Q&A With L.J.K. – What Advice Do You Have For Aspiring Authors?

Hey Laura,

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? I’m attempting Nanowrimo Camp April and would appreciate any help. I really enjoyed A World Apart and would love to hear about your writing process.

Hope its not a bother, please reply at your convenience.


Hey Lakshmi!

Congratulations on taking the NaNo plunge! You’re in for quite an adventure. I’ve been trying to think of what I could say that you might find useful. Obviously, every writer develops their own process over time. That said, there are a few things I’ve picked up that may be helpful to you.

1. Have a plan.

I’ve been writing since I was a kid. When I was younger, I never outlined my work- I preferred to just let my characters take things where they wanted to go. Incidentally, I never finished anything. The first book I ever outlined was my contemporary romantic suspense, All That Glitters. It was the first book I ever completed.

I am now a firm believer in plotting out every story before I start writing. I started plotting the Shades Below series about a year before I sat down and wrote A World Apart. By the time I started that book, I knew every character and every plot of every book in the series. That doesn’t mean I don’t leave room for things to change, but the basic framework is in place.

2. Know your characters.

Characters drive plot. They are also the people who will guide your readers through the story. Poorly drawn characters can make even the most plausible plot feel implausible. By contrast, well-rounded, sympathetic characters can lend credibility to even the most far-fetched events.

If you’re looking to get to know your characters better, I’ve found this survey extremely helpful: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/10/28/plot-and-character/

3. Know your setting.

The place where your story occurs has the potential to be an important character in your book- arguably THE most important character. A good setting has its own personality. It doesn’t just act as a backdrop: it influences the way the other characters behave, shapes the story’s events, sets the tone of your novel.

To flesh out a compelling setting, I describe it from several different angles. My usual formula is to follow the Rule of 3. I pick three of the following to describe – Sight, Smell, Sound, Flavor, Feel (Tactile and Emotional). I’ve found that less than three of those things isn’t quite enough, but more than three and your descriptions start to take over.

Ideally, you won’t just describe the setting once; you’ll weave little threads of description throughout the book. On their own, they might not seem like much, but put them all together and a complete picture will emerge.

4. Prepare for the long haul.

Writing is a lot of fun, but it is also a lot of work. Remember you’re embarking on a marathon, not a sprint. It’s easy to get caught up in the exhilaration of the thing when you’re first getting started, only to hit 35k words and realized you’re completely fried (this happens to me ALL the time). Pace yourself. Take breaks. Set reasonable stopping points. Make a daily word count commitment you know you can meet without feeling stressed, and stick to that.

If you still feel like you have juice in you after you reach that word count, stop anyway. Trust me on this. It will be all that much easier to pick up again the next day.

Even if you take precautions, it’s likely at some point you’ll hit a wall. Eventually, the honeymoon phase comes to an end. This is the point when writing becomes real work. It can feel agonizing, but press on! By the time you hit this point, it’s a good indicator that you’re making real progress.

I hope all this helps! Best of luck on your book. If you have any other questions, or if you just need a pep talk, feel free to get in touch! I’ll be happy to help if I can 🙂

Sincerely yours,

Do you have a question?
I’m currently taking questions about my writing specifically, writing in general, specific craft questions, indie publishing, and pretty much anything else word-related.
Email me at lauraolivabooks@gmail.com, tag me on Twitter (@writermama), or message me on Facebook. Can’t wait to hear from you!

Published by L.J.K. Oliva

L.J.K. Oliva writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance, with a heavy dash of suspense. She likes her whiskey strong, her chocolate dark, and her steak bloody. Most of all, L.J.K. likes monsters... and knows the darkest ones don't live in closets.

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