Welcome back to the Millennial Writer Series, in which I interview writers every month who have published work. We discuss the writer’s work, their creative process, and what it is to be a Millennial in publishing. Want to know more? Check out all the interviews.
Jenny Bravo is a name and face well-known in online writing circles for her skills in both gathering a community and promoting her work. When Jenny published her first novel These Are the Moments (the contemporary novel about the inimitable couple Wendy and Simon, lovingly known as #TATM on social media), she already had an audience to receive her work: throughout the months she spent writing the book, she documented her journey on her blog. Jenny’s humorous take on writing stories she loves while gathering her publishing dream team have only grown her audience, first in the form of Blots & Plots, now under the newly minted Jenny Bravo Books.
With over 5,000 followers on Twitter (not to mention her co-hosted Twitter chat #StorySocial), a hefty email list, and three completed titles, Jenny’s only at the beginning of her self-publishing success.
When writing #TATM, were you a plotter or pantser in the writing process?
I’m a cross between the two! I write my first drafts without any planning, and then I organize my scenes from there. Since I don’t write chronologically, I tend to write scene-by-scene and see what happens. Eventually, the threads all connect and it becomes a full-fledged story.
You wrote your novels These Are The Moments, Moments Like These, and Those Were The Days in one year while working a full-time job. What do you think the secret is to not only getting that writing done, but also publishing those projects in finished form?
I wish there were a secret. When it comes down to it, writing requires work. You’ll have to make sacrifices in order to make time to write, but it’s important to balance that with life, too! I like to treat writing as seasons. Right now, I’m gearing up for a promotional season, as I prepare to release the next book, That Was the Year. After that, it’ll be a season of rest!
The cover designs for your novels are gorgeous. How did you find your cover designer and what is your advice to other self-published authors who want books as pretty as yours?
Thank you for the compliment! I had a pretty specific idea of what I wanted these covers to look like, and I found two amazing designers to make that happen. I found my first designer from Pinterest, and my second was a friend’s recommendation. There are fantastic resources out there to find cover designers. I would suggest Reedsy or 99Designs.
You started your website in 2013. What made you start blogging and how do you think it’s helped you reach readers? What do you think is the key to being a successful blogger?
My sister set up my blog for me, actually. When I got serious about finishing my novel, we realized it was time to get my name out there in the world. It’s been an amazing tool for me, as I was able to document my writing experience from start to finish. The key to being successful in blogging is to write in a way that’s natural to you and to provide valuable information. My rule of thumb is that I teach from experience.
How did you build such following and how has building this platform taught you more about publishing?
I started out with Twitter, and found myself actively engaging with other writers like me. From there, I was able to find a steady group of friends that helped share and promote my blog. Instagram came next, and it’s been another fun outlet for me. As far as publishing, social media has been a great tool to teach me how to promote my books in an entertaining way for both my readers and myself.
You write a lot about your experiences in self-publishing on your blog (ie, how important it is to get an editor and cover designer, why you need to promote your book). How do you think other writers can replicate the success you’ve had?
Self-publishing creates amazing opportunities for writers, especially those who want to get their work out there sooner. At first, I did a lot of research on the process itself, and then, I just jumped in with both feet. To be successful, it’s important to define what success means to you. From day one, I’ve told myself that if I had my books had one fan, then that would be enough. That’s what success means to me.
What do you think makes the character of a Millennial writer a powerful new force? Do you see significant differences between older and younger Millennials?
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes a Millennial writer so important. Maybe it’s because we’re being raised in a world where self-publishing is a legitimate option. Maybe it’s because we thrive on the fast-paced, immediate gratification lifestyle. Personally, I think our generation is such a powerful force because we are innovative in our writing. We can write novels on Instagram and publish stories through podcasts. This is an exciting time in literature, I’d say!
What experiences do you see as formative to your fiction?
So many! I can narrow it down to two, though. The first true turning point for me was when I decided to switch to an English degree in college, with the support and encouragement of my family. It helped cement the idea that this writing life was not just a hobby, but a significant piece of my life.
Secondly, the day that I started writing These Are the Moments was unforgettable to me. It was my first day at my first grown-up job, and I wrote my scene on a yellow legal pad. There are some writing days that are pure work and others that stem from something much more. Writing magic, I’d like to call it. That day was the day I believed I could write a novel, and so, I did.
What contemporary and classic authors inspire your craft?
Again, so many! Rainbow Rowell inspires me the most as far as contemporary writers go. You can also add Jonathan Tropper, Elizabeth Gilbert, J.K. Rowling, Raymond Carver, and Aimee Bender to the list! For classic authors, I love the Bronte sisters.
What advice do you have for other Millennial writers and creatives who are trying to get their work published?
I have a few hundred pieces of advice, but I’ll start with this: write your story. Don’t worry if it’s not commercial enough or not relevant enough or whatever. Write the story that scares you, the one that makes you excited and nervous, the one that makes you feel alive. You know what that story is, so don’t be afraid to share it with the world.
Thank you so much for including me in this series! I’m thrilled to participate.
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