A Writer Like You: Liz Griffin
Meet Liz Griffin, an engineer by day and a fantasy & science fiction writer by night.
In February 2017, she underwent a 9-hour emergency brain surgery, so these days she likes to break up awkward moments by joking “Come on, guys, it’s not brain surgery” at every available opportunity. She is an advocate of the Oxford comma, a self-proclaimed crazy cat lady, and a Ravenclaw. When she’s not studying for the Professional Engineer exam, she is currently writing a young adult fantasy series which she describes as An Ember in the Ashes meets Aladdin, but with a murder mystery.
You’ll be inspired by Liz’s NaNoWriMo achievements and long-term writer goals. You’ll also love the many resources Liz mentions that help her improve her writing skills, build her author platform, and work toward her writing dreams.
Let’s get to the interview, shall we?
Tell us your “writer story.” How did you become a writer?
I have been writing since I was a small child, six or seven years old, perhaps. My earliest works were alternate-universe fanfiction before I knew such a thing existed: my own characters set in Little House on the Prairie, or a Harry Potter-like school, but for fledgling detectives. In high school, I garnered a small readership of friends who listened loyally while I read aloud an entire, handwritten, YA paranormal novel manuscript chapter-by-chapter during lunch hour. That particular cringe-worthy manuscript will probably never be resurrected, but it furthered a lifelong enjoyment of creating fantastical worlds and telling those stories.
Novel writing took a necessary back-burner during my college years, as I majored in civil engineering, demanding from day one. In my junior year, I first heard about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and met Hannah Pryor. Even with my intensive academic work, I made time to prioritize my writing and cut out things that were damaging my self-worth and creativity (especially an emotionally-abusive relationship). Since that November in 2012, I have participated in every NaNoWriMo (50,000 words in one month) and Camp NaNoWriMo (goal ranges from 10,000 - 30,000 words, or wherever you choose to set it) except while I was recovering from brain surgery in spring 2017. Most of the year, I don’t give writing the same level of attention as I can during NaNoWriMo, but I try to do something writing-related every day.
What are your current writing goals, and how do you plan to achieve them?
I have a long-term goal of signing a novel manuscript with a literary agent by the time I turn 30. To work towards that goal, I’m exploring writing some short stories and submitting to sci-fi/fantasy contests and magazines while developing a couple different novel manuscripts. I’m currently revising my NaNoWriMo 2012 draft… which I re-worked with a brand new setting and plot for my NaNoWriMo 2016 draft… and is now getting re-plotted again as “Draft 4”. But I think this idea is stronger than the previous versions. It’s really teaching me about the “kill your darlings” concept, as nothing is safe from the editing room floor, not even character names.
What is your ultimate writer dream?
A huge dream is to someday be featured on the 88 cups of tea podcast (which is incredible! So many fantastic authors, editors, agents, and other storytellers sharing their lives! I recommend this podcast for any aspiring authors!), or getting invited to be on a Dragoncon writers panel. More generally, I want to use my platforms to lift up others, including close personal friends with similar writing goals. Maybe someday we can be good-naturedly Twitter-trolling each other like Chuck Wendig and Myke Cole do.
Why is writing important to you personally?
As an introvert who has to fake being an extrovert for long hours at the office, having a hobby that involves being alone in my room with a keyboard and my sound-canceling headphones is my daily solace. (Introverts unite! Separately!)
What strategies do you use to improve your writing skills?
I have attended multiple Writers Track panel sessions at Dragoncon during the last two conventions (topics ranging from “How to Write Fight Scenes” to “Writing Through Anxiety and Depression”), as well as participating in a free editing workshop at a local library. I also listen to a lot of awesome podcasts for writers: Writing Excuses, Write-Minded, and more! Once my 4th Draft of this manuscript is complete, I plan to either attend local workshops or take online editing courses as I delve into the querying process. Reading widely is another recommendation, which I’ll discuss more later.
What strategies are you using to build an author platform?
Over the last several months — especially since Preptober (the pre-NaNoWriMo events during October) — I’ve been connecting to other writers and readers on Instagram and to a lesser extent on Twitter. Links are included down below!
Where can we find your published books? What was your process to get published like?
Z Publishing House somehow found my little blog with its meager 10 followers, contacted me, and asked me to submit to their anthology collection for emerging writers. In 2018, they published my sci-fi short story, “Cure”, in their Tennessee’s Emerging Writers Anthology. This short story was later selected for their “best of” collection and can be found in the America’s Emerging Writers - Fiction, Volume 2. Both of these are available through Amazon, print and kindle editions, I believe.
What writing advice would you give other writers like yourself?
1) Read widely, especially in your genre. Read both short stories and novels. Read new releases and “the classics.” Read authors like you… and authors who aren’t like you (however you choose to define that). Read what’s “in,” but don’t turn your brain off or assume it’ll align with your personal preferences. Keep track of elements, character archetypes, themes, etc. that you do & don’t like (whether on a social media site like Goodreads or in a writing journal) to help hone what you want to incorporate into your story. For instance, I’m going to start my next novel draft in 1st person POV, inspired by a recent read where the author used multiple 1st person POVs effectively.
2) Also, don’t be afraid if another popular book has a similar premise as your novel idea. I think it was author Delilah S. Dawson who shared on her Twitter that she used to participate in writing workshops where the same prompt would be given to the whole class, but the stories that emerged were all vastly different. No one else is writing YOUR novel.
What books are you currently reading, or what are some of your favorite books?
My favorite read of late is Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes series. My all-time favorites are The Lord of the Rings, The Belgariad, The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles), and Codex Alera, all of which are epic fantasy series! I mostly read what I like to write - epic fantasy, speculative & science fiction, and paranormal, both adult and YA. My goal is to write a female main character who could brush shoulders with the likes of Aragorn or Kvothe.
Where can we connect with you?
My blog, mostly book reviews of late, is at lizgriffinwords.wordpress.com. My latest post shares my writer goals for 2019. I’ve very active as both a writer & “bookstagrammer” on Instagram: lizgriffinwords. I’m fairly active on Twitter too: lizgriffinwords. My Goodreads author page can be found here: Liz Griffin.
Ask your questions for Liz in the comments below. Don’t forget to check out her website and find her on Instagram, Twitter, and Goodreads!
Well, I certainly feel inspired.
Now, let’s write!