Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Sarah Sundin

Are you a morning person? A night owl? How do you arrange your schedule to allow the most efficient, productive time for writing?

I am definitely a night owl. Many writing teachers say you must write first thing every morning. No internet. Pure writing. That would be a disaster for me. My brain barely functions before nine o’clock, and creativity doesn’t kick in until noon. So I work with how God made me. In the morning, I take care of internet and social media first. For one thing, I live in California, and my publisher is three hours ahead of me. If they need something from me by the end of the day, I need to work on it immediately. Also, busywork allows my brain to wake up. After lunch, my creativity and energy burst in, and I can write nonstop until dinner—if life allows me. When I get an evening to myself (rare), I can really write! God made each of us unique, and the only “must” is we “must” find what works best for us.

When working on a manuscript, what do you do when you get stuck?

Because I outline my novels, I rarely get stuck in the rough draft. If I do, I review my notes for the chapter, read the previous chapter, and dive in. Most importantly, I give myself permission to write garbage, knowing I can delete it later. Just put something on the page. Ironically, those “garbage” beginnings often end up as my favorites.

Do you ever read your dialog aloud to see how it sounds? Have you ever performed an action you want one of your characters to carry out in order to help you visualize or describe it? Have you ever embarrassed yourself doing this?

Oh, yes! I read each novel out loud while editing. This is a great way to catch unnatural dialogue, awkward sentences, poor flow, boring parts, and repetitions. And I often act out bits, from body language to action. Recently I needed to know if my heroine could get up to standing on one leg with her hands tied behind her back, hop through a door, close it behind herself, and lock it—and fast. So I acted it out. Yes, I could do it! Yes, my family thinks I’m weird.

If you’re a plotter, have you ever tried pantsing it? If you’re a pantser, have you ever given plotting a try? Can you swing both ways, or are you a confirmed devotee of one of these methods?

I am a plotter. I wrote my first novel by the seat of the pants, and it was an overblown mess that required extensive editing and is still unpublishable. When I started attending writers’ conferences, I learned various methods of outlining—and the angels sang! Outlining fits my analytical, methodical personality, and I write faster, cleaner, and better with an outline. So I’m a confirmed plotter. But that’s what works for me. Some pantsers find outlines stifle their creativity, and they need to avoid them. For me, the structure of an outline actually unleashes my creativity.

Do you prefer writing the initial draft, or do you enjoy the revision process more? Do you revise as you write, or do you first produce a big mess that you later have to fix? If your first draft is rough, do you usually have to cut out a lot of dead wood, or add flesh to the bare bones?

While I enjoy most of the pre-writing and outlining phase, I adore the rough draft. Since the story is outlined in advance, my rough drafts are pretty clean, and the editing process is fast and smooth. The changes aren’t usually huge content issues, but smaller details—“add this historical fact,” “add in that bit about her sister,” “weave in the sailing theme,” “decrease internal monologue.” I don’t make the revisions during the rough draft phase—I just take notes. Then all the changes get made after the rough draft is complete.


Revell, 2015
Sarah Sundin is the author of seven historical novels, including Through Waters Deep (Revell, August 2015). Her novella “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in Where Treetops Glisten is a 2015 Carol Award finalist. A mother of three, Sarah lives in California, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school.

Buy Through Waters Deep:
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