Writing Advice From Allie Larkin
Since my first novel, STAY, hit shelves, I’ve gotten asked a lot of questions about the writing process. Of course there are things to learn about story and craft, dialogue, first person, second person, third person, setting, punctuation, sentence structure and all the details that make up the elements of a book. Those details are very important, but they won’t amount to a hill of beans if you don’t actually sit down and put the writing time in. So, I think the most important writing advice I could ever give is this: make an effort to find out what works best for you. What makes you want to write and keeps you consistently putting in the time?
Some books about writing talk about how you should write every day, write first thing in the morning or before you go to bed, or that you shouldn’t stop until you hit a certain word count. If that works for you, that’s fantastic, but if it doesn’t, don’t feel guilty that you’re not doing what you’re “supposed to.” Try different things, figure out what feels right, and don’t be afraid to change up your process if something stops working.
For the longest time, I had a romantic notion of having a room of my own and sitting at a window, watching birds and squirrels frolicking outside while I composed perfect sentences. But when we first moved into our house, I set up a nice little office for myself in our spare bedroom. I painted, bought a desk to put by the window, and hung shelves on the walls, and then I realized that I absolutely hated working in there. It might sound silly, but it felt like there was too much (self-imposed) expectation on my shoulders every time I closed myself in the office and sat down at that desk. And it turns out, birds and squirrels are distracting. So, I wrote much of the first draft of STAY while lying on the couch, with my laptop balanced against my knees and infomercials blaring in the background.
By the second draft, infomercials were distracting and I had to listen only to the iTunes playlist I made specifically for my main character. I wrote at the kitchen table some days, the lawn chair in the backyard others. Some lazy Sundays I spent the day in bed with my laptop, typing away. Eventually, I switched offices with my husband, and when I do work in there, I keep the curtains closed, so I don’t get distracted by the goings on outside.
I don’t write every day. It’s one of those “supposed tos” that simply doesn’t work for me. I think things out while I’m doing non-writing tasks and then I sit down to type it all out once I have something to write. I write until I’m at a point where I’m a little stuck and I need to think things out again for a day or two, and then I start all over.
It took a long time to trust in this process. I had to put aside that “I don’t write everyday” shame. I had to give up the notion of my perfect little writing room. I had to let go and realize that whatever it takes to get the best story out of my head and on to the page is what’s important. If I’d stayed stuck in the “supposed tos” I don’t think I’d ever have finished STAY, but I would have logged many hours, in the very early morning, sitting at the desk in my perfectly painted office, watching squirrels out the window.
Allie Larkin lives in Rochester, New York, with her husband, Jeremy, their two German Shepherds, Argo and Stella, and a three-legged cat.
She is the co-founder of TheGreenists.com
, a site dedicated to helping readers take simple steps toward going green.
STAY is her first novel.
You can visit Allie’s website at www.allielarkinwrites.com
Allie will be giving away an audiobook version of her book, Stay.