Our writer's club recently asked several authors a list of questions. Here are some of the answers!
1 – BEFORE YOU START TO WRITE, WHAT GETS YOU MOTIVATED AND HOW ARE YOU ABLE TO OUTLINE YOUR STORY BEFOREHAND SO WELL?
**Those are actually two different questions. What gets me motivated: daydreaming. And every night before I go to bed, I think about my characters and their latest predicament and I almost always end up dreaming about them. By the time I get to the keyboard, the scene is all in my head. I never experience writer's block. About outlining: since I write suspense/thrillers, I concoct the crime first and then find the fatal flaws in it. I determine the beginning, the middle (which is a climax in itself) and the ending. Then I fill in the character profiles and go from there.
## I don't outline, I just write. Whenever I begin a new project, I usually have the first sentence running through my brain, distracting me from every other thought. Once I've written that one sentence down, the rest comes flooding in. I write my books (1 children's chapter book and 3 young adult novels with a fourth on the way fall 2007) basically in three drafts. The first draft I get the story down like putting together the skeleton of a human or the black lines of a picture. The second draft I take the places where I "told" what happened and "show", take the narrative and make it a living breathing scene. Adding flesh to the skeleton and color to the picture. The third draft I'm smoothing edges, polishing, making sure the words are all in the right spots. Along the way I have a select few friends who will read and make comments which I take into consideration and make changes as necessary.
++ I am motivated by the energy and emotion of my characters – and my awaiting fans! Since all of the main characters are introduced in the first book, staying with them has not been difficult. The main two characters in Book I came to me in a dream, and as I wrote that first book, they became real to me and took on a life of their own. I am motivated to write knowing each character has a story to tell and that someone will identify with their struggle. However, since the characters and storylines DO overlap (and often!), I made a detailed outline for each book and a timeline to maintain consistency. The easiest has always been the ending – once I had a target to shoot for, the path became clear.
>>I had experiences as a SCUBA diver and traveler throughout the Western Pacific islands, so ideas were generated from those experiences. I had characters in my mind—bits and pieces of people I’d met, how they talked, etc. Actually, with that boiling around in my mind the story began to write itself and frequently my characters “talked” to me as I was driving, etc. They began in eastern NC and expanded across the Pacific.
2 – HOW DID YOU FIRST BREAK INTO THE BUSINESS? IT’S A TOUGH NUT TO CRACK.
## For me it was a long, long hard road. I was burned by some very creative scam artists. On my website I have an article entitled "Hard Lessons" which details that journey. My first paid writing gig was for a children's page on a website. I worked as a freelance for a year and a half and wrote 40+ stories or chapter serial installments before they stopped using freelancers. By then, my first novel, 101 Borden Street, had been accepted for publication.
++Sheer determination!!! Publishing a book had been a dream of mine for over 25 years. My first book follows an Olympic swimmer and I was determined to get it out before the 2004 Summer Olympics – or I’d be forced to sit on it for four years. I find many authors put out one book, and when it’s not a stellar success, they give up. As with most things in life, people tend to give up just a step away from success, never realizing how close their goal. Success with a book rarely happens overnight and one has to be willing to see their dream to the end.
>>I invited local authors Diane Wolfe and William Holloman to meet me for “coffee” at a local restaurant and asked them how they published. They were both gracious in sharing their experiences. I followed up with Diane and ended up using her publisher. I did try the traditional publishing/agent route and realized I did not have enough time left in my lifetime to continue pursuing that route. I was ready to publish and on my own terms.
** I broke into it twice - my contract for non-fiction computer books fell in my lap after an editor read my articles in computer magazines. Fiction was much harder. I purchased the latest edition of Writer's Market, identified the publishers and specific editors who publish my genre, and started with the biggest publishing houses... As I received more and more rejections, I went to the mid-size publishers. I have a theory that the books that are published are not necessarily the best - they're just the ones in which the authors did not give up.
3 – HOW DO YOU FIND TIME JUST TO MAKE YOUR CHAPTERS SO BIG AND DESCRIPTIVE?
++I MAKE time!!! I am also an avid reader, so I have seen enough books by enough authors to know that simple-simple only works for children’s books. Since I start by hand writing my stories, that first draft tends to be somewhat simple, as my goal is to get down the basic scene and capture natural dialogue. It’s when I begin putting it into my computer that I REALLY flesh out the story. (And I love my Thesaurus!)
>>Once you get started the characters write the chapters. The one thing I always try to do is end one chapter with something about to happen, so the reader has to turn the page to find out what.
** It's all a matter of priorities. Every decision you make places you closer to your goal or further away from it. I set aside time every single day to develop my story and write the pages. Every week I mark my progress. It also helps to have editors and fans clamoring for my next book. That is a motivator in itself!
4 – CAN YOU GIVE ME THE CONTACT ADDRESS OF YOUR PUBLISHER/ WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO GET MY STUFF PUBLISHED?
## My publisher is Publish America, http://www.publishamerica.com/. The trick to getting published is to never give up and to keep writing, rewriting and submitting. 101 Borden Street was published 10 YEARS after I wrote the first draft. I knew it was a good book and there was nothing else like it out there so I kept submitting, editing, learning and applying what I learned along the way.
**Getting contact information for my publisher may not be the best route for you. Each publisher has their own niche. Mine publishes only suspense/thrillers, true crime, and mysteries. Your best bet is to visit http://www.writersmarket.com/ and either purchase the latest book or subscribe to their listings. Then target the publishers that specifically want to publish stories like yours. There are also agent listings through Writer's Market as well. My publisher's web site is http://www.drakevalleypress.com/.
++Writer’s Market is the best place to start, and search online for smaller to mid-sized publishers who accept your genre. The Guide to Literary Agents is good, too, as it will teach you the proper way to write a query letter and synopsis or outline. (Although your best bet is the publishing houses first, rather than an agent, unless you KNOW somebody!) There are many other options in this day and age of computers, too – independent publishing and E-Books are on the rise! It all depends on your goals.
5 – MANY SAY ANYONE CAN WRITE A BOOK, THE HARD PART IS WRITING A BOOK THAT READERS WILL WANT TO READ. WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THE TERM THAT YOU COULD WRITE A BOOK THAT WILL REACH OTHERS IN THIS WAY AND BECOME SUCCESSFUL AT IT?
** The more you write, the better you get - if you learn from your critics and your mistakes. Many authors make the mistake of placing their ego too close to their writing. Only through constructive criticism can you learn. Do NOT show your book to family or close friends and expect them to critique it for you. Send it to someone who doesn't care if you like them! I use Writer's Digest Criticism Service; they team me up with a published writer in my genre - which is extremely important, as each genre has its own rules - and they will give you detailed information and advice. Then keep writing. With each book, if you continue to take care writing it, editing it, and polishing it, should be better than the one before.
++ Sometimes we ask ourselves if we have indeed! But you learn from mistakes and continue to improve your craft. I chose my current genre from the adage that everyone needs something to hope for and someone to love, and I find as I travel doing appearances, there is SUCH a need for hope in this country! (Traveling also places you in bookstores, where you can view firsthand the current trend.) People measure success in so many ways, too. For me, true success is how many lives are touched in a positive way, and getting even one email from a young reader who says they are inspired to pursue their own dreams makes all of the battles worthwhile!
>>It’s also said that everyone has a book inside that begs to be written. Most people don’t do it. It requires discipline and organization. After all, unlike going to work each day no one makes you sit down and write. A person can talk about it forever, but you have to write, get words down on the page. That’s why the computer is so wonderful. You can write and come back to it. Even if you don’t like what you’ve written, you’ve gotten an idea down on paper and, believe me the characters will take it from there. Success means different things to different people. Just make your book the best it can be and don’t worry about others will say.
## For me, writing the book is the easy part. The hard part is the promotion and marketing work that comes after the book is published. My novels are considered young adult because there are no 3- page descriptions of blood dripping down walls, grisly murders or intense sex scenes. Truth is that I write stories that I won't be embarrassed if my family reads.
6 – WHEN DO YOU DO YOUR WRITING?
++Anytime I can! I have no set routine. I just try to write a little every single day. I compose my books in steps – hand write a scene first, then enter it in my computer, print out the page and do some editing, and then go back and enter corrections into the computer. So if I am stuck creatively with the writing, I simply skip to another step in the process!
** p.m.terrell is the internationally acclaimed author of three suspense/thrillers: Ricochet, The China Conspiracy, and Kickback; a how-to book for authors, Take the Mystery out of Promoting Your Book, and four non-fiction computer books. Go to http://www.pmterrell.com/ or http://www.mysterypromotion.com/ for more information.
## Susan Eileen Walker lives in New Bern, North Carolina with a rat terrier named Grizzly who thinks he is the boss. When she is not working as a medical transcriptionist or writing her next story, Susan divides her time between daydreaming, singing and making hats for infants and children. Her published works include 101 Borden Street and Maura's Trunk and I Am the Quigglebush Bear. Keene Publishing/Moo Press released her latest young adult novel, Secret of the Dance, in September 2006. You can learn more about Susan and her books at www.authorsden.com/susaneileenwalker
++ L. Diane Wolfe’s Southern-based series, The Circle of Friends, focuses on the pursuit of dreams and the overcoming of obstacles. The stories intertwine as the characters learn that with belief and encouragement, they can achieve anything. The author averages over eighty appearances and interviews each year, maintains a website & blog for her series, contributes articles for several other sites, and conducts seminars on publishing & goal setting. Meant to inspire as well as entertain, Wolfe’s books have been described as “encouragement personified”. The author loves people and does not believe in the word impossible. “When the dream’s big enough, the facts don’t count!” The Circle of Friends website- http://www.thecircleoffriends.net/ and Blog -http://circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com/
>> Patti O'Donoghue launched her first book, The Stanhope Trilogy, Book One, Celia, in spring 2006. She continues the adventures of Celia and Goldie in Where America’s Day Begins (America’s day does begin on the island of Guam, USA, an American territory in the western Pacific). The book is due to be released in Spring of 2007. Ms. O’Donoghue holds an advanced SCUBA rating which she received at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Her diving experiences include sites in the tropical waters of Guam, Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Ponape and the islands of Palau. She has explored wrecks of ships and aircraft of World War Two that can still be found in the waters off these western Pacific Islands. Fact and fiction of numerous wrecks have fed her imagination to create the Trilogy stories. Ms. O’Donoghue has served as Director of Public Information at Mount Olive College, Mount Olive, NC and as President of the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce. Her writing and photography have appeared in magazines and newspapers. Her husband's 33-year Air Force career took the family to Germany, Turkey, Guam and bases in the United States. Patti and Greg O’Donoghue are the parents of five children and the servants of one cat, Miss Kitty. She is currently working on the third book in the Stanhope Trilogy, The Wreck. http://www.stanhopetrilogy.com/