Guest Post: Pippa Jay’s Four R’s of Writing
Today it is my pleasure to host Pippa Jay, who is the author of Keir, Book 1 of the Redemption series.
In this post Pippa talks about the four R’s that guide her writing process.
Take it away Pippa!
Hi, I’m Pippa Jay, author of scifi and the supernatural with a romantic soul. One thing I get asked a lot in interviews is what advice I would give to an aspiring author. In general I boil it down to a single quote from one of my favorite scifi films, the comedic Galaxy Quest. Commander Quincy Taggart says: “Never give up – never surrender!” It’s been my battle-cry throughout my publishing career to date, and the one thing I always fall back on when all else fails.
But it’s not really writing advice. So here are my four Rs for Writing (and R does not stand for ‘rules’!):
• 1. Read. I don’t know any authors who didn’t start out as readers first. And who read widely, voraciously, and constantly. Sure, reading in the genre you want to write or are writing in is great in terms of finding out what’s been done, what’s popular, what’s overdone and what’s marketable. But I’m a big advocate for also reading widely, and not just fiction. A fellow co-blogger of mine discussed what she’d learned from reading other kinds of fiction. For myself, fantasy and historical novels taught me a lot about world building. Barbara Cartland novels taught me what kind of romance I didn’t want to write (and I was reading these far too young! My parents didn’t believe in keeping their books out of my eight year old hands, or at least didn’t realize I was raiding their bookshelves when I ran out of books of my own). I also love quirky crime books – Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle and Ellis Peters – though I doubt I could ever write a crime story myself. And despite releasing my 12th title this coming May as I also celebrate my 3rd anniversary as a published author, I still read books on writing too. My top recommendations are The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, Writing Fight Scenes by Rayne Hall, and Writing Sex When You Don’t Feel Sexy by Em Petrova and Suzanne Rock. Plus non- fiction books definitely come under R number 2.
• 2. Research. Again, another rule I see is ‘write what you know’. Well, I write spaceships, aliens, and other worlds, which I can’t really know. I can extrapolate how arriving on an alien planet might feel from, say, travelling to a foreign country, and how sudden shifts in gravity might feel from going on a rollercoaster, but it needs more. So this is where you need to research. Luckily I happen to love science, so reading up on that for something like the current theories on how to produce artificial gravity or proposed asteroid mining is never a chore. For science I generally start with NASA’s website or a few scientific sites I follow, but for most other things I start with Wikipedia and move on from there. When setting a book in Louisiana (which I’ve never visited – I’ve never even been to the US), I had the benefit of several internet friends who were born, lived or moved there, or knew good resources for me to use, such as a website of Cajun phrases and words, or YouTube videos of the local wildlife.
• 3. Write. Yes, yes, not technically an R even if it sounds like it starts with one. There’s an R in there. 😛 And it might seem like stating the obvious, but who hasn’t had someone say to them ‘I’ve thought about writing a book.’ Thinking about it isn’t good enough. You have to actually stick your butt in a chair and do it! Different things work for different people though, and this is where you need to find your own groove. Don’t let anyone tell you this is the way it must be done. For years I’ve felt a degree of failure because I don’t and cannot plot. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work for me and kills the initial creative spark that gets me writing a story. Pantsing is what comes naturally to me, so I stick with it.
You may find a daily word count target works for you. Perhaps you need a daily or weekly prompt. You might prefer to put your head down and write 5K one day, then do nothing for a week. Some edit as they write, others prefer to go back over a finished but rough first draft. Right now I have a set daily word count of 250, but I may well do 1K one day, then nothing for a few (right now I’m averaging about 370 a day). This year I’m doing both Camp NaNoWriMos in April and July to complete two projects owed to my publisher, and the main one in November to do a 50K sequel to a book I already have with them, because their minimum word count level for new submissions has changed. NaNoWriMo has always been really good to kick start a project for me, or to get something out of my head that I need to clear, but it isn’t for everyone (admission – I’ve only ever ‘won’ it once, and that was for Camp when I set myself a word count of 20K to finish off three short stories. I still don’t consider that a failure, because I achieved my own personal goal – to finish something, or to get something started). Experiment. Find what works best for you (and ignore anyone who says it’s the ‘wrong’ way to do it).
• 4. Repeat. It’s all well and good doing 1-3, but if you’re planning to make a career of it, once isn’t enough. You need to do it again, and again, and again. At the end of your first book you might feel drained, physically and emotionally. You might feel invigorated and burning to do the next. If the first, take a break. If the second, maybe pace yourself a bit.
But now I come back full circle to repeat my opening piece of advice.
Never give up – never surrender!
Pippa thanks so much for sharing your 4 R’s with us. I know that these will also guide my writing in the future! However, I would personally add one more R…Rest!