Many of you know that I've been writing my second novel, THE LINK, using the book 90 Days To Your Novel as my guide.
At first, I had a tough time writing the way this author taught. But then I let go, and listened to her every word. It's been an amazing experience so far.
I am past the outlining stage, and moving on to the first chapter. I know that this book has helped me cut much time from my revising, and rethinking. I believe it will help you too.
I am so pleased with what is happening to my writing, and my growth as a novelist, that I reached out to Sarah for an interview. She graciously accepted.
1. How many novels have you written?
I think the better question is how many would I admit to having written?
2. Why write?
Because I was never good at math. Actually, that’s a lie. When I was a kid, I always received better scores in math than in English. But math bored me. I liked the challenge of writing--and I loved reading. And I suppose I never really could separate reading from writing.
When I read something that inspired me, I wanted to write something inspiring. When I read something that made me feel connected, I wanted to be able to do that same thing for others. Now I write for different reasons--though I suppose I’m still myself trying to figure out why. Because I can? Because it makes me feel balanced? Because I like the feeling when I complete something--a book, a story, a page?
I recently heard someone describe writers as “egomaniacs with low self-esteem.” I don’t know if this describes me or not, but I found it funny and kind of true.
3. Describe 90 Days to Your Novel in 5 words:
Stop Talking And Start Writing.
Or Guide to Get 'Er Done?
4. Where is the best place for a cup of Joe or tea in your town?
I live in a small town, so probably my house. I’m the kind of coffee lover who mixes my own blends. I sometimes look forward to going to bed so I can wake up and have my cup of joe. Coffee is one of my favorite things. Ever.
5. What drew you to words and literature?
Probably shyness when I was a kid. The characters in the books I read felt like my friends, like I understood them, and, if we ever met, they’d understand me. Writing for me was an outlet, then as now. (I'm no longer quite as shy, but I still feel better when I write.)
6. How did 90 Days to Your Novel start? Where did the idea come from?
I was writing online courses for the publisher when I came up with the idea and pitched it. I had been thinking about all those videos like “8 Minute Abs” or “30 Days to a Buns of Steel” and how they promised that if you do just a little bit of exercise a day, over time it adds up and you could become a “better you.” I thought I could apply this concept to writing.
I always struggled with deadlines myself.
That is, if I didn’t have a concrete deadline, I had a more difficult time convincing myself to sit at my desk and write. I’d put almost anything before writing: teaching, grading, cooking, calling Grandma, watching HGTV, laundry (and I hate laundry).
I wanted to write a book that could be concrete and useful--not a book about inspiration and muses and all that other abstract stuff that never really helps anyone. Starting a novel is easy. Finishing it is the hard part. I wanted to help other writers find the impetus and the deadline to complete their drafts.
7. What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?
I get up at different times every day, and I eat different things for breakfast. But always coffee. If I had a choice, I like soft-boiled eggs on toast. I think America has overlooked the soft-boiled egg.
8. How do you promote your work? Website? Facebook? Twitter? Other? And which one works the best?
I have a website--but as I am admitting this, I’m ashamed of how out-of-date it is. (Maybe I’ll use this as incentive to update it!?) I also use Facebook to connect with other writers and readers. I used to be better about promoting my work, but I found that keeping too many social media pages really cut into the time I should be spending writing.
9. Who is your biggest cheerleader?
My husband Rob. He’s my first reader and my editor, and he’s not afraid to tell me the truth about my work. He also one of the smartest people I know, and one of the funniest, and he’s taught me not to take myself too seriously. By the way, we were married in a library, and he shares my passion for books. I consider myself extraordinarily lucky.
10. What’s the funniest thing a reader has asked you about your work?
Of a piece of fiction: “Did you really do that?” No. No, I didn’t. (Probably not.)
11. What genre do you find the most fulfilling to write and why?
Fiction. Because if I choose to write about myself, I can always claim it wasn’t me. (See above.)
Really, I think writers are simply drawn to a particular craft. (And fiction--good fiction--can be just as “honest” as nonfiction.)
12. Do you choose to write in an office? Coffee house? At home? Why?
I typically write from my home office because it’s quiet with fewer distractions.
Also, I always end up sitting next to people in coffee shops who say, “So, what are you writing?”
Answer: Nothing when you are talking to me.
13. Why do you think it takes authors a longer time to write novels today?
Writing used to be a full-time occupation, but these days it’s rare to find a writer who doesn’t have a day job. Usually, you hear people say “I’m a writer AND a ____” (Fill in the blank with teacher, dentist, lawyer, carpenter, barista, exterminator.) With the increasing demands of our hyper-stressed, hyper-busy culture, it’s more difficult to find the quiet time to write.
14. What words of advice do you have for newbie writers?
I recently ran across this quote by Octavia Butler, a self-taught science fiction writer: “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”
In fact, this calls to mind another one of my favorite Octavia Butler quotes: “Forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you, whether you’re inspired or not…”
I guess I’d tell newbie writers two things a la Butler:
1. Write every day, whether you’re inspired or not, and
2.) Never give up.
15. What do you think about the world of publishing? Does self-publishing help or hurt literature?
Technology is changing the world, just as it is changing the face of publishing. We have to face it. I think self-publishing can be a perfectly viable avenue as long as you are able to find the right readers for your work. That’s sometimes the hard part.
16. Who are you reading right now?
I recently finished Caitlin Horrock’s new collection of short stories, This Is Not Your City. An amazing collection. The stories are kind of haunting and heartbreaking--sometimes I find myself thinking about them in the middle of the day while I’m driving or grocery shopping. Right now I’m reading Richard Russo’s Empire Falls and rereading Jo Ann Beard’sBoys of My Youth.
17. What did you learn by following your own novel and writing yours in 90 days?
I learned that 90 days is actually a leisurely pace, if you’re really writing every day.
I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s okay to take a day off from writing. Just don’t take two. (I believe Newton’s law of motion applies to writing: A story in motion stays in motion.)
18. What good habits do you have for your own writing?
Perfectionism is the enemy of the writer.
I try not to edit until I’m finished with a complete draft.
19. Is there anything on your writing desk that is a MUST have before you can settle down to write?
Nothing on my desk, per se. But I always close my door. Distraction is the enemy.
20. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?
Hmm...buy my book? :)
21. How many hours per day do you dedicate to writing? Reading?
Varies by day, but I do read and write every day. Writing: usually two hours. Reading: at least one.
22. What one word best describes you?
23. Any big news?
I’ll be presenting at the Crossroads Writer Conference in Macon, GA in October. (http://www.crossroadswriters.org/conference/).
It’s one of the best writing conferences I’ve ever attended--amazing speakers and a lot of contagious writing mojo. If you’re in the area, check it out and say hello!