How do you stay motivated to finish a novel? How do you stay focused?
I don’t start a novel unless I’ve got a story that gives me a little sense of awe whenever I think about it. Not out of vanity, I mean that sense of having lucked into something classical and timeless like a myth or a folk tale. As long as that sense is here, you never want to let go. The motivation and focus take care of themselves.
What is your writing schedule like? Do you write in the mornings, evenings, and for how long?
I mess around in the morning, start getting up to speed in the afternoon, have a productive burst when I get there, and I’m done by early evening. If I could lift out the productive burst and get it out of the way at the beginning of the day, the rest of my time would be my own… but it doesn’t work that way. Over the longer term, I set wordage targets if it’s a novel, page count targets if it’s a script. I have a year planner or a calendar and I keep a daily score, so I can see how I’m doing as I work toward the target.
How do you get your ideas? What is your method for remembering them?
The way for me to get a new idea is to complete the work on an old one. It creates a hole in my life and the new idea slides into it. That’s the only answer I know. I wish I controlled the process, but I’m pretty much at the mercy of it. As for remembering ideas, I jot notes whenever I have odd thoughts. At some point you find that the notes are like jigsaw pieces and fit together in a way you maybe didn’t expect. It’s great when that happens. It feels like a gift from your subconscious.
If you get writer’s block, how do you get over it?
Feeling blocked usually means I’m out of love with what I’m doing. My only answer is to cast around for something else.
What are your thoughts on self publishing?
“A physician who treats himself has a fool for a patient.” If self-publishing were the way, I’d still be writing stories about a detective with a steel head and a tuxedo. It’s okay if you just want to play to your circle, but being a professional in the public arena means riding out rejection and raising your game. The best publishers are the ones with the best editors, and your best editor isn’t you.
What piece of advice would you give to someone thinking of becoming a writer? What is a good starting point for them?
If you’re thinking about doing it, then maybe it’s not for you. It’s like sports or anything else, you burn to be active from the get-go and you don’t stop to weigh it against other options. But read, and read well, and read widely beyond the kind of thing you want to write. Study technique, look for things that you can use and make uniquely your own. Aim for simplicity and balance and eventually your prose will sing.