This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Claire is is the author of the novels Knitting Under the Influence, The Smart One and the Pretty One, and If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now. Her most recent novel is FAMILIES AND OTHER NONRETURNABLE GIFTS.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
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If I actually kept a journal, I think I’d discover that what I think of as my “average” day is actually not average at all—that the days when something comes up and gets in the way of my working are the true norm. But my IDEAL writing day is when all the kids get safely off to school. I’ll clean up a little bit, maybe throw a load of laundry in, maybe race out to Trader Joe’s if the pantry’s running low, then spend the morning alternating between working on a novel and doing other stuff online, like writing emails, updating Facebook, and answering interview questions. Then I’ll have lunch—either leftovers at home or, if I’m lucky, I’ll meet a friend at a restaurant for a quick heart-to-heart over salads—and come back and take the dogs on a long walk. Then I get to write again until it’s time to pick up the kids. Sometimes I can squeeze a little more writing in while they’re doing homework, but usually there’s too much other stuff to do and by the time they’re going to bed, I’m too tired to do anything but stare at the TV or a book before going to sleep.
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
I once read that Jane Austen did a lot of her writing on a tiny desk in her sister’s sitting room, surrounded by family members coming and going and talking. Since I often work downstairs in our dining room, I think of her sometimes and figure if she could write those magnificent novels in the midst of chaos, I should be able to write my own much humbler fiction without getting all needy about special quiet time or anything like that.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Am I allowed to pick a Jane Austen novel? (Kirsty – Yes!) (Sorry, I’m a little obsessed with her.) She’s kind of the original Women’s Fiction writer: her books concern themselves with the details of women’s lives as she knew them, like hat-trimming and tea-drinking and ball-dancing—and, of course, finding the right wealthy man to marry. And yet she also always nails some universal truths about the way both men and women think and act. My favorite is Emma but I also love Pride and Prejudice.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first of dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I love starting to write something new. I always feel like this time it’s going to be perfect, that I’ll get everything inside my head in words on the screen JUST THE WAY I WANT IT TO BE FOR ONCE. So I often start writing before I should. I usually do a quick outline, but it’s pretty broad and brief, with lots of room for wandering away. There are times I get myself into story trouble because I haven’t mapped it out as much as I should have. So I rewrite a LOT. A lot. A lotalotalotalot. For me, rewriting is as important to turning out a finished product as writing that first draft. I lose track of the number of drafts since I write on a computer and each draft vanishes into the next.
What was journey to being a published author?
Like most writers, I had a very long, very difficult journey, filled with a lot of rejections. I actually had two novels with two different agents before finally getting something sold with a third agent. I was a single woman in my early twenties when an agent agreed to represent my first manuscript, and I was a married woman with four kids, well into my thirties, when I finally had something sell!
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That you have the luxury of sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike. There’s a lot of drudgery in writing, a lot of forcing yourself to just keep getting something down on the page—anything!—even if you’re not in the mood or you don’t think it’s good enough. It’s all about dragging yourself over to that computer and facing the blank screen.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Don’t wait for the right moment to write. Don’t say to yourself, “Well, someday I’ll rent a little cottage in the woods and take two weeks to myself to just be creative.” First of all, it’s probably not going to happen. Second of all, if it did, you’d probably be paralyzed by the pressure to be brilliant and productive. And, finally, all the successful writers I know have a writing routine that fits in with their regular lives. Many of them are parents who spend a lot of time with their kids. Some have other jobs. Others don’t have the luxury to work anywhere other than at home or a local Starbucks. The one thing they all have in common is the ability to sit down and just write.
What are you working on at the moment?
Also my second YA novel (I’m doing a major rewrite) and I’m trying to pull together an outline for another women’s fiction novel but keep having to put that aside to work on more immediate things.
Thanks, Claire! And good luck with those YA rewrites.