Ever since I finished writing my book I’ve been a bit obsessed with how other writers write. Writing a book — writing any lengthy piece — is such a solo mission it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who has to smudge herself with burning sage and pray to the gods of Polaroid before she begins (I might be joking… Maybe). So today’s post is the first in a very occasional series of interviews with writers to see how they get in the zone and get their words on paper. I’m also asking them to share photos of their writing space with us, so we can be
First up is the indomitable Danielle LaPorte. Danielle is the author of Style Statement and The Fire Starter Sessions (hitting book shelves in April 2012) and today sees the launch of her next e-program-of-awesome, Your Big Beautiful Book Plan. Co-authored with book proposal whizz, Linda Silvertsen, it’s exactly what you need to craft a book proposal that’s gonna get you that book deal. And here’s what makes it extra useful: they’ve included lots of real-life proposals from published authors (including me!) Those alone are worth investing in. Seriously. After our Fire Starter call back in 2009 Danielle was generous enough to send me a copy of the proposal she’d written for Style Statement. Having a real-life proposal in my hands helped me craft my own when the time came. I’m forever grateful to her :)
SC: What do you use for writing a) notes/ideas/brainstorming and b) your book?
DLP: Everything begins in hand notes in my Moleskine notebooks. I prefer the ones withe the craft covers. 6×9. I can outline a whole book in two pages. If I can get down the four core ideas, then it all begins to flow.
Then, and I love this part: pattern recognition. I move on to using one inch square light yellow sticky notes (you see I’m very specific about these things. Squares help me think mo’ better than rectangles. Can’t explain.) I write down different ideas, concepts, words on dozens and dozens of sticky notes. And then I lay them on a large piece of art board and I begin to cluster them. I start to see which are the Big Themes, and I place the supporting ideas under the obvious umbrella concepts. And THAT becomes the outline of the book or program. Works every time.
Then I do my first Table of Contents on my trusty MacBookPro (or my Mac Air if I’m traveling.) And I don’t look back.
How do you begin?
Usually in the bath tub. Really my best ideas come with heat and bath oil.
Describe your writing process (edit as you go? Shitty first draft? Daily word count goal?)
I have no typical, writerly “measurables”. If I had to write X pages per day, or X words a week, I’d faint from lack of creative oxygen — couldn’t bear it.
I write what feels good, when it feels good. And of course, sometimes what feels good is slamming a deadline, so I don’t drift from the goal: which is to create something awesome and impeccable and ship it. But I do prioritize mostly on emotional/creative pull.
What do you do when the words aren’t coming?
Nap. Organize stuff. Buy too much on iTunes. I also visit my Alexander McQueen and Donna Karan coffee table books. And Rilke.
Please describe any writing rituals you have (I’m assuming you have some as all writers I know have some, including me)
Well, I pride myself on being able to write anywhere, any time (being too sensitive about your surroundings can be such a creative cop out). Like, with kids dueling with light sabres by my desk, or in airport terminals, I manage to just tune it out and keep putting words on the screen. But ideally, I have a morning walk, a lush green smoothie. My desk is tidy. I light a honey beeswax candle, some hand-rolled incense, I crank some chanting tunes, and I play my wireless key board like a hot damn piano.
What’s your favourite part of the writing process/madness?
Crafting the one sentence that says it all.
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Thank you for bringing us into your space today, Danielle — it’s the one inch square sticky notes that are staying with me!
Full disclosure: I’m an affiliate for Your Big Beautiful Book Plan because I absolutely believe in it. So if you click on the link and decide to invest in the Plan, i’ll get a few dollars in return (which I’ll be reinvesting in more books. Yay for books!)