Nina Badzin

Nina Badzin: On Writing

Share on Tumblr

Short-story writer Nina Badzin has graciously agreed to talk with us today. In her interview, Nina talks about writing and the writing process and offers tips for writing parents. Enjoy!

Interview with Nina Badzin

Nina Badzin, Pushkin nominee

Nina Badzin, Pushkin nominee

First, Nina, congratulations on your Pushcart nomination! What a wonderful accomplishment! Let’s begin with the novel you’re working on now. What is the novel about?

Don’t laugh, but I’m superstitious now when it comes to talking about the novel. Or maybe I should say practical rather than superstitious. Every time I talk about a novel-in-progress, I lose steam and excitement.

What inspired you to write this novel?

The two novels I completed as well as others I’ve started feature single women in their thirties. Meanwhile, I’ve been very happily married since December 2000 (I was 23 on my wedding day). While I don’t believe you must “write what you know,” I think there’s a reason my longer works have never taken off, yet I’ve had success with short stories. Almost all of my published stories examine marriages-the good, the bad, and the ugly. The novel I’m working on now throws me into that more comfortable territory: marriage and family.

How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?

The two books I completed each took a year to write and endlessly revise. I imagine this one will take longer since I had two kids when I wrote those novels. Now I have three kids, and I’m due with number four in the fall.

How do you get started? For instance, do you start with a character? A plot? A voice?

I start with a character and a situation that may not always develop into enough of a plot (hence the many unfinished novels).

Do you ever get stuck? If so, what do you do to get yourself moving forward again?

Oy vey do I get stuck! When I’m too frustrated to iron out whatever problem I’m having with the novel, I work on a short story instead. I always have at least three stories to choose from in my “stories” folder. When I feel one is good enough, I send it out to literary magazines. I started that system in 2008, and I’m happy to say I’ve had a handful of stories published. I seem to be accidently building a career in short stories on my way to (hopefully) building a career as a novelist.

How do you know when you’re finished?

The two books I call “complete” could be vastly improved, but I don’t have enough passion for those characters or their situations anymore. Essentially, the novels are not as finished as they could be, but I’m finished with them.

Do you enjoy novel writing? What is the worst or scariest aspect of writing a novel?

I enjoy the process of dreaming up an entire cast of characters and their world, and I love to revise. The blank pages scare me, but the scariest part is when I get to page 100 and ask myself the question I dread: So what? I wrote a blog post about that once, and from the comments I received, I know other writers have “been there.” I feel strongly that if I, as the writer, ever have to ask “so what?” about the characters or the plot, then it’s time to think about whether to continue.

Did you study writing or are you self-taught?

I’m mostly self-taught. I was a political science and Spanish major in college. That’s a story for another time. I took my first creative writing class my senior year of college-a memoir class. I took my first fiction writing class the summer I graduated. For the past five years or so I’ve taken classes on and off at The Loft, a wonderful writing center in Minneapolis. I’ve also probably read every book out there on the craft of fiction from Stephen King to Annie Dilliard to everyone else. I always read novels like a writer, trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given about writing? The worst?

The best and worst advice was rolled into one experience. Literary agent and popular blogger Janet Reid was kind of enough to feature my blog post about it. Briefly: I had a teacher early on who was mostly awful, but because he’s published numerous books I clung to every word. Finally during the last class he gave us one pearl of wisdom. He said, [I’m paraphrasing] “Most of you in this room will never publish a word. You’ll give up. I’m no more talented than any of you or anyone else. I just work harder, that’s all.” That concept gave me hope! I can control how hard I work.

As a side note, I love the tips in the books by Larry Brooks and the late Blake Snyder. I go back to them again and again.

You have three young children. How old are they and how do you juggle your mommy responsibilities and writing? Do you have a schedule? Is there a particular time of day when you write? A place?

My kids are 6, 4, 2, and as I mentioned, I have one on the way. I have no magic secrets or special tricks like not needing to sleep or something like that. My husband believes in my writing career and my potential, as do I. Therefore, we make it a priority to have help for me during the week so I can carve out time to write. I have no set writing schedule though. Even with the help, my writing time gets squeezed between play dates, school pick ups, and other commitments.

I write in coffee shops near my older two kids’ schools. I know the regulars at all of them and the people who work there. I know at certain times of the year when they keep the air conditioning too low and I practically have to bring a snow suit to feel comfortable. When I can I write at our small neighborhood library where it’s never too cold. Essentially I judge writing locations by how much I’ll have to shiver.

Do you have any tips for writers with young children?

Don’t be in a rush. The kids won’t be this young forever. I always make time to write and I take it very seriously. But I also don’t take myself so seriously that I forget to focus on the kids. They’re my first priority. At the same time, I say no to plenty of extra things so I can make time to write. My biggest tip is this: do NOT wait for long periods of time to write. Even with the help I have, I rarely have more than an hour at a time to sit and focus. An uninterrupted hour is a gift-one I pay for. Literally.

You mention on your blog that you have two completed manuscripts in a drawer. Have you considered indie publishing? Why or why not?

Those two books should not see the light of day-traditional, indie, via web site, or any other method out there. I let several friends read the second book and I so wish I hadn’t. I queried it too. It really wasn’t ready.

It seems to me that, in the indie world, genre writers are much more successful than people who write literary fiction. Do you agree? Why or why not?

I’m completely ill-equipped to answer that question because I’ve purposely stayed out of the publishing conversations on blogs and on Twitter. Until I have a book ready for an audience, I don’t even want to worry about that piece of the puzzle. By the time I’m ready to put a longer work out there, we’ll probably be accompanied by cute little robots who read books to us in British accents and rub our feet at the same time.

If you were to give one tip to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Just start. That was my husband’s tip actually and he’s not a writer nor does he read fiction. But he was correct! If I hadn’t followed his advice four years ago I’d still be day-dreaming about writing rather than making it happen.

About Nina Badzin

Nina Badzin’s fiction appears in The Drum Literary Magazine, Independent Ink Magazine, Literary Mama, Monkeybicycle, The Pedestal Magazine, and The Potomac, among others, and is forthcoming in Midwestern Gothic. Find Nina on her blog where she posts about the writing life, married life, and motherhood, and on Twitter @NinaBadzin.


Please note, the views of the post author - and indeed anyone who guest posts on The Art and Craft of Writing Creatively - are not necessarily indicative of the views of Terri Giuliano Long and comments are moderated to filter spam/profanity only.

"Censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates in the end the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion."
Henry Steele Commager

Terri Giuliano Long

Terri Giuliano Long, a frequent guest blogger, with appearances on hundreds of blogs, is a contributing writer for IndieReader and Her Circle eZine. She lives with her family on the East Coast Her debut novel, In Leah’s Wake, winner of the Global eBook Award, Popular Fiction, and Indie Discovery Award, Literary Fiction, has sold over 130,000 copies worldwide.

Latest posts by Terri Giuliano Long (see all)

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

  1. Great interview. I remember that post on Janet Reid's blog. That's when I first "met" Nina. I love her blog. Learned a lot about how to Tweet from her, too.

    What a gorgeous cover you have for In Leah's Wake!

    • Hi Anne,

      Thank you so much for visiting today! I'm so glad you like the cover of my book. That means a lot.

      Nina's blog is terrific. She's a wonderful writer and lovely person!

    • Anne, I didn't remember that's how we met. Love it! I thought it was when I stalked you on your blog needing advice for my blog. ;)

  2. I must look for Leah's Wake, Terri. We share a mutual admiration for Nina and her outstanding accomplishments. It is not an easy thing to "juggle" as they say comically … a writing career, husband and children and Nina seems to do it so very well.

    While I have not read the one long book Nina, but I have been happy to read your short stories and they are great. When the work is good the current debate regarding genre is a mute point … and your work is good :)

    • Hi Florence,

      Thank you so much for your interest in In Leah's Wake. :) I don't know how Nina does it either! Yes, we definitely have a mutual admiration for her.

      Great point about genre – when the work is good, it's good.

  3. Great interview, Nina. I continue to be amazed at how quickly you can crank out a novel WITH the little kiddos running around (and, by the way, I can relate to choosing a writing space based on the shiver factor).

    Appreciate you sharing the insight of that dreadful instructor who actually gave you the greatest gift of all: a pearl of wisdom that we can all embrace.

    • So glad you enjoyed the interview, Melissa! It really is amazing that Nina's able to get so much accomplished – and with young children! She puts me to shame; that's for sure.

  4. BLACKROZE37

    wow , to write with children, my 3 kids, drives me crazy just trying to stare at the tv

    • Well that's why I mentioned the sitter . . . having her makes all the difference. I think getting time alone whether through the help of parents, in-laws, ANYONE is key. It doesn't have to be daily or even weekly, but knowing it's scheduled does major things for your crazies. ;)

  5. Pingback: I’ve Been Interviewed! « Nina Badzin's Blog

  6. Pingback: I’ve Been Interviewed! « Nina Badzin's Blog

  7. Some great tips for those of us who are at the start of this process. Especially thoughts about managing to squeeze in bursts of creativity around kids.

    • I think "squeezing in" is the key–no waiting around for inspiration to strike.

  8. You're so right about not being in a rush. I read somewhere once that until a writer hits their one millionth word, they're not ready to be published. I know it sounds outrageous, but really, it doesn't take that long to get there if you're constantly writing and revising.

    Also, Nina's twitter tips made me brave enough to dive into something I would've otherwise shied away from. So thanks for that, Nina. You're gracious, wise, and talented. A lovely combination that will win you many readers and great success. :)

    • Anita–that's so sweet. And you've taken Twitter by storm. You're a natural!

  9. Lovely interview!

    Just like Anita mentioned, I was reading a book by Malcolm Gladwell. I think it was "Blink." He analyzed the habits of people who were very successful at what they did: The Beatles, Bill Gates, and he determined that they needed 10,000 hours of practice at their craft before they were considered an expert.

    So we all have to keep on writing!

  10. Yup! My husband quotes that line from Gladwell all the time. 10,000 hours. I'm definitely not there.

  11. Great interview. Lots of inspiring advice. I simply do not know how you manage to write so quickly with the kiddies. Although since you write about marriage I imagine a lot of your inspiration comes your family. Thanks for sharing!

    It's nice to discover another writer at THIS blog too! :)

    • Yes, Sara–so glad you found Terri now! Terri–meet Sara. You'll enjoy her blog!

  12. What an excellent interview! I could relate to so much and will be reading through this again. I'm always inspired by other Mother Writers who are making it happen. Congrats, Nina, on your Pushcart Prize nomination and your little one to come!

  13. What a delightful interview! Thank you both Nina and Terri for showing the value of patience, perseverance and practice in a writing life, especially the importance of finishing the first novel–or two–as a way to learn the craft.

    • Yes–practice is so important! I look at the first two novels as the MFA I never got (sort of. I'm not suggesting I learned all the same things.) But not every book is meant for public consumption.

  14. Tanya

    Great interview! As Nina knows I'm a reader not a writer, but you're tip on writing with young kids really spoke to me as a single mom. I think that attitude/approach can really be applied to any thing in a parent's life.

    I've added In Leah's Wake to my "to read list" it sounds wonderful. I'm anxiously waiting for the day I get to add Nina's novel to my "to read list".

  15. Hallie Sawyer

    Love this, Nina and Terri! Reading about other writing moms helps so much. It can be done and you obviously have found a great method to the madness of motherhood. I applaud for your accomplishments as well as for your honesty. So glad to have met you and look to you for inspiration, dear Nina!

  16. Thanks for the information and encouragement. Now I know that I'm not the only one to get into a rut.
    Thanks again

  17. I love how even though you didn't "study" creative writing in college you've still found other ways to study your craft. So many people wonder if you need to get an MFA to learn to be a writer, and I've always felt that when you're obsessed enough with something, you find a way to learn it because you can't help not doing so. We all need to be a little obsessed to make such a huge commitment, right? ;) And Nina, you're definitely an amazing example of that commitment. Thanks for a great interview, Terri!

  18. Hi Nina. You really are in touch with your own inner critic and have turned it into positive results. I'm not a mom…nor am I even a practicing dad anymore since my kids are all adults. I gave my first novel to a friend when I was 19 years old…he rubbished it and it took as many years again to work on fiction. Good luck with all you do…this interview has been an encouragement.