Last night at the New York Public Library’s Yorkville branch, authors Jennifer Weiner, Sarah Pekkanen and Elizabeth LaBan spoke candidly about their new books (The Next Best Thing, The Best of Us and The Tragedy Paper, respectively), their writing and revision process and advice regarding whether or not people should write for free.
For starters, they talked about the writing process. “I like to write in coffee shops,” said Weiner who’s active on Twitter, especially during The Bachelor. “I like to be around noise and have people around me. That’s my process: Coffee shops.”
As for LaBan, who has a background in journalism like Weiner and Pekkanen, she prefers commotion as well. “I can write with a lot of distractions.”
Pekkanen agreed. When she pens a novel, there are “notebooks everywhere.” In fact, she’s been known to bring her laptop to Chuck E. Cheese!
Fitting it in when you can is particularly critical if you’re juggling a day job. As for their take on how to balance writing a book while working another gig that consumes a lot of time and energy? “Do it when you can,” Pekkanen advised.
“If you’re going to be a writer, nothing is going to stop you,” added Weiner. “There is a story inside you and only you can tell it. You’re going to have to, you’ll explode!”
Rage also helps, joked Weiner when she recalled writing in the late 1990’s. “I had just been dumped so I had rage to fuel me. Rage is great!” Plus, there weren’t very good TV shows around 1998-ish so she wrote a lot on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday nights — not on Thursdays because Friends, Seinfeld and ER were on, she confessed.
Switching gears to revisions, one audience member asked about the aftermath of writing your first draft. Weiner suggested finding people you trust who’ll be honest with you but getting distance from it helps as well. In fact, the bestselling author recalled putting a manuscript she wrote in a box for six weeks, taking it out and then perusing it as a reader asking herself, “Will I like this? If I bought this would I want to read it?”
“Get some distance,” she advised. “Put it physically out of sight and put it away….Anything can be made better.”
And then ask people you trust for their honest input. LaBan incorporated the same advice and asked for other sets of eyeballs to read her work — including Weiner’s! LaBan turned to her quipped, “Well, I asked you to read it.”
And what if you’re not quite at that stage yet? As in, still typing away. “For fiction, you gotta finish,” mentioned Weiner. “Agents are busy and they’re not going to take you on unless they know you can bring it.”
You may already have a full plate if you’re active on social media and blogging away, too. That said, what were there thoughts about people considering writing for free?
It depends on the individual but Weiner indicated people should size up their own situation and ask themselves, “What is this going to cost me and then ask, ‘What are the benefits?’ You have to do what’s right for you, not only where you are now but always with an eye of where to go next.”