Dee White - Interview (Aug 2014)
Q. What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Getting to share my stories with readers and knowing that in some small way my books can make a difference to people's lives.
For example, my book Letters to Leonardo is about a boy who has a parent with a mental illness. I received a lot of great feedback from kids who my story resonated with and they said it helped them understand their own situations.
My book Hope for Hannah inspired a group of kids to raise money for a village in Uganda where the story is set.
Q. Tell us 5 words that best describe you?
Honest, resourceful, determined, friendly, creative.
Q. What tips would you give to an aspiring writer?
I run a writing tips blog at deescribewriting.wordpress.com where I constantly publish new tips for writers, but I'd say my favourite tips would be:
- Read a lot.
- Write whenever you can.
- Start a journal of ideas and happenings.
- Carry a notebook with you so you can write down interesting things, ideas and descriptions of people you meet.
- Decide what sort of writer you are. If you like reading a certain kind of writing, (for example, sports pieces or vampire novels) then this is probably the sort of writer you will turn out to be.
- Never forget your vision for your story. You have to write what's in your heart and although it's important to edit it, don't let your story become someone else's.
- Volunteer to write articles and fiction pieces for local community or club newsletters in order to build your writing portfolio.
- Join a writer’s group, or start one of your own.
- Find a critique buddy who shares your writing goals, wants you to be published as much as they want to see their own work in print - someone you can be honest with, and who will be honest with you.
- Try to write regularly, even if it's only for fifteen hours per day.
Q. How many hours do you spend writing each week?
My writing is my job so I write for an average of 35 hours per week, sometimes less, sometimes more depending on family commitments and writing deadlines.
Q. You have many courses for aspiring writers on your website. How important is learning your craft before submitting your work to publishers?
The world of publishing is very competitive so it's important to make your work as strong as possible before you submit it. You need to stand out from the 'crowd' of manuscripts that land on a publisher's desk. So learning your craft is extremely important.
Publishers are looking for great characters that readers can connect with and a strong concept or plot, so it's important to know how to develop these elements in your story.
That's probably why two of my most popular online courses at Writing Classes for Kids and Adults are "What Happens Next" (plotting) and Heroes and Villains (a course that helps you to build great characters).
Q. What tips would you give to a potential author in writing their cover letter to a publisher?
- Be professional and polite.
- Try to reveal something about you as a writer and show your unique writer's voice.
- You only have seconds to hook the reader so you need them to connect with your characters and be inspired by the concept straight away.
- Have a strong log line or statement about your story. For example, with my current work in progress, Hating Ric, I have developed the log line, A street race shatters two lives. (tells you about the plot) Ric barely survives, Kate wishes she hadn't. (tells you about the characters.) It's really important to understand what your story is about and be able to sum it up in a short paragraph - that way you can convey this information clearly to the publisher. The cover letter doesn't need a whole lot of detail about your story, just a strong concept that is summed up succinctly.
- Don't worry if you haven't been published. If a publisher is asking for submissions, this means they are expecting to hear from unpublished writers. Just make sure you wow them with your characters and story idea.
- Publishers are very busy people so make sure you thank them for reading your work.
- Don't be pushy.
- Don't make untrue claims.
- Don't try and tell them how to do their job - for example, "You have to publish this book because it's going to be the next Harry Potter".
- Let them know if this is a simultaneous submission if your work is with other publishers as well.
Q. How do you get the creative juices flowing again when you have writers block?
I know this might sound weird but I've never had writer's block. I think that might be because I always plan my writing to some extent so I have a rough idea of where the story is going. It seems to me that writer's block is caused by lack of direction. It's like trying to drive from Melbourne to Sydney without a map or a GPS when you've never done the trip before. You're going to get lost aren't you?
Writing a story is the same. You need to have some idea of where you're heading - which direction to take your characters. Sometimes they go off in a direction of their own, which is challenging but fun, and I don't think it matters as long as you know their final destination.
At the end of the day's writing, I find it can be helpful to make notes of where the story is going next so even if you don't get back to working on that piece for a while you still have some idea of what's next for your characters.
To get the creative juices flowing, I walk my dog - a lot and play golf. I also find that drawing helps me relax and get into the 'zone'.
Q. If you could be any character from any book for a day who would you be and why?
Anita from 101 Dalmatians because I love Dalmatians, adventures and rescuing animals of any kind.
Q. What’s next from Dee White?
At the moment I'm working on the second book in a chapter book series, Circus Kids about the adventures of a group of multi-cultural kids who are growing up in a circus.