Jon Sprunk is the author of the fantasy novels Shadow’s Son, Shadow’s Lure and Shadow’s Master (Pyr Books). Jon, who lives in central Pennsylvania with his wife and son, is also a mentor at the Seton Hill University Writing Program. For more info about Jon and his works, check out jonsprunk.com. Jon talks about his writing process, research and writer’s block.
Tell us about your writing process.
I’m a planner. When it comes to novels, I outline the entire manuscript before I start writing, which takes me about two to three months. Then I just dive in at the beginning. I don’t edit as I write. I focus on getting to the end. Then, I let the manuscript rest for a week or two before I re-read it. That spurs a lot of note-taking and kicks off the first of a series of revisions. When the book gets to the point where I start to trust it, I hand it out to a few beta-readers for feedback. My agent also gets a look. After I collect their notes, I do another revision. Then it’s off to the publisher. The entire process from brainstorming to complete manuscript takes me anywhere from 12 to 18 months, depending on the length. I write in the evenings, aiming for a thousand words per day.
What are the most important questions to ask before writing a story?
What is the heart of the story? Is it a tale of love, revenge, loss, remembrance? Often I won’t know the answer to this question until I’ve started writing — sometimes not until after the first draft is done. Yet I try to keep that question in the back of my mind as I’m planning and writing. Another vital question is: Who is the best character to relate the story? I tend to write in multiple points of view, so I’m always concerned with who is in the best position to report on a given scene.
How do you approach research? Do you tackle it before you write, during…?
Mostly afterward. Research is addictive. I could lose myself in libraries, reading everything on a subject, and end up wasting weeks if not months of writing time. So I write the story first, and then go back to research the details I want.
How do you combat writer’s block?
I don’t think I’ve ever suffered from it (knock on wood), so I have no idea. I imagine I would take long walks with just a notebook and a pen, opening myself to the inspiration of the universe. But, realistically, I’d probably just watch TV.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Sit your butt in the chair and write. Writing as a career is as much about production as anything else. That may sound crass, but nonetheless I find it to be true. So drop the excuses, close the door to your writing space, turn off the phone and write. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Don’t wait for permission from your family. Just write. Oh, and read. A lot.
What is your biggest stumbling block when it comes to crafting a story?
Getting past my self-doubt. Whenever someone says they’ve read one of my books, I’m amazed they took the time. The greatest gift a reader can give me is a simple email saying they liked it. Those notes get me through the dark days when I feel that I’ve got nothing worthwhile to say.