I’m really pleased to welcome Pam Jenoff, author of the novel Almost Home, to Peeking Between the Pages today. I reviewed Almost Home yesterday and I quite enjoyed this book. It’s one of those books that managed to surprise me and I like that! (see my review). Pam has very graciously joined us today with a guest post on Knowing Yourself as A Writer so let’s sit back, relax, and enjoy…
One of the things I most frequently tell aspiring novel writers (as well as the law students to whom I teach legal writing) is that it is vitally important to know yourself as a writer. This statement often generates puzzled expressions or looks that seem to convey that I am stating the obvious. But I don’t think that’s the case. As novelists, we spend a great deal of time getting to know our characters by interviewing them. But we seldom take the time to do the same for ourselves.
Why does it matter? Because most novelists, myself included, are very busy people. I’ve got a one-year old at home, a day job teaching, my job as a writer, etc, etc. You get the idea. So I absolutely must leverage my writing time in order to get the most out of it. And the best way to do this is to understand myself as a writer, both in terms of procedural and substantive issues.
The easiest way to do this is with a self-assessment. I suggest asking oneself the following questions:
What times of day do I most like to write? This is key. You have to find your most productive work time and guard it zealously. For me, I am a morning writer; it has to happen before noon in order to get done.
What kinds of things can I do to be productive during other, non-writing time blocks? For example, I may not be at my best for writing, but I can edit or work on publicity in the afternoon or evening.
Am I a short or long burst writer? Good to know for scheduling. I like to write in shorter blocks, about 40-45 minutes at a clip, and then let myself take a break until the next hour starts. Other people take longer to get going and prefer to write for several hours at a time.
Do I prefer to write longhand or on a computer? Desktop or laptop? I like to brainstorm and problem-solve with pen and pencil, but actually write the manuscript on a computer. Laptop is best for the actual writing and desktop with a big screen for editing and restructuring. It isn’t always possible to accommodate these preferences but it is helpful for knowing when to try to put myself in a particular space.
How about noise? I can’t work with music or anything else. Quiet is a must. Sometimes if I am in an uncrowded coffee shop and trying to work, I will even as (nicely and with a good tip) for them to turn down the music.
What kinds of things help get me in the best state of mind for writing? Sleep if possible, coffee if not.
These are just examples of the types of question an author should ask him or herself. By creating an atmosphere most conducive to your work style, you can maximize your productivity.
But it doesn’t stop there. Once you’ve assessed the atmospherics, you need to think about substantive writing issues. Do you prefer to outline first, or write stream of conscious and then bring structure in later? What are your strongest writing skills (plot, etc)? What weaknesses do you need to be most conscious of and how can you improve them? For me, I know that I enjoy writing dialogue, but I need to be attuned to scenic detail and inner monologue. So I utilize a host of resources, such as checklists, books on writing, and peer feedback to make sure I am paying enough attention to those.
And this type of self-audit also works well when assessing your needs for other types of work projects as well. Armed with this information you can create goals and a timeline for completion that will put you one step closer to realizing your dreams.
Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful guest post with us Pam. I wish you all the best in the future and I can’t wait to read the sequel to Almost Home to find out what happens next! Be sure to check out Pam Jenoff’s website as well!
I have 1 paperback copy of Almost Home by Pam Jenoff to share with one of my readers courtesy of the author! To enter…
- For 1 entry leave me a comment with a way to contact you.
- For 2 entries follow my blog. If you already do, thank you, and please let me know in your comment.
- For 3 entries blog or tweet this giveaway.
This giveaway is open to US & Canadian residents only. The book will be sent to the winner directly from the author. I will draw for the winner on Saturday, March 27, 2010. Good luck everyone!