Monday, November 16

Don't have time? Sure you do.

by Liz Flaherty

The other day, I was talking to some people at a craft fair when a pretty young woman heard one of the others mention that I am a writer. She waited till the conversation was over, till I'd been stung by a woman saying, "Oh, yes, I read those when I was about twelve," when I said I wrote for Harlequin. At least, I thought, she didn't ask when I was going to write a real book. Or where the restroom was. I suppose that would have come later.

But I regress. When the conversation ended, the young woman--her name is Whitney--introduced herself and asked about writing and we talked a little bit. She reads "everything," the best kind of reader there is. She was pretty, bright, and interesting. It was fun talking to her. She said someday she wanted to write a book. And someday, when she had time, she was going to write.

Which led to me giving advice she didn't ask for. Not that I'm a stranger to doing that, but just this one time, I was right to do it.

"Whitney," I said, calling her by name beause I love her name, "don't wait until you have time."

And I know, really I do, that I'm not the first person who ever gave that advice, but it is undoubtedly the best advice I ever gave.

I went on to tell her that I'd written my first three books sitting on bleachers. That was, in truth an

exaggeration, but I did do some writing there. And in the car while I waited on kids. And during my lunch hour. And in the early morning hours before work--I had to get up at 3:30 AM anyway, so we're talking really early--I wrote the first draft of One More Summer in 83 days.


Just last week I waxed pompous to Wrangler Margie, telling her I didn't know how I'd managed writing books and working fulltime all at once. I still don't know, but I do know this. I never had time, so I guess I made time. Thank goodness for coilbound notebooks and pens that write well.

So, to Whitney, and to any other young writers out there, that's my best piece of advice: make time. My second-best is, when you meet a veteran writer, walk right up and talk to her the way you did to me. It makes our day.

And, from the veteran writers who are visiting us today, what's your best piece of advice? And leave us a link to your newest book while you're here--we were all readers first. Good ones like Whitney, who read everything.
***
To the people of Paris, our hearts and our prayers are with you. 


32 comments:

  1. My fiction first got published in 2011; if I'd followed your advice, I would have been published ten or fifteen years earlier. So yes -- good advice!

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    1. I always wrote, but it was mostly practice--I didn't believe anyone would ever publish my work.

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  2. Good advise for young writers and old, er, more mature writers as well!

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    1. I don't think I knew till I retired (when I was good and...er...mature) that I was never going to HAVE time for things, so it was important to make it.

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  3. Great advice and so very true! I couldn't agree more. I would add to that don't stop writing after you start even if the story feels lame. Just write it. Later you can go back and address any issues or do revisions and rewrites.

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    1. Good advice, Nan, and important, too. We all have beginnings we fizzled out on too soon.

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  4. I really enjoyed this post, Liz. A somewhat related story...I was returning home after a day of horseback riding (and then grooming the horses, thus not looking my best) on a hot summer day and I stopped at a gas station. The car in front of mine had personalized plates: "CHICK LIT." I asked the driver if she was an author. She was genuinely surprised, and said that people didn't make the connection. I told her I was an author. We chatted, exchanged e-mails and I have happily provided her the encouragement and advice that I could. I am still in touch with her through social media.

    I do author interviews on my website. One of the questions I ask is what advice established authors have for aspiring ones. Since the responses to this question seemed to be so popular, I summarized a few of them in a post a while back: http://www.kate-james.com/journal/2014/6/16/rfnpy1w58w1aspfwpeyazpccgbl81e

    As for links to my books--thank you for asking--here is the link to my October release, WHEN THE RIGHT ONE COMES ALONG, currently 30% of at Harlequin: http://www.harlequin.com/storeitem.html;jsessionid=12DB88E242B6EEB282FED3CE6B664231?iid=60822. Also, my first Heartwarming book, A CHILD'S CHRISTMAS, is now only $1.99 at most US online retailers: http://www.amazon.com/Childs-Christmas-Kate-James-ebook/dp/B00K9ZZA0G/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

    Happy reading and/or writing!

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    1. Thanks, Kate, and for anyone else here--don' t miss Kate's stories.

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  5. Love this, Liz, and it's definitely one of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten...the other is: just get the story down. Beginning to end, scenes in the wrong order. Just get the word down on paper because you can pretty it up when the draft is down...

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    1. That is so smart. I am always shocked that a scene can even BE in the wrong order, because my writing is llinear, but it can--no matter how obsessive you are! :-)

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  6. Truer words were never spoken, Liz. If we all waited until we had the time to write, we'd never get around to it. If I could give one piece of advice to an aspiring or new writer, it would advise him or her to not be afraid of what they find themselves writing. For years, I wanted to write sci-fi, and yet when I actually started writing, I turned out to be a romance writer. I could have freaked and turned my back on what was inside of me, but instead I faced down that fear and with three published books and three more set for release next year, I think I made the right choice. A new writer has to be willing to allow him or herself to make that choice.

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    1. Oh, good point, Jim, and something I never thought of. Thank you--and congratulations on where your career is going!

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  7. I love this blog, Liz. This is probably the most important piece of advice a person can give to an aspiring author. I'm retired now, and I think I wrote more when I worked full time. It's easy to do something else when I'm stuck.

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    1. Isn't that the truth? I don't know that I wrote more, but I certainly accomplished more in shorter times. :-)

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  8. Hi Liz, Great advice! Like Stephanie, I'm also retired but don't always use my time well. And I'm easily distracted. Setting a goal of 1K words works for me (most of the time).

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    1. I think that's a good thing--setting word count goals. I can do it now, but I couldn't when I was working. I was already at near-hysteria trying to keep all the balls in the air. I couldn't have added another. :-)

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  9. Best piece of advice I ever received was to write visually. The reader isn't inside your head, doesn't see what you're seeing, so paint a vivid picture. The example was - when you mention a 'boat,' the reader doesn't know what to envision - anything from a rubber boat to the Queen Mary. But when you talk about 'a red canoe,' the picture is formed instantly. Great blog, Liz.

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    1. That is so good--and something I'll watch for, because I'm not sure if I do it or not. Thanks, Muriel.

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  10. Oh my, Liz. I wrote when I had the chance and eventually, I had better set times. I have a friend who writes on her lunch hour. And she has cranked out several books. My best advice came from my first critique - Write Tight.

    And thank you for remembering Paris.

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    1. That's a good idea. I'm not sure I do it, but hopefully by the third or so time through, it's tight. :-)

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  11. Liz, what a great post! I can't tell you how many times I've heard similar comments. "How do you have time to write?" "I've always wanted to write a book, but I don't have time" etc. I always say the same thing you do. Make time. We all have the same amount of hours in a day. Don't get me wrong - I'm not the best time manager by any means. Or the most productive writer. I'm easily distracted and full of anxiety, too. But you have to carve out the time for the things you love and/or want to accomplish!

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    1. And the funny thing is, I was never really conscious of doing it. I do the same thing now, when I hardly ever say No because I want to do everything. If you want to do something enough, you'll find the time and you won't even realize you've done it. The important thing--and one I should have mentioned--is that you don't let go of anything that IS more important. Family is.

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  12. Wow Liz, great advice and very timely for me. Having just returned from the IRWA retreat this past weekend I realized that I must make time to write. The stories are all flying around in my head but unless I find time to write they will go nowhere. I told Nan as we were leaving that I will have a draft of my first novel by retreat next year (hopefully more quickly than that). At least I gave myself a deadline. One More Summer is one of my all time favorite books. I am glad you found time to write that wonderful story. Thanks for your words of wisdom.

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    1. Thanks, Carolyn. I was so sorry to miss retreat. I'm looking forward to seeing that manuscript!

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  13. I write at long stop lights. And in line at the bank. Waiting rooms for doctors' appointments are sites for leisurely writing.

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    1. I've never worked at long stop lights, but I've done some heavy-duty stuff in waiting rooms!

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  14. I used to write during the two 15 minute break periods when I worked in a factory, plus in the middle of the night when I awoke with a brainstorm.

    Best advice I'd ever heard? "Don't get it RIGHT, get it WRITTEN'.

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    1. I think that's right, Molly. I did that, too, writing on break time, and in the middle of the night, too--though I'd pay for that the next day. :-(

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  15. I just want to thank you from my heart for this. You really don't know how much this meant to me, it gave me a fire. I will hold onto that advice for a very long time. Thank you for being so true and sharing advice for others and myself that was needed to be heard. It was such a pleasure meeting and talking with you. I'd love to talk more sometime. Thanks again.

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    1. Oh, Whitney, thanks for coming by. It was lovely meeting you, too. That's fire's a great thing to have!

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  16. Great advice! Monday, I left work and stopped at B&N. I only had some 4X6 cards, but I filled them with a couple of scenes that had been nagging at me to get them down. Every moment counts.

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    1. Sure does! And note cards are a godsend!

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