What is a perfect opening paragraph from a book (or article, or blog)?

Mira: This must be a trick question—there is no such thing as perfect. But I recently read The Searchers by Tana French and she opens it with, “When Cal comes out of the house, the rooks have got hold of something.” And to me, that subtle curiosity is all that is needed to make you want to know more, to make you invested from page one.

What is a work that made you think in a different way?

Mira: There are many, but the one that stands out the most to me is Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. A wonderful classic that reflects on the many ways to live life, and the true meaning of connection and being present in this world. I probably live my life 100% differently than I would have if I’d never read it.

Do you have preparational practices to help you get in the proper headspace to write?

Mira: I’m less strict about my routine than I used to be. I’ve been at it for many years, now so it’s not as hard to just dive in. I start my day with a stretch and some meditation, then journal while I drink a cup of coffee. Those things are just to clear my head and tell my brain it’s about to get creative. And then I write for 2-3 hours. I don’t do a word count minimum anymore because I often found it was too much pressure and I hated what I put down, so now it’s just 2-3 hours with a Word document open. I can put down 500-2000 words in that time, depending on my focus and how hard that section is.

Do you prefer to write off the cuff, or do you take a more methodical approach, such as using an outline?

Mira: I outline. I used to outline with a lot more detail when I was still learning story structure and trying to make my character arc flow with my plots. I’m writing my fourth novel now, and while I still sketched it out to make sure I knew where I was headed, I don’t have a clear picture of each scene like I did in the past. More so, I just outline the purpose of the scene.

Are there certain writing exercises you find helpful?

Mira:  Sometimes when I’m struggling to find the right mood or actions for a scene, I do what I call “playtime” with it. I just rewrite the same 500 words in a different document, imagining vastly different outcomes, and it helps me take the scene less seriously and see what looks and reads best for the story.

Do you have any words of advice for aspiring writers?

Mira: The sooner you learn that you don’t have to please everyone with your work, the more you’ll enjoy the process. And if you’re writing without a routine and relying on inspiration and motivation, don’t give up when you run out of inspiration and motivation, just build a routine.

Is there such a thing as writer’s block?

Mira: It’s probably a sign you are putting too much pressure on yourself and trying to create a masterpiece. Take a break and go do something physical that you love. Something where you can become really present in what you are doing, like gardening or hiking or swimming in the sea. Don’t think about writing. Just trust that ideas will come.