Author Elizabeth Gilbert achieved great success with her memoir Eat Pray Love. Since the publication of that book, she has delivered two popular TED talks and written a second memoir entitled Committed and a novel called The Signature of All Things. Check out the highlights from our interview below…
Q: How did you land your first book deal?
A: I spent about six years sending my short stories out to magazines, and collecting rejections. Then one day Esquire bought one of my stories out of the slush pile and published it. It was through this publication that I found my agent (or, rather, that my agent found me). She then negotiated a book deal on my behalf.
I had a collection of short stories written and ready to go, but I had to promise the publisher that I would deliver a novel, in order to seal the deal. Having never before written a novel, this was rather frightening. But you have to deliver the goods, once you sign that contract, or else they get fussy and want their money back — which is a good motivation to get your work done…
Q: You have written both nonfiction and fiction books; is there any difference to your approach or creative process when writing these two different genres?
A: Less than you might think. I feel that it’s more or less the same process, either way. Because all my work is so research-based, it always begins with a long period of study or immersion. Lots of note-taking. Many shoe boxes of index cards are involved. This part of the process can take years, but it’s during the research period that the story begins to grow in my mind, and that helps me to find my confidence.
Once the research is done, I then outline the book as well as I can, which means putting the index cards into some sort of sensible narrative order. Then I sit down to write. For me, the writing itself is usually pretty fast — but that’s only because I’ve always over-prepared so much. (When it comes time to write, then, it’s kind of like painting a house that’s already been very well prepped: now I just get to roll on the paint.)
And in both cases — with fiction and non-fiction — I make sure that I’ve decided exactly to whom I am writing the book, long before I even begin. Each one of my books has been written to a different person, and always to somebody I know well. I find that this is almost the most important decision (“Who exactly is it for?”) because that intimacy with my imagined reader will completely determine my voice and how I tell the story. I think it’s important to keep that one reader in mind as you write, and to hold yourself accountable to the duty of delighting them ….
Read the whole thing at Elizabeth Gilbert on Writing – from Galley Cat Interview