Fiction Writing Made Easy

#115: Student Spotlight: How Anne Mortensen Went From Inspiration to Publication (& Indie Published Her Novels)

November 07, 2023 Savannah Gilbo Episode 115
Fiction Writing Made Easy
#115: Student Spotlight: How Anne Mortensen Went From Inspiration to Publication (& Indie Published Her Novels)
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

“I tried to ignore it, but when inspiration strikes, sometimes the inspiration keeps striking, and it just didn't want to go.” - Anne Mortensen

In today’s episode, I’m sitting down with Anne Mortensen to talk through what it was like to write, edit, and publish not one, but two of her books. You'll also get an exclusive look at her experience working alongside a developmental editor and book coach (that's me!) to bring her stories to life. Here’s a preview of what’s included:

[02:05] Anne introduces herself, talks about her background, and lets us know what kind of books she writes.
[04:44] A quick highlight reel of Anne’s books and writing journey.
[08:34] Where the inspiration for her novel, The Arcadian Match came from.
[11:03] Working on getting to the essence of the book's characters.
[14:40] How much of the external plot changed from the first draft to after Anne met her character?
[18:21] While pressure testing the outline, does Anne remember having any moments where something clicked?
[22:09] What was it like for Anne to go back to her first book after working on her second book and hitting a roadblock?
[27:30] Is the coaching experience the best? If so, why?
[29:54] What was Anne’s relationship with feedback before coaching?
[32:20] What would Anne say to other writers who are afraid of the feedback of others?
[35:46] How long did it take to get a first draft done for “Arcadian Match”?
[37:21] Is Anne working on her third book now?
[40:24] How to deal with challenges and never give up?
[41:38] What are the things Anne sees that make the writers she works with successful and other writers not?
[43:21] Parting words of wisdom from Anne.

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Anne Mortensen:

you never run out of words. As a writer, you will never run out of words. So if you need to change a scene, just change it. Your scenes will change and be revised continuously up until the thing goes live, and even then you can still change a few things. So change is part of the process and you want to change, lean into that change.

Savannah Gilbo:

Welcome to the fiction writing made easy podcast. My name is Savannah Gilbo, and I'm here to help you write a story that works. I want to prove to you that writing a novel doesn't have to be overwhelming, so each week, I'll bring you a brand new episode with simple, actionable and step-by-step strategies that you can implement in your writing right away. So whether you're brand new to writing or more of a seasoned author looking to improve your craft, this podcast is for you. So pick up a pen and let's get started. In today's episode, I have something really fun to share with you.

Savannah Gilbo:

I sat down for a conversation with one of the writers I worked with. Her names Ann Mortensen, and she's going to share her journey of how she went from finishing the first draft of one book to putting that book on the shelf for a few months, writing a completely different book and then ultimately publishing both books. So you'll hear all about that, and you'll also hear about her experience working with me on both of those books as well. She talks about how we spent a lot of time pressure testing her outlines and the effect that that had on her ability to write a solid first draft. She talks about some of the troubles she had with the protagonist in her first book and how, once she took some time away from the draft, she was able to come back to it with fresh eyes, and you'll hear all about how she fixed her character problem. So she's going to talk about what worked for her, some of the unique approaches she took to the writing process, as well as where she's headed next.

Savannah Gilbo:

So this is a jam-packed episode with Ann Mortensen, and I'm so excited to share her story with you. I won't spoil any more of the goodness, so let's go ahead and dive right into the conversation. Hi Ann, thank you so much for coming on the show. I'm so excited to have you here today. You have a really fun story when it comes to writing two books. We're going to talk about two books today and how you kind of you know got to some sticking points, went out and found the help you need to make it happen, and then you cranked out two novels, one of which was published in 2021 and the other in 2023. But before we get into all of that, let's start at the top. So introduce yourself. Let people know who you are, what you're all about, what kind of books you write and things like that, if you don't mind, yes hi there everyone.

Anne Mortensen:

And it's been quite a journey getting to this point in time as a writer. Originally I'm from El Paso, Texas, and when I was a teenager we moved to Athens, Greece, and I grew up there as well. So I have that huge combination and difference between Greece and the States, and Greece has a fantastic history of mythology and so I do find I pull a lot of inspiration from the mythology stories. Anyway, so it was Greece and then I moved back to the States for college and then I came to London, and that was in 94. And I've been here ever since.

Anne Mortensen:

Wow, and I've been doing public relations, I've done photography, I've done journalism. It's always been within sort of the communications field and always in the background, I was doing some form of creative writing and whether it was short stories or flash fiction or even the poem, here and there there was always some workshop that I was attending or just a class I was involved in. So it was basically. I think it was after I did my journalism. I thought to myself it's time now I think I've gotten to a point where I can put a novel together and that's where I'm at.

Savannah Gilbo:

And what kind of novels do you write?

Anne Mortensen:

Now I do science fiction, science fiction dystopian, yeah, kind of thriller-esque right. Yes they are. There's a very strong element of thriller action and mystery involved in the stories. It's kind of the type of story I would love to see on film one day. I can definitely. Yeah, fingers crossed, we'll see. Yeah, if there's any producers out there, you know how to get ahold of Anne.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yes, yeah, and there's a little flavor of romance in your stories too. Right, Always, yeah, Okay, so that's wonderful. You've lived all over the world, which I'm totally jealous about. We're going to talk through so two of your books. Let me just give an overview of kind of what we're going to go through, and then we'll dig into all the little pieces. Does that sound good? Absolutely Okay.

Savannah Gilbo:

so we're going to talk about the whole writing journey and this is just a quick highlight reel of kind of what I have known of Anne since 2019 when we met. So her journey started before then, like she just said, but we met in 2019, we worked together for about I think it was three to four months on the novel that is now called the Arcadian Match, so you'll hear that title come up.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yes, and then, if I remember, correctly, you kind of felt like something wasn't quite right in the draft that you produced, so you put that on hold. You were working on another novel called the Truth Effect, which we'll talk about also, which got published in 2021. And then you came back to the Arcadian Match, finished that one and published it in June of 2023, correct? Yes, that's it. Okay, yeah. A quick highlight reel of Anne.

Anne Mortensen:

I love it.

Savannah Gilbo:

So we're going to get into all of that. I pulled the back cover copy of both of your books. So I figure, do you want to start with the Truth Effect or Arcadian Match, and then I'll give a little blurb.

Anne Mortensen:

Yeah, that's a good question. Which one? Because they were interwoven in so many ways. We'll start with the Arcadian match, which is the second book, because that's the one you and I started off with and started working together on, and it was the challenging one in many different ways to the first one, because my head was still with the truth effect and yet I had this idea for the Arcadian match and it just was bugging me so much I tried to, I tried to ignore it, but when inspiration strikes, you know, sometimes the inspiration keeps striking and it just didn't want to go.

Anne Mortensen:

I'm like okay no, exactly, and so I put the truth effect on hold while I started to draft the Arcadian match. I just had to get it out of my system and I said to myself my goodness, my head is still in the book one, so how am I going to work this? Because when you're writing a novel, as you know, it takes over your brain in so many ways.

Anne Mortensen:

And so when you're starting a new book, you're like, oh my God, there's a whole different set of situations going on here. How am I going to? And so this is what got me to reach out to you for support. Awesome, because I couldn't have one head in two places. You know, it was just too much. So you need to borrow my head yes, I did, and your professional sensitivities as well, and your skills were amazing.

Savannah Gilbo:

Well, we'll talk about that in a second. Let me read the blurb really quick so we can give some context to the story.

Anne Mortensen:

Okay.

Savannah Gilbo:

Go ahead All right. So in 2032, sweden is the first crime free, eco ideal nation. In this brave new world of social clubs and point scoring, many attribute the nation's remarkable achievements to the introduction of Q scores. Social media genius Christian Carlson plays the Q scores like it's the stock market and he never fails to deliver. But when his friend falls to his death, christian's life is turned upside down. His hunt for justice leads him into the murky web of the country's oldest social club, rumored to be a secret society. With his back against the wall, he's forced to play a real life game where everything depends on who wins the Arcadian match. So, oh my gosh, I got goosebumps while reading that because I haven't read it out loud or like even seen this, since we worked together. So that's so cool.

Anne Mortensen:

Yeah, it was quite a yeah.

Savannah Gilbo:

So tell me, where did this idea come from, because this is a pretty cool idea.

Anne Mortensen:

Well, it started with a newspaper clips that I had read in passing. The inspiration for this book came from a newspaper clipping from a Swedish newspaper that was talking about how a museum was melting iron age Viking coins. And I thought to myself, how is it that a museum is who was meant to be preserving history is actually melting it away, right? Why don't they? You know, it just boggled my mind and there was something about that that I had to dig into and I did, and then I turned it into a more personal question of what kind of person wants to do away with their own history, and so the whole thing started just developing from there and I thought, wow, let's dig into this. I like this.

Savannah Gilbo:

And then it wouldn't leave you alone.

Anne Mortensen:

Yes, it wouldn't leave me alone. So I started with that kernel of an idea, and then I reached out to you, and that's when we started fleshing out the outline.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, and I remember you had so many ideas and it was kind of like we were just channeling them and trying to contain them in some kind of structure. And I think, if I remember correctly, I went back and looked at some of our notes last night. We had some trouble with your main character. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?

Anne Mortensen:

Oh, yes, okay.

Savannah Gilbo:

So tell listeners what his name is and kind of what he's all about.

Anne Mortensen:

Well, his name is now Christian Carlson, but at the time when I first started writing him, his name was Lucas Nielsen, and when you're naming a character, you often it just is quite a spontaneous thing. For me it is, and so I was Lucas, this, lucas that. But Lucas was a very I couldn't seem to grab hold of the essence of what Lucas really wanted to achieve in this story, and his voice was not clear, he was a little bit wishy-washy, he didn't have enough drive. No scratch that. He did have drive. He just didn't know his purpose, right, and I know that's all me in the end. So it feels very much like the character as opposed to you as the writer, and so I was talking to you a lot about that and how to extract the essence of the character, and we worked a great deal on that, because once you finally get the essence of your character, it starts to almost he writes that story Right, he leads it, and you're almost like just letting him do his thing.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, and I talk about on this podcast we talk a lot about. You know, it's fine to have all these ideas for external stuff, but we need to always bring things back to character and show how the events of the story are affecting them and what that interiority is like, so how they're processing what's happening and stuff like that. And I remember there was a time in your outline I saw this last night where I would kind of ask you, like what is that internal point of the scene? And you would say, like the point is to introduce the character. And I'm like, no, that's your point. What is the point for Lucas? Was Lucas now Christian? So we really had to like dig in, and I remember we tried a couple different scenarios on him too. Like you know, maybe he's this type of guy and he cares about this, or maybe he's something totally different and he's got this kind of ace up his sleeve or whatever.

Savannah Gilbo:

So we definitely tried a lot of hacks on him and then it seems like you found, you know, maybe once you renamed him, his identity came into into light.

Anne Mortensen:

And that's exactly what happened. Yes, yeah. I had to rename. It was interesting. I didn't expect that, I really didn't expect that. And when you do, just listen to the consonants and the vowels of those two different names, lucas is softer.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yes.

Anne Mortensen:

Christian is clear, yeah.

Savannah Gilbo:

I heard someone once say that sometimes it's like you have to audition for your main character, and so it's almost like Lucas came to the audition and you're like you're okay, like you're a stand-in, we want this part to work for you.

Anne Mortensen:

And then Christian came on the set and you're like yes, yes, and that's exactly what I felt like, because as soon as Christian came on board, it was like, oh my God, yeah, he's running with this story. In fact, the story went so fast we barely had any time to do any thinking with him. I mean, he was just all action.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, that's great, and I think he said you wrote your draft in about three to four months, right.

Anne Mortensen:

Yes, yes.

Savannah Gilbo:

And so I like to point out that, had you not been open to that kind of change with your character because I see a lot of people that get really stuck and they're like, but it was Lucas and I want it to be Lucas, you know and you were kind of saying something's not right, I'm not going to force it, I'm going to be open to a different main character, and then it all just fell into place.

Anne Mortensen:

Yes, yes, and in that regard, always keep moving forward anyway, even though that you might not have the full character sketch or the feeling of the character from page one, the character will become clear, certainly by the time you get to the end. It's a lot more. And if it doesn't, you know, then you have drafts two, three and four and so forth. Right, it will happen.

Savannah Gilbo:

And how much like so, if we're thinking about the character, which we know changed. But how much of the external plot stuff changed from kind of draft one to after you met Christian? How much of that changed?

Anne Mortensen:

Because Christian was a lot more focused and driven, his narrative drive became clearer to me as well, and so the opening is different and the major plot points, therefore, were slightly different. They had to be changed according to his new, his fresh drive.

Savannah Gilbo:

Which I think is great, and a lot of listeners might be hearing that and being like, oh my gosh, that sounds scary because you just wrote a whole draft and I have to start over. Basically, yes, and you might know the trajectory of where it's going. But because this new character is coming in with different wounds and goals and motivations, it does have to change. That's logical. But I guess what would you say to those people that are like either perfectionist, stuck at the starting line and they're so afraid to write through a whole draft because it's not going to be perfect, or people that get to the end and they kind of cling on to things because I mean, which I understand this they've just spent so long working on it that it feels hard to change. What would you say to those people?

Anne Mortensen:

You never run out of words. As a writer, you will never run out of words. So if you need to change a scene, just change it. Your scenes will change and be revised continuously up until the thing goes live, and even then you can still change a few things. So change is part of the process and you want to change. I would lean into that change.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, because if you hadn't, we wouldn't have the book we have today, right, which is a great story. So, I think probably you tell me if I'm wrong but the book you have now more matches your vision and your voice and what you wanted than that original one that, if you clung to it, wouldn't have felt the same.

Anne Mortensen:

Correct. Yes, absolutely, Absolutely. I did use a number of the scenes that I've initially drafted the ideas of the initial scenes but they all got a renovation, yeah.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, and speaking of change, so kind of rewind back to when we were working together, because one of the things I did and we did together was we really were hard on your outline and we pressured, tested that thing to no end. So, what was that like? And then kind of like, how was that experience for you?

Anne Mortensen:

That was very tough for me because my character, lucas, was not clear to me and so it was really hard to extract his motivations at that early stage. I persevered in the action of the story regardless and in the cause and effect sequence, so you can still there's still things you can do with your outline.

Savannah Gilbo:

I'm just thinking back to that point. You were probably like Savannah. I know that you're asking me this question. I don't know the answer either.

Anne Mortensen:

You know, I don't know why, lucas is doing what he's doing, yeah. I know the deep motivation. I have no idea.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, it's good that, like you said, you didn't stop. You were kind of like, okay, well, I know the story is still going to go in this direction, so let me just get this all out of my head and then we can make it awesome later.

Anne Mortensen:

Yes, yes, and that was my attitude. I need to, I need to get this out of my system.

Savannah Gilbo:

Pressure testing your outline. Do you remember having any moments where something clicked, or was it there any like big aha moments or any turning the corner? I think?

Anne Mortensen:

with it was the cause and effect. The logical sequence of the cause and effect really became very clear to me in the outlining process and I used that a lot to keep the structure of the story very strong.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah.

Anne Mortensen:

And to keep me motivated as the writer. Right, because you don't want to read a story in the end and you're like how did that happen? From here to there, it makes no sense whatsoever. Then you know that's a true draft zero. This way of using an outline as a guiding force is is you're going to get something nice that you're to work with?

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, and, like you said, it's not always easy to pressure, test it and do this kind of work and realize, okay, it's not perfect, but I'm going to go forward anyway. But again, then you wrote the draft in three to four months. So you know, that's, I think, for a listeners who maybe don't see the value in outlining or who haven't found that right way for them to outline, that's what's possible when you have an outline like this. So it's pretty cool.

Anne Mortensen:

Yes, yes, and the kind of outlines that you work with aren't so detailed that they're inflexible. Right, you do a very succinct, one page bullet point type of outline process and it's so that you, as the writer, knows where you're going and there's a sense of security within that, and then, with that sense of security, the creativity flows a little bit easier.

Savannah Gilbo:

Right, and it was. You know, like you said, had we kind of not gone through that process and realized together that Lucas wasn't quite either formed or the right fit for this role? Imagine writing a hundred thousand words and having to realize that, and then you're like I quit writing, you know that would be hard or worse.

Anne Mortensen:

you know you're forcing Lucas to be something he's thought.

Savannah Gilbo:

We're going to pick it up. Yeah, we forced him for a while.

Anne Mortensen:

Yeah, we had to, just to get the story down. But again it's being open and flexible to saying OK, maybe you know he was the stand in, as you said.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah.

Anne Mortensen:

The new character will come on board and thankfully he did.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, and so then you, when you finish that one kind of like what we're saying, you had issues with Lucas. There was something wrong. We didn't quite know what the deal was yet, so you put that down and then you went back to work on the truth effect, which I have a synopsis. I'll read it really quick and then we can talk about that. Ok, Mm.

Savannah Gilbo:

So this one says in the year 2030, the United Kingdom faces an extraordinary time where the truth itself becomes a weapon in the hands of the powerful British government. The truth laws have transformed the once free Internet into a controlled space, making information a dangerous tool. Meet Kelly Blackwell, a journalist entangled in this web of government defined truth in quotations. False accusations have tarnished her career, leaving her reputation hanging by a thread. Just when everything seems hopeless, she discovers classified information that could clear her name and dismantle the oppressive system. Fueled by unwavering determination, Kelly sets out on a daring quest to find the person behind the false accusations against her. With the help of skilled hackers, digital rebels and her only true friend, Kelly pursues a heart pounding mission to reveal the hidden truth buried under government control. So another great synopsis. I love that. Our back cover copy. And so what was it like? I guess going back to that one after working on the Arcadian match and kind of hitting a roadblock.

Anne Mortensen:

Yeah, I felt that the work that I did on the Arcadian match supported the work on the truth effect In terms of oh gosh, yeah, I refreshed my outline, I refreshed each scene. It really did support the process a lot more than I expected it would. I thought I would also be somewhat drained and I wasn't.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah not you, I could switch it yeah. Yeah, I can't imagine you being drained. I feel like it fuels you. Every time you finish one, you're like I got to get another one in, and so I like what you said, that use some of the tools that you learned while writing the Arcadian match to apply to the truth effect, which probably made that process easier in a way. Yes, it did.

Savannah Gilbo:

But, people always ask me do writers have an easier time with book two? And I always say kind of in that sense, right, you have tools, you have ways to troubleshoot your own draft. But you tell me the answer to that question for yourself Was it easier in general, or harder, or a mix of both?

Anne Mortensen:

It was easier in terms of the craft itself, yeah, but I would say that each project has its own individual challenges. Yes, so in book, one is actually will always be the most challenging, because you have about 10 balls in the air and you have when I say the balls, I mean in terms of your crafts that you're applying to your project Right, and you have to remember all these techniques and you're putting them into action. After that, each book, like with the Arcadian match I was I encountered this. I encountered the character issues which I hadn't expected, because with the truth effect, kelly, who's the main character of the truth effect, was so clear to me. It was like man, I was dreaming her. The Arcadian match is like who the hell is Lucas, I mean who's that guy?

Savannah Gilbo:

You know it was. Who are you so?

Anne Mortensen:

yeah, so each project will have its challenges.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, yeah, and I always like to say I don't know who originally said this, but I heard it somewhere and I've just kind of glommed on to it but when you reach a new level, you're going to find a new devil, and so you know with any new book you write, there's going to be something, whether it's a character or a plot, event like, whatever it is.

Savannah Gilbo:

Maybe your outline's not working where you didn't have that issue before, and I always like to tell people like don't make it mean more than it does. It doesn't mean that you're not going to be a writer, it just means that you've hit a new level and now you have new challenges.

Anne Mortensen:

Yes, and that is the danger. When you're working alone on your book, you can quite easily start thinking, oh my gosh, I can't do this. And because we don't have the colleagues next to us to talk about these things with Right. So a number of writers go through different challenges and this is where having someone like Savannah coaching you will really help give a broader perspective.

Savannah Gilbo:

So I think a lot of writers too. They think that you know, books are made in a silo and if you're not creating something that works, then you're the problem. But if we think about you know all the stuff we do, like if we were to go out and I don't know, let's say, learn how to golf tomorrow and we tried to do it on our own, how would we know if we were getting better? Or how would we know which techniques to fix you know? And then it's like imagine working with a golf coach because you want to become a better golfer, or golfing with a friend who you guys can kind of look at each other's form or whatever it is and give each other tips.

Savannah Gilbo:

Like there's so much I don't know greatness that comes from having another person involved, even if it's just a writing buddy, who can kind of keep you accountable and, you know, be there for you when you get bummed, because that's going to happen. But if you're in your silo, you don't know what to expect and you don't know, like I always tell people at the end of each act in your story, you're probably going to hate your story and you're going to be like what am I even doing. I see that happen all the time. But if you don't have someone sharing that, how are you going to know that that's normal? You know.

Anne Mortensen:

And you know your first draft is always going to be a little bit rougher, yeah, so you can always expect that of yourself. You're getting that story down. That's what the point is that draft, and so definitely not the time to beat yourself up either. As writers, we have to work alone, because that's the nature of our work, but you don't have to be alone in the process, and I always remember somebody you know it's a very common saying. You know, when it's an island and writers are not an island either, right, yeah, we need to talk to each other.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, and let me ask you so before we worked together, had you ever had any kind of feedback or worked in any writing groups or anything like that?

Anne Mortensen:

I had worked in writing groups and workshops. They're really good for different purposes. I having gone through many different types of, you know, working with different writers and coaches and so forth the coaching experience is probably the best.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, and is that just because it's like tailored to your story and your set of tools. On my end of it, when I like this is different for every coach, but when I come to it I'm kind of like, all right, I'm going to meet, let's say, anne, where she's at, and I'm going to help her execute the vision. And I want to say that because a lot I was going to ask you. Next, a lot of writers worry about working with somebody because they're like I don't want them to change my voice, I don't want them to take over my story. And what would you say to that fear?

Anne Mortensen:

Oh, it's unsounded entirely. An editor will not want to change your voice, and a coach won't either, and the reason for that is because, well, it's too much work for them. For, frankly, it really is. And you're an individual with your own style and your own voice, and that's the beauty of being a writer. You have that and nobody will ever be able to take that away from you. So, and the coach knows this, and a good coach will cultivate that voice and even point it out to you, because many times writers don't even know their own voices.

Savannah Gilbo:

Right.

Anne Mortensen:

Yeah, they're discovering that, as well as everything else.

Savannah Gilbo:

And all vouch for what you just said like it is. It would be a lot of work for me to just come in and take over your story. I have my own things I want to write, so I'm not going to come in and take over yours, right?

Anne Mortensen:

Exactly.

Savannah Gilbo:

And also like you tell me if this is accurate from your experience. But part of how I do things is I like to ask you questions. So I'm like OK, if this is what you want, or if this is true, what would this mean for the character, what would this mean for the next scene, or why did he act this way? So it's more like, instead of me saying this has to happen at this scene, it's like if you want to do this, then we have to kind of do this to get it in order. What you remember from the experience? Yes, yes.

Savannah Gilbo:

I was just going to say, and so it's not like you're being dictated to. It's more like let me help you accomplish the vision, and here's how we're going to do it.

Anne Mortensen:

Yes.

Savannah Gilbo:

Sometimes writers need to hear that because it can totally feel scary to get feedback. And what was your relationship with feedback like kind of before we worked together and you were in those groups? Was it always easy to receive it?

Anne Mortensen:

No, oh, receiving it for me? Yes, because I was thirsty for feedback. I wanted to improve my craft, but it's almost like the blind leading the blind. In some of the workshops there are a lot of your peers who are also learning at the same time. So as a reader, they can sort of figure out that something's not right, but they can't tell you exactly what needs to be fixed and how. And this is where more of a skilled coach helps enormously. And instead of going home, like with a workshop, you go home. You're like okay, somebody said it wasn't clear. I don't know what that means. So you start researching all this stuff to try to understand what they meant, and a whole week can go by. You're just trying to fix one page, you know, and so, coach, it just cuts all that time in half.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah.

Anne Mortensen:

But actually it cuts it down entirely.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah Well and I see that happen a lot where people will come to me with pages of feedback from, like you know, let's say, beta readers or a writing group or whatever, and it just says, like you know, chapter 17 didn't work, it wasn't clear what was happening. And then I'll read it and I'm like, okay, well, what wasn't clear, you know, is it the character, is it everything? Is there something in particular you didn't like? And then, like you said, it's, how do you translate that into taking an action on it? Because, first of all, not everyone's going to like everything anyway. So you have to kind of weigh is this valid feedback or not that I want to take action on?

Anne Mortensen:

Yes.

Savannah Gilbo:

And then how do I translate that into an action step? And that can be really hard because you're in the creative mind, not the logical workshop mind.

Anne Mortensen:

Exactly, yeah, so it's very hard to have those two hats on at the same time. It really is. So having that second person who's the objective feedback person is like wow, such it just allows the creativity to flow that much easier.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, it takes some of the stress away.

Anne Mortensen:

Yes, it does.

Savannah Gilbo:

What would you say to people who, let's say, they just are so afraid of getting feedback from anybody and they know they should do it because of all the reasons the internet says but they don't want to because they're afraid? What would you say to those people?

Anne Mortensen:

If they're afraid because they are worried that somebody is going to take or steal ideas, that's always one of those things that you worry about. That is a fear that you could try to ignore, because the original idea will often develop anyway and the way that you develop the story will be unique to you. If somebody is dishonest enough to do that to take an idea and develop for themselves It'll be something else and in fact, you might have inspired them, so you could look at it that way. But for other things, like the criticism, it hits hard sometimes. This is something that a lot of feedback hearing a lot of feedback will help overcome. So I'd say, throw yourself into even more feedback.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, definitely. It's like the first time with anything. Even if you decide to go to the gym all of a sudden, it's going to be the hardest the first time.

Savannah Gilbo:

And then it's kind of you know, make sure you're. I always say, like, don't ask your family for feedback that you want to take action on, because you're probably going to get you know mom or dad saying this is great, you're an amazing child. Or you know someone's going to say you know, this is terrible, you really should have become a doctor. I mean, it's just like they're going to project their own stuff. They're not the right people to be giving you the kind of feedback you need.

Savannah Gilbo:

But also in the writing community too, it can be hard to find a person who's not going to take their issues out on you like another writer, you know. So sometimes you have to just kind of do your homework and picking the people that you're going to trust to give you feedback and, you know, provide them questions, or you can use like a trusted beta reading service Like the spun yarn is one of those services or work with a coach or an editor or another writer. So sometimes you can do a lot to prevent your worst fears from happening. But you have to be aware to take those action steps.

Anne Mortensen:

Yes, I think the word that you use is trusted. I would vet. I would vet for sure. But also bear in mind sometimes, even if you've worked with an editor before, they could also be going. You know, maybe you're on your book two or book three and you're working with them again. Maybe they're going, you know, and maybe if their delivery style isn't what you remembered it was back in one, just think, maybe they're having a bad day, but don't work with them.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, I mean, you can change up whatever you want at any time. And I tell people like that too. Like, let's say that Ann and I were working together on I don't know four books. I'm making this up and then by the fifth book, she's like. You know, I hear Savannah in my head. Now I'm going to go look for different kinds of feedback. That's totally fine.

Savannah Gilbo:

I'm good with that. I'm not going to be mad at Ann for working with another editor or coach, you know, because I, as a writer, I would eventually probably want to do the same thing, you know. So just something to keep in mind. Yes, you can always change, you can always change, and it's the professionals. I think in the industry they'll probably be like if I lost Ann and I never worked with Ann again, I'd be sad, but I would not be mad at her. It's a thing that happens, right, so okay. So let's go back to the truth of fact. How long did that draft take to get like a first draft done?

Anne Mortensen:

Oh well, that was a very. That was a much longer process that took me in total four years, I think. The first draft probably took me a year, and part of that was because I was slightly working at the time still, so it just did, and I was applying a lot of my knowledge of technique as well to it, so it just took a while.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah.

Anne Mortensen:

Yeah, but it was probably one of the most rewarding experiences at the same time.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, and so if we kind of compare that, so that was the truth of fact. If we compared the total timeline approximately for the Arcadian match, what was the total for the Arcadian match?

Anne Mortensen:

I know we said first draft was three to four months, yes, but there was that gap of time because I went back to the truth, finished that one and then did it. So in total, I think the Arcadian match took a year and a half.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, and it's so interesting too because you said the truth effect, your character was more clear, so in a way, that part was easier, but then, like you said, you were working a day job and all that. So I don't know. It's always just fascinating to me looking at different timelines and neither one of them is bad. They're both great, they're both out in the world. I mean, neither timeline is bad. Both the books are excellent, but the result is great. They're both out. Are you working on a third book right now?

Anne Mortensen:

I'm going to start working on a third one in the autumn. So, yeah, and this is going to be an interesting one, because I have not yet outlined it whatsoever I'm taking a break. My brain needs to relax. I need to. After you finish a novel, it's very important, in my opinion, to take a break and fill the well that's how I call it, or that's what I say it is. So it's going to the museums or the film, seeing films, doing whatever it is you really enjoy doing to fill your well back up.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, and so, just to remind people who are listening, you just published the Arcadian Match in June, so it's been two months, so you're still coming off of that big whirlwind and it's pretty exciting. And speaking of publishing, how and when did you decide that you were going to self-publish and how's that whole journey been?

Anne Mortensen:

Yeah, well, I think in I was originally. I did want to get involved with more traditional publishing originally, but in the end I thought to myself I need my creative autonomy, because this series ended up being a series that is not a traditional series and it was actually hard to sell it in. It was too different and it was too new. In my opinion. I you know the truth effect has a whole set of characters that are not connected to the book too, and yet book two and book one are connected, and so I was trying to like get that across. It works, it works. It's a different format, but sometimes traditional publishing doesn't allow experimentation to happen.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, I like what you said about creative autonomy too, because that's a big selling point for a lot of people, and so is the timeline. A lot of people don't want to wait for the publishing cycle, so you know that's creative autonomy. Plus, you know, all the other benefits of self-publishing oftentimes look like a win-win-win.

Anne Mortensen:

Yes, very much so, and it is. And, yes, there's more work involved, but you are in control of it and you get to work with people that you can, you enjoy working with and you know you find your team and you know there's a huge talent pool out there, yeah, in the author world. And, don't forget, you know a lot of traditional publishers have are also using a lot of freelancers. They're publishers themselves these days, right, you know they've downsized a lot of in-house activities and they outsource a ton of stuff. So there's, you know we could I could be using the same book designer as Penguin, for all I know. Right, for all we know, yeah, exactly. Or you know some of these editors out there, some of the really excellent out there, that, okay, yeah, let's not talk about that right now.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, yeah, so I'm going to start to wrap us up, and you said in your email to me if I could put a theme to this project, it would be never give up. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?

Anne Mortensen:

Yes, again, it's. It's dealing with your challenges. Every project will have a challenge. If you go into the book, into the writing process, recognizing, yeah, there's going to be a challenge, most likely I'm going to experience that you have an opportunity to be even more creative. And that's what I would say Don't see it as a challenge. Don't see it as a challenge part of the process.

Anne Mortensen:

Yeah, as a part of the creative process, and that's what we are. We're creative people and this is our job. So I mean, I don't want to call it a job, it's just more like it's who we are.

Savannah Gilbo:

Uncalling. Yeah, yeah, yeah and creativity can be messy. I mean, that's a part of it.

Anne Mortensen:

Yes, you can't plan creativity all the time either, and so there's a discovery process that's part of it.

Savannah Gilbo:

And I really like what you said about never giving up, because a lot of writers, even listeners of the podcast, will email me and they'll ask me what are the things, you see, that make the writers that you work with, who publish what makes them successful and other writers not? And I'm always like, well, they just don't give up, they keep going.

Savannah Gilbo:

And so many people give up because things get hard. But it's a skill that develops over time and, like we said earlier, even if you're on your fifth book, you're still going to have a set of challenges that come with that unique story. So you have to love it and be in it and never give up, and you'll be a success.

Anne Mortensen:

Yes, yes, never give up, and even if your sales are lagging a little bit, or this happened, or that all sorts of things can happen Always remember we're writing for the love of the craft, the passion of the word, this is what lights our souls on fire, and so that's what we have to remember at the end of the day.

Savannah Gilbo:

Right and personally for me, when I think about my books. If someone because I have a couple plans of things, but let's say I'm thinking about my young adult fantasy if someone who is a young adult reader, who was like me as a young adult reader, picks this up and it affects their life, I have already won. That's enough for me. So I think sometimes it's just putting in a perspective like what are we doing it for and what metrics matter or don't matter? And not getting caught up in the things that don't matter.

Anne Mortensen:

Yeah, yeah, because, yeah, you've said it perfectly.

Savannah Gilbo:

So I guess we'll start wrapping up there, unless you have anything else to add to this conversation, Ann. Oh gosh. Any parting words of wisdom. If not, that's our point.

Anne Mortensen:

Yes, I would say you go ahead, yes, I do. One last thing I would give any writer this bit of information, which is something I discovered as well recently, or in both books Try not to look too far ahead when you're writing a book. So it's again. It's a process-orientated type of mindset rather than the goal, and it is kind of easy to fall into it. I mean, you're writing towards a goal, but when you're writing a scene, for example, enjoy the process of writing that scene and then when you go to the next scene, you enjoy that scene and then in the next. So it's very easy to fall into the trap of oh gosh, I only have two more chapters to go and I'm done. Savor every moment, because it's a long process. It can be fun every single day.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, and I think, to piggyback off that, you're going to write a stronger story if you let yourself sink into the scene anyway, so you'll have a stronger draft. Other people do like to fast draft and they kind of just put the bare bones down. That's totally fine too, but I also like that you brought it back to the outline, because I was going to ask you. Not looking ahead doesn't mean not having an outline, right?

Anne Mortensen:

Correct, correct. Let the outline do its job yeah.

Savannah Gilbo:

And then sink into each moment as you write a scene, and then you can kind of have fun with the process instead of always feeling like you're coming up short of your deadline or rushing to do it.

Anne Mortensen:

That's right. That's exactly right.

Savannah Gilbo:

Yeah, ok. Well, it's been a real pleasure to sit down and talk about this and it was like before we jumped on I told Anne it's gosh, it's been how many years since we've been on the phone talking about story and we determined it's been about four. So this is a great catch up for both of us and I know that everything you shared is going to inspire other people to take action and write their books.

Savannah Gilbo:

So thank you for sharing everything you did and where you people follow along on your journey or learn more about you other than the links I'll post to your books on Amazon.

Anne Mortensen:

Yeah, I have a website which is anmoretonsonwritercom, and you can find me on Facebook, ann Mortensen, and now there are a few of those, so it's probably Ann Mortensen, writer, and Twitter amortensen100. And I'll give those links to Savannah. And yeah, they should be in the description.

Savannah Gilbo:

We'll put those in the show notes for everybody. But, Ann, thank you so much for spending your time with me and I really look forward to seeing what you write beyond these two books. So keep us posted and good luck with all of that. And we'll have to have you back. We'll talk about book three. Oh, wonderful.

Anne Mortensen:

Thank you so much, savannah. It was such a pleasure being here on your podcast and talking to you again, and I hope that some bit of information helps another writer in some fashion.

Savannah Gilbo:

So that's it for today's episode. As always, thank you so much for tuning in and for showing your support. If you want to check out any of the links I mentioned in this episode, you can find them in the show notes listed in the description of each episode inside your podcast player or at savannahgilbocom forward slash podcast. If you're an Apple user, I'd really appreciate it if you took a few seconds to leave a rating and a review. Your ratings and reviews tell Apple that this is a podcast that's worth listening to and, in turn, your reviews will help this podcast get in front of more fiction writers just like you. And while you're there, go ahead and hit that follow button, because there's going to be another brand new episode next week, full of actionable tips, tools and strategies to help you become a better writer. So I'll see you next week and until then, happy writing.

Writing Journey and Publishing Two Novels
Developing Characters and Embracing Change
Pressure Testing Outlines and Overcoming Challenges
The Importance of Feedback in Writing
The Importance of Persistence in Writing
Support and Encouragement for Fiction Writers