Writing used to come easily for me. I wrote one of my best novels, The Unicorn’s Daughter, in four months. Final Hours took six weeks. It was almost too easy, which is why I was surprised that The Unicorn’s Daughter required almost no editing from Berkley and became, along with Chasing the Wind, one of my best-reviewed novels.
As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve found it more and more difficult to finish a project. I asked my neurologist if I might be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. “No. You’re way too sharp for that,” she assured me. Okay. If not that, what about epilepsy? I was first diagnosed as a teenager, and due to my own stupidity, was off the anti-seizure meds for a long time (I don’t have convulsive seizures, so I assumed–incorrectly–that I wasn’t having seizures at all). Again, the answer was no. My previous neurologist told me I was just distracted. ADHD, maybe?
My eyesight is not what it used to be–not that it was ever all that good. Arthritis has been an issue, so writing first drafts in longhand, as I’ve done throughout most of my career, was no longer possible. It was also a problem in using a computer, tablet or smartphone–especially the latter two, since I had to hold the devices at an angle close enough to be able to see the screens. I’ve joked here about my “Kindle elbow.”
I’d tried dictation, but that was also a struggle–until I found this book.
Dictate Your Book: How to Write Your Book Better, Faster and Smarter by Monica Leonelle is a gem. Really. She points out that, like learning to type and use a computer are skills that require training and practice, dictation isn’t something you just do. Her book is short, concise and gives you all you need to learn to dictate your books, screenplays, short stories, etc. Collin is even considering it for doing his classwork, time being a big factor for him.
We’ve all had family and friends ask us, “When are you going to get a real job?” Some writers even hear it after they’ve made their first sale. But some of us also hear this one: “I have a great story to tell and I’m going to let you write it for me.”
Sound familiar? Either we’re not taken seriously at all or we’re taken for granted. Those who realize we are professionals and have real careers as writers will often assume we’re just sitting around waiting to write their story. We don’t have ideas of our own–or if we do, we can just set our own works-in-progress aside to write whatever they bring to us.
About a year ago–I’m not sure exactly how long (this is just a guess, as I’ve been trying to forget)–I got an email from a longtime friend. Her brother had decided to write a novel. Never mind the fact that this guy would be reaching to write a grocery list, he was going to write a novel. Let me rephrase that: he had an idea and I was going to write his novel. If it sold (and let me say here that this project had worse odds of success than being struck by lightning), we would split the profits.
I told her, as politely as I could, that I was not interested. I had projects of my own in the works and did not have time to write his too. That didn’t work. I discovered that he had contacted a family friend, asking for my phone number. He’d had his nephew contact the same friend, also asking for my number. When she didn’t give it to either of them, he turned up at my MySpace page (one of the reasons I ditched MySpace). Then he showed up at Facebook. Finally, I got enough.
I sent him a message. He could leave his manuscript and $100 in cash with Collin at the restaurant and I would read it, critique it and tell him what he needed. I never heard from him again. Thankfully.
He’s not the only one who’s brought ideas to me, but the other two were well-meaning friends who wanted me to put worthwhile true stories into words for people who couldn’t write them themselves. It’s not easy to say no in such cases–but I’m a novelist, not a nonfiction writer. This may surprise some people, but most writers are one or the other. Rarely can we do both. I’m strictly a fiction writer. I’m no good at coloring inside the lines–bios and memoirs are not my thing. And I already have a full plate. Make that an overflowing plate. I have one ebook edition of a backlist book about to be released and three more to be scanned and reformatted (not an easy job, believe me) and three more waiting to be done, plus four original works in progress. Add to that the fact that my eyesight is so bad that I have to compose on my phone or by dictation because when I look at my computer screen, all the words seem to run together. No fun!
I’d have to be cloned in order to have time for anything else….