One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to novel writing, as is evident with Barbara Britton. She doesn’t have an agent. She lets music inspire her. And she’s here to share some of her writing tips and suggestions with you!
What do you write? How did you pick your genre?
I write primarily Biblical Fiction, but I have also published a WWI Historical novel. Looking back, I think my genre chose me. I taught Bible stories to elementary students in a chapel setting. When I decided to write a novel based on a Bible story, that manuscript sold to a publisher. I had been honing my “voice” in my teaching without knowing it.
What’s the most difficult part of writing your genre? How do you work through those challenges?
When you don’t live in the time period that you are writing about, you have to research the lifestyle and customs. With Biblical Fiction, you may have to cross-reference Scripture to get the entire background to the story or characters. With anything related to the Bible, an author wants to get the theology correct. When Scripture is silent on a part of the story, I have learned to place an author note in the back of the book with reasons why I chose a certain interpretation.
Research can take time away from actually writing the story. An author must be diligent to not let research derail their inspiration and determination to get the story written.
If you’ve written multiple books, which was harder: the first book or the following books?
A debut novel may have taken one, five, or ten years to write. No one knows about the book except the author and their critique partners. There is no pressure or deadline to finish the book. Once you publish a book, your readers and publisher want another one and they want it fast. The traditional publishing process is slow, so the faster you write, the more your books can release closer together.
The pressure of “your next book” can slow the creative process or stymie it altogether. I’ve heard it said that if you are going to indie-publish a series, have at least three books written in the series, or all of it written, before you release the first book. Then you can rapidly release the series and keep the interest of your readership. Of course, after the series ends, you will still hear, “When’s your next book coming out?” Only the author knows what is a practical, and realistic, timeline for them to write a book. I can’t write a book in six weeks. I can write a book in six months if I have a deadline. I prefer to write a Historical in nine months.
What’s your favorite book on writing? What do you like about it?
One of my favorite craft books is Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. The book makes Deep POV easy to understand. It’s a short book and the answers to Jill’s questions and exercises are in the back of the book.
What writing book do you want to read next?
A book that I recently purchased and want to use more in my writing is The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. I like seeing the list of physical reactions to emotions in the book and the reasons for such emotions. I once had an editor tell me that my character had sweaty palms too many times. A writer has to vary the emotional and physical reactions of their characters.
How do you combat writer’s block?
I try to have a playlist for each story. I find music that is the essence of my character or tells the emotions my characters are going through. I like fast-paced music for action scenes and quieter songs for impactful scenes. I play the music before I sit down to write, and it helps put me in the mood to write.
I also recommend having critique partners and deadlines to submit chapters for review. If you have to get a chapter written for your fellow authors, you will find the time to do it.
What’s surprised you the most about the publishing process? Why did it surprise you?
I began writing stories before social media existed. Publishers and agents didn’t talk about platforms because they didn’t exist in the world of fiction. Now, a writer must have a following on several social media platforms, and a website, before their work will be considered by some agents. Being active on social media takes time. The interaction can take time away from drafting new stories.
Some authors will hire virtual assistants to manage their social media accounts. This helps with the time crunch, but it costs money. A writer has to find the right mix between being engaged on social media and making their writing a priority.
How do you self-edit your manuscript?
Grammar is not my best subject. I rely on grammar books, Google, and my critique partners to catch mistakes before I submit my manuscript to my publisher. I write my story on paper and edit it as I type it onto the computer. I review a chapter before I send it to my critique partners for feedback. When I think my story is done, I will read it from start to finish. I also send it to beta-readers for their comments. When I think the story is as good as I can get it, then I send it to my publisher.
I do not have an agent. If an author has an agent, the agent will go over a submitted manuscript for errors or improvement.
Barbara M. Britton lives in Southeast Wisconsin and loves the snow—when it accumulates under three inches. She is published in Biblical fiction and enjoys bringing little-known Bible characters to light in her stories. Barb ventured into Christian Historical fiction in 2020 with “Until June.” Barb is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Romance Writers of America, and Wisconsin Romance Writers of America. Barb has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate. Find out more about Barb’s books at http://www.barbarambritton.com/books.html