It is with pleasure that I invite Louisa Dang to the blog today to talk about her novels, short stories and writing process in general.
1) CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING? HAVE YOU WRITTEN ANY BOOKS AND ARE YOU WRITING NOW?
I first became interested in writing when I was about 9 years old. My teacher read one of my stories out loud to the class and I felt a sort of “Wow!” feeling, like, “Maybe I’m okay at writing stories!” Since then I’ve written in some shape or form my whole life – short stories, (bad) poetry, personal journals, for jobs (reporter, freelance writer), etc… In my late 20’s I decided to take creative writing more seriously and went back to school for my Master of Fine Arts where I learned how to structure short stories and to use language better. It also built up my confidence because I could see clearer what problem areas I needed to work on and how to trust when something in my writing felt “right”. It was as though a light had been switched on.
Since then I’ve self published (on Amazon and Smashwords) two mini collections of short stories and a guide that my friend Lisa Logan and I put together about how to publish and market ebooks. Pilrig Press, based in Scotland, published my novel Rest and Be Thankful for the British market last year and right now I’m adapting it for the American market, at the same time making it more suitable for a young adult audience. I’ve also just started a guide for beginning magazine writers, based on the course I tutor for http://www.writingclasses.co.uk
2) HOW MUCH RESEARCH AND PREPARATION DO YOU DO BEFORE YOU WRITE? FOR EXAMPLE, DO YOU DO CHAPTER PLANS AND CHARACTER PROFILES? DOES ANY OF THIS CHANGE WHILE YOU WRITE?
I used to write solely by the seat of my pants! I would get a feeling, or an image in my head, and it would build up and up until I’d finally have to write it down, or I would burst! Then later would go back and mould it into some sort of workable shape. That worked fine for short stories, but when I started working on novels, I realized I needed at least a basic plan/outline because I would get so tied up in plot twists, adding new characters here and there, that I would have a hard time later sorting it into a cohesive novel! Having at least a rough plot and structure, an idea of a beginning, middle , and end not only helps me stay focused; it also gives me an “end point” or goal to work towards when I get discouraged or tired.
For novels, I also make character profiles – a basic list of key aspects of their personality, their ages and even their last names, so I won’t forget and put conflicting information in my novel!
For Rest and Be Thankful, my novel, set in Scotland, I did most of my research towards the end of the process, mainly fact checking town names, roads, and historical information. But I also did an email interview with a former police officer to get some background into the crime aspects of the novel!
3) DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE TIME TO WRITE? HOW DO YOU BALANCE THIS WITH OTHER RESPONSIBILITIES SUCH AS FAMILY LIFE OR WORK?
The mornings and afternoons are best for me, when my young son is taking a nap. But also, I’ve found that if I write too late in the evening, I can’t sleep later because my mind is still in overdrive from concentrating on my writing.
4)WHAT PART OF THE PROCESS DO YOU FIND MOST REWARDING. FOR EXAMPLE, THE FIRST DRAFT, EDITING, REWRITING ETC.
I used to really like the revising stages because it’s very satisfying to feel like I’m “cleaning up” bad patches of writing! But lately I’m appreciating the first draft stage (perhaps because it happens less frequently than revisions!!), that feeling of excitement at getting an idea down on paper that’s been stewing in my head for weeks or months! Also, there is the general excitement of starting a new project, after you’ve been working on a novel (or short story) for literally years!
5) WRITING HAS LOTS OF HIGHS AND LOWS. HOW DO YOU KEEP YOURSELF MOTIVATED?
It’s hard, especially when chores, work, kids, and everything else tends to take precedence. Whenever I share writing ideas with my writer friend Lisa, she gives me a boost of motivation and helps me stay excited about writing. Also, attending author readings (even ones where you haven’t read the book) and writing conferences and classes helps a lot. And the act of writing helps – it always makes me feel better to work on my novel, or one of my nonfiction guide books. Even when I don’t think I’m in the mood for writing, when I actually force myself to sit down and write, it always improves my mood.
6) DO YOU USE SOCIAL MEDIA AND/OR BLOG? HOW USEFUL DO YOU FIND THIS?
Yes, I mainly use Twitter, and I blog. I like Twitter because it helps me stay connected with the rest of the literary world – articles, new books, news that I otherwise wouldn’t hear about. Also, I’ve met some really nice writers (like you, Ruth!) and even won a couple of free books through Twitter. Blogging helps me keep connected; even though I’m not a prolific blogger, I try to blog at least once a month. Twitter helps me get the word out about my blog, and I notice an increase in traffic to my blog whenever I post a message about it on Twitter.
7) IF YOU COULD PASS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO A NEW WRITER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Keep plugging away – time is your friend, as you gain insight into your own writing and that of others. As you plug along, read what inspires you and write when you can, even if it’s just in a blog or in an email to friends. Don’t beat yourself up too much if you can’t write every day or even every week!
CHECK OUT LOUISA’S SHORT STORIES AT: http://www.amzn.to/1atrQJm
LOUISA IS ON TWITTER – @LouisaDang
MANY THANKS TO LOUISA FOR TAKING PART IN THIS BLOG, I WISH HER EVERY SUCCESS IN HER WRITING!