This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Samantha Tonge, author of Doubting Abbey, which is out now, recently answered our questions about her path to publication and writing habits.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I am lucky in that I write more or less full-time, so often I’m at my desk by 8.30am, after the kids go to school and – excepting the dreaded housework – can often work through until 3pm. It’s a great routine for an author and terrible one for someone attempting to keep fit!
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
For my last book but one, I was just slightly obsessed with the Twilight series – books and film – and the floppy-haired character of Edward Cullen did inspire parts of my hero, Luke. I find people in general inspire me, though, famous or not. Big Brother (another favourite of mine) always offers great material for character building!
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
It would have to be the Sophie Kinsella Shopoholic series. Whilst I’ve read lots of Austen and Bronte classics, and used to love Maeve Binchy, my heart lies with the witty, accessible writing of the chick lit genre. I am currently loving the latest Bridget Jones book.What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I plot first. I didn’t for my first ever book and eventually stopped writing at the end of the fourth chapter at, um, 95,000 words! So yes, I roughly plan out each chapter. Then after the first draft, I do some rewriting and go through refining perhaps one character at a time. So probably two or three drafts. I also had a lot of research to do for Doubting Abbey with regards to stately homes and aristocratic titles. I like to get the detail as correct as I can and that all takes time.
What was your journey to being a published author?
A rough and rocky one! I started writing seriously almost nine years ago and after several years of writing novels and chasing agents, I finally bagged an agent in 2011. At this time, I also tried my hand at writing short stories and have now sold over 80 to women’s magazines. This was a much-needed boost after my ego had been squashed from years of collecting rejections for my novels. I got there in the end, though, and this autumn signed a three book deal with CarinaUK! I am thrilled that readers are going to share the world I’ve created around a struggling stately home, impulsive pizza waitress and uptight, stubborn, but utterly gorgeous earl’s son!
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That it is an easy journey to get your book published. You have to be utterly determined and able to pick yourself up time and time again. You have to be able to cope with the painful process of moving on from a much-loved project, when you eventually realize it is never going to work, too.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Go for it! If I can do it, so can you. Join online writing groups for invaluable advice and moral support. Buy how-to books and learn about characterisation, plotting and editing; Jane Wenham-Jones’ Wannabe a Writer books are full of tips and very funny. More than anything, though, don’t give up at the first hurdle. Pinned on my noticeboard is the following quote by Samuel Beckett: “Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
What are you working on at the moment?
I am contemplating a sequel to Doubting Abbey, which is very exciting!
What are your top five writing tips?
1. Don’t worry too much about the first draft – just get it down. Rewrites and editing offer the opportunity for refining work.
2. Be prepared for your character to take you down unexpected roads and go with it – your initial plotting doesn’t have to be set in stone.
3. Remember to show not tell – readers want to be able to visualize what is happening, not have it literally explained.
4. Work at adding emotion – if your readers grow to care about the characters, by feeling their highs and lows, they’ll stick with your story until the end.
5. Find something you can have fun writing. If you enjoy creating the story, that will shine through.