Today, we the book has been turned over to the hands of Terry Persun. Author of several novels and winner of the Star of Washington Award and a ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year finalist.
I carry several ideas for novels around in my head, with half a dozen voices or more clamoring for my attention. This goes on year after year, and has been happening to me for as long as I can remember. Often, an idea will be rattling around up there for more than a year before I actually sit down and begin writing. Sometimes it’ll take three or four years for everything in my head to work itself out. For me, the character has to come through with a name and a back story already in place. At that time, I will know the beginning of the novel, a few important events, and the end of the novel. That’s when I begin to write.
As for research, I find that I’ve been reading certain types of material, or have an interest in delving into subjects, that eventually lead to a portion of a novel or short story. I live my life and follow my interests at the time, but will use everything I find. If specific information needs to be looked up, I do that while working on the novel. I also tear sheet articles, and print pieces from the Internet, if they feel as though they are attached to one of the ideas running loose in my head.
Writing starts when I wake up one morning, usually early, like 4:00 or so, and my main character’s voice will be in my head. That when I start. Once I get under way, the first draft of the novel comes fairly quickly. I write a minimum of 1000 words per day, so in 90 or so days, I can easily have a 90,000 to 125,000 word first draft. But first drafts need work, so I let the book sit for a month or more. During this time, I’ll either start another novel, or I’ll write short stories or poems. I can keep several items going at any one time, so that has never been a problem for me. The book itself has such a strong and powerful feel that I can’t ruin it once it’s written. Typically, though, I only do two or three rewrites, and some of those may be nothing more than touching up a scene or two.
A lot of my books have to do with personal freedom. It doesn’t matter what others want, or what they think, I want readers to make their own decisions, and know that it’s okay to do that. We live at a time where our natural instincts and reactions have been so toned down that we’re afraid to make changes in our lives “just because we want to.” It seems to me that many people need reasons to make a change, even if the reason has to be fabricated. I’m all for taking responsibility for my actions without having to explain them to the satisfaction of others. I’d like to see more people live that way.
Since my first book got published in the 90s, I’ve noticed how much more committed to the act I am. I also continue to read books about writing, and try out new techniques. The great thing about writing for a living is that you are always learning something new, whether it’s information that’s useful for the book itself, or techniques to try during the writing. I love the process, from concept to rewrite to final touch-up, so it’s always fun and interesting to me. My life is happier while I’m working on a project. Yet, the most surprising thing about being a writer is how little control you have over what the reader takes away. I’ve thought a book was about one thing, then realized that the readers found something else within the pages. It’s great to know that this sort of thing happens. It raises the writing to an art form, where interpretation belongs to the reader, not to me, the author.
As for promotion, I believe that exposing the work to as many potential readers is important, but that once that’s done there really isn’t a lot more an author can do. I mean we can, and often do, talk incessantly about our books, but the number one marketing tool in the U.S. is word of mouth. If a few people read my novel and recommend it to more people, and they recommend it, etc., etc. then the book will sell well. You just have to do your best work, have it professionally edited (which is what publishing houses do best), and get it out there.
You can also visit my site www.TerryPersun.com