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I received an interview request from Webucator: Expert Instructors Blogging last week to help celebrate National Novel Writing Month. They are going to share my answers with their students and I hope you can benefit from them as well.
What were your goals when you started writing?
Writing is an innate thing for me. I started writing when I was a little girl, simply because I wanted to tell stories. I can still remember typing out my very first story (one whole page!) on a typewriter, years before computers became the norm. Throughout my school years, I wrote several stinkers and one that was actually pretty good, never having a clue that I was honing skills for a future career. That was the last thing on my mind. Even up until a few years ago, my goal was just to tell the stories that were in my head.
What are your goals now?
My current goal is to get my first book published. (I’ve completed several, both in historical fiction and women’s fiction/smart, sweet romance.) After that it will be to continue to be able to share my novels with the world. But that’s just the distribution, behind it all the goal remains the same: tell the stories that are desperate to get out of my brain. If I didn’t have writing, I’m sure I’d go insane (although the current state of sanity is questionable at best).
What pays the bills now?
I work in the marketing department of a health care system, handling internal communications. I’m a certified business communicator, and one of two writers in our department. That means when I’m not novel writing at night, on weekends and vacation days, I’m doing business writing. It’s not a bad thing to have your entire life be writing, but it can be exhausting!
Assuming writing doesn’t pay the bills, what motivates you to keep writing?
The voices in my head! Seriously. I’m one of those crazy writers who hears her characters and when their story is ready, darn it, they want out and they let me know it! Beyond that, it’s a passion for writing and a certainty that this is what I was born to do. The world may not know it yet, but I do, and I’m going to keep telling stories until one finally catches on. I have no doubt that it will happen. It may just take time.
What advice would you give young authors hoping to make a career out of writing?
Write every single story that comes into your head. The more you write, the better you get. And write the stories that appeal to you, not what seems to be popular at the time. If you’re going to see a book to publication, you will read it dozens of times, so it needs to be something you really care about, otherwise you’ll get sick of it and that will show to the readers. Plus, it takes so long to write and traditionally publish a book, that if you chase a trend, chances are good that it will be over by the time you try to sell your story.
Read as much as you can, both within you genre(s) and outside of them. Note what works and what doesn’t. Over time, you’ll find yourself “reading like a writer,” which means you can’t just enjoy a book like you used to; whether you realize it or not, you’ll be mentally dissecting both the good and the bad to try to figure out why you did or didn’t like something. And that’s how you learn. Don’t discount the bad books; oftentimes, they teach you just as much as the amazing ones.
Once you’ve finished a draft of your novel, celebrate – this is something few people accomplish – but also realize you are far from finished. You’ll go through several rounds of edits before your book is ready for an agent or editor to see it. Take advantage of beta readers and consider hiring a professional editor. Their critiques may hurt your ego (some have made me cry), but after some time, you’ll realize your writing (and your skill) benefits from honest feedback.
Finally, don’t give up. Writing professionally is a tough business, full of rejection from agents, editors, critics and readers. There are days where it seems like everyone but you is announcing successes. But the only way your turn will never come is if you quit. Just keep writing. If one book doesn’t make it, write another, and another if you have to. On the tough days, it can help to remember why you started writing in the first place. Chances are good it wasn’t for money (the blockbusters really are rare). Remember your story and your characters. You have a duty to them to tell their story, to keep going. And once that story is done, there will be another to which you are bound. Writing isn’t so much a choice, as it is a responsibility – to your stories and to yourself. Treat it with the same respect you would any other job or commitment. That’s what separates the pros from the hobbyists.
Do you have any other questions for me? Thoughts about what I’ve written? Please share them in the comments below.