Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tanya Michaels' Thoughts on the Writing Life

Last week I talked about the three pathways to publication as presented by Trish Milburn at the June meeting of Carolina Romance Writers.

This week I will share what I learned from Tanya Michaels , whose presentation, "Military School for the Unruly Muse," followed Trish's morning workshop and a delicious lunch at Red Rocks Cafe.

Okay, that's enough links, but I hope you will check out each of them.

Tanya juggles a prolific writing career with running a home and caring for her family. She has two young children, so how in the world, we ask, does she find time to write all those award-winning books?

Her advice is to structure your life and follow a schedule. We all know that if you have children, sometimes schedules get thrown out the window. What then?  Well, said Tanya, if you have been reliable in submitting your work to your publisher in the past, they won't quail when you have a genuine excuse for being late. Your reputation will allow you that little bit of slack when times get tough.

You also (and I know we've heard this before, but it bears repeating) need to treat your writing as your job. Let friends and family know you will be at work between certain hours, and then don't pick up the phone or answer your e-mail during that time. If you worked at a bank or taught school, they wouldn't call to chat during working hours, would they?

A writer needs a little nurturing, too. Get away from your desk periodically to read a book, take in a movie or concert and feed your imagination. Take time for on-going classes and workshops to enhance your skills and further your career. Nurture your self-confidence so that "not every snarky contest judge or random Amazon review sends your muse hiding under the bed."

Even if you are a "pantser*" you need to write an outline or synopsis so you know where you are going. This can be one typed page to an Excel spreadsheet to a storyboard filled with photos, quotes and maps. It doesn't matter how elaborate it is, the purpose to to keep you on course so you don't waste time on dead-end plot twists, no matter how enticing.

Tanya recommends honing your senses and using them while writing to bring the reader into your story as they smell, see, hear, feel and taste along with your characters.

Last, Tanya urged us soldier on, no matter how impossible it seems. Instead of throwing up your hands and saying, "I can't," be persistent in writing something and one day you will finish your manuscript. And then you can sit back and say, "I can."

*A pantser is a reference to those brave early pilots who flew without controls, or "by the seat of their pants." This is opposed to a plotter, who has every scene plotted out before she sits down to write the first line of the first  chapter.

Check out the July workshop at CRW. We welcome guests!

1 comment:

  1. Very hard to carve out time when so many elements (family) demand your attention, but I agree, if you don't respect your career, how can you expect others to? Saying "no" can be liberating. Thanks Sandy!