LifeOfWriters is very pleased with our interview with the award winning author Rhonda McKnight. She is the author of several award-winning novels and Black Expressions Top 20 bestsellers, including An Inconvenient Friend, What Kind of Fool and Breaking All The Rules. She is the winner of the 2015 Emma Award for Inspirational Romance of the Year. She is also an eidtor and writing coach. Read her inspiring answers and writing tips below.
Can you describe your writing process? And where do you write?
It involves speed. I must write fast because I HATE draft writing. Draft writing is unpredictable and stressful. That is not the fun part to me. I must get it over with. So, I draft write hard and fast and ugly. I write wherever and whenever I can. I do most of my writing in my home office, but as often as I can I try to write away from home. This doesn’t mean at the beach or a cabin in the mountains. I wish. I’m talking Starbucks, a local restaurant, or the public library. I’m easily distracted at home. There’s laundry and cleaning to be done there. There’s also a television and a bed in that place. Leaving as often as possible until I reach the middle of my book really helps. Once I move midway through a project, I’m good to the end. I’m a finisher. And then I get to the fun part - revision.
Do you plan before you start writing? If so how do you do it?
I am a plotter. I write the first chapter or so as it comes to me, but then I put the brakes on and plot the story. I find that I write faster when I know exactly where my book is going and most of the major points of conflict. (I’ve already shared I have to write fast.) I do a pretty skinny outline. I have no idea where I discovered the method, but it has worked for me through the last 9 of my 12 projects. I decide 10 events that will happen in the story. Then I break those 10 down to 20, and I try to squeeze out another 10. The goal for a novel is 30. Each “event” usually represents a chapter. If I’m only writing a novella, I go for 12-15 chapters. Pretty simple, right? It takes a lot of brain power and tea and chocolate and creativity to get to 30. A lot.
What is your favorite part of writing?
Developing characters. I actually struggle with writing until I know pretty much everything there is to know about my people. I used to want to be a family therapist. I think this is my way of working out that long abandoned dream. I create people and fix them in books.
What is your favorite thing about being an author?
Reader feedback. I love hearing from readers on social media and through emails. I also meet with a good number of book clubs. They feed me, buy me gifts, and treat me really good. Seriously, celebrity stuff aside, I love writing Christian fiction. I believe the messages in my stories are life-changing, inspiring, and solidly inspired by the Holy Spirit and scripture. Being a faith-based writer is a big responsibility, but it’s also a blessing. In this respect, that reader feedback about how the stories moved them can’t be compared to anything else.
What would be your top 5 writing tips?
Study the craft of writing, attend a writer’s conference, network with other writers, find an accountability partner, and find get some real feedback. Not mom or your spouse, even if they’re a reader. A critique system is essential, be it beta readers, a critique group or a developmental editor like myself. I hadn’t mentioned it before, but I’m an editor too. I told you I love revision. Bonus tip 6 – Grow. Never stop learning about the craft or your readers. Find out what they want and give it to them.
What do you read at the moment?
I love reading Christian fiction. At the moment, I’m reading Christmas stories. The hope, love, and faith in the stories is giving me life right now. My new love is historical fiction by African-American authors. I’ve always loved historical romance, but finding inspirational historical about characters who look like me had been a challenge. Piper Hugley and Vanessa Riley are my new favorite writers. Thankfully, they both keep churning out books. I also enjoy a good mail-order bride story from time to time and mysteries by Sandra Brown and Pamela Samuels Young.
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