Steven Scaffardi's debut novel The Drought is out now.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I try to write something – anything! – at least once a day. Whether it is blogging, jotting down ideas, or working on a novel, I will write! I call this keeping myself ‘match fit’ (to use a typical boy sports analogy).This takes many forms from sitting at home at the laptop to being squashed on a packed train on my way to work trying to tap notes into my iPhone, which is very useful for when those great ideas just happen to spring to mind! I remember when I was writing The Drought, my girlfriend made me go to Oxford Street to go shopping, and I practically wrote a whole chapter on my phone as I followed her around Topshop! I managed to capture all of those wonderful thoughts and emotions that guys can relate to when you are being forced to look at yet another pair of shoes. (You can actually read the chapter here). When I get ideas like that, I have to write them down there and then.
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
The Drought is very much based on a combination of personal experiences, and stories told to me by others. I always use my friends and family for inspiration, especially my mates as they have some seriously funny – if not slightly concerning – experiences with the opposite sex! I write about relationships, dating disasters, and all the funny things that go with that. I listen to stories that my friends tell me about their love life’s and I steal their stories and put them down on the page! And when it comes to characters, I will always use someone I know as a starting point and then add my own creative tweaks to make that character work in the story. This way I find that I already know the character, and I already have an understanding of how they might react in a certain situation. However, this does have its downsides in that people I know always then try to spot who I have written about. An ex-girlfriend of mine read the book and I had forgotten that I had used a couple of our experiences together (and then massively exaggerated them for comedy value) and I don’t think she was best pleased to say the least!
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
I haven’t read many, I have to admit! The reason I wrote The Drought is because I would flick through the pages of my girlfriends Sophie Kinsella or Louise Bagshawe books and moan that the men in these books were unrealistic. She then challenged me to try and write something better! I did read Bridget Jones Diary as a bit of ‘research’, and although I would never admit this to my girlfriend, I did enjoy it – but just a little bit though!
What is your writing process? Do you plan first of dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I have to have lots of ideas before I can start. I don’t need to specifically know exactly how the book starts and ends, but if I don’t have enough ideas I really struggle. And the ideas could range from a simple dialogue to the way a character might act in a certain situation. Every time I think of an idea, I will make a note of it on my phone. When I started work on my second novel, I already had 20,000 words worth of ideas before I had even written the first chapter. With The Drought I must have written over 20 drafts by the time I had finished it. I was actually sick of reading it that many times, but it was well worth it in the end.
What was your journey to being a published author?
It was hard! But it never seemed like a struggle because – and this probably sounds a bit strange – I never set out to be a published author! What I mean by that is when I started writing The Drought, it was just because I wanted to do it. The job I had at the time was working for a website that served the print community and I blogged about my experience, and from that I got my book published. Since then I have learned that the writing bit is easy – it’s trying to promote the book which is tough! I’m writing a genre dominated by great female writers, with stories written predominately from the woman’s point of view. The Drought isn’t your typical chick-lit book (I didn’t even think it was chick-lit until people started calling it chick-lit for men!), but the response so far from readers on places like Amazon and Goodreads has been fantastic. Two women in Australia even offered to start up my fan club Down Under!
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
The obvious one – that it will bring fame and fortune! But that is just the nature of the celebrity culture that we live in. When an author makes it to the top of the tree – like a J.K. Rowling as a perfect example – they are given huge exposure you read how much they earn. It is the same when I was doing stand-up comedy. You would see plenty of frustrated comics out on the comedy circuit who were hoping to get rich quick by telling a few bad jokes. And believe me when I say I heard a lot of bad jokes! I suppose the problem with being an indie author is that there are quite a lot of bad authors out there, due to the nature that anyone can publish a book these days. The hardest part is getting noticed. I think some authors think that it will happen overnight, but I have learned very quickly that you need to have a little patience (to steal a line from Take That!).
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Just do it (and no I’m not sponsored by Nike!), but do it for yourself. If you do it for any other reason than because you’ve always wanted to do it, then you are doing it for all the wrong reasons. And don’t be too harsh on yourself. I try not to re-read anything I have written until I am a good third of the way into the story. If you don’t give the story a chance to grow, then you will never be able to see the real potential of that story.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working on my second novel which is a follow-up to The Drought. The working title is The One That Got Away (although I am thinking about calling it The Flood as that is a nice follow on to The Drought!), and it deals with that moment when you realise that you let someone get away who was really special in your life, and you didn’t even realise it. Of course, with the nature of my characters, there are plenty of hilarious and cringe-worthy moments along the way!
What are your top five writing tips?
Always carry a notepad
Every time you think of an idea, write it down. I find the best ideas always come to me when I'm not sitting in front of the laptop. Every idea I think of, I write everything down. After I completed my first draft of The Drought I still had 10,000 words worth of ideas that I hadn't even used. Referring back to your notes is a great help when you hit a wall or have writers block. In The Drought there is a whole chapter about how much the main character hates going clothes shopping with girls. The majority of this chapter was written on the notepad on my iPhone while my girlfriend was dragging me around Top Shop in Oxford Street.
Try to pick a soundtrack to your book. Like a film, choose songs that represent the tone of your book and create a playlist and listen to it. Let your imagination wander. Some of my best ideas came when I was listening to my iPod on the way home, or when I was out jogging. Music can also jog your memory of real-life events that have happened in your past and can help you come up with ideas for your novel.
Don't be too critical
If you have decided to write a novel, you are starting out on a process which can easily take over a year before you will be fully satisfied with your work. Mike Gayle, best-selling author of My Legendary Girlfriend, offers some great advice on his website. He says the first draft doesn't have to be perfect, and that the proudest moment of his career was completing that first draft. Your first draft will always be the one that needs the most work, but as Mike Gayle says, by finishing that first draft you have done something that most people only ever talk about. I finished my first draft in September 2009, and I was still making changes right up until it got published in August 2011!
Give your novel to friends... and their friends, and their friends...
Choose people who you trust will give you an honest opinion. Take their comments on board and then go back and start the second draft of the novel. Ask your friends to give it to their friends, and to their friends, and so on and so forth. The more feedback you can get the better. You will be surprised how similar the feedback is, and this can be invaluable in terms of telling you what works and what doesn't.
If you don't enjoy the whole process, then maybe writing a novel is not for you. You have to have a real passion for writing, and you more than anyone must believe in yourself. Writing a novel should fill you with a huge sense of achievement. That is what makes all the hard work worthwhile.
For more information about Steven Scaffardi or his debut novel The Drought please visit his site.
As a special Christmas treat, Steven is offering an free download of The Drought to the readers of Novelicious. Simply go here and enter the code ‘YW44J’ prior to checking out to download the ebook for free.