I’m so excited to have one of my newest author buddies Jacqueline Silvester on the blog this week! In this interview, you’ll get an inside look at her writing process, learn her top tips for marketing and productivity, what screenwriting has taught her about writing prose and networking with other writers, her thoughts on plotting vs. pantsing, and receive invaluable advice all writers would be wise to follow!
Here’s your cue to brew a cup of coffee or tea and get comfy!
How long have you been writing? Have you always wanted to be a professional writer?
I’ve been writing since I was 12 years old. I wrote a poem and won a school competition, all the praise that came from it (mainly from my mom) just made me think- “Hey, I can do this and get praised every single time.” Hah! Writing was also my coping mechanism for puberty; I had a poem for every occasion – heartbreak, crushes, bullying, acne, and grief… Then in college I started charging people for poems and blog posts, and I haven’t stopped writing since.
You have a screenwriting background like I do! Has screenwriting strengthened your prose writing in any way? If so, can you explain how?
It definitely has! When you write screenplays you are taught to cut the “dead weight.” You don’t have to say what everyone is wearing or describe their hair, because you have hairdressers and the wardrobe department for that. Similarly, in a novel, you have to remember that the reader will be able to fill in some of the blanks and you don’t have to go describing every little thing in detail.
The reader wants to do their share of the work. After I worked as a professional screenwriter for a few years I went back to my first draft of my YA novel Wunderkids and cut 15,000 words.
Which do you enjoy most, screenwriting or novel writing?
I enjoy novel writing more. I write screenplays on commission, which means I nearly aways have to strive for someone’s stamp of approval (be it client, animation studio or producer.) With screenplays there is a long line of people who can change, tweak or alter your material. It’s a real team effort and you are also limited by many factors, most of all budgets (forget hoards of zombies, or asteroid collisions, or time travel.) Whereas with novels there is no limit. You can build any crazy type of world that you want and you are its sole master. Well…until the editor arrives.
Do you have any tips for authors based off your screenwriting knowledge and experience?
I used to roll my eyes when I heard “industry people” talk about the importance of networking and author-platforms. Now I realize that both of those things are very, very important. Being a screenwriter has forced me to be a team player (i.e. open to criticism,) to be social, and “in the know” in regards to industry trends and competitors. I’ve applied all of this to my career as an author and it has helped a great deal.
Congratulations on the success of your new book, Wunderkids! Can you briefly explain what it’s about and what inspired you to write it?
Thank you! Wunderkids is about a talented 15-year-old girl named Nikka, who is offered a full-scholarship to a prestigious boarding school in the California mountainside. When she arrives at Wildwood Academy, Nikka finds love, stability, and a tight group of misfit friends. But Wildwood has a dark and twisted secret; one that threatens everything Nikka holds dear. Nikka is faced with a decision: she can stay and lose everything or risk death and run…
I won’t spoil it for anyone but there is a great deal of intrigue, romance and action, and a massive twist at the end. When I was 14 I spent a year in an arts boarding school in the woods in California. Let’s just say when you combine a group of artistic teenager and seclude them in the woods, wild things start to happen. It was a very strange year and I always knew I’d turn it into a book someday. My love for fantasy and sci-fi made me include some surreal twists in the story but a lot of it is based on my experiences.
What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
I’m not looking to impart any morals, especially since my readers are teenagers who probably get their fair share of lectures already. I mainly aim to entertain and comfort.
I want readers to come away feeling in love, and feeling like they’ve made new friends, and gone on new adventures. I want readers to gush, fear, pine, rejoice, and (sometimes!) despair, but whether or not they take anything away from that is up to them…
What is your favorite part of the writing process and why?
My favorite part is the initial “ideas” phase. When I am excited and scribbling notes down in a manic fashion. Basically, before all the hard work begins!
What is your least favorite part of the writing process and why?
The final edits! When the demon named Perfectionism begins to nag and torture you until you are 100% sure that nothing is amiss. I consider that to be the most-anxiety inducing part of writing.
Are you a “plotter” or a “pantser,” or perhaps a blend of both? Have you tried writing both ways? If a plotter, what is your favorite outlining method?
I made the mistake of not plotting out my first novel. I wrote myself into a few plot holes and fixing them ended up being way more work. Now I plot everything from the very start, down to each scene. I’ve drafted Wunderkids part two in a sixth of the time that it took to draft the first book, and that was mostly due to a strict approach to outlining.
When outlining, I like to outline each character’s storyline separately first, then I mark their intersecting moments. I also like to use screenplay plotting techniques like “three-act structure” to plan out the book.
Do you have any writing tricks or tips for productivity?
I use the program Scrivener and it is amazing. It monitors your progress and you can set goals each writing session, which is really helpful. I like to write to music (but I know that’s not for everyone) and I write in 25-minute sessions with 5-minute breaks (known as the tomato technique.)
What’s one useful craft tip you’ve learned lately that you can share with us?
Recently I’ve been watching documentaries and reading non-fiction books that my characters would choose to read and watch. That has helped me a lot with shaping dialogue and character development. For example, I recently bought a calendar with math quotes because one of my characters, Sums, is a math genius. Reading quotes from people that he would have admired has helped me understand him and craft his manner of speech.
Where do you go for inspiration when you feel your creativity well is running dry?
I’m lucky in that I find inspiration easy to come by (knock on wood!). It’s the “perspiration” part I struggle with more… But, when I do feel low on inspiration, I like to watch documentaries, read YA, visit museums and go to west-end shows. I find everything inspiring – news, people watching, art, nature. There are stories everywhere just waiting to be harnessed and told. Cheesy but true!
Which authors do you admire most, and why?
In the Young Adult world, I admire Leigh Bardugo, she writes diverse and complicated characters and her plots are amazing. I also love Marie Lu and Marissa Meyer. I hugely admire J.K Rowling (obviously) and the “big three,” as I like to call them: Pullman, Pratchett and Gaiman. I’m a big fan of Tolkien as well.
Do you have any marketing tricks or tips for authors who are new to publishing?
Support other writers and they will support you back! Create quality content on your social media streams and make sure readers get value out of following you, whether that is pretty pictures, tips, a blog, videos or advice.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Start promoting your book long before it comes out. Readers actually want to be involved in the process. Tell them about yourself, your ups and downs. Introduce them to the characters, let them vote on the cover (a popular marketing trend in indie publishing at the moment,) answer their questions and so on and so forth… Also,get involved in the #bookstagram community on Instagram. It is an amazing and supportive community.
What’s your favorite writing snack and/or beverage?
Chocolate! Coffee! And most importantly popcorn! My husky Laika loves popcorn so I sneak her some whilst I write and she keeps my feet warm in return. It’s a mutually beneficial situation.
Learn more about Jacky at http://www.jacquelinesilvester.com/.