Interview with Author Stephanie O’Neil

The structure of writing and writer’s block

Stephanie O’Neil (25) is a self-published author who published her first novella Picture Not So Perfect, a holiday romance, November 2021. While being an author Stephanie is a Virtual Author Assistant, works as a BAB Coordinator with Rowanvale Books, a Welsh independent publishing company, and is an Author Assistant and Marketer at Aurora Publicity. She is also currently working on her next book, a romantic comedy which is coming out very soon.

You can find Stephanie on Instagram, as well as twitter, under the username @steph_author. Here she documents her life and what goes into being a young author. She shows her writing sprints, set up, and what she does to best foster her own creativity. But being an author isn’t always easy, and while sharing the exciting parts of creating stories and having your own copy of your work in hand, O’Neil also shares her struggles with writer’s block and how she faces it.

When asked what inspires her as a writer, Stephanie says she wants to make a difference while writing fun and relatable stories. O’Neil herself is hard of hearing and growing up she didn’t find much representation in stories. So, she writes diverse stories with a hard-of-hearing or deaf characters within them, whether this is the main character, or a side character.

What do you do with the idea for a new story?”. Writers can find the inspiration for a new story everywhere, most of O’Neil’s ideas comes to her in her dreams. “[I] write them down [when I wake up] in my notes app [before] converting [them] into a story plan on Google Docs” And like every story, every dream is different. “Sometimes [the dream gives] a very basic plan, other times it includes a chapter-by-chapter breakdown. This depends on how much I’ve dreamt, and how much I have to plot around the main dream idea.” However, even though she draws inspiration from her dreams, and she writes them down and plans, she didn’t have one when she wrote Picture Not So Perefect: “I didn’t have [to] plan the story at all! I wrote it in 27 days, and the story just spoke to me.”

Though her first published novella was easy to write, like every author and writer she has faced writer’s block several times. O’Neil herself defines writer’s block as “[a] writer’s fear of failing”. When talking about her own experiences she says that “most of the time (or all of the time), I have the entire story in my head. I know exactly how it’s going to play out. But, once I let that fear of failure creep in, it hinders my writing … [Writers are] often [afraid that the] book won’t be as good as we once thought it was, or that we won’t sell a single book. It’s hard to battle away these thoughts, but I’ve learnt you have to. Imposter syndrome and writer’s block is common and can be fought once you understand how to battle it”.

Ever story and book are different. That is also true when it comes to the writing process for Stephanie’s stories. When reflecting on what writer’s block is and if it was a part of writing Picture Not So Perfect, she says that she “found this book was easy for me to write. I think it was because it was a novella (47k words), and this didn’t seem so scary. It was also quicker to write, which I think played a massive part in me not allowing those thoughts to creep through and it was my debut, so I was more excited than scared!”. However, second time around her new “novel has been the hardest to write. I think it’s because my businesses are taking off, and I feel [like] I have no time to write. This is where writing sprints and writing little but often has played a massive part in writing my first draft!”.

So, it is safe to say that her next upcoming rom-com is proving to be not as easy a write as her debut novella. “I’m finding writer’s block to be a massive deterrent to my writing, so I’ve had to sit down and plan!”. And though the process of writing her newest story is different, O’Neil is being methodical in the face of the hurdles. “I sit down at my computer, and I write a brief outline of the overall story. This is essentially a blurb. I then write another one, but this time it’s in more depth with plot points, spoilers, side and main characters.” Stephanie’s plan is the groundwork to get her around and through writer’s block, and the initial outline makes it easier to “get a bunch of post it notes, and … write a chapter by chapter outline by hand, [it] helps … to really envision the story, and it’s fun!”. She then “[creates] a fun canva page where I’ll add my story beats (Save The Cat! Writes A Novel) with chapter-by-chapter outlines. Once this is done, I start the writing process!”

However, even with a plan and detailed road map there can be roadblocks. Through her social media presence she often details how she faces those roadblocks. When asked how she stays structured and productive, O’Neil is as honest as she is with her followers: “If I’m being honest, I struggle with being productive and writer’s block which is why I promote this so heavily. I find that writing a book is overwhelming. However, I have many things I do which can help me stay focused and productive when writing my next novel.”

  1. Writing sprints is a lifesaver! I tend to write for 30 minutes without stopping, and then have a 10 minute break. I will do this at least 3 times. I find my writing is faster, better quality, and I find it very fun! You can find writing sprints on YouTube (either live or pre-recorded), but this is my number one tip to beating writer’s block and staying productive.
  2. I give myself writing goals and challenges. At the start of the week, I’ll decide how many words I want to write that week. Most of the time, it’s 3,000 words because I work full-time. This is my realistic writing goal. If you work full time, you could manage a lot more. If I hit this goal, I will reward myself with something. Whether this is buying myself a takeaway or giving myself an entire day off from everything!
  3. Write little but often. As a full-time business owner and author, this helps me a lot. Once you understand that writing 500 words a day consistently for a month allows you to have written around 15,000 words in 30 days. Break it down, and you’ll find it a lot less daunting.

It is clear that Stephanie O’Neil has made the best out of her experiences with writer’s block and soon we will all be able to see (and read) the fruits of her labour. Her novel is coming soon and it’s a “quirky, fun romantic comedy with an enemies to lovers trope in the centre! There’s a lot of spice and a lot of high stakes which I feel will leave readers wanting more”. I for one is looking forward to reading the story and especially when Stephanie depicts the book as one that was “fun to write, and I’m super excited for it to come out very soon!” For more updates follow author Stephanie O’Neil on social media at @steph_author where you will be able to see cover reveal and other announcements.

(All pictures have been supplied by Stephanie O’Neil and are used with her consent.)

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