This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Claire Garber is the author of Love is a Thief, which is out now.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
It really depends where I’m up to with a book and also where I am living. When I lived in London my day would start at 6am. I’d go to the gym for a very (very) gentle workout then write in a coffee shop before work. Now I live in France, novel writing is my full time occupation and I am much lazier in the mornings! I still get up early but give myself an hour to do ‘stuff’ (emails, coffee drinking, time wasting on the internet) before actually sitting down to write. In an ideal world I will have made a to do list the night before, of areas I want to focus on. I work in 30-minute blocks, switching between different scenes or activities. In the early stages of novel writing I free write until I have hit a certain word count. The latter stages are more focused – I’ll know exactly what needs to be edited each day and how long it will take. There are days when I circle my laptop like an angry Hyena never managing to sit down, procrastinating behind piles of laundry and fictitious ‘chores’ before bursting into tears at 7pm. Those aren’t good days and normally end with me stuffing my face full of chocolate, but they become less frequent the further I progress with the work. I have also found that not spending the whole day in pyjamas is good for my sanity so now I make a point of ‘getting ready’ in the morning (this is a new thing – I was in PJ’s every day until last week…)
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
I think I probably do, at least in the early stages. Male characters tend to start out as someone I have a crush on, the object of unrequited love, a handsome ex I can’t stop thinking about. But as the work progresses characters take on a life of their own and I can honestly say that by the end of a novel every character is a distinct person in their own right.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
I actually read through the other authors’ responses to this question and I feel like the girl who didn’t do her homework when I say Bridget Jones, but there are good reasons. If I picked up the book today I’d still enjoy reading it. The book and larger franchise has made millions of people laugh. Helen Fielding is brilliantly talented and is friends with Richard Curtis. And lastly, Bridget Jones has the level of commercial success I dream of. So for me Bridget Jones is number one. Although I’d do almost anything to be able to construct sentences like Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl). I am in total awe of her.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I am still learning my writing process, or rather I am slowly coming to accept it. Too much rigidity and a brilliant idea can be overlooked, but without a firm anchor in the ground I end up running off in the wrong direction. For Love is a Thief I wrote all over the place, out of order, and normally with no plan. This method required a lot of re-writes and a lot of material was cut later on. For my current book I’ve tried to avoid this by creating storyboards, interrogating the characters before I began, creating story arcs and scene plans, and character-on-character notes and … well, I am much less productive! I think a combination of both is where I’ll end up. Number of drafts? There are boxes and boxes of manuscripts in my loft, each one a revised version. I should recycle… or maybe make a papier mache version of myself?
What was your journey to being a published author?
A long one. I started writing my first novel about ten years ago. It was called Memoirs of a Mountain Girl. It was rejected by everyone. But several literary agents liked my style and asked me to send them my next project. Over the next three years I half-heartedly began other books, finishing nothing, until one agent got back in touch asking if I’d written anything else. Cue another 6-month rewrite of Memoirs of a Mountain girl (I wouldn’t let that one lie!) which I submitted with the first 10,000 words of another novel (40 days and 40 nights – truly terrible. still unfinished) and a flippant comment about a third book I was interested in writing. The agent immediately emailed back wanting to know more about the flippant comment… it was my idea for Love is a Thief. Two years later I sent them the manuscript just before a very long Christmas break. I had an agonizing 4-week wait to hear back but when I did the agent said she loved it and wanted to meet. And so began the next very long journey …
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
Myth #1 – that once you get an agent and publisher you’re done. It’s just the very very very beginning.
Myth #2 – That it’s an easy ‘non-job’. Writing requires discipline, focus, dedication, and an ability to always disregard the odds. A novelist’s life, as far as I can tell, is not a decadent existence filled with ideas and laughter, creativity and cashmere, parties and long lunches with eclectic groups of über cool friends who debate the meaning of life before jumping into classic cars and whizzing off into the countryside. Writing is the hardest and loneliest job I’ve ever done. It involves enormous amounts of rejection, uncertainty, poverty and weeks spent wandering the house alone wearing clothes that resemble pyjamas (they are pyjamas) eating alarming amounts of popcorn and staring obsessively at my arse in the mirror baffled by its enormous change in shape.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
My gut (butt) reaction would be to grab them by their shoulders, shake them back and forth and scream in their faces ‘Don’t do it! Don’t ever, ever do it!’ My more practical advice would be the following:
Love your subject matter. That way, whatever the outcome, you will have created something important to you.
Become blinkered. The odds of success are against you so always ignore them. Nothing great would ever be achieved if we looked only to what was possible.
Always bet on yourself.
Buy a popcorn maker
What are you working on at the moment?
Great question! And one my publisher asked just yesterday. I am currently working on the 2nd book of my two-book deal with Harlequin. I could tell you what it’s about, if only I knew. Apparently I am suffering from ‘book two syndrome’ which my agent tells me it’s an actual affliction with no antibiotic cure…