Remember when you said, “If only I have time to write that book I’ve always wanted to.” *sigh* “If only…”
Wellllll, guess what? What else are you going to do for the next couple of weeks (indefinite future)? It’s tempting to sit at home and guzzle Netflix or watch the painfully repetitive. And of course —-> Eat. Cook. Nap. Eat. Repeat.
When you surface into society again, all you’ll have to show is the weight you gained. How about you eat that frog and write your book? If you can’t write a novel when you literally can’t leave your house, when will you? I will give you the players handbook on how to write a book and you will emerge into the world inspired, recharged, slaying.
Are you in? I said… ARE YOU IN?!?!
So let’s get down to business. 4 steps to starting your book start here —>
I remember the first time someone asked me what my elevator pitch was. I probably gave him a snarky look.
“A what?” I snapped. I actually thought he was making fun of me. What did an elevator have to do with anything?
Now, my much wiser self can inform you… An elevator pitch is what you would say if you had some important publisher to pitch to on a 20 second elevator ride. (Although pitching someone in an actual elevator is probably pretty tacky.)
Let’s talk about how to write the infamous (to most) elevator pitch. My first piece of advice is…
Think of an elevator pitch as movie preview
If we’re being honest here, movie previews are my favorite part of most movie experiences. What can I say? I like the highlight reels. (Especially if the narrator is throaty like James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman or Emma Stone) Movie previews are like the sugar center of a jawbreaker and, again if we’re honest, often better than the movie itself.
Your elevator pitch is the highlight reel of your book, except that you leave a lot of the stuff you think is really great and important out. Fun, huh?
Let’s try one together… (Imagine James Earl Jones’ voice here)
“Caught in the crossfire of an age-old feud, two young lovers defy their families in a romance that will cost them everything.”
Can you guess it?
“After his father’s sudden death, a young lion turns away from his destiny to be king and, in shame, abandons his throne and family. Years later, he must save his pride from starvation by confronting the current king, the power hungry uncle that murdered his father.”
I’ve been editing for so long, I forgot what it’s like to sink my teeth into fresh prose, to get that high from creating rather than rehashing and hacking. I am finally into a new book and my appetite has been whet.
I was gun shy to start a new novel, not because it’s an agonizing, hair-pulling, time-consuming process, which it is. I dreaded it because I didn’t want to commit to a new set of characters for the next few years of my life. Honestly, I hadn’t met a bedfellow I thought I could handle the commitment with. We’re talking about fictional characters, people, but sometimes, you’re just SICK OF TALKING TO THEM.
I’m going to do everything different this time. First, I’m writing an outline (before I start describing settings and layering characters). I’ll make sure I have a working ending so that I can build it from the beginning rather than retrofitting it in later. (and then re-retrofitting it on the second draft) See? I can learn.
Tonight, one of my writer friends said that if she knew how hard writing actually was, she would have taken up painting. She’s on her 7th draft, which made me self-conscious about my own 3 paltry drafts.
But THIS is what it’s all about! It’s the rush of lifting my fingers from the keys after three hours and having to resurface enough to maintain a conversation. Sure, I then realize I’m running late and haven’t brushed my teeth but who cares?! It like a drug to me.
So if you can’t find me for the next year of my life, know I am holing myself up in a dark corner, face creepily lit by my laptop screen and a look of crazed joy on my haggard face. Writing like a ninja.
I once did a pie chart of my day, down to how long it took to eat, groom, commute, etc. Beyond trying to creatively multi-task (one should not do squats while brushing ones teeth, FYI), I discovered that apparently, I have a finite amount of “free” time. You know this, yes. But when you do a pie chart, you reallyknow it.
With that sadly small sliver on my pie chart of “free time”, I had to decide how it was spent. TV? Long hot bath? Workout? Read? Write? Troll Instagram? Work on backhand? Clear out overcrowded inbox? Read magazines? Take up wood carving?
2. What is worthy of that time?
Have I ever mentioned that I want to speak like four languages, play the violin, become a black belt and a ceramicist?
If you have seen Tangled, (Yes, the children’s movie. Don’t judge!) you have seen my life’s aspiration.
So many skills, so few hours in the day. *sigh* How, with this finite amount of time, could I ever do all the things I want to do?
I could work on each project/hobby/goal for 5 minutes a day and likely never become proficient at any of them.
I could spin my wheels on day to day stuff and put the big goals onto a different, less visited list.
Or I could devote and invest time into a single life goal and see it to fruition. Singular purpose. Multi-tasking is a no go here.
3. Is being busy and productive the same as accomplishing?
Being busy feels like being productive, right?
But the little stuff is usually not connected to the big stuff. For example, having a detailed car, washed dog and organized garage has little to do with my life goals. And a lot of the time, we DO have to choose. (Yes, even acknowledging this, I choose wrong.)
It’s tempting for us Type A’s out there to just put it all on the to do list and start pounding the pavement. We can do it all. We MUST do it all. WE WILL DO IT ALL!
Beyond the usual advice about burn out, the fact is, with an uber long to do list, you’re less likely to accomplish the things that matter most. The goal becomes shortening “the list” as opposed to working long and hard on a single project (with the reward of a single notch on said list). Guilty. At the end of the day, it’s easy to see a lot of little things done and harder to see a little of a big thing done.
But it’s fake productivity! Big things often don’t look like accomplishments until they are. And true accomplishment is only the big things. In 5 years, no one will care how busy you were, how clean your dog, pristine your garage, or tidy your files. What will you show for all that busy-ness? (if you think this is an excuse to not clean the garage, you wouldn’t be wrong)
Choose your biggest priority, the one you will care about in 5 years, for instance. Then, use those little slivers of pie time for it. As much of those pockets of time as you can for AS LONG AS IT TAKES.
Yeah, sure it’s not terribly gratifying when someone asks how a project is going and the answer is “still working on it” again and again. But one day they’ll be like, “I don’t know how you did that.” But you will know. You will know.
I am either a great writer or a great mom. But rarely both. And it’s a tightrope of guilt.
At this point, I’ve whittled down all other hobbies/interests/passions because my hours are spoken for. Any chance I had of learning to paint is on the retirement hobby list now. And somehow, there’s still a shortage of hours in my day.
Let me say, my kids bring me great joy. Definitely. Of course. Most of the time. Now that that’s out of the way, the truth is, I’ve never been ok with being just a mom. (I know, I know. Moms everywhere are rolling their judgy eyes. Just a mom?!?! I realize how it sounds) We aren’t supposed to admit it but motherhood is the termite of self-identity, niggling into our foundation and thinning us out.
Not that this is bad. Motherhood takes over because, many times, there’s nothing I’d rather do than roll on the floor with my two year old. Not do dishes, tone my abs or train for a marathon (haha. Just kidding. I wouldn’t do that stuff anyway.) and not write the next great American novel.
But it’s times like summer vacation when I realize how very contradictory my two passions are. Hmm, edit chapter 6 or get the wildling grommets out of the house before they start setting LEGO booby traps.
(On that note, writing and a toned butt are also currently duking it out. Luckily, I hate exercise and could happily write and eat m&m’s for hours so it’s not much of a fight).
Can’t I be fun, energetic, tanned, active, involved mom but also be reclusive, obsessed, pale, moody writer? Gawwwd, Kelly! Step up your game.
And when is “being busy” an easy excuse for not applying myself to my work? And when is it ok to put a dream on hold to spin my wheels picking up toys, wiping noses and reading Little Blue Truck for the 1000th time? And shouldn’t I always be joyful to do these insanity-inducing motherhood tasks? Because a truly great mother would. 🤨
Damn you, selfish self!
Btw, if anyone has any pearls of wisdom, lay em on me. Because sadly, this summer, I’m choosing great(ish) mom and by the time bedtime rolls around, I can’t even form full sentences.
Also, this is my summer reading… 😣
Those of you reading literary novels right now, I hate you.
So, a friend of mine, Tricia, recently wrote a book. She’s written screenplays and movie scripts (both produced) and despite writing being her hobby, she has a keen knack for storytelling, drama and pace.
(She’s also one of my favorite editors, able to zero in on flaws with ruthless and confident precision. She has red-marked, nay, red-slashed many a written page of mine. And I love her for this.) 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻
At the 2016 SDSU Writer’s Conference, Tricia’s book was voted best new work by not one, but both of the agents that read it. Must to the chagrin of the second agent, the first agent immediately asked for exclusive rights and is now her agent. This is the stuff writer fantasies are made of, amirite?
And they lived happily every after… However…
Of course we all know, like, logically, that writing a book is not the hard part. Publishing a book is the real work. We know, we know. We just don’t reeeeeally believe it.
And here is where my tale begins.
Tricia’s agent has her book in the hands of top editors in the industry, matchmaking to the best of her ability. And love has not yet struck. The fact is, finding the right publisher can be shittymiserablehumiliating frustrating. Continue reading →
Ernest Hemingway once said “Write drunk, edit sober.”
One of my writerly friends says, “Write drunk, edit on caffeine” Pret-ty kitschy and more up my alley. I already edit on caffeine so…
I decided to test this theory, like, track it, test it, tie one on. 🍺🍻🍷🍸🍾🍹🍶 Oh, the things we do for science. 🤷🏼♀️
(Side note: There are A LOT of really great drinking memes. Don’t writers have better things to do? Doh. Guess not.🙄)
To be fair, I’ve inadvertently tested this drunk writing theory back in college. The result was lackluster and barely legible poetry. Overall, a fail. But I’ve grown, evolved, matured. Obviously.
Testing drunken-writing is probably not a true measure of maturity.
If alcohol lubricates social anxiety, couldn’t it also grease the wheels of creativity? Then, it occurred to me that many great and brilliant authors are/were alcoholics. This is either a 👍🏻 for alcohol or a 👎🏻 for writing.
For sake of research, let’s hypothesize that alcohol triggers creativity (with a few grammatical errors) and set the experiment parameters. This is very scientific after all.
1. While writing, I will track the time and alcohol consumption in 20 minute increments.
2. I’ll have to judge the material myself, with a sober set of eyes, because I can’t imagine letting someone else do it. Unedited?!?! Chah!
3. No distractions. This is no party! This is a rigorous experiment that requires I imbibe alone and diligently. No funny business.
4. When I sense a particular profoundness happen, I’ll mark it. My college inebriated poetry always felt brilliant… Until the next day. So here, I’m testing my drunken judgement of quality. Think beer goggles. (This could be the most embarrassing part of the experiment.)
5. Lastly, as I write, I’ll note the speed and ease (or maybe incessant brain-stalling) with which ideas are hatched as well as the inspiration to keep going. All the creativity of JR Tolkien doesn’t help if all you want to do it watch “This Is Us” and eat Red Vines… Not that I would know or anything.
Ready… Commence the spirits! And remember, I’m doing this for you.
*Note: This blog is for those using FREE beta readers, as in.. favors from friends or friends of friends. If you are paying beta readers, many of these points will not apply. But you’re not paying for beta readers, are you???
That Which Should Not Be Named
The first time I asked a couple of people to beta read my book, I sensed their hesitation. I wasn’t sure if this was because they thought I was a terrible writer (because as a writer, I ponder this question Every. Single. Day.) Maybe they didn’t want to devote time to what could be an awful read. I knew they liked to read, after all. That’s why I chose them.
Then one friend said, “I don’t think I’m qualified to beta read.”
To which I replied, “I just need you to read it and give me feedback on things like plot and character and such.
“Oh!” she said. “I can do that!”
And I realized the problem. The term “beta reader” implies some prowess of critical reading that only a professional would have. But the fact is, beta reading is giving an overall impression of the work. Maybe just scrap the term unless your beta reader is in the writing world.
I told my friend. “Just imagine you’re one of those reviewers on Amazon.com who leave detailed and scrutinizing criticism of the books they’ve read. (And your feedback might save me a few scathing reviews someday)” Now, if I could just get my hands on a few of those Amazon reviewers! They would tell it like it is! Which leads me to my next point…
Don’t Ask Your Mother
Mothers Make Better Fans Than Critics
Mothers Make Better Critics Than Fans
Either way, your mother (whether she be adoring or unpleasable) will never be your target audience because she changed your poopy diapers and listened to your lisp until you were 5. She is too close to you and your work. (Maybe she is even IN your work a little.)
After drinking our champagne at dawn, my husband could not stop congratulating himself on his artsy photography skills.
It’s that time of year again! Time to careen into January full of gusto and resolve. So what if we sputter halfway into February. That’s a whole month (and one twelfth of a year) of progress. That has to be worth something!
It seems like just yesterday I was writing last years new years blog, “Resolutions” Don’t Work. I get really excited about this. My readers, all five of them, know that New Years is one of my favorite holidays.
Once, I saw something on HONY (for those of you that are not up on HONY, I’m obsessed with him. It stands for Humans of New York and this photojournalist, Brandon Stanton, walks the streets and takes people’s pictures, telling little bits of their conversation. I’ve followed him for years and its always poignant and powerful and I feel he miraculously reveals a bit of soul in two or three lines of conversation. Readers, all five of you, follow him! You’ll thank me.)
So back to my point… Years ago, there was a post of a woman. She said something like… (Excuse the lack of verbatim. This is how I remember it.)
“I have this theory. We are all given the same amount of time but time is a subjective concept. So if things in our lives are always changing, it feels like we get “more” time.”Continue reading →