Mum (or mom) of two preschoolers. Pastor’s wife. Public servant.
Writer. Most of us in this publishing journey, whatever stage we’re at,
juggle multiple titles and pressures on the 24 hours in our day. Those
take on a whole new life in the transition between aspiring author and
a contracted one.
Last February, I signed my first
publishing contract for two books. The first was written, the second
hadn’t even been started and was due to be turned in mid-October. And
when I say it hadn’t been started, I mean it literally existed in one
line in my publishing contract. There was no outline. No plot. Nothing
apart from the words “contemporary romance” “C.S. Lewis” and “Oxford”.
And I’m a pantser which means I usually work out what on earth my story
is about 50,000 words in (I’m working on this. It does not make for a
low stress publishing experience!)
So here are a few things
I’ve learned in the last fourteen months since the day my dreams came
true and life as a contracted author began
As much as we might like to think that when our name gets scrawled
along the bottom line of that magical publishing contract we will
suddenly become the most disciplined and focused of writers the truth
is that, at least for me, I was still well… me. I just now had an
entire publishing team depending on me to deliver to what I’d
when I’m not at my day job, I can’t write new material during the day
when the kids are around because I need to know that I have a good
block of time to really into the story world. With my daughter being
the world’s most unpredictable napper, day time writing was relegated
to edits on Close To You, writing guest blog posts, social media
building etc. Night time, once the little people were in bed and I knew
I had a good block of time available, was dedicated to getting new
Block It Out Like Any Other Commitment
My husband is an extrovert. A weekend without a couple of social events
is pretty much the same as locking him in a small windowless room.
After a few occurrences of him saying “What do we have on this
weekend?” and me saying “I have to write” we worked out a system that
fit us. I would send him calendar invites for the nights I was planning
to hide away in my writing hole so he could make plans of his own (he
saw a lot of movies last year with the guys that I had no desire to
see!). That way I got my writing time in, but he wasn’t continually
frustrated by my lack of availability.
Build in a Buffer
My original drafting plan for Can’t Help Falling had me finishing the first draft by the mid-late August. Once I’d layered in time for edits for Close To You
that became mid-September. Still a month’s wriggle room which I thought
would be plenty. I didn’t plan on there being six weeks over June/July
(New Zealand winter) where my family picked up pretty much every bug
going and I got almost no writing on Can’t Help Falling done. If I’d planned up to take up until the day that my manuscript was due in, I would’ve been in serious trouble.
Clear the Decks
Unless you are the most disciplined, well-planned of writers, the weeks
immediately before turning in a book is life in a creative
pressure-cooker. Put off everything that you can. Be shameless about
accepting every bit of help that you’re offered, as much as it may hurt
your pride. Tell people in advance that, short of a crisis, you are
going to be the world’s worst non-existent friend for X weeks. If you
have a day job TAKE TIME OFF. I took a few days. I learned my lesson.
Short of an actual miracle, next time it will be at least a week.
Pay It Forward
the world’s most supportive writing community and, truth be told, I was
seriously high-maintenance for a few months last year (this is what
happens when you are a pantser and realize in mid-September that you
are 80,000 words into your manuscript and you have NO IDEA what your
hero’s goal is!). My writing sisters rallied around and gave me
everything they could to help get Can’t Help Falling
over the line (twice, we’re not even talking about the developmental
edits where I basically rewrote the entire thing because I worked out
the plot AFTER I turned it in. Yes, my editor is an actual saint).
a writing community doesn’t work when you’re the person constantly in
need. Once my high-maintenance episode was past my critique partners
had their own writing and deadlines that they needed me to come into
bat for them on. And if, for whatever reason, I couldn’t help them with
their writing, then I found another way to show my appreciation. I am
literally useless to one of my critique partners, so our deal is she
saves me from looking like a punctuation Neanderthal, and I send her
lots of New Zealand coffee.
Never Forget You Are Living the Dream
the last fourteen months, there were many moments when it would have
been easy to lose my joy in this whole crazy adventure. When my husband
was away, my kids were sick, and I had edits due. When social media
numbers stayed obstinately stagnant, despite my best efforts. When I
felt like I was short-changing my family as I struggled to be present
with them while my mind whirred through the overwhelming to-do list.
And in those moments I would pause and think one thing. I get to live the dream.
I have an entire publishing team that believes in my writing. I have an
editor that went into bat for me to acquire my books. I have early
readers who love Close To You. Out of all of the thousands of aspiring
authors out there, for some crazy reason, God opened the doors for my
dream to come true now. He’s entrusted me to live the dream.