Highlights

  • Writing a lot is the only thing that will improve our writing.
  • The importance of outlining and the time it takes to write a great novel.
  • Writing novels takes several years.

Welcome to the sixteenth episode of Interviews from the Void, where I interview writers about their writing process, discussing the mechanics and physicality of the craft.

In this episode, I chat with historical and speculative fiction writer K. M. Weiland about her prolific writing abilities and growing her writing business. For those writers out there who feel they are taking too long to work on a particular project, this interview is for you.

I’ve learned by reading extensively…and putting in many, many hours writing my own words.

Arthur: Your website is fantastic, filled with great articles with writing tips and your books, both fiction and non-fiction. Writing is also your full-time job. Did you always want to be a writer? Did you study writing in any school, or have you done what most of us do, just learn by writing?

Katie: Becoming a writer wasn’t so much a decision. It just happened—which is how I think the right things in life usually happen. I grew up horse crazy, spent part of every summer working on a friend’s cattle ranch in Wyoming, and thought I’d end up being a horse trainer. But somewhere in high school, I realized I was having more fun staying inside and writing than I was going outside and riding. So after graduation, I sold the horses and started focusing on writing as much as I could.

I’ve taken a few classes here and there, but mostly I’ve learned by reading extensively—both fiction and writing how-to—and putting in many, many hours writing my own words.

Becoming a writer wasn’t so much a decision. It just happened – which is how I think the right things in life usually happen.

Arthur: You are quite the prolific writer. Can you tell me about your typical writing session? Are you a fast writer like myself, just trying to get words on the page and finish the first draft? Or are you a slow writer? How do you free yourself from distraction and focus on the writing?

Katie: These days, writing sessions are pretty straightforward. I’ll make coffee, choose a soundtrack, open Scrivener, and then read over whatever I wrote the day before. Then I start writing and keep at it for about two hours every morning. I’ll generally log around 1,200 words on an average day.

I’m not a slow writer, but my process is slow. I spend around five years working through each book from outline to final revision.

I spend around five years working through each book from outline to final version.

Arthur: How do you develop the images for your website and your book covers? Do you do this yourself or do you hire someone?

Katie: The website images are ones either I or my assistant work on. Covers I hire out to Damonza.

The more books I write, the more streamlined my process gets. Outlining plays a huge role in this.

Arthur: Tobias Klausmann, author of Slingshot, shared with me the number of times he’s sat down to work on a project over several years, specifically the third book in his Slingshot series. Can you tell me about your writing process for one of your books, perhaps the most difficult one you wrote? What was challenging? How long did it take to complete, from inception to publication?

Katie: Something I’ve discovered is that the more books I write, the more streamlined my process gets. Outlining plays a huge role in this. I will spend several months brainstorming “out loud” with pen and paper, figuring out the story’s big picture, working through character sketches, and then writing detailed scene outlines.

If research is necessary, I focus on that next. That can be a lengthy process. I think I spent about seven months researching my superhero historical Wayfarer, set in 1820 London, which comes out later this year.

Then I’ll dive into the first draft. I’m happy if this takes about a year.

After initial revisions, I send the book on to beta readers and kind of forget about it for a couple months, before finally returning for any major edits that need to happen before getting it ready for publication.

Then I’ll dive into the first draft. I’m happy if this takes about a year.

Arthur: What has been the most successful “marketing vehicle” for you, in terms of getting word about your work out there? Twitter? Facebook? Word of Mouth? A combination? Do you have any tips on self-promotion for other writers out there?

Katie: It’s definitely been a combination of things over the years. My website, Helping Writers Become Authors, has always been the hub. Social media was key in the early days, but the majority of traffic is organic these days thanks to SEO, which is pretty awesome.

Arthur: What advice can you share with other writers about their blogs and SEO? Any tips?

Katie: I use the WordPress plug-in Yoast SEO, which encourages good practices. Being aware of search keywords in titles and doing a little research where necessary is also important to my strategy.

Arthur: I’ve been asking writers about their “writing spaces.” I’m curious to know what impact their “work space” has on their productivity as writers. You mention on your blog that you write outside. Can you describe your writing space and what attributes it has that contribute to your writing output?

Katie: I have a basement office with a desktop computer, which is my customary writing space. But weather allowing—and especially when I’m outlining, using a notebook instead of the computer—I’ll take my writing on the go. I have a little nook, surrounded by trees, where it’s generally shady enough to be comfortable.

Thank you so much Katie for sharing your wisdom with us here at Strange World. Be sure to check out her website for all her helpful writing materials. 

Katie’s Bio: K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the award-winning and internationally-published author of Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.