Want to be a Writer? Don’t Have a Backup.

Tell your parents you dream of being a successful writer (or actor, artist, filmmaker, etc.) and, after they hopefully give some encouraging words, you’re bound to hear, “That’s great, but you should have a backup.”

We all know what that means. Few people make a living pursuing a creative career, they’re thinking, so you better have an alternative career path lined up when you inevitably fail.

But I’m here to tell you that you can’t fail at any artistic pursuit. Your first or tenth novel might never see the light of day, but if you keep honing your craft and putting words to the page, you’re allowed to put “writer” on your business cards. That means you don’t need a backup!

Now, I want to be clear, that doesn’t mean you don’t need another job. A backup is something you do after you fail at your first pursuit. A job is something that brings in money and other positive benefits while you’re a writer. (If it doesn’t, you should get a different job!) There’s nothing wrong with that. Many successful writers have held down other jobs. Kurt Vonnegut still worked as a car dealer after publishing his first novel. Philip Glass was a plumber while he composed music. Many successful writers continue to teach. A second job can provide community, inspiration, and interesting characters. It can keep you sane and get you out in the world instead of insolated in your home with your cat and laptop your only friends. Spending 40 hours a week writing is likely to make you crazy. You don’t want to end up like Jack Torrance, do you?

So, when you’re working on a report for your boss, serving up coffee at Starbucks, or suiting up as a professional wrestler instead of working on your next book, embrace your situation. Your job isn’t a backup, it’s a lifestyle choice.

Happy Writing,

Kelee

 

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The Five Stages of Critique Grief

What does a writer want in a critique? Be honest now. I know deep in my soul that what I really want is to be told I’m an incredibly talented writer and that, other than a couple of minor revisions, my manuscript is perfect just the way it is.

I know I’m not alone in this because I often see that unacknowledged desire in other writers. I don’t know how many times I’ve read an independently published novel that begins with heartfelt thanks to a legion of beta readers, only to struggle through a book that’s poorly written with too many spelling and grammar errors to count.

The first step in accepting a pull-no-punches critique is to acknowledge that we need to go through the five stages of grief after our child is pummeled and left bleeding on the ground.

Denial

That reviewer doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

He doesn’t understand the genre.

It’s good enough. I can’t rewrite it anymore.

My boyfriend liked it.

Anger

The reader is an idiot.

She’s probably jealous she can’t write as well as me.

Julia Quinn said I showed a lot of talent.

I won a literary award in middle school.

Bargaining

I’ll show it to my mother. She likes romance.

Maybe if I just change this one scene it will fix everything.

I should take that other novel out of the drawer and worked on it for a while.

Lord, make me a best selling author and I’ll give half my income to the poor.

Depression

Why did I ever think I could be a writer?

I should go back to accounting.

I wonder what’s on Facebook.

I need a drink.

Acceptance

Maybe she has some good points. Time to get back to work.

Happy writing!

Kelee

Writing on the Ebb

Spring break has come and gone at my house. My writing routine was interrupted by family and travel. I felt frustrated and, at the same time, relieved. I had reached a point where I was struggling through the first draft of my new novel. I didn’t feel inspired. At the same time, I was waiting for comments to come back on Goddess, Book 2. I tried to enjoy my break from writing, but I was afraid that if I didn’t keep working, my creativity would drift away like the ebbing tide.

spring-break

Now, vacation is over and I’m mostly back to my regular schedule. Yes, it was difficult getting started again. But vacation gave me time to think and feel instead of write. I came up with some new scenes and mulled them over in my mind during break. When I went back to work, I began to write them down. It started out painfully, like getting back to running after a patch of sedentariness. But then my creative muscles began to stretch. I got excited again about the pages I was writing. It felt good to be back in the flow. I learned that ebb and flow are a good thing for a writer.

I need to remember that.

Kelee

Writing By Hand: First Impressions

While I’ve been waiting for my beta readers to get back to me with notes on Goddess, Book 2, I decided to start writing a new novel. After creating a detailed outline, I’m now writing my first draft in my lovely red notebook using a fancy new pen I bought for the occasion. This is an experiment to find out what happens when I step away from the computer. It’s been interesting enough that I wanted to share some of my initial impressions.

  • Writing by hand means less distractions. There are no temptations to check Facebook or look at an email that just came in. I can’t look up the perfect word in my electronic thesaurus or check a fact on Wikipedia. Instead, I just plow ahead, making up what I don’t know, knowing I can fix it in the second draft.
  • Writing by hand is more spontaneous. There’s no need to start up, log in, and open my document. If I have a few minutes on a bus or waiting for an appointment, all I have to do is pull out my notebook and pen and write a paragraph.
  • I can’t check my progress. There’s no word count or page number at the bottom of the page. I have no sense as to how a handwritten page translates to a page in a published book. It feels like I’m moving ahead quickly, but who knows? I have to let go of worrying about that. I just write and the pages fill up.
  • There’s no going back. There’s no search box to find a sentence I already wrote. If I missed something I should have put in earlier in the story, it’s very difficult to add it in the right spot now. I either have to let it go or put it in where I am and move it elsewhere later.
  • Writing by hand is physically hard. I used to write morning pages – three handwritten pages of random thoughts. But writing a novel by hand is much more challenging. My hand cramps and I have to rest every page.
  • My handwriting is terrible. When I’m inspired, I write quickly, which makes my handwriting even worse. And when I’m writing on the train, my handwriting becomes almost illegible. It will be interesting trying to decipher what I’ve written when I transfer the first draft to my computer.

Happy writing,

Kelee

A Quiet Blog Means Hard Work is Afoot

I haven’t shared much recently because I’ve been so busy with my writing (as well as the rest of my life). While waiting to get comments back from my beta readers on Goddess, Book 2, I’ve been hard at work outlining a new novel. Don’t you love that feeling of possibility when you’re starting a new work? I know I’ll eventually run into roadblocks and frustrations. But right now, the world feels ripe with excitement and inspiration, like starting a new relationship.

I’ve been using Snowflake Pro to outline the new book. I’ll post a review of the software soon. Meanwhile, back to work!

Happy writing and reading!

Kelee

A New Year’s Resolution for Writers: Chuck Your Computer

Thanksgiving was a delicious, inspiring holiday this year. My family attended a potluck heavily populated with writers and artists. Even more memorable than the vegan stuffing were the evening’s conversation.

At one point, we were discussing our writing regimens. A fellow author at the dinner table just received a rave review of his latest book in the New York Times. (I’ll let him remain anonymous because I haven’t asked permission to share his writing discipline.)

He lives with his husband in a large, rambling old farmhouse in upstate New York. They have three empty bedrooms, any one of which could be turned into an office. Instead, he decided to build his own, Henry David Thoreau-like cottage at the back of their property. It’s far enough away from the house that he can’t pick up the wifi. Not that he could use it. He doesn’t bring his laptop or phone to his writing sanctuary. Instead, he uses composition books and a favorite pen to write the first draft of his books.

According to my dinner companion, he found his writing became more emotional and unfettered when he worked this way. Plus, writing by hand made it difficult to edit what was already on the page, so he just kept moving forward forward. The technique was liberating for him, and he never looked back.

He still uses a computer, but not until the second draft. The process of typing his hand-written draft into his laptop forces him to consider every page, every paragraph, every word. It’s obligatory deep editing.

My New Year’s resolution is to use this technique to write my next novel. I don’t have a shack in the woods, so I hope I’m disciplined enough to stay away from my phone and other distractions while I write. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Kelee

Thankfulness

Count your blessings. Look on the bright side. See the glass as half full. Just be happy. It’s easy to offer platitudes to our fellow travelers, whether they’re going through serious difficulties or just the normal ups and downs of life. I have to admit, I often get annoyed by these overly optimistic people. We can see the world as bright and sunny, but that doesn’t make the rain stop falling.

But I still believe that offering up thanks is a good way to live. If we focus too much on the negative, it’s like staring at the object on the side of the road we want to avoid. It just makes us steer towards it.

So, with our American Thanksgiving just two days away, I offer up thanks, to my family, my friends, my readers, my fellow writers and bloggers, and to the creative goddesses that push me forward, even when I’ve lost my creative energy.

To all of you, Happy Thanksgiving!

thanksgiving-turkey-clip-art-clipart Kelee