Friday, November 19, 2010

How to be a slightly more Professional Writer

When I wrote my first novel I thought it was a bit of a hobby - to tap away at my novels in my free time - but having just signed a deal for more novels, I realise it will become more of a time-consuming occupation. Added to which, I am completely addicted to writing now!

With the prospect of a few more books on the horizon I have finally decided that I need to look upon writing as my profession. I am not expecting to give up the day job of course, but just - heck, I need a more comfortable chair to sit in whilst I write.

So, here are a ten things I have decided to do to make me feel like a professional writer.

1. It is OK, no - more than that, a necessity to buy books. If I'm expecting the publishing industry to support me, then I should support it. No more feeling guilty over my bulging bookcase. No more hiding the Amazon receipts from my husband. Besides, books for a writer are food. We can't be productive without them.

2. Allow time to read those books - preferably not at 3am when you are propping your eyelids open with matchsticks. My TBR pile is threatening to topple over and bury me.

3. Posh pens and nice pencils, and nifty red highlighters for editing are essential, as are box files to keep the drafts that you might need to refer to again. Stationery is one of a writer's little joys.It is amazing how cheerful I get at the sight of a nice sharp pencil.

4. A good shredder. Need I say more?

5. The desk and chair should be comfortable. For ages I have propped my laptop on my knee whilst curled up on the settee, but it has done my shoulders no good whatsoever, and I have finally had to get a decent chair. I now have one of those kneeling chairs which keeps me upright at least most of the time.

6. Visits to museums and galleries and historic houses should be part of a regular schedule and not crammed in only when desperately needed for a bit of research. Otherwise where will a sense of history or new inspiration come from?

7. Limit networking. Blogging, tweeting, facebooking are promotional tools, but I spend far too much time looking at everyone else's posts in awe, and it wastes time, so I've decided to do a little less but try to make what I do more useful. Is this useful, I worry?

8. Write a little more every day. This is probably a lot harder than going out to the store for furniture, but I reckon I must give it a go as this is probably the only real key to being a pro. And I need to get a lot more organised with labelling, backing up and storing files. I lose count of the number of times I've wasted twenty minutes looking for a missing chunk of text.

9. Meeting with my writer friends for coffee occasionally is a "meeting" in the same sense that business people have meetings. It is for us to discuss the industry and our place in it. (oh yes, and eat scones and jam.)

10. Watching TV in the day is not being a slob, it is research. (As long as it is something like Michael Wood's The Story of Britain or The Tudors and not The Simpsons.)And it is also OK to sit and do nothing with a dreamy look on my face because I am actually thinking. Thinking really means I am in another century in my head, please do not disturb!

Would you like to add any other ideas to the list? Any tips or hints gratefully received!

You can find out more about my books here The Lady's Slipper comes out next week in the US.

PS. By the way, if anyone is interested in the process of writing about the 14th century there is an post by Alis Hawkins (author of Testament) on writing historical fiction here.


C. N. Nevets said...

My wife has appreciated my recent realization of #1, because not only does she often like the books I'm booking up but when I place my order I keep ordering one or two for her, as well to balance it out. lol

I need to work on the desk and chair. I usually write on my laptop in a comfy chair, and it works okay, but it doesn't necessarily set up a professional zone around me.

Maybe even just another comfy chair in a different location that I treat as my writing spot might help.

And I'm consistently bummed that so many of the writers that I click well with are either on a US coast (I live in the middle) or in the UK. Makes that coffee thing much harder to pull off.


Alis said...

I think I'd probably add, don't feel bad about not answering the phone during the day. My family all know to ring on my mobile if it's urgent as I'm likely to ignore the landline thinking 'bound to be a sales call'!

Thanks for the link, by the way, much appreciated, A.

Maggi Andersen said...

I really want my husband to see this Deborah, he keeps asking me what's wrong when I lapse into quiet. And he'll never understand my love of old B & W movies, which I find a great souce of ideas, also perfect for a spot of procrastination.