Heather Dawn Gray has participated in several of the Ottawa Writing Workshops and has written and published two novels. Please check out her books on Amazon using the links below. Here's my interview with Heather!
Heather, you’ve written and published two novels over the past couple of years. What prompted you to say, “Yes, I’m going to write a novel!”
I’ve been saying ‘I’m going to write a novel’ for over twenty years. It took a one-day class with you, David, to show me how to plan my novel. After that day, I could see the way forward.
Where did the inspiration for The Lie and the sequel Where Truth Lies come from?
The inspiration came from two main events:
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing your first novel?
Editing and marketing have been my biggest challenges.
I was determined to edit my book for free, but I didn’t have a structure for editing. So, it took me a really long time; a lot longer than it took me to write the book. I used ProWritingAid, reviewed/revised many times over, and asked for help from some beta readers who were great at editing. In the end I feel like I have a quality product and I’m a bit more knowledgeable about the process.
As for marketing, I don’t feel liked I’ve cracked the back on that one yet. I keep trying different things. I know I need to make a marketing plan and then follow it. I’d just rather write. It’s my downfall.
Did you find writing your second novel easier or more difficult than the first?
It was definitely easier. So much of what I learned from writing the first novel I incorporated into the second. I learned to make a more comprehensive plan before I dove into the writing and that helped keep me grounded through the writing process. My second novel is a sequel, so some of the characters were already developed which also helped. It was fun to build on a story I’d already created.
Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Without a doubt, a plotter. That’s the reason I was unable to write a novel before I took your novel writing class. I needed a tool to help me plan it out. Once I had that, I was good to go!
What’s the biggest thing you learned about yourself from writing and publishing two novels?
I’m an author. That may sound strange, but I set out wanting to write one book. I now know I will be writing novels for the rest of my life. You could say, I found my inner author!
Can you tell us what’s next in your writing agenda?
I’m working on my third novel; another genealogical fiction. I’ve taken weeks to plan this one out. I’m developing more complex characters and the plot is more involved than my first two novels. I will eventually write that novel spinning around in my head, but for now I’m happy to imagine and learn from a fiction genre I never even knew existed, until I wrote my first novel.
Do you have any tips for aspiring novelists who want to write their first novel?
Make a plan! I realize there are pantsers out there, but I don’t understand how that’s done. A plan is essential to keep me on track, and stop me from panicking because I know exactly where I’m going. And the plan breaks the writing down into bite sized chunks that are very manageable on a day to day basis.
Surround yourself with a supportive writing group. I was lucky to find my initial writing group through your classes. You created a very supportive atmosphere for critique and comfort in sharing. It’s so important to share your work. I thought writing was a solitary endeavour – anything but!! The more feedback you receive, the better your writing gets, and ultimately the better the story. I’ve also found some contacts on social media who have helped me immensely. Don’t be afraid to expand your circle.
Find people who are willing to beta-read/edit your book for free and listen to their advice. Make the group as diverse as you can so you get different perspectives. It’s easy to surround yourself with like-minded people, but getting different perspectives will improve your story.
Beta read/edit for other people. It may seem like you’re taking time away from your own writing, but it really does help you improve your skills. I’ve beta read/edited for complete strangers as well as people I know well. And most of the time the beta reads are for genres outside of my usual comfort zone. It goes back to diversity being key to improvement. I do realize, however, it’s getting to the point where I do have to limit the number I tackle at once, so I’m still finding that sweet spot.
My last bit of advice would be to let it go. In the end you need to release your novel into the great unknown. It will never be perfect and you’ll never move on unless you do. You may think you’ll only receive criticism, but my experience has been very positive and constructive feedback. Trust that letting your novel go will give you the confidence to continue writing, learning and improving.
Want to find out more? You can reach out to Heather right here:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherDawnGray/?ref=settings