Monday, January 24, 2011

Triumph Comes Through Perseverance

Novelist Jodi Thomas was the guest speaker at the January 22 meeting of the North Texas SCWBI. Jodi hails from Amarillo, Texas, and writes western romances. She began by telling all the writers in the audience that "You are not normal." And: "The longer you write, the harder it is to hang around normal people."

That's very true. My circle of friends consists almost entirely of writers. I used to be active in AAUW (American Association of University Women) but I dropped out when my husband and I began living in Mexico for several months every year. Though we sold our house on Lake Chapala in 2005, I have fond memories of the years we spent South of the Border. (I also have nightmares about some of our experiences, especially driving on the dangerous roads down there. And I'm delighted that we found a buyer for our house in 2005, before the current drug violence had really taken hold.)

Anyway, when I came back to Texas full-time, I resolved to devote myself to writing and writers. So now my social life consists of participating in critique sessions, going to SCBWI chapter meetings, and attending writers conferences.

At the meeting Saturday, Jodi said: "Writing must become an obsession if you want to make a living at it." Heck, I've found that my writing has become my obsession even while I'm NOT making a living at it. I'm gainfully employed as an editor and I earn just enough at that to support my writing habit. All day every day, when I'm not busy with a paying assignment, I'm working on my novels.

Jodi advised looking ahead five years and imagining three successes. The three things I'm looking forward to:
  1. Waterspell is published and is doing great.
  2. The movie rights have sold.
  3. I'm collaborating with the screenwriter.

Hey, if you're going to dream, dream big.

Jodi discussed several issues of concern to writers, especially time management, character development, and plotting. I won't pirate her talk by typing up my notes in this space. But I must mention the one piece of advice that I found most helpful: "Give characters fears and secrets." Most writers can readily name their characters' fears, but I hadn't thought so much about their secrets. Knowing those will lead to greater depth-of-character.

Jodi's first book was published in 1988. Her 30th novel just came out. Since I firmly believe that e-publishing is the way of the future for novels, I looked her up at BN.com to be sure her works are available as e-books, and they are.

Good advice can come from unexpected sources. Jodi found this engraved on a headstone in an Amarillo cemetery: "Triumph comes through perseverance."

I'm persevering. Been persevering for a while now. Will keep on persevering. (Maybe if I type the word persevering enough times, I'll learn how to spell it without spellchecker help.)

Jodi also reminded her audience that attending meetings with other writers is not writing. Checking e-mail is not writing. Blogging is not writing. Well, technically blogging IS writing. But time spent blogging (or social networking) is time NOT spent on a manuscript.

So here I go, back to work, back to my obsession. But first: lunch.

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