Answering your questions about writing, publishing, and marketing books
By Sarka-Jonae Miller
April 23, 2016 (San Diego's East County) - Aidan Donnelley Rowley and I tackle works in progress (WIPs) in this week's column, specifically the part of the process when they stop being “in progress” and become completed manuscripts. Rowley is the author of Life After Yes and a Yale University graduate with a law degree from Columbia University. Her latest novel The Ramblers is a “sophisticated tale of entangled urban lives” about three 30-something Manhattanites whose lives are forever altered over the course of Thanksgiving week.
How does an author know when to stop editing/changing/reading the WIP and send it out into the world? – Linda Crawford
ADR: It’s so difficult to know when to say when, to know when to stop fiddling with a manuscript, but it’s important to let go at some point, to release it to trusted others. I used to believe that if I held onto a story long enough and kept working, it would become more and more perfect. Now, I believe almost the opposite, that it’s imperative to receive feedback reasonably early on from trusted others, to collaborate with skilled readers and agents and editors who can lend valuable insights to the project.
SJ: Dubbing a work finished is difficult for some writers who never think their project ready to be seen. Others have the opposite problem of putting books out there way too soon. I know many authors who even after publication still think about how they could have improved their work almost to the point where they never fully enjoy the accomplishment. Although there can be no hard rules, I think a novel should go through at least two drafts and be seen by a minimum of three people: ideally at least two complete strangers and someone who has experience in writing and/or editing. More is usually better with feedback, but prioritize quality over quantity. All criticism should be carefully considered but not all acted upon because making changes just for the sake of doing something different won't improve your WIP. When you no longer are certain anything you can do would improve the work, send it out. Chances are a literary agent or publisher will ask for rewrites anyway. Would you agree with critics who say The Ramblers is a love letter to New York or is it more of a love letter to your characters? To an idea?
ADR: It’s so interesting to see how a book is received and what reviewers have to say about it once it’s out in the world. I do believe that The Ramblers is a love letter to New York City and to my trio of flawed, seeking characters and to the idea of existential rambling as integral to happiness in life. What’s interesting, I admit, is that when I set out to write the book, my aim was not to pen an ode to any of these things, but to simply tell a story about three real people and their intersecting lives over the course of one week. What emerged, I now see, was indeed a literary love letter, and I’m both tickled and intrigued by this.
SJ: I would consider my novels love letters to Southern California and the places I've visited, including New York City, though that wasn't my original intention. Any chance your next book will be set in Southern California?
ADR: My next book (or what I think will be my next book!) takes place in New York City (yes, again!) and Cape Cod in the 1980s and 1990s, but do I love California and could certainly see future books being set there.
SJ: One doesn't read about ornithologists often. Where did the idea to make Clio an ornithologist?
ADR: My late father was a true bird lover and I grew up in a home surrounded by bird relics – antique wooden duck decoys, Audubon bird prints, bird books. I wanted to learn more about birds and making Clio an ornithologist was a chance to do this. I had the wonderful opportunity to go behind the scenes in the Ornithology Collection at the American Museum of Natural History and to go on bird tours in Central Park. Conducting this research was deeply rewarding personally and professionally.
SJ: Do you ever worry that when people are reading your book fifty or 100 years from now (don't we all hope) they'll wonder what the heck an iPhone app is and how creating one could make Tate an overnight success? Bigger picture, do you think authors should worry about stuff like that or simply write for their time?
ADR: This is such an interesting question and I certainly thought about the question of timelessness while writing my book. Ultimately, I chose to include terminology that felt essential to the story I was trying to tell, terminology that would anchor the narrative in a specific time in history. I think authors should certainly consider the question of whether they want to offer a window into a discrete time or spin a more universal tale that transcends particularities of time. I’ve read and loved both types of stories.
SJ: What piece of advice do you most often give aspiring writers?
ADR: Just do it. Yes, an old school Nike quote (and my eighth grade yearbook quote!), but there’s so much wisdom packed in this tiny truism. We can plot and plan and overthink for years, but we must actually sit down and put words together. First drafts aren’t meant to twinkle; they give us something to work with. If you want to write, write.
About Sarka-Jonae Miller
SJ is a local author, book marketing manager, publicist, and columnist who writes chick lit and steamy romance based in San Diego and Los Angeles. Her novels include the Between Boyfriends series and the All for You series. She is also one of the authors included in The Many Faces of Love Collection, a new 9-book bundle sold for only $0.99 and available free to Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime members.
SJ also writes health and fitness articles for Align Life and Natural News. Read her Between Boyfriends blog for book reviews, author interviews, TV episode synopses, and giveaways. Follow @sarkajonae and @sjpublicity9 on Twitter for more writing tips, book recommendations, and industry news. Get health and exercise articles from @sjnews9.