Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Q&A: SUSAN MEISSNER, PT 2


Today, the conclusion of our email conversation with novelist Susan Meissner. Susan is the acclaimed author of several novels, including Why the Sky Is Blue, In All Deep Places, and A Window to the World (named one of the top ten Christian novels of 2005 by Booklist magazine). In October, she kicks off a new mystery series with Widows and Orphans (Harvest House), featuring lawyer Rachael Flynn.

She lives in rural Minnesota with her husband, Robert, and their four children.

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PART TWO.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
Here's the deal: If you aspire to write, nothing can stop you but your own lack of motivation. That's the good news.

If you aspire to be PUBLISHED, lots of things can stop you. Bad timing, no agent, an underdeveloped manuscript, lack of a network, the list could go on.

Here's the absolute best advice I can give you if you are unpublished: (I don't have to give you advice on becoming a writer. If you write, you are one.)

1. Educate yourself. Subscribe to a writing magazine, take online courses, take campus courses, buy a market guide and study it cover to cover. Do whatever you can to become knowledgeable of the industry.

2. Write every day. Think of it as swimming laps in a pool when no one is watching. You are training for a future race when you will have an audience, but you have to get your practice laps in before you can even think of competing.

3. Attend a writer's conference. There is no better way to get face-to-face contact with editors and agents. These guys go to conferences looking to find the next future bestselling author. But when you pitch your project, make sure it's complete and as flawless as you can make it. Make sure you choose a conference attended by editors from houses that you know fit your project. Even if you are not ready to pitch a project, you grow as a writer when you attend a conference. The amount of learning that takes place turns your brain to ramen but when you get home and thoroughly digest what you've been taught, you will find that you have experienced an exponential growth in your writing skills.

WHAT DO YOU WISH NON-WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
Just because I'm not writing doesn't mean I'm not working. I am always thinking, researching, contemplating, devising. Writing is half sitting at the computer and half observing the world as it spins. The days when I am not writing can be just as labor-intensive as the days I am.

WHAT DO YOU WISH OTHER WRITERS UNDERSTOOD?
You can't control the whole timing thing. You can be a stellar writer and still not get a contract if the timing is not right. Don't sweat what you can't control. Know the market -- that can help you choose a project that the market IS ready for. But in the end, you can only control the depth and quality of your writing.

FOR THE WRITER WITH A NEW BOOK, WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER THE BEST THING TO PROMOTE IT?
I'm a marketing weenie, but I do think even wimps like me can do a fair bit of promotion through a professionally-designed website and newsletter. That's what I do.


WOULD YOU RECOMMEND JOINING AN AUTHOR GUILD?
I recommend joining any kind of writing community. Writing is rather isolating. I have this amazing job where I do what I love, but I don't have any co-workers to chat with around the water cooler. So it's imperative to join a group of "co-workers" to bounce ideas off of, to vent with, to share your knowledge with, to network with. I'm a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (an excellent online community), as well as two other online groups that keep me connected. It's all about reciprocity. (Did I spell that right? Is that a word?) It's about giving and getting. You need to share what you know, you need to learn what others can share.

WHEN CHOOSING FROM ALL THE ORGANIZATIONS AVAILABLE, WHAT TRAITS SHOULD A NOVELIST LOOK FOR?
Look for a group where you can give and take. Obviously you want to find a place where you can find like-minded writers who share your passions and frustrations. Genre-specific groups are wise choices, although you might be surprised by what you can learn from someone who writes in a genre totally different than yours. Size of the group matters, too. Larger groups like ACFW have regional and local chapters that help foster a deeper sense of community. The main thing is to pick a place to belong where you can be yourself, where you can share what you know and where you can learn something new every day.

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Many thanks to author Susan Meissner. Visit her online at SusanlMeissner.com. You may also sign up for her newsletter, or read this interview with the author conducted by her publisher, Harvest House Publishers.

Related link: Q&A: SUSAN MEISSNER, PT 1

More mystery/suspense authors:
Q&A: COLLEEN COBLE (Fire Dancer)
FIRST Day, Aug 1: FULL TILT by Creston Mapes
Q&A: ALTON GANSKY (Director's Cut)
Q&A: WANDA DYSON (Abduction)
Q&A: T.L. HINES (Waking Lazarus)

INTERVIEW ARCHIVE
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