Writer’s Desk Issue No: 7: Susan May Warren
We’re so excited to have Susan May Warren featured on this week’s writer’s desk. Susan May Warren is the USA Today bestselling, Christy, Carol, and RITA award-winning author of more than eighty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. In addition to her writing, Susan is an internationally acclaimed writing teacher and runs an academy for writers, Novel Academy. She’s taught at conferences around the world and helped many novelists onto the bestseller list. Be sure to stick around until the end of the post for more about her most recent release plus a chance to win a copy!
Do you have a writing routine? When/Where do you write?
I have a crazy way of scheduling my writing time (and other activities)—I call it POWER BLOCKING. Basically, I divide my day into chunks of time and then focus my energy on that one task during the time. So, on Mondays, I have a Marketing Power block in the morning and a Writing Power block in the afternoon. I have two writing Power blocks on Tuesday and Wednesday, and one on Thursday, and then on Friday, I reserve that day to write or no write, depending on what else I have going on. Now, INSIDE those Power blocks, I DO have a writing routine. I start with going through my Action Objectives for the scene, and then I put together my Scene Tension Equation (which is a way at getting at the true purpose of the scene). And finally, I start with a powerful first line that I derive from asking: What is the POV character thinking RIGHT NOW. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t wander the house looking for the perfect first line for a while, but this routine helps me pump out about 2500 words in a 2-3 hour span. This system also helps me figure out how long a book will take me to write—and meet my deadlines.
When are you most productive?
My brain doesn’t really kick in creatively until about 1 pm. And then by 3 or 4, I’m on fire. I usually quit around 7 pm.
What do you snack on or drink while writing?
Oh, I’m trying NOT to snack, but usually nuts (almonds, cashews) and sometimes I’ll have some popcorn. If I’m SUPER desperate, I’ll go to my frozen semi-sweet chocolate chips. But the BEST way to rev up the creative engine is to go for a quick walk!
How do you overcome writer’s block?
I ask: What is the worst thing that could happen to my character right now? What is he/she afraid of, and how can I add a surprise to this scene?
What is your outlining process? Are you a pantser/plotter or something in between?
I’m a plotter when it comes to the overall story. I’m a pantser when it comes to the scenes. (although I do like to think through them before I start). I use a system called “The Story Equation” that helps me get to the heart/core of my characters and build a plot from the inside-out, so it’s very organic, but I do like to “tell myself the story” before I actually dive in so I can see if it works, what holes I have in my plot or characterization and give myself a roadmap so I know where the story is going.
Best advice for someone who is just starting out.
READ in your genre! Take notes on what you like and what you don’t like. I STILL do this—I’m constantly trying to learn from others, but also looking at what makes my voice different. When you read in your genre you are always soaking in nuances and information you don’t even realize, and suddenly (or maybe overtime!) you realize you know the beats of a story in your genre, and it helps you create your own stories.
It’s always been said that the first five pages of your story are the most important. What are your top three tips for writers for really drawing a reader into a story in the first pages?
Create intrigue, a sense of danger or worry for your character, and make your character likable by having them do/act or feel something we can all relate to and sympathize with!
Currently binge-watching: The Last Kingdom. (Uhtred!)
Book(s) currently reading: Storm Rising (Ronie Kendig)
Favorite song right now: This is my fight song. (it sort of fires me up to write!)
Favorite thing to order at Starbucks (or wherever you get your coffee/tea fix!): Caribou Coffee: White Chocolate Mocha
Enter to win a copy of The Heart of a Hero from Susan May Warren*
More about The Heart of a Hero:
Jake Silver may not be able to put the memories of his time as a sniper and Navy SEAL behind him, but at least he can put his skills to use as a part of the Jones Inc. rescue team. Saving the life of pediatric heart surgeon Dr. Aria Sinclair on Denali helped too. Now he can’t get her out of his head, and when he hears she is in the path of a hurricane down in Key West he can’t help but jump on a plane to rescue her.
Aria has dedicated her life to helping children born with defective hearts. After all, she was one of those children. Now driven to succeed, she lives a lonely, stressful life. One she would have lost on Denali if it hadn’t been for Jake. Jake is exciting and handsome, but he’s also dangerous, and she’s already lost one person she loves. She can’t bear it again.
It’s not until she finds herself trapped in the middle of a category 4 hurricane that she can admit she needs Jake desperately. With their very survival in the balance, can they hope for a second chance at life . . . and love?
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