Today’s guest for the SAT is Tara Sim, author of TIMEKEEPER coming Nov. 8 from SkyPony Press. When she’s not writing about mischievous boys in clock towers, Tara spends her time drinking tea, wrangling cats, and occasionally singing opera.
Are you a Planner or Pantster?
A mix of both, actually. I’ve found that the best method for me is making a bare bones outline—an idea for the opening, middle, and most important, the ending—and then I’ll fill it in with details as I’m drafting. A lot of the time I’ll discover things as I write, which I’ll incorporate into the outline somehow. It usually all comes together by the end.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
I’m a pretty fast drafter. My fastest book took two weeks, and one time I wrote 300k in two months. I’d say my average time is two months to do a first draft, although my current WIP is taking much longer because of all the detail and research that needs to go into it.
Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?
I prefer doing one project at a time. Now that I have a series being published, however, I’m learning how to multitask projects better. One month I’ll be revising one book, the next month I’ll be revising another, and the next month I’ll be drafting yet another. Sometimes it helps to jump between projects so that you don’t get burned out.
Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
I’ve been writing all my life, so it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment I sat down and wrote with intention. I do remember sitting down and writing a scene that would eventually become my first finished novel—thankfully unpublished—and there was no fear, just fun. It’s a little different now that there are pressures and deadlines and an audience to think of. Sometimes I have to remind myself about the fun I felt back then, and try to write just for myself. Excitement for what you’re writing will usually surpass fear, in my experience.
How many trunked books did you have before you were agented?
Nine. I had an epic fantasy trilogy I wrote in my teens, two standalone fantasy novels I wrote in college, and a high fantasy series written before I wrote Timekeeper, which is my tenth book and the one that got me an agent/book deal. I didn’t seriously query any of my previous books—the series before Timekeeper only went to five agents—but all of them were integral in learning how to write and what I wanted to write.
Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
I’ve started and stopped a few projects, yes. A couple of them I’m still interested in and may go back to, but ultimately, I knew they weren’t right because I just wasn’t excited enough. When writing a book feels only like work, it might be time to step back and reevaluate if it’s something you want to stick with. You should be excited about the work on some level. That’s how heart gets on the page.
Who is your agent and how did you get that “Yes!” out of them?
My agent is Laura Crockett of Triada US. I had just done Pitch Wars that year, which really strengthened my manuscript. A few of the Pitch Wars agents had the book, so I continued to query and heard that Laura was interested in the Victorian era. I queried her the traditional way, was asked for a partial, and got an email a few days later asking for the whole book. Shortly after, she called to offer me representation.
How long did you query before landing your agent?
I queried for about seven months, but one or two of those months were dedicated to Pitch Wars. I sent just a little over 40 queries total. Since Timekeeper is a very specific type of book, I had to research agents like crazy to figure out who exactly to send those queries to.
Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
KEEP GOING. I definitely hit a point where it felt like the end of the road, and then I got my offer. In those seven months I was querying, I heavily revised the book twice, so if you have a new idea or a way to make it stronger, take the time to do so. Oh, and find your people! I can’t tell you how helpful it is to have a community of writers who’ll listen to your woes and sympathize.
How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?
My first book won’t be out in the world until November 1, so I can’t say! However, the first time I saw the ARCs was surreal. My story, printed and bound like a real book! It was pretty cool.
How much input do you have on cover art?
A lot of authors don’t get asked or don’t have any input, but I was lucky in that my editor wanted to make sure I was happy with my cover. The first one I saw was lovely, but ultimately not right for the story, so I asked for a slightly different approach. The result is the cover I have right now, which I love! So it never hurts to ask.
What’s something you learned from the process that surprised you?
How much time and energy it takes. I was warned that I wouldn’t have much time to write for myself once I got a book deal, and I didn’t believe it. Now I believe it.
How much of your own marketing do you?
I do the majority of my own marketing. In this past year I’ve set up a website, newsletter, swag, giveaways, character reveals, and submitted proposals/been accepted and/or invited to book conventions and festivals.
When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?
I think that before you get an agent, you should focus primarily on finding your community. The more people you befriend, the better. That way, when you get an agent/book deal, you’ll already have people interested in you and your brand and your book. From there, expand. Get a website. Promote yourself. Promote others. Reach out and find your readers.
Do you think social media helps build your readership?
Absolutely. I’ve met so many amazing book bloggers, librarians, teachers, and booksellers on Twitter alone! Book bloggers in particular keep stunning me with their level of dedication and creativity. This is going back to the idea of community. Be a good member of the community, and they’ll help you spread the word about your book. Hosting giveaways and book teasers and the like on social media really boosts your presence too. Also, it’s just fun!