How to Psych Yourself into Writing a Book

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After I wrote close to one hundred blog posts in 2015 about developing ideas, characters and plots, writing, editing, publishing, marketing and reading, I realised I had written enough to fill a book. And when I collated them all together, I realised it flowed nicely enough to seem like I’d done it on purpose. I’d written a book without even trying to write a book. That’s how Project December: A Book About Writing was born.

After I published Project December, I continued writing blog posts in the same vein but, of course, this time I knew I was heading towards writing a sequel. Why wouldn’t I? It had been so easy last time. I even wrote a blog post called, “How to write a book without even trying.”

The problem was that because I knew I was heading towards another book, it wasn’t going to be the same process. I wasn’t going to be able to write a book without even trying. Because I was trying to write a book.

I set a deadline for myself but as it approached, I knew for various reasons that I was never going to make it. Life, work and other pieces of writing were getting in the way.

Instead of giving up, I told myself that the deadline wasn’t important. I was the only person who knew it and I was the only person who would know it was going to pass by unmet. The important thing was that I eventually finished writing the book, regardless of whenever that time came.

So I just kept writing. I wrote when I had something to say. I wrote when I felt like it. I wrote when I had nothing else scheduled. And before I knew it, in less than two months, the first draft was finished. It only took one month more for the text to be finalised. How, I asked myself, did that happen? How, when I was so sure it would never happen in that time frame? Continue reading

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Mistaken Identity: When Something You’ve Written Shares Its Title with an Infinitely More Famous Work

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Hard to believe but this is my 400th post! Where did all that effort come from? A little bit here and a little bit there. Thanks for reading!

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In 2004, I wrote a category romance novel (Harlequin, Mills & Boon, whatever you call them in your region) called Liberty’s Secret. It was the story of a woman named Liberty Freeman who had successfully reinvigorated a serious magazine from low circulation to being the talk of the industry. Now she was asked by the publisher to do the same thing for a publishing company he had just bought with the help of a financial whiz named Quinn O’Connell. Cue pounding hearts, stolen kisses and Liberty’s insistence that she wasn’t interested despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. And her secret was the reason why.

Liberty’s Secret was the last romance book I wrote. By the time I finished writing it, I knew I didn’t want to continue writing romance or be known as a romance writer. So I shelved it. I put it aside, choosing not to publish it, and I have barely thought about it since.

When I started writing Single White Female Writer, I was constantly trying to figure out ways to repurpose all of the many, many things I have written. So when I wrote a blog post about writing sex scenes for fiction and admitted that this wasn’t a strength of mine, I also posted the sex scene I had written for Liberty’s Secret to prove it was true.

Since I posted it, the sex scene from Liberty’s Secret has averaged one view per month. Like I said, it’s not great. And because it’s just that one scene, completely out of context from the rest of the missing novel, that makes sense to me. Also, because it was an example of something I didn’t think I did that well, I didn’t mind that much.

So imagine my surprise when WordPress notified me of the following: “Your stats are booming! Single White Female Writer is getting lots of traffic.” And when I checked to find out why, it was all because of the sex scene from Liberty’s Secret. In one month, my average views from that post had increased significantly. And in just one week, the average views had increased 4,100%!

What the heck was going on? Continue reading

Why I Sometimes Don’t Want to Tell People I’m a Writer

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Imagine this scenario:

“Hi, I’m Rachel.”
“Hi, Rachel. I’m John. What do you do?”
“I’m a receptionist.”
“So you just sit around talking on the phone all day?”
“It’s a bit more involved than that.”
“Where do you work?”
“At a small family company.”
“Oh. That’s a shame. Any chance you might be able to move on to a big corporate?”
“I’m happy where I am.”
“Are you a good receptionist?”
“I haven’t been asked to do it differently so I guess I am.”
“How many calls do you take a day?”
“Um, well, I’m not sure…”
“How much do you earn?”
“That’s not really any of your business.”
“But how will I know for sure if you’re a good receptionist?”
“Call the main switch and I’ll make sure I transfer you to the right person.”
“But that won’t tell me if others think you’re a good receptionist.”
“I like what I do. I don’t really care if others think I’m a good receptionist. And I really don’t care what you think.”
“That’s a pretty poor attitude for a receptionist to have.”
“Stop talking to me.”

Okay, so it seems like John is a special kind of asshat. But imagine now an almost identical conversation with just a couple of small changes: Continue reading

Book Review: The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld

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Jed Rubenfeld is a modern-day Renaissance man. A professor of law at Yale University who has also taught at Stanford and Duke, he is an expert on constitutional law, privacy and the First Amendment. He studied theatre and Shakespeare at Julliard and wrote a thesis on Sigmund Freud during his senior undergraduate year at Princeton. He is also the author of six books, two of which are novels. It seems as though there’s nothing he can’t do. If I didn’t admire him so much, I’d be horribly jealous. (Well, maybe I can do both at the same time.)

The Interpretation of Murder was his first novel. It’s a very intricate weaving of true events and characters with fictional events and characters. Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Sandor Ferenczi, Ernest Jones, Abraham Brill – all real life figures in the early 1900s movement of psychoanalysis, which was new, controversial and in competition with neurology – mingle with the fictional Elizabeth Riverford, Dr Stratham Younger, Nora Acton, George and Clara Banwell, Coroner Hugel and Detective Littlemore. There’s a miniature essay at the end of the book clearly outlining what’s real and what’s not and the artistic licence taken, which is a good thing because the blending of them is seamless. Continue reading

The Fiction Versus Non-Fiction Debate: Is One Better Than the Other?

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I recently spent time with a group of friends I see roughly four or five times a year and one of them asked me how my writing was going, knowing that I was doing it full-time. Well, I told her. Did I have a daily routine? she asked. Just to sit down and start, I replied. And when would my next book be out? In a few months. Non-fiction, I clarified. My next novel would be published in about a year’s time. Oh, she said with a hint of disappointment and then moved onto conversation with someone else.

That “Oh” gave me pause. Everyone else I’ve ever discussed my writing with (which isn’t too many people as I find it a little self-indulgent and difficult to do justice to when I’m the one talking) has had the exact same response, which is admiration – admiration at the fact that I’ve written and published books. After all, so many people talk about it and never get around to doing it but continue talking about it until anyone hearing them talk about it wants to beat them over the head with their non-existent book.

I also found it a little strange because I’ve always thought of non-fiction as a slightly higher, slightly more respectable calling than fiction (not my non-fiction, though, just the non-fiction of others) because it requires knowing what you are writing about (or it should) whereas in fiction you can just make up any old thing. Still, they both require effort and commitment over a reasonably lengthy period of time. Why would one let alone the lesser other (whichever you happen to think it is) elicit an “Oh”? Continue reading

Knowing When to Stop: How Much Editing is Too Much?

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The idea of writing the first draft of a book – when it’s still in your mind, when you haven’t done it yet – seems like such a large mountain to climb. So when you finally reach the top of that goal, you celebrate. Hard. If it’s your first book, that’s because you don’t realise it’s a false hill, that you aren’t at the top at all. If it’s not your first book, it’s because you know the really tough work is just starting and celebrating each and every achievement is one of the keys to not letting writing drive you insane.

Unless you’re a first draft genius (and nobody is a first draft genius), the amount of time it takes to rewrite and edit your book to publishable standard will be lengthy. For some it will be longer than it took to write the first draft. There’ll be a second draft and a third draft and a fourth draft and on and on it goes.

So how do we know when it’s time to stop editing? Continue reading

Why is “Self-Publishing” Still a Dirty (Hyphenated) Word?

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Earlier this year, one of my sisters dragged me along to a game show audition. After filling out a four-page questionnaire that asked such insightful questions as “What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?”, “Have you ever been caught out in a lie?” and “Do you have an unusual bucket list item?” (presumably so that they could be discussed and laughed at on national television) as well as what we did for a living, we were then grilled by a producer.

“You’re a writer?” he asked me.

“Yes,” I answered.

“What do you write?”

“Books – novels and how-to guides on writing novels.” I could have given him my entire writing résumé – articles, websites, marketing collateral, corporate tenders, ghost-writing, short stories, song lyrics, poems – but I was trying to keep it brief.

“And you’ve published three books?”

“So far.”

“Who with?”

“I’m self-published,” I said.

“Oh,” he replied with a disapproving tone in his voice. “So you just sell to friends and family?” Continue reading