Saturday, March 27

How Talking Can Make You A Better Writer

I've been lucky enough to take an evening writing course over the past six weeks. I say lucky, because I've had my nose stuck in my "suspense/thriller" WIPs for so long now, I'd forgotten any other kind of writing existed. It's so easy to get tunnel vision when you're barely scraping together a couple of hours a day - or even minutes a day - to work on your, um, Masterpiece.

The teacher is a veteran journalist and short story writer. She teaches creative writing/journaling in her spare time. She's witty, caring, and has managed to bring together a very disparate group of military members/military spouses in to a small writing community. None of us write the same genre or want the same things out of writing. We're pretty much a "Heinz 57" group of writers.

This week we tackled "How To Do An Interview". I haven't had an article published since 2007, but I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed interviewing. We practised interviewing each other, and have to go back next week with an interview in hand to share with the others.

Interviewing is an important skill for a fiction writer and it goes beyond being able to scrounge facts out of a research subject. Interviewing a person allows for those unexpected moments when the relationship becomes a real conversation, when you go off on a tangent you hadn't thought of when making up your list of questions, and connect with that person in an emotional way. It inevitably gives you a fresh perspective on your subject, which is going to spill over to your WIP.

To me, forcing yourself to actually talk to another person, instead of staring at your computer screen, makes you push yourself outside your comfort zone. How many of us like public speaking? No? How about trying to get someone to talk about themselves, about their favourite subject, or get those pesky forensic details out of their heads and in to your notebook? Putting the other person at ease is a skill, just as plotting or building 3-D characters is a skill.

You've probably figured out by now that interviewing people opens the doors to actually making money for your writing, while you're still pounding out that manuscript. Even if you don't get paid for your efforts in interviewing the local Chairman of the State Fair Committee, it can be a nice "clip" to show an editor or agent you can actually get out there and talk to people.

I'm excited by this weeks assignment. My husband's deployed right now, and if I didn't have kids to get to school and a dog to walk, I'd likely be holed up in my office staring at that proverbial computer screen. I've already done my interview. Now comes the fun part - writing it up to reflect the unique military spouse I had the pleasure of meeting. 

If you're not getting out and talking to people who deal with the subjects in your novels, you're missing out on a learning experience that can lead to even better things. At the very least, you'll improve your self-confidence, maybe sell some articles, and delve in to different types of writing which can only add to your value as an author. There's a whole world of writing out there beyond your own genre. Stick your toe in the water and see how the ripples spread out. It can only make your writing better.


  1. great post laurie! i would have a heckuva time interviewing anyone except by email..the face to face and public speaking are scary!!!
    glad you're enjoying your class so much!

  2. Nice post. Since I went into retail seven years ago, I've gotten really good at chatting up people and in doing so, building my own self-confidence. And I've learned people love to talk about themselves and their interests, so it's not that hard to interview someone if it's something they love to talk about. Once you say you're writing a book, they love to open up.

  3. Great post. Like Margie, I work in retail and can chat people up, but I don't interview them well.

  4. I work in retail, and hate talking to the masses! LOL.
    But I love interviewing ppl. I'm naturally nosy, so digging out facts is fun.

  5. Glad to hear you are so energized by your class!