Friday, January 21, 2011

A Date With Kate - New Beginnings

Columnist Kate Walker starts the New Year with the first of her monthly columns A Date With Kate
Hello and welcome to the very first Date With Kate 2011.

I have to admit that it’s really rather a scary proposition – this brand new monthly column, just waiting for me to write things in it – and yet with no agenda as to what I’m supposed to write about. When I have been writing for the PHS before now, I’ve known in advance that I was thinking about a Male on Monday (they take a LOT of thought those posts) or Writing on Wednesdays or perhaps a film or a TV programme for Must Watch Friday. But – a Date With Kate (thank you again Laney for coming up with that title) . What am I going to write about – especially when Donna gave me such a fanfare and a write up – Bless you Donna but now I have to live up to that reputation!

You’re probably thinking, ‘How hard can it be?’ After all, I’m a writer – so I write! Words are my business, so putting them together should be so easy. But there are so many different types of writing – so many different subjects. Styles. Fiction or non-fiction? And who is my audience? All you lovely PHS readers out there – I know you’re out there because the stats say so. But the stat5s don’t tell me whether you are readers or writers. Published or unpubbed. Established and settled into your writing career - or just beginning, just starting out.

I remember once when I was at school, the English teacher decided to give us a topic for an essay to write over the weekend. I don’t know whether he was feeling inspired or just plain lazy – but what he actually said was – write an essay on any subject you like. You choose. I also remember how that paralysed me. Here was a blank page, just waiting to be filled - and I had no idea what to put on it. I now spend my days doing just that – filling empty pages with stories that I hope readers will enjoy when they are finally published.

But there’s a long journey from that first moment of writing Chapter One at the top of a brand new page and the moment when I add the very last full stop to the revised and reworked version of the novel I’ve written and know that it is now finished. Done. Ready for publication. The start of a new year is something like that too – there is the calendar with all those fresh, new, wonderful days stretching ahead with so much potential. Everyone talks about resolutions, discipline, diets, detoxing, denial (does everything that’s restricting and healthy begin with a D?)

But now here we are at the 21st of January already – how did that happen? Have you kept to your resolutions? Lost any weight? Written 60,000 words? Exercised every single day? No – me neither. But if there’s one thing that being a writer has taught me it’s that you don’t have to be the first, the fastest, the frantic writer to be able to fill those empty pages with wonderful words, the most fabulous stories, to create a novel that readers love and are so happy they read it from start to finish. In over 25 years (no I don’t believe it either) of being a published author, earning my living by my words, I’ve learned that filling those pages at an incredible rate isn’t what makes a success – it’s filling them well, giving the readers the quality their looking for, creating a story that they want to read and that – here’s the important thing – makes them want to read more. Some writers (think of Emily Bronte and Wuthering Heights or Margaret Mitchell and Gone With the Wind) only ever write to one book – but everyone remembers those stories, hundreds of years after they were originally published.
And as I said in my post in December on resolutions for writers – burn-out is real, cruel and savage. I want to avoid that – and I’d love to think that you can avoid it too.

So I’m not going to set myself ridiculous targets - and I hope you won’t too. I’m going to remember that life is just a candle and if you burn it at both ends it burns out fast. And if you are too busy concentrating on work – even work you enjoy like writing - one day you’re going to look up and find that a lot ofbeautiful things have slipped by while you had your head down – and you can’t get them back.

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to let things slide. I wrote another post for my other regular column on We Write Romance which was all about Balance. Keeping things in balance so that I can write and read and relax and refresh – seems the good words, the comfortable words all begin with r (if you’ll allow me to get away with ‘riting’!). I’m not going to crack the whip over myself or scold myself if I don’t write XX words a day. But I am going to make sure that I do something about the things I most want to do – a little and often builds up just as much - and without the risks and exhaustion of overdoing it – as rushing to get ‘there’ – wherever there is.

If there’s one thing that 25+ years of writing, 25+ years of new beginnings, blank pages have taught me it’s that so long as you begin – and then keep putting one foot in front of another (or one word after another . . .)then those blank pages, the longest journey, the project you thought was never-ending, will all be completed . What is it they say – the way to eat an elephant is slice by slice.

But you have to do it. A lovely friend of mine, Holly Jacobs quoted a joke when she was talking about her goals – as opposed to her dreams – for 2011 - and I’m sneaking it in here toot:

So, there was this very religious lady who prayed every day that she’d hit the lottery.

And she never did. Not for millions...not even for a dollar.

Years went by and she prayed more fervently, begging God to allow her to win the lottery, promising all the good she’d do if she won those millions.

One day, in frustration, she cried out to God, “Why won’t you answer my prayer?”

God answered, “Why won’t you buy a lottery ticket?”

And that’s it – you can’t just sit there and wait for it - whatever it is – to happen. You have to do something about it. To get from a blank page to a book, you have to write the first word and then another and another . . . until you end up with 55,000 of the things – or more. I just proved that. I sat here today, not knowing what to write for this very first column – and here I am finishing it off with 1,202 words behind me.

So that’s how I’m going into 2011 – my 26th year as a published author. And the words I’m keeping in my head are another string all beginning with the same letter – Balance – books – beauty - doing my best – and of course that important word beginning.

I know we’re already well into the first month of 2011 – but the other thing that being a writer teaches you is that there is always a brand new start to be made – if the writing has gone terribly wrong – the book is going nowhere – the idea is dead in the water – there’s always a brand new, fresh, clean page to be turned and you can start again. But do start. All the thinking, planning, dreaming, setting goals is no good unless you begin.

To quote Goethe -

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!

I’ve made a brand new start with this column - but I’d still like to know if there’s anything special you want to know about - any subject –writing or not – that you’d be interested in, please let me know. I have plenty of blank pages to fill in my day job so any suggestions for blogs will be really interesting.

Kate Walker's latest Presents title - The Good Greek Wife? - was out in Presents Extra in October and is still available now on Amazon, eHarlequin etc. her next Presents Extra title is The Proud Wife (her editor has been on a 'title with Wife in it kick!) is out in March in the UK and April in America. 

 Her latest book, part of the The Powerful and the Pure mini series - The Return of The Stranger -  has just been scheduled for September 2011.

You can get all Kate's news and read the latest updates over on her web site or her blog.


  1. Hey there, Kate! Welcome to your new monthly column! So far, so good! One down, a cazillion to go?

    I too celebrated 25 years "on the job" last year, but I have a typing business at home. Not quite the same as writing books, although I've typed a lot of them! Where does the time go?

    That's it. I just wanted you to know I'm thinking about you and wishing you all the best, as always. Take care and have a SUPER 2011!

  2. Hi Kate,

    It's still Thursday here but I enjoyed your post very much. I like your balance comments. Life should contain a bit of this and that to keep it interesting. 21 days into the new year already. Where did it go to?

  3. Hi Kate,

    Enjoyed your post tremendously.

    All the best for the new year.

  4. What a lovely post! Very inspiring. There's another quote for life that I like and it's SO true;

    "Fear does not exist, except for in your own mind"

    And I think we can apply that to our writing. The fear of starting, the fear of failing, of not finishing, of writing it badly. No-one puts that fear in your head except for you. It doesn't exist anywhere else. You've got to believe in yourself, forget the inner editor, the crows of doubt and just get on with it. And finish it.

  5. Hi Kate

    What a great post! Just what I needed as I'm wrestling with my latest book. And 25 years in the biz, you are an inspiration, woman!

    H x

  6. Hi Laney

    As you named the columnb A Date With Kate it's appropriate that you're the first to comment! Congratulations on your 25 years too - I think we should get together - you could type my books and then maybe I wouldn't make so many mistakes! I hope you have a wonderful 2011 too

  7. Hi Kaelee - that's time zones for you! You're still in 'yesterday' as my post goes ujp 'today'. I'm determined to keep the balance this year - last year got to be too stressful. And yes - 21 days! We'll be in February beforfe we know it - scary!

  8. Hello Nas - thank you for saying you enjoyed my post. I wanted to start the column off well

  9. That's a great quote, Nicolette. And there's no doubt that those nasty crows of doubt can peck away at your self confidence if you let them in. We all get times like that. I've accepted that I'm not always the best critic of my own writing until I've had some time away from it so I just keep on - as my dear friend Michelle Reid says 'Just tell the story'.

  10. I'm glad the post helped, Heidi - good luck with the book-wrestling! The problme is that each bok looks the same on the shelves and they don't show how much blood sweat and tears go into them.

    And 25 years - er, it's more like 25 now. My very furst published book was The Chalk Line in December 1984. But I was a child prodigy of course!

  11. Great post, Kate. Looking forward to many more dates with Kate!