Guest Post: Ten Lessons I’ve Learned Being A Writer by Colette Freedman

CF_TheConsequences_smlI really enjoy finding out what works well for other writers. Sometimes a tip hits home and I give it a try. Other times I wish I could follow suit because something seems smart. Other times I know myself well enough to know that something won’t work for me (like mandatory daily writing). 

Below, author Colette Freedman shares her writer life lessons with us. I think numbers two and three are my favorite, I wish I could do number seven, and believe strongly in number eight.

What about you?

Please tell us in the comments — and please welcome Colette Freedman to Women’s Fiction Writers!

                  Amy xo

Ten Lessons I’ve Learned Being A Writer

by Colette Freedman

CF_TheConsequences_smlWhen I started writing, I had very few guides. This was long before the days of cell phones as an extra appendage (guilty), rhymezone.com (a must when writing song lyrics) and the luxury of research at one’s fingerips and informative blogs beyond one’s wildest imagination. I just had the basics: libraries, parental advice, teachers’ thoughts, a lot of television watching and my own instincts. The following list is one which has taken me several years to perfect. Some of them, like numbers one and six may seem obvious, even though they involve the discipline we need as writers. Numbers five and seven are less obvious, but equally as important. In fact, each of the ten lessons I’ve learned has helped me to become a better writer and most of the list has come about by my own personal flaws of making mistakes and “doing the opposite”…ie refusing to vacation for fear of missing out, saying “yes” far too many times, and drowning in self doubt. As you pursue your craft, no many what your genre or platform, I hope that my lessons, learned from my personal mistakes, will help!

1. Write Every Day.

Writing often starts as a hobby.  You do it whenever you want; maybe weeks go by between sentences.  Writers write.  They do it every day.  Even if you work at Starbucks or in a law firm or in an advertising agency or as a lacrosse coach and write in the evenings and at weekends, you have to treat writing as a job. I worked in all of the above jobs (and many more). These ‘paying jobs’ took up most of my day and I was often exhausted when I got home and just wanted to turn on the tv and lose myself in a sitcom.  But I still had another job to do.  Writing is work and it takes work to actualize an idea into a fleshed out reality. If you believe you are a professional author and have the discipline of one, eventually you will become one (it happened to me!).

2. Say no.

Say it immediately and be definitive.

It’s both the easiest and the hardest one on the list. Life is full of wonderful opportunities and fabulous entertainment. But it is all a distraction.  As a writer, you need to pick and choose what is more important to you – an evening writing, or a night at the movies.  If you are not answering writing more than 50% of the time, you’re not really a writer.

3. Don’t be afraid to collaborate.

I like to work in three mediums: novels, plays and films. I’ve both written alone and I’ve collaborated in all three mediums and I absolutely love collaboration. When it works well, it is wonderful, although if you having a falling out with your partner, then it can be tricky.  The “baby” that you have created will link you and your partner together indefinitely. But let’s focus on the upsides, and there are many.  The biggest  upside is that you will have someone willing to go on the same adventure with you.

4. Get a comfortable chair.

I’ve written on everything from high back kitchen chairs to bean bag chairs…and I have a bad back to prove it. When I was working in advertising, my boss bought me an Aeron Herman Miller and it made all the difference. It’s ergonomic and I am able to focus more on the words on the computer than the aches and pains in my back. And if you are going to sit for hours at a stretch, remember: proper posture!  Which leads me very neatly to…

5. Stretch.

Working for hours on end is taxing on the body and eyes…. no matter how old you are. Stretch, take a walk, get a snack but get up every once and a while to move the blood around in your body.  Why do you think so many authors have dogs? They force us to get up every few hours. (I speak now from experience; I have two greyhounds who love to walk and  are always able to help me out on this one.)

6. Read.

I’ve said it in every interview. To write well, one needs to read well. Read voraciously in genres which interest you and explore ones that don’t. Read.  “What are you reading?”  is always the first question I ask people who tell me they are/about to be/are writers.  You’d be astonished you say, “Oh, I don’t have time to read.” I lose interest right at that point.

7. Vacation.

Ultimately, much of your writing life is going to be spent sitting in a room staring at a screen.  That’s a quick way to go stale.  You need to take a break  (This is an expanded version of item 5).  Pretty much every good idea that’s ever come to me occurred when I’ve been on vacation. And I don’t mean Italy or France (though those are terrific sources of inspiration), but Boston, Napa, Vegas, sunset Blvd – pretty much anywhere other than in your office, staring at a screen. When you are thrust in a new environment, it does something to the creative juices to get them swimming.   And of course, the part B of this, is to make sure that if a new idea comes to you that you have the tools to capture it.  There are lots of note taking options on phones and iPad, but I find that an old fashioned notebook, pen or pencil works just fine!

8. Pursue your passions and engage.

I love musicals and I’ll go to any show I can. (I’m even writing one right now in collaboration with an amazing partner. (see Collaborating, #2). If you love music or dance or art or politics or sports, enjoy them. Watch them. Participate in them. It fulfills you not only as a person but as an artist.

9. Get a mentor.

And what is a mentor?  It can be someone who has done what you are trying to do. It can be a teacher or a friend or someone who is already successful. It it can be a writing group – who encourages and supports you in your own efforts.  You probably don’t even have to seek one out as they’ve been there the entire time. (And yes, I have been lucky to have several mentors and advisors.)

10. Believe in yourself.

As you start out on your writing career, you will find scores of people who will tell you that you are wasting your time.  Ignore these naysayers. Confidence is the most important trait you can have in writing.  This is a lonely field and there will be many times when you will find yourself riddled with self-doubt. But you press on.  The rejections will come fast and furious (for every novel, play and screenplay I’ve had produced, I have had at least a dozen rejections). You must believe in yourself fully before other people can believe in you.

Colette_Freedman_307Colette Freedman is an internationally produced playwright with over 25 produced plays, Colette was voted “One of 50 to Watch” by The Dramatist’s Guild.

Her play Sister Cities was the hit of the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe and earned five star reviews: It has been produced around the country and internationally, fourteen times including Paris (Une Ville, Une Soeur) and Rome (Le Quattro Sorelle). The film version has been optioned and is in pre production.

She has co-written, with International bestselling novelistJackie Collins, the play Jackie Collins Hollywood Lies, which is gearing up for a National Tour. In collaboration with The New York Times best selling author Michael Scott, she wrote the thriller The Thirteen Hallows (Tor/Macmillan).

Her novel The Affair (Kensington) came out January 29, 2013. The play of the novel earned both critical and commercial success as it toured Italy February through May 2013.

Her novel The Consequences (Kensington) was released on January 28, 2014

http://www.colettefreedman.com

Twitter: twitter.com/ColetteFreedman

Pinterest: pinterest.com/colettefreedman

You can find out more about Colette’s books here: 

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/19Rc1zO

Good Reads: http://bit.ly/1ehlamu

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1dRPDpF

Author Interview: Lindsey Palmer Says To Write About A Passion, Or Better Yet, An Obsession

Pretty in InkLindseyPalmerI know you’re going to love today’s interview with Lindsey Palmer, who brings up something very important: if your book bores you while you’re writing it, STOP! Because then it’s likely to bore someone else. I will add that once you’ve reviewed, revised, edited, and read your book twenty times, it’s okay to be bored and then you’re likely not the best arbiter of what’s boring and what’s not — but when a book is new and being written — follow Lindsey’s advice and write about what interests you most. What pulls you through three hundred pages is likely to also pull along the right reader!

Please welcome Lindsey Palmer to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

Author Lindsey Palmer Says To Write About A Passion, Or Better Yet, An Obsession

Pretty in InkLindseyPalmerAmy: What has the best part been so far, now that you’re a published author? What has the most difficult part been? (I won’t say ‘worst’ but it’s not all easy, that’s for sure!)

Lindsey: The best part is hearing from readers that a certain character or conflict or plot point really connects with them–it’s wonderful to learn that the things that preoccupy and interest me resonate with other people, too. That’s a dream come true.

A more difficult part has been a new sense of pressure. I always considered myself a writer, but before I published a novel, it was something I did in my own little quiet corner of a cafe, a personal project that only a few people close to me knew about. Now, although it’s a thrill to have others think of me as a writer, it’s still a shock when someone casually asks, “What are you writing now?” I bumble a bit, one, because I don’t think I’m especially good at talking about works-in-progress, and two, because something that used to feel private has become more public. I do realize this is a pretty nice problem to have.

Amy: Did you have a favorite scene in the book while you were writing—and can you tell us about it without any spoilers? I also know that some of my favorite scenes when I’m writing are the most difficult to write. Did you have a scene that “gave you trouble?”

Lindsey: One of my favorite parts to write was the chapter narrated from the intern’s point of view. An office intern has such a unique perspective because she’s at the company but not of the company–she’s got more than a visitor’s pass, but she’s temporary, too, trying out this career to see if it fits. She may be naive about a lot of the inner workings of the office, but the fact that she’s less entrenched affords her a totally fresh viewpoint, which from a writer’s perspective was fun to inhabit after taking on the points-of-view of so many longtime staffers. Also, one might say that the intern in Pretty in Ink has more of a heart than the other characters, and yet she also commits what is arguably the least ethical act of the novel. For these reasons, she was an interesting character to develop.

One scene that gave me trouble was when the managing editor goes out to drinks with the new editor-in-chief, Mimi. Mimi has been cast as a villain up until this point, but I wanted to find a way to make her empathetic, to complicate her character a bit. I started thinking about how, despite her position of power, a new boss would face her own difficulties, in Mimi’s case insecurity and loneliness. What better way to get them out in the open than to get the character a little drunk? It was a challenge to write, but a fun one.

Amy: How do you feel about the term ‘women’s fiction’ and having your novel categorized as one that would appeal mostly to women?

Lindsey: Well, since Pretty in Ink is about a cast of primarily women and an exploration of issues and struggles that are often unique to women, it makes perfect sense to me that the book would be categorized as “women’s fiction.” Does that necessarily mean that a man wouldn’t read it and find a character or situation that resonates or interests? I would hope not. Categorization can be helpful when it comes to connecting with readers who know they like a certain genre–I’m all for that. Categorization only becomes problematic when it’s seen as exclusionary, as in, This book is X type so it would only appeal to Y readers. But really, I’m like most writers in that the main goal is to get eyeballs in front of my work, so whatever means can help make that happen is okay by me.

Amy: What’s your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction?

Lindsey: First, read a lot–you have to keep filling your brain with writing that sings in order to be able to craft your own powerful prose. Second, write about a passion or, even better, an obsession. Especially if your goal is to write a novel, you’re going to be living with those characters and that set of conflicts and issues for quite some time, and at least for me, the best way to keep motivated and interested is to be writing about something that presents endless enthrallment. If you get bored, your reader certainly will too. If you’re still fascinated by the end of the process, then hopefully readers will be too.

LindseyPalmerLindsey J. Palmer worked as a professional writer and editor in the magazine industry for seven years, most recently as Features Editor at Self, and previously at Redbook and Glamour. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she earned a Master of Arts in English Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and currently teaches 12th grade English, A.P. Literature, and Creative Writing at NEST+m in Manhattan. Lindsey lives in Brooklyn. Visit her at http://www.lindseyjpalmer.com, http://facebook.com/lindseyjpalmerauthor, and @lindseyjpalmer.

Author Interview: Dreams And Destiny Intertwine In Lydia Netzer’s Latest Novel

toledocoversidebarI am so honored to have Lydia Netzer on WFW again. Lydia is one of the most courageous and creative novelists I know. She’s generous with her advice and her insights, and never fails to same something worth listening to—and repeating. I wanted this interview with Lydia to be a little different, just to do a mid-summer shake-up! Below, Lydia shares with us not only the the origin of her latest book, HOW TO TELL TOLEDO FROM THE NIGHT SKY, but how she involved dream research in the writing, and what it all means to her.

Please welcome my dear friend Lydia Netzer to WFW!

Amy xo

How exciting! Here’s an addition to our post today—an audio clip from

HOW TO TELL TOLEDO FROM THE NIGHT SKY, available on Macmillan Audio.

Just click:

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Author Interview: Ellen Sussman Says There’s More Than One Way To Write A Novel (Even For Her!)

cover  Fleur right side upYou know what they say, timing is everything! And what good timing it is for us to have Ellen Sussman on Women’s Fiction Writers today to celebrate the launch of her latest novel, A WEDDING IN PROVENCE. Ellen shares exceptional insight and advice with us, perhaps no words better suited to me than these: “Write the best damn book you can.” It seem obvious, but can become an oversight when we get wrapped up in other parts of being a writer and author. So, thanks, Ellen. Simple words are often the most meaningful. And the smartest.

Please welcome Ellen Sussman back to Women’s Fiction Writers.

Amy xo

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Guest Post: Author Rita Plush Gives A Real Voice To Her Characters Through An Audio Book

ImageToday, author Rita Plush offers us an inside look at how she facilitated the recording of her own audio book, what that process entailed, and what it meant to her. 

There are a myriad of paths to traditional publication today — small presses to e-publishers to big publishers. I love seeing an author take things into their own hands when it’s possible or necessary — because no one cares about the success of our book as much as we do. Kudos to Rita for finding a new way for her author voice to be heard. 

Please welcome Rita back to WFW!

Amy xo

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A WFW Book Review: THE STORIES WE TELL By Patti Callahan Henry

There are several reasons I wanted to read THE STORIES WE TELL by Patti Callahan Henry.

I’ve loved every book of Patti’s.

She lived in Philly until she was about 12 (so we’re technically related).

We share an editor (THE Brenda Copeland) at St. Martin’s Press (also making us technically related).

Another reason is that while steeped in editing my second novel—GASP—I didn’t read much. What better way to get back into reading than with a sure thing? That’s what you get with Patti. A sure thing. THE STORIES WE TELL did not disappoint me in any way. It’s a layered family story, it’s complex, the language is lovely, and it’s easy to read. Combining those elements is not easy though. I used to think that “easy to read” was a criticism, but have come to realize it is a compliment. When an author can sweep you away with her characters, details, dialogue, and story, that takes some SKILLZ, folks. There is depth in the delightfulness of this book. There’s hope and there’s heartache.

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Author Interview: Natalia Sylvester Says Always Be Willing To Listen, Learn, And Grow As A Writer

ChasingtheSun_RevisedFinalFrontCover_jpegHappy July, friends! To kick off the month I’m excited to introduce Natalia Sylvester, whom I feel like I’ve known forever! Below, Natalia shares with us a wide range of wonderful thoughts—from her journey to publication, how the novel has impacted her family connections, what it’s like to write a novel set in another country. Natalia’s advice for writers is priceless: don’t forget to keep learning while you’re striving. Be willing. That’s the key. What an important reminder.

Please welcome Natalia Sylvester to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Amy xo

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