Answering Writing-Related Questions in the Attic by Jeremy C. Shipp

Picture me in a rocking chair in the attic, sipping tea from a cracked mug, surrounded by decrepit mannequins with spider clusters for eyes. Shadows jig merrily on the walls. As I sip the ectoplasmic tea, I experience the memories of ghosts, but I won’t let that distract me. I have a job to do. Obviously, I’m here in this attic to answer writing-related questions from aspiring and established authors.

Here are the questions that I gathered on social media, alongside my answers.

On Twitter, montsamu asked, “We talk about dealing with rejection, and dealing with success. But any advice for dealing with…silence? Indifference?”

First and foremost, I think it’s important to keep in mind that most writers have to deal with the frustrations of silence and indifference. So you’re not alone. Every so often, a lucky author gets their first book published and becomes a bestseller and receives a smorgasbord of attention. But most authors don’t travel such a miraculous path. Most of the time, authors will slowly build up a dedicated readership over years or decades of work.

Early on in your writing career, you might accumulate hundreds of rejections from magazines, publishers, agents. Your first few published books might not get much attention or feedback. So much of a writing career is spent waiting to hear back from people, waiting for things to happen. This can all be disheartening.

In my experience, there are a couple effective ways to deal with the frustrations associated with silence and waiting. One is to transmogrify into a mannequin and hang out in an attic. Dealing with the vexations of being a writer is easy when you’re made of fiberglass. Another possibility is to spend your free time reading and writing and honing your craft. You can’t control how people will respond to your art, but you can focus your energies on developing your voice, and writing more stories, and experiencing the joys of creation.

On TikTok, C.J. Sampera asked, “Any tips for keeping track of multiple character storylines? I get overwhelmed just thinking about it.”

I think if your authorial voice vibes with employing one POV character, or a small cast of characters, there’s nothing wrong with that.

But if you want to work with multiple POV characters, I find it helpful to write out a list of traits for each character before starting the first chapter. What makes your character unique? What do they do in their spare time? What are their pet peeves? What sort of syntax do they use when they speak? What’s their greatest fear? And on and on. Of course, some of these qualities might evolve or change completely as you write the book, and that’s okay. The purpose of this exercise is to breathe some life into your characters as soon as possible. If they feel real to you, you’ll have an easier time keeping track of them and invoking their personalities. For me, the ability to invoke a character, to call forth their mind and heart, is the most vital skill when it comes to writing multiple POVs.

Sometimes, I’ll update my character trait lists as I’m working on the book, and I’ll refer back to the lists whenever I feel the need.

On TikTok, jshep77 asked, “How do you get the story out of your head and onto paper? I swear it gets lost in translation.”

I think stories always change a little as they make that mystifying journey from a writer’s mind to words on the page. Characters might surprise you. Plots might veer off in unexpected directions. Unforeseen revelations can be some of the most satisfying to write.

But perhaps you’re referring to stories that don’t come out in a way that you’re happy with. That’s something we all experience from time to time, I think. I’ve been writing for about two and a half decades now, and I’m only just beginning to feel satisfied with my style. It can take a while to develop a voice that you feel adequately expresses the thoughts and feelings and ideas you want to share with the world, and that’s okay. Artistic expression is a journey. You’re on a labyrinthine path, winding this way and that, discovering the distinctive language of your own heart and imagination.

Now picture me in a rocking chair in the attic, holding an empty mug in my fiberglass hand, staring ahead with spider clusters for eyes. I think I have some sort of job to do, but I can’t remember what. I can’t think. I continue staring at the shadows on the wall, dreaming the memories of ghosts.



Jeremy C. Shipp is the Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author of The Merry Dredgers, The Atrocities, Bedfellow, and other books. Their shorter tales have appeared in over 60 publications, including Cemetery Dance, Dark Moon Digest and Apex Magazine. Jeremy lives in Southern California in a moderately haunted Farmhouse. Their twitter handle is @JeremyCShipp.


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