Interview with C.J. Darlington, Part 2 – the art of writing

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“Because let’s face it – writing is hard.”
C.J. Darlington

Jerry B. Jenkins talked in the Writer’s Digest interview with Stephen King about being surprised, delighted, scared, disappointed, saddened, etc., by his characters’ actions. He said if readers want to know why he killed off their favorite character, he can tell them, “I didn’t kill him off; I found him dead.”

Did any of your characters in Thicker than Blood surprise you? Did they act out or take on a disposition you didn’t expect?

This happens more often than you think for writers. Especially those who don’t outline. When it does, it’s a wonderful thing because it means the characters have developed enough in your mind that you’re able to perceive how they will react in situations. Sometimes it really is outside of what you originally plan.

When I wrote some of the early drafts of Thicker than Blood, Vince wasn’t a major character in the story. But as I wrote I began to ask myself questions like, “What if Christy had a relationship with him? What if he stalked her?” That came out of the story and wasn’t planned in the early stages. There have been multiple times where I try to force a character to do something in a scene, but it doesn’t write well, and I realize I’m trying to make the character react in a way that wouldn’t fit their personality.

Do you ever read parts of it and not remember writing it? And wonder who did? Or is that just me that it happens to?

I received the final published copy of Thicker than Blood from Tyndale House, and when I read it for the first time as an actual book there were several scenes and lines I couldn’t remember writing because I’d written them at the very end of the editing process. For my next book, Bound by Guilt, I had this happen a lot more because I wrote the first draft very quickly without re-reading what I wrote the day before. When I was finished I was surprised by some of it.

What lessons came from the 14 years of waiting to see Thicker than Blood published? I’m sure never, ever give up was one!

Not giving up was definitely the number one lesson. Waiting is next. That’s an important one to learn because there’s a LOT of waiting in the publishing process. I had to learn to be patient and continue to write even when I received rejections. I also am very thankful I started a second book right after I finished my first. It gave me something to focus on instead of beating a path to my mailbox every day waiting to hear back from editors. Though I admit I did some of that too. The number one piece of advice I would give to aspiring writers is not to get too caught up in your first book. Write the best you can, start submitting, but then get going on the next one. That way when you did get published (whether it’s your first novel or not) you’ll have something else to offer your publisher in short order.

Any funny stuff connected to the book happen along the way?

My friends still tease me about the fact that my main character is a chain-smoking alcoholic – completely the opposite of me. After reading Thicker than Blood, someone asked my dad, “How does she know all this stuff?” Research, people. Research. And an active imagination. Honest.

And the ugh question – the one that every fledgling writer like myself wants you to answer with the magical response that will make our writing easier…how do you reign yourself in and make yourself write? What does your self discipline look like? A certain number of pages a day? Words a day? Hours a day at the computer?

It might help you to know that I still struggle with this, big time. In fact, it’s the toughest part of this whole process for me. Because let’s face it – writing is hard. If it weren’t, everyone would be doing it. It’s those who hunker down and write when they don’t feel like it that will succeed. If I would’ve hunkered down more, maybe it wouldn’t have taken me fifteen years to publish my first novel. The best thing any writer can do is find what works for them. Having word count goals is more effective for me than time goals. I could easily stare at the computer for hours on end, but it’s not going to help me meet a word count quota. Do I succeed all the time? Nope. But I’m learning to just pick myself up off the floor, dust off my jeans, and try to make each day better than the last.

Join us tomorrow for Part 3, the final day of our interview with C.J. Darlington.  

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