working my Dragonish series—I’m at various stages in writing, revising and editing five of the books—that I’ll eat a quick supper and go right back to the computer. Once in a while, if my brain or back is especially tired, I’ll take a two-or-three-hour break for supper and TV, and watch history or travel shows I’ve pre-recorded. like “Battle Castle” or “Ancient Top Ten” or “Expedition Unknown”—and then I work on Dragonish for the next several hours.
I try to go to bed around midnight, but usually don’t sleep till about 3 a.m. Then I get up at 5 a.m. and start all over again. (About every third day, I fall into a sleep coma from about 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and catch up sleep that way.) My sleep patterns are not ideal, but that’s the best it gets, nowadays, with PTSD and constant pain.
While I’m lying in the dark Not Sleeping, I do most of my plotting. I’ll try out various scenes in my head. It’s also when I seem to get really brilliant flashes of insight, occasionally; the sort that help you solve insoluble story problems.
I sometimes listen to ambient music while I am writing fiction. Finnish Composer Matti Paalanen makes the most wonderful, themed music for writers to use as inspiration, and he has a YouTube compilation for just about every occasion—forges, battles, temples; you name it, you’ll probably find it. I totally love those.
A few readers have asked me about the name, Dragonish: It comes from ‘Draig’ + ‘inish’ (which means ‘island’ in Scots Gaelic). There are two types of dragon in my fictional world, the Draig and the Thren. The latter are pests, and actually the most dangerous, though small. The Draig are World Dragons and actually cosmic beings who in the past protected the island with magic; hence the Island’s name.
I am hoping to release “Under the Splintered Mountains” soon; my first full-length Dragonish novel. Meanwhile, you can get a taste of my world by picking up my current flash fiction anthology of Dragonish stories, Tales of Mist and Magic, at Amazon.com. https://www.amazon.com/Tales-Mist-Magic-Dragonish-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B01M5D6KD3
And do say hello on my Facebook Page, https://facebook.com/maryamillerwriter! I’d love to meet you.
Thank you for stopping by! Do you fancy sharing your own writing day? You don’t have to be a published author, heck you don’t even need to have finished a story. All that matters is that you write! If you’re interested, get in touch using the form below.