Sarah OcklerToday, the wonderful Sarah Ockler is stopping by for a “How I Write” feature! Many thanks to Sarah for participating, and offering a signed paperback copy of BITTERSWEET (releases 12/4/12, Simon Pulse)  to one of my lucky readers!

About the author:
Sarah Ockler is the bestselling author of critically acclaimed young adult novels Twenty Boy Summer, Fixing Delilah, and Bittersweet. Her books have been translated into several languages and have received numerous accolades, including ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults, Girls’ Life Top 100 Must Reads, IndieNext list picks, and more. Her short fiction and essays will be featured in two upcoming young adult anthologies: Defy the Dark and Dear Teen Me. Her next novel, The Book of Broken Hearts, hits the shelves in May 2013.

Sarah is a champion cupcake eater, coffee drinker, night person, and bookworm. When she’s not writing or reading, Sarah enjoys taking pictures, hugging trees, and road-tripping through the country with her husband, Alex.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Are you a planner (outline, etc.) or do you “pants” it?

I started out as a pantser, mostly because I didn’t know any other way. I just wrote as the story came to me. Four books later, I’m a strict plotter. I do extensive pre-writing with character bios, a detailed scene spreadsheet, and lots of planning tools. Character and plot are so intertwined, and for me, the only way to ensure they’re working together and progressing organically is to know roughly where I want to end up. BUT, I always keep an open mind during the writing process, so even though I have a strict outline in place, if my characters start wandering in new directions, I go with the flow and see where it takes me. I guess that’s a long way of saying I plot first, pants later!

Do you write daily or sporadically when you’re inspired?

I write almost daily. If I waited for inspiration, I would never finish anything. Whether you’re writing as a career or a hobby, if you don’t make time for it regularly, if you don’t make it a priority in your life, it simply won’t happen. So even on days when I’d rather do anything else, I find a way to do at least some writing. Sometimes we have to make our own inspiration!

What tool(s) do you use to write? Microsoft Word, Pages, Scrivener, typewriter, pen and paper, and/or napkins/toilet paper?

I do a lot of early brainstorming, prewriting, and freewriting in unlined Moleskine notebooks. There’s something cool about the physical act of dragging the pen across the page. Individual notebooks are also easier to tote along if I’m writing on the go and don’t want to lug the laptop. Once I’m ready to start writing full scenes, however, I use Scrivener exclusively. I’ve written my last 3 books (and counting!) with that tool and I can’t imagine going back to Word.

What resources do you recommend for new writers?

The first and most important resource I can recommend is other published books. You can learn so much about writing by reading and analyzing the works of others within and outside of your genre. While you’re reading, pay attention to what turns you on, what turns you off, and look behind the words to see how the author might’ve achieved that effect. Writers write, but we also read. A TON of stuff. Beyond that, some of my favorite craft books are: THE ANATOMY OF STORY by John Truby, THE WRITER’S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler, and THE FIRE IN FICTION by Donald Maass. There’s also a great video series on plot development on YouTube via Martha Alderson (AKA The Plot Whisperer) here:

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received for writing?

Don’t give up, no matter what. Writing is HARD, it’s emotional, it’s lots of ups and downs and rejections and bad news at ever stage, but if you have a story in your heart, you HAVE to find a way to get it on the page. Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. And a few other gems to keep in mind: 1) Stop comparing yourselves to others, whether it be their writing style, advance amounts, book reviews, marketing support, progress (or lack thereof) on the writing journey, support (or lack thereof) from friends and family, or anything. The best thing you can and must do is write, write for yourself and keep writing. 2) Most of writing is actually revising, so don’t be afraid to write a crappy first draft. 3) If you feel like your idea isn’t original, remember, there are very few *truly* original story ideas. The originality comes with the execution. As a unique individual, you’re bringing your own experiences and worldview to the page — how could it not be original? Even if you and I were given the same plot outline, we’d still come up with highly different stories. Don’t let that fear stand in your way. Just… write! 4) Don’t worry about writing what you know. Write what you CARE about. Write what keeps you up at night. If you don’t know something, you can research it, but you can’t fake enthusiasm and authenticity!

Have you participated in NaNoWriMo before? Or, what types of writing events have you participated in? What was your favorite?

I’ve started NaNo three times, and each time, inevitably, some other deadline appears and I have to abandon my efforts! But I think NaNo is awesome — there’s something inspiring about knowing that we’re all in this together, so to speak. Something about the communal creative energy. So if you need some discipline and a boost in your writing, or if you’ve been talking about writing a novel but haven’t taken that first step, I highly recommend giving it a try!

Books by Sarah Ockler:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

More “How I Write” Q&As!

Tagged with →  
Share →

29 Responses to Sarah Ockler: How I Write & Giveaway

  1. Fun to hear how writers plan, plot, or pants their stories. And fun to learn more about Sarah, too. I love her stories and look forward to her books. I met her at the Tattered Cover a while back when Fixing Delilah first came out- Yay! Colorado authors! Thanks for all the great and fun posts, Jen.

  2. Sarah Handrich says:

    Thanks for the awesome giveaway!

  3. I’m not a writer , but I truly enjoyed reading about Sarah’s process. I think the most important bit of advice is to keep writing instead of waiting for inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Sophia says:

    Lovely interview! I also love writing, and I’ve found that without an idea of a plotline, it’s hard to continue writing a story. I think I’ll do what Sarah does and plan everything extensively first, and then let it go different directions later. Also, I’ve never heard of Scrivener before! I’ll have to check it out.

  5. Melissa T
    Twitter: MidnightOrchid

    I just noticed this looking at the post, but I really like how all of the covers of Sarah’s books are pieces of things that come together to make the whole object/overall picture.
    Melissa T recently posted..Book Blast: Imperfectly Beautiful by Diony George {Plus Giveaway}My Profile

  6. Amanda T says:

    These are some really great tips for writers. I know I always worry that what I am writing is similar to someone elses writing. Your piece of advice really gave me a new insight.

    • Sarah Ockler
      Twitter: sarahockler

      I get emails about that all the time, Amanda, so you’re not alone there. Whenever I have that thought, I acknowledge it, then put it in timeout where it belongs. Like, “Yeah, I know, I’m not original. Thanks. Now you go sit over there and behave yourself. I have work do to.” 🙂

  7. Gabby says:

    Really like her book Bittersweet. Those are some great tips for writers, my friend also uses MoleSkin books

  8. Sarah is one of my all time favorite YA authors – I absolutely loved Twenty Boy Summer and have thoroughly enjoyed all of her other books. On top of being a great writer, she’s also just a really amazing individual. She’s always so personable and willing to share many words of advice for newbie writers.

    This was a wonderful interview – thanks so much for sharing!

  9. rhonda says:

    Thanks for the writing tips.

  10. izzy says:

    I remember when i first read “2 boy summer”/ I couldn’t put the book down. It was so amazing, every page had a new surprise, that i wanted to discover. When i finished reading i was left crying for one whole week. The book itself was emotional enough for me, but the fact that i finished it was even worse. Since then I have read it 3 times. Sarah Ockler is my favorite author. She has tweeted and followed me, and even emailed me. She’s so nice. I hope i can win this book because when I read her writings my crazy life is gone and I enter the character’s she has written about.

    • Sarah Ockler
      Twitter: sarahockler

      Hi Izzy! I love when books transport me to new lives and places, so the fact that my stories have done that for you is the highest compliment. Thank you so much! xo

  11. fakesteph
    Twitter: fakesteph

    I feel the same way about Nano. I always intend to participate and November is always a ridiculously busy month. And yet… if I do my own nano at a different time of year, I don’t fail. 🙂
    fakesteph recently posted..What I’m Reading: School EditionMy Profile

  12. Laura McLendon says:

    I wish I had a writer’s talent!!

  13. I love it when authors talk about the voices that they hear or how their characters lead their story. It doesn’t happen to me so it just fascinates me to hear what authors have to say about that process. Thanks for the wonderful insight to your writing. I have had Bittersweet on my TBR list since I first saw it – I just love the cover! Thanks for the chance to win a copy!!
    Susan @ The Book Bag recently posted..WWW Wednesdays November 21My Profile

  14. JenP says:

    Spectacular writing advice!

  15. Michelle Sedeño
    Twitter: michellesedeno

    Great interview!
    I would love to have my name printed on books one day, too. But right now, I don’t have any drafts. I just have these ideas, but I don’t write them down yet. I want to write them when I’m ready–when the story will flow from me naturally. I don’t want to ruin it with over-thinking or as you said, fake enthusiasm.
    But I do write poems and other originals.. I already have tons. 🙂

    Thanks for your advice, Sarah! It will really help a lot of aspiring writers–including me.
    Oh, and, I’m currently reading Twenty Boy Summer–my fist book from you! 🙂
    Michelle Sedeño recently posted..Celebrating Debutanteres: Author Rebecc a Serle (Interview + Giveaway)My Profile

  16. Jolene A says:

    I’m not a writer, but I love hearing the process authors go through. Great interview and can’t wait to read your books

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge