BIW Member Interview
Elsa Neal has completed two novels, and written over 100 articles on creativity, writing, fashion, and stress management. Links to all of her articles, and other resources for writers, are available on her official website.
Moe: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Elsa Neal: Almost as soon as I found out that “real, live” people were responsible for creating the story books that I loved so much. I was a natural storyteller from a very early age, entertaining my friends with “Once upon a time” stories at sleepovers, and inventing elaborate make-believe games, which sometimes became little plays we put on for our parents.
Moe: Describe three lessons you have learned about writing?
1. Keep the momentum going by writing a little bit every day. Holidays can be disastrous for breaking that flow, and many times I’ve returned to work and taken the length of the holiday again just to get back into my rhythm. You do need breaks though – so if you can time your holidays for the end of a project you will really benefit and not lose as much writing time.
2. Give yourself rewards. Many people say they write for the love of it – but writing is hard, long, solitary work. You need a pat on the back. A reward can be as simple as a nice cup of coffee or a new book to read. Make sure you associate it with the work you’ve done – “As soon as I’ve completed this chapter, I can go for a relaxing stroll in the park.”
3. Write, don’t talk. Talking about your novel is great when you’ve finished a draft and are in the editing phase, as you can iron out all sorts of small details by talking it through. But if you try to talk about your work-in-progress too much, you can tie yourself in knots and also lose interest in the story. Write it down instead – if you’re not quite ready to write the first draft, write a synopsis, or sketch an outline of the plot, or write about your characters.
Moe: What are you working on now?
Elsa Neal: I’ve just finished the first draft of my second novel – a children’s fantasy book. It’s cooling off before I begin editing it, and I’m about to start plotting its sequel. For BIW this month I’m planning to freewrite a few chapters for the sequel to see where they lead, and I also want to work on some non-fiction articles.
Moe: Do you have a favorite writing related book?
Elsa Neal: From Pitch to Publication by Carole Blake – this book helped to clarify the publishing industry for me early on and answered many of my questions. I still refer to it often.
Moe: What is your favorite writing website?
Elsa Neal: The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website This site contains the invaluable “Writer Beware” warnings section, as well as many useful writing articles.
Moe: Do you have an important BIW tip you’d like to pass along?
Elsa Neal: Don’t get discouraged by the 100-page-plus goals that you may see some members posting. It takes practice and stamina to get to that level, but it also takes a certain type of writer. Give freewriting a try for your first few BIWs, but, if you find that it has a negative effect on your writing rather than a positive increase in productivity, write the way you’re meant to write. Some writers are just born to craft each sentence. If your output is small, judge your progress on whether you’ve added something you can use to your work-in-progress, rather than the number of pages you’ve eked out.