Aspiring Author 101: All Things New's Lauren Miller on Honing Your Skills

Aspiring Author 101: All Things New's Lauren Miller on Honing Your Skills

Do you have dreams of becoming a novelist? Aspiring Author 101 is a new feature on where we dive into the nitty gritty of writing a novel with some of our favorite, successful YA authors.

Our next writer is the super talented Lauren Miller, best known for her succeessful novels Free to Fall and Parallel.

She has a new book titled All Things New, which is “a love story about perception and truth, physical and emotional pain, and the messy, complicated people we are behind the masks we put on for the world.”

We sat down with Lauren to get some advice on what to write, where to write, and basically just pick her brain about all things writing.

All Things New hits shelves on August 1. Pre-order it now!

JJJ Aspiring Author 101 – Lauren Miller

On book everyone should read at some point?Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It’s a collection of essays on writing by one of my favorite living writers. If you don’t know Anne Lamott, you should. Her voice is truly incomparable, and Bird by Bird is one of her best. It’s full of practical tips but the writing advice sort of isn’t the point. Bird by Bird is a meditation on what it means to be a writer. A kind of how-to guide for those of us who feel called to live the writing life.”

One book you’ll never get tired of reading?The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks. Or any book by Oliver Sacks, honestly. For those who aren’t familiar with him, he was a neurologist and writer who wrote about his most unusual patients. Each chapter is a case study about a particular person with some crazy neurological aberration. The subject matter itself is fascinating to me, but Sacks‘ voice is what draws me back to his books again and again. There is so much intellect but also so much humility and humanity in his writing.”

Hardcover, paperback or digital copies? “Paperback, no question. There is something about the bendy quality of a paperback book, how it fits into your hands and into your bag and into your life. I’m definitely not precious with the books I own – they get coffee dripped on them and bath water splashed on them and cookie crumbs jammed in their page cracks. Plus, of course, paperbacks are lighter for carrying, and since I always, always have my laptop with me, weight is always an issue! E-books are great for space saving, but I find the reading experience sort of disorienting because I don’t know where I am in the story. You can see what percentage you’ve read, but that’s not the same as feeling the already-read pages in your hand.”

Click inside to read the rest of our Q&A with Lauren Miller…

Favorite place to write? “My favorite place to write is definitely a comfy chair in a hotel lobby with a view. Since I don’t live in a hotel and don’t have a view, I settle for the arm chair in my living room. It’s not the best set up ergonomically, but the enjoyment of the experience — laptop on a pillow on my lap, cross-legged in the chair, coffee within reach – makes up for that. As for the time of day, my favorite is definitely early morning. Ideally I’m settled in and writing by 5 a.m. and get 2-3 hours in before the rest of the house wakes up. The rest of the day is me trying to squeeze in writing timing in between work and kids and everything else.”

What items do you need to have in reach? “In the mornings, it’s coffee in an oversized mug. The rest of the day, it’s me pulling out my laptop whenever I catch a spare minute – in line at my favorite coffee shop, in parking lots, sometimes as I’m walking down the sidewalk! If I’m in the middle of a scene in my head, I can work anywhere, no inspirational items required.”

Music or no music? “I used to listen to music, but lately I’ve started embracing the silence, and honestly I sort of love it. It’s disconcerting at first — and weirdly distracting — to have it be totally quiet, but if I stay with it and let myself adjust to the silence (which isn’t really complete silence because I can still hear myself typing!) I find that I’m able to achieve a deeper focus on my story.”

Endings – happy, sad, or ambiguous? “Oooh, I love this question! (laughs) I think the best endings have a combination of a whole bunch of different emotions. But if I had to pick one quality that I look for in an ending – and one I try to weave into my own novels – it’s HOPE. I want a book to leave me hopeful.”

Who is your go-to person when you’re having writer’s block or need writing advice? “My friend Tyler. We went to high school and college together and though he lives on the other side of the country, he’s read – and edited -pretty much every draft of every thing I’ve ever written. He’s also my cheesy-meter – if a line of dialogue is lame, he doesn’t hesitate to point it out. I think every writer needs a Tyler. Someone who will correct your grammar and and who isn’t afraid to tell you when something you’ve written sucks. Ideally someone you don’t have to sit across from at the dinner table or sleep in the same bed with later…”

Best advice for someone who wants to write a novel someday? “Start writing! Writing is a discipline. You have to learn how to do it well. There’s this misconception that ‘good’ writers feel inspired and the words just flow. There are moments when that magic happens, but most of the time writing is more like pulling out a splinter. Slow and painful and super annoying a lot of the time, but worth it in the end!”

- Reporting by Sharon Tharp (@sharontharp)

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Photos: Genine Esposito Photography
Posted to: Aspiring Author 101, Exclusive, Interview, JJJ Book Club, Lauren Miller