Walk me through your writing process. (For example: what kind of pre-writing do you do? Do you have a particular strategy that helps you plot? What keeps you going through drafting? And how do approach self-editing before you’ve gotten feedback?)
I always, always, always start with world building. For me, I need to know the wheres and the hows before I can figure out the whos and the whats. I need to know what type of world the characters will be inhabiting way before I start worrying about plot and extra details. I want to know what the architecture is like, what the politics and religions are. What does the air smell like? What are the rules, the limitations? I want to know the feeling of the place, the weather, and what the light looks like. I keep a separate journal for world creation and fill it with maps and charts, details of locations and ideas. Whenever I start to feel adrift in the drafting process, I can come back to the journal to remember what was important to me as I began.
With House of Salt and Sorrows, it started with an isolated manor on a cliff over a cold, stormy ocean. I layered in more Gothic drear and gloom and discovered Annaleigh, started building her family. My initial plot idea was to expand on the “Annabel Lee” poem, by Edgar Allan Poe. I started the opening chapters soooo many times. It wasn’t until I thought to add in the sparkling “Twelve Dancing Princesses” element that everything really clicked into place.
"House of Salt and Sorrows went through a total of seven major revisions from first draft to the final published book."
One I’ve got my plot mostly hammered out, I write up a synopsis so I can set up pacing and all the important moments to hit. I also make myself a chapter by chapter outline so I know the key points of each. Sometimes I’ll even go back to my stage management roots and create a French scene breakdown, showing which characters come in and out of the chapters, what necessary items they might have or what their agenda is. None of these are set in stone—as I begin drafting, new ideas can pop up so the documents all shift as I go through the writing process.
House of Salt and Sorrows went through a total of seven major revisions from first draft to the final published book. Since then, I always have those notes in the back of my mind as I start new projects. I’m more aware of the crutches I tend to lean on—filler words, phrases I tend to repeat, etc, etc—and it helps having that in the back of my mind as I start self-editing!
Can you talk a little about your experience with CPs (critique partners)?
I met my critique partner and bestie (hey Hannah Whitten!) while waiting to hear if I’d been selected for a spot in Pitch Madness three years ago. Everyone was playing different games on the hashtag when I stumbled across someone asking if anyone was interested in forming a beta group for retellings. At the time, I was querying a Peter Pan retelling and so badly wanted to join but thought she was far too cool to hang out with the likes of me. I was very new to Writer Twitter and still learning a lot of the ropes. But I decided to be brave and replying to her tweet was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. We send each other EVERYTHING—new chapters, synopsizes, little fragments of plot bunnies, and endless amounts of GIFs. She’s so much more than a beta reader—she’s a sounding board, a shoulder to cry on, a fellow toddler mama, and my best friend. I cannot imagine trying to navigate the crazy world of writing without her.
Writing can be a very isolating endeavor. Only you can type the words and create your story, but that doesn’t mean the journey has to be taken alone.
I also have an amazing circle of agency siblings at Sterling Lord Lit. #TeamLandis has been an incredible fount of knowledge and support. We trade chapters and ARCs and cheer each other on so loudly and proudly.
Writing can be a very isolating endeavor. Only you can type the words and create your story, but that doesn’t mean the journey has to be taken alone. Find people who get your work and who you genuinely like and respect. Not only will it make you a stronger writer—iron does sharpen iron—but finding Your People can be one of the most rewarding parts of the process.
A lot of writers struggle with deep POV. I’ve seen a lot of praise for the POV in House of Salt and Sorrows. From a technique standpoint, how did you hone that POV?
I read Jeni Chappelle’s blog article on finding your Deep POV, obviously! (But truly, I did!) When I draft I tend to write a lot of fillers that remove the reader from the action at hand—I noticed, I saw that, I wondered if—and as I go back through rereading the draft, I try to rephrase those sentences so that the action takes place first and foremost. When you’re in your own head, you don’t frame thoughts with “I noticed the sky was blue today.” You are totally removed from the observation because you’re present in your thoughts. It works the same way when trying to truly get the reader into the headspace of your narrator. They need to feel as though they themselves are present in the plot, experiencing everything the characters are.
I’ve seen the adorable way you keep track of your word count. Can you explain where this idea came from and why it works for you?
I was scrolling through twitter one day and saw Cassie Miller was tracking her editing process with the cutest drawing of a balloon bouquet. After every chapter finished, she’d color in one of the balloons. I LOVED this idea and stole it for drafting out my current work-in-progress. My new story is based in the mountains so for every thousand words I wrote, I colored in a little pine tree. I’m a hyper Type A person, so having a fun way to clearly see where I was going and how far I’d come spoke to me—plus I love getting to pilfer through my daughter’s stash of crayons!
One thing you and I have in common is our total stationery addiction. Please recommend some favorites. Bonus points if you have pics.
HECK YES! I tend to pick a new journal for every project I start—right now I’m absolutely in love with Fringe Studio’s large bound journals. They’re over-sized and floppy and the page quality is perfect—plus the gold or silver edging makes me feel super fancy! My current project has three of them—one for world building and two (and counting) for drafting. I tend to do a lot of my zero drafts by hand so I like to have journals that are the same size and theme for each project. I love using U Brand’s Monterey ball point pens.
They’ve got a heavy metal body and a bold line thickness that makes me feel like whatever I’m writing is important and grand! They also come in so many pretty colors! My favorites are the pale pink and mint green! I also have far too many pen cases! My favorite is a little metal tin that I use at all my signings. It’s the perfect size to hold multiple Sharpies, post-its and swag and slips nicely into any purse.
New York Times bestselling author Erin A. Craig has always loved telling stories.
After getting her B.F.A. from the University of Michigan, in Theatre Design and Production, she stage managed tragic operas with hunchbacks, séances, and murderous clowns, then decided she wanted to write books that were just as spooky.
An avid reader, a decent quilter, rabid basketball fan, and collector of typewriters, Erin makes her home in Memphis, TN with her husband and daughter. She watches entirely too many horror movies.
House of Salt and Sorrows (Delacorte Press) is her debut novel.