Thursday, August 27, 2009

Seasonal Writing

I do enjoy the summer…I really do. But, although there's a lot to love about the outdoors this time of year—magnificent flowers, great walking weather, picnics and county fairs—I have to say it's my least favorite season. Growing up in New England, I simply never acclimatized to extended periods of heat and humidity. Once the thermometer hits 85-degrees, my brain turns to steam and stalls out like an overheated automobile engine. I just want to lie down and nap through the heat of the day.

What does this have to do with writing? Well, during the summer writing just seems more of a chore for me. Aside from the heat (you see we don't have central AC in our home) there are more distractions—friends visiting, our sailing club sponsors trips all over the Chesapeake Bay, my garden needs watering and weeding, the list goes on and on. The result is, I have to concentrate harder to write each paragraph, each page, each chapter—or at least that's the way it feels, hampered by my sweltering brain.

With the cooler days of autumn, I always feel invigorated. Suddenly there's more energy to apply to my writing. And winter…well, if it's snowing and cold outside, that's all the more reason for staying warm and cozy in the house, and playing with a character or exciting scene. With spring, there's a different kind of energy burst. I do most of my real gardening in the spring, so that eats up some time. But the physical activity in the still-cool days seems to encourage rather than discourage writing. Maybe that's because gardening is another form of creation, working with soil and seeds rather than words?

So summer, for me, is the hardest time to write. I really have to be stern with myself, sit myself down at my keyboard and put in the necessary hours. However, if the work is less of a pleasure then, I've found a way to compensate myself for the effort. I use summers for experimenting with fresh story ideas. I've just finished work on three plot concepts for new novels, sent them off to my agent, who has forwarded them on to my editor in New York. I'm letting her choose the one she feels will be the strongest as a follow-up to my just finished novel, The Gentleman Poet (Fall/2010). In this way my summers have become a time for experimentation, letting my mind run loose and free on sweltering afternoons, not expecting too much of it—sort of like when we were kids and released from school for summer vacation. In the fall, I'll throw myself into the initial draft of a new book, use the winter for continuing the writing process, in the spring revise and polish and, hopefully, have a finished book to hand my publisher by the time summer's heat again grips us.

I'm not sure this way of planning the writing of a book by the seasons makes sense to my family or other writers, but it works for me. I wonder if all writers have more or less productive periods that follow seasonal, lunar, or other types of patterns.

Think about your own writing. Do your best or least productive writing times seem to depend upon the weather, on stress levels or the time of year? How can you take advantage of these patterns to make the most of your writing time?

Man, it's hot today! Must be time for an ice cream break. – Happy writing, Kathryn

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Whether you're most interested in writing articles and short stories for magazines, or novels for book publishers, the economy may have discouraged you from submitting your work. And in a way, waiting to submit your work may have made sense. Let me explain why…

The past year or so has taken a toll on writers, editors and literary agents. I've noticed a lot of writers, veterans as well as newbies, struggling to sell their stories, and I was among them. It seemed more difficult than ever to interest editors in buying work, and for those of us writing books, it was equally hard to get an agent to agree to represent us. Part of the reason was that editors were getting laid off, and no one felt sure they'd still have a job six months down the road! So acquiring editors stopped buying, and agents grew frustrated when well-written manuscripts they'd submitted were repeatedly rejected. At one point near the end of last year and beginning of this one, one agent told me she wasn't submitting anything for fear of "burning bridges". She intended to wait until the market revived, then she'd send out again.

The good news now is, I'm seeing signs of things loosening up. Following Publisher's Marketplace (an online site), and checking in with various authors' loops, it appears that sales are picking up. And after finding a wonderful and supportive new agent, Kevan Lyon with MarsalLyon Literary Agency, I've sold a book I'd been researching and working on for four years, THE GENTLEMAN POET (a novel set in the early 17th century that features Shakespeare among its characters) to editors at William Morrow/Avon, whose editors are very enthusiastic about its potential for sales. So if you've sometimes felt intimidated about submitting your work for publication… now might be an excellent time to plunge in and begin sending out your material.

The truth about getting and staying published is this: It has always been a challenge, and will always be a challenge. But editors and agents need books to stay in business. And after holding off from purchasing new stories for months, editors are hungry for strong writing to fill their lists of new novels in 2010 and 2011. Why shouldn't your book be one of those they choose? Submit. Letting your stories sit in the closet won't get them to your readers. Happy writing -- Kathryn

THE FIRST BLOG—August 26, 2009

    It's been a long time coming, but at last…I'm here! The intention of this blog is quite simple. I want to pass along to writers of short stories, novels, memoirs, and other creative writing little bits of advice, encouragement, and technical tips that may help them (you!) move closer to a goal of publication.

Why do I want to hand out free advice and "secrets to success" when, in addition to writing my own books, I run a paid mentoring service? Because: 1) Not everyone can afford a professional writing coach or pre-publication editor; 2) I'm grateful to others who have helped me along the road to publication and wish to pass forward the gift; 3) Although it may seem counterintuitive to help the "competition" in a highly competitive business, I love to watch writers grow in their craft; and 4) (this is the sneaky part) I know that if you follow my blog and learn to trust and appreciate my help, you'll do one of two things: eventually come to me as a client, or look for and buy my books. Maybe both!

So, there it is. A mixed bag of goodwill and self-interest. I've laid it on the line. If you're game and care to spend a few minutes each week with me, I'll share with you what I've learned over the years while I've been writing and collaborating with some of the best editors in publishing. So far, the result has been the publication of over 40 of my novels with major, nationally distributing publishers and foreign sales to over 15 countries. And I'm still learning new tricks and strategies as the business changes, which I will pass along to you. Come back as often as you like for a visit, and take away whatever you find that's useful. If there's a topic you'd like discussed, let me know. If it's an issue related to writing that I haven't recently addressed, and I think others will benefit from the information, I'll make your suggestion the topic of a future blog. I won't be blogging daily, since I must protect time for my clients and my own writing projects, but I hope to have something of interest for you at least twice a week. Join me when you can to soak up the news, tips, gossip, and camaraderie of the writing world. – Happy writing! Kathryn