Hi! I’m Amber Clement and I write YA and MG fantasy. I’m currently querying my upper MG fantasy about magical girls.
From Planning to Published
When did you start writing and why?
Author: Back in elementary school, I loved creative writing assignments. I could never get enough of them, but every time, my story idea was always too big to finish. Even in my junior high and high school English classes, I would try to make stories out of the spelling word sentences they assigned us. My interests shifted to manga and graphic novels when I was a teenager. I would always try to make comics about my favorite characters, but found that drawing out my epic stories took too long. Around that time, I discovered fanfiction and that writing the stories was much faster. I kept writing fanfics for fun until I took a fiction writing class my freshman year of college. Looking back, I’m very embarrassed, because I would write fanfiction for my assignments. At first I thought the professor hated my work, because he’d mark them up in red ink, but one day he told me the opposite. I was absolutely stunned. He thought my writing was beautiful and he told me I should try writing an original novel. That summer I did, and the rest is history.
How long did it take you to finish your first book?
Author: Oh don’t get me started on this haha. The answer to this is kind of complicated, because I made a lot of mistakes. The biggest one was that I kept restarting the book whenever I felt unhappy with how it was going. Which was a lot. This added YEARS to the time it took. I also ended up changing the book from YA to MG after getting feedback from several people. It took a whopping seven years to write the YA version, but then the MG version took less than a year.
Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?
Author: My goal is traditional publishing. As a child, 90% of the books I read came from the library, so it’s my dream for my own books to end up at libraries so other kids can read them.
How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?
Author: At first I would look on Twitter for critique on my writing. The writing community is amazing, but I found varying success with this. Many of these readers never finished reading, but the few who did were invaluable. More recently I get my betas from the two writing groups I’m in. One is the Forge which consists of PitchWars 2019 hopefuls and the others are the mentees from Avengers of Colour 2020. The people in these groups have been so much more reliable in their feedback. It’s also amazing to have a support system and whisper network. It makes the world of publishing a lot less overwhelming.
How do you define success as an author?
Author: Getting my books out there and getting readers. Someday I would love to be able to write full time, but until then, I’ll just be happy by having a small group of loyal fans.
What genres and subgenres do you write in?
Author: Right now, I’m big on all things fantasy. I’ve always enjoyed when stories have a bit of magic or are full of the fantastical.
What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?
Author: It may be too soon for me to have a brand, but someday I hope it can be books full of latinx girls having fun and sparkly adventures. I’ve always had a hard time finding characters who look and act like me, so representation is very important to me.
What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?
Author: My first goal was to get an agent, and that is still my goal, but now I have more realistic expectations. I now know that it takes time and there’s so much outside of my control. I also know that after getting an agent, there will be many more goals and challenges.
What do you want your readers to get out of your works?
Author: The characters are the most important part for me. I want my readers to see themselves in the them, and see people they can root for and want to befriend. Since I write MG and YA I also hope to spark creativity in my readers. I want them to be inspired to create, whether it’s through fanworks or original stories.
What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?
Author: Right now I’m querying and getting ready to resume work on my next WIP.
Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?
Author: I wholeheartedly recommend mentorships. Pitch Wars, Author Mentor Match, Write Mentor all of them. If a writer has a manuscript ready and fits the criteria to enter, they should take every opportunity they can. I applied to many of these since 2019, but didn’t get chosen for one until September 2020. I got to be a mentee in Avengers of Colour and work with Namina Forna on revising my book. Not only did her advice help me whip my book into the best it’s ever been, but I also learned a ton about my writing process. Thanks to her, I’m confident I’ll be able to write my next books much faster and at a higher quality. And also thanks to these programs, I’ve connected with some amazing writers. So even if you aren’t chosen, it’s a win-win.
What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?
Author: I’m still working on my process, but I always start with an idea. Usually the characters come in my head first. I’ll sit on it for a while and try to explore their lives and world. Once I have a clear enough idea, I’ll make an outline. I’m a tried and true plotter. After the outline, I turn it into a very detailed synopsis and then have some readers give me feedback on if the chain of events and motives make sense. Once that’s set, I’ll read a couple recently published books in the same age group and genre. I’ve found this to be a game changer. It really helps me nail the prose as I go on to write. Once I finish, I would send the manuscript to some readers and revise and repeat until the book is ready. I’m not sure how long this will take, but I imagine it could take anywhere from a few months to almost a year, depending on how much time I can devote to working on it.
Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?
Author: Twitter’s writing community was a good starting place, but once I found my groups, we talk on discord. I’ve found it’s the easiest and safest way to be able to talk about many different topics without getting confused or overwhelmed.
Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?
Author: I’d like to think I’m a somewhat fast writer, but I don’t sprint. I try to keep a steady pace without distractions. I’ve found the pomodoro method helps most with that. You set a timer for twenty-five minutes and then take five minute breaks. Technically you take a longer break after the fourth set, but I’ve found the five min breaks are enough for me.
What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?
Author: For the longest time I put a wild amount of pressure on myself. I wanted to finish my book and be ready to query ASAP. I also was of the belief that I had to write every single day. These two things caused me to be severely burned out. I almost thought I might quit writing. Thankfully I learned to have grace on myself. I give myself goals that are challenging, but doable and iI forgive myself if I have a bad writing day. I also take a lot of breaks. I take at least one day a week off and I’m currently taking a month break after revising my novel. With this method, I notice that I’m much more productive and can get quite a bit done in a short time.
How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?
Author: Querying has been discouraging for sure. I went in bright eyed and bushy tailed thinking I’d get an agent in no time. I started querying a little more than a year ago and am still at it. It’s an extremely long process. My advice for writers is to keep their eyes on their own paper. There are people on social media who will talk about getting multiple requests in one day or having a 70% request rate. This is NOT the norm. A 10% request rate is more like the norm and it only takes that one yes from a good agent.
Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?
Author: Take your time and try not to stress over the little thing. It’ll take quite a bit of time to learn the process that works best for you. Also be sure to set aside time to write and try to form a habit.
If you could do it all over again, what would you change?
Author: I would have written my entire first draft without starting over. This would have saved me years of rewriting and frustration.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
Author: I usually write around the same time each day so that it has become a habit. I also will take a week or even a month off after hitting certain goals. I think this helps keep it fresh and fun for me.
How do you combat writer’s block?
Author: To be quite honest, writer’s block hasn’t been too much of an issue for me. I’m a big plotter, so I always have an idea of what will happen next. Another thing that keeps my creative well flowing is that I enjoy drawing in my free time. I think it’s important to have a fun creative outlet besides writing.
How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them? Author: My family is pretty supportive, but I think they get annoyed at me sometimes when I lock myself in my room to write. Sometimes I have to shoo them away when they try talking to me while I write haha. THankfully most of my writing is done first thing in the morning when everyone is sleeping.
What do you listen to while you write?
Author: I listen to video game OSTs. Stuff with lyrics are too distracting, but video game music puts me in a happy and nostalgic place. I don’t know this for sure, but I would think that the music is made to make players want to keep playing, so I’d like to imagine the music makes me want to keep writing.
Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?
Author: I write in my bedroom. Thankfully there’s enough space for a desk and comfy chair.
What is your favorite writing snack and drink?
Author: I don’t really eat snacks while drinking, but I always have a water bottle at my desk while I write.