Writing tips from USA Today Best-Selling Author Jen Turano
Updated: Oct 12, 2019
I'm pleased to host my friend, Jen Turano. Named One of the Funniest Voices in Inspirational Romance by Booklist, Jen is a USA Today Best-Selling Author, known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. Her books have earned Publisher Weekly and Booklist starred reviews, top picks from Romantic Times, and praise from Library Journal.
*****Congratulations, kclarkholly! You won the copy of Diamond in the Rough. Shoot me an email with your address to have the book sent to you.*****
If you've ever read one of her novels, you know what a treat it is to slip into the stories she writes and get to know the spunky young women she brings to life. Her stories are set amid the glamour of the late 19th century's wealthiest people. And they're laugh-out-loud funny!
I recently devoured her latest novel, Diamond in the Rough, and loved it. It may be my favorite Jen Turano novel. That's saying a lot because she's penned 14 novels.
I thought it would be interesting to take a peek inside her writing process. She was game to let me pick her brain.
How do you decide on a story idea?
I get most of my general ideas from research I do. Old newspapers and Gilded Age books are excellent sources, and as I run across an interesting tidbit, I tuck it away in my “Story Fodder” file. I frequently leaf through that file, and if something catches my eye more than once, I normally take that as a sign of what story I want to write next.
When starting a new novel, what do you consider first? The character or the story idea?
I’m very character-driven, probably because I think readers are attached to characters over the actual story. That means I have to really know who these characters are before I can work with them on the page.
How do you get to know your characters? Charts? Personality types? Myers-Briggs? Enneagrams?
None of the above. They simply start talking to me—all the time. This talking usually begins when I'm finishing up another book, so it gets a bit tricky, what with how many voices I start hearing in my head. By the time I'm ready to start a new book, I've heard from the characters so much that I pretty much know exactly who they are. If I'm wrong about that, well, they don't hesitate to set me straight—making it seem as if I'm trying to write through mud until I change how I'm creating them on the page.
How do you expand your idea into a plot?
I have to figure out what the characters wants and needs. After that, the plot develops from there.
Are you an outliner or an intuitive writer?
Since I have to turn in a rather extensive synopsis to get new series approved by my editing team, I have no choice but to outline—to a certain extent. You see, when I sit down to write a novel, that original outline always changes, and my editors know that the synopsis I first sent them will in no way resemble the book I turn in. I suppose that means I’m a bit of a hybrid author.
Do you have a first and last line in mind when you start writing a book?
Always a first line, never a last.
How much research do you do for each story?
Depends on the setting of the story. I’ve done extensive research on NYC during the Gilded Age, so if I have a book set there these days, my research is more on the lines of a refresher course, except for whatever specialty my characters may embrace. I recently finished a book set in Chicago, so it took me a good month to get through all the research books I needed to get through before I felt I had a good grasp of that city and felt I could write about it with some expertise.
What’s your daily/weekly writing schedule?
That really depends on the day. If I’m working on a first draft, I’m at my desk by seven or eight, then work through the day until four. If I’m working on an edit sent by my editing team, I work longer hours, sometimes until ten. And then, if I’ve finished the first draft and am doing my own editing before I turn it in, (I do seven rounds of edits) my days are a little shorter because that’s not a daunting job and I seem to get through edits far easier than I get through that dreaded first draft. I used to work on the weekends as well, but I don’t do that unless I’m under a really tight deadline because I happen to enjoy socializing with my family and friends.
Where do you write?
I only write in my office—although I will do final read-throughs in comfy chairs throughout the house. I never write in coffee shops, and I also never snack while I’m writing. Weird, right?
Any tips for writers?
I think the most important advice I can give writers is to learn the publishing business. Writing and publishing are two very different creatures, and if you want to pursue writing as a career, you have to understand the publishing world. That will assist you with making choices that aren’t going to stall your career, and will also prepare you for all the rejections you’re most certainly going to receive on your journey. I got hundreds of rejection letters before I found an agent, and I also have seven manuscripts that will never see the light of day. I now look at those manuscripts as the stepping stones I needed in order to perfect my craft and grasp what it was that agents and editors were looking for in their search for manuscripts that will appeal to readers.
Thanks so much for having me, Megan! Always delightful visiting you.
And it's always a blast to hang out with you, Jen!
Friends, let me tell you something. Jen is practically a neighbor. We live in the same town, and it's not unusual for me to run into her in the produce department of our grocery store. Small world, isn't it?
I hope her willingness to explain her writing process and her tips and encouragement fuel your writing.
Write on, friends!