After writing for twenty years, Kate Carlisle became an overnight sensation when her debut mystery, Homicide in Hardcover (Signet), hit the New York Times Bestseller List. Romantic Times gave the book 4Â½ stars and said: â€œThis first in a new series is going to launch Carlisle to bestselling position and have readers looking forward to the next installment of delightfully eccentric characters, droll dialogue and a meticulously planned crime.â€ A Golden Heart and Daphne du Maurier Award winner, Kate lives and writes in Venice Beach, California.
If you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?
Wouldnâ€™t it be great to go back in time and give myself advice? The problem is, I’m not sure my newbie self would listen. Maybe that’s why it took me twenty years to publish my first book! Or maybe not. I really did appreciate any advice I could get, but publication just wasnâ€™t meant to beâ€”until recently. So thatâ€™s why my number one bit of advice would be . . .
1. Have patience, but donâ€™t be passive. Continue to learn your craft. Donâ€™t give up. Perseverance is the key. Just because youâ€™re not published yet doesnâ€™t mean youâ€™re a bad writer. It just means the stars and planets havenâ€™t aligned in your favor yet.
Keep writing, keep sending your work out, keep networking. Make friends with your fellow writers. Polish your work, send it out, start something new. Study the market. Read as much as you can. Donâ€™t be negative. Youâ€™re doing exactly what youâ€™ve always wanted to do. Remember all this and youâ€™ll be ready for that moment when it all comes together.
2. Learn to write to a deadline. Before I was published, I felt as though I had all the time in the world to write a book, so I rarely put time limits or deadlines on my work. Now that I’m published, I am frantic with each deadline and petrified that if I don’t spend every spare minute writing, I’ll blow it. I don’t take enough time off to see family and friends. I always feel guilty if I’m not writing. For a while there, I was sure I’d end up with an ulcer, so now Iâ€™m teaching myself to budget my time better. My calendar is my best friend. I write everything down now, including estimated page counts on my writing days. It sounds a bit obsessive, but it keeps me honest and happy.
3.Write every day. This is another good habit I wish I’d developed early on. During the last year, Iâ€™ve found that if I take a few days or a week off from writing, Iâ€™m flummoxed once I get back to the story. I’ve forgotten how to write! I canâ€™t remember the story! What was my hero’s name? I can’t remember! Itâ€™s pitiful. I now try to write something, even a paragraphâ€”but hopefully much moreâ€”every day.
4. Clean your room before you begin a new book. Now, this may sound like ridiculous advice to give a writer, but I know that if my room is a mess, if my desk is piled with junk, papers, books, three thousand Post-It notes, and other stuff buried in piles that threaten to bury me if they tumble over, Iâ€™m not in a happy place. I tend to let things pile up around me. Not just paper, but laundry, bills, everything. Call it feng shui or just plain good housekeeping, but clean up your room! Get rid of all that stagnant Qi!
You need harmony, not chaos, if you want to be creative. Well, I need that, anyway. How can I think with all that crap piled up all around me? And the dust that collects around those piles is downright harmful to my physical health! So clean things up and be happy.
5. Surprise, it doesn’t get easier. If you think “The Call” will change your life, well, you’re right. It’s the greatest moment ever. But if you think that from this moment on, everything will be hunky dory and you’ll never have to work that hard again, you are soooo delusional! It just gets harder. Harder to come up with ideas, harder to meet deadlines, harder to keep publishers happy, harder to keep up the level of work you need to do to be a working writer. You need to know this early on, then ask yourself the question, is there a better way to make a living?
6. Recognize opportunity and grab it with both hands. Someone once told me that when you pass up an opportunity, you gain ten pounds. Think about it. For me, it was true. I passed up any number of opportunities because I was scared, or shy, or worried that someone wouldn’t like my work or wouldnâ€™t like me. I wouldnâ€™t follow up with editors on contest wins because maybe they would think I was pushy or self-aggrandizing. Instead, I would sit in the back of the room and pretend to be invisible. Ridiculous!
And the thing about opportunity is, that takes many different forms. It might be a request from the chapter to drive an editor to the airport. Or a call for volunteers at a conference. Sometimes, just being friendly to a visitor becomes an opportunity for something greater. You never know when an opportunity will arise, and if you donâ€™t take it, youâ€™ll gain weight. Just sayinâ€™.
Great advice, Kate! but like you, I'm not sure my newbie self would have listened……GREAT at giving advice, LOL……not so much on the listening front! But I'm trying to learn……
on August 22, 2009
Hi Jen! Glad to hear you're keeping your room clean. I'm still working on mine. 🙂
I'm also busy working toward an imminent deadline right now, which is why I'm on line, procrastinating. LOL
on August 22, 2009
Great advice, Kate! I'm still trying to learn to write on deadline (I never miss, but the fear lives!), or pass up opportunities. I do clean my room though! It's a great way to clear my head out and get ready to start a new project.