Building Your Novel: 5 Questions for Stacey Swann

It simply takes a ton of time in the chair to produce fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. That’s why it is so important to enjoy the process as much as having the end project.” -Stacey Swann

Stacey Swann’s debut novel Olympus, Texas (Doubleday) is an Indie Next Pick, a Good Morning America Book Club selection, and was longlisted for The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Swann holds an M.F.A. from Texas State University and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Her writing has appeared in Texas Highways, LitHub, Electric Literature, NER Digital, Epoch, and other journals. She splits her time between Austin and Lampasas. For more information about Stacey, check out her website: https://www.staceyswann.com/.

On Saturday, October 15th, Stacey Swann is teaching a class for the WLT called “The Components of Novel Structure: Looking Under the Hood of Our Fictional Worlds. In this class you’ll learn strategies for organizing plot and structuring narrative.

Here’s what Stacey had to share with us:

Stacey Swann headshot

Scribe: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you write? How did you come to writing?

Stacey Swann: I consider myself primarily a fiction writer, though I have been experimenting with nonfiction also as of late. I’ve always been an avid reader, even as a child, and I remember wanting to write books but not being sure I had the talent for it. I built up more confidence by taking a few writing classes during and after my undergrad degree, which gave me the idea of getting an MFA in creative writing. I’ve been writing steadily since then!

Scribe: In your own work, how do you approach overcoming the challenges that come with writing, be it writer’s block or craft or business-related challenges?

SS: There are so many different types of challenges! Lately, I find I’m getting the most help by relying on other like-minded writers. In order to make more progress in my current novel, I’ve been doing Zoom writing sessions with a friend and just joined another friend group for a NaNoWriMo challenge. Both the accountability and the support feel like just what I need right now.

Scribe: Has there been a moment of epiphany in terms of your work, when you thought, “This is it! Now I know what I’m doing?” How long did that feeling last?

SS: This question really cracked me up, as I am constantly amazed both how often I get this feeling as well as how quickly the feeling disappears. I’ve shifted to trying to just enjoy the roller coaster ride of feeling both like I know exactly what I’m doing and like I have no idea what I’m doing. Perhaps it takes both to write well?

Scribe: What piece of advice do you find yourself giving to writers again and again?

SS: I think we all have to embrace the fact that, for most of us, creative writing is never going feel like “time efficient” work. It simply takes a ton of time in the chair to produce fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. That’s why it is so important to enjoy the process as much as having the end project.

Scribe: What is one thing that people will take away from this class?

SS: I want this class to give people a solid, concrete foundation for ways to approach structure so they are less likely to feel lost in the chaos of tens of thousands of words: a bird’s eye perspective that can be called on even when we’re down on the ground, stumbling through the forest.

Thanks, Stacey!

Click here to learn more about Stacey Swann’s upcoming class.


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