Donna Norman Carbone
What Writers Do
There are many misconceptions about writing life.
My experience hasn’t been any of those things. Do I love writing? Yes. Am I glad I’ve stuck with it for all these years? Yes. Is it challenging? Yes. Yes. Yes.
Meandering is the word I’d use to describe my writer life. Winding. A journey full of peaks and valleys (sometimes very low valleys). A juggling act. A marathon. An uphill hike. It would be lovely to have an idea for a story spill out perfectly onto the pages. But like life, writing doesn’t work that way. Nothing worthwhile does, if you think about it.
Learning my novel would be published and signing my book deal has, without a doubt, been one of the highest points of my writer life, for sure. But when I came down off that high, it was time to get back to work. Publishing one book has never been the goal. The goal for me is to sustain my publishing career for as long as possible, continuing to nurture the seedlings of my imagination to blossom.
So what have I been doing since I signed my publishing contract? Certainly not resting on my laurels. True, an inherent aspect of a writer's life is learning how to wait. This doesn’t mean busying my time or wasting it away. It means working on the other aspects of writing beyond drafting, editing and revision.
My first wait took four months (not a lot of time by industry standards) for my content edits to come back to me. In that time, I picked up another writing project, one that was in the third draft phase and worked with two (amazing) critique partners to help me flesh out the plot holes and inconsistencies. This consists of swapping 25-50 pages on a weekly basis. I critique their work as they critique mine. I’m getting close, now, to sending this revised draft out to a few beta readers for their feedback. I like to send a questionnaire for them to use as a guide for the kind of response that would be most helpful for this story. When I receive their feedback, my manuscript either goes back into revision or it’s time to query again.
One of the best decisions I made as a writer was to join the Women’s Fiction Writing Association, WFWA. Aside from meeting so many wonderful and supportive writers, I’ve joined a book club, The Bookish Road Trip, established by fellow WFWA members, so I’ve been reading. A lot. I also just finished evaluating synopsis and sample chapters as a first round judge for the WFWA Rising Star Award. I’ve read a few ARC, advanced reader copies, for other writers whose debut novels are being released this year too. It’s important to cultivate a buzz for a book before it’s released through reviews and social media. And, as a writer, reading the work of others helps me enrich my own craft.
One of the things I love most about writing is that it’s a process which requires learning and growing. I’ve recently read two books that have been especially helpful: Before and After the Book Deal by Courtney Maum, and Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. Highly recommend both of these.
An important task for any author is to cull an audience. I’ve learned to do that on social media (Instagram is mostly my jam), through my website and blogs like this, and engaging with others. This part has been both a blessing and a curse for me. I do believe one of the things that held me back from taking that leap from writer to author was the fear of having to market myself and my work. But like most fears, once you walk through it, it doesn’t seem so daunting. I’m learning and growing in that vein, too.
So, these are some of things writers do to cultivate their craft–to turn it from a hobby into a career (even if it's a 2nd career–for a while). For many of us, our first careers are responsible for our livelihood. For me, that’s being a high school English teacher. I consider myself lucky because this career is also one of passion. I thrive on making connections with my students through writing, film and literature (mostly British).
All of this is certainly a juggling act. It requires planning, organization, routine, hard work and a whole lot of support from my family. As important as it is to fuel my passions, it’s equally important to carve out some me time. That means spending time with family and friends, traveling, gardening, boating, swimming, reading a good book, and cuddling with my fur babies.This is a busy life, indeed, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now, I “wait” for the next round of edits (but, from this vantage point, I can see the light to publishing day).