What writing techniques have you found most important or memorable?
When it comes to revising something, I’ve gotten into the habit of retyping my pages. It sounds pretty time-consuming—and it is—but it’s so worth it. I don’t know how else to get that kind of fresh perspective on a sentence-by-sentence level unless you force yourself to literally rewrite every single line.
After developing an idea, what is the first action you take when beginning to write?
I’ll probably do an outline. Sometimes I just dive straight into the prose, but at a certain point I need to step back and organize my thoughts. Particularly if it’s going to be a book, I’ll end up laying it out chapter by chapter pretty early on. That outline will change radically as I get further in, but it’s good to have a road map. I’m a big fan of lists—I might make a list of all the scenes I already have in mind, or elements that I want to include, just to get it down on paper. If I’m stuck, a list like that is a great resource to look back at.
Is there something you do to get into a writing mood? Somewhere you go or something you do to get thinking?
I need a quiet room and a big, uninterrupted chunk of time. I’m at my most productive when I know that I can devote an entire day to a project—wake up with it and go to sleep with it. But if all else fails… candy.
Did you always want to write? How did you start your career as an author?
I’ve always written, but it wasn’t always clear to me that I could be a writer (whatever that means). When I was a kid, I really believed that I could do anything, but as I got older, it seemed impossible, like I was being foolish if I didn’t have a plan B lined up. I think the first time I really gave myself permission to at least try to be a writer was when I was an undergrad, working on the opening chapters of Motorcycles I’ve Loved, and my writing professor told me it could be a book. I’m not sure I would have allowed myself to entertain that fantasy if someone hadn’t given me the go-ahead. It’s an amazing gift to give someone—to give them permission to go for it. I wish it was easier to give it to ourselves!
What clichés or bad habits would you tell aspiring writers to avoid? Do you still experience them yourself?
Don’t use three words when one will do. I am totally guilty of that, I always have a whole list of adjectives that I cannot part with.
What’s the best piece of advice you have received?
Finish things. I forget where I first heard that, but it’s the most important thing I know about writing. It doesn’t matter how good your ideas or your opening pages are if you don’t finish your project.
Read more about Motorcycles I’ve Loved here.