This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Sarah Pekkanen is an American author and journalist. Her new book, The Best of Us, is out now!
Since I have three kids, my writing blends into their schedules. My youngest is in preschool for 2 and ½ hours every morning, so I’ve scoped out every coffee shop within a few miles of his school. I drop him off, race to a coffee shop, crack open my laptop and put on headphones (so I can listen to music instead of people talking around me) and dive into writing. Knowing I have very limited time erases any urge to procrastinate! When I’m near the end of my book, and a deadline is looming, I’ll check myself into a hotel for 24 hours, put on pajamas, keep a coffeemaker going, and write like crazy.
The following banner is an affiliate one. That means Writing Tips Oasis receive a small % of the sale if you purchase The Novel Factory, but at no extra cost to you:
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
It does help to chat with other writers and learn their tricks for juggling – for example, one of my favorite authors, Jodi Picoult, told me she used to write in preschool pick up lines, and now I do too! But probably my biggest inspiration comes from musicians, since I listen to songs while I write. I love Carrie Underwood, Adele, Alicia Keyes, and Gavin DeGraw.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
No! Do I really have to pick just one? Hmmm… I have to say Pride & Prejudice, which is absolutely timeless. I just re-read it a few months ago, and I think I grow fonder of it with each reading.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
My process changes and evolves all the time. I outlined quite a bit for my first few books, because it was difficult to keep track of all the threads and characters in a novel and I found I couldn’t easily hold the book in my head while I wrote. But now I’m outlining less, maybe because I’m more confident in my ability to plunge ahead and simply write, and trust that the story will emerge. I tend to edit as I write, so rather than doing major rewriting drafts, I’m always tinkering with the manuscript and by the time I finish the last scene, it’s usually complete – at least until my editor gets her hands on it!
What was your journey to being a published author?
I found an agent the old-fashioned way – through the slush pile. I wrote a novel, then had no idea what to do next. So I went to a bookstore and read through the acknowledgement sections of books I loved that were similar to mine in genre. Most authors thanked their agents, so I jotted down names, came home, and Googled the agents. What I found was surprising: Tons of very good literary agents are actively seeking new authors to represent. I sent a one-page query letter describing my novel to a few dozen agents, and signed with one the next month. She went on to sell my first book at auction to Atria Books, which has since published all four of my novels, including The Best of Us.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That writers get visited by a tempermental muse, and have little control over their work or productivity. Writing is hard sometimes – and frustrating, agonizing, exhilarating, joyful and tedious at other times. But you need to carve away time to write, and get words down on paper even when you’re not inspired. If you wait for the muses to sing, you might never write your book.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Writing is like exercise. You have to do it every day (or at least three or four days a week) to get results. Also, please friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter – let's keep chatting about writing there!
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m putting the finishing details on my fifth novel, which is due at my publisher’s office in a few weeks. It’s the story of two women who don’t know each other well, even though they are married to brothers. As the novel opens the women and their husbands are moving to Vermont to open a B&B together.