Recipe for the perfect writer’s cocktail

The Kindle Daily Post recently published a guest blog by Kate White (So Pretty It Hurts), Cosmo editor-in-chief and six-time published author. According to the mystery/thriller writer, she didn’t successfully pen her first book until she was over 40-years-old.

Succeeding as a writer didn’t mean buying “a roll-top desk” or surrounding herself with “notecards, pencils, edible-looking pink erasers, and everything else [she] thought an author would need.” It meant finding an atmosphere that liberated her creativity, setting a schedule that worked best for her, and fooling herself into writing for longer stretches than she felt like.

The first component is the right desk. One day I realized that I actually I hated my roll top. It made me feel hemmed in both physically and mentally. So I bought two filling cabinets and a block of wood and began to write on that. The big surface was utterly liberating. Over time, with a little experimentation, I also discovered that though I’m a night owl, I write most easily early in the morning. And I came to see that I can’t be forced to write for big blocks of time. I need to play the trick of telling myself that I’ll write for an hour, not an entire afternoon—but then I always keep going. Oddly, it helps, too, if Carmina Burana is playing. (Perhaps that sometimes ominous-sounding music is good for creating whodunits).

The most important part may be not making excuses. Yes, you’re busy. Yes, you’d rather make time for the billion easier things in your life, like watching whole television seasons and redecorating your house and catching up on blogs every morning, afternoon, and night. But if you’re going to do that instead, be honest with yourself: You’re not writing that novel. At least not now.

If you’re going to write a book, write a book. If it needs revised, revise it. Remember that the many parts of the writing process are not always fun, and they’re definitely not glamorous. Stop procrastinating, sweat a little, and you’ll be rewarded with progress. Do whatever you need to do to get there, but don’t use the material world with its perfect pink erasers and notecards as roadblocks to actual writing. Your work doesn’t have to be pretty. It just has to happen. Each step you take is one step closer than you were yesterday.

A little London Horror and some pro writing tips

I know I made this blog to focus exclusively on books and book writing, but I want to recommend an excellent comic that came to me all the way from UK shores. London Horror Comic (review here) is produced by John Paul-Kamath, who’s not only an indie creator but also a self-publisher. Even in today’s world, when such nontraditional routes are becoming easier and more acceptable to pursue, selling and marketing your own work takes guts.

Having read the horror-comedy anthology series from issue one, I can attest to its ongoing quality (I reviewed it for the Girls Entertainment Network years back.) If you’re interested, the website offers free previews and directions on how to purchase the issues individually or by set (#1-4).

So what about self-publishing: Is it good or bad? Pros and cons accompany both the independent and traditional route of publishing. One writing guide talks at length about the topic: the second edition of The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, which is up for grabs at along with some other e-books (I’ll get to those eventually, too). I finished it just in time for the new year.

This book is one of the best sources of advice, knowledge, and inspiration an aspiring writer could hope for. Each section starts with encouraging quotes about writing, and most of the chapters (written by accomplished, published writers) contain guidance and insights into writing habits that will comfort novices persistently doubting their potential and abilities. If you can identify with the mindset of any of the featured writers—and the book makes it easy to—you can gain a little confidence and be reassured of the value of your pursuits. Chapter by chapter, and sometimes sentence by sentence, I kept finding myself wanting to return to my manuscript and tackle it with renewed vigor.

That’s possibly the most useful advantage of a book on writing—not to “teach” you how to write, but to allow you to feel comfortable with your own process. The included interviews with writers and essays on constructing effective fiction (from strong narratives and characters to the tenets of editing and revision) are invaluable, too, and readers will find plenty of good tips and information to mine for personal use. The book covers a wide range of topics, but one theme stays consistent: Motivation and hard work is key. The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing provides more than enough of the former, but it’s up to readers to follow through.

The book also discusses publishing and marketing, important lessons for any writer hoping to see his book hit shelves. This portion of the book is smaller, but it’s a perk compared to many writing guides, which don’t even broach the subject. It also covers both self-publishing and traditional publishing, warns readers how not to sell out, and lays down the basics about agents, editors, and contracts.