Lea Wait, here, fresh from putting away the Christmas tree and listing my New Year’s Resolutions. One of those resolutions has to do with writing … simply, I’m resolving to do more of it. Sounds like a pretty basic resolution for an author, right? But it’s a major challenge.
I was reminded of this during the holidays when, at various events, at least three different people took me aside and confided that, they, too, “had a book inside,” as one put it. That they’d always wanted to be an author. (Note use of word “author”. Not “writer.”) That, indeed, they just might sit down and write that wonderful novel/memoir/children’s picture book. Soon. When they had time. But they were just so busy ….
I have a message to everyone reading this who wants to write a book. If you really want to write it, you will. You’ll find the time. You’ll steal it or borrow it from other things in your life, like watching television. Or reading. Or even cooking dinner or doing laundry. Like shopping, and working at your regular job. Like being with your family.
If you really, really want to write that book, you’ll make the time. And, no. It won’t be easy. Your family will probably not be thrilled, your dinners will sometimes be frozen pizza, and the dust bunnies under your bed may turn into dust bears. But you’ll write the book.
I wrote my first book … my first mystery, SHADOWS AT THE FAIR, when I was working full-time, basically a 10 hour day, raising four daughters as a single parent, taking care of my disabled mother, who lived with us … and, oh yes, also helping raise my disabled granddaughter, who also lived with us. I wrote at night, after everyone else had gone to sleep. I wrote early in the morning. I edited during long meetings. And lunch hours. And I took notes for future scenes from the sidelines at gymnastic meets and football games and in hospital corridors. I’d been writing fiction for several years, but I’d written short stories. And pieces of novels that I never could finish. But I was determined, for once, to prove to myself I could write a full novel.
And I did. I wrote the last few pages on a Sunday afternoon. Then I opened a bottle of champagne and drank most of it. The next day I started editing.
That book was rejected by over 40 agents over about 15 months. Several years later (and a couple of books later) it was published by Scribner and was a finalist for a “best first” Agatha. I just finished writing the seventh in that series. And in 2014 I’ll have three books published — that seventh in the series (SHADOWS ON A MAINE CHRISTMAS,) an historical for ages 8 and up (UNCERTAIN GLORY) and the first in a new mystery series, TIME’S TANGLED THREADS. By this time next year I’ll have 13 books in print, and contracts for at least two more.
I no longer have a corporate job. My daughters and grandchildren aren’t living with me. My mother died. I’ve since married, and my husband does more than his share of the chores when I’m really focused on writing. But, no. I don’t have more writing time than I did back when I wrote SHADOWS AT THE FAIR.
There was a time, I’ve heard rumored, when authors just wrote books, and, once in a while, went to a bookstore and signed those books. If they were lucky, their publisher even sent them on a one or two week tour. Then they went back to writing. Not so today.
What I doing right this minute? Blogging, of course. What did I do earlier today? I wrote three plot summaries of future books for one editor. Wrote four more pages for my website and sent them, with updates to another six pages, to the technical guy who keeps my site up and running. (I’ll probably nag him about that in about a week.) I emailed back and forth with someone who’d invited me to speak to her group in April, but now needs to change both the date and the location. I sent suggestions about cover art to one of my editors. And, oh, yes. I also sent a manuscript to an editor who asked to see it. I wrote it several years ago, so I spent almost a week revising it again before I pushed that “send” button. And I haven’t counted posting on my Facebook page, or checking the pages of my friends there. Writing a few checks. Doing some filing because I have to start finding time to prepare my taxes.
So … how many pages in my next book have I written today? New pages? Zero. But I’ve only been working about ten hours so far. My day isn’t over. I could easily spend all day, every day, updating my mailing list, contacting possible reviewers, applying to present at various conferences … and, of course, there’s the research necessary for every book. (And, I might add, I’m, “traditionally published.” If I were self-published I’d also have to be out at bookstores trying to place my books there, hiring an editor and an artist and maybe a techie to put the book up as an e-book …)
Which is why my New Year’s Resolution is to write more. Because, too many days, I’m not writing. I’m promoting. Selling. Marketing. Speaking. Traveling to places to do those things.
So .. you want to write a book. That’s great. I wish you the very best of luck. Just be warned that writing is just the beginning. And you’ll never have more hours in your day than you have right now, no matter what your life is like.
I wish you the very best of luck with your book. I’d love to talk with you about it. But, excuse me. Right now I have to go and write.
I do not want to write a book! It would take away from my reading time. Thanks for writing.
What drives me these days is the excitement of learning what comes next. I don’t outline (well just a teeny bit for Shear Pin Summer), I let my characters pull me in fantastic directions. I don’t think I could stay sane if I couldn’t write. Thanks for a really good post.
This post is wonderful, Lea! Such a good reminder to get on with the writing, and leave the excuses behind. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you, Pam and John and Gram! (John: I do outline generally, but leave some of the details to fate and my fingers on the keyboard.)
As I often say to people who tell me they’d write a book if they “had the time,” we all get the same 24 hours in a day. It’s a question of how we choose to use them.
Great post, Lea. There are NEVER enough hours in the day, but I find making a daily list of what I need to do and crossing items off as I complete them helps. The hardest thing to remember, especially at the start of a writing project, is that it’s going to take as long as it takes to 1) get to “the end” and 2) get it right.
Loved your post! I probably have a little more time than you–merely a full-time job, a daughter who is sometimes very needy due to some emotional problems, and a husband who can’t cook, but it’s still hard to “find” time to write. But as of March I will have six traditionally published books and one e-book out there. It’s not so much finding the time, but choosing to spend the time writing. The only TV shows I watch are Downton Abbey and Rizzoli & Isles. I read for a few minutes before going to bed. I haven’t dusted in…well, nevermind! But it’s worth it to accomplish my goal.
Absolutely right, Barb. And thank you, Kaitlyn ..and good luck to you with your writing, Peg! (I break for Downton Abby and Rizzoli and Isles, too!)
I appreciate this piece more than you know. It was thrilling to hear that I am not the only person who steals time to write and that frozen pizza is an acceptable meal if you are trying to finish a chapter.