“Having a Story With a Beginning, Middle, and End Will Help Give You Direction”

Bridgid Gallagher is a fiction writer, blogger, and repeated NaNoWriMo participant. In our interview she chats about her approach to writing a romance novel and shares three things that may help Wrimos through November.

Bridgid Gallagher
Bridgid Gallagher
Please tell us something about you and what you are working on.

I am a fiction writer and blogger. On the fiction side, I write magic-filled stories for children and love stories for adults. I also share information about writing and marketing for writers on my website, and just this month released my Novel Writer’s Story Workbook, which you can get for free by signing up for my mailing list.

Right now I’m getting ready for the publication of my debut, the first in a series of small-town adult romances. Here’s the blurb:

The last thing Elle expects to find in her Smoky Mountain hideaway is true love …

Research librarian Elle Dupre has the perfect date for her sister’s wedding—even her mother approves of good ol’ southern boy Carter Williford. Only, when Elle finds Carter tangled with a stranger on their flight to the wedding, Mr. Perfect doesn’t look so perfect. Lucky for her, she has a reservation at Oak Bramble Inn, a cozy hideaway in the Smoky Mountains where Elle is certain she’ll figure out how to recover her pride … and her heart.

Justin Tate doesn’t like complications or commitments, and five minutes next to uppity ex-debutante Elle—who writes him off after one look at his tattoos—are enough to tell him to steer clear. Unlucky for him, he’s her ride to Oak Bramble, the inn his family runs. Justin wants to keep his distance, but he’s pulled to Elle by circumstance and an attraction he fights … but only for so long.

Can Elle and Justin let go of first impressions and open themselves to love?

For those who are interested in learning more about my books, I share previews, freebies, and exclusive invites with my Romance Readers mailing list!

Which role does writing play in your life (in quantitative and qualitative regards)?

I am a full-time writer. Each day is different, but I spend some of my time actively writing books, and some of my time marketing and networking. Time away from the computer is important to me, and I try to balance work with non-work things (hiking, traveling, cooking, spending time with family). I find that I have to have enough of both, or I’ll burn out and my creative well will run dry.

You’ve studied environmental science, worked as a ranger in National Parks, and as a web designer. How did you actually get into writing?

Although I have a myriad of passions and interests, books have always been a mainstay in my life. At first, simply because I loved to read and was encouraged to read from a young age, and later, because I discovered the desire to share stories of my own. The transition from reader to writer wasn’t a smooth one, though!

It wasn’t until one very long summer I spent working in the Hoh Rainforest of Olympic National Park that I was tempted to try writing my own book-length stories. For those unfamiliar with the park, it’s in a remote part of Washington State with thick forests of beautiful, moss-draped old growth trees, and very few people. It’s beautiful, but could be suffocatingly lonely.

I had insane amounts of alone time on my hands, and packed bins upon bins of books, but for some tragic reason, only packed depressing books. So, armed with a pen and a notepad, I decided to write a “fun” book. I then proceeded to write pages upon pages of exposition, bored myself to tears, and decided this writing thing wasn’t for me.

I dropped the idea of writing until a year or two later, when a story idea hit me and I had to try and write it. Fortunately, I found a friend to exchange chapters with, and although I was really quite terrible, she gave me just enough encouragement to help me want to improve. That particular story will never see the light of day, but it helped me learn the basics of storytelling. I then repeated the ‘get story idea, try to write it, trash or revise’ cycle over and over until I was ready to take the next steps.

You have participated in NaNoWriMo for several times. Can you please explain to the uninitiated the charm of committing to writing 50,000 words (the length of a short novel!) in only one month?

“If public accountability helps you write, NaNoWriMo can be a powerful way to achieve your writing goals.”

NaNoWriMo is a great time to connect with the worldwide writing community, and if public accountability helps you write, then it can be a powerful way to achieve your writing goals. I’ve observed that writers either love or hate NaNoWriMo. Those who love it are motivated by deadlines and public accountability. Those who hate it find those exact things detrimental to their writing goals. I fall into the “love it” camp, and every year possible participate in some capacity.

Before my first NaNoWriMo experience, I had trouble writing endings; I would try to perfect the beginnings of my stories (sometimes writing the first 100+ pages over and over again) without ever reaching The End. NaNoWriMo taught me how to turn off my inner editor and write a Shitty First Draft (see Ann Lamott’s book Bird by Bird), a lesson every writer must learn if they wish to pursue writing as a career.

With only one month to write 50,000 words, you don’t have time to write the most perfect book ever. But you do have time to write something you can later turn into a truly fantastic book (after numbing amounts of revisions and edits). For writers who struggle with their inner editor, NaNoWriMo can be the best possible thing you can do for your writing.

And you have even managed to win NaNoWriMo twice! Will you reveal the secret of your success, too?

Honestly? Just write. It’s that simple (and that hard!).

Things that will help:

  1. Having a story with a beginning, middle, and end will help give you direction. Use these waypoints to get you from one part of your novel to the next. I came across this prompt years ago and still use it as a starting point:
  2. Bridgid’s Writing Prompt

  3. Before November 1st, map out your month and schedule in your writing time. At a minimum, make note of non-writing days so that you have a realistic idea of just how much writing time you’ll have in November.
  4. Find a community of writer friends, both for support and camaraderie (it will help, promise!).

November is coming closer, so you’re probably in the process of preparing your novel for this year’s NaNoWriMo. Would you reveal how you do that, and give us a sneak peak at your story?

Sure! First, I joined the YA Buccaneers Fall Writing Bootcamp to help motivate and prepare me for NaNoWriMo, and also to connect with a community of supportive, engaged writers. Then I revisited my favorite books on story structure and outlined my story. I have a number of commitments in November, and mapped out my “writing days“ to give myself a better idea of realistic word count goals. Currently, I know that I have at most 25 active writing days, which makes my minimum daily word count goal 2,000 words.

The story is part of my adult romance series, and is a prequel to the first novel in the series.

Which tools and apps will you use for writing your novel?

To outline this story, I revisited the following books:

  • The Anatomy of Story by John Truby
  • Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes
  • On Writing Romance by Leigh Michaels

I use a notebook and pen for outlining and character sketches, then move to notecards when I’m ready to organize scene ideas into my plot. After that, I organize my story by chapters and scenes in my writing software (hint: Ulysses app!).

What else is important to keep you productive? As an example, do you work in a certain environment or follow a timely routine?

I love talking about productivity, and think it’s important for any writer to discover their most productive writing environment. I have a detailed blog post about productivity for writers, but here’s the Cliff Notes version: I have a dedicated (and ergonomic) work space with as few distractions as possible, use music to help me focus and get into “work mode,“ set specific writing goals and deadlines, work in batches, and I stop working when I’m … not (in other words: no putzing on the Internet if I’m not writing, I move on to something else on my to-do list).

You have just published a blog post on why you switched from Scrivener to Ulysses. Could you give us a little insight into the way you’re working with Ulysses?

Right now, I’m using Ulysses for all of my writing projects. This includes manuscripts, of course, but also:

  • Emails for my email newsletter
  • Blog posts
  • Editorial calendars
  • Project ideas
  • Marketing and publication timelines
  • Templates (book blurbs, emails to book bloggers, synopses, etc.)
Bridgid Gallagher’s Library
Bridgid Gallagher’s Library

Since I’ve just started using Ulysses App, I’m sure this only scratches the surface of what I’ll be able to do with it.

What do you like best about Ulysses, and what are you missing?

I love that I can manage all of my writing projects from one place. It has already changed my workflow and has helped me work more efficiently. I also love the clean design—having a distraction-free workspace is important to me, and the streamlined design of Ulysses App is a definite plus.

”I love that I can manage all of my writing projects from one place.”

Although I love using Ulysses App for all of the uses I mentioned in my last answer, writing and exporting my manuscripts is my primary focus. With that in mind, I would love to see:

  • More options to help make styling and organizing manuscripts (including the front matter) easier.
  • .mobi files included in the export options.
  • Improved search feature: when I search for a word or phrase, I would like to see the number of times it is used, and I would also like to have a quick “Search and Replace“ option. For example: if I’m changing a character’s name, when I search for the name, I want to a) know how many times I use it (to make sure I change each one), and b) quickly be able to change all instances.

Thanks so much for having me on the blog today! I have been very impressed by The Soulmen team, and look forward to using Ulysses as an important part of my writing toolset.

Thanks for taking the time for the interview, and of course good luck with NaNoWriMo!

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Rebekka Honeit

Blog-curating writing maniac and public relations person. Loves coffee, chocolate cookies and literature. Finds peace in tweaking press copy.