Today, my guest is Sharon Buchbinder. She’s got lots of great advice for writers of all genres, so I hope you’ll enjoy the interview!
1. When did you start writing?
I have always been a story-teller. As a child, I got into a lot of trouble for “making things up.” Now, I get rewarded for making things up. I love being able create heroes and heroines people can relate to–even crazy cat ladies, as I did with CATASTROPHE, my first publication with The Wild Rose Press (WRP). I’ve been writing fiction since I was in middle school and have the rejection slips to prove it. In high school, I even submitted a script to “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” on yellow-lined paper in pencil. Not surprisingly, that was rejected, too.
Fast forward a few decades, and I had a career path that would make all but the kindest say, “What were you thinking?” After working in health care delivery for years, I became a researcher, then an academic. I had it all– a terrific, supportive husband, an amazing son, and a wonderful job. But that itch to write (some call it obsession), kept beckoning me to “come on back” to writing fiction. I spent one whole month away doing nothing but writing fiction, the first of many drafts of my first novel, which I finally published as SOME OTHER CHILD
2. Are you a pantser or a planner?
I am a reformed pantser. When I began writing fiction, I had no clue what I was doing. I’d written textbooks, published scholarly articles, edited peer-review journals. CLUELESS about fiction—but I loved to read and tell a good story. I was highly motivated to learn. And, I took every online course I could find. And joined writing organizations to network and learn more about the craft of writing.
I use a variety of formats, from simple outlines to detailed, scene-by-scene breakdowns. I’m especially fond of Alexandra Sokoloff’s tools for writers. Once you get her format down, you GET it!
3. Can you give us an idea of your writing process?
When I get a story idea—from the news, from my life, from a dream—I do a lot of research and take extensive notes. I use many non-fiction sources (books, website, journal articles, personal interviews, expert reviewers) for background information on topics related to my book. When I wrote SOME OTHER CHILD, I read several history books, dissertations on women’s roles and on unwed mothers. I also spent time visiting jails, learning police procedures, and interviewing medical archivists, homicide detectives and defense attorneys. I even researched blow up bikinis. Honest!
4. Which authors have influenced your work?
My generation of women grew up reading Cherry Ames and Nancy Drew. I leaned more toward Nancy Drew and every science fiction book I could find in the library in our small town. A voracious reader, I ran out our Heinlein and Bradbury books and moved on to Agatha Christy. There are two novels I would take with me on a desert island: The Eight by Katherine Neville and Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.
5. What are you plans/future projects/new releases that we should be aware of?
At the moment my paranormal romantic suspense, OBSESSION, is under review with an editor (fingers crossed!) OBSESSION is the story of a recovering addict who is forced to work with a drug lord to rescue her one-year old son who has been kidnapped by a cult leader who believes the child is the Chosen One. I spent over two year researching OBSESSION, which takes place in Chihuahua, Mexico in the Sierra Madre.
The other book I am excited about is KISS OF THE VIRGIN QUEEN, which is an epic fantasy about the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon and the impact of their romance on their descendant, Eliana Solomon. It is structured like The Eight by Katherine Neville with chapters alternating between Biblical times in 10 BCE in Africa and Israel and contemporary times in the United States.
6. Any tips for new writers?
The following are my CONTRARIAN TIPS for new and old writers. Edit as you see fit!
- Never grow up. Be curious about the world around you and wonder, “What if?” Grownups (i.e., anyone who is done growing) are boring. Childlike curiosity is not childish. It enables you to see the world with fresh eyes and to bring a new perspective to a story. Look at F. Paul Wilson’s The Keep. Paul is a physician who started writing medical thrillers. Then he had a wild idea: what if Nazi’s encountered vampires in World War II? The result is a cult classic. Keep saying, “What if?”
- Be yourself. There is only one you and you have your own voice. Don’t try to be a clone of another author. And don’t promote yourself that way. Do not say, “Oh, my work is just like Nora Roberts.” Um, no it isn’t. You will only be a pale imitation of that author–but you are unique.
- Get a job that pays. Money. Preferably with benefits. Because you have to live. Another contrarian posted that the worst career advice is to do what you love. While this flies into the face of common platitudes, her comments make sense. Seriously, do you want to live in your parents’ home forever?
- Seize the moment. You can write in 15 minute blocks, at lunch, on break, in a fast food restaurant, on a napkin (yes, I’ve outlined entire books on a napkin), before the kids are conscious, in the bathroom, in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep. If you are passionate about writing, if it is an obsession, you will be unable to resist the urge to write. Where ever you go, have a notepad or phone and jot or text your ideas to yourself. I used the notepad app in my phone and made a list of story ideas. When I looked at it 3 years later, I had written all those stories. Carpe diem, carpe noctem, carpe wheneverem.
- Get rejected. Yes, get rejected. You will learn from those rejections what works and what doesn’t. I was rejected by 82 (no, that is not a typo) agents. That experience taught me to look at other avenues to publication. I discovered that agents do not control the publishing world. Shocking news, I know, but true. Paper your office with your rejections.
- Have trusted readers. When I started writing my first novel, I needed a cheering section to keep me going, to give me the courage to keep writing. That first stage should not last more than a year–at most. The next step is to put your work out there for others to read and critique. No smoke blowing allowed. Regardless of what path you go–paid editor, critique group, critique partner–you must have other readers. Otherwise, it’s like well, dare I say it? Masturbation. It feels good for you, but it wasn’t good for the other person. Be brave, get alpha and beta readers and listen to their constructive criticisms.
- Be persistent. Did I mention I received 82 rejections from agents? If I hadn’t been persistent, I would have never had the courage to send my work to contests, I would have never won writing awards, I would have never had the chutzpah to send my little story, Catastrophe, to the Wild Rose Press. You must press on.
- Do not whine. No one, and I do mean no one, likes a whiner. If you get rejected, allow yourself no more than 24 hours to cry, stomp your feet, and have a pity party. After 24 hours, STOP. Be child like, but not childish.
- Don’t take it personally. While the story of your heart is your baby and you know this is the best (fill in the blank) story ever told, publishing is a business. The publisher is not going to take a story that doesn’t fit with their lines or needs. They are in business to make money.
- And finally, if it doesn’t fit, find another publisher. Don’t give up!!
SOME OTHER CHILD http://www.amazon.com/Some-Other-Child-ebook/dp/B009JX31KK/
Amazon Author Page http://amazon.com/author/sharonbuchbinder
Snap, Crackle and Popping Blog http://www.sharonbuchbinder.com/blog