This week’s installment of the Writer’s Corner features Jenny Schwartz. Jenny writes paranormal romance and science fiction. She is independently published and not affiliated with Clayborn Press. Sheis an Australian author. Her dream is to live by the sea, so if you ask her if she’d like her very own starship her answer will be – “Will it have a beach?” Sadly, starships are pretty much beach-free zones, so Jenny’ll probably stay on Earth a while longer. You can find Jenny at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter @Jenny_Schwartz
How long have you been writing and what is your proudest accomplishment so far?
I’ve been writing for over a decade. There are plenty of things I’m proud of when I reflect on that journey: the writing communities I’m part of; the lessons learned from editors; seeing the improvement in my writing; feeling more confident. But one of the things I’m proudest of, the reader comment that thrills me the most, is when someone says they re-read my books. That is an amazing compliment.
What advice would you offer new writers?
I left that one word there because writing is the only essential element of being a writer. Beyond that, my advice is to read as much as you can, and read wider than the genre or topic you write about. Read books on the craft of writing. If you can, get feedback on your writing. Short stories are great for that. There are fantastic editors who run their own e-zines and are often incredibly generous in their feedback even if they don’t accept your story. Otherwise you may be lucky in finding beta readers or critique partners. Just make sure that they are supportive rather than dictatorial. You want to learn, but you also need to develop your own style, not a pale imitation of theirs. All advice runs the risk of being the wrong advice, which is why I’m dancing around as I answer this question.
What is something that you struggle with the most when you are writing?
Distraction! It is so easy to wriggle out of writing to go check Facebook, for instance. I’ve found that a goal of writing for an hour or a thousand words, whichever comes first, works miracles. Some people break that down further to fifteen minute sprints. The key for me is resisting distraction. I’ve even been known to clean the bathroom rather than write a difficult scene!
As a writer, do you have any literary pet peeves when reading books?
I find first person point of view immensely distracting. The story has to be strong and the narrative voice assured for me to forgive a first person POV.
When you decided to put your books out for sale, did you go Indie, small press, or with an agent? And what factors contributed to that decision?
My “big break” happened when Carina Press accepted a paranormal romance from me. This was back in 2010, when Carina Press was Harlequin’s first digital-only line. Except that the “big break” never happened. Sales were lacklustre. But what I learned from my editor was priceless. She strengthened my writing and absolutely kicked my plotting to a new level.
After a few novellas with Carina Press and Escape Publishing (another Harlequin line, this time in Australia, which is where I live), I decided to try self-publishing—and I love it! Self-publishing is so satisfying for a control freak. I decide what I write, when it’s published, the blurb, the covers, pricing, everything!
Which isn’t to say that I would never return to traditional publishing. I would, but I’d study the contract very carefully.
Are you working on anything new?
I’m working on “The Ceph Sector”. This is the third novel in the “Shamans and Shifters Space Opera” series, and it is complicated! It is a ton of fun to invent my own science, but it’s also a bit brain-straining. After all, it has to be believable, or at least, internally coherent.
Would you describe yourself more as a “pantser” or an “architect” type of writer? (someone who makes it up as they go along – writing by the seat of your pants, or someone who plans meticulously)
I’m closer to pantser than architect, but I do like to have a few things clear such as goal, motivation and conflict before I begin. I draw squiggly graphs to remind myself to constantly increase the tension and to watch the pacing of the novel. Then I kind of go for it and write!
What is your writing process like?
I like to write a clean first draft. It’s definitely not perfect, but I tend to write the scenes in order and I keep the writing smooth. I also have a separate document where I jot down what I need to add or check later. Balancing editing with keeping the writing mojo going takes a bit of practice.
Do you use any special tools or programs to help you write?
No. I use an old version of MS Word and will cry like a baby (only a slight exaggeration) when my old laptop dies and I have to upgrade.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share with reader or aspiring writers?
I’m incredibly fortunate to be a storyteller. Our world is a crazy place. To work at a craft that enables me to make sense of that chaos for myself and others, to find and share meaning in it, and to give hope for a better world is a great honour.