Monday, October 22, 2012

How Authors Write- Dianne Salerni

Today is the first in the series of How Authors Write. Up first, I have Dianne Salerni. I've been honored to have Dianne work with me on my current WIP, and am thrilled to have her here to explain her writing process to us.

What do you write?
Up to now, I’ve written YA Historical, usually with a twist of supernatural or mystery (or in one case, science fiction). Recently, I branched out with a contemporary fantasy which my agent feels is more MG than YA. So, I’m making some revisions based on her advice, and I’m very excited with the results so far.

Do you use 1st person, 3rd person, multiple POVs (Points of view)?
My first novel, WE HEAR THE DEAD, was first person POV, with occasional counterpoint chapters written from the main character’s younger sister. But shortly after that book was published, I tried writing in close third person and loved it so much, I never went back to first. I usually stick with one POV, although my most recent work broke that pattern (as well as ventured into a new genre).

How do you get started with a book- is it an idea, a character, vary from story to story?
Usually I have the premise before I have anything else. With WE HEAR THE DEAD, I stumbled across the story of the Fox sisters while researching something else. I was so fascinated by the way two 19th century teenagers pulled off an elaborate séance hoax, I knew I had to write about them. As for my next book, THE CAGED GRAVES, I started with real-life caged graves in an abandoned cemetery and built a mystery around them. (Like there wasn’t enough mystery about them already!)

Do you draft quickly or are you more detailed in your draft?
It varies by project. The first draft of my most recent project took only 4 months to write, while WE HEAR THE DEAD took 2 years. All my first drafts are bloated – chock full of words and sub-plots that don’t need to be there. I usually spend the next several drafts slashing words and getting to the heart of the story.

Do you do research before your first draft, during?
I have to do some research before starting the draft, especially if I’m writing a historical piece. But the research continues throughout the drafting process, and I can tell you from my recent experience getting THE CAGED GRAVES ready for publication that it continues right up to the line edits. (For example, the line editor asked me: “Could this person really travel this distance in one day in 1867?” And I found out the answer was no, she couldn’t. Eeep!)

Do you outline? How?
My outline is more like a bulleted list of suggestions, which my characters feel free to reject. I guess I use what some authors call the dot-to-dot method. I know the major “dots” or “events” of the plot. But how to get from dot to dot (or even if I have the dots in the right order) is something I discover by the seat of my pants.

Do you name everything up front when you are drafting or do you leave comments for yourself to go back and fill in later so you don't lose the flow of what you are working on?
Even during a first draft, I revise, edit, and polish each chapter before continuing to the next one. I can’t move forward with blanks or discrepancies in my work. The exception might be when I need a description of a specific location and I know I can get that later.

Do you work with CP's (Critique Partners) or Beta's (Beta Readers)? How soon into your draft do you let them see your work?
I have two CP’s who see my work chapter by chapter as I write it. They are great for cheering me on and also helping me brainstorm when I can’t figure out how to get to the next “dot.” My family also reads my work as I go – I print out chapters for my daughters and my husband. And sometimes I send chapters to my sister’s Kindle.

What books/websites have you found most helpful to helping you write your best?
I use a lot of reference books related to whatever topic I’m currently writing about, and I love websites where I can find historical photographs or word and phrase origins. When you write historical, it’s important to avoid anachronisms of language. My first go-to is often, which dates words, phrases, and idioms. As for books on the craft of writing, I don’t read them. I just can’t force myself to sit down and read a craft book. There are too many novels waiting to be read.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?
Oh, SO MUCH. Not all of which I can share publicly, LOL! Let’s just say I was pretty naïve about the whole publishing business when I started, and I’ve learned A LOT simply from participating in the blogging world.

What do you have out now, or coming out? Any upcoming events? A website we can find you and your books at? An author photo? A booktrailer? Anything else you want to share?
My historical mystery, THE CAGED GRAVES, comes out May 14, 2013. It’s the story of a seventeen year old girl who returns to her home after fifteen years away to participate in an arranged marriage -- only to discover that her mother is buried in a caged grave outside the local cemetery.

Also, I recently got word that a film short based on WE HEAR THE DEAD (tentatively titled THE SPIRIT GAME) will be filmed this fall! My websiteDianne K/ Salerni Author features both my books, and I have a book trailer for my first book 

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your process with us, Dianne.


  1. So interesting to read and compare the writing process with other writers. Great idea for a series. Diane, I identify with the dot to dot plan for writing. I didn't know I was doing that, so now I can name my process! I think writing is such a solitary life we all need to get together with others to brainstorm and fix holes in plots. Besides it's so much fun. Best wishes with your new release!

    1. I've always found it very intriguing to see how others write. And I completely second your brainstorming comment. Don't know what I'd do if I couldn't brainstorm with my CP's!

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  3. Just to clarify, Janet Glaser and J Q Rose are actually the same person. Me...Pen name is J Q Rose. Too early in the a.m. to be opening up the laptop for comments. Sorry!! Best wishes!!

  4. Very nice post and very interesting to learn how others write.


    Silver's Reviews

  5. This is great to hear more about how Dianne works. I knew she's a pantser, but she's not as much of one as I had thought. :D

  6. Thanks for having me here today, Mary! I look forward to reading about other writer as your series continues.

  7. Great idea, Mary - and really good questions too. Thanks so much for sharing the behind-the-scenes stuff, Dianne. Most inspiring.


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