After years of hard work and self-motivation you finally can say, “I signed with my agent!”
I hope you did what I did. I danced all over my house, jumped up and down, drew a picture of myself shouting from the rooftops, “I have an agent!” I did everything I could think of to enjoy the moment. Want to know why?
Because after you sign, it’s still up to you to write.
You’re the writer. That manuscript your agent loves probably needs a bit of editing. And all those other stories swimming around in your head? They won’t write themselves. It’s up to you to get them on the page.
I think one of my greatest strengths, as a writer, is my persistence. Included in my dogged determination is my discipline. Routine is how I write.
For the first two manuscripts, I wrote when my daughter was young. My routine looked like this: I wrote next to her as we played. I didn’t get my best work done, but I was writing and that was a huge accomplishment for having an infant and toddler.
When she got a little bit older, I wrote after I dropped her at preschool and exercised. I understand this is a gift in my life, and not everyone can afford preschool. My mind, body, and spirit needed the time to replenish itself with exercise and writing.
My ass was in the chair for hours. I wasn’t always productive writing the most dazzling prose, but I was training myself. This was my writing time. I could spend hours during the day thinking about my story and scribbling notes on every surface and filling journals, so when I had my time at my computer I had plenty of material.
There’s a bit of irony to my devotion to writing at a specific time because I’m a pantser. Before I commit to a story, I must be obsessed with my main character, know their emotional truth and story and know how the book will end. But I don’t outline. I let the world build around my people and then I tear it apart and set horrible traps for my characters. I ask myself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” and make it happen.
My process also includes many drafts. The first shitty draft is a meandering map of figuring out the plot. I may have an idea, but it doesn’t always work. Subsequent drafts I add emotional resonance and tension.
Now there are days when life gets in the way of my writing, for sure. There are times when I find the need to clean my house, do food shopping, and laundry. I even see clients and have events for my intuitive healing practice, but I always return to writing.
By designating specific hours, it allows me to tell people, I won’t pick up my phone and I’m won’t be on the Internet. I also find that when I set aside specific times to work I accomplish so much.
Now if setting a specific time is too restrictive for you I’d love to offer a few tips to make it easy.
- Start by writing for 5 minutes. There are days when the blank page seems too much to fill, and the pressure to write can be overwhelming. On days like those I tell myself to write for 5 minutes. And then I get to it. And without fail, every time I do a five-minute exercise, at least 30 minutes fly by and I’ve got words on the page.
- Try a writing exercise. Who says you have to write linearly? If you’re not sure where to go in you manuscript, who says it’s the only thing to work on? Try a writing exercise. There are so many readily available on line. If you’re stumped here are a few of my favorites:
- Open a book and point your finger on three random words on different pages. Try writing for 5 minutes making a story with those words.
- Write a scene from your antagonist’s point of view after they leave a concert.
- Have your protagonist look around the room in the scene you’re stuck on. What’s the first thing they notice? Ignore it. What’s the second thing they pay attention to? Ignore that. What’s the third thing they notice about the room? Write about it.
- Read. Read. Read your genre. Read outside of your genre. Read books and magazines. Read things out of your league and things you aren’t interested in. Widen your worldview and perspective.
- Swap pages. Do you have a critique partner? If not, find one. It’s super important to read other peoples work and have yours read. Take the feedback. It will only help make you’re a stronger writer.
- I like ticking off boxes. One summer I calculated how many words per day I had to write in order to finish a draft. And then I wrote every day and ticket off the box. I didn’t always make the word count, some days I fell hundreds of words short, but other days I wrote thousands.
- Don’t judge the journey. However you need to write—do it. One letter followed by another and another and before you know it you’ve got sentences and paragraphs.
- Your critique partner can be your accountability partner. Create a healthy creative space for yourself and stick to it. Maybe you swap pages weekly, maybe monthly. It doesn’t matter, as long as you keep going.
- If these tips don’t work for you, don’t do it. Every writer is different. I have plenty of friends who are night owls and write all night long. My creative mind doesn’t work well at night. It’s tired. Know yourself and honor the work you need to do.
Being a writer is glorious and hard. It can be isolating when you spend hours a day talking to yourself and the characters in your head. I have connected with generous and kind writers on line and in person. We share our ups and downs and they make it fun.
Most of all, I know writing is intrinsic to who I am. I can’t imagine life without it. If you’re a writer, you know the feeling. Now stop making excuses and get to work. The world is waiting to read your stories.
About the Series:
Now What? is a series dedicated to navigating post-query life and the agent-author relationship. Authors from every stage of their writing career have come together to tell their stories. They understand the struggles of querying and moving forward with an agent and are here to help.
New posts go live every Friday!
Previous Posts in this Series:
How To Know if An Agent is Right For you
By Ana Franco
Three Myths and Two Truths About Getting An Agent
By Tammy Oja