Kayla MacNeille is the author of several works of fiction in progress and a snarky blog called Your Resident Writer. She and her surgery resident husband have two beautiful kids that keep her busy and give her inspiration. Read on to see why Kayla’s so passionate about writing!
What are some projects you’re currently working on?
I have always been invigorated by writing, and have been most fulfilled since I started allowing myself to view it as a skill worth developing. It’s not just a hobby; it’s not just something I do to stay sharp between changing diapers. It is my passion. It’s almost impossible to make a living as a writer, and it’s not the most rewarding passion on a daily basis—or so the voices say. While I’m not making millions yet, sitting down at the keyboard on a random Wednesday night never fails to inspire me.
My husband is a surgery resident right now, which is the inspiration behind my blog: Your Resident Writer. The satire I spin there keeps me going while he works his long hours and deals with the absurdities of medicine. But if I’m being honest, the passion project at the root of it all is my current work-in-progress, a fantasy series based on our time in medical school in Pennsylvania. The setting of our life during that time resonated with me so much, and the people we met were so influential, that I couldn’t help but immortalize them in my fiction.
As a little tangent project, I’ve created a journal to help myself and others with scripture study. This journal follows the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum my church releases every year, and has helped me focus my studies. It can be purchased here. I think it’s interesting that my love of writing drives me in a lot of different parts of my life, including my need to journal my way through secular and spiritual studies!
You’ve had several beta readers involved with providing feedback for your books. How do you get the courage to be vulnerable enough to share with others what is so uniquely yours?
There’s this weird “dance” I do after I write something. I want to share what I’ve done because I’m super stoked about it. Months of agonizing over characters and plot have to warrant a pat on the back, right? But what if the response isn’t “you nailed that setting!” and sounds more like, “sorry…what genre are you going for?” And down the rabbit hole we go. It’s so easy to let the fears scream louder than the urge to share.
First, I’ve found that the more I do it, the easier it gets. The first beta reader I approached about reading my work-in-progress was someone I didn’t know well. She was a friend of a friend, and I had heard she was FIERCE in her feedback. I figured, if she hated my work, there was no love lost. I knew her just well enough to beg for feedback, but not well enough to worry that our friendship would sway her feedback. That seemed like a safe place to start searching for real honesty. And, for better and for worse, that’s what I got. After that, it got easier. This last round of edits, I even shared with a friend who was the inspiration for one of the main characters. Talk about nerve-wracking! What if I didn’t nail her character? What if I accidentally made that character’s husband ugly? She’s still working on the read-through, but so far, we are still friends!
The most important factor in my being able to establish this vulnerability was self-talking my way into really believing that the work will go nowhere if I live in denial of its flaws. Feedback can only make my work stronger, and I love my work. I have no desire to spam the world with crappy writing. When I finally query agents/publishers, I’ll come to them with a confident spirit, not a broken one.
What are your goals/hopes/plans for the future?
I’ve turned away from hard and fast long term goals such as “be published in 2020,” because in my experience, life happens. Instead, I’ve started setting smaller goals that are more achievable and inspiring when I accomplish them. I plan to do at least one thing related to my current draft every day. That includes reading a book that teaches the writing craft (currently: Save The Cat! Writes A Novel), listening to a podcast about writing, or actually sitting down to write or edit.
Don’t get me wrong: I still do HOPE to start pitching the first novel in my series this year, but I should probably settle on a title first!
What does growth mean to you?
We live in a society that often portrays growth as wildly huge accomplishments in a short period of time, fostered by a fast-paced (often consuming) lifestyle. I’ve come to view growth differently. Some of my most extensive growth as a writer, a mother, and a person who is whole spiritually and physically, has come during periods of my life when I focused on slowing down and prioritizing. As Stephen Covey put it, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” For me, growth has meant learning that I can’t do it all, at least not at one time. But growth can build, even exponentially, when I take time to discover what is most important to me, and dedicate to those things the time and energy they deserve. Growth–in my world–starts as a slow burn, flourishes in moments of quiet focus, and requires that I show myself grace.
How have you been helped along your journey?
When we moved to Pennsylvania, I met a woman who was also a writer. The difference between us was: she knew writing was a skill that needed to be studied. At the time, I was still basking in the illusion that practice made perfect. I was bouncing around, practicing the wrong thing over and over, hoping one of my stories would magically take off and fly. This amazing mentor introduced me to the world of books about the writing craft and writers conferences, and my world, my email inbox, and my craft have never been the same since. I owe so much of my growth as a writer to her!
I should also mention a few books that have mentored me through my writing growth. Throughout my youth, when school curriculums would get off my back, I read almost exclusively fantasy. The first book I remember truly inspiring me was Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. The world she created, starring a girl seemingly just like me, but with the power to speak to animals, was beautifully crafted. Hale didn’t know it, but she threw down a gauntlet the day I finished that book, and I picked it up. I wanted to create something like that! Since then, I’ve outgrown my biases a little and found inspiration from the beautiful writing of The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho, and The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. The culture expressed in these stories was eye-opening, to say the absolute least. Still, I always come back to my true love: fantasy. And while I’m somewhat new to his work, I have to say, nobody does fantasy better than Brandon Sanderson. I’m currently working my way through the Mistborn series, and it’s a good thing I’m a slow reader, because I never want them to end!
Is there a book, podcast, movie, etc. that has been particularly impactful on your journey?
I have learned so much from the Writing Excuses podcast. At the end of every episode, they say, “You’re out of excuses. Now go write!” This podcast resonates with my personality because they don’t take themselves too seriously. They teach, but they also debunk a lot of confusing or toxic lies that have been spun about the writing world. Spoiler alert: Not every writer knows everything about every detail of the world they built. Skillful writers know how to make you THINK they do! In any passion we have, I think it is important not to take ourselves too seriously. Growth is failure. Growth is a process. And growth is FUN! You’re out of excuses. Now go grow.