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Sarah Mills is a Writer and Editor at Conatus News, as well as a personal friend with whom I have written some articles. Here is a short interview with her.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What is your methodology for writing?
Sarah Mills: Each writer has a different approach to writing. Some like to take an organic approach, which involves sitting down and allowing the story to develop while writing. Others, myself included, prefer to outline the direction of the story and have all the elements in place before beginning to write. This includes any research and character development.
Jacobsen: How do you take into account tone and pace in your writing? How has your previous writing affected your current writing? What makes for a better piece?
Mills: I like to think that, in my writing, form and content are inextricably linked. For example, a piece packed with action might call for shorter sentences and paragraphs, which make for a faster pace. If a piece is more introspective, on the other hand, perhaps a discursive style might be more appropriate. A writer might also choose to play with reader expectation and deliberately deviate from this. I like to experiment.
I hope that my current writing is always an improvement on my previous writing. A successful piece will most always bring an original perspective to the table. If a writer, either through innovative use of language or a unique set of life experiences, can cause a shift in the reader’s mind so that he/she views a concept in an unconventional light or even comes to a profound conclusion about humanity, I think this is an achievement. But it is an equally commendable achievement if the reader is simply entertained or allowed to escape the stresses of life for a little while!
Jacobsen: What are some of your more enjoyable topics to write on? Can you link to some examples?
Mills: It depends what you mean by ‘enjoyable.’ Most of what I write is not light-hearted, but I do enjoy, if we define that term loosely, writing about socially and politically relevant topics. Art can be edifying when it draws upon reality and holds up a mirror to society. I believe that it can be an instrument for change in this way. So while writing about something like genocide, for example, is never going to be enjoyable- as in pleasurable – I am gratified if it is illuminating and leads readers to appreciate our common humanity. Having said that, I do dabble in short stories that, I like to think, are witty or humorous, albeit in a dark way. Here’s a link to a short story that was recently published. It’s called ‘Hayfever’ and it deals with conversion therapy, hive mentality, consumerism, the pharmaceutical and food industries, and the environment- all under 4,000 words!
Jacobsen: What are some tips budding writers can use to make their writing more effective?
Mills: Read. Before a writer is a writer, he/she must be an avid reader. Read classics. Read experimental work. Read pieces that shifted the paradigms of the literary world. Follow the rules before you break them. Get a strong grip on grammar. Don’t be pretentious and haughty and think you’re too cool for school. Many artists fall into this trap. The artist is not a persona. The artist is simply a person who acutely perceives and relays. Write about your passions and write well.
Jacobsen: What is next for you? How do you hope to develop your craft? Any books coming down the pipe?
Mills: I try to never sit on my laurels. As soon as I’ve had something published, I’m on to the next article, short story, or poem. I hope to have more of my works published; I do see this as a sort of positive feedback, a confirmation that my writing appeals to people other than myself. So that is definitely a goal. I am currently developing a novel that I’m quite passionate about. It’s in its nascent stage and is going to require a lot of research.
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