Best-selling author (and my friend) Karen McQuestion recently invited me to participate in a “blog roll,” wherein authors share their writing process. Karen is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, so how could I refuse?
If you’re not familiar with Karen’s work, she’s written 10 novels in a variety of genres, including A Scattered Life, Easily Amused, The Long Way Home, Edgewood, and Celia and the Fairies. Her next book comes out in September.
Update: Karen has recently redsigned her website so her post is no longer up, but following is my take:
1. What am I working on?
Last week I submitted a new manuscript to my publisher (yahoo!!). Hey Daphne is the story of three college friends who reunite on a tropical island to celebrate a milestone birthday. If all goes according to schedule, the book will come out in the spring of 2015. I’m so excited!
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My publisher often describes my books as “chick lit with a brain,” which I think is pretty accurate. I’ve received countless emails from readers saying my books made them laugh and cry and laugh again. I love getting emails like that. I keep them in a special folder, and every once in a while I open it and reread some of them. Doing that never fails to make me smile.
3. Why do I write what I do?
In my personal life I love to entertain friends with funny, colorful, often ridiculous stories based on my real experiences, and that has translated to the way I write—although I make up most of what I write. When I sit down at my desk to begin a book, I approach my storytelling the same way. How can I make my readers care about the characters? How can I make them laugh? How can I make them cry? How can I keep them engaged? If I tried to write a murder mystery I don’t think I’d get past the first two pages. My brain doesn’t work that way!
4. How does my writing process work?
When I’m working on the first draft of a book, I make myself write at least one thousand words a day, Monday through Friday. If I’m on a roll I write much more than that, but a strict minimum keeps me moving forward and making progress. It’s easy to wordsmith for hours, but at the end of the day if you haven’t increased your word count, you’re never going to get to the end. (It’s also mentally taxing, because you feel like you’re not getting anywhere despite all your hard work.) My favorite part of the process is after I’ve finished that first draft, when I can read the entire manuscript from the beginning and tweak, edit, and add details that really make the story shine. (Then I turn it into my wonderful editor, who gives me invaluable feedback for the revision.)
5. And the other part of this question, how does my writing process not work?
My writing process doesn’t work on the weekends. My brain shuts down and demands a break. I also can’t write if I’m drinking alcohol—even half a glass of wine and my mind starts to wander. I may be the only writer on earth who can’t drink and write!
Now I’m passing the figurative torch of this blog roll to….
My friends Jessica Massa and Rebecca Coale co-founded The Gaggle, a modern (and humorous) guide to dating. Who’s in your Gaggle? Check out their fun website for all sorts of useful tips on how to navigate today’s single life. And here’s their take on the writing process.
Katie Mahon: I met Katie at a women’s conference in Boston, and we became fast friends. She co-wrote an inspirational book called The Miracle Chase with two buddies, and now she’s working on her first solo piece in which she shares some more than a few words of wisdom about parenthood. It’s a “momoir” if you will. Read more about Katie and The Miracle Chase here.