Continuing our conversation with thriller writer T.L. Hines, whose brand-new debut thriller is Waking Lazarus (Bethany House). Hines has been an advertising agency owner/principal, a trade magazine editor, and now a novelist. TL lives in Montana with his wife and daughter. He is also a card-carrying member of International Thriller Writers, Inc.
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WHAT ARE YOUR WRITING HABITS?
Sloppy. Every morning, I try to put in two hours of uninterrupted writing. Unfortunately, the "uninterrupted" part hasn't been happening all that much recently, so I'm behind on my next book. Lots of people set daily goals, and I think that's worthwhile, but I don't have set goals for word count.
If I can sit down and write for two hours, I'll usually be able to get a couple thousand words -- provided I know where the story is going. Editing and revisions can happen any time of the day, but those first few hours are the golden time for writing.
ARE YOU AN "OUTLINE" WRITER OR A "MAKE IT UP AS YOU GO" WRITER?
I've tried both methods, and I think each approach has something going for it. When I outlined, I was able to move faster, and revisions were much easier. When I went Seat of the Pants (SOTP), it took me about three times as long to finish a comparable project ... but I think the plot was actually stronger. And frankly, I enjoyed the SOTP approach more, even if it was more of an effort.
So now, I try to combine the two. First, I sit down and do SOTP, writing the story as a screenplay. This gives me major scenes and dialog, helps me gel the characters, and gives me a 90-page rough story. That lets me "discover" the story, which is what I really like about the SOTP approach.
But when I'm done with that, I have a 90-page script that functions as my outline for writing the novel. When I take it to the first draft for a novel, I'm able to fill in some of the holes and develop the characters.
ARE YOU A FULL-TIME NOVELIST?
No, and that's fine. Writing, for me, is very therapeutic. I wrote my first novel as a way to escape some of the stress of running/owning my own business. I'm in a much better place now, as far as the "day job" goes, because my company has since merged with a larger one. That's allowed me, in many ways, to pursue my dreams of fiction publication.
WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU HAD "MADE IT" AS A NOVELIST?
Right now, I'm working on the second book of my contract. I'm also developing some ideas for at least one series, as well as a couple more stand-alones. I don't know if I can say that I've "made it" yet, but signing that first contract was a good step. And getting good reviews has helped me feel legit, at least on some level.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
Write because you love it, not because you have a huge desire to be published. If you're writing for the love of it, enjoying the creation and escaping into the minds of other characters, you'll ironically be on the path to publication. If you're writing because the most important thing in the world is seeing your name in print, you're misguided. You'll be worrying too much about what sells. You'll be chasing every new trend. You'll be frequenting writing boards online, and asking questions such as, "Should I use Courier or Times New Roman on my manuscript?" And frankly, you'll be spending less time actually writing.
I know of which I speak, because I've been there. I wrote my first book, went through more than 80 rejections from literary agents. I chalked it up to learning, put away the book, then wrote a second book. Again, more rejections. Maybe 100 of them this time.
Frustrated, I started writing a third book, wondering why I should even bother. Then, I realized I had a bad case of publication fever, and I had to sit down and say to myself: "You know what? It doesn't really matter if I ever get published, because I love writing. So I'm going to focus on writing, and quit worrying about publishing." With this admission to myself, I felt a weight lifted from my shoulders.
And ironically, about two weeks after being honest with myself, I received an email from Dave Long, acquisitions editor for Bethany House, who had downloaded the first chapter of my first book and was interested in seeing more. A month later, I had a two-book contract.
I don't think the timing on any of that was a coincidence.
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Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of our conversation with T.L. Hines. In the meantime, find him online at TLHines.com and TLHines.com/blog. His thriller Waking Lazarus is available at Amazon and many other fine retailers.
T.L. HINES, PT 1
T.L. HINES, PT 3
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More ITW links:
Q&A: KATHRYN MACKEL (The Hidden)
Q&A: ROBERT LIPARULO (Comes a Horseman)
Q&A: VICKI HINZE (Bulletproof Princess)
Q&A: THOMAS O'CALLAGHAN (Bone Thief)
ITW SPOTLIGHT ON CHRIS WELL (ME)