Write to the heart

When Kristan Higgins writes, she’s never satisfied with the easy process. If she doesn’t laugh or cry at the scenes she’s writing, she goes back and rewrites and rewrites again. Only by pushing each of her drafts to make them “bigger, better, [and] stronger” can she reach the point where she’s ready to wrap up her writing process and hand a new book in.

Transcript

What is your writing process?

There’s no way that you can write a book by thinking about a book. So I have a set number of hours I go to my little workspace and I just sit there and do it, and if it’s not good, then I can fix it or delete it. I find that I have to get through all this dreck in order to get to the heart of my story. So I try not to pay too much attention to it. And then there’s that wonderful month, I think, for me it’s about a month, where I have just—I am so immersed in the story that it’s all I can think about and you just kind of lose yourself in it.

…that’s the magical part. That’s the part that makes it all worth it, because so much of writing is so difficult. And I think if it’s not, it will be. You know, there are those gift books that just flow out of you, but by and large, I think writing is extremely difficult.

The scenes where I cry are gold. I know if I can make myself cry, because I am so hard on my writing, then I’ve got something going on here. And if I can make myself laugh, the same thing is true. I’ll write a scene and say, “I know that’s going to be funny.” And I go back and I refine it, I tighten it, and I try to make it funny. But, yeah, you can’t fake a sense of humor, you know. You have one or you don’t. My sense of humor is much stronger on paper because I have time to think of that perfect comeback.

I will write a crappy first draft. You know, I would never let anyone read my first draft or even my second. And it’s just it’s repetitive and it’s boring and the characters are flat, and then I come upon that moment where my character reveals himself or herself or I understand what this story is really about. And, yes, I do go back and I rewrite everything. I rip out scenes. I add scenes. I take out characters. I add characters. It’s, you know, the major overhaul. And I understand now after nine books, this is just how it happens.

Every time I write a book, I think, “This one’s not going to measure up. This isn’t as good as the last one. I guess my career is over.” And that’s happened from book number two right up until now, and I understand now that that kind of doubt for me and that kind of examination is why my books get to be where they are, where I’m proud of them and happy with what I’ve passed in.

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