I had the good fortune of hanging out with San Diego’s romance writing chapter last weekend. Not only did I get to hang out with fabulous people and empty the Hilton of all its Smart Water, I also spoke to the chapter about “Writing without Limits.”
The conference organizers suggested the topic–thank you, SDRW, because I had no clue–so I went from there. Confession: movies inspire most of my ideas, so here was my thought process: I should go running. That helps me think. Remember that cool movie about running, Without Limits, about Steve Prefontaine? It’s sort of related. Run with your whole gut. Don’t heave, though, at least not near me. I’m now inspired to think about this talk. Though I did not go running, I did plan the talk.
Anyway, when you write, invariably, there are limits to face, both internal and external. You put limits on yourself. We all have places we’re scared to go. I don’t like to write action even though I know characters have to do something. And in many cases, I’m scared what they’re going to make me do. You want to sell your writing, which means interacting with others and their limits. Because of market trends, you may feel your character should act a certain way or you have to write a certain story.
Writing a romance novel presents even more limits: Two characters should fall in love. They must live happily ever after. Put in some hooks if you want to attract readers. Make the reader feel good.
So with these limits in mind, I suggest developing an action plan for 2016–one where you think of your writing self as limitless within these 11 months and 5 days. What are you going to do with this time? Let me fall back on a list, which always helps me focus on my goals
and lists are easier to write than actual prose.
While I was thinking more about writing without limits, I figured there were four good points to help any writer on the path. It’s important to know:
- What you want: To be an NYT bestselling author? Write full-time or that person who puts out one amazing book every two years (hello, Emily Giffin)? Not everyone is cut out to publish a book every six months or worldwide fame and riches. Be realistic about what you really want.
- What you don’t want: All of the above. Maybe you don’t like any kind of limelight. You just want to write–that’s it. You want to do your thing and perhaps eventually put your work into the hands of someone who will get it out into the world. I work with authors like this, and clarity on this issue helps immensely.
- Who you are: Do you love Marketing and PR more than the actual book-writing? Do you blossom as a solitary writer and as a conference-goer? Or are you the one who’s written hundreds of books, but not a soul has ever met you? No one is here to judge. You should know yourself–or at least explore where you thrive. This makes a big difference in the world of writing/publishing, and well, anything else you want to try.
- What excites you: During pitches, I can tell when a writer is really pumped up about their story. It’s obvious! There’s a light in the eyes, a feverishness in relaying the gist to me. That excitement transfers to me and I usually ask to read the manuscript. As you start or finish or work through your book, always remember what excites you. Where do you absolutely have to go next?
With these four pillars under my belt, I’ve chosen three realistic goals for this year. Mind you, my desires are in both the fields of editing and writing. For me, my big focuses (Is it foci, Mr. Cobb–my high school Latin teacher?) are:
- To write 10 craft related blog posts (9 now)
- To write a book of some kind, even if it’s terrible. Am putting this off until Nanowrimo.
- To do more public things–go to more conferences, be a little less married to my couch and more active in the outside world. This won’t be too hard since I’m scheduled for at least five big work events so far.
- Bonus goal: Don’t give in to pessimism.
Some sample goals could be to talk to that agent/editor; act out of character at a conference (but don’t hit me up for bail $$$); send that proposal to a publisher; get that book out there somehow.
Once you’ve done this self-research, it’s time to close the door, stay focused on the story, lose your attachment to the outcome and anything else you can’t control. The only thing you can control is how often or how long your butt is in the chair. Let’s go for numb butts in 2016 from so much writing!
Ps. Thank you, Jeanne Dickson, for taking this picture!