Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Writers Wednesday: When Something's Gotta Give


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.

Prioritize:

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?

Pace Yourself:

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.

Mental & Physical Health:

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.

Communication:

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.

Learn From Your Mistakes:

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'.

19 comments:

  1. Welcome back, Trish... It's so good to see you here (with a really useful post) but even better to see you back in the Riva line-up... Looking forward to loads more of your wonderful books.

    Heidi x

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  2. So great to see you back in the saddle Trish. Can't wait to read your latest.
    x
    Rach!

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  3. Hi Heidi! Like I said in the post its so good to BE back and I have to say I'm loving writing for the RIVA line. (And I'm in great company there VGB)

    If I don't 'see' you online before the big day, have a GREAT Christmas my friend! x x x

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  4. Hello again Rachel! Psssst! *whispers* You might want to keep an eye on the winner of the win-a-book thing I did last week... ;)

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  5. Hi Trish! I'm a huge fan, and I'm so excited that you have a new book coming out! I can't wait to read it!

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  6. Hi Denise and thank you!!! I'm just as excited, but nervous at the same time. It's like being a new author all over again. :)

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  7. What a fantastic post! Thank you! (I would leave a longer comment but that would just be a form of procrastination . . . I must go and start being "the hero of my own story.") Really - lots of super advice here, thank you for taking the time to share it with us. Louise

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  8. Wonderful post, Trish! And I've already bought your book, too :) Great to have you back.

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  9. Honestly, I'm choked up.....you're one of the original founders; your dedicaion to the romance genre has been amazing. Can't wait to read and review your book.

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  10. Hi Louise! Glad you found the post useful. I learnt so much about myself this last couple of years and when reading many, many books on writing to try and get out of my funk the 'hero of your own story' phrase really stuck with me. Hope it helps!

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  11. Hi Leah! *waves* And bless you for buying the book!!! (I've spotted it a couple of times in local stores whle Christmas shopping and I STILL get a kick out of that) Fingers crossed you enjoy it!

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  12. Marilyn don't you DARE make me tear up! As soon as the US copies of the book appear with me I shall wing one to you in the post, my lovely. SO GREAT to see you!!!

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  13. Ohhh Trish it's so good to see you back! We've all missed you. Caroline x

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  14. The trouble with those Riva titles is that they don't seem to come out in India. We get some Cherish (which is called Romance) here, only two titles a month, a full eight modern titles and two desire and 2 nocturne and 2 historical. So when some of my favourite writers have books out, I can't seem to get them unless they write Modern. I hope your book comes out in India soon. That's where I live btw, although I'm from Ireland.

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  15. I found one of your older titles in a secondhand bookshop lately, 'The Millionaire's Proposal'.

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  16. Hi Caroline! I've missed you guys too. It's so great to be back among friends. Especially at this time of year! Have a wonderful Christmas my friend :)

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  17. Hi Maria! You've just increased my knowledge of the releases in India by pretty much 100%! I know I had a book there the month they first released - Her One And Only Valentine, I think - but beyond that I'm very much in the dark. If there was one I would hope someone would find anywhere it's The Millionaire's Proposal. I'm an ikkle bit proud of that one and pick it up anytime I need a reminder of what it was like to be able to write before the crows of doubt swept in. Nollaig Shona Duit Maria! (And if you're still having problems finding titles give me a shout and I'll have a dig to see what I can send you!)

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  18. Sorry to be late coming back for the prize draw! Went Christmas shopping yesterday and suffice to say I'm STILL recovering. Anyhoo, the winner is Caroline!!! Email me your postal addy and I shall pop the book in the post...

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  19. Thanks Trish. I'm well chuffed. Will send my addy asap. Caroline x

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