Back before I put on my big girl pants and actually went about finishing and submitting things, my idea of “being a writer” was to buy as many writing books as possible and to attend as many talks as I could. Now, there's nothing wrong with improving your craft, or with wanting to understand the business side of writing before you get into it, but what I was doing was really just some very creative dawdling. Ask my mother -- she'll tell you that I have made dawdling a life-long pursuit and have been a champion at it since the first time someone handed me a homework assignment.
But then I decided that if I was going to spend all that time and money asking people for advice, maybe I should actually start listening to all those very nice, very successful writers at the front of the room when they told us that you can't be a writer if you don't actually, you know, write things. So I sat my ass down and wrote, along with my best friend and fellow dawdler (talk about the blind leading the visually challenged), and when we were done, we had a book (Winner Takes All). It was short and it was naughty and we had so much fun writing it, we did it again, and came up with Where the Heart Is. And now we're turning a rough draft into a very solid novel that will be our longest yet, something I'm so excited about, I just can't hold still.
Funny enough, now that I'm actually using the massive collection of tips and tricks I spent all that time putting together, I really do find myself listening more and more to the advice that always drifted over my head before. Lately, the piece that's been the most useful has come from Kevin J. Anderson: always have a lot of irons in the fire. The first time I heard it, it scared the hell out of me; I was too ADD to finish one thing, how could I even hope to work on two or more? But Anderson's point, I've finally accepted, is just as Billy Crystal said in Throw Momma From the Train, “A writer writes. Always.” For example, here's a sample of my works-in-progress:
Currently, Jenny and I are working on the second draft of a speculative fiction romance that we wrote ages ago and couldn't figure out what was missing from the original manuscript. We set it aside and did other things, came back to it, and now can poke and prod and add whole scenes and themes that will make this a really fantastic book. But sometimes my life gets in the way, or Jenny has a book to record (she does audiobooks, how cool is she?), or the fact that we're two time zones apart gets between us and our schedules for a few days, and we can't meet up to work together. I'm a little too fond of shiny objects, so having things to do is always good, which means I need a back-up plan, right? Well, now I do. Several, in fact.
I have a one fully-plotted scifi that was started as a novella and is clearly going to be a novel that will possibly open up a whole series, so that can always be poked at. Or there's the space age story I just started, with only the barest character sketches and plot ideas more development there would be hot. And of course, Jenny and I have been talking about possibly doing an historical, so I've been having fun with my own end of the research. And new ideas are always coming to me, so I try to write them down for later, because you never know when the perfect call will come along. AND I'm a member of Truly Madly Deeply Romance Authors, so I have my free read to write for that (it's going to be so sweet, you guys. I really hope you like it).
Sometimes I even write blog posts. :)
All of these are distinctly different, but they keep me working, keep reminding me that I'm a writer now, no longer that girl in the back of the Dragon*Con Writer's Track room, writing down things that I'll promptly ignore. I'm always writing, always looking to be bringing one of my projects to the next stage, one step closer to putting a bow on it.
I'm envious of writers who say that they never get blocked, or who say they can power through it. Me, if a story isn't happening, trying to force it only screws me over for when I will actually be in the right mindset to work on it again. Paint, corner, anyone? So by having a lot of projects going at anyone time, in various stages of development, I avoid a lot of the frustration. This way, if one of them is being a pain in my ass, I can make a rude hand gesture at the Word document and move on to something else. I still get work done, and in the meantime I can let complicated things work their issues out in due course.
I produce finished product slowly as a result, but damned if I'm not always writing. Considering that my writing time is whenever I can grab a few minutes of peace (no mean feat) in my evenings after work-and-dinner-and-family, on the weekends around errands and the constant sounds of drunken video gaming from my neighbor next door and the remodeling bonanza downstairs, always having options is a very good thing. Life is full of interrupted trains of thought, and having another line to jump on saves me from wasting perfectly good working time.
So, yes. Lots of irons in the fire. Because a writer writes. Always. And damned if I'm not a writer. I don't have time for as many craft development books or talks anymore, but that's okay. I've done enough dawdling and it's time to stir up the embers and heat my irons a little more.
What kind of irons do you have in the fire?
My most recent completed iron (er... book):
Where the Heart Is
Jason, Steve, and Chris have seen each other through the toughest times of their lives, but when they're snowed in together on their annual Thanksgiving ski trip, they learn that you can still have secrets even after twenty years. After Steve reveals he's on the verge of a major decision that could break them apart, those secrets their desires might be the only thing that could save them.
Then a blizzard hits and snows them in, and there's nowhere to run from the feelings they've been ignoring for years. None of them want to choose one and risk the other, but before the week is out, they're going to have to find a way to make the three of them work again. If not, they're going to lose each other after all.
Find it here from Loose Id:
International woman of mystery and wearer of many hats, Elizabeth Silver is a writer, a worker, a nerd, and a self-proclaimed internet junkie. An avid reader all of her life, Elizabeth also began writing at an early age, and fell in instant, undeniable love. It's been a long and wicked affair, but literature is damn good in bed with a cup of cocoa.
With her feet planted about halfway between New York and Philadelphia, Elizabeth has often been accused of having her head in the clouds, although what she's really doing is just thinking really hard. Elizabeth can frequently be found at the local diners or coffee shops with internet access and bottomless refills, working on new story ideas on her own or with her close friend and co-author, Jenny Urban.
Find Elizabeth on the web and say hi!
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