Today wraps up our time with author and speaker Susy Flory. I hope, like me, you have all been challenged to learn/do something bold, to start an adventure. Writing can sometimes feel like the biggest adventure of all, but I think Susy is proof that we need to have hobbies in our lives aside from our writing, difficult things that we can learn and conquer. As she said in our first interview, “you’ll be surprised at the dividends in every area of your life, including writing.”
Let’s jump right in.
LN: What does your writing routine look like? Do you set daily word count goals? Write to music? Do you always have a project brewing?
SF: I rely on deadlines. Some deadlines come from editors or clients and some are self-imposed. If I don’t have deadlines, I’m much more likely to ride my horse, play with the dog, or clean my refrigerator than write. Daily word count goals don’t work for me because much of my work involves interviews and research. I use a large white board to chart out my WIP. It’s color-coded and helps to keep me on track. It almost looks like a big table of contents with a word count at the end of each chapter heading. What a great feeling to see the word counts start to stack up–it really helps motivate me.
I can’t write to music but I sometimes play the piano or play a favorite energetic song on iTunes right before I start to write. For a while, I used Madonna’s Ray of Light to get my energy up. I love that song. I also love Hillsong’s Lead Me to the Cross. That one feeds my spirit.
Right now I have four live book projects at different stages, with two more brewing. I have the heart and spirit of a journalist and my antennae are always out for big stories like Thunder Dog.
LN: What is the best advice you received when you were a newer writer? What advice do you pass on to other writers hoping to break in to the publishing world?
- Join or start a critique group; their help, encouragement, ideas, and suggestions are absolutely invaluable.
- Build a prayer team. Christian writers will experience spiritual warfare sooner or later. Get prayer support, send them specific requests, then thank them in the acknowledgments when your book is published!
- Pinch your pennies and use them to get to a good writers conference. The contacts you develop make all the difference in this crazy writing business.
- Don’t. Give. Up. Realize that you will have to pay your dues, and that success will build upon success, but it takes time. Be stubborn and persistent, yet teachable.
LN: You are a New York Times bestselling author. How does that feel? Tell us about the project that won that title for you. How did you respond when you first heard that you’d made that particular list?
SF: When I heard the news on my cell phone, I screamed and almost crashed my car. The news was completely unexpected and totally overwhelming and it happened the first week!
The project was Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero Thomas Nelson, 2011). It’s the story of Michael Hingson, a blind man who worked on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center. On September 11, 2001, he was sitting at his desk when the first hijacked plane plowed into his building. His guide dog, Roselle, was asleep under his desk. Thunder Dog is the story of how Mike and Roselle, in an incredible display of trust and teamwork, escaped the building with just seconds to spare, and how Roselle guided Mike through the 300-foot dust cloud as the tower collapsed just behind them.
LN: What can the attendees of the Write to Inspire conference hope to learn from you in July?
SF: The thing I fear the most is also what I do for a living—write. So I’ll share what I’ve learned on how to embrace fear and use it to power your writing. I’ve also developed a list of 18 ways to make your writing come alive, and I’ll show you how to create a step-by-step plan for moving forward with your writing career. And I might do a little Powerpoint on Stetson, if I can work it into my talk. He’s quite a character. He knows how to untie knots, play fetch, and drink tea.