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Not Your Usual Writing Advice


Number One

“The moment we indulge our affections, the
earth is metamorphosed; there is no winter
and no night; all tragedies, all ennuis, vanish–
all duties even.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Writers write.”

We’ve all heard it. We’ve probably all quoted it, to ourselves if not to others. We’ve practiced it, and lived it.

Sometimes we know we aren’t living it any longer. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking we are living it when we aren’t. Sometimes living it falls by the wayside without our intention, and we wake up one day and say, “How did that happen?” And sometimes when that happens, we find we are in the middle of such a chaotic, overwhelming period of life that we can’t figure out how to get back to living according to our basic premise—writers write.

As discussed in previous columns, I believe there are times in our lives during which priorities shift, and writing might properly be left on the shelf for a time. At other times, we need a reminder to reset our priorities.

A professional writer’s life has always been made up of more demands than “just” writing the current manuscript. There are the future books (and continuing income) to consider, therefore proposals that must be kept before editors. Keeping up with the market is important. Continuing to learn and grow in our craft, negotiating contracts, proofing galleys, keeping up a presence with readers—answering reader mail, blogging, establishing a website and keeping it current—sometimes learning new software: are all important aspects of a writing career. Today we have the challenge and opportunity to learn the many aspects of the new world of indie publishing.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the aspects of the career other than writing, we forget or slip away from the most important element—writers write. Writing more stories is the way we keep the career moving ahead, the way we will continue to generate money, the way we build time and more readers so we can continue writing our stories in the future.

I once heard Debbie Macomber speak on time management. She said she chose to concentrate her time on what she could do that no one else could do—write her stories. If galleys arrived to be proofed and she was behind on a current manuscript, getting caught up on the current manuscript received priority. “After all,” she said, “I’m not paid to proof galleys.” I agree. As authors, it’s important to us that the published version of our books is “right”, but we get paid to create the stories.

My father raised me with a similar view. He owned a plumbing and heating firm. He taught me by example to spend my time doing what I do best and hire others to do what they do best. “I can make more money doing what I do well than I can save using that time to do something I don’t do well,” he told me repeatedly.

In other words, he paid mechanics to work on the vehicles, paid house painters to paint the house, and so forth, and didn’t complain about the cost. It was cheaper than doing it himself, whatever the expense.

I sometimes forget those lessons: the need to concentrate my time on what I can do that no one else can do for me, and on what keeps the career and its income flow growing. Lately I’ve been busy looking at houses, preparing for a move, helping my elderly mother who recently hurt herself in a fall, performing technical writing (yes, writing for money, but not writing stories), talking with a publisher about new fiction contract offers, learning what I need to know to catch up with those of you who are already indie publishing, deciding which books will be best to indie publish first, what aspects of the indie books to do myself and what aspects to hire another to perform, considering writing novellas to indie publish to benefit from books which are be-   

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