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This blog was featured on 01/29/2020
Karma Brown on Discipline, Process & Patience
Written by
She Writes
January 2020
Written by
She Writes
January 2020

The beloved author of Come Away with Me and In This Moment is back with her latest novel Recipe for a Perfect Wife, in which each chapter begins with a humorously dated recipe or snippet from vintage women’s advice books. “Fairly soon, you realize Brown is less interested in amusing you with these nostalgic nods than she is in calling out the fact that so many of them still somehow resonate,” wrote The New York Times.

On Discipline

Brown got her start in writing as a journalism student – training that instilled discipline and positively influenced her writing process as a novelist.

“Whether you’re writing a 500-word blog post, 1500-word feature article, or a 90,000-word novel, the goal is the same: to tell a great story. Journalism school taught me about structure, how to ask the right questions to get the answers you want, and to write to space and deadline.”

One critical skill that she learned in school was the importance of nailing the first line.

“I can be clueless about how a book will end, but I can’t get traction until I come up with that first line.”

This excerpt was originally published on Books By Women. Read the full interview here.

On Getting Started

On her website, Brown confides that she has a folder on her laptop titled ‘Book ideas (that suck)’.

“At first I thought they might be good, even great, but after spending a little time thinking through plot and realizing just how wrong I was, off they go to the file,” she says. “However, every now and then I have an idea that works when I take it through the first test. It has legs, and with some work, I can see how the story can go from good to great.”

On Process

Brown spoke with Books By Women about her process:

“I like to call myself a ‘Plantser’ – I do a very detailed synopsis of my book idea before I start writing a word, plot out at least one main bit of action or scene per chapter in Scrivener (a fantastic writing software tool I’d be lost without), and do brief character and setting sketches so I have a good sense of time, place and players.”

Brown says she enjoys the process of putting the story together:

“I find the first draft of any story the trickiest because I don’t yet know my characters well, so I try to get that draft done quickly. I adore revision, even when it’s bang-your-head-against-a-wall frustrating, and always feel relief when I get to that stage of the process.”

This excerpt was originally published on Publisher’s Weekly. Read the full interview here.

On Characters

Your characters need to feel like real people, she advises to aspiring writers.

“You need to build them one layer at a time. Things like giving them names, sorting out how they look, determining their quirks, who their best friends are, what they do for a living, where they grew up, when their birthdays are, where they live, how they live, what they like to eat, drink, do for fun, what makes them angry, what makes them cry, what they like to wear, what they do that pisses others off, what they were like in high school (if you’re writing adult), what people love about them, what people hate about them …”

This excerpt was originally published on the author's website. Read her full post here.

On Patience

In an interview about finding balance, Brown told Susie Orman Schnall what she wished she’d known in her younger years:

“That not everything has to happen RIGHT THIS INSTANT. With time comes wisdom, and despite the bumps life can bring, getting older is a wonderful thing never to be taken for granted.”

On the same topic, she tweeted:

“I signed w/my agent 5yrs ago. I was 40. My first book pub'd when I was 41 (almost 42). I had this whole life before I became an author! And that life has helped me get 4 books on the shelf. Just saying. Age is relative, even in publishing. #NotOld #NoTimeLimit #keepgoing

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