I recently watched the Disney Princess movie, Tangled, with my kids. (Okay, I’ll admit, I was more excited about seeing it than they were!) As I was bawling my way through the end, I realized how much I used to love writing my own Princess stories when I was a girl. I spent hours making up fairy-tales and filling notebook after notebook. While my stories are definitely more complex now, I haven’t lost my love for a happily-ever-after.
2) What do you like most and least about being a writer?
*What I like most about being a writer? I love the freedom that comes when I write a first
draft, when I’m transported to another time and place, and can make the story anything I dream it to be.
*What I like least about being a writer? Not ever having quite enough time to write! But then again, if I had all day, I’m still not sure it would be enough!
3) Do you do a lot of research for your novels and do you perform it before, in the middle, or after you write your novel? Since I write historicals, research is an integral part of my writing process. I usually spend anywhere between 6-8 weeks on initial research, reading biographies, getting a feel
for the time period, and digging into the meat that will comprise the plot of my book. Once I start writing the first draft, I have to stop from time to time to do a little more research, particularly if I switch settings within the story. But usually, if I don’t know something, I’ll highlight it and then do more research during my editing phase.
4) What would you say is the biggest mistake beginning writers make? Did you find yourself making this mistake when starting out?
One beginner mistake I’ve noticed is the tendency to try to explain everything that’s happening instead of plunging the reader directly into the story and letting them figure out what’s going on. Then, once a writer figures out how to jump into the action and write by scenes, the next mistake I’ve seen is not including enough information—emotions, sensory details, or setting description. It’s almost as if the writer moves from one extreme (explaining too much) to the opposite extreme (writing too tight). Eventually, we all have to learn how to find just the right amount of exposition, the clothing and accessories that will dress our books and bring out our unique style and personality.
5) Do you have a particular place you write best at? Do you listen to music while you write?
Most days I sit in my big kitchen and write at a tiny counter desk where I’m able to keep my eyes and ears on all that’s going on around me. That way I can see when the dog is about to eat another sock, put a halt to my youngest riding down the steps in laundry baskets, and make sure my daughters are practicing piano diligently (rather than getting up to get a snack every few minutes). Of course, this is all hypothetical. None of this ever happens. And my writing time is always quiet and peaceful as my children go about their work without needing any of my intervention. *Wink*
I actually do my best writing in my office, which is upstairs away from the noise and chaos. But I don’t get to retreat there very often, just a few times a week for extended writing time. Most of the time, I plug in headphones, put on Pandora, and write no matter what’s going on around me. I’ve had to learn to just do it and not wait for the perfect moment.
6) Has there been a particular technical book on writing you return to again and again?
I love everything by James Scott Bell (and no he’s not paying me to promote him!). I really do think he’s got some of the best writing how-to books out there. I suggest Plot & Structure, Revision & Self-Editing, The Art of War for Writers, and his newest e-book, Writing Fiction For All Your Worth.
7) Is there a scripture verse that has inspired you in your writing?
Among many, here’s one I aspire to live by: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” (Ecc. 9:10) I believe in working responsibly and hard with the gifts we’ve been given.
8) What three tips do you have for beginning writers?
My top three tips for beginners (taken from my Top Ten List of Advice For Aspiring Writers):
1. Write the first book for yourself without worrying about rules or publication. There’s
something about that first book (or first few) that helps unleash the creative side of story-telling.
2. Finish a book. There’s nothing like the experience of completing a book from first page to the last to help a writer move out of the wannabe category.
3. Study basic fiction-writing techniques. Check out fiction “how-to” books from a local library. Take lots of notes. Then put it all into practice by writing another book or two.
Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of, The Preacher's Bride. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children. Her next book, The Doctor’s Lady releases in September 2011.