Thursday, January 8, 2009

Author Interview: Carolyn See

I love Carolyn See's book, Making a Literary Life. One of the things she recommends in the book is to send a charming note to an author, agent, publisher or editor daily. I felt it was appropriate that she be the recipient of my first charming note.

I later asked if she'd do an interview for me and she graciously consented.

MP: What is a typical workday?

CS: There is no "typical" work day. For my weekly reviews I try to take the book outside and read for a couple of hours until they're done. Then, since I'm such a terrible typist, I'll write the review on one day (they're 850-900 words, but I count them as 1,000), and type it the next -- which is the hardest part of the process. Then one day to revise, with notes from the editors of the Washington Post, and that can vary wildly, from ten minutes to three hours. They're wonderful people, but I have my favorites -- those who agree with me, of course.

If I'm going to a conference or a seminar, I'll spend a couple of hours organizing, or if I'm lazy, I don't.

For writing long projects, I try to do 1,000 words a day or (no more than) two hour's revision five days a week. If I'm working on a deadline, all that goes out the window, of course. I have a couple of anthology pieces coming up, and I'm procrastinating so much that I'll end up doing them over a period of three or so days. But I don't recommend that. I try to work in the morning, read in the afternoon. But I also try not to get tied to any particular schedule -- there too many ways to get off it and then beat myself up about it...

MP: How do you feel about plotting and outlining?

CS: For plot and outline, as I say in MAKING A LITERARY LIFE, I generally know the first thing that's going to happen and the last. Then I'll do the second chapter and the penultimate chapter. Then I'll do my favorite scenes, the ones I feel like doing that day. I don't want to be dogmatic about it, but I think, except for mysteries and commercial novels, you don't need an outline. Because life doesn't have one -- it's full of surprises, and by doing outlines you fence yourself in.

more later . . . . .

As more of this interview becomes available I'll get it posted.

1 comment:

Lela said...

Hey this is cool! Although I still don't know how these authors can write a book without a plot. They are far more brilliant than I am. If you can, ask See if she's going to any conference this year.