This week Trish Wylie, one of the founder members of The Pink Heart Society, returns to discuss some of the things she discovered during a particularly rough writing patch.
I can’t tell you how good it is to be back! I could call it ‘taking a break’, I could say I was suffering from writers block, but the simple fact is there’s an eighteen month gap between my last book and the new one because for a couple of years my life went to hell in a hand-basket. As I attempt to make a come-back I’ve talked with other authors who have hit bumps along the way so I thought I’d discuss what I’ve learnt and pass it on in the hope it might help others.
Authors are individuals and what works for some won’t necessarily work for others. There’s a very good chance you may disagree with some of the points I make. You may also have things to add which I haven’t mentioned. Naturally all comments are welcomed and I’ll be taking notes.
Your writing has to come first and that means things like online loops, Facebook, Twitter, Blogging and everything else you feel you have to do to promote your work doesn’t matter a damn if you have nothing to promote. Readers want books, we need to eat, so if it means being brutal with the editing in this department, then so be it. Ask yourself how much good it’s doing, whether or not it has an impact and at the very least ease off when working on a story and then, when the book is released, make time in your schedule for promotion. Personally I’ve become a passionate fan of Twitter. It limits my word-count which means time-wise it only takes minutes. I also love things like Tweetdeck which allow me to be in two places at once but at the end of the day if it’s a choice between an hour spent online and an hour spent writing...
Remember the best form of promotion is your work. Consistently produce well-told stories and the reader will return to your books again and again. I know I do with the writers whose books I love. Don't you?
Presumably you’re in this for the long haul, not a sprint to the finish. Like any artist you need time to grow and stretch your wings. In business terms you could call it product development. Like all authors I had to discover what worked for me, how I could continue to grow as a writer and I had to stop worrying about how many books my peers were producing in a year compared to me. Yes, there is a correlation between books and income, but it may not necessarily be as much as you may think when related to the time you spend working on a book. What you have to decide is how many books you are comfortable producing without risking burn-out while still making time for things like promotion or doing talks or updating websites or any of a dozen admin tasks. If you don’t make time for those things you have to do them while writing and it can have a knock on effect on the quality of your work. Obviously if you can delegate some of the tasks it frees up writing time and good organization can relieve a lot of the pressure, but there is a reason publishers don’t look for six books in the first year of a new author’s career. Their investment is long term and allows the time you need to discover what you can handle. My suggestion would be to look at your career in the same way.
The latter may seem more obvious than the former but apart from the obvious dangers of RSI’s, back pain, eye strain and lack of sleep close to deadline, writers are also in danger of suffering from work related stress and depression (It was even listed as one of the top ten professions in danger of suffering depression). We work in an isolated environment, more often than not surrounded by people who don’t understand the nature of our work or how delving into characters feelings may lead us to take the emotional rollercoaster ride with them. We also have to survive on an irregular income and the difficulties which can result from that in real life; often experiencing extreme highs and lows. As a result some of the down time we schedule between books needs to be solely for us, so we can take care of our mental and physical well-being.
This may mean the simplest of things like spending time with family and friends, taking a walk, a weekend spent doing something you love or curling up with a tub of ice-cream and a pile of DVD’s-but regardless of how it is spent that time has to be yours. This is also important from the point of view of refilling the creative well. The seeds for story ideas are sown everywhere, but there are more of them outside the writing cave than within those closeted walls.
It’s all fine and well for a single girl who writes full time to say you have to be selfish with your writing time, but for those with other jobs, families and children it can be quite the juggling act. What you need to do first is admit when there is a problem, start seeking solutions and talk to others to see how they can help. This may mean sitting down with members of your family to explain why you need them to work with you until a book is finished; offering to allow them time of their own when you are done. It may mean delegating tasks to others who are either willing volunteers or people you can afford to pay. It may mean talking to your editor about adjusting your schedule or the possibility of an extension on a deadline. Obviously the latter can be avoided with realistic time-frames but good communication skills are vital and an editor would rather know what is happening than find themselves under the kind of pressure which will ultimately be passed down the line to you. I’m not suggesting you make it a habit, but we all have times when things don’t go according to plan or life throws us a curve ball we weren’t expecting. The thing to remember above all else is professionalism and a big part of a successful professional career is the ability to communicate with others. When it comes to personal relationships not only is that same communication essential (as all Romance authors should know from their work), you also have to be honest with yourself. Many of us make the mistake of feeling we have to do everything but we all have moments of weakness. It's OKAY to admit you need a helping hand or to re-prioritize when something has to give, so before you do anything else, give yourself a break. None of us are machines.
Last but not least you have to remember you are on as much of a journey as the fictional characters in your books. There will be times when things go well and you experience highs. There will be times when you hit a low point and it may seem all is lost. As is the case with all heroes the successful ones are those who don’t stay still but continue moving forwards; seeking solutions to their problems, learning from their mistakes and fighting for their reward. It’s up to us to be the heroes of our own stories and turn the next page.
Trish’s long-awaited new release The Inconvenient Laws Of Attraction is available now as a Riva in the UK and Ireland and can be purchased through the Mills & Boon Website, Amazon or ITunes. It will be released as a Harlequin Romance in the USA & Canada in March 2012. To find out more you can visit her Website or follow her on Twitter.
Meanwhile a signed copy of The Inconvenient Laws of Attraction is up for grabs. Trish will select a random winner from the comments on Friday so come tell us what you thought of her tips, let us know if you have tips of your own for coping with tough times or simply say 'hi'.