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So-you-want-to-be-a-writer---Episode-25

Ep 25 Write for your goals, become a productive freelance writer, agents behaving badly and New York Times bestselling author Liane Moriarty.

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In Episode 25 of So you want to be a writer, why it’s important to write for your goals, the best suggestion I ever got from my editor, the difference between editing features and editing fiction, how to become a productive freelance writer, the book No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, agents behaving badly, Writer in Residence and New York Times bestselling author Liane Moriarty, a new social networking app for authors, should you advise editors if your pitch is accepted elsewhere, and more!

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Show Notes

Procrasti-puppy a.k.a. ‘Scout’!

Scout

If You Want a Picture Book Deal, Write Picture Books, Not for Magazines

The best suggestion I ever got from my editor

The difference between editing features and editing fiction

How I Became a Productive Freelance Writer — After Failing in Year One

No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days

Agents Behaving Badly

Writer in Residence

LianeLiane Moriarty is the Australian author of five internationally best-selling novels, Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, What Alice Forgot, The Hypnotist’s Love Story and most recently the global bestseller, The Husband’s Secret which to date has sold over 1 million copies in the US alone and is set to be translated into over 35 languages. CBS Films has acquired the film rights.

Liane’s much anticipated new novel Big Little Lies has just been released.

Writing as L. M. Moriarty, she is also the author of the Space Brigade books for children, (published in the US as the Nicola Berry, Earthling Ambassador series).

Liane’s website
Liane on Facebook
Pan Macmillian Australia on Twitter

Web Pick

Tablo – a new social network for authors.

Working Writer’s Tip

If I were to pitch the same travel story to the same destination to a second publication after it’s been accepted by the first one, do I need to mention to the second editor that it’s already going to be published in the first publication?

We answer this question in the podcast.

Allison’s Bookclub

The Pink Fibro Book Club

Your hosts

Allison Tait
Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

Connect with us on twitter

@altait
@valeriekhoo

Email us
podcast at writerscentre.com.au

Transcript

Allison:
Liane Moriarty’s fifth novel, The Husband’s Secret, was the fourth highest selling novel on Amazon for 2013. It sold more than one million copies in the US, was a number one bestseller in the UK, and was named as one of the top 10 books of the year by People Magazine. It remains on the New York Times Bestseller List. Now comes her sixth novel, Big Little Lies, which begins with a school trivia night.

Welcome, Liane.

Liane:
Thank you so much, Allison.

Allison:
Firstly let’s talk a little bit about Big Little Lies. Was your sixth novel any easy to write than your first, Three Wishes?

Liane
No, no it wasn’t.

Allison:
Don’t tell me that!

Liane:
I don’t think they get any easier, really. To me, I’m still very interested in the writing process. I’m always looking at what other authors do because I don’t think I’ve worked it out yet. No, each time it’s still just as terrifying. I guess this time I also had the weight of expectations because The Husband’s Secret had done so much better than my other novels, so it was even scarier.

Allison:
I was going to ask you about that. We’re talking about some big numbers and some fairly impressive lists and all sorts of exciting things going on there with The Husband’s Secret. Does that increase the pressure?

Liane:
Well, it did. For example, my American editor sent me an email saying, ‘You took a darker turn with this book and readers seem to like that.’ Basically the point of the email was her saying, ‘Do that again.’

I really had to think. I didn’t want to get caught in that trap of writing to a formula, thinking, ‘OK, you did this, just do exactly the same thing again.’ I do appreciate that readers did seem to like the fact that my other books focused on relationships but I took a slightly darker turn, and I enjoyed taking that turn, so I did that again.

Allison:
When you sit down to write in this sort of instance, is it more difficult to concentrate on your own voice in your head telling you what to do, when there are those other voices saying, ‘Do that again.’?

Liane:
Yes it is, but in the end you’ll become paralysed if you listen to them. You just have to say, ‘Be quiet now.’ Once you get caught up in the story then it’s just finishing the story. And because I’m not a planner, I’m wondering what’s going to happen. Once I’m a few chapters in, then I’m fine. It’s bad luck, I’m on this track now, so I just have to finish it.

Allison:
OK, you are a person who writes by the seat of your pants?

Liane:
I am.

Allison:
You start from nothing?

Liane:
Yes.

Allison:
Wow.

Liane:
I keep wondering if I’ll change, so far that’s the way I’ve done it.

Allison:
How do you feel that affects your writing process? Do you find that you write yourself into corners? Are you one of those people who writes the whole thing out and then goes back and redrafts heavily? How does it work?

Liane:
I find for me, because I don’t know what’s going to happen next, I do have a terrible habit of going back and editing what I just wrote the day before because that’s easier than not knowing what’s going to happen. Therefore at the end I don’t have to go back and redraft. For me it makes it more interesting, but as I said it also makes it a more fearful process. That’s what I’m always ready to change. I read about other authors who have it all planned out and how they therefore write quicker. Maybe when I grow up I will.

Allison:
How long does it take you to write a book?

Liane:
I think it takes me a year. I can never work out how long it actually takes because I’ve got two small children and because I’m writing in between other things. I’m always interested to know how long it would take me if somebody locked me in a room and I just did nothing else but write. I’d say a year.

Allison:
Do you write everyday? I know that you’re working around children and other things and school trivia nights, clearly, which we will get to in a moment. Do you still try to set aside time everyday to write?

Liane:
Not everyday. I treat it more as my job, so Monday to Friday. When I’m nearing the end and I’m on deadline I might take some time during the weekend, but otherwise it’s just when I can get childcare.

Allison:
Do you have an ending in your mind? Let’s just talk about Big Little Lies for a minute, it begins at the school trivia night, someone dies, do you know who did it right from the start?

Liane:
I didn’t know who did it. No, I didn’t know. I can’t remember if I knew even who – I can’t remember now if I knew who died. I must have known that fairly early on. I think about a third of the way through I probably knew who did it.

Allison:
Right.

Liane:
I’m trying to remember now the process.

Allison
Is that like a ‘thank god’ moment? Like you’ve worked out…

Liane:
Yes, it always is. For example, with The Husband’s Secret I put my characters in a terrible situation and I was thinking, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to get them out of it.’ I definitely remember the moment when I worked out with them what I was going to do. I can’t remember with Big Little Lies. I find it really tricky often to look back and think, ‘How did that all come about?’

Allison:
It is interesting, isn’t it?

Liane:
I know there’s no bit of paper with it all structured, I know that for a fact.

Allison:
Obviously a lot of your writing, particularly given that you’re working around a family and things, a lot of your writing must be going on in the back of your head all the time, as you sort of try to tease out these things?

Liane:
Exactly, yes. I remember I was driving the car, I remember exactly where I where was, on my way home from the gym when I worked out the ending to The Husband’s Secret. I know the set of traffic lights where I worked it out.

Allison:
Oh really? And the relief was enormous?

Liane:
Yes, yes definitely. Yes. Also going for walks, I find walking, I’m always thinking then of plots and things. Yeah.

Allison:
Are you always sort of gathering ideas? Have you got your next book – do you know what it’s going to be about? 

Liane:
I haven’t got my next book. I’m in that stage of just thinking. Yes, definitely always looking for ideas.

Allison:
I remember I workshopped with Sue Woolfe once many, many, thousands of years ago and it was a fabulous workshop because it showed me that people work in incredibly different ways. She is one of those people that will go for a walk and she will see something and she will come home and write a little piece about that and then she will go and overhear a conversation – a conversation on a train – and it will spark something and she will go home and write a bit about that. Then as it all comes together she realises that she has a book, which I just found extraordinary.

Liane:
Yes.

Allison:
Do you do that sort of thing? Do you sort of write down conversations that you hear?

Liane:
I definitely do that. Yes, I don’t know – but I seem to need an actual premise. I’ve got little bits and pieces that I write down and they might come in useful, but I don’t think it happens in the way that it happens with Sue, as in, it then forms a novel. I seem to need to have an actual idea and then I’ll go back and think, ‘Oh good, I could use that little thing, that little conversation.’

Allison:
The idea for this one I found fascinating, this sense of everyone will have their own experience of the school trivia night. No one has ever died at one I’ve been at, but there have been times where there could have been blood on the dance floor. Did you find the inspiration for this book at one particular evening of your own, or does it come from elsewhere?

Liane:
I haven’t actually been to a school trivia night. The school where my children are at – and I’m still relatively new to being a school mum – they haven’t done a school trivia night.

Allison:
They won’t do one now will they?

Liane:
No, they won’t. No, that’s right.

Allison:
You’ve foiled that forevermore.

Liane:
Yes. My friend and I – I was on a little book tour with her – and we had time in between events to do some shopping.  She was dressing up as Audrey Hepburn  and so we were desperately looking for her beads and things for that, the long beads and all of that. That seemed to stay in my mind and that’s when I got this idea… She was at her table and they were all dressing up as Audrey Hepburn. That stayed in my head as a visually interesting scene.

Allison:
That’s great, isn’t it?

Liane:
Yeah. That’s when I came up with this idea about the men are all dressed up as Elvis and the women are all dressed up as Audrey. I asked her for permission to use that.

Allison:
She said, ‘Take it, it’s yours.’

Liane:
She did. I said, ‘I’ve written too much, too bad, I have to take it.’

Allison:
Yes, it does come down to that.

You come from a writing family, your sisters Jaclyn and Nicola are also published novelists, which I think is amazing. The conversation at your house must be terrific. I read that you wrote your first novel, Three Wishes, in a fit of sibling rivalry.

Liane:
I did. Definitely. It was because Jackie had written her first book, Feeling Sorry for Celia. She had basically gone ahead and achieved our childhood dream, and I hadn’t even tried. I always say if it wasn’t for Jackie, I know that I wouldn’t have ever… I would have kept thinking about it and I would have kept writing first chapters that didn’t go anywhere. It was because of her success that pushed me to actually finish Three Wishes.

Allison:
Is writing a competitive sport in the Moriarty household?

Liane:
No, I don’t think we’re competitive. It was competitive in that I really wanted to be published too and I was inspired. And I was jealous, I’ll definitely admit that. I don’t think now we’re competitive. I think that now that we’re all published we’re genuinely happy for each other. I know we are very competitive when it comes to material, so family stories and things like that, we get pretty mad with each other.

Allison:
If you use them up?

Liane:
Yes.

Allison:
Have you exploited everything that ever happened yet? Or is there more to come?

Liane:
I think there’s more to come. But, yes, Nicola used something and we were so cross that she had taken a good family story.

Allison:
I think because she got in first, right?

Liane:
Well, I’m the oldest, I should get them all first.

Allison:
You absolutely should. As another eldest I would say that I totally agree with that. You should have first dibs on absolutely everything.

Liane:
On everything, that’s right.

Allison:
Everything. That’s how it should work.

Liane:
Yes.

Allison:
When you began your writing career with Three Wishes, social media was pretty much non-existent. This idea of the author platform was probably confined to bookshop tours and that sort of stuff. How do you feel about this idea that writers need to create this platform even as they write their first books?

Liane:
Well, I’m not a fan. I’m not sure why I’m not. For example, Nicola, she’s fifteen years younger than me and she has taken to social media in her personal life as well. She loves it and does it effortlessly. But, for me, I find that I’m just too… I don’t like it. I do feel a little resentful of the pressure to be on Facebook and to be on Twitter, which I’m not on.

Allison:
But you are on Facebook, is that correct?  

Liane:
I am on Facebook. I should also say, I complain, but at the same time I adore the fact that I have readers. I love the fact that they’re saying nice things to me. I don’t complain about that. I’m pretty happy to get all of my needy…

Allison:
All of that author self-doubt is completely reinforced with help and praise.

Liane:
But then I’m so slow at liking and commenting. I think also because I only have limited time at the computer screen, for me, I think I need to write. I normally only have three or four hours and I want to write in that time, not be sitting there responding to Facebook comments.

Allison:
That’s the thing, it is a time thing too. I believe you have a website and you have Facebook, is that fairly much what you…

Liane:
That’s right, I have a blog that I never update.

Allison:
Oh, fabulous.

Liane:
Yes, that’s not really the point of…

Allison:
Blogging for authors is not one of your things, shall we say?

Liane:
It’s not, no.

Allison:
You’re established and successful, is there still pressure for you to be doing it? Do you feel that?

Liane:
Yes, the publishers would like it. I have marketing degree; I understand I’m a product and brand. I’m sure if they had social media when I was in marketing, I would have been telling people to use it. You can lose your readers, there’s lots of competition out there.

Yeah, sure. I think my publishers would still prefer me to do it. But, they’d also prefer me to keep writing, so I guess if it’s a choice between those, they’d like the next book rather than a blog post.

Allison:
I guess in your limited time… you used to write for children as well as for adults, but you don’t do that anymore. That’s a time thing, in a sense that you have limited time and the adult fiction is working so well your publishers want you do that.

Liane:
The adult fiction just completely outsold the children fiction. They’d like me to focus on those books. Maybe one day in the future years, maybe I’ll try my children’s books again, but for now I’m focusing on the adult books.

Allison:
Fair enough. Do you read reviews or do you avoid them?

Liane:
I could lie and say I never read them. Jackie, my sister, Jackie has much better will-power than me. She just made the decision to not read them. But, I still look in every now and then, but not as much as I did when I first started writing. I know when a book first comes out, so when Big Little Lies first comes out, I’ll be looking to see the initial reaction. But I’ll just quickly skim my eyes over.

Allison:
Right.

Liane:
So nothing hurts.

Allison:
I was going to say, because it must be very difficult not to take it all to heart.

Liane:
Yes, definitely. Especially some people write reviews who are so angry with you. You want to say, ‘Sorry, I did my best.’

Allison:
‘I was just writing a book.’

Liane:
It sounds so personal sometimes.

Allison:
Yeah, I guess everybody comes to a book with their own particular – every reader comes with their own experience and their own expectations, don’t they? With so many more reader reviews out there, now it’s not just a professional reviewer per se, it is much more personal than it ever has been, isn’t it?

Liane:
Yes, exactly. Yeah.

Allison:
Which I guess is something for everyone to bear in mind.

Liane:
Yes, it is. The reviews directly contradict each other. It’s pointless reading them, really.

I would advise to follow Jackie’s rule and don’t read them.

Allison:
We should all have Jackie’s willpower.

Liane:
That’s right. Yes.

Allison:
Beyond not reading your own reviews, do you have three tips for aspiring authors?

Liane:
Yes, don’t read your reviews whenever they come out.

Number one I think, writing your first novel is like being on a diet. That’s why programs like Weight Watchers are so successful, you’ve got to have something that keeps you going. Anybody can write their first chapter, but it’s a really long task to finish it. Either join a writers’ group or get a friend to become a writing partner, set up a contract with somebody, say, ‘I promise I’ll get you a chapter by such and such a date.’ That sort of thing. You’ve got to trick yourself into writing the first novel.

Allison:
Did you do that?

Liane:
Because I did a master’s degree, that for me was… I may have been able to achieve the same thing by joining a writers’ group.

Allison:
I was going to say, you’ve got one at home.

Liane:
Yeah, I could have done that too. For me, because I’d spent a lot of money on doing the master’s degree, that helped too. Maybe do that.

Allison:
You had some skin in the game.

Liane:
Spend a lot of money.

Allison:
Yes.

Liane:
Yes, exactly.

Secondly, just focus on the writing. Don’t focus too much on the world of writing. Don’t focus on all the little rules and whether it should be double-spaced or single-spaced or all of that sort of thing – none of that actually matters, it’s the writing.

I find it interesting how often writers, aspiring writers are not actually writing. They’re spending a lot of time just going to events and reading websites about that sort of thing. First of all you’ve got to write your book.

Allison:
Yes.

Liane:
Is that two tips?

Allison:
That’s two, and you’re doing brilliantly.

Liane:
The third tip would be, once you have your book written, don’t read your reviews.

Allison:
You’re going to reiterate that one, aren’t you? The main focus you should take away from today’s interview: do not read your reviews!

Liane:
Exactly. That’s right.

Allison:
That’s fantastic. Okay, Liane. Thank you so much for talking to us today. I really appreciate your time. I will link to your website and your Facebook in the show notes. You can find Liane at www.lianemoriarty.com where she doesn’t blog very regularly.

Liane:
No… but she does appreciate your comments.

Allison:
And you will find her on Facebook, occasionally, loving your comments.

Liane:
Yeah, so resentfully.

Allison:
Thank you so much again. We really appreciate your time. Good luck with the new book.

Liane:
Thank you so much, Allison. My pleasure.

Aug 12, 2014 Podcasts Australian Writers' Centre Team

Written by Australian Writers' Centre Team

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