Tips for Becoming a Fiction Writer

Today’s “I Want to Be” Series features Cathy Lamb, a fiction writer and mom to three teenagers. Cathy loves to run in the forest near her home, walk, read, and write. She also has a slight addiction to going to plays and the symphony. She has finally learned to ski without falling all the time. Find out how to connect with Cathy at the end of this article.

How long have you had your business? 

I’ve been a full time, only slightly crazed, fiction writer since 2004, although I was writing articles on homes, home décor, people, and events for The Oregonian for years before that.   The slightly crazed part really kicks in about six weeks before a deadline when I dive head first into my book and have to restrain myself from believing that I am one of the characters. When my characters talk back to me in my head, and I respond, that’s when I know I need a long cookie and coffee break.

What led you to pursue it? 

I was sixteen when I knew I had to become a writer or move to the planet Venus and hide under a rock. It was just in me. Everything I did from that point on was geared towards my becoming a writer. I love to write, love storytelling. I did a whole heck of a lot of daydreaming when I was young – still do – and I’m sure that’s what started it all.

How do you market your business? 

The best marketing for a writer is word of mouth. Ladies talk. They love to talk books. They share with each other what they’re reading and if they like it.  I go to a lot of book groups – most through skype – and that’s fun, too.  If your book group wants an author visit, email me!   I also blog on my website,, and I’m on Facebook. My publishing house, Kensington Publishing in NYC, does a whole bunch of advertising for me, too.

What is your favorite part of the business? 

My favorite part is thinking up new story lines. Every time I start a new book, I buy a new journal (s). I write, sketch, and cut out pictures from magazines for inspiration. (See my latest journal here.)    I love how the characters change and become more complicated as I’m writing my books, how they become someone I didn’t plan on them becoming, how their pasts become clear to me, and how the plots get deeper and more layered. 

My novels take about eight – ish months to write, and my short stories take about four – ish months. When I’m writing my first draft, I write 2,000 words, a day, 10,000 a week, or I don’t let myself go to bed on Saturday night. I have had some very late Saturday nights. I edit each book eight times before it goes to my editor.   Here’s a blog I wrote on writing 2000 words a day.

What one question do you get most from people about your business? 

People always want to know where I get my ideas. I get them everywhere. One of my books, The First Day of The Rest of My Life, was completely sparked from an 80 year old violin I bought my daughter with a few scratches and dents on it. Another book, Julia’s Chocolates, came from a vision I had of a woman throwing her wedding dress into a dead tree on a deserted road. In The Last Time I Was Me, Jeanne Stewart takes revenge on her cheating boyfriend using peanut oil, a condom, and an exact-o knife. I got that idea from … well, maybe I shouldn’t say.   Here’s  yet another blog I wrote on that very subject…

What advice do you have for others who want to get into a similar opportunity? 

If you want to become a writer, read.  Read, read, read. Study what you read. Ask yourself what you liked about the plot, characters, pacing, etc., and what you didn’t like.  Write every day. Set a word count goal that you achieve every day, come hell or high water. Go to writing conferences and classes for inspiration.  Read. Write. Study. Repeat.

What websites or books do you recommend for tips? 

Read “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott and “Writing out the Storm,” by Jessica Morrell.  Also read, “On Writing,” by Stephen King and Natalie Goldberg’s books on writing. All of these books are great for inspiration, instruction, and advice.

I also write articles for aspiring writers on my blog.

To learn more about Cathy, stop by her website, You can also find her on Facebook.

*Photo by Horia Varlan via Flickr. Aff links used.

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