Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New Year's Tips and Books For Writers (and Everyone) Pursuing Their Dreams

When I began my writing career I was working part time, raising two small children, and determined to try and finish a novel. I started out as most do, writing around my other obligations. For me that meant late at night after the kids were in bed. I silenced my email (lawyers have been known to email others late at night) and wrote until the wee hours. This, of course, was hell on my sleep. I stumbled around tired for most of the first year. I wrote on weekends, in the morning, and on vacation. We visited the same resort each August and the manager there told me that he would always see me tapping away on my laptop, alone, as the sun rose.

I started with some simple rules: 

 1I spent no money on dodgy "services" or vanity publishers. I  wanted to publish, sure, but not like that. 

2. I attended only those conferences that were close and were geared to my type of writing until my manuscript was complete. Nothing requiring travel or hotel stays until I had a novel completed. 

3. I'd pay for classes in my area to learn from other authors.

4. Once the manuscript was complete, I would set up a budget to travel to those conferences that I'd always dreamed of attending, but were too pricey for my wallet. 

5.  I'd check out books from the library on writing, but not buy any unless they merited space on my shelves. My favorites included this one and the title below: 
Great Advice for Writers

Making a Literary Life is a wonderful little book on writing and life by Carolyn See. Like the famous Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott (which I also own) See's book helped sustain me through those long days of doubt and rejection. I highly recommend it! 

The third year in, I decided to take a sabbatical from work to finish the novel. To his credit, my husband didn't noticeably flinch when I suggested this. 

I started in the New Year and was determined to budget both my time and money. 

One thing about being a writer, there's no one hovering over you and forcing you to work. It becomes frighteningly easy to squander both time and money.

I'm a coffee addict and I was easily spending $30 a week on it at the specialty cafe that made a mean cup and wasting a lot of time going back and forth to the shop. The time was not a big deal before, because the cafe was on the way to my former job, but now it required a special trip. I learned, after much trial and error, how to recreate the great taste at home for a fraction of the cost and, more importantly, the time. I stopped dry cleaning and discovered that just about anything can be machine washed on the hand wash cycle. Yes, even some wools and silk. (Rayon is tricky, though, and I did shrink one wool sweater that just didn't cooperate). If you try this at home don't be shocked when you see the filthy water after you submerge your item. Apparently the word "cleaning" in dry cleaning is a misnomer.

 My young daughter discovered thrift store shopping while trying to put together a costume for a school play and I joined her, and while I'm nowhere near as good at it as she is, I did score some great finds. Just this week I found a beautiful little swing coat with a deep collar. The label said Dry Clean Only, but I threw it in the washer on the hand wash cycle, hung it dry and touched it up with the iron. This photo shows the result. Not bad, eh?
Swing Coat
6. Once the novel was done, I would spend money on Publishersmarketplace and run deal searches for agents selling thrillers and would query them. I found this query tip book: Give "em What they Want, by Camenson & Cook at the library and I highly recommend it. While it's a bit dated in some ways (it discusses snail mail queries, which are a thing of the past) the examples of queries from first draft to third are very instructive and you MUST read the Elmore Leonard synopsis that is reproduced in it. Best synopsis I've ever read. I''m in the process of writing one now for a new manuscript and I'm sweating trying to get anywhere near his brilliance. 

7. And I discovered that I loved writing so much that I decided I would never stop. It feeds my soul and brightens my day.  I can't imagine not writing. It's been a wonderful addition to my life.

I hope these tips help the writers out there and I hope you find writing as satisfying as I have!

Happy New Year! 
Jamie Freveletti 


4 comments:

  1. Jamie - Great list for aspiring authors!! (But boy, you certainly had courage to "quit your day job" to finish your novel). You said you spent time searching for an agent - perhaps you could expand on your blog a bit and explain how you finally nailed one and then got your first publishing deal. You are an inspiration to all!

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  2. Hi Karna: Thanks! Good idea and I'll expand on it on my next post day. (January 18)

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  3. Jamie, thanks so much for sharing the early days with us! The story sounds so familiar, lol. I haven't read either book you recommended, so thanks for that, too!

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  4. Always excited to have new books recommended. This to-do list for people pursuing their dreams not only offers suggestions but provides some concrete things. I'm thinking I may make "rules" vs. resolutions this year.

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