Interview with Charley Daveler – read her experience with writers’ groups

Charley Daveler is an American author and playwright. Her short stories, published in various literary journals, feature sarcastic characters in paranormal, fantasy, and science-fiction settings. Her theatre work is primarily satirical, and has premiered in several venues in the Los Angeles area. Her most popular work can be found on her website, her online serial shorts, Stories of the Wyrd. When not writing, she can be found sewing, painting, and attempting to pry herself from smart phone apps.
  • What do you read while your’re  writing?  Same genre or something far removed?

    I prefer science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal stories, however, I have very particular tastes and judge fantasy more harshly than other genres. The Tolkien-esque styles of political war with epic battles (while I do love GAME OF THRONES and LORD OF THE RINGS), aren’t what I’m interested in so much. I enjoy trashy contemporary romance novels better than well-written fantasy novels with the “wrong” rules or a focus on humongous, world-threatening conflicts instead of characters’ personal plights.

    My favorite authors are Neil Gaiman, Douglas Adams, Jonathan Swift, Joss Whedon, but mostly Bill Waterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes. As much as having fantastical settings are important, I’m a character girl first and foremost.

    I do actually enjoy memoir–every once in a while. My favorite book of all time is THE PRIZE WINNER, the story of a housewife who kept her 10 children clothed with her poetry. So, I suppose that I either read exactly what I’m writing, or the exact opposite.

  • Did you start writing when you were young and keep at it or later in life when you had more time?

    I had SO MUCH more time to write in high school. Mostly because I am acceptable at osmosis and not really listening to my teachers. I remember once, in college, I would write my novel in class every day, and my professor assumed I was just taking notes. My fellow students, seeing me write so feverishly, pulled out their notebooks too, thinking something he was saying must be important. Then, one day, I decided to actually pay attention in class and my professor gives me this look like, “What, you don’t think this is worth taking notes on?”

    Your reimagining of what words mean? Nope. Not really.

    Being 25, I still consider myself “young.” I wouldn’t say that I don’t have the time, but I definitely have written less than when I was in academia. It’s dwindled, but I’ve kept at it.

  • How did your mother or father or family influence your writing?

    They read to me as a child. They never shared my opinion that writing was the same as, “I’m working, so quit asking me to do things.” Other than that, no.

  • Who reads your drafts?

    I try to have a reader who isn’t a writer, a writing peer, and then an editing “expert” edit, in that order. I use the shotgun approach and ask anyone who’s willing. I’ve found the most effective advice from the most unexpected places… but also have to weed through a lot of superficial and seemingly arbitrary complaints.

  • Do you write on a writer’s platform or Word?

    Word. I use what I know.

  • Do you have editing checklist or system?

    I’m constantly changing my writing process, but I do have some common methods I tend towards:

    Step 1: I do “mild editing” right after I finish. I find that if I DON’T put it in a drawer, but make some minor changes immediately, I’m more likely to remember what I was trying to do and be able to fix it than if I let it rest and am stuck with this, “What the hell was I trying to say?” moment. (Still happens, just less.) The mild editing part is where I don’t overwhelm myself by trying to make it good quickly. I just make minor changes as they come to me, write some notes, and focus on reading and seeing the problem before trying to fix them. I focus on big picture issues like plot holes, continuity errors, and character arcs.

    Step 2: After leaving it alone for a while (usually I write another book and then come back to it), I’ll do a second draft where I use my notes and try to fix some of the problems. Again, I don’t fixate on major changes unless I have an epiphany.

    Step 3: I go directly to the problem areas and fix sections. Repeat as many times as necessary.

    Step 4. I give out the manuscript to the first round of beta readers.

    Step 5. I take their notes and do with them as I see fit.

    Step 6. Repeat Step 3, then repeat Step 4 and Five as many times as necessary.

    Step 7. I read the whole thing through, and determine whether I need more edits, what kind, or if I need to suck it up and submit.

    Step 8. Copy editing.

    NOTE that I am a prolific writer, but not a prolific publisher, and that’s because I am very thorough in my edits… usually because I don’t want to actually submit anything.

  • And of course where do you get your ideas?  Do you find the title first or a character that creates the spark?

    I imagine scenes in my head–a funny line of dialogue, a sexy moment between two characters. I usually know nothing about the people or the place, and have to determine what MUST be true from the scene. (A woman kisses a man in the dark, not realizing who he really is. From that, I need to know 1) Where they are, 2) Why they’re there, 3) Why they kiss, and 4) Why she couldn’t put two and two together and figure out who he is.) By answering those questions, the story starts to reveal itself.

  • Are you in a writers’ group?

    Sporadically. I am a part of the theatre world, which often means my schedule doesn’t allow for many ongoing get-togethers. Recently, I quit both my writers’ groups because I was planning on moving.. and then didn’t. I also will be on writers’ groups online, but they tend to fall apart sooner.

    How useful they are depends strongly on the dynamic of the crowd. My most recent group was a bunch of older memoirists, who really didn’t know anything about science fiction… or even astronomy. One man–who I actually do respect–believed that because it was science fiction it had to be in outer space, and when he found it wasn’t, since “Earth is the only planet with one moon,” if I talked about how, “The singular moon shined through the window,” it would suggest it was Earth. (It was a dystopian novel on a made-up reality.) It was difficult for me because I couldn’t always tell if they were confused because it was confusing, or just because they didn’t understand any of the basic tropes.