Feisty, irreverent writers are fun: Hearing them share their tips and trials can be so helpful and encouraging! That’s why I got a big boost when I went to hear Dorothea Benton Frank speak about her writing career. She was fun, witty, and warm — and upfront about what it takes to create a novel.
She should know! Since 2000, when her first book, Sullivan’s Island, debuted, she’s written eleven more. Year after year, readers have snapped them up and turned her into a New York Times bestselling author. And it all started with one creative writing class at a local college! Here’s a glimpse of how Dorothea works:
She always outlines her plots because “somebody has to be in charge” — and she has a general idea of how a story will end before she begins. Knowing what scene she’s going to tackle each day based on her outline helps her get started each day. But even with a road map, Dorothea finds herself making major changes. Writing a novel is like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle — a change in one place creates the need for other changes.
Writing is hard work — and Dorothea admitted that she struggles with writer’s block “every day around 8:30.” She has to push herself to get through the first 100 pages. Her writing process is “butt in the chair” persistence. You have to learn how to jump the hurdles and keep going. If you need to a walk around the block — then go. Give yourself little rewards. Do whatever it takes to keep yourself working every day.
If you want to get published, then take a class with a known writer, go to workshops, and book festivals. Bring a cover sheet, 3 chapters of your novel, contact information, and a one-sheet to every event, so you’re ready to pitch.
Polish your work: make it as perfect as possible. The first manuscript she submitted was “ready to go to press” — and showed that she was serious about her writing.
When I asked Dorothea what her best writing tip was, she answered “Change your environment.” Sounds like a good idea to me. Write on, Dorothea!