Book in a Month Author Q&A

Book in a Month and Story Structure Architect author Victoria Lynn Schmidt shares her insights into the writing life in this exclusive online Q&A.
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Victoria Lynn Schmidt (www.charactersjourney.com) is the author of Book in a Month, Story Structure Architect and 45 Master Characters. She graduated from the prestigious film program at UCLA, holds a master’s degree in writing from Loyola Marymount University, and holds a doctorate in psychology. She also attended film school at NYU and studied independent filmmaking with some of the top artists in the field. When her writing schedule allows it, she teaches English and Screenwriting at several universities around the USA.

What piece of advice have you received over the course of your career that has had the biggest impact on your success?
All of the famous authors I have met have basically said the same thing “Great writers are great readers.” You need to keep your muse well fed. Read a lot, including nonfiction. Read about places you have never been or cultures you are unfamiliar with, you never know what types of ideas it will spark. You don’t have to write only what you already “know” about.

What message do you find yourself repeating over and over to writers?
Don’t worry about making things perfect the first time out, just get your story down on paper and then go back and make it perfect. So many writers try to re-write before getting the first draft down, which only stops the creative process. There are a thousand ways to write every scene! Just pick one and get that first draft done.

What’s the worst kind of mistake that new writers, freelancers, or book authors can make?
Sending out material before it is ready to be seen. Often the first book is a practice book, meant for the writer to learn his craft. Usually the successful writer has practiced extensively and honed his craft before he pursues an agent or publisher. If you don’t put your best work out there from the start you can develop a bad reputation. Editors and agents do talk to each other after all.

What’s the one thing you can’t live without in your writing life?
The Internet. There is so much information that can be accessed so quickly, I can’t imagine writing 20 years ago on a typewriter without the Internet at my fingertips!

What does a typical day look like for you?
Exercise first—this is a big one. Writers tend to sit a lot and you need to get the body moving to keep those creative juices flowing. It really clears the mind. My creative hours are usually after lunch.

If you could change one thing about publishing, what would it be?
I have so many wonderful students trying to break into the business but editors and agents are inundated with numerous submissions from those who haven’t taken the time to learn their craft. This causes them close their doors to all writers who don’t have recommendations or connections, making things hard on those who really deserve a chance to break in.

In what way (if any) has your writing/publishing life changed in the past 5 years?
I’ve published more books but not much has changed regarding the process. I don’t think the business itself changes that rapidly. I’ve worked with an agent and without an agent … I think it is best to work with a good agent rather than trying to do it all yourself.

Do you have any advice for new writers on fostering a strong author/editor relationship?
Leave the ego at the door. Learn how to hear criticism, then review it by yourself to see if it is constructive, then speak up if you think you need to argue a point. Always take a moment to consider what your editor is saying as she usually has more experience. This is when the writing experience has become a collaborative affair and you have to think about the reader and the market.

What do you see as your biggest publishing accomplishment?
Getting that first book published is the biggest accomplishment. You are unproven, unknown. Once you get passed that hurdle it should get easier. Though you always have to prove yourself.

Any final thoughts?
Write because you love it. Write for yourself. If you write, you are a writer whether you get published or not. I have had students tell me “Writing is my identity, if I can’t get this published then who am I?” But they are writers if they keep writing. Becoming a published author is something different. Don’t confuse the two or your whole identity is about getting published instead of being a writer.

To learn more about Victoria's latest book—and for a look at the exclusive BIAM worksheets—check out Book in a Month.

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