This blog was featured on 06/22/2018
Emily Giffin on Finding Your Path
Written by
She Writes
June 2018
Written by
She Writes
June 2018

Bestselling author Emily Giffin’s highly anticipated novel, All We Ever Wanted, comes out this month and we are counting down the minutes until we have it in our hands. In honor of the chick lit superstar’s big release, we rounded up some of her very best advice for writers. Find out what she had to say!

On finding your path:

Do you have any advice for beginning writers, or for those who’ve never tackled something as big as a novel before? What about writers who are trying to get published?

First, stop referring to yourself as an “aspiring writer.” You might aspire to get paid for what you do, but you are a writer if you write… As a corollary, stop worrying that you won’t be good enough, or comparing yourself to others. Don’t let the idea of a novel overwhelm or intimidate you so much that you are too afraid to begin. It’s like training for a marathon. Nobody gets out there and runs twenty-six miles on their first effort. It takes daily training and discipline and desire. There’s no real magic to writing a novel or one method that works for all—it’s just a question of attacking the project sentence by paragraph by page by chapter. Also, try to follow Stephen King’s advice (from his memoir On Writing) to keep the door “closed” when writing early drafts. In other words, don’t concern yourself with what others might think of your work, or whether it is commercially viable. Write what you feel and be fiercely honest. If you don’t feel a deep connection to your characters and writing, then chances are nobody else will.

Rejection is simply part of the process. It happens to most every successful writer. Many times. When I was writing Something Borrowed in London, I lived around the corner from J.K. Rowling’s flat, and derived strength from walking by her place on my way to get coffee and thinking of all the rejection she endured. So no matter what else, persevere, believe in yourself and keep doing what you love.

[The above interview was first featured on Read the full interview here.]

On writing a bestselling book:

  1. Don't be successful for the sake of success. Think about what will really fulfill you.
  2. Misery can be a great motivational tool. Sometimes it’s better to be miserable than to be comfortable.
  3. People magnify the risks in your mind that you're going to fail but take those risks.
  4. Work with people who are excited and enthusiastic about what you're doing.
  5. Your life is the sum of your relationships.
  6. Accept that it won't be perfect, so just do the best you can.
  7. There is no such thing as "having it all."
  8. The most important thing is the journey. Just because you get the dream, doesn't mean it'll be perfect.
  9. Be open to new experiences.
  10. Failure is an opportunity to grow.

[The above are takeaways from an interview first featured on a Don’t Keep Your Day Job podcast. Listen to the full interview here.]

On her process:

What is your writing process? Do you outline your stories ahead of time?

I never outline my novels before I write. I have a vague sense of beginning, middle and end, but for me, it is a very character-driven process. As I get to know my characters, and the relationships between them form, the plot evolves accordingly. Although this method of writing can be inefficient, and I sometimes have to scrap whole chapters if I don’t like the direction the story is unfolding, I love being surprised in the writing process. 

On characters:

You often write about flawed characters. Is this something you do intentionally?

I find flawed characters much more interesting than perfect ones and enjoy the challenge of making readers root for them in spite of their unsympathetic path and destructive choices. Life is about the gray areas. Things are seldom black and white, even when we wish they were and think they should be, and I like exploring this nuanced terrain. I believe most people are good at heart and sincerely try to do the right thing. Yet we are all capable of missteps and of hurting the people we love, and we all have had to grapple with the guilt and regret that come from these mistakes and weaknesses.

[The above interview was first featured on Read the full interview here.]

Are there specific people in your life, past or present, who have served as inspiration for these characters?

My characters are not modeled after people I know in real life, but real people do inspire snippets and certain aspects of my characters. I’m inspired by so many things – my own relationships with friends and family, third-person accounts from friends, news stories, conversations I have with my readers on Facebook, really everything around me. I try to absorb details that make up the fabric of our daily lives and explore themes that feel relatable, if not universal: Do we all wonder about “the one who got away”? Is forgiveness after a major transgression in a marriage truly possible? Can people really change in a fundamental way? Is it ever okay to keep a secret from someone you love? Can true love conquer all?

 [The above interview was first featured on Windsor Star. Read the full interview here.]

What do you love most about spending time with your characters?

The first third of every book that I’ve written, I feel like the marionette – In control, pulling the strings and making them do things. But by the halfway point, it becomes a little more emotionally effortless when I feel like my characters take on a life of their own.

I still have to put in the hours, it’s still hard work to write. But I like the aha! moments of saying, “Of course this is what she would do here… and this is where she would go... and this is the reaction that this other character would have to it.” That’s fun to me.

[The above interview was first featured on ARTSATL. Read the full interview here.]

On feedback:

Do negative comments ever get to you?

Oh, yeah! Sure. Everyone has feelings, especially when you create work and put your heart and soul into something and put your story out there. Obviously you know that not everyone is going to connect with it and that’s all part of it. In a way you want the varied opinions. With my first book “Something Borrowed” there were people who felt cheating was always wrong and they would say they hated the book because of it. However, you kind of want that when you create, you don’t want people to be lukewarm but at the same time people can hurt your feelings. I really try to tune that out because it’s just negative energy and [I’m not talking about] the constructive, mixed reviews but the mean things. If you let that get into your head it can affect you on a creative level.

 [The above interview was first featured on A Drink With. Read the full interview here.]

On life balance:

With three young children and a full-time writing career, how do you balance it all?

As with any working mother (or stay-at-home mother), I just try to do the best. I also try to remind myself that maternal guilt is a supreme waste of energy. It also helps to have a wonderful husband who is very present with our children, physically and emotionally, when I’m away on a book tours. I marvel at single parents. Bottom line, life is about making choices—compromise. There is no such thing as “having it all.”

[The above interview was first featured on Windsor Star. Read the full interview here.]

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