This is the first post in a “Writers on Writing” series that I made up the name for just now. You see, I originally reached out to a few absurdly talented writers in my network to pull together one long advice-y post on writing, but when it came down to it, I was doing the world (because obviously everyone in the world reads my blog — it’s definitely not just my friends and random people who happen to click from social media) a disservice by not sharing everything these folks graciously told me. I’ll shut up now (kind of) so we can jump in.
You know that badass author/mom of two boys who has the coolest hair but also shuts down Twitter trolls and campaigns for her local library?
If you don’t, you’re about to.
Meet Lauren Morrill — soon-to-be five-time author, Georgia resident, fellow procrastinator, and helpful advice-giver.
What spurred your interest in writing? And when did you start to realize you could actually make a living off of it?
My interest in writing really came from my interest in reading — all the way back when I was a kid. I actually wrote the text of a picture book and sent it Random House when I was in middle school (after finding their address in the back of one of my own books).
I write full time now, but that’s something I can do because I’m married to a person with a full-time job and benefits. My income rounds out our combined income to help pay bills. I think if I were on my own, I’d have to do a lot more hustling.
Still, do you think “I need to make money off of this” can sometimes step on your ability to give in to the creative process?
It fuels me. I’m a major procrastinator, so if I didn’t feel the pressure to sell a book or turn in a draft to get an acceptance check, I might never finish. Approaching it like a job that produces a paycheck is what keeps me motivated when I’m really not feeling it. And when I’ve sold a book on proposal, knowing that I’ll have to give the money back if I don’t finish is a pretty good motivator.
Speaking of the creative process, what’s your ideal scenario when you’re writing?
My favorite thing is to write outdoors, so it’s a good thing I live in Georgia, where the weather is good for most of the year! I live near a college campus, so for a good 9 months of the year you’ll find me parked at a table outside near a fountain or under a tree working away.
I have a harder time being productive in the winter, so I just sort of lean into and write at night when it’s dark and quiet because the kids are asleep. My husband is excellent about seeing my writing as a job as well, and is always pushing me out the door and away from the kids so I can get work done.
Let’s talk about inspiration for a minute. You’re about to publish your fifth book, and I’d love to understand more about how these ideas have popped into your head.
Ideas are really easy for me. I have piles and piles of them. A friend recently said that my super hero writer skill is that I can pop out a fully formed pitch with a plot seemingly out of nowhere. I do think ideas and plotting are where my strength lies. It’s the actually drafting that is so damn hard for me.
Most of my ideas come from stories see in the news or online or conversations I have at parties. Something in them will just stick with me, and I start down the “ok, but what if…” path. The next thing I know, I’ve got my next book idea. Because plot is my strength, my next step tends to be working up an outline, and then I tackle the opening. Once I’ve got the first few chapters, I’ll send that off to my agent to see what he thinks, and if I’ve got a contract or an option, then we’ll polish it up to send to my editor.
I’m really lucky in that all of my books have sold on proposal, so once I get the go-ahead (or make the sale), then it’s off to the writing cave to actually finish the damn thing (did I mention that’s my least favorite part?). I’ve always only pitched one book at a time, and if that book doesn’t get the go-ahead, I move onto the next thing.
When it comes to deciding what book to write, it comes down to a combination of a good hook (if I can’t elevator pitch the book, I know it’s not the next thing) and lots of enthusiasm (on both my part and the part of my editor).
— Lauren Morrill (@LaurenEMorrill) December 31, 2018
Do you have a favorite story you’ve written — or maybe one that sticks with you more closely than the others?
Being Sloane Jacobs is probably my favorite book I’ve written so far, but every book has some special scene or character in it that’s my favorite. My June 2019 release, Better Than The Best Plan (which is out June 25, 2019 from Farrar Straus and Giroux), has my favorite scene I’ve ever written EVER. It takes place at one of those rickety old parking lot carnivals, and it’s crackling with chemistry between the two characters and has tons of funny lines and good banter. I’m dying for the chance to read it in front of an audience some day!
What advice do you have for those who need a little nudge to start writing, blogging, creating, etc.?
The hardest part is starting. Every night I sit down at my computer and think, “Ugh, I don’t want to do this. I’d rather read/binge watch ER/take a bath/stare at my pores in the mirror.” But then I tell myself to just do 100 words. That’s nothing, right? And so I start with the 100, and next thing I know I’ve written a whole chapter because I’m caught up in the story. And sometimes I write 100 words and still feel stuck, so I quit, because I accomplished my goal. And that’s fine, because 100 words is better than 0. So give yourself teeny tiny goals and clear them. Set yourself up for victory. But just start.
Lauren’s first young adult novel, Meant to Be (Delacorte), released in 2014, and the forthcoming Better Than the Best Plan (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) hits bookshelves in June. Be sure to follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Goodreads to stay in the loop.