By Kay KendallBy 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 three of my mysteries are published and the fourth is in progress. 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.
NOTE: This post originally appeared one year ago to great acclaim from other authors. I am recycling it so others can read this who may have missed it last year.
Meet the author
Author Kay Kendall is passionate about historical mysteries.
Her second book Rainy Day Women won the Silver Falchion for best mystery at Killer Nashville. Her newest is After You've Gone.