Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Questions and my truthful answers

Recently I was at a dinner party when my friend informed some of the people that I was a writer. I was bombarded with questions almost immediately. How do you write? Do you use an outline? What is your word count per day? Where do the stories come from? Do you ever get writer's block? Some of the questions were from people who had never met an author before and were curious about the process. Others were wannabe writers who wanted to know everything there was about writing a book. I shouldn't have been surprised by all the questions. Almost every single day I receive emails, messages, etc. about being an author. Please give me advice. How did you make the New York Times? Tell me how to market. Are you a planner or seat-of-pants writer? The list goes on and on. I'm always happy to answer any questions. (Okay, I admit. I get giddy answering them because I'm a book nerd.) But the truth is I remember being in their shoes, looking for answers and wondering how other writers worked. I still find it fascinating to hear other authors' processes and I'm not afraid to ask what they are so it's only fair that I tell you mine.

I can't possibly answer every single question that I get, but I thought I would answer a few common ones...

~How do I come up with stories? This question always surprises me. I don't understand how someone cannot have an imagination. I've lived with mine too long to know anything different. My imagination kept me entertained when I was little and preoccupied when I should have been studying. It was my friend when I was lonely (I was a very, very shy child) and gave me something to daydream about when I was bored. I have never understood people that can't imagine. How can you not? My mind just doesn't comprehend that! The people that don't have an imagination look at me weird when I tell them that my stories play out in my head like a movie. My characters tell me what to write. They can pop in my head out of nowhere. I don't come up with stories. They just appear.

~How do I write? (Aspiring writers ask me this but so do other authors. It's just interesting to know how we each work.) When I start a new book, I open up Word and start typing. It's that simple. Blank page. Chapter One. Go. I write linear, meaning I start at the beginning and write scene by scene until the end. I VERY rarely skip ahead. It's just how my mind works.

~Do you use an outline? Good god, no. If I did it would be a mess. I would probably pull all my hair out and end up curled up in a corner rocking back and forth, crying. That's how much I hate outlines. I do have an idea in my head on where I want the story to go but when my fingers hit the keys everything flies out the window.

~What is my word count per day? It depends. Sometimes I'm lucky if I hit 500. Other days I can easily write 5,000. My best day was @10,000. On average I strive for 2,000 a day. That's my goal.

~Do you write everyday? Yes. I am a full time, this-is-my-job writer. I take my kids (a kindergartener and a teenager) to school, return home, grab some coffee, and start writing. I sit down at my computer around 9:00 a.m. I scan social media, reply to people, answer emails then I get to writing. I break for lunch and stop at 4:00 p.m. to do family stuff. I don't open my laptop again until 10:30 p.m. when everyone has gone to bed. I write until 1:00 a.m. or sometimes later then start all over again at 6:30 a.m. I survive and thrive on five hours of sleep or less. (My mother can testify that I've been this way my whole life.) (And no, I don't drink any Redbulls or Monster drinks. Only two cups of coffee a day.) But those kind of hours aren't for everyone. I do that seven days a week. Sometimes I take a day off but that's rare. I write every single day but weekends are a little slower for me. Sometimes I only write two hours if I have a lot going on Saturday or Sunday. That being said, I don't churn out a book every two months despite spending most of my waking hours writing. I know, you're asking why the heck not. Your guess is as good as mine.

~Do I ever get writer's block? No. There is always something for me to work on. If I get aggravated or stuck on a scene in a book, I'll close it and work on another ongoing book. Somehow that clears my mind and helps me focus.

~You're a New York Times bestselling author. How can I be one? Here's my answer - if I knew I would tell you. Really I would. But please, please, please just write because you want to, not because you're looking for a big paycheck. This is a tough business. Be here because it's your passion. Not because you think you can get rich quick.

~How do you market? I don't. I focus on the writing. Books are marketing. Giveaways, contests, Facebook are taking a gamble on if they will pay off. Your best bet is to write. That is just my opinion. I don't normally talk sales numbers but honestly, my books sales are crazy good and I don't do any marketing. The only time I market is around a book release (and I've been known to not do it then either.)

~I'm a new writer. Any advice? I get this open-ended question a lot. A LOT. So here's my short and sweet answer - write what you love and what you want to read. Period. Don't write something just because it's selling. Don't write about rocker duds because every blooming author out there is writing about them. Write to entertain yourself. Write what you love. You will never, ever, ever make everyone happy so you might as well only make yourself happy. In the end someone will love your book. Just make sure you do first.