Wednesday, May 16, 2012

More FAQs about the Writing Life

Note: Linda O. Johnston has been unexpectedly called away, so Joanna is taking her place.

Continuing my theme from Monday, here are a few more questions that I hear often when I'm signing books...

1.  So how does a book happen? I mean, do you just go lock yourself in an office and it flows? 

I wish! My friend Alan Orloff calculated that it takes about 40 hours to write an 80,000-word book if you type 60 words a minute or so. (I should have paid better attention to the math!) But it takes six months to find out if you have the right words. And maybe another six to put them in the right order.

Sometimes the words do flow. Sometimes I know exactly what should happen next. Other times, I hesitate. My friend Shirley Damsgaard often uses index cards to write upcoming scenes. That's helpful. My other friend, Emilie Richards, told me that Linda Lael Miller uses a "twenty question" technique where she asks herself twenty things that COULD happen.

Most of all, I just keep at it!

2. When you go on book tour, your publicist sets all that up for you, right?

 Wrong. I set up my schedule. I call the booksellers or scrapbook stores or libraries that I hope to visit. I set up and pay for my travel, meals and lodging. I have my own "recycling" plan, because any money I make while touring, I recycle back into my career.

My publicists do keep busy. Both my publicists (one from Berkley and one from Midnight Ink) handle lots of other writers, so the best use of their time is to send ARCs (Advance Reader's/Reading Copies) to reviewers and write galley letters.

I have a third publicist, the fantastic and talented Maryglenn McCombs, she of the cool shoes. Maryglenn is working with me on my dime to promote the new Jane Eyre series.

3. I have a child who's really good at writing. What suggestions can you give me for helping her/him?

Obviously, you should encourage any talents or interests that your children have. With a child who writes, I suggest you make sure to supply him/her with a lot of books and reading time. I've noticed that the best writers are by far and away, the best readers. Also, when they are ready for higher education, I strongly suggest a career in journalism. Yes, creative writing is good, but I think that journalism is a great first platform because it teaches discipline and the basics of good composition.

4. But I mean my kid is REALLY good. How can I get her stuff published?

Stay tuned...I'll write about that next week.


Joyce Lavene said...

Good blog, Joanna! I hear those too!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

I think everyone does!