Friday, November 23, 2007

7 Days With Shirley Jump

She's a Mama with 29 book contracts and counting! New York Times Bestselling author Shirley Jump knows what it takes to have a successful writing career alongside a family.

Like many of us, Shirley juggles her writing career with marriage, kids, and assorted pets. She says she finds time to write by feeding her kids junk food, allowing them to dress in the clothes they find on the floor and encouraging the dogs to double as vacuum cleaners. But don't let her fool you - this is one busy writing mama!

A former journalist and freelance writer with over 3000 articles to her name, Shirley now writes romantic comedies for Harlequin and Kensington. Besides writing novels, she keeps a blog, is generous with author interviews, and she runs a Yahoo group called JustWriteIt for aspiring novelists.

So how does she really do it all? I decided to prevail upon her generosity and just ask! Over the next 7 days, we'll find out what it takes to make it as a writing mother, get insights into the writing process, and find out what keeps this bestseller selling.

Shirley is famous for meeting ridiculously short deadlines, so in honor of National Novel Writing Month, I asked her to share her secret with us:


1. You write books so quickly, it seems like every month is NaNo for you. What’s your process? How do you do it?

Well, not every book goes fast! I have some that can take months, because they're stubborn, others that just seem to stream out of me in one constant thought process. My approach, though, is the same no matter what -- I start with a what-if proposition, and then start trying to figure out WHY the characters are in that position. I never know the end until I get there. I might think I do, but I really don't. I write fast, partly because I want to know the ending as badly as anybody else, and I'm trying to turn those pages and see how everyone turns out.

I write every day, and I think about the books a lot while I'm doing mindless activities like washing dishes or taking a shower. When I'm in the car alone, I'll talk the plot out aloud and figure out the problems that I'm having with the book. I also meet weekly with another writer, and we review each other's chapters and hash out any other issues we might be having. That camaraderie really helps keep me from feeling like I live in a cave :-). The biggest key, though, really is just to show up at the computer every single day.

When I don't feel like writing (and trust me, I have those days like everyone else), I get out of my office and go someplace public, like a coffee shop, and write there. I feel compelled to write, because people are there, and if I'm playing FreeCell, they'll think I'm a slacker, LOL. So I work like a bear and have a lot of espresso. I can get several thousand words written in a couple hours in a coffee shop, all for the price of a couple mochas ;-).


Thanks Shirley! Tomorrow I want to find out how you keep up with the family side of life! :)


AmyDoodle said...

Okay, you hooked me. I'm staying tuned to see what Shirley says next. Do you suppose she would adopt me? (I can cook, but we employ the same cleaning techniques. I keep a Dachshund to manage floors and corners and a Lab for windowsills and countertops!)

Shirley Jump said...

LOL, Amy! I might just adopt someone to cook on deadline days. The 14yo isn't always as helpful as I'd like because she now has a LIFE ;-)


Dawn Allcot said...

I can't wait to read the next segment. Great interview!

Shirley and Amy are lucky. Cats make lousy vacuum cleaners. Their idea of "cleaning floors" is to bat stuff under the refrigerator.

Carolyn Erickson said...

LOL, Dawn. That works too! :)

Thanks again for taking the time for us Shirley! I'm excited about the next segment too.

There's lots more to come, including links to other helpful articles by Shirely!

Shirley Jump said...

LOL, Dawn, you're so right! And my cat insists on being ON my keyboard or in front of my monitor when I write. But she's adorable, so I forgive her :-)


wordsmith said...

I'm hooked too! Can't wait for the next installment. You'd have to keep us waiting, wouldn't you? (LOL). Such inspiration for us writer mamas/WAHMs! I wait with bated breath.

plaidearthworm said...

A day-by-day interview; great idea! Ever since I met Shirley back on iVillage years ago, she has been a constant inspiration for me. She's very generous with quotes, and an excellent writer. Can't wait for the next installment!

Carolyn Erickson said...

Thanks for coming over, plaidearthworm! Shirley's been an inspiration for me too.

We started on Saturday, so there are two more installments already posted. (Just click on the title above)

Hope you enjoy them! :)

NeuroticFitchMom said...

Shirley is so amazing and inspiring!!