Writing Tips: Outlining for Genre Fiction and Literary Fiction with Libbie Hawker

hi everyone I'm Johanna pen from the creative pen comm and today I'm here with Livi Hawker hi Livi hi are you I am good and very excited to have you here today just a little introduction Livi writes historical and literary fiction featuring complex characters and rich details of time and place including an awesome series of our ancient Egypt which is one of my own obsession so very exciting and Libby is well known in the author community for her books for authors including gotta read it about book descriptions take off your pants about I outlining as well as making it in historical fiction so Libby let's just start by you telling us a bit more about you and how you got into writing sure um first of all I have to apologize for my echoey sound which anybody who's heard me on a podcast recently is familiar with by now unfortunately my office is in a very very old building and it does not have good sound proofing just have to deal with me not going I have been writing full-time for about two two-and-a-half years now before that I wrote my first novel beginning it in late 2008 I finished it up in 2009 and then I went from there and actually found a literary agent I worked with agents for two years but never saw any gains from this unfortunately so I transitioned over to self-publishing in 2011 and I've been very happy with it ever since and in more recent years in 2014 I was approached by a few publishers to talk about potentially contracting some of my historical fiction and I ended up working with one of those publishers on three novels so far may something some more in the future will see and then I'm also in talks with a separate publisher at the moment now for a totally different literary novel that I'm working on so that's my career in a nutshell and what did he do before you were a writer oh god it's almost easier to say what I didn't do I only ever wanted to be a writer so I have a wide variety of jobs I took whatever job I could find who would allow me to pay the bills and would also give me some reasonable time to write in the evenings so I have worked at everything from I used to train show dogs and handle show dogs and the ring did that for a while I was a zookeeper for a couple of years which is interesting sorry I've got my notifications going after to ignore the dinging and the echoes I worked for my sister's yarn business for a while so I dyed yarn which was also kind of fascinating and my most recent job before I started writing full-time was I had a lot of kind of interesting and varied involvement in the veterinary industry and I'm actually working on a memoir about part of that work where I spent a year working the overnight shift an emergency vet clinic well that's that's really cool but I think this is a really good point because you know so many people kind of expect to start writing the first book and then go full time as a writer right whereas you spent presumably so you've been writing all that time so it wasn't like your first novel in 2011 you self-published and you gave up your job no although my first novel which I didn't end up self-publishing has ended up kind of being like the mainstay for my career but that was the first novel I finished like I started a lot of really crappy novels and years before that I really know what I was doing and I didn't have you know the drive and the motivation at that time to like really see a project all the way through and finish it I was very much into that floaty like Fabio Muse thing which doesn't work for a career so I you know I wasn't really writing with much focus and discipline and when I finally put in the hours and really got serious about finishing a novel to my pleasant surprise it was a pretty well liked novel that readers have still like I still have tons of readers who find my books through that first book so that's pretty exciting to see it's still succeeding and doing well for me you should really tell us the title of that book go it's called the Sekhmet bed it's actually I don't know when this podcast is going to air but it's going to be 99 cents through the end of May so if you want to check it out now's a good time that's fantastic and that's one of the Egyptian ones right yeah it's the start of a four book Egyptian series and then since then I've actually written a totally separate Egyptian series as well so I've got two of them now the second series is considerably more dark it's a few different people have likened it to Game of Thrones in ancient Egypt and I definitely would have to agree with that because pretty much everyone gets killed spoiler alert sounds but you know as I like to say in my defense don't blame me blame history I'm just following the historical record here well yeah let's face it everybody dies not everybody's lucky enough to die and spectacularly and as really as people died in Amarna Egypt so this is that or series it's fun so um on that you talked a bit about finishing energy and that I think it's something that is not appreciated so much but I had to be had an email from someone this week and she said I've just started like seven different things and I just can't finish them so what was what was the thing that pushed you over the line and and what is that how can other people take that finishing energy and and you know how can people find that I guess yeah great question um first of all I mean I think once you finish one book that gets considerably easier to get to that point with subsequent books and then the more books you finish the easier it gets to get there so now I'm at the point where I can finish like a whole big you know good-sized novel one hundred and thirty thousand words or whatever in a month it just becomes less of an issue once you push yourself through that first one or two books of like really make yourself focus but what did it for me is that um you know growing up as a kid when I was like eight years old I knew I wanted to be a writer for my job and I was 28 and I was like you know I've spent the last 20 years thinking about how I want to be a writer but I'm not really doing much to actually get myself there so my goal was maybe a little naive at the time but my goal is that I wanted to be working as a full writer by the time I turned 30 which was only two years away so I had to really get my button here he can happen it turned out it took me till I was 34 to actually get to the point where I could work as a full-time writer but you know that's that's pretty close so I'm not gonna be too hard on myself for that so I think then same with me it was setting a deadline like I had my deadline when I was worrying was I one-and-a-half this by my birthday the following year and that was it was about 14 months as I mean you know when I decided and I missed it but I'd like you you I missed it but I only missed it by about a month and a half but set is the deadline the number one thing people need really I feel like definitely that has that plays a big part for a lot of people I mean some people just really don't care about deadlines and even if they set deadlines from themselves that aren't gonna stick to them but if you're at all motivated by something kind of having an expiration date on it you know I think it can help a lot even if it's just kind of an arbitrary deadline like I want to have a book finished in a year or in 6 months or whatever kind of setting that goal for yourself and then giving yourself that accountability of kind of looking at the calendar every day and being like much closer am I to reaching this goal oh not at all well I guess they need to work extra hard today that helps a lot yeah one thing that has really helped me a lot in more recent months is there's this really cool date planner called a spark notebook this woman invented them and she you know put up like a GoFundMe to get them started a friend of mine has been using it it's really neat it's kind of a different kind of planner where you actually write goals for yourself for the week and then it has pages in it where you're supposed to go back over your goals and review them in really specific terms it like sort of talk to yourself about how you did in terms of keeping you know to those goals so it's pretty cool it's a nice little nice little thing to use that's great and yeah I think the point there is it doesn't really matter what you use but you have to use something in order to keep yourself going to that goal and I guess one of the other things as a segue is outlining which you know you've written a book about so first of all what is that title about take off your pants Oh take off your pants the book that sells purely because of its title people think it's a romance I have actually asked had people ask me to write one specifically about romances I'm working on that for the future but um take off your pants is you know that title and the book came about because of course anybody who spends any time on writing forums is familiar with the age-old question that always comes up like once a week on every writing forum are you a plotter or a panther and of course pantsing means do you fly by the seat of your pants do you just make something up as you go along without any kind of pre-arranged plan so I wanted to write this book because I was receiving a lot of questions also like you have from from that person he reached out to you receiving a lot of questions from people asking how they could basically get to the point where I was where they started writing full-time what it took to to like sustain a full-time writing career in today's writing market and how they can make that happen basically and the advice I kept giving over and over again was you need to outline your books before you write them you have to have kind of a like a blueprint for your book like something that shows all of its structure and that you can kind of use to sort of visually check that all the components are gonna work together well before you start writing is I know like with me with my first book I wrote it turned out well but it took you know a year to get there and I ended up adding a lot of extraneous stuff that really didn't need to be there it wasn't supporting the story you know and I wrote off in the corner sometimes and I would have to go back and delete like a week's worth of work which was disheartening because you know those weeks that was tough I was still working a full-time job they only had a couple hours a date right so those couple of hours per day were really precious to me and to delete the work I'm done in that time felt like you know it was a big setback it didn't just feel like a setback it was a setback and it made it a lot harder and took a lot longer for me to finish that book and the next book I wrote which was also not outlined so in order to get the kind of speed of production that you need in order to sustain a writing career whether you're working with traditional publishers or self-publishing or you know splitting the difference you need to have a lot of books coming out whether they're under all one pen name or different ones it doesn't matter but you need a lot of books and you have to be able you know that you can produce books on a fairly tight timeline and get them out really reliably so that you can stick to a production schedule so that's what take off your pants is about it's an outlining method that works really well for me and that helped me sort of ensure that I am putting together a book that's going to be compelling and tightly paced and satisfying to readers before I even waste any time writing it so you mentioned they're sort of a you know an outline of the book on outlining but um can you give us what you know what is briefly the three-legged outline that you talked about yeah sure um so the three-legged outline is very kind of a separate components that you sort of bring together like can visualize visualize it it's like a tripod that supports the rest of your story so those three legs of that outline are the character arc the theme of the story and the pacing you know how quickly the story moves and how how tightly it all sort of settles together and those are keeping my opinion those are the things that make for a really compelling storytelling and of course the plots like not involved in that because plot is by itself not as compelling as you know what character goes through what they face and how quickly you end up turning those pages yeah ask about character obviously we can't talk about everything detail but one of the things that and I'm kind of a cross between I guess pants fur and plotter I think about things a lot and then I come up with about three or four big scenes like I always know the ending and the beginning scene and a couple in the middle and then I just start writing so it kind of emerges and what kind of annoys me about a lot of outlining stuff on character is oh you must write 20 pages of sort of character QA and get to know your character and none of that will go into the book and I'm like no that's a waste of time so what do you mean by the outlining of the character in particular yeah I agree with you that I think kind of like like writing up a big one bio for your character it is pretty much a waste of time um I don't think you need to know a character in that kind of depth and that kind of detail in order to write them in a compelling way I think the main thing that makes a character interesting is for the reader to perceive from early on in the story that they a serious problem and they need to solve the character at the reader hopefully their problem is not reading your book if the reader has a problem at all they need to be able to tell early on and to understand very clearly that there's something going on with this character not just sort of the external thing that they want to go out and get for themselves but there's something inside them personally that needs to be fixed that's what makes them so interesting and so compelling and it's really the basis of you know minutes of mythology and it's like a common theme that is shared in among stories from all different cultures that you know anthropologists and folklorists have collected that idea of a character who is screwed up somehow and has to sort of go on a quest either external or internal in order to be not screwed up by the end that's kind of Laurie is really in a nutshell so rather than focusing on you know where your character went to college and what their job is and what they think about their mom and dad you know those things do not typically have any bearing on the story at all they do have bearing on the story rate should iron those things out but they usually don't and they're not going to get you any closer to finish a book so so I personally do them as maybe not the wisest use of once I know I agree and this the problem with the headset thing now I'm echoing but it sounds like it's gone so yeah so one of the things on that is the kind of the things that go in the outline do they all go in the story is it also formulate what about my creative process so you know does the outlining process make things formulae basically only in the sense that virtually all stories follow the same kind of formula and it's a real basic formula that I also talked about in my other book about writing product descriptions it's you know this is at the heart of almost every compelling story you have ever you know kept in the human record since time began which is basically these five little simple chunks you have a character who wants something but something stands in their way so they struggle against that force to get there and they either succeed or they fail that's that's what story is it's most elemental form so the outlining method that I when I detail in this book just follow that kind of formula but as you can see the formula is broad enough that there's almost endless possibilities for interpretations on it and for variations that make your book feel really unique and different and then the other thing you mentioned earlier you actually said very off hand a hundred and thirty thousand words in a month how does the outline help you write at speed um the main way it helps me write a bit speed is by ensuring that I produce really clean rats so even if I'm you know I could sit there and hammer out two hundred thousand words and if I can't use any of them in that story it's kind of wasted time and effort you know so by ensuring that I'm able to focus narrowly on what matters to the story what belongs in this story via that outlining process I'm able to put all 130 thousand words or however much I write in there to to effective use within the story like there almost certainly not going to be edited out later I probably won't have to add anything in in order to bridge any gaps that might be missing sometimes I do my editors are good about catching that stuff but typically you know the outlining process produces a full complete story from the beginning from the planning stage so that I know I can just follow that room now if I played out for myself right through it flush out all those scenes and I've got a complete functional compelling satisfying book what I've done but then you know I I want to say Dean Wesley Smith said this is writing is not just typing wait you know and then yeah sure you you typed 130,000 words in a month but what about the thinking process like you write a historical fiction so what is your research process and the time you spend on thinking and planning before you do the outline so you know how do you do that especially with historical fiction which is heavy on the research yes and if you don't get the facts right or at least explain why you deviated from backs for viewers and Biggers are not you have to be careful about it typically for me I you know I have a lot of ideas that are always kind of percolating about future books I might like to write so when I know that I have one coming up in the future like oh yeah I think this book on Pocahontas at some point in the nearest future or whatever I'll start reading the research materials for that during my free time so when I'm not writing I'm just reading and absorbing that stuff and was getting it a lot kind of inside my head um then if I'm at the point where I can successfully write an outline that gets me all the way to the end of the book planning wise like with this outline structure then I know I've read enough research material that I can actually start writing that book of course like once in a while you have to pause while you're typing and look up stuff and verify details you know put some color in that's to be expected but yeah like once I once I'm at the point once I've absorbed enough reading information excuse me observed enough research information that that allows me to plan that book all the way through to its end then I know I've done enough reading these time oh stop reading and it's time to start writing so that's kind of how it works for me I guess I sort of compartmentalize my thinking about a project and sort of mentally planning what it's going to be like and in actually doing the time at the keyboard to produce it whether that time is outline or writing the words okay and so how long does the outline take to create if you you know it's sort of from first gestation idea through to when you when you've got a finished outline or I guess it will vary depending on the project yeah it really varies a lot depending on the project and on how much how much research I had to do in order to get to that point when I write about Egypt for example and such a fan of Egyptology that I can read it in fact like I have a lot of Egypt facts already crammed into my brain to like you know I know the 18th dynasty backwards and forwards I can just sit down and outline you know and you can give me any character's name if they were reasonably well known and well documented eighteenth dynasty I can put together a pretty believable historical level I'm never mad about two or three hours but if I'm writing in you know setting that's less familiar to me and that's going to take more time to learn about to kind of stick into my brain it could take a couple of months of reading before I get to that point but I mean you know I'm working on other writing projects meantime their reading is something that's again it's when I'm in bed going to sleep it's when I'm taking a bath I've got my candle in a plastic bag when I'm on the ferry going to the mainland that's kind of my reading time too so so reading time is very separate for anything for me the way do you live um I live in Friday Harbor Washington it's on an island it's about an hour and boat ride from the mainland I just interested in your historical research so do you do you take notes from Kindle books for example you mention in there or do you travel or do you go to museums like how do you do your research into Egypt or what other things I I would love to be able to travel to do all this research I would absolutely love it I haven't had the means to do it so far and right now I don't have the time enough money to make a travel like so busy writing I can't leave my office a lot of traveling yet unfortunately most of my research was done just for reading I also I watch a lot of documentaries if I can find good documentaries on the subject sometimes they're in theme when I do a lot of that I had the fortune recently I've got a new novel coming out on May 10th called Mercer Girls which is about a historic Seattle and the interesting sort of mail-order bride and plot that was enacted and to try to bring women into Seattle cuz there were just too many guys everywhere was huge sausagefest so I wrote a novel about that which was really fun but I didn't know much about it so I had to do a lot of research for that and for that one I actually was able to meet with some historians some local historians and talk to them about the subject and speaking about the notes they've collected on stuff which is really cool I really enjoyed that experience and I hope I'm able to do more kind of hands-on research for future historical novels but sort of depends where they're set and whether I can travel there easily like obviously my recent novel about ancient Syria not going there no no they reconstructed the arch of Palmyra in Trafalgar Square it's so fun isn't it what it's not funny at all but I actually I put it in destroyer of worlds I had one of my characters kind of upset about the destruction in Palmyra it's so funny how all these things work together but just do just two also come back on the on the speed and quality because amazingly still people have a resistance writers have a resistance about quality and speed and you write fast but you also write literary fiction which many people would say no way how can you write a fast literary fiction novel so tell us your thoughts on speed and quality uh I don't at all think of course I mean I'm a little biased so I do not think that that speed and quality are mutually exclusive in fact some of the best you know most highly respected offers out there have written some very highly respected novels very very fast I don't remember off the top of my head exactly Mel long active Cormac MacCarthy to write the road but it was a matter of weeks not months and definitely not years so that's one example there are all kinds of other examples out there and those are Kurt Vonnegut who said first thought best thought I mean you know a lot of literary novelists have espoused this idea for a long time that the best thing you can do when you're writing a high emotion invested work such as a literary novel is to go with your gut feeling on it and to just express whatever it's kind of coming through you at the time so I think kind of the key to writing literary fiction at a reasonable speed is to just sort of open yourself up to what you're feeling to not get in your own way of expressing those feelings and to not give a crap about what anybody thinks about what you're about right it's like I just you know let it go that works for me and and I think it you know I do write books very quickly I have talked some flack about that from people in the past but I kind of feel like my reviews speak for themselves the readers tend to generally like my books quite a lot and to appreciate kind of the artistic side that I put into them so I'm happy with that yeah let's face at the end of the day well I've listened to some I've read some stuff about you know more well-known writers of the literary type who basically either lie about how long things take oh you know or or we just don't know they you know they they wouldn't necessarily tell us but you know if you yeah I know what you mean I'm gonna have to find some examples of famous books that were done really quickly because there are a lot and it's one of those odd things but you won't ask you about outlining and story structure for a literary fiction novel given that you write genre fiction as well what what is the difference between your outline for a literary novel versus a historical genre fiction um there's really not a lot of difference to be honest the only real differences come in sort of the front end of production if you think of the outlining harness back end where you're sort of laying the groundwork and the front end is all you know putting putting the trappings on the people are actually going to read um the main difference is there it's stylistic differences it's a different way of you know choosing words and formulating sentence and paragraph flow that just fits better with what that audience expects from their reading material um but in terms of structuring the story itself it's really the same and then also I should point out too I still do right by the seat of my pants sometimes like sometimes I just need a break from all that structure and if it's a project that I don't expect to like make me a lot of money then I don't expect to you know be one of the main breadwinners of my back list I'm perfectly happy to just give myself total creators freedom to you know screw it all up and spend three months or whatever right II much crap that's never gonna it's never gonna work and deleted all of me something else because sometimes that's good for you you know so I do kind of let go of the outlining stuff once in a while and and you know just have fun with it but like right now for example I'm working on a book that the literary fiction publisher is considering because that book will need to be done by a deadline if they decide to buy it I'm not line for that so it is a literary novel but it's it's structured it's something I've got all the groundwork in there so I can make sure before I spend much more time working on this project that it's going to you know hold together by the end it's going to meet all the requirements for that top round so so I did it when I mean to it which is most of the time but sometimes I don't know at all because you have these very publishing relationships how do you decide when you look at your coming year for example how do you decide what projects you're gonna write how you can which you're gonna do indie which you might do traditional how you sort of planning that um it's just a bit of a mixed bag I do obviously my first concern is I need to keep my bills paid so I have to I try to make sure that I have a nice solid commercial project coming out under one pen name or another at least every other month and you know I can intersperse the kind of less commercial stuff and there is needed or maybe stuff that I'm trying to sort of get off the ground but it hasn't proven itself yet and found its audience yet so I make sure I have kind of sure things scheduled it regularly I also make sure I have books coming out that will be easy to promote so first in a series or stand-alones that relate very clearly to my other stuff that I've already got out there so that I can have those nice funnels that kind of lead in toward products that I know we're going to be profitable so there's that there's also I also need to take into consideration you know what ideas are kind of magnet me the most like what really wants to be written the most next because that's important I have to feel you know some excitement some level of excitement about what I'm ready even if it's just like ah this book's dirty and it's fun to write you know even if it's just something as simple as that I need to enjoy it otherwise I might as well just go back to you know working shoveling poop for a living which was all zoo keeping ones by the way everyone's like oh he wrote sixty but that must've been so cool and I was like honestly it was literally 99% feces I'm presumably feeding because that has to go in one end so it comes as one percent there's feeding and all the rest is just I do I do want to ask you about your goal your goals and because I find it really interesting so you have other pen names you buy historical you might literally you have nonfiction and you know buddy what are your goals as an a writer now because I always feel like with literary do people want to win prizes for example do you want to win a prize as well as earning a living you know balancing earning a living versus literary work is really difficult so you know what are your goals and ambitions at the writer um my biggest goal and ambition is to win a major literary prize and that is a totally separate goal and ambition from paying my bills because literary fiction just really doesn't pay like it does for you know one or two lockers at a time and everybody else is just like floundering and you know most people everybody pretty much everyone who writes literary fiction either has a separate day job or they write John were fiction as well because there's just not a big enough audience there to make a living from it so it's kind of weird that some of the most widely esteemed and widely recognized prizes in the world of literature go to literary fiction which has the tiniest audience it's so odd I don't know why it is that way but it is and I just like unashamedly I just want that feather in my cap I would love to win a Pulitzer I would love to moon in National Book Award or an orange prize or something so I'm just like viciously pursuing these literary awards I don't know if I'll ever get them especially like I'm because my options are either I enter as a self-published author or as an author who's working with Amazon imprints like either way I'm reviled so the likelihood the deliverer actually been one of these prizes swings and then putting still trying anybody because I want to do it so yeah that's honestly any really the only reason other than for just enjoyment of self-expression the only reason I bother to write with rudy' fiction once in a while at all is so that I can have a chance at letting some awards and the fact that you also write to earn money as well is you know means it's it's very balanced and I feel that a lot of literary fiction authors are not – right genre fiction do you do sense that they're not willing to kind of and we don't see any difference in value between you know them but some people might say it's a step down for ya but YouTube right genre there's um the step down comes in like the way the publishing industry itself including like feed awards complex values those genres which is dumb and stupid but it is what it is we can't really fight against it but yeah I mean there's I recently made friends with an author because I just loved her book so much I found her on Facebook and likes and girl number names Natalie cable she's an amazing literary author she's up in Canada absolutely like she blew my mind which not many my first can do anymore because you know once you start writing for a living you get very cynical and jaded about looks but I could not stop reading and I was so obsessed with it and I talked to her a little bit online and yeah I expressed the like you know in some ways I'm very envious of her because she has sort of kept what she does pure so to speak I use giant air quotes around that because I think neither she nor I and I'm sure you wouldn't either and we don't do it as a purity versus you know dirtiness issue to write literary fiction versus nonfiction but the rest of the publishing world does tend to get that way like it's it's much more likely that it will be seen as a hack you know no matter how good your books are you're a hack if you've like given it and sold out and written that stuff that sells you know who have kind of been careful to sort of guard their their quote-unquote purity as literary authors they really envy me because I'm making a living doing what I love and what they love and they wish they could do that instead of having to go to the University and teach the creative writing courses all day long or go work as a lawyer you know it's they really want to be right into so like we both we both have reasons to Envy one another and know if you're in the literary fiction you're damned if you do and damned if you don't all you can do is just do what feels right for you doing and trust that you're making the right decision for yourself so yeah I wonder on that about the pen-name thing because you've you use Libby hooker for a number of genres what about writing like for example presumably you could do literary fiction or with a traditional publisher under another name is that something that you would you know in that way keep it pure for the industry would you I mean you I totally want you to have your ambition I really do it's something I would definitely consider if this particular publisher who's thinking about this book that I'm working on now takes it I will have that conversation with them to see what they think I'm not averse to the idea but there's a part of me that is really stubborn and a really averse to the idea on the inside just because like who the hell do these ivory tower jerks think they are to tell me that I'm less of a writer because I also make people happy with my fiction well I mean let's be honest like if you read anything that has the Libby popper name on it there's gonna be some bad stuff that happens like yeah be prepared for a bad ending but you know I do read genre fiction because it's entertaining and because people like it and because it sells like if somebody wants to judge me for that and decide that I'm you know not worthy of winning some big fancy award just because because I have sold out in some respect there's a big part of me that just wants to flip them the bird would be like take me as I am you know recognize that I'm a really good artistic writer and that I can also do this this commercial stuff really well – and be successful is that or don't take me at all so so I don't know there may be a time in the future if I really get rabid about watching those prizes where I just come up with a totally different ending but I don't tell anybody that's also secretly me or I may try to do this all see what happens yeah I was just thinking there about you know Charles Dickens obviously you don't want to be long dead by the time you become famous or you know but you know considered literature read as literature but when he was writing it was purely genre fiction serialized in newspapers and he was talking it and then if you think that Stephen King I mean you know when you think of characters and dialogue and you know real debt Stephen King is is a bit like Dickens in that way and that he does these carrot amazing characters and hugely popular but what I don't think Stephen King would ever win you know a Pulitzer or you know if you did it would be amazing because it would actually represent what people love you know one of the big most well-loved authors in the world and I I would prefer Stephen King to win it than James Patterson for example both you know who sold a lot of books but I think King is is a cook is a craftsman I don't know what you think about that yeah I agree I think certainly a lot of the offers who be Revere now as being classic since they you know the greats they were just yeah they were writing serialized stuff that came out in popular magazines in their time they were writing to a particular audience because it was commercial my favorite example of that have to actually Lucy Maud Montgomery who wrote of course Anne of Green Gables books love her her writing is so literary so beautiful so emotional it's amazing it absolutely stands up you know 100 plus years later to anything that's being written now by anybody who's won a Pulitzer Prize I mean she was that good and she was writing genre fiction back then because that's what she could write that's what she can sell um now it's revered as example is a you know a very fine example of extra high quality writing and it should be but that kind of her day she never would have wanted award another good example is Louisa May Alcott who wrote Little Women and several hundred books of that type she always had an ambition to write for a living and she got to her point where she needed to write for a living in order to help support her family she wrote under a couple of secret pen names and she wrote what they called de fiction one of one of my favorites is one that's the passion of Polly or movies just always passion but romance novels back then so she was a romance author intervention you know she she kind of cut her teeth writing for that marker and got to the point where she caught some you know editors I who was like you're actually a really excellent writer you should write some serious stuff and he was you know the person who kind of got her the gig of writing Little Women and she became famous for that but even Little Women again was written is like this sort of morality play for the generation at the time it was intended as a genre fiction that was the moment to be very commercial who was meant to appeal to this particular section of reader dumb and now it's of course a classic so that's just you know that happens I mean I couldn't like it lists off like virtually every author now it's considered it was written in a classic was just writing short fiction at the time and that's where our classics come from and I think I think we are making some inroads slowly in seeing stuff that was formerly considered purely genre fiction as having more artistic merit when Hilary mantel won the Man Booker Prize back to back for the first two books and for historical trilogy for trans crime series which is awesome my favorite need to read it will fall and bring up the bodies and I'm very impatiently waiting for the final book to come out which was supposed to be on this year but it's not so she went back to Batman Booker's for those and and with good reason I mean they're absolutely astonishing works of art they're fabulous and they are also very compelling genre fiction so I think we're starting to see a little bit of ground being yielded among the awards people and you might think they're starting to recognize that okay yes maybe genre fiction is popular and appeals to a wide audience but that doesn't mean it also can't be you know the quality work hard so I think the best thing is to continue growing that body of work and you know Hilary mantel everyone thinks Wolf Hall but of course she'd written lots of books before that yes wolf I don't even know how many but you know she's she's not a young writer and she's had lots of books so I think we can all I think it's very important I'm so glad you stated your ambitions I think it's so important for us to think longer term with our writing and to think okay so how do we we see ourselves in 20-30 years time you know I look at Stephen King and I'm like war he's 68 I think he's 68 so I've got like 25 years or something before I'm at the point there he is in his career so what could I create in the next 25 years so I'm worthy to be where he is at that point so that's my take on it anyway so I turns more questions for you but we're out time so we might have to do a return visit sometimes that would love to yeah because that was a lot of fun I really enjoyed our chat so where can people find you and all your books online yeah you can find my historical and literary fiction at Libby Parker calm and it's spelled Li BB IE h aw k ER and you can also find my romance expense your thing at lid that's star link on starting like Burt and in July will have a third coming coming out with some urban fantasy so you can stay tuned for that too I guess thanks so much for your time Libby that was great thank you John

12 thoughts on “Writing Tips: Outlining for Genre Fiction and Literary Fiction with Libbie Hawker

  1. What is the name of the Canadian writer mentioned at about 31:30? Sounded like Natalie Capel but Googling produced only a singer..

  2. My favorite part of this whole interview is how Joanna cracks up at her description of her odd jobs

  3. The "Literary authors" might write less literary material under a different pen name. IJS.

  4. Thanks, this is a wonderfully helpful and encouraging interview. Just one note to Joanna: Stephen King did in fact win the National Book Award in 2003, a decision that caused a lot of controversy among "serious" literary people at the time.

  5. I think her name's spelled as Libbie, but I noticed that the title has it spelled differently.

    Anyway, I have her e-book, Take Off Your Pants!, and find it's character-centric approach interesting.

  6. Thank you for mentioning how well you know your characters. They are supposed to grow anyway. 20 pages leaves little room for it, and I can't write that much without getting two chapters. Too much hems you in and limits growth. Mine blossomed all on their own.

  7. Great interview, growing your body of quality work is solid advice. Hilary Mantel is an amazing writer – Beyond Black is a brilliant novel

  8. oooh… I have her first novel and a few more!
    oh, nice segue Joanna…
    idk Australia is talking about changing copyright laws to 25 years only from date of publication. Many, many people are SCREAMING about this. It conflicts with the TPP that they are supposed to sign (that extends copyright) and the reasons for it seem very grey indeed – the publishing industry 'locks up people' who could work in other areas… I think you meant 'employs'

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