Q&A WITH C.P. STILES AUTHOR OF THE CALL HOUSE: A WASHINGTON NOVEL @carostiles (from Confessions of an Eccentric Bookaholic)
This is part of an interview with C. P. Stiles on Confessions of an Eccentric Bookaholic, you can read the whole interview here
Has writing always been a passion for you or did you discover it years later?
Yes. Writing has always been a passion for me. As a child, I loved reading or listening to stories. Then I loved making them up. As soon as I could write, I put them down on paper. But I later learned that just because I spent so much time reading it didn’t automatically mean I actually understood how to write a novel. I guess I hoped I’d somehow absorbed everything I needed to know. It turned out I had an awful lot to learn.
Can you name three writing tips to pass on to aspiring authors?
1. Write the kind of books you like to read. If you don’t like reading romances, don’t try to write them because you know they’re popular. If your heart isn’t it, you won’t enjoy the work.
2. Learn the difference between scene and summary. There’s that longstanding bit of advice about show don’t tell. It often leads writers to think they have to show too much. So, you’ll have a scene in a restaurant where the characters go through everything step-by-step. And it’s a little tedious and mechanical. If you can learn that sometimes it’s okay to summarize, it will make the action move more quickly.
3. Don’t confuse movement with action. Sometimes there’ll be a scene where one character is nodding, or scratching his nose, or twirling her hair. That’s not action. That’s not moving the story along. And too many of those little character tics can be distracting.
Do you let unimportant things get in the way of your writing?
Yes. Unfortunately. This happens most when I’m beginning a novel or a story. I can find a dozen little things that need to get done before I can sit down to work. I like to pretend it’s part of my process. Even if it’s just wasting time. Once I’m engaged by what I’m writing, I’m much more disciplined.