I asked several writing groups what they would like to know about how bestselling authors create, think, and work. What would readers most like to know about them? What would engage you? When you are a bestselling author, have a writing career, or seek one, I think each writer works out their own patterns and rhythms.
One person said she’d like to know about daily writing routines! “I collect descriptions of famous writers’ routines and I regularly read through them for inspiration. What does a typical writing day look like for them? If there are no typical days, why not & how do they get their work done if there is no routine?Also, how they go from the first idea to the finished manuscript. Every writer has a different planning, plotting & drafting process but I’m endlessly fascinated by how others do it because there is always room to improve & refine your own process.”
I thanked her for the thoughtful answer and responded with what some authors have told us, and added a few of my own thoughts.
Lee Child, the bestselling author of the JACK REACHER series, was influenced by other authors, including Michael Connelly, John D. MacDonald, Robert B. Parker. He told Authorlink in a past interview that his success comes from considering his audience, first, last, and always. His real name, by the way, is James Dover Grant. Lee Child is his pen name. Search Lee Child on our site for more coverage.
Bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand says in a past Authorlink interview, “If you, the reader, don’t relate to the characters, you won’t care about them. I always give my characters plenty of flaws so that they become sympathetic. I feel like I specialize in characters who made egregious mistakes but who are lovable nonetheless.” Her latest bestseller is THE FIVE-STAR WEEKEND (June 2023)
Claire McMillan, author of THE ALCHEMY OF A BLACKBIRD (July 2023), was inspired by the Tarot, and the painting ‘The Call’ by Remedios Caro, a Spanish- Mexican modernist painter.
You’ll find more than six thousand interviews and reviews on Authorlink that offer a close-up and personal view of authors. You can learn so much by reading and listing to our author coverage.
A story always starts with an idea. Ideas can come from all sorts of places, in the form of a vague impression, a fleeting thought, an emotional experience, a conversation, a news clipping, or a nagging question. The tale will have a chief theme or premise–a central idea or goal that pervades the whole piece. The story usually has a moral concept that comes clear through the characters and plot. There must always be an element of internal or external conflict. Examples are good vs evil, love vs hate, justice vs injustice, man against nature, or nature against man.
Finishing the story requires you to “apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair,” as the old saying goes. Most writers must have a certain tenacity to finish an essay or novel-length work. It’s just sheer stubbornness, the will to finish, to complete the picture, to say, “I did it.”
And even then, you are probably not done, for several more rounds of edits must follow.
For me, writing is almost a daily habit. When I am working on a specific piece, I can be at the computer for eight hours or more with only bathroom breaks. A jar of peanuts on my desk suffices for lunch. After many years of practice, I have an innate sense of how long it will take me to complete a draft, and I am driven to finish within that timeframe. Almost no external distractions can pull me away. The editing process, while a little less intense, can take six or seven passes before I consider a work done. In each round, I put the article or story aside for a day or two and return with fresh eyes to make more refinements. This involves strengthening the thoughts and words and filling the holes in action and introspection. My biggest career-long fault has been too shy to push volumes of my own stories to the market, though when I do, I receive positive feedback and awards. Exposure is scary. Life gets in the way. Approach/avoidance takes hold. It is easier to hide in a solitary tent tapping away at the keys than to face the world in a naked display of personal thoughts, hoping that someone will understand and appreciate what you have done.
It takes a lot of courage to write, even if the only eyes to see the story are your own.
So, tell us what you’d like to know about the writers we interview and review. And also tell us about your own writing habits, quirks, and passions. You can add comments at the bottom of all our articles. We’d love to hear from, you.
Keep writing and believing in yourself—because you have to.