Writing From Life: Jessica Scott On Being a Writer and a Soldier

Jessica Scott is a bestselling author, career army officer, mother of two daughters, and wife to a career NCO. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of OIF/New Dawn and has had the honor of serving as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas twice. We sat down with Jessica to learn more about her writing process and what it’s like to be a writer and a soldier (and a soldier’s wife).

When did you decide to begin writing army romance novels? What made you want to write in this genre?

I started writing my Coming Home series waaay back in 2007 when my husband was on his second deployment and I was at Fort Benning for Officer Candidate jessica dawsonSchool. I spent a lot of time at the Borders and Barnes and Noble because I’ve always been a book girl. Everything I’d read that had a military hero (and there were very few women) were all either romantic suspense or about former soldiers. I wanted to write stories about soldiers who were still in the army, still dealing with the war and trying to balance everything out. I wanted to write in this format because I hoped that people would pick up my books who wouldn’t necessarily pick up The Long Way Home or any nonfiction about the war. I wanted to tell soldiers’ stories in a way that I felt like I was uniquely positioned to do, if that makes sense.

Do you write more from the point of view of an army wife, or a soldier?

I’d say I write more from the soldier’s point of view. I mean, I am an army wife, too (my husband retired last year) but my soldier identity is much more salient. The couple of stories I wrote with civilian spouses, though, I definitely channeled in my fears and anxieties and everything that goes along with waiting for your spouse to come home from war.

Having written so many romance novels involving soldiers, what made you decide to write a memoir about your time in Iraq?

I wanted to put my story out there not only for readers who might want to see what I had gone through but also for other soldiers – especially other women and moms – who were deploying. I wanted them to know that hey, this is going to be rough but you can get through it. Here’s all the good and the bad and everything in between, no filters.

Was it difficult to write about your time as a soldier? Were there certain memories you didn’t want to revisit?

It’s still hard to go back and read some of those passages. There was a lot of rawness to both the deployment and the homecoming that I didn’t really edit out when I was putting the books together. There’s some things that will never go on the page. And yeah, there’s stuff that’s still tender, if that makes sense. It surprises me when sometimes the barriers drop and something hits me hard. It’s like I never really expect it.

In your books is it always the male character who is the soldier, or have you written some female soldiers as well?

I have several books where the female character is a soldier.  Until There Was You, All for You & It’s Always Been You all have female soldiers. My upcoming novella All I Want For Christmas Is You, published in a bundle with a story by the fabulous JoAnn Ross, also features a female soldier. So yeah, the active duty ladies get plenty of page time in my books.

What do you love about writing?

I think the best part is getting lost in the story. I absolutely love it when the words are just coming and you lose track of time and the next thing you know a whole day is gone. The second best part is revisions. I know, I know, that may be a sickness but I really love taking those raw words and making them into something so much richer, you know?

Is there a particular book or author who inspires you?

You know there are so many. Laura Kinsale has been an inspiration for as long as I can remember reading. I got to meet her at RWA this year and it was so amazing. Anne McCaffrey has also been a long time favorite. When I get stuck, though, I go back and reread Nalini Singh’s Archangel’s Blade or Archangel’s Storm. She’s got such an amazing, rich worlds and characters.

My Writing Life: Kevin McLeod

kevinmcleodWhen did you first discover a love of writing? Is there a particular book that made you want to become a writer?

I loved writing short stories at school when I was growing up. I used to look forward to writing time every day. My stories were always about myself and my friends in some amazing adventure. The book that really made me want to write was The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King. It was a story that he wrote for his children who wanted his dad to write something other than horror stories for a change. I fell in love with the story and I’ve read it many times since. The classic good vs. evil battle and the devious ‘baddie’ make it an excellent book for children.

What’s your favourite book? What was your favourite book as a child?

Now my favourite is Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane and as a child it was The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King.

Where do you get your story ideas?

I take inspiration from places I’ve been. Once I have the setting the story grows from there. For example the Viking’s Apprentice is set in a town called Campbell’s Cove which is based on a real village in Scotland called Furnace. This is where my wife grew up so I have been there many times and the location is perfect for my story.

I have a strong imagination so a dark wood, or cave on the water’s edge become places of fantastic possibilities and adventures for my characters.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

You have to believe in yourself, if you don’t truly believe in your writing no one else will either. Also don’t write for money, write for enjoyment. When you enjoy what you do you produce better work and others will enjoy it too.

Do you believe in Writer’s Block?

Yes I do, and I have suffered from it on several occasions. It is the single most frustrating thing that can happen to a writer. You know the characters, you know your own story so why won’t the words flow on to the page!?

If there was one writer (alive or deceased) that you would love to meet, who would it be?

It has to be Stephen King for me as I want to ask him about The Eyes of the Dragon and whether the story about his children asking him to write it is correct.

What’s your favourite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures?

Everyone always assumes I will say children or YA fiction for this, but actually I love thrillers. Dennis Lehane and R.J. Ellory are my favourite writers. My guilty pleasure is still The Eyes of the Dragon.

Also I love reading to my kids, I love reading the Gruffalo series to them and enjoy doing all the voices. That might be my guilty pleasure!

What made you decide to self-publish?

Several things in the end made me choose self-publishing. I was so naive at first that I didn’t know anything about self-publishing other than ‘Vanity publishing’. I tried to get an agent on board but after enough rejection letters to fashion a paper mache model of myself I decided that I would try self-publishing.

I read up on it, and after realizing how much the self-published world has changed. With sites like Kobo making it easy to get your work in front of readers I decided to believe in myself one more time and take the leap.

I believed in my story and had had good feedback from the people that had read it. This was enough to make me decide to self-publish. I’m so glad I did. My books have both been number 1 in their genre on Amazon.com UK and in Canada. They have been taken on by schools in Scotland as reading books for kids 8 – 11.

Are there any self-publishing tricks of the trade you’d like to share? What rules of craft or promotion do you live by?

A good cover is crucial, readers can be put off just by a glance if they don’t like what they see. Remember your cover has to stand out in thumbnail size on a website against all the other work on that search page.

Formatting is also crucial, once your work is complete, edited and ready to go remember that different e-readers take different formatting. Make sure you take the time to make your book look it’s best on all platforms.

Tell people about your book and about yourself, but don’t just sell sell sell. People don’t respond to that. Write a blog with useful content, interact on twitter and facebook. Have discussions with your readers, get to know them.

Speak to other authors who are further down the journey. Most will help you. We are a supporting community!

One promotion that helps me more than any other is getting out to schools and speaking to the children. Taking the time to answer their questions and listen to their ideas about your work. Children have amazing imaginations and we can learn a lot from them. I love my school visits and it’s very rewarding hearing how much your target readers love your work.

What has been the biggest ‘wow’ moment of your journey as a writer?

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Check out Kevin’s Viking’s Apprentice Series

There have been two so far that have blown me away. The first was being told by a teacher that my first book turned a boy who hated to read into someone who loved reading hour and always wanted to be chosen to read my book to the rest of his class.

As recently as yesterday this was topped. I got a message to my Facebook page from a mother in Singapore who told me her son was dressing up as Peter from The Viking’s Apprentice for literacy week at his school. Why did he choose Peter? He choose him as Peter is his favourite character in literature. WOW! What a compliment. To have a child choose to do this for that reason is amazing. I’ve never felt so honoured or proud of my work. It made my day and I’m still smiling about it!

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You can also find Kevin:

On facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheVikingsApprentice

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bannon1975

On Pintrest: http://www.pinterest.com/bannon1975/

On his blog: http://thevikingsapprentice.blogspot.co.uk/

On his website: http://www.kevinmcleodauthor.com/

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My Writing Life – J.E. Taylor

Taylor's PictureWhen did you first discover a love of writing? Is there a particular book that made you want to become a writer?

I started writing stories when I was in middle school (7th and 8th) grade. My first short story was entitled Good-bye Doesn’t Mean Forever and I received an A+ on it in my writing class. That story has morphed over the years from a pre-teen story to an adult romance titled Miami Heat.

I wrote poetry and short stories through my college years and started my first novel back in college under the title Mirror Lake. When I got married, my husband balked at the time I was putting into writing – well new marriage and all, I decided to put my writing away for a bit. Then I had a family and a full time career in corporate America and we all know how that goes.

It wasn’t until I was whining about work that my daughter asked if I could do anything, what would it be? The answer was easy. Finish writing the book I put on ice for twenty years and publish it.

Mirror Lake became Dark Reckoning and it was originally published in 2010 by Fido Publishers.

Since then, I haven’t looked back.

What’s your favourite book? What was your favourite book as a child? The Stand  by Steven King is my all-time favorite. As a kid, I read the entire Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan Series and loved it.

Night+HawkWhere do you get your story ideas?

It’s a walk into the darkest corners of my imagination where my nightmares fester until something living and breathing escapes onto the screen of my laptop.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

A good editor is priceless.

And if you decide the traditional publishing route is your thing, know what a query letter should contain. It’s not a dissertation on your life or your assertion that the story is the best thing since sliced bread, it’s a teaser of the book. Think movie trailer or book descriptions on the back or inside sleeve of a hard cover. Just enough so that agent or publisher HAS to know more.

Where do you usually write?

In a comfy oversized chair in my family room. There’s a picture of it on my website.

Do you believe in Writer’s Block?

No. I believe in taking the time to work out plot snares when you’ve backed yourself into a corner – but writer’s block – no. You can always write a short ditty while you’re turning over what needs to be done to get unstuck. Or you can step away and read something to clear the mind.

Give us an example of some of the research you’ve done for your books:

The main character in Dark Reckoning is an FBI agent and yet when I started writing the book, I had never handled, never mind shot, a fire arm. I happened to mention this to a few co-workers and lo and behold, one of them owned several different types of guns and offered to take me shooting. You bet I jumped on that and we went out to a range and I got to shoot a .22 caliber – which I hit the target consistently – not always in the center – but I did get one or two there, a .40 caliber – disaster – I’m not sure I hit the hay bale the target hung on with this one and a 9mm – not great but not a total miss like the .40 caliber.

It gave me a clear picture of how much talent is involved in being an expert marksman and a clue of how difficult it would be to hit a moving target.

Other interesting research items revolve around forensics, arterial spurts, bleed out timing, explosives, drugs…

All things a suspense/thriller and horror writer should know. I’m sure my Google searches have me on some kind of watch list.

If there was one writer (alive or deceased) that you would love to meet, who would it be?               

The author of my favorite book – Stephen King. I’d be willing to buy him dinner in any Maine shoreline restaurant just for the chance to pick his brain while enjoying the rugged scenery and of course, a Maine Lobster.

What’s your favourite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures?

Horror, thriller, suspense, even good erotica – yes, there’s a theme. Anything that gets the blood pumping. :)

Are there any self-publishing tricks of the trade you’d like to share? What rules of craft or promotion do you live by?

In order to understand how to create powerful prose, I chose to invest in a series of Margie Lawson classes: Deep Editing, Empowering Characters Emotions and Writing Physical Cues like a Psychologist. These helped me understand my weaknesses as well as what the early rejections I got meant by “Getting into a character’s head”.

Writing should be three dimensional – and use all the senses. My early drafts were visual – like watching a movie with no sound or depth. So the investment in my craft took it to the next level and after revising the hell out of the manuscripts and short stories I had, I started getting bites and eventually that first publishing contract.

And I can’t say this enough – GET A COPY EDITOR to run through the manuscript before you hit publish. Not your best friend who has a minor in English or someone who likes to read a lot – get someone who understands the rules of grammar and the nuances of when it’s okay to break the rules and when its not.

No matter how good your story is, if the grammar or punctuation make it impossible to read, you won’t get far.

the-steve-williams-thriller-series-box-set

View some of Taylor’s work here

 

You can also find Taylor:

On facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JETaylor

On Twitter: https://twitter.com/JETaylor75

On her website: http://www.jetaylor75.com/

 

My Writing Life: Mark Dawson

markdawsonWhen did you first discover a love of writing? Is there a particular book that made you want to become a writer?

I’ve always wanted to write. My first book was a 25,000 word sci-fi story that I put together on BBC Micros when I stayed late at school. It was dreadful, of course, but it was a great start. Was there a particular book? Not really. It was more a love of reading everything and anything but, when I was older, I’d point to books like The Stand, American Psycho, Money and the Thomas Covenant series.

Where do you get your story ideas?

Newspapers are a pretty fertile source of ideas. My John Milton series deals in contemporary events, and so recent stories from Somalia and Iraq have been fruitful in providing me with ideas for plot and setting. Relevant non-fiction is brilliant when you are in the drafting. My present novel is set in Basra and so I’m reading the excellent Red Zone by Oliver Poole. And then, of course, there’s TV and film. My Soho Noir series has been described as a cross between The Sopranos and The Talented Mr. Ripley, and that’s something I’ll happily take to the bank.

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Check out Mark’s best-selling Soho Noir series

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

Write. Write. Write. And then do it again.

Where do you usually write?

On the train. I commute to London at the moment and I have never found a better spot to get stuff done. It’s 3 hours every day, too, and so I can easily plough through 5,000 words a day.

Do you believe in Writer’s Block?

No. If you’re out of ideas, go for a walk. We have a dog and some beautiful fields very close (we live in Wiltshire in England) and I found a bit of exercise usually works wonders. I was struggling with a tricky plot point this morning and it was solved by the time I was back for breakfast.

What’s your favourite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures?

I love thrillers, sci-fi and fantasy, but I can be tempted to read just about anything. Guilty pleasures? A friend recently dabbled in chick lit and I was pleased to find that I quite enjoyed that. Who doesn’t like a happy ending?

the-john-milton-series-books-1-3

Introduce yourself to Mark’s thrilling John Milton series

What made you decide to self-publish?

I was traditionally published at the start of my career and although I received generous advances I was disillusioned by a lack of marketing, no input on covers, that sort of thing. Self-publishing blows all of those up once and for all. Now, I am responsible for getting the books out and making readers aware of them. I have final say on the covers, although I am blessed to work with a professional who has designed UK covers for Stephen King and John Le Carre, among many others. And then, of course, there is the immediate contact with readers that I never had before. True story: I once found a copy of Subpoena Colada in a second hand book shop with a handwritten note of comments about what worked and what didn’t work. I wish I could have met that person, because she was spot on. I do get to meet that person now – I get emails from readers nearly every day and I love it.

Are there any self-publishing tricks of the trade you’d like to share? What rules of craft or promotion do you live by?

I don’t think you can trick or game your way to success. Readers are not dumb and you will be found out. You have to write well. That’s a given. You have to have a great cover and your blurb needs to rock. The first few pages are going to be read as previews, so make sure that you start with really strong writing (and then don’t let up). I make a point of nurturing my email list and I will always respond to emails from people who get in touch. That’s not a chore – I defy you to find a writer who doesn’t get a thrill every time someone tells them that they’ve enjoyed their new book. I bet JK Rowling still feels that way. I know I do.

Why do I want to publish on Kobo?

Because I want as many people as possible to read my books, in markets where other retailers struggle to make headway. As a British author with a long standing fondness for WH Smith (fostered during a childhood spent exchanging hard won pocket money for magazines for my Spectrum and Commodore 64), I’d get a real thrill to be sold through them. Oh, and Canada rocks.

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You can also find Mark:

On facebook: https://www.facebook.com/markdawsonauthor

On Twitter: https://twitter.com/pbackwriter

My Writing Life: Paul Pilkington

Tell me a bit about your writing

emma-holden-suspense-mystery-trilogyI write suspense mysteries, and have self-published one standalone novel, Someone to Save You, and the Emma Holden trilogy – this includes The One You Love, The One You Fear, and The One You Trust. It follows the story of actress Emma Holden, whose fiancé Dan disappearances just before their wedding, leaving the beaten body of his brother in their London apartment. Emma is forced to confront a painful past in a race against time to discover what happened to Dan. I first self-published in 2011, after investigating how to publish e-books – I had been writing regularly since 1999 and it seemed like an amazing opportunity to connect with readers. After my success with self-publishing, I was approached by a number of agents and publishers. And in Spring 2013 I signed a three book deal for the Emma Holden trilogy with publisher Hodder and Stoughton in the UK. This involves publication of the trilogy in paperback and e-book during the first half of 2014.

How did you choose your publisher in the UK?

My agent in the UK offered the Emma Holden trilogy to UK publishers – two of whom offered. I thought long and hard about which offer to accept, if any! Both were great deals, with brilliant publishers, but I was also comfortable remaining self-published. It was a very difficult (and enviable) decision, but ultimately I decided to accept the offer from Hodder and Stoughton (part of Hachette). They offered the possibility of appearing in mainstream bookstores, and reaching new readers. I met with the Editor and it was clear that the publisher really believed in my work, and would be enthusiastic about working on the trilogy. For me, that was really important. I also felt that it would be a great learning experience to work with a mainstream publisher.

What were your expectations as to the publishing contract? Have you been able to ask for specific clauses?

I was lucky, in that I had a big agency behind me, to negotiate with the publisher. So by the time the contract was agreed, I was happy with it. One aspect that is important in these days of self-publishing, is that there is a clear “reversion of rights” clause in the event that the books go out of print. This means that a publisher can’t hold on to the rights, even if the book is no longer available in paperback. I was pleased with that aspect of the contract, as it means that I could return to self-publishing the books.

Why did you retain your rights in North America?

I really enjoy the control and freedom that you have with self-publishing – working with editors, designing the cover, setting the price, deciding on strategy. So I was keen to keep my rights in North America, even though I had signed the deal with Hodder elsewhere. It’s really interesting to be doing both, comparing how things go. For me it offers a fantastic opportunity to be a “hybrid” author: working with a professional publishing house while also doing my own thing – being my own publisher.

How did you work with Kobo?

Kobo have been very supportive of me since I published my novels through Kobo Writing Life. The first time I realised that the Kobo team were taking an interest in my work was when I received an email from a member of the Kobo team, letting me know that I was on the Kobo Writing Life Bestseller list. Later, The One You Fear, the second novel in my Emma Holden trilogy, was chosen for a global promotion that ran throughout December 2013. Through Kobo I’ve reached a worldwide audience, with particular success in Canada, and I’m looking forward to self-publishing more books with Kobo in the near future.

What are your plans for the future?

It’s too early to say what will happen in terms of my traditional publishing, but what is certain is that I will continue to self-publish. I believe that the number of authors who both self-publish and traditionally publish will grow significantly. This will be authors who come from a self-publishing background, who may sign deals with publishers too, as well as established, traditionally published authors who turn to self-publishing to complement their existing publishing relationships and activities. Companies like Kobo offer such great opportunities for writers to take control of their careers, in a way that just wasn’t possible before. There’s never been a better time to be a writer.

Paul Pilkington PhotoAbout Paul

Paul is from the UK. He was inspired to write his first suspense mystery, The One You Love, through his love of novels such as those by Agatha Christie and Harlan Coben. His aim is to create fast-paced, twisting and turning fiction that both stirs the emotions and is hard to put down. Paul has been writing regularly for over twelve years and has had material broadcast on BBC radio and ITV television, as well as being long listed for the 2004 London Book Fair Lit Idol competition.

My Writing Life – Michael Rank

Michael Rank is the author of nine history books. He covers everything from Bronze Age civilizations to Kim Jong-Il, but his guiding principle is to make history as interesting as possible.

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Michael’s newest release is Lost Civilizations: 10 Societies that Vanished Without a Trace

Michael is also the author of History’s Greatest Generals: 10 Commanders Who Conquered Empires, Revolutionized Warfare, and Changed History Forever.He has been writing and publishing since 2012, along with hosting the podcast “History in Five Minutes.” He is also working on a PhD in Ottoman history but has way more fun writing history books than he does reading old documents in an obscure language.

So why do you write history books? I thought the book market only wants YA dystopian fiction or S&M bondage thrillers targeted to soccer moms.

I can’t help it – I am an unmedicated history addict. The subject likely bored most of us out of our minds when we were in high school, memorizing facts about the Battle of Gettysburg to pass our AP test. But when you dig past the boiler plate and look into the lives of actual historical figures, you find them every bit as sensational and odd as our modern-day celebrities and politicians.

Take Richard Burton – the man I believe to be the real-life World’s Most Interesting Man. The Victorian explorer learned 29 languages, went undercover as a Muslim on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and wrote 50 books on topics ranging from a translation of the Kama Sutra to a manual on bayonet exercises. He was a career diplomat but often neglected his duties to go on side adventures, such as doing a 2,000-mile solo kayaking journey down the San Francisco River and hiking the Andes Mountains down to Tierra Del Fuego.

So my advice is to write what you care about. Your interests may not be the most marketable, but your reader will be able to tell if you hate the subject.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

The best advice I’ve received as a writer is as useful as it is absurdly straightforward.

Write.

Yes, yes, I know. Mind blowing. That is about as profound as saying that a successful runner must breath in order to build up endurance. But unlike our hypothetical runner – who simply dies if he does not breath – there are many self-proclaimed “writers” who never write. They claim the title as their profession but never put out a word. Why? Paralysis by analysis.

Too many people believe that the key to excellent writing is to meditate at your keyboard and only spoon out tiny servings of words whenever the muse whispers in your ear. Such a process seems appropriate for creating a literary work of art – like a painter at a canvas dabbing away with microscopic brushstrokes – but it is not how the great writers did their craft.

Take Isaac Asimov for example. The doyen of sci-fi wrote over 500 books – the only writer to publish books in every category of the Dewey Decimal System. That’s a book every two weeks for over 25 years. How did he do it? It sure wasn’t by a slow, contemplative process. Asimov wrote in a fast, straightforward style and attacked his typewriter; believing that output was far better than deeply nuanced dithering.

Here’s a quote of his that explains his process far better than I ever could: “I made up my mind long ago to follow one cardinal rule in all my writing—to be clear. I have given up all thought of writing poetically or symbolically or experimentally, or in any of the other modes that might (if I were good enough) get me a Pulitzer prize. I would write merely clearly and in this way establish a warm relationship between myself and my readers, and the professional critics—Well, they can do whatever they wish.”

Why did you decide to self-publish?

Making a full-time living as a traditionally published author is almost impossible; partly because you keep so little royalties, and partly because a publisher’s agonizingly slow process of book production reduces an author’s output of everyone but James Patterson to one book a year. Authors need a wide catalogue to make a living and build a readership. That would take a decade with a traditional publisher.

How do you get ideas for your books?

From readers! I’m constantly sending out emails, asking them what historical topic they want me to write or podcast about. If I ask people what they want, and give it to them, then how can I go wrong?

Michael RankVisit Michael’s website at http://michaelrank.net and his History in Five Minutes podcast by clicking here.

Here is a link to all of Michael’s books on Kobo

 

Writing Advice from Author Graeme Simsion: Do the Hard Yards

It has to be every writer’s dream: Knock out your first novel, sit back, and let the accolades and money pour in.

Graeme SimsionThat’s more or less what it looks like happened to author Graeme Simsion, whose first novel The Rosie Project  that  has taken up almost permanent residence on bestseller lists worldwide, has been optioned for a movie, and spawned a deal for a second novel called The Rosie Effect, due this fall.

He calls The Rosie Project a “romantic comedy”, offering a clue to his background as a screenwriter; he is also a former IT guy, where he found inspiration for his socially challenged lead character Don Tillman.

Simsion visited Kobo recently, and we took the opportunity to ask him how he did it – how he landed publishers in 21 countries, and what his writing process is.  Turns out, it isn’t as easy as it looks to create a beloved bestseller.

Here is what he told us:

You’ve had so much success for a first-time novelist, do you have any tips for new writers?

First off, it takes a lot of work. To write something successfully, you need to put in the hard-yards that you would do with any other task in your life.

Another thing I tell people is, join a writer’s class or a writing group. These aren’t going to guarantee that you’ll become a writer, but if you go in with the right attitude you’ll get all kinds of things out of it: Discipline, writing theory, feedback, support. I found a writer’s group fantastic to work with, especially for The Rosie Project. Another tip I would give is, write for publication. So write short stories. Get some practice. If you do get published, it feels good!  But more importantly, when you’re looking for an agent or a publisher and your opening letter starts off with ‘I have had the following short stories published, this one has won such-and-such prize, etc.’ it  says this person is not mad, they are actually capable of writing and getting published, and that means heaps.

The third thing I would say is, you can always make it better. Put whatever you’re writing aside for a month or so, come back to it, and you’ll be able to lift it up a level. That attitude really helps with getting a fantastic final draft.

The+Rosie+ProjectWhat was the process like of writing The Rosie Project? You went from screenplay, to novel, to screenplay once again.

When I started out, I didn’t think I had it in me to write a novel. But once the screenplay The Rosie Project was finished I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got plot, I’ve got characters. I’ve got dialogue, I’m almost three-quarters of the way there… maybe it’s not such a big jump.’  I found writing it as a novel was much more satisfying because I was able to get into Don’s head. In a screenplay everything has to be externalized. But Don is so cerebral that I needed his voice to be expressed directly to the audience – and that was so much easier to do in a novel.

What did screenwriting teach you about writing novels?

Screenwriting teaches you story. Having also studied prose writing I’ve noticed there’s an emphasis on writing something beautiful and less on writing a good story. It’s almost a bit like the attitude about melody in music; people view a song that has a good melody being less of a fine piece of music. But in the end, melody is not a bad thing! And melody is equivalent to story. There’s no reason why the most beautiful piece of writing can’t hang on the structure of a great story.

You say writers come in two types – the planner, and the “pants-er” who flies by the seat of same. What kind of writer are you?

I am a planner — and so should you be. HA! What I say to people who write by the seat of their pants is, if it’s working for you, don’t let me tell you to write any other way, you just keep going, and win that Pulitzer Prize Donna, and I’m not going to argue with you. But most writers need to uncomplicate a story with a plan.  If you get to 30,000 words and things fall apart and you don’t know where the story is going, that’s classic ‘seat of the pants’ writing problem. With a plan, you never get writer’s block.

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