USA Today bestselling author, Nancy
Warren, recently was featured on the front page
of the New York Times with Speed
Dating, the launch title in Harlequin’s
NASCAR series. Warren is a double-Rita nominee,
has won the Lauren Wreath Award, the Colorado
Romance Writers Award, Best Blaze Award from Romantic
Times, and is nominated for an RT Career Achievement
Award in series romance. She also belongs to,
and is an active member of, RWA-GVC. We are talking
with her today about the craft of writing, the
art of marketing and the path to success.
Bloom: How did you learn to
write? Self-taught? Schooled?
Warren: I have an honours degree
in English Literature from UBC and worked in journalism
for five years. I learned in writing for newspapers
that brevity and clarity count. You also learn
in the newspaper business to grab the reader right
away. There's no time to mess around or they'll
skip your article and read something else. The
same is true of a novel. You really need to grab
your reader by the throat in the first sentence,
the first paragraph, the first page.
Bloom: What was your major weakness,
in so far as the craft, and how did you overcome
Warren: I suck at plotting.
I have to write my way by feel. I'm also not great
at describing scenery. However, instead of worrying
about my weaknesses, I've decided it's a lot smarter
to put the effort into my strengths. Of course,
if your problem is something that's stopping you
from getting published, like basic grammar, then
get thee to a college writing class and fix that
problem. If, however, you're not very good at
settings or internal monologue, then put the absolute
minimum of that stuff in your story and put your
effort into what you are good at. Sometimes, half
the battle is figuring out what you do best. That's
where an objective reader or a critique group
can come in handy. Ask them what your strengths
are. Most likely you’re best at the parts
of the book you already love writing.
Bloom: To what, above all, do
you attribute your success?
Warren: There are so many factors
that contribute to a decent career. I think the
most important lesson I have learned is to try
and learn from your mistakes, to accept that rejection
is going to be a familiar friend, and that you
haven't failed until you've given up.
Bloom: As a pre-published author,
how did your life look different than it does
Warren: I didn't get paid for
my work. Other than that, I still sit at the computer
every day and write. I wrestle with characters
that won't cooperate, sentences that make me squirm
with embarrassment when I re-read them, and plots
that fall apart regularly. I also have more business
to deal with as a published author. But most of
what I do is very similar to what I was doing
ten years ago before I sold.
Bloom: How do you approach the
writing life, with its mix of creative and business
Warren: I am a big believer
that the secret to happiness is to figure out
what you love to do and find a way to get paid
for it. For me, writing fiction is the greatest
job in the world, but it's also a business. I
try to be two people. When I'm writing, I'm the
creative part of the team. When I'm talking to
editors, agents, reviewers or my accountant, then
I'm the business part of the team. Sounds like
multiple personality disorder, but it works for
Bloom: Do you have a rags to
riches version of your writerly experience?
Warren: I was out of the workforce
for four years before I sold and it was a challenge,
but we never starved. I wish I had one of those
stories where I spent my last dollar on stamps
to mail my manuscript and the editor called to
buy my book just as the bailiffs were throwing
us out on the street, hungry and in rags. But
the truth is, I have a loving and supportive husband
and family who made it pretty easy for me to stay
home and write.
Bloom: When you were pre-published,
what dreams and goals did you have for your writing
Warren: I went to a workshop
once and the presenters said you need to be very
careful with goals. Make sure your goals are things
in your control. For instance, you can control
how many pages you write in a day or how many
hours a week you devote to your craft. You have
no control over when you sell or what lists you
may hit, so those are dreams. I thought that was
really smart. My goals then and my goals now are
remarkably similar. I try to write ten pages a
day of rough draft. I try to write books my readers
will enjoy. I try to make sure I take care of
myself with a good diet and exercise and lots
of down time to fill the well. I travel and read
and go to dinner parties. It keeps me stimulated.
Bloom: Any further comments
you'd like to leave us with?
Warren: My advice to anyone
attempting to break into the business is to keep
at it. Writing itself is such a joy. Try to hold
onto that feeling even when you get a rejection
or feel discouraged. Keep reading so you know
what's selling in the genre, enter contests, join
a critique group or find another writer to keep
you motivated, but most of all keep writing. Make
it a priority.
Thank you so much for sharing, Nancy!
Visit Nancy Warren’s website at www.nancywarren.net.
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