There are certain aspects of writing that fellow writers can all relate to.
Yet, the experience that each writer goes through is unique and individual in many ways.
In order to help us flesh out these nuanced differences and our understanding of writing as a whole,
we welcome author, Nancy O’Neill, to be featured in a short interview.
Nancy is the author of the award-winning children’s book series, Guess What?, and is making a transition into adult fiction with her newest work, Her Way Out.
This will be the first of a many-part series, so we hope you enjoy:
Hello, Nancy, to jump straight into it, why did you to first want to become a writer?
Ironically, I never even thought about becoming a writer.
I have lived by the philosophy that if you keep your eyes open, sometimes the best opportunities are right in front of you, and often when you least expect them. What you do with them is the key.
In the mid 80’s, I fell into a job as an editor for TV Guide. I was responsible for the Los Angeles edition so I had the opportunity to write synopses for local talk shows or PBS specials.
Even though we had to follow strict writing and style guidelines, it was my first introduction to publishing. And being on a weekly deadline was something I actually enjoyed. After working there for five years, I moved on to other industries where I always seemed to work writing into my job.
Sometimes it was advertising copy, newsletter articles, or website content. In my spare time, I began writing poetry and short stories.
It wasn’t until our son was born in 1995 that I started writing children’s stories. I submitted a few stories to publishers, and yes, I received my fair share of rejection letters but that didn’t stop me.
However, I put any idea of becoming a published author on hold while I helped our son start his own business when he was nine years old. By the time he was fourteen, he was helping other young entrepreneurs so he ended up self-publishing a book, which I helped him write.
Other authors started hiring me to help them self-publish which eventually led me to self-publish my first children’s book, Guess What is on Grandpa’s Farm? in 2012. I never planned to have more than one book but when I realized how many young kids ask their parents or teachers, “hey, guess what?” over and over and over again, I knew I had the makings of a series.
Within four years, I had five Guess What? books published.
There are a lot of guessing game books but what makes this series unique is that all of the color illustrations are done by various kids around the world whose artwork was chosen through a contest that I held for each book.
I can’t even began to tell you how rewarding it’s been to work with these amazing kids, to hear their stories, and watch them grow. In 2016, I created a coloring book, Guess What You Can Color? to go along with the reading books.
During the year while I was drawing the images for the coloring book, an opportunity appeared to try writing an adult fiction.
Since I had been writing and editing children’s books for several years, I never felt I could write more than a few hundreds words. But I love a challenge so I took a leap of faith and started writing, and yes, without any plan, direction, or even a rough outline.
All I had was an idea. I got out a spiral notebook and one of my favorite Uni-ball gel pens and started writing.
I knew the writing mechanics and basics of a good story so I just had to remember that I was writing for adults. It took me a year to finish my first novella, Her Way Out, which should be released in November. At about 39,000 words, it didn’t quite meet the word count to be a novel but the characters kept telling me the story was finished so I had to listen.
Surprisingly, I already have the first few paragraphs of a sequel written but I have to force myself to focus on marketing this first one, which is hard for most authors to do since we would rather write and create than promote. Writing an adult book has taught me a lot and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process.
What do you find the greatest challenge to being a writer is?
There will always be people around you that don’t understand what it means to be an author so you have believe in yourself enough to keep writing regardless of what others think.
Any final pointers for us fledgling authors?
- Research as much as you can on your own before you make decisions. Social media groups are good resources but when a writer asks a question and it’s clear they haven’t done any research themselves, they usually don’t get favorable feedback.
- Learn the rules of writing. Then learn when it’s okay to break them.
- When you’ve proofed your manuscript, at least a dozen times, get several beta readers and not just friends and family. There is a new Beta Readers group on Facebook that is really helpful.
- Don’t skip the editing step. Every author should strive to produce the most professional book possible, inside and out. Even if you can’t afford a professional editor, there are some beta readers who have editing experience so it’s worth searching those out. English professors can be a good resource, also.
- Keep moving forward but don’t be in a hurry. That’s when mistakes are bound to happen.
- Becoming published isn’t an overnight process. It takes a lot of work, persistence, and patience but it’s an amazing feeling when you hold your printed book in your hands for the first time.
We’d like to thank Nancy O’Neill for being the first in our “Featured Author”.
Find more on Nancy O’Neill and her upcoming work at: www.onedotenterprises.com
Her “Guess What?” childrens’ book series at: http://tinyurl.com/nancyoneillauthor
And find her community page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/nancyoneillauthor