How I Write
Most writers will tell you they are either a “plotter” or a “pantser.” That is, some writers will develop extensive outlines before they begin writing. They know exactly where the story is going and how the characters will move through the plot—from beginning to end. I’ve even read of some who, given this approach, will be able to identify specific areas that need to be researched and complete that as well before writing the first draft.
I admire and envy such writers because I’m a complete pantser—someone writes by the seat of her pants. I have no idea where I’m going until I get there, letting the characters lead me through the journey. I do know the end in a vague way. A mystery will have a solution. A romance, its happy ending. The world is saved in a thriller. I tend to write linearly—I start at the beginning and keep going. When I get stuck, I consider what possible plot complications—the more perilous, the better. This requires me to stop at times to research something I never knew I needed to know about until then. At this point, I have to be disciplined because it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole chasing after fun and interesting facts that might or might not be related to what I’m writing.
In the end, I have a hot mess (plot holes, too much/too little description, a plot thread that goes nowhere) that I have to organize into a coherent story—that’s where outlining and other techniques come in handy. But for me, the unexpected directions are just part of the joy of writing.
To see the results of some of Dr. Sherwood-Fabre’s research, check out her series of essays on “The Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes.” Volume Three has just been released, and the first two are now available in eBook as a box set.
What book do you think everyone should read?
For romance, Outlander. Non-romance, Crime and Punishment.
How long have you been writing?
My writing has evolved. When I was very young, I wrote these odd-ball “books” (loose term) about different kinds of cats. I did a lot of research and felt serious about it. I’m not sure I can explain today what this was all about! By the way, I do not have any cats.
Later, I tried writing essays about life. I’m an optimistic person, but for some reason my essays came out too serious or worse, preachy. Who wants to read that?
I didn’t read a romance book until well into adult-hood. I was hooked, devoured hundreds in record time and read all heat levels (you know, for research). To this day, there are some where I still can’t figure out the acrobatics involved. But I digress. It was late 2012 when I started writing romance.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
They all show up in quick succession and are all talking. I hear their conversations first. Soon after I begin to see them.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
Geography — even though the locations are fictionalized. Weather. Trees. Flowers. Whatever jobs my characters have. Time period, if not current day. Funny little things too – like how long is an ambulance ride from point A to point B? What songs were on the radio that year? For Dragonfly Dance, I researched sculptures and the bronzing process – even though most of this detail didn’t make it in the book.
Do you see writing as a career?
Definitely! I do have a long-time career in the non-writing world too. But creating worlds, characters, stories is what I am passionate about.
What do you think about the current publishing market?
I am very appreciative that it is possible to share my writing with readers.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
Romance. Romance. Romance.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
Silence. I lose myself in it and have no sense of time. Sometimes I’ll look at the clock and – blink — it’s suddenly 3 hours later.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
I have limited time, so I stay focused by working on one at a time.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
My favorite character is Hepzibah – from the children’s book Horrible Hepzibah by Edna Mitchell Preston. That’s probably not what you expected to hear. She’s deliciously mean to her nemesis, whose name is Beautiful Vanilla. Not all girls are sugar and spice.
A day in the life of the author?
I have a demanding technical job so a typical day starts early. After work, I sometimes row. On weekday evenings I focus on writerly tasks like promotion, creating graphics, social media or outlining. I write on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s pretty much work, row, write, eat, sleep, repeat. That’s not a martyr thing. I’ve become a minimalist with my time. There is only so much we can accomplish, so I prioritize what means the most.
Advice they would give new authors?
Listen to your intuition. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with everyone else’s advice and opinions. Trust yourself and your goals.
What are they currently reading?
I recently read The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams and loved it.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Emotional stress, such as managing a family member’s serious illness, unemployment or other financial struggles. It’s very hard to drum up creativity when exhausted and/or worried.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I’d say a little of both. I’m writing stories and characters I want to share, but hopefully in a way that is universal and appealing.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I researched writing male characters and took writing classes on the topic. I try to remember that men don’t ask a lot of questions, they make statements. I have a male beta reader, among others, who keeps me honest (and chuckling) with comments like: “Wait, what about his blue balls?” and “He should say f**k more.”
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Not especially, but we all have slumps where we are uninspired. Slumps affect everything, including writing.