I will write a post on the responsibility of an author of historical fiction to stick with the historical record at another point. (Although the long and the short of it for me is that as long as you write fiction I do not think you are obligated to stick that closely to it. That is why it is called fiction). But love her or hate her, Philippa Gregory is one of the best known authors in main stream historical fiction. And she has some great writing tips:
Writing a book with a new baby was not easy. In fact, the majority of the book I managed to publish in my daughter’s first year ( Mango Unleashed: A Thai Rescue Dog Travels the World, available as an e-book on Smashwords and Amazon for $3.99 U.S.) was finished before she was born.
I gave myself full permission not to write or work on it at all during her first three months of life. Although I would be lying if I said that before she was born I did not have images of polishing and finishing drafts and starting new work during that time when she would be napping. At least 2 – 3 hour stretches a day! I had no idea that being a new mom would leave me so flabbergasted and awestruck that when she slept I would spend the entire time either staring at her or googling random things that she did to make sure that both she and myself were normal! So there was not a lot of writing at first to say the least.
Finally as I began to feel more confident in my role as a mom I put the finishing touches on the book and released it. And I did so without any fanfare or attempt to let people know it was out. I had more important things to do. My baby stopped napping after 3 months. At least not for longer than 20 minutes at a stretch. Those 20 minutes were my time to check my email, shower and eat. (Only slightly exaggerated).
Part of me really beat myself up over the fact that I was not writing. It took me so long to start writing and getting work out every couple of months. This was a giant monkey wrench and I felt I was letting go of everything I had worked so hard to achieve.
And then I sat down, gave myself an emotional shake and reminded myself that maternity leave exists for a reason. This is a time that no one, even yourself, can expect you to devote time to anything else. Especially at first. You need to adjust to being a new mom. You have a person wholly dependent on you. If you have family who can help out great. But the German and I live in a different country from both our families. We were doing this alone. Sleep triumphed over writing. And yet that made me angry. Which did at least highlight to me that writing was not just a hobby for me. It was how I had started to define myself. It was how I wanted to make a living.
Now that my baby is almost a year old writing has begun to take up a regular place in my life again. It is only really in the last month that I have begun to get my writing time in. She is able to play a little more independently and visiting my mother means I do not mind stepping away and giving myself an hour or two a day to write.
New moms: be gentle on yourself. Your baby will never be this tiny again. Enjoy it, love it, and carry around something that you can record your ideas on when they come. That way around the one year mark when you can start writing again you can start fleshing out all those ideas you were so busy jotting down and thinking about even if you did not have the time to flat out develop and write.
If you want to be a writer, one of the crucial things you need to do is find the time to write. This seems to be so mind blowingly simple that the German can not believe I would even type that sentence out – let alone lead my post off with it. Yet, writers as a group seem to be defined by their inability to do their job. Post upon post helping you to combat writers block (and it is most often just procrastination) are all over the Internet. And although it is true that some procrastination is normal and is found in every job, a key aspect to the writer’s procrastination is that for many of us writing is not a job. It is a hobby. It is a dream. It is a wish. But an actual job that requires set hours – well that just seems to be the antithesis of what writing to us is.
And for many writers that thought process marks the difference between being a professional writer and being a hobbyist. So if you are trying to figure out why you do not have any time to write you need to ask yourself what do you have time to do. Watch tv? Facebook? Cook elaborate meals? Drop everything for friends and family who feel you are available because you are not in the office? Step one in becoming a writer who lives off of their writing is not to find time to write. It is to make time. And to protect that time like a lioness.
Ask Ms. Rowling about finding time to write….
Fear of bad reviews seems to be the number one reason why many of my writer friends remain scribblers in corners rather than authors that are published. They may not say it in such words, often citing instead a myriad of other excuses such as lack of time or motivation. But in the end it all comes down to fear. I believe we are lucky to live in this time period. We can bypass the rejection letters and self publish. We can utilize the long tail and live our authentic creative lives. Even if your excuse for not publishing is that you want to be published by a publishing house, (as if they can provide a shield of legibility to protect you), you could still be making use of the new slush pile of the self published author. In fact, this slush pile seems to be on your side, as you walk into a publishing contract with the power to negotiate a little more as you come with fans.
Yet, despite the flocks of people publishing, there is are many more who are terrified. The belief that everyone is going to laugh at you is enough to make one hide. We are after all a social creature. And when they are laughing at your dream and something as personal as your writing, it is no wonder so many people want to write a novel but are unable to get it out. And when it is out they are unable to show it to anyone without a sensation akin to showing their flayed newborn to a sadistic circle of well wishers with handfuls of salt in their fists.
I get it. I have been self publishing and I am still afraid to tell people I write. When the German tells anyone I smack him. Yet it is not the bad review that makes me cringe. And this is why.
Bad reviews fall into one of three main categories for me. One is that the critique is authentic. I read it, I hang my head sheepishly and admit they are right. I keep it mind for improving later.
Another kind of bad review is from a person who just does not like my style. The person who writes that I am far too optimistic, or they hate BMW motorcycles and if I rode a (Harley, Honda whatever you want to stick in here) it would have been a much better book. Or if the book was not about a motorcycle trip at all. Those people I can not help. There is not a single book or movie or thing out there unanimously loved by the entire world. And that is ok. That is better than ok. It makes the world interesting and wonderful. We do not have to like everything everywhere. And so I can not let that stop me from publishing. I wish that these people find the book they do love.
The final category of bad review is that of the malicious reviewer. Someone who gets pleasure from hurting someone else. The Internet breeds them. The only thing more delightful for them than hurting someone is being able to do it from the comfort of their own home and where they get all the pleasure without any of the guilt. And those people are just sad. And not worth paying attention to. They only win if you do not write because of them. They are not living the life they want and can only be contented when others are not allowed either. Do not let them win!
So write, find those who love your writing. Improve it. Work on it. Spell check and get an editor and the like. Start small and go bigger as you go. But if your dream is to write, then do not let bad reviews stop you from writing.
As I mentioned in my last post, this is a year of change for me. Last year I was a new mum. This year I am still a relatively new mom but I am also morphing into writer mom. That sounds like my superhero name, but I guess any mom out there who is balancing work and children has to have a superhero alter-ego. So Writer Mom with capital letters it is!
Part of my transformation includes finally taking the plunge and moving from travel writing to writing historical fiction. I have always wanted to write historical fiction. I think it was part of the draw of a Masters in History. In a classic Sherrie move I thought I would take something I loved (writing and history) and destroy it with the pettiness of the infighting that is rampant in academia combined with the misguided thought that it would be better to take something I did like and do something I didn’t like with it. Writing historical fiction seemed ill-advised and a path to poverty. A Masters meant prestige and something I could parlay into an income. How wrong I was on both those accounts.
But I digress. Everyone seems to stress that a writer has a brand. My brand would appear to be travel writer. So the decision is before me. Do I write both genres under Sherrie McCarthy or do I try to start from scratch and write historical fiction under a new name?
Long story short, Ive decided to go with a new name. It will not be a secret name, I will write historical fiction under the name of Lynn Francis. But anyone who searches for Lynn Francis will be finding historical fiction as opposed to motorcycle travel books. And although the decision is not secret, neither will I be marketing both names as the one and the same. It is more the decision that it is an open pen name should anyone really want to dig, but otherwise they operate fairly independently from each other.
Yes I am on the Leonie Dawson workbook bandwagon! In full disclosure it is an affiliate link. But I love the workbook and unlike other blogs where I have been been paid to link to products, this blog is a completely different type of blog and only has links that I recommend wholeheartedly and have bought (or would buy) myself.
2013 was a year of massive change for me. All my other identities; writer, traveler, partner and teacher were superseded by that of mother. I wondered if anything could really top last year. Yet, despite the fact that 2014 has just begun, it is already one of major change. In December I decided to buy the create your amazing year life and business workbook and calender. I bought it because there was one thing my daughter taught me and that was I no longer wanted to be whispering to others that “maybe” I write a little in my spare time rather than looking at them with confidence and saying “I am a writer” the same way I said “I am an English trainer”.
Writing is who I am, I am a mother and a writer. Although I will admit I was so wobbly on my new writer’s knees that when a baby came along I felt them collapse from under me. (And that is ok! My baby needed to be the center of my life and I needed time to readjust to life as a new mum!). I could see that when my year of being a full time mom was up I would need a little help to get back into the writers saddle.
So at the end of 2013 I found myself with a 10 month old and “only” one book published in that year (and the writing of Mango Unleashed was done before the baby arrived). I say only because I need to be fair to myself in that one book is more than a lot of people do in their lifetime, yet if writing is where you make your money than with only one book you better hope you write a blockbuster. And Mango is not. 😉
On the one hand I was comfortable with the previous year. I gave birth to a baby! So far she is a happy, easy baby and is a never ending source of joy. On the other hand I needed to get writing and organize myself if I wanted to support myself from my writing. That my baby’s first year of life had me focused entirely on her was more than ok. I had maternity leave benefits that allowed me to do just that. Returning to teaching was not something I was enthusiastic about however. The German is supportive. However, my definition of success is to be self-sufficient.
And so I began to take note of what worked and what did not work for me in terms of time management. And then I bought Leonie’s workbooks. She is telling the truth when she says there is something magical about those workbooks. I can not even say what it is and I define myself as a writer. I should be able to communicate my thoughts to you! All I can say is that since I began working on those books back in December something has changed. Something has clicked and given me drive and focus and I have a road map for the next 6 months. (I only went that far as I thought that was a good time to reassess). At the moment it looks like I might be ahead of rather than behind schedule.
This year is already off to a great start, despite snowstorms and blackouts. This is the year when I tell everyone that yes, I am a writer. And I have my roadmap to make it happen.
Thank you Leonie!