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Tuesday, July 18, 2006


I believe we (writers) have it so much better than those in years past. We have the internet for research. We have all kinds of books on craft. Writing conferences. But even more importantly, we have great published writers who give of themselves to those of us who still have so much to learn.

Having said that, most of my friends know I'm targeting Love Inspired Suspense for my Prescription for Murder book. Like most new writers, I try to read books in my chosen market as often as I can. It was after ordering Even in the Darkness and When Silence Falls, that I went in search of Shirlee McCoy's website and ultimately her blog. I've so enjoyed getting to know her through her blog. Her insight into the publishing/writing world has been very enlightening. I think it must be the teacher in her that brings out her mentoring side. =)
Thank you for being here, Shirlee. I've read on your blog you are the second of five children. Now married and the mother of four young children, who you homeschool. Sounds like your life is pretty full. And yet, you still find time write. Any tips on how you make it all work?

I always recommend that writers choose daily word count goals rather than setting a specific time or number of minutes they plan to write. This tends to work, because it forces us to meet a very specific goal. If I write for a half-hour, I may write half a page or five pages. My progress will be sporadic and I may feel that I'll never finish my project. If I commit to writing five hundred words a day, I'll make consistent progress toward finishing. That's always a good feeling!

What kind of timeline is involved in one of your novels? From conception to mailing it off.

It takes me about a month to prepare a proposal (three chapters and a synopsis). Once that's approved, I usually have the book written and mailed out within two months. So, I guess that would be three months altogether.

Sheesh, woman! What kind of word count do you strive for daily? And do you take a certain amount of time off in between books

I write 2,000 words daily. I like to take a few days off when I finish a project, but that doesn't always work out. Sometimes I get really sluggish and take off more time than I should! Or, I'll play around with different ideas and not focus on any one project. Other times, I move right into the next story.

Are you a detailed plotter or SOTP?

I'm a SOTP writer, but I wouldn't say it's the best way to go. I really admire people who can do detailed plots before they write. It makes the process easier. Now that I sell my work on proposal, I write a long synopsis before I actually write the story. So, I guess I do plot some.

I've asked many writers how confident they are of their work. (since this is a big issue for me) The answers have varied. Some writers know they are writing well and it's just a matter of time before they sell that first book. Then there are published authors I know who still struggle with confidence. Do you struggle with confidence, if not, what has been the hardest thing for you as a writer to overcome?

I'm never satisfied with what I write. I always feel it could be better. However, I also realize that I could spend ten years trying to reach elusive perfection. I've had to learn to do the best work I can, and then let it go.

If you could have one book on the writing craft, what would it be and why?

Wow, that's a good question. The fact is, I've never read a book on the craft of writing, so I can't even begin to answer this. To study writing, I'd want a huge pile of published books in a variety of genres. Reading good writing teaches a person the flow of good story telling. Good story telling is key to success as a writer.

Wow, to think of all the money you've saved. Those craft books aren't cheap! LOL. Did I read you do things a little different in that you don't have a "crit" group? Can you share why that works for you and if you have your work critiqued before sending it off?

I don't have a critique group. I do have readers. And I pay a freelance editor to edit my final draft. My method is pretty simple I write the first draft on my own, revise, send the revised draft to my freelance editor, incorporate the changes she suggests, pass copies of the manuscript to four trusted readers. When they finish with it, I ask for comments and suggestions, make any further changes, and send it on to my editor at Harlequin. It's a method that works well for me. Mostly because I don't see much benefit in chapter by chapter critiquing. To be truly assessed, a story should be read in its entirety. That allows the reader to really get a handle on its strengths and weaknesses. Of course, that's only an opinion .

What do you think is the biggest misconception new writers will have to face?

That writing is controlled by muse and passion, and that being an author is somehow easier because it is something we love.

I guess that's not really a misconception so much as a dream. Writing is hard work. It only gets harder after a writer is published. The best thing any writer can do is get into good writing habits before she's published. Then when the time comes, she'll know what she's capable of & how many books a year she can produce, how long it takes her to write a first draft, how long it takes her to revise. Those things are really important when a writer is facing deadlines. I love writing. I can't imagine not doing it. But there are days when I'd rather do anything but write (even clean the bathroom!). To be successful, a writer has to be willing to write even when she doesn't feel like it. I think that's probably the hardest part of what we do.

Great point! I often wonder how much I could write if I was on a deadline. Good writing habits would make that much less scary.

On a more fun note, tell us about the day you found out you sold Still Waters. How did you celebrate and have you ever had a fabulous "Author" moment?

Selling STILL WATERS was such an awesome moment. It was my parents' anniversary. They'd gone on a trip. My husband had just startehomeschooling Things were pretty typical homeshooling kids, cleaning, feeling tired. Then the phone rang. I looked at the caller ID, saw Harlequin's name and number, and almost didn't answer. I was that nervous! I'd been hoping to sell the book. I'd spoken to Melissa Endlich on the phone a few months before and she'd told me she loved the story and the writing. I assumed that if they were calling, they wanted to buy it, but I was so afraid I was wrong, that maybe Melissa was calling me because she felt so bad about having to say no. I finally managed to pick up the phone, and was blown away when I was told Harlequin didn't just want to buy STILL WATERS, they wanted to offer me a two book contract. Wow! What an awesome moment. Of course, I tried calling everyone I knew and no one answered. LOL. I finally got in touch with my husband after several tries. He brought home dinner and flowers and a beautiful card that I still have.

I think my most fabulous author moment was signing at the D.C book expo in June. There were thousands of people there. I think it's the first time I've really felt like an author. Most days I just feel like me.

Can you tell us about any new projects you're working on?

I've just finished writing, VALLEY OF SHADOWS. It's the story of a character who appears in EVEN IN THE DARKNESS. In it, I take a very sweet, unassuming and rather mousy woman and throw her together with a dark, angst-ridden hero. They make a great couple. It just takes them a while to realize it! That will be out in July 2007. I've also got a book coming out in February 2007. LITTLE GIRL LOST is the second in the Secret of Stoneley continuity. My other project still needs to be approved by my editor, so I won't give any details.

Wow, sounds like you're going to have a very busy 2007. As always, Shirlee, you've been such a blessing. Thank you for being here and for all the help and encouragement you give to newbies like myself! Please check out http://www.shirleemccoy.comfor more great information on Shirlee and to keep posted on her future projects. And if you haven't checked out When Silence Falls, here's the link to order.

Finally, if you'd like to enter to win one of Shirlee's books from my own reading library, please go to Shirlee's blog and email me the answer to this question...In Shirlee's opinion, what are the three secrets to success? I will put the names in a drawing and let you know on Friday who the winner is. Happy searching.


Unknown said...

Great interview, you two. I've enjoyed reading Shirlee's blog as well. She's so willing to share what she knows and to be an encouragement to others.

Malia Spencer said...

Fantastic interview! Thanks for putting us onto Shirlee's blog Sabrina. It's always fun to read. :)

Shirlee McCoy said...

Thank you, Sabrina, for posting the interview. I enjoy answering questions like these because it forces me to really think. Most days I'm so busy doing what I do, I don't think about how I do any of it. :0)

Sabrina L. Fox said...

Thank you, Shirlee, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do the interview. You have been a great help to me in my own writing, and I'm glad to have been able to share your wisdom with my friends. =)

Now, I know I've had lots of traffic. (Sitemeter says so) LOL, so leave a comment people! ;) Still time to try and win that book!

Cara Putman said...

Great interview, and I'll play. Check your email, Sabrina :-)