Loree Lough

With nearly three million books sold, best-selling author Loree Lough’s titles have earned 4- and 5-star reviews and dozens of awards. Reviewers and readers alike call her “a gifted writer whose stories touch hearts and change lives.” Her 9/11 novel From Ashes to Honor (#1 in First Responders series, Abingdon) hits bookshelves to coordinate with the 10th anniversary of the tragedy. Loree lives near Baltimore and loves spending time at her teeny tiny cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, where she loves to show off her talent for correctly identifying critter tracks. Visit Loree at http://wwwloreelough.com.

Be Careful of What You Ask For - Part II

Last month, in response to a stack of mail I received from readers who are also writers—or hope to become published authors—we touched on a few of the so-called writing basics. This month, we’ll answer a few more writing-related questions.

Q: I write in my bedroom, on a desk I share with my husband. When he isn’t complaining about the glare from the screen, he’s whining about the click-clack of the keys. Any suggestions? (Eileen B., Des Moines, IA)

You really, really, really need your own space. A desk shared with your husband, a corner of your kitchen counter, or the end of the dining room table is not conducive to productivity. Why? Because it invites numerous distractions and disruptions, and things—your things, your writing things—tend to get lost or misplaced. Besides (harkening back to last month’s tax discussion), how would you describe that so-called writer’s space when preparing to deduct a percentage of the square footage of your house?

Name two accountants, lawyers, doctors, or chefs who share their work space with spouses. Would any of those bona fide pros allow their kids use their business equipment to play video games? I think not. So why should you?

Doesn’t matter if you’re a full- or part-time writer or dog walker, hair stylist, shrink, or Wal-Mart greeter, the place where you work is as important as the work, itself. If you don’t think of yourself as a professional . . . I don’t need to finish that sentence, do I?

So find a spot in your house. Doesn’t matter if it’s a repurposed guest room or that closet under the stairs, if your desk is a sheet of plywood supported by two Wal-Mart filing cabinets (you’ll need those, anyway, to store your records), you need desk space in a place that’s off limits to everybody. Paying the household bills in this space is not allowed. Sharing of recipes is forbidden, and so are watercolor or crayon creations. Playing cards, bingo, and Monopoly? Uh-uh-uh.

Q: Should I belong to a critique group? (Jillian P., Joliet, IL)

I hate to be vague, but that depends.

Do you have time for this?
Do you have the stomach for “tough assessments” of your work?
Do you know how to give as good as you get?
Do you understand the difference between offering your opinion and submitting advice?

I belonged to several critique groups over the years, where I met some terrific people—some who became lasting friends—and some real wackos. These days, I stay in touch with the sane ones by phone and e-mail, because deadlines make it impossible to attend the meetings.

Q: What about contests? Should I enter? (Irma G., Nashville, TN)

First things first: They can be pricy, so don’t let that alone guide you. Some writers feel contests shorten the road to publication, and others think they’re a waste of time. Some editors give “winning entries” serious consideration when making decisions about issuing contracts, while others say the results make no difference whatsoever. So you’ll have to be the judge (pardon the pun) of whether or not you can afford the time, money, and angst.

Q: What’s the point of attending writers’ conferences? (Ed N., Baltimore, MD)

Conferences provide great opportunities to network with your peers and meet editors and agents. If you’re already published, it’s a chance to get some one-on-one face time with your editors and agent. But be warned: Like contests, these can be expensive, especially when you add to the registration fee the cost of travel, accommodations, meals, cab fare, and the like. Yes, a portion of these expenses are deductable, but you’re the only one who can determine if the time away from the office and the cost of being there is worth the drain of your energy and funds.

Q: Then what about enrolling in writing courses, or signing up for local seminars and workshops? (Paula H., Indianapolis, IN)

Even those closer to home aren’t free, so you’ll still need to weigh the pros against the cons. Do you have time for the hour, half-day, all-day, or weekend get-together?

In all cases, do your homework to check into who will be teaching the material! I know dozens of instructors with no credible experience. Need proof what might be lurking behind what looks like the perfect course? One such instructor (and I use the term loosely) used my serious illness as an excuse to visit and, knowing I couldn’t oversee the use of my copy machine, used those minutes in my office—while the machine clicked and whirred—to steal handouts, class lectures, and lesson plans . . . and later used them to teach a writers’ course.

Most instructors are what they say they are and can teach you plenty about the craft, the industry, and the business of writing. The wanna-be teachers? They’re good salesmen and little more. They managed to convince a writers’ group or community college of their abilities to turn students into writers. Blowhards by nature, they aren’t afraid to speak in front of a crowd. If I had a dollar for every student who came to me after one of those phonies were through with them, upset and confused because they wasted time and money and got nothing in return, I could register for a conference myself! You owe it to yourself to check out what the material will do to advance your career. No self-respecting pro will have a problem if you dig around for proof of credentials.

Here’s a great question to end with:

Q: I’ve heard my published author friends say things like “Don’t quit your day job!” and “I don’t do this for the money.” Considering this, how am I supposed to know what I need versus what I think I need? (Brittainy S., Peggy’s Cove, NS)

You need a computer. A printer. Enough light (from a lamp or a window) to see the keyboard. A place to store stuff. And enough privacy so that you can work. Most of us have all of that long before we acknowledged our fiction addiction.

Everything else? Personal decisions and judgment calls, some that are easy to live with, others that are painful.

So happy writing. I mean it!


An Accidental Family