Arly Carmack is a fiction writer and author of novel Nineteen. She's an author to keep an eye on with more books to come.
Your site hints that you have a follow-up to Nineteen in the works called Twenty-One set to be released this December. How has this been going?
Thanks for asking! Twenty-One is complete and I’ve edited it twice. Now I’m working on a final edit and sending it off to a beta reader. Editing is an odd thing for me. I will procrastinate for a while, then I’ll get a huge chunk done. When you are so close to something, especially something that has taken five years to make, it’s hard to look at it objectively and slice out things that don’t bring any value to the characters or the story. But with Nineteen, I found that process to be satisfying when I got the end result, so I need to keep that in mind while I’m editing Twenty-One.
As you've been working on this project, has the current version changed much since you've first started? Has anything surprised you about it as you've been writing it?
In the original version of Nineteen, there were a few dumped storylines that delved more into Cameron’s connection to music and being a musician. The main purpose for my final edit of Twenty-One is to make sure I didn’t miss any references to things I ended up cutting. I also added a new character who was meant to be miserable, annoying, and a bit of an antagonist, but it took a turn and I ended up enjoying him tremendously. I’m hoping the readers will embrace him, too. He’s going to be a major player when the series wraps up.
In addition to Twenty-One, you have several other projects in the works—including a novel, novella, and an untitled project. What helps you keep your momentum? Do you find yourself balancing several projects at once, or do you prefer to complete one before starting another?
Being able to choose what you work on is the lovely thing about being an independent author. I can put something to bed for a while and work on whatever I’m feeling passionate about at that moment, or start something new. If I get bored with my writing, I just open another project and see if I’m feeling it. If I were a traditionally-published writer, I’d probably adopt a process of making outlines, creating timelines, and setting goals. I would have to be more efficient and methodical because I'd be answering to a publisher. For now, writing is my escape, so I don’t want to turn it into another thing to check off my to-do list. My violin teacher always tells me, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” so that’s going to be my motto for writing as well. It’s a journey and I don’t know exactly where I will end up.
What is your experience writing first drafts like? Do you have any advice for fellow writers working through round one?
I try to write the first draft like it’s going to be the final draft. The less I have to change later, the better. My first drafts seem to be about twenty to thirty thousand words heavier than they need to be, so most of the editing I do is eliminating redundancy, dropping dead plots, and making sure the voice of the project stays consistent. I think writing is like almost anything else. Do it your way, do what works for you, and if something doesn’t work for you don’t be afraid to change the process. Writing is an art and there is no right or wrong in art.
When you have a story idea, at what point do you know what form it will take on?
I’ll admit it – I’m a pantser! I don’t outline anything. For me, a story is like a little plant in my head. I water it, wait to see if it grows. Some ideas take a much longer time to grow than others. The story itself isn’t my main focus. Once I have a solid character, I can usually take off from there. My stories aren’t plot-driven, rather character and dialogue-driven, so it flows fairly well because I know what my characters are going to say and do. I just have to put them in situations. Then the characters and dialogue are driven by the situation, and it all works together. I start every project by getting to know the main character. For everything else, I fly by the seat of my pants.
What appeals to you most about writing fiction?
Satisfying my inherent need to understand people. I have an obsession with wanting to know what motivates people, and most of what I write is born from that.
When you aren't writing, what are you up to?
We have a great park system where I live, and I enjoy walking around and taking pictures with my vintage cameras. I like to develop some of my own film. I’ve been slowly purchasing darkroom equipment and am hoping to get that going soon. Aside from that, I like to go to thrift shops. That’s always fun. I’ve also been studying the violin for a little over a year. I have a wonderful teacher.
Is there anything else you'd like readers to know?
I appreciate their support and that they’ve taken the time to read my book. It means the world to me when I hear that someone has enjoyed it. There will definitely be more to come and I welcome their feedback.
Pick up a copy of Nineteen here.
Find Arly on Instagram and check out her website.
Photo Credit: Arly Carmack