Workshop 5: Surprising Secrets Of The Writing Life
In her ACFW conference workshop Surprising Secrets of the Writing Life, award-winning author Deborah Raney shared her imagined idea of the writing life, describing a cozy office lit with candles and many novels appearing on the New York Times Best Seller list.
The biggest surprise of her actual writing life was how much time she spent not writing. Instead, researching, editing, creating the next proposal, answering reader mail, managing a website/blog, endorsing, judging, speaking, book signing, giving interviews, and accounting clamored for her attention.
The emotional challenges
“The extrovert in me didn’t like the solitary life,” Raney said. Consequently, one of the happiest surprises for her was collaborating with others by attending conferences, joining writers’ loops and critique groups, and co-writing with friends.
Another surprise she noted was competition between writers—and even jealousy. Jealousy, Raney said, is inevitable in the writing business. She encouraged writers to practice graciousness, gratitude, humility, and contentment and to embody Romans 12:15: Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.“God rewards each of us in different ways,” Raney said.
Celebrity can be costly
Raney discovered that most writers are little fish in a very big pond. Finding her novel at the bottom of a shelf instead of on a big display out front surprised and disappointed her.
But, even though we may be small fish, writers may also experience unwanted celebrity. Every action of a writer can be examined under a microscope and attention often appears at inappropriate times. For instance, Raney found herself wondering, sometimes, if people had ulterior motives attached to their gestures of friendship.
“Writing isn’t a get-rich quick endeavor,” Raney said. Sure, a six-figure deal sounds great, but if it covers four books, it may take four years to pay out. A writer is responsible for income taxes and sales tax on book earnings and needs to be able to budget for lean times and hidden expenses like shipping and mailing, research trips, professional magazine subscriptions, editor and agent gifts, computer repair, conferences, and contest fees.
But, there are also hidden benefits in the writing life. She enjoys having a creative outlet and being more available to her family. The lower cost of working from home and the freedom to set her own hours also appealed to her.
Choose names carefully
In addition to the surprises, Deb shared tips about names. Writers should acquire their domain name if possible and carefully consider any pen names. Are they easy to spell and pronounce? Does someone already use it or a name close to it? For characters, don’t name the villain after a friend or relative and don’t give your hero the name of an old boyfriend/girlfriend. Give careful thought to minor characters because they might appear in a sequel. Deb also suggested that writers Google character names.