Wednesday, October 2, 2013

3 WOW Wednesday: The Ever Elusive Secret of Writing by Sarah Beth Durst

Sarah Beth Durst clearly has mastered many secrets to writing. She is the author of CONJURED, a book so delightfully twisty you won't be able to put it down. It hooked me from book's description alone, not to mention the two short sentences in the first paragraph. So here she is, ready to tell you the biggest secret to writing a great book.

The Ever Elusive Secret of Writing

by Sarah Beth Durst

It took me over ten years to learn the most important Secret of Writing.

I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was ten years old. My first step was to ransack the public library for how-to-write books. My second step was to beg my mom to buy me several Lisa Frank unicorn folders to hold my stories. And my third step was to write tons and tons of first chapters.

Every year, I'd put "write a novel" on my New Year's Resolution list, and I'd plan out daily, weekly, and monthly goals to meet that resolution... and then ten pages into whatever story, I'd be disillusioned with it and skip off after another shiny idea. This continued pretty much until I graduated from college.

After college, I moved to England with my then-boyfriend, now-husband. I got a job at the Marshall Library of Economics, working with some of the nicest people I've ever met... and then discovered that my student work permit only allowed me to work for six months. I'd planned to stay for twelve. So I decided that THIS was when I would write my first novel.

I told myself that it didn't matter if it was horrible or not, all I had to do in that year was finish it. And so I dove in and wrote every day, even before my work permit expired. The story was based off one of those abandoned beginnings from one of my Lisa Frank folders, and it had talking wolves and other worlds and girls with swords and everything I ever wanted to throw into a book.

And I did it. Before we left England, I had a full manuscript, complete with a beginning, middle, and end. When I came back to the US, I started submitting it to various publishers and agents. It piled up some lovely rejections, and then it took up permanent residence in my closet. In the meantime, I'd run across a beautiful picture book illustrated by P.J. Lynch called "East O' the Sun, West O' the Moon," and I started work on what would eventually become my third published novel, ICE.

But here's the amazing thing that happened after I finished that first novel that lives in my closet: it got easier.

Finishing that novel taught me that I could do it. And once both my conscious and subconscious mind knew that, everything changed in a profound way that I hadn't anticipated. It removed this massive psychological wall that I hadn't even fully realized was there, and I became a writer.

So that's my hard-won Secret of Writing: just finish it! Finish the story. Finish the novel. Finish the play. Finish the script. It doesn't matter if it's good or not or if it sits in a closet forever. The key is to finish it... and then you can write the next one and the next one and the one after that.

JUST FINISH IT. After that, anything's possible.

About The Author

 Sarah was born in Massachusetts as Sarah Angelini and grew up in Northboro, a small town in central Mass that later became the setting for her debut novel.

At the age of ten, she decided she wanted to be a writer. (Before that, she wanted to be Wonder Woman, except with real flying ability instead of an invisible jet. She also would have accepted a career as a unicorn princess.) And she began writing fantasy stories.

She attended Princeton University, where she spent four years studying English, writing about dragons, and wondering what the campus gargoyles would say if they could talk.

Sarah lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband, her two children, and her ill-mannered cat.

Find Sarah on her Website | Blog | Twitter | Goodreads

About The Book

Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she's in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember.

At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.

Watch the trailer for Conjured here!


  1. Such a simple tip, and yet so hard to manage in practice! I've been writing novellas on Wattpad, and its nice to finish one and move on to the next one. It's like weightlifting. :-)

  2. Thanks Sarah, it's nice to know that this whole writing thing gets easier :) I'm redrafting the final 16 scenes in my first manuscript and while I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, the idea that I might actually finish it is still a little hard to believe.

  3. Absolutely!! I know people who start novels and never finish them. It's a really great practice to keep at it til it's finished. For one thing, it gives you experience writing endings!


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