Kim: In terms of background, Sarah and I “met” on line when her publicist recommended my book, and although we’ve exchanged tons of emails, we’re never sat down face to face. Getting connected to other writers has been one of the unexpected pleasures of publishing a book!
KIM: So many people believe they have a book in them. What does it take to go from “Someday I’ll write a novel” to actually writing one?
SARAH: Writing is like training for a marathon. You have to get out there every single day – if it’s raining or it’s cold. Runners don’t let little things like shin splints or the wind stop them and I think writers need to be just as tough. On days when the words are coming slowly and every sentence feels like torture, it’s important to fight through and stay focused on your goal. You can always go back and fix the words later, but it’s important to capture them on paper first.
KIM: So true, but just the thought of a marathon probably scares a lot of would-be writers off.
SARAH: I always feel a bit badly when writers are dismissive of others who want to write books. Just a few years ago, I was a person who talked about wanting to write a book and one day, I made the leap. I believe others who want to write a book are just as capable of it and no one should discourage them.
Do you agree that writers should just keep plodding through the rough spots? Or do you find taking a break and clearing your mind helps?
KIM: I think you have to plod through the first draft and then walk away. Sort of like your running analogy. You don’t stop in the middle of a run, but after a hard effort you give yourself a couple of days off for recovery. I usually take a month long break after a draft and work on other things. I find that when I come back I can read the book more clearly and cleanly, almost as if someone else has written it. I’m in a better position to see where the problems are and how to fix them.
SARAH: My agent sold The Opposite of Me when I was six months pregnant, so I began writing Skipping a Beat with a newborn on my chest. My time was more fractured. With The Opposite I had longer stretches when my older boys were in school to write, but with Skipping I had to get good at writing in little spurts. Some of the best advice I got was from my editor who told me to begin my second book before the first one was published. She said that bad reviews would paralyze me and good ones would make me want to rewrite the same book. I’m glad I listened to her!
Do you ever get writer’s block? Do you even believe it exists?
KIM: There are two very different ways in which people get blocked. One is when they say they want to write and can’t get started. They keep waiting for the perfect time – when their kids are grown, their house is clean, everybody’s happy and they have all sorts of free time. Needless to say, that day never comes. They might also be confused about their motivation. A lot of people think the fact they love to read means that they should try to write.
But then there are people who have written whole books and suddenly run up against the wall. I always suspect that’s because the writing has taken them into some dark corner of their minds. They’ve run up against issues that are personal and hard to write about and it’s easier to say “I’m blocked” than it is to say “This idea scares me.”
SARAH: But that’s where the best writing comes from.