Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What I Learned about Writing in 2009

As 2009 winds to a close, I spent some time considering the things I've learned about writing over the course of the past year, with one book on submission and a second in the works:

1. Books don't write themselves. The screen will be just as empty of words tomorrow as it was yesterday if I don't put any there today.

2. It's easy to consider myself a writer without actually writing anything.

3. Ideas need time to percolate. The subconscious mind continues to work and create between writing sessions. If I make use of odd free moments just to picture a scene and the characters in it, things go much more smoothly the next time I sit down to write.

4. The internet is the greatest threat to my productivity, even more distracting than frantic college freshmen and whiny four year-olds. I can tame it, however -- at least temporarily -- with a timer and a smidgeon of self-discipline.

5. The oft-repeated strategy of tricking myself to write by telling myself I'm only going to write for fifteen minutes or a half hour really does work. Starting is the hardest part; once I get going, time flies by and I find myself reluctant to stop.

6. I can't write out of sequence, no matter how stuck I am. I can, however, start a new chapter without knowing exactly what will happen in it.

7. Scrivener is the most amazing writing software EVER.

8. Readers of historical fiction don't care how many obscure historical facts I know if these details bog down the story or deaden my characters. Conflicts and crises keep readers reading, not descriptions of banquets or slashed sleeves. Detail enhances the flavor of the story, but can never compensate for a lackluster plot.

9. Celebrating other writers' successes and publicizing their books makes the wait for my own sale easier to bear. My turn will come -- and if it doesn't, I've spent my time in a positive way and nurtured new friendships in the process.

10. I might have picked the absolute worst moment in the history of publishing to try to sell a debut novel, but I'm incredibly lucky to have the time, resources and support to pursue my dream.

11. I can do it again! I do have a second novel inside me, and a third and and maybe even a fourth...

12. It doesn't matter how many people believe in me if I don't believe in myself.

Writers, what have you learned about writing this year? Please share! And here's to 2010 -- may it be a year of personal growth and dreams fulfilled for all of us!


Stephanie Cowell said...

I know that almost all writers fear they won't have a new book because the old one possesses them so much. I feel this is a very good time for historical fiction! I agree with you that getting the reader involved in character conflict and plot carries most of the weight and where historical detail is of course vital, it is not the bones of the story at all. Good luck to you this year!

Stephanie (CLAUDE & CAMILLE: A NOVEL OF CLAUDE MONET, April 2010 from Crown)

Julianne Douglas said...

It's been fun working on a new novel after the first occupied my thoughts and time for so many years. I'd forgotten what the discovery stage of novel-writing was like.

2010 will certainly be a big year for you, Stephanie... I'm very much looking forward to reading CLAUDE & CAMILLE.

Thanks for sharing, and Happy New Year!

lucyp said...

These are all words to live by. Happy new year, and much success in 2010! I have a good feeling about this new decade...

Katie said...

Happy New Year Julianne!!!!!!

Julianne Douglas said...

Happy New Year to you, too, Lucy and Katie. 2010 is going to be a great year.

The Startup Experiment said...

Maybe you should write a self improvement book next. These are words of wisdom that could be applied to anyone who has the courage to start something from nothing. Best of luck on your book!

Miss Moppet said...

I use a timer too! I've got a Firefox app for it.

I agree details can bog a story down. My new project will be set four hundred years earlier than the last book, and I know a lot less about the background, but in a way it helps because I can concentrate on the story and only go into detail on the stuff I feel the reader will want to know.

Wishing you all the best for 2010.

Mirella Sichirollo Patzer said...

Just dropping by to let you know how much I enjoy visiting your blog. Love the new background. I started using the same designer on mine. Love her work.

Happy writing in 2010


Julianne Douglas said...

May 2010 be a year of great success for both of you, Startup and Miss Moppet!

And Mirella, so glad you like the blog. I added your excellent site, Historical Novel Review, to my sidebar.
Happy writing back to you!