This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Megan Shepherd recently answered a few questions for our Novelicious readers. Megan is the author of The Madman's Daughter, an exciting new trilogy reworking three of the most enduring scientific horror stories of Victorian literature. The Madman's Daughter is published today by Harper Collins.
I tend to work best in intense bursts: I’ll write eight to ten hours a day for around two weeks with no break. Naturally, I burn out completely! So I take a few days off and try to clear my head of writing. On days when I’m working really productively, I go to the gym first thing, take about half an hour to check my email and Twitter, and then write for a few hours before lunch, and a few hours after, and then in the evenings I respond to emails and handle the business end. It’s a nice break to switch your brain waves.
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
There are so many authors I admire. I’m in awe of writers like Lauren Oliver, Maggie Stiefvater, and Neil Gaiman, who write such fantastic books but also have a great social media presence, and do lots of events, and branch out into other art forms. I don’t understand how they have enough hours in the day. I also recently heard Barbara Kingsolver speak, and decided she’s my new writing idol: I’ve never met a person so down to earth, witty, funny, and with such infinite patience.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
I’ve always love historical fiction. The classics, of course: Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, Jane Austen’s novels. Recently I’ve been reading lots of fantastic historical Women’s Fiction, most recently The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons. Though I would say my all-time favorite is Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, because of the beautiful way she weaves history into a gripping dramatic & romantic story.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I’m writing my seventh manuscript now (not all of those were published), and each one has seen a different process, but I do seem to have standard practices. I always start off by spending a few weeks brainstorming and roughing out a rather detailed outline—I have to know where I’m going before I start. I write a first draft quickly, sometimes in just a few weeks, but they’re always absolutely awful, and I’d never show them to a soul. It isn’t usually until the third or fourth draft that I’ll show them to critique partners or my editor.
What was your journey to being a published author?
I decided to seriously pursue publication in 2008. I wrote several manuscripts, mostly middle grade adventures, that I knew weren’t good enough to be published. But that’s okay—no time is ever wasted writing, and I learned how to write on those “failed” novels. When I wrote The Madman’s Daughter I finally felt like I might have something good enough and I queried ten agents, expecting to wait several months. To my surprise, I heard back the next day! My agent offered shortly afterward, and two weeks later we had a three-book deal, and a movie option shortly after that.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
Sometimes people think that because most of us know how to write—journals, reports, grocery lists—that means we can all write fiction too, without having to put in years of study. In the same way I wouldn’t snap a photo with my iPhone and expect it to hang in an art gallery, just being able to write doesn’t make a person a writer. I get a lot of people who hear I’m a writer and think they’ll do the same, and don’t quite realize that it’s a career just like being a doctor or lawyer, and takes as much time to master.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Everyone has to start somewhere! Write as much as you can: a lot will be bad at first, but it will get better, and if you keep working at it, it might even get great. If you love it, stick with it, and don’t be disheartened…it’s a tough business to be in. I’ve found that perseverance is often rewarded, as is continuing to grow as a writer. Don’t let yourself stagnate. Take a class, try writing a different genre, get a new critique partner.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m writing two young adult series simultaneously: The Madman’s Daughter series, and a science fiction series called The Cage. Right now I’m editing the first Cage book, and also drafting the third and final Madman’s Daughter book. I’m a bit sad to be working on the final book; I’ve really come to love these characters.