Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Want to Write a Book? 6 Things I’ve Learned

    By Kay Kendall

By now I’ve written fiction long enough to trust my own habits. Once, when I was a real newbie, I believed I must do just as the experts advise. But now I know on some points the experts differ.
1.   If your process works for you, trust it. For example, while most experts advise to rip through your first draft quickly, without editing as you go, I just can’t. I used to feel guilty—since I was doing things WRONG. Finally, lo and behold, I learned about other authors, bestselling authors, who also begin their writing days by editing what they wrote the day before. Whew. What a relief.
Here are some other habits I’ve also learned to trust:
2.     2. Keep reading. If you’re writing your own book, don’t stop reading other ones. I’ve read more, not less, since I began to write fiction. I submerged myself in the mystery/suspense genre for almost two years before I started Desolation Row—An Austin Starr Mystery. Picking up the tricks of the trade by osmosis works better for me than gulping ten dry how-to tomes. 
3.     Keep a notebook beside your bed. “Brilliant” thoughts are fleeting. Pin them down before they get away. I learned the hard way that wonderful ideas at 3:00 a.m. disappear by the time I awake in the morning. 
4.     Keep exercising. Health gurus are adamant that sitting all day is a terrible habit that can lead to early death and/or dementia. Besides, when I’m on my exercise bike, I zone out and then ideas for my writing zone in. The mind-body connection is worth protecting with sufficient exercise. However, it’s time for a true confession. I have trouble with this one, especially when I’m on deadline. 
5.     Keep up with your pals. Writing can be a lonely pursuit, and trying to get published these days is a killer. I needed all the support I could get, and my friends stepped up and stayed there right beside me on my journey. They kept me going through the darkest days and have been my staunchest supporters and shared my joy upon publication. I’ve also made new friends as I’ve joined writers’ critique groups and associations. I’m a staunch believer in the truth of what Barbra Streisand sang back in the sixties. “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”
6.     Keep the faith. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” When I saw that on a coffee mug for sale 15 years ago, I was too scared to pick it up. How dare I think I could write a novel? But I forced myself to buy that mug, and after using it for two years and writing my first manuscript, I began timidly to call myself a writer. Hold fast to your dream. Keep it alive by doing it.
I have faith I will complete new books because two of my mysteries have been published and the third will come out soon. I’ve pushed through the dark times, “getting by with a little help from my friends.” (Footnote to the Beatles) Moreover, if I’ve done this, then you can too. As we used to say back in the day, just keep on truckin’. And find what works best for you. Your mileage may differ from mine, but just do it.
Meet the author

Kay Kendall is a long-time fan of historical novels and now writes mysteries that capture the spirit and turbulence of the sixties. A reformed PR executive who won international awards for her projects, Kay lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to her bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she's a Bob Dylan buff. 
In 2015 Rainy Day Women won two Silver Falchion Awards at Killer Nashville.
Visit Kay at her website <>
or on Facebook <>


  1. I LOVE this! Every bit of your post resonates with me. I too edit while I write, keep a notebook by my bed -- with an LED pen so I don't have to turn on the bedroom lamp when inspiration strikes, I exercise, make time for my friends, and keep the faith. Sharing everywhere. Write well and prosper, my friend.

  2. How wonderful, Judy. Thank you for letting me know...and also for sharing widely. Sure hope we can finally meet IRL in Vancouver next spring at Left Coast Crime. Write on!

  3. Loved your post... and felt myself living some of my feelings and actions through it.

    1. Debra, I try to imagine being a writer in the old days, pre internet! I would have so many feelings that I would have no idea that others shared, and I would feel so bad and WRONG. These days we can reach out and make friends, arrange to meet at conferences, meet people non-IRL all over the world. It is fantastic. I don't feel alone when I sit at my PC. Since I am an extravert(maybe on the extreme edge of it too), then it would be very hard nigh onto impossible to sit in a room and not communicate with people day after day. The internet saves me. Truly. This has been a riff off your comment, but I am not sure you can tell that.

  4. Hi Kay,
    Thanks for this great post. I too edit, both as I go and next day reviewing. It gets my head in the game. I am guilty on the exercise. Promise to do better!--TK

  5. Hi there, Teresa. Getting one's head in the game is definitely a good by-product of my obsessive editing!
    On the exercise score, my detailed tip would be--Get thee a Fitbit! Mine has changed my life, and I really mean that. Three years with one, and my journey was like this:
    year 1 I moved more,
    year 2 I moved lots more with emphasis on doing it hourly during the day,
    year 3 I now exercise so much that I am losing some weight!
    Of course I had two health scares to push me, but at least I had the good sense to be pushed, and my Fitbit helps so much.
    Now I can say I am on my own personal exercise regime -- I call it the Fitbit-ABBA plan. The two together really get me going, with the tune "Gimme a Man After Midnight" just great for my hourly stepping...until I spend a whole hour later in the day on my indoor bike. And I love it.
    I was a born slug. Wouldn't crawl until my mother pushed a blue SUGAR BOWL in front of me, and then I went after it.
    I can sit for days on end, never move, just turn pages. That is the real me. Tain't healthy so I've had to change. Better late than never. I want to keep reading and writing as long as I can and meeting readers and authors. This is such a great life!

  6. Oh, I love this, Kay! I'm just at the start of my writing journey and your advice to trust your process is just what I needed to hear. Plus, to get moving. I'm going to get that Fitbit. Are there certain kinds? Do you recommend one?

    1. Good for you, Shari, and good luck, on both your types of journeys!
      You could start off with the cheapest Fitbit going, just to see if you like it, and then trade up.
      OR, you could leap right in and go to the Charge 2. I love mine. If you want a smaller "watch" face and thinner band then there is another model, that does comparable things to the Charge 2, but I forget its name, so just let me know if you need that one. It is amazing how all your stats can be sliced and diced on these little gadgets. If you are goal oriented at all, this should really get you up and focused on moving. Keep me posted! Tally ho!