Wednesday, July 2, 2014

When Writing Looks Different: Navigating a New Season in Your Writing Life

I've experimented with four different novels in the past year in varied genres.

A sequel to my women's fiction novel...wrote 15,000 words then gave it up.

A locally set historical novel...loved plotting it, but again, stopped writing after only 10,000 words.

Another historical...and a young adult novel...

And I've ended up at the conclusion that there is more to writing than novels.

This year I transitioned from homeschooling one of my children to two of them, its been a hectic and busy season. We’ve also been dealing with a chronic health problem in our family.The  Its hard to write a novel when you're lucky if your family has clean laundry and a meal that didn't start out in the freezer.

Writing in my own mind meant writing novels.

 To fit the season I'm in a mental shift needed to occur. 

What about you? Maybe you are in the throws of postpartum depression or just overwhelmed with life with a newborn…

Perhaps you just started a new demanding job, or switched directions in your career, or went from part-time to full-time…

Or maybe you have a special needs child or a major health concern in your family…
It might take energy just to get through the day and the thought of a novel with all its intricate details can be overwhelming.




Here are some suggestions that have helped me during this season, in the hopes that one or two might work for you, too:

1                 Write something, anything.

Sometimes it seems like its all about the novel. There’s something about completing a novel with its length requirements and plot details that is satisfying.

BUT there’s something to be said for the short story. Many well-known authors find it harder to write a good short story. Limiting the length while still including all elements of plot forces the writer to learn a more succinct style. You learn how to say what you want to say without mincing words.

Joann Penn of The Creative Penn writes about 5 Ways Writing Short StoriesCan Help Your Career.

A friend in my critique group entered a writing contest where her work was read by an editor who creates science fiction, fantasy and horror anthologies. The result has been five published short stories in as many months. Payment has been small, but she’s been building her credits in the hopes of querying her first novel. Every success helps.

Katie Davis pontificates on the finer points of writing poetry in Why Write Poetry. I’ve often found poetry to be a great release of emotion. I struggle with description and poetry is an excellent way to build your word painting skills. 

Consider freelancing:

For a small time commitment, you can get more than you put in to it.
Freelancing can also help you to make valuable connections and one article often has a way of leading to another.

For instance, writing an article last fall about trends in Christian fiction gave me a better understanding of who’s who in the various publishing companies and a bit of an insider glance.
Carol Tice, founder of Make a Living Writing, tells how she pulled in asix-figure income through freelancing. I’m not saying that will happen, but you can certainly make enough to recoup some of your writing related expenses.

Keep up with the industry.

From mergers to closings of bookstores to changes in library acquisitions, it is necessary to keep the pulse of the industry even if you aren’t writing a novel at this point.

One great way is by reading publications such as Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal. Both of these publications can be pricey (although if you are a member of ACFW there is a discount available for the former). 

Subscribing to Publisher’s Lunch and Shelf Awareness are other great ways to keep up with the news in the bookselling world. Both are online newsletters, Publisher’s Lunch contains a list of new acquisitions by publishers allowing you to watch trends in the making. Shelf Awareness is a newsy daily pub on all things book-related. I would recommend this newsletter for any serious reader as well as for those in the industry.

Stay active on social media, but not too active.

Yes, I’ll admit it I struggle with this vice, too. But time is best spent on writing activities. 

However, keep those connections going even when you don’t have a novel on the front burner. 

Since many of us live in places where we have few connections with local authors, Facebook and Twitter can be a necessity. 

Be kind and promote those who do have good news. Share some linky love to other blogs. Take a few minutes a day and use them well on building relationships.

Read, read, read.

Again, if you have 15 minutes before bed use it to read. Reading will help get your juices flowing again. Read the best books and think about why they are the best books. Find new genres to expand your horizons.

 Maintain real life connections centered around writing.

Although I have not been writing a novel, I continue to attend my critique group meetings at a local Barnes & Noble. These writers offered me the valuable suggestion to write short stories during this season of my life. After talking story and reading other’s work I often leave more motivated in my own writing. I think the coffee helps, too, but often on the way home a new idea will begin spinning in my brain.

Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for events for writers. Since I am not pitching a novel, I decided not to attend ACFW this year but God opened the door for a next-to-free opportunity to hear some writers this weekend. Watch for conferences, booksignings, readings, and other events that might help you make connections with other writers and learn something in the process.

What about you? Do you write in other forms beside the novel? Has your writing life looked different during different seasons?

 Julia enjoys writing women's fiction whenever she can find a chair free of smushed peanut butter sandwiches and lego blocks. She is a wife and homeschooling mama of two littles. She also enjoys reviewing and writing for Library Journal and the blog Wonderfully Woven.


Anonymous said...

I'm so happy that I'm not the only one! With a husband who's been out of work for almost two years, I've had to work full-time to keep the bills paid; plus have a very active 10-year old to keep busy...and am dealing with an eye disease (progressive blindness)...I've found it challenging to do any reading or writing. I have however been writing a few short stories to keep the muse happy (and myself!). I've also been writing a web serial as my way of creating a "novel." As long as I'm writing something, anything, I feel like I'm being productive as a writer.

Paula Mowery said...

Oh yeah! I can relate. There are definitely different seasons, and I believe God calls us to different things in these seasons. I homeschooled my daughter all 12 years and kept children in my home. I wrote "around" all of that responsibility. Now, I've had to take outside work to pay for college tuition, however, this part-time work has afforded me the last half of my day to concentrate on writing. Don't get discouraged and think because there is no time now for your writing dream or calling that it will never happen. This may be your training time. Looking back, that's exactly what that chaotic time was, my education time. If God has called you to it, He'll lead you in His time.

Julia M. Reffner said...


I'm so glad you're keeping your hand in with short stories. A web serial sounds like a great idea. Yes, writing anything helps. Thanks for stopping by!

@Paula Mowery,

Thank you so much for your words of encouragement here, I'm betting they will bless someone else (as they already have me). Training time is a great way to look at it! God bless!

Melissa J. Troutman said...

This is a great and timely post for me. I had to put aside my YA novel a week or two ago, and since I leave for college in less than two months, I'm not starting another big project (i.e., novel).

It's hard. I questioned if I was still a writer, since I'm not writing a book. But yes, I'm a writer because I still write for my blog, and who knows what little scribbles will come between in the next few weeks?

I like the short story idea! Maybe I'll try some! Thank you for a great, helpful, timely post. :)