We know readers tend to be writers too, so we feature writing tips from our authors. Who better to offer advice, insight, and inspiration than the authors you admire? They’ll answer several questions about their work, share their go-to techniques and more. Now, get writing!
What writing techniques have you found most important or memorable?
For me, learning different ways to structure a story was crucial, and still is! I’m always on the lookout for great structuring tips. While outlining, in order to ensure causal plotting, I use the phrase “WHICH CAUSED” between scenes. For example: “The queen caught a cold. The queen died. The king died.” This isn’t causal plotting. But “The queen caught a cold.” WHICH CAUSED “The queen to die of that cold.” WHICH CAUSED “The king to die of heartbreak.” This helps me to make sure that one moment causes the next moment.
How would you recommend creating and getting to know your characters?
I have a background in journalism, so I recommend reporting — even for fiction. For Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes, I called a slew of Sex and Gender professors (not unlike my main character Ally) and interviewed them, asking questions about anything and everything including their jobs, daily schedules, likes and dislikes, opinions on current events, etc.
After developing an idea, what is the first action you take when beginning to write?
I actually do everything at once: I start writing scenes that I’m 90 percent sure will end up in the story, I start researching, and I start outlining. And most importantly, I start imagining the ending so that I can start planning the beginning. My outline is fluid and evolving — I go back and make changes to my outline throughout the writing process so that I complete the outline only a short while before I finish the book.
Is there something you do to get into a writing mood? Somewhere you go or something you do to get thinking?
Yes! I work in cafes mostly, where I have endless access to coffee and WiFi, and if I have serious, important writing to do, I plug into my earphones and listen to the Dave Matthews Band!
Did you always want to write? How did you start your career as an author?
No. I wanted to be an actress. I actually still do, but I’m too chicken. But everything I know about writing came from years and years of studying acting. I studied everywhere, with everyone; learned how to break down a scene, how to create and motivate character, how to write dialogue, etc.
What’s the best piece of advice you have received?
That you should try to write every day, even if it’s just for ten or twenty minutes. I don’t do this — but every writer I admire gives this advice and says they heed it!
What clichés or bad habits would you tell aspiring writers to avoid? Do you still experience them yourself?
My worst habit is not writing daily, for sure. I’m pretty good about not using adverbs. Adverbs are deadly, unless you’re J.K. Rowling, who uses them all the time, so go figure…
Read more about Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes here.