This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
My writing days have dramatically changed with the ebbs and flows of my life in the last three years. When I began Redesigning Rose I sat outside at a picnic table one unusually hot spring and started writing. I returned to my spot under a canopy of cedars every day and pounded on my laptop from about 10:00am until whenever I felt I was done, usually late afternoon. When fall approached, forcing me inside for my first round of edits, I continued the same schedule, but turned to my ipod to brighten the dingy writing dungeon. I shifted again when the year I took off ended and I went back to work. Thankfully, I started part time so I kept writing and editing in the afternoons and on Fridays which I had off. When I met my husband and found myself with even less time, I learned to cram it in whenever I could. Now, with a full time job, I try and get up an hour earlier and write. The key word there is try. I mostly write on weekend mornings. It all comes down to squeezing in the time whenever I have it.
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
I’m more likely to snag a personality trait or quirk from people I know or unusual things I have seen than famous people. Since I began writing more seriously, I find I study people constantly. I particularly notice their quirks, the little things they do that makes them unique. I’m always making up stories about people, especially when I see someone do something odd or unusual. Riding the subway sparks many thoughts. I’m very much a “why” girl. I need to know why about everything, and once I have a situation or scene or idea I feel I can expand on, I ask ‘why’ a character would do what they did and then I add “what if” for different scenarios until they’re written.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time & why?
It really has to be Jennifer Weiner’s Good in Bed. It changed my life – in more ways than one. Besides adoring the book, I loved that this story took the chick lit genre to another level and made it more sustainable for the long haul. Suddenly, we didn’t have a heroine that was all about shoes and shopping. The novel also reignited my desire to write, and one door-stopper manuscript later, here I am with Redesigning Rose. One of the more unusual things this book did for me was illuminate some bad boyfriend behavior. As I cradled the hardcover of Good in Bed in my arms in 2001 and debated whether to purchase it, I wandered back over to my boyfriend at the time who, when he noticed the book in my arms, said “You’re not going to buy that are you? You can’t afford it.” I couldn’t. But I bought it anyway. Ironically, it turned out to be the best thirty dollars I ever spent – and not just because my hardcover was devoured by myself and three girlfriends (twice each!) before it wandered off in the world never to be returned to me. I probably wouldn’t be here discussing my writing habits if it wasn’t for Good in Bed. And I probably wouldn’t have tossed that boy to the curb quite so early in our relationship. What’s not to love about a book that does all that?
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
Some writers are “plotters” and plot out every move their characters make before beginning to write and some are “pantsers” who fly by the seat of their pants. I am a Pantser through and through. I have a spark of an idea, roll it down an ant hill to see how it grows, and then dive right in. I enjoy writing this way and I love it when my characters surprise me. If I’m stumped on something, I’ll take a long walk – or for some reason, a long shower – and inspiration will strike. The downside: writing this way means I go through many drafts. The time I save on the front end by not planning, comes around at the back end. Redesigning Rose saw approximately thirteen drafts – not all of them intensive, thankfully. Some of it was moving chunks around and doing a rough edit to smooth the edges before moving onto another draft. This may make it sound easy, but try moving your ending to page 100 and then coming up with another riveting climax or chopping the first fifty pages and trying to squish the information it contained in other places without the dreaded info-dumping.
What was your publishing journey?
During the three years I wrote and edited Redesigning Rose, the publishing world continued evolving and changing. I hadn’t decided until last year that I wanted to self-publish rather than try to find an agent and then have them find a publisher for my book. For one, it could have taken years and sometimes I have patience issues. The second reason was that self-published novels were gaining momentum in a way no one could have predicted. Not only were self-published authors reaching new heights in sales, but traditional publishers started snatching up the top sellers (Tracy Graves-Garvis and Amanda Hocking for example.) They are also grabbing other popular authors, such as Amazon Publishing signing Dina Silver. I decided to take my chances with self-publishing because I believe it is turning into the slush pile for publishers. I also loved (and sometimes loathed) the hands-on approach self-publishing provides.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Learn the difference between show and tell. Now, go back and learn it again.
Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write.
Study the writing of others – bad writing in particular.
Just do it. If you don’t have the time, make the time to write.
Read not only novels to learn, but articles, how-to books, and blog posts about writing. Beyond the Margins has one post about beginnings and the first sentence that was a real eye opener and vaulted the rewrite of my beginning to a new level.
What are you working on at the moment?
A thunder bolt of inspiration struck last fall for a story, but I already have a manuscript written two and a half years ago for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month.) I recently dusted it off and am currently jotting down notes on whether I can marry the two, or if I should start over with my new idea. I still haven’t decided. The only thing I know is that the new idea stays. I’m eager to start a new story after having Rose and her crew occupy my brain for three years!
What are your top five writing tips?
1. Write whenever you have time and find what works for you – Stick to it.
2. Show not tell. Show not tell. Show not tell – I cannot stress how important this is.
3. Embrace criticism – The greatest improvements to Redesigning Rose came from negative comments. I would initially bristle and think “No, it’s perfect as it is.” It wasn’t. After reflecting and pondering the feedback, sometimes for a couple of weeks, I began making changes. Redesigning Rose would NOT be what it is today without critiques. Speaking of which…
4. Find awesome beta readers – Bribe them if you have to, but never, ever, release them from your clutches.
5. Just keep writing – Anything you’ve written can be changed, but you cannot improve on something that doesn’t exist.