With the publication of my debut novel, The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds, by Amazon Crossing in 2016, I achieved a long-cherished dream. And when the book made a strong emotional connection with readers, I began to understand how affirming it was to realise an ambition that touched me to my core. Somehow it forced me to review my life.
When I looked back, I wondered why I had delayed pursuing a passion for so long.
No doubt my employment history contributed: the jobs I held were interesting and generally well-paid. Even if none of them fired me up.
You might have thought that a brain tumor would be a wake-up call. It was – to a point. The tumor was in an accessible spot and therefore operable. Because it was also benign, I was spared chemo and left the hospital after a week. The event was serious, yet somehow also not. In many ways, it felt like a blip, not a brush with death. I continued living the way I had, but swore that if I ever had another critical illness, I would alter my life.Continue reading How I Came To Follow My Dream: A Personal Journey→
I’m a very routine-driven writer. Actually, I’m routine-driven, period. I’m a lot more productive when I can keep my malfunctioning brain out of my process…if I run on automatic pilot.
I think my changing routines will resonate with any writing parents.
When I had small children, my routine was to write while my son was in elementary school and my daughter was either watching Elmo’s World (she’d only watch 5 minutes of television) or napping. I’d get my daughter settled and then open up my laptop.
This worked well–until it didn’t. My daughter stopped taking naps, but she started with preschool. I could write (and do a million other things) while she was in school.
That, naturally, didn’t stay the routine for very long. Before I knew it, both of my children were in school and I was fitting in writing and editing and building an online platform for myself in between carpools and errands and other things.
Soon they were in different schools with different hours of operation. This meant a couple of different carpools. I learned to write while in carpool lines.
When they grew older and got up very early for school (the high school late bell is 7:20), I got up an hour before they did to work while the day was still fresh and full of possibilities. I found that, sometimes, days could be knocked dramatically off-course as the day went on.
We got a new corgi puppy on Friday. :) I have a feeling that, once again, my morning routines are going to be changing.
The point is that it’s good to evaluate what works every now and then. I used to think very self-limiting things: I can only work well in the mornings. But then I found the more flexible I could be with my schedule and my writing, the more I could get accomplished.
Over the years, I’ve asked myself:
Besides first thing in the morning (which always works for me), when else can I fit in writing time?
Am I too distracted at home? If so, is the library or a coffee shop better?
If I write later in the day, how does it go? Is it a good or a bad draft?
Do you ever change up what works? Has anyone else had dramatic changes in what works for them?
When I hit rough patches (and I do nearly every book), I keep going without feeling blocked. That’s because I’ve done it before. Every couple of books I seem to hit a major issue. It becomes less of an issue because I realize I can power through it. Whether I fix the issue then or fix it in the draft, I know it will be fixed. I know that the story will end up turning out fine.
This is true in other arts, as well. I saw an interesting video that Open Culture posted online. It depicts legendary B.B. King, with the confidence of a lifetime of performing, changing out a broken guitar string in the middle of a performance at the Live Aid concert in the mid-eighties. Without missing a beat, he fixed his broken string in front of a crowd of 80,000 people.
At the same time I was watching the video, I was in the middle of reading actor Bryan Cranston’s autobiography, A Life in Parts. He echoed what I’d noticed with the B.B. King performance (p. 133) about the importance of confidence as a professional artist:
“This whole business is a confidence game. If you believe it, they’ll believe it. If you don’t believe it, neither will they. Today, when I’m in the position as a director to hire actors, I don’t feel entirely comfortable hiring someone who doesn’t emit confidence. If an actor comes in, and I feel flop sweat and need from them, there is almost no chance I will hire them. Not because they are untalented, but because they haven’t yet come to the place where they trust themselves, so how can I trust they’ll be able to do the job with a sense of ease? Confidence is king.”
What if you don’t have confidence through experience? What if you’re not yet at the point, as Cranston says, that you trust yourself?
The obvious answer is to continue writing. But I think that other things can help, too.
Keep reading and see how other writers succeed and fail (especially in your genre).
Note your successes each day to make your progress easier to track.
Finish what you start writing. This helps build confidence that you can at least finish a book, even if it requires major revision.
Have you developed confidence in your writing ability?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve got tons of information to organize and work through. It could be writing craft posts. It could be research for your book. It could be ideas and images for blog posts.How do you store this information so that you can easily access it?
I use a couple of different tools for organizing information: one is Evernote and the other is OneNote. Both are free (Evernote has a paid version if you’re an especially heavy user). This post will include both the writing-related and personal uses of the apps because, in my house at least, if I’m not organized with both home and writing it impacts my writing time.
I’ve been to a variety of different conferences over the years and tried to get the most out of each experience. Sometimes I had a better time than others, but I invariably learned something.
Types of conferences:
In-person writing conferences are where I’m usually in my element. There I meet and talk with different writers, learn more about the craft, and hear more about the latest promo techniques.
Online writing conferences can also be incredibly useful. What’s more, you don’t even have to leave your house (which is wonderful! I’ve even been speaker at some of these events from the comfort of my own home). My favorite is the Indie Author Fringe conference, which runs online at several points throughout the year. This year it will be held March 18, June 3rd, and October 14th. The best part is that it’s free and has experts in a variety of different writing-related areas. More information here and see the event archives here:
For the first time, I’m actually part of a reader-facing online mystery conference this week (which is why this topic was on my mind when I wrote the post). It’s Mystery Thriller Week: If you’re a mystery writer or reader or are just interested in seeing how a fan festival could work online, take a look here. It’s designed to bring readers, book bloggers, and mystery writers together online. I’ve got a few posts scheduled to run this week (they’ll show up in my Twitterific this Sunday), but here are a couple of links in advance: My interview with Michelle Dragalin and “Three Ways for Writers to Use Deadlines” (which will go live at noon EST today). My books are also getting reviewed by different bloggers. This will be a yearly event, so if you’re a mystery writer, make a note to contact the organizers so that you can participate next year.
Book Festivals: The ones that probably make me the most uncomfortable are the ones that have me sitting at a table, hawking my books. I’m not much of a hawker. In fact, the last time I was at an event like this, I left my table and wandered around the building to see everyone else’s books and to meet other writers. Although I’m not really a shy person, I can be very shy around readers. I know…leaving my table wasn’t the right way to sell books. Now I’m aware that this is not the kind of event I need to attend. That’s also something important for writers to know–what is the type of conference or festival that’s more valuable for them? Continue reading Writing Conferences and Festivals→