What Should I Tell Them?

img_2467[1].jpgA few weeks ago, I was contacted by a teacher at a local high school and asked if I would give a presentation to a group of students who love writing. I jumped at the opportunity because I strongly believe in encouraging young writers.

After the initial invitation, it turns out that I will now be giving four workshops for an entire day, which is evening more thrilling. As I prepare my notes, though, I find myself asking a key question. What should I tell them?

With over 35 years of writing and publishing experience, plenty of ups and downs, and a pretty good grasp of the challenges facing new writers, it would be far too easy to lapse into the disappointments and horror stories that many writers have endured. On the other hand, I don’t want to mislead the students into thinking that it’s all wonderful and profitable. Somehow, I’ve got to find the middle ground. The obvious strategy is to be candid and as positive as I can, but also realistic.

For the most part, I’ll be focusing on the nuts and bolts of writing and editing. Two groups will be spent discussing character development. The other two will concentrate on plotting, point of view, dialogue, themes, tense, and so forth.

At my request, I was sent a list of questions that the students have compiled, which includes getting published and making money, as well as dealing with writers’ block, making time to write, inspiration, and career choices. I hope I can give a well-rounded viewpoint in what is often a crazy frustrating business. But really, the day is all about writing and learning to express ourselves in the most meaningful way possible for each individual. Maybe I should lead with that.

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Assessing Goals, New and Old

keep-calm-and-set-new-goals-257x300[1]This year hasn’t gone by quickly for me, although it has been eventful. I had two main goals in 2018 and neither of them had to do with writing. One was to finally move my mother into assisted living (the decision involved many discussions and was both physically and emotionally draining). The other was to sell Mom’s condo (which required lots of repair). The first goal was achieved on July 29, the second on Nov.  2nd.

Rather than wait for the new year to begin, I’m starting to think about new goals. I’m a big believer in goal setting. It’s the difference between getting something done and plodding along, leaving heaps of half-finished novels in piles.

I do have a number of big, ongoing writing goals that started a few years back. A few of those goals have been met while others are still in the works. Each year I edge a little closer to the finish line.

I probably won’t meet my reading goal of fifty novels this year. I just finished number forty, but I’m not sure I can read ten more books over the next two months. I’d also planned to get the sixth Casey Holland Mystery, The Blade Man, ready for my editor, but I’m behind schedule there as well. I’m just finishing draft #7 and while the book’s much better than it was with draft #6, I need another read-through before handing it over.

There are other writing projects that are not as far along as I hoped, but as you can imagine, real life family issues took priority and will take priority again as my mother’s health slowly declines. So, do I continue to make writing goals? You bet. I’d rather try and fail than not try at all.

The thing about goals is that they can be adjusted, and time limits aren’t always necessary or helpful. The point is to have at least one that matters, so I’m going to be realistic, as I decide which writing and household projects to spend time on over the coming months. Before this year is over, I just might have new goals ready to go for 2019.

#amblogging: A Disciplined Writer? Well, Kind Of…

Writing Clip Art(2)jpgThe most common thing said to me by writing colleagues is that I’m a disciplined writer. This always takes me by surprise a little because I don’t think of myself as disciplined, just a habitual writer. Someone who does a little bit of writing and editing seven days a week, whenever I can fit it in between the day job, the chores, and family demands. For the most part, it’s been that way since I started writing 35 years ago.

On a really good day—and those are rare—I’ll manage three hours of writing, but never at one sitting. I don’t get up especially early to write. Nor do I sit at the computer for hours on end. Even if I could, I’m not sure I would.

From 2010 to 2013 I had the opportunity to write full time. But even with regular writers’ group sessions, I felt that I was isolating myself too much. So I returned to a part-time day job. Now I have two part-time jobs (one has very few hours per month), and I just took on some volunteer work, again with only a couple of hours per month.

I tend to forget that not everyone can, or even wants to write every day, and that gathering the willpower to finish a novel is a struggle for many. For me, slow and steady gets the job done, eventually.

Sure, I sometimes wish I was a faster, more prolific writer, and more efficient at marketing. But as I grow older I also appreciate how important family is. My ambition isn’t as strong as it once was. Sure, I still have writing goals, plenty of them, and I’m still committed to working on them. Does that make me disciplined? I don’t know.

Often, I get tired, and sometimes I think about quitting writing, publishing, and marketing just to gain a little more relaxation time and peace of mind. This thinking often happens right after Christmas, after an extremely busy fall and holiday season. But I have those goals to complete. More importantly, writing still matters to me. So, I’ll maintain my habit until I realize that it doesn’t matter anymore…should that day ever come.