Sara Ryan is the author of the graphic novel Bad Houses, published by Dark Horse Comics with art by Carla Speed McNeil, young adult novels The Rules for Hearts and Empress of the World, both published by Viking, and various comics, short stories and essays, most recently “Openly Bisexual” in The V-Word, edited by Amber J. Keyser and published by Simon Pulse/Beyond Words, and “V.I.P.” in Sensation Comics: Featuring Wonder Woman, published by DC Entertainment.
What is your advice for someone setting out writing their first novel?
Remember a first draft is just that. Don’t get stuck trying to make every sentence perfect. Don’t be afraid to write out of order. If there’s a scene you’re excited about that’s near the end, write that scene. Writing it may also give you more ideas about what should happen in earlier scenes.
Don’t show your writing to other people right away. Part of what you’re doing is working out your narrative voice, and if you share scenes with readers early on, you may find yourself trying to write the book
think you should write, instead of the one
want to write.
What did you learn after finishing your first novel?
As my editor told me, “It will take as long as it takes.” (And that’s usually longer than you think.)
Do you have a different process for different forms of writing?
If I’m writing a comics script, of course I’m thinking very visually, and I’m responsible for providing information about what each panel should look like to my artist. I’ll often be looking for image reference at the same time that I’m working out plot structure, captions and dialogue.
When I’m writing prose, I’m typically most concerned with how my point of view character is moving through the story – where they are, who and what else is in the scene, what sensory experiences they’re having – and distilling all that through the character’s voice, keeping in mind that my POV character is sometimes going to be wrong about what they’re observing or concluding.
That said, my process on a logistical level is pretty similar whatever I’m writing: I’m in my house or at a coffeeshop, either alone or on a writing date with friends who are working on their own projects. Ideally, I’m on my laptop but have the Internet turned off, or I’m writing longhand.
Do you write every day?
Not currently. I’ve had stretches where I’ve written every day, and it’s great to aim for. But I think it’s also important to maintain other aspects of your life – sustaining relationships, meeting obligations, doing activism, getting exercise – anything you value. Most writers also need to work other jobs to make a living. Even most of the “full-time writers” I know have other jobs – teaching, editing, speaking, etc. So maybe you carve out time on the weekend, or devote one evening a week, or two early mornings alternating with days when you go to the gym. Have a writing schedule, because that makes it easier to make writing a habit – but make it a schedule that works for you.
Find Sara Ryan’s Bad Houses and her other books at http://sararyan.com/