I don’t know about you, but I’m a big Jane Austen fan — and also a fan of Austen-inpired novels like The Jane Austen Marriage Manual. I’m so happy to welcome the book’s debut author, Kim Izzo, to Women’s Fiction Writers today. Below, Kim reminds us what’s most important when we’re writing — as well as offers tips for achieving the ever-elusive balance.
Please give Kim a big WFW welcome!
Author Kim Izzo’s Best Advice To Writers: Finish Your Book!
Amy: Since journalism and non-fiction are true stories, how did your background as an accidental journalist (I read your website!) and your best selling series of non-fiction books The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Decorum, and the sequel, The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Grace Under Pressure lead you to write your debut novel, The Jane Austen Marriage Manual?
Kim: My goal was always to write fiction and I went to film school and studied screenplays, so the fact that I have written so much non-fiction is perhaps the more odd thing to me. Indeed, I often think I was afraid to write fiction, that I was worried I couldn’t do it or that it would be too hard to deal with the constant rejection that I put it off and fell into non-fiction. But having had the success with the non-fiction books and as a journalist (hey, someone is paying me to write!) gave me the confidence to try a novel.
Amy: Can you tell us a little bit about your novel? (but of course, no spoilers!!)
Kim: It’s a coming of middle-age story! LOL! The leading lady, Kate is about to turn 40 and isn’t where she thought she’d be at this point in her life. She’s without a job, single and virtually homeless and her savings nearly wiped out in the recession – and as a lifelong Jane Austen fan she decides that perhaps her solution is the same as an Austen heroine: make a good marriage. But is it too late if you’re not one-and-twenty to find an “eligible man?” She embarks on the jet-set journey to find Mr Rich and hopes he’s also Mr Right.
Amy: Did you approach the novel differently than a non-fiction project? We’re always talking about being a plotter or pantser (writing by the seat of one’s pants) — which one are you?
Kim: I’m a plotter! My education in screenwriting structure and form (not to mention a starter marriage to a screenwriter) drilled into me the importance of outlines and plotting. This doesn’t work for everyone but I need a story structure!
Amy: Obviously you were doing many things (like most of us) while writing, submitting, editing and publicizing your novel. How did you organize and balance your time and commitments? Any helpful hints you’d like to share?
Kim: Ah, life balance! Such a mystery! LOL. I write early in the morning, like 6-8am before I head downtown to the office. I write all day Sunday. But I never turn on my computer on Saturday. I need a full day off. I also used every vacation day to write this book. My ex-husband, that screenwriter, gave me the best piece of advice: even if you write only one hour a day, do it, it adds up. He was right.
Amy: What’s the biggest difference now that you’re a debut fiction author?
Kim: Not sure what you mean by difference? I feel very happy that I achieved this thing, publishing a novel, went I so long wanted to do it. It feels nice to say I’m a novelist and I feel I’ve joined this secret club.
Amy: How do you define women’s fiction?
Kim: Loosely, I’d describe women’s fiction as stories about women that women can relate to. I don’t believe that men can’t write women’s fiction, they do. However, there is the ongoing debate about the notion of women’s fiction being marginalized. I do think that is true.
Amy: What’s your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?
Kim: My best advice would be 1) finish the book. This may seem obvious but loads of people start but never finish. Get to the end even if what you write is total drivel. You will fix it in editing. Don’t get stuck perfecting one line or paragraph or even chapter. Just get to the end! 2) Hire an editor. There are loads of freelance editors out there who have the expertise to guide you from draft to draft until it’s ready for a publisher to see it. I did this. Just make sure your editor has appropriate credentials. 3) Let people read it. I had several early readers who were just bookish friends. They gave me great feedback and weren’t just saying “It’s good.”
Thank you Amy for the opportunity!
KIM IZZO is a journalist and deputy editor of Zoomer magazine. She is also the co-author of the international best-selling book The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Decorum and its sequel The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Grace Under Pressure. Her advice and opinions have appeared in the pages of The New York Times Sunday Style section, New York Daily News, The New Yorker, InStyle, and Vogue (UK), among others. She lives in Canada.