Writer’s Desk: Mark Wainwright
Do you have young readers in your house? I’m so excited to feature Mark Wainwright on this week’s writer’s desk. Mark Wainwright loves adventure. He’s ridden elephants in Thailand, hang glided in the Swiss Alps, and even been stranded in Morocco. But Mark also loves finding adventure through the pages of an exciting book! And now, Mark is using his travel experiences as material for writing suspenseful stories for young adults.
For 16 years, Mark led the editorial departments at several Christian publishers. Then, in 2017, Mark transitioned to teaching professional writing courses at Pensacola Christian College. He uses this publishing experience to help guide the next generation of writers and editors.
Be sure to stick around until the end of the post for more about Mark’s latest release, Trapped in a Hot Air Balloon, plus a chance to win a copy!
Q&A with Mark Wainwright
Do you have a writing routine? When/Where do you write?
A key element in being a productive writer is writing consistency. Indeed, to be a writer, you’ve got to write! You’ve got to put in the time regardless of whether or not you feel like it. I love how William Faulkner addressed this subject. He said, “I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately, I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.”
Because I teach college writing courses, my schedule changes each semester. I’ve thus learned to carve out writing time whenever I have at least a 90-minute block of time. That might come in the morning, sometimes after lunch, but often after my kids are snuggled into bed. By then, I’m tired . . . but I still make writing a priority. The key (at least for me) is to write each and every day. I don’t always accomplish that, but I strive hard to make it happen.
When are you most productive?
I wrote Trapped in a Hot Air Balloon almost exclusively at night, between the hours of 9:00-11:30 p.m. Then my college teaching schedule changed. Because of that, I’m working on my next manuscript during my available morning hours. I try not to allow the time of day to dictate my creativity.
What do you drink or snack on while writing?
Hot water. Yup, I know it’s slightly odd. I’ve been drinking hot water for decades. It’s just what I do.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
When teaching Creative Writing, I ask my college students to raise their hand if they’ve ever experienced writer’s block. Almost every hand shoots into the air. Then I say, “Do you want to know how I deal with writer’s block?” My students stare at me. They wait expectantly for a magical solution or 3-step process that will suddenly fill them with inspirational writing ideas.
But at this point, I reach into my briefcase and pull out a small wooden block. On the piece of wood, written in bold letters, are the words: Writer’s Block. I say, “See this? This is my Writer’s Block. Whenever I have trouble thinking of ideas, do you know what I do?” I then walk to the classroom entrance, open the door, and chuck the block of wood as far down the hallway as I can.
Students laugh when they hear the block of wood tumbling down the hallway floor. I say, “There. You see! I just got rid of my Writer’s Block. Now I don’t have any more excuses—it’s time for me to get back to work. And when you experience writer’s block, you should do the same. Chuck it out the door and out of your life. No excuses. Just sit down and write. Write even if you don’t feel like it because the more you write, the more ideas will come to mind.”
Like Louis L’Amour said, “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
What is your outlining process? Are you a pantser/plotter or something in between?
When a story idea comes to mind, I write it down as quickly as possible. That might be a few pages or even a few chapters. At that point, I evaluate whether there’s enough depth to the story idea to continue. If there is, I begin developing a rough outline of the main story. It’s important for me to know enough about the story to know how it ends. Of course, the ending may change (and probably will change) by the time I’m done, but developing an outline helps direct my focus as I continue writing.
Also, knowing how the story ends enables me to more effectively determine what scenes and details to include throughout the narrative. While developing the outline, I also begin exploring characters and determining what characters would be most effective for the theme and tone I want to convey. After I spend even more time refining my outline, I’m then able to work on the story in sections. Sometimes I’ll even jump around with what part of the story I’m writing. But by having an outline, I know how the various part will eventually fit together.
Best advice for someone who is just starting out.
Write! These days, I believe there’s too much emphasis on developing a writer’s platform. It’s important, but for those who are beginning their writing journey, here’s my #1 piece of advice, “Write. Write consistently. Write passionately. Write for fun.” Then after that, here’s my #2 piece of advice. “Edit. Edit ruthlessly. Edit meticulously. Edit courageously.”
Describe an unusual hobby you have or an adventure you’ve experienced.
In 2003, I was managing the editorial department at Christian Books Melanesia, the largest Christian publisher in Papua New Guinea. When a group of Christian surfers visited the northern coast and invited me to join them on a trip to an offshore island several hours away, I agreed to go.
We crammed into a small dingy powered by a rusty outboard motor. Halfway out there, the motor began sputtering, coughing, and choking. Then it died. We were left adrift in the Bismarck Sea, floating aimlessly as the wind picked up and the waves began to swell. When dusk finally settled over us, we saw fins slicing through the water. They were only dolphins—but in everyone’s mind, we wondered if sharks were hiding in the murky depths. The hours passed slowly. Hope began to grow dim. It’s a long story, but eventually, we were rescued the next day.
When I think about that life-and-death situation, I’m reminded that life is short. We never know how many days we have remaining to serve the Lord. Thus, if the Lord has gifted you with writing, be courageous. He will strengthen you for the work at hand.
Enter to win a copy of Trapped in a Hot Air Balloon*
More about Trapped in a Hot Air Balloon:
When a hot air balloon ride goes terribly wrong, siblings Jenny and Cole find themselves soaring thousands of feet into the cold Colorado sky.
In the basket of the enormous balloon, they must overcome their differences and safely land the runaway hot air balloon. This unforgettable flight will captivate your imagination and inspire your heart.
Join Jenny and Cole on their trip of a lifetime as they learn to overcome fear, exercise faith, and extend forgiveness.