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Member Spotlight: Catherine Elizabeth Witzaney

author Catherine Witzaney and an image of her book Wingless

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Writing–especially fiction–is important to me because I feel it’s one of the most effective mediums for sharing about the human experience in a way that people can relate to and grow from. We as humans are wired for stories. We learn from stories better than we do studying and memorizing straight facts. Written stories allow us to come alongside another person (even if they’re fictional), and walk in their shoes, and learn from their feelings and experiences. As children, the stories we read build the furniture of our imaginations and give us tools for growing in empathy and understanding. They shape who we become as we get older. These are just a few reasons why I feel writing is so important.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? It depends on when the writer’s block hits. I have three distinct phases to my writing process: brainstorming, outlining, and drafting. If it hits mid-draft, I find it’s usually because I resolved the tension in the previous scene without adding any new tension. If I backtrack and read over whatever I wrote before it, I can usually spot where things went off the rails, and then I have to brainstorm a different approach. If it’s losing my interest as the writer, it will definitely lose the interest of my readers! If the writer’s block hits during the brainstorming or outlining phase, I find more often than not it’s due to stress or fatigue from day-to-day life. It’s hard for the creative juices to flow if you’re sick, or there’s some crisis going on. I usually solve this by taking a step back, sometimes for a day or two, sometimes for a week or two. I will also try to revisit some of my personal favorite novels and movies for inspiration, or try watching something new. Finding new music is also sometimes helpful, as listening to thematically pertinent music is a major part of my brainstorming process.

What is your favorite time to write? I prefer writing first thing in the morning if I can, with a motivational cup of coffee nearby.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? This is tough to narrow down. But probably the advice that’s helped me the most overall is to make a point of studying story structure. Whether you’re an outliner like me, or a pantser, having a thorough understanding of the structural beats that make up a good story will go a long way to helping you create stronger first drafts–which in turn leads to an easier time revising and an overall stronger finished novel. I personally love K.M. Weiland’s method of structuring novels and outlining. Her blog and writing craft books have been a huge part of my own writing journey.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? The ability to connect with readers all over the world with the click of a mouse (or the tap of a smartphone). I think there’s never been an easier time for authors to spread their work abroad and find fans they never would have otherwise had the opportunity to meet without the internet or social media. Also I don’t know how I would manage without Scrivener. It helps keep my convoluted world-building and plotting reasonably straight in my head.

Catherine Witzaney’s Wingless is out now with ‎Chicken Scratch Books.