“Someday” I’m going to write a book…

“I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I just never have enough time!” 

“I’m going to write a book someday, but I just haven’t gotten around to it.”
“Someday I’m going to write a book, maybe after the kids are grown.”

 “Maybe after I retire, I’ll finally be able to write that book I’ve been thinking about.”

As a writer, I tend to hear this sort of thing a lot. Everybody’s going to write a book “someday”; far fewer ever actually get around to writing it. (I confess, the opening sentence above is the one that annoys me the most, as if writers write because we have so much time on our hands!)

I can’t be too hard on them, though, because I was once one of those people who was going to write a book “someday.” I’d written my share of angst-ridden teen poetry at age thirteen, and began several short stories that were never finished. But by the time I’d entered my twenties, I’d all but abandoned my writing—all but that vague idea of writing “someday.” After all, writing was a waste of time: everybody knew it was practically impossible to get a book published.
For me, “someday” came as I saw my thirtieth birthday looming on the horizon. I became aware of the passage of time, and decided I could spend the rest of my life saying “someday”—or I could sit down and write, and let the chips fall where they may. I started writing at age 28, and saw my first book published 3½ years later, five months before my 32ndbirthday. 
It can be a scary thing, putting your dreams down on paper. In some ways, it’s much safer to write a book “someday.” You don’t have to worry about losing momentum and struggling to finish your masterpiece; making revisions you don’t necessarily agree with; ugly cover designs that hurt sales; scathing reviews in Publishers Weekly or on Goodreads. No, your  imaginary book is always a bestseller, adored by everyone who reads it.

So why spoil a good fantasy? Because writing is one of the most satisfying things you’ll ever do, regardless of the end result. Because when you’re finished, you’ve created something new, something that didn’t exist  before. And that feeling is the greatest thing in the world!

What are you waiting for? Don’t wait for “someday”—write
  that book now!

The Olympics and the Writing Life

The Olympics are over, and I’m suffering from withdrawal.  What to do? Hmm, I guess I could always fire up my laptop and write, huh?  First, though, a few thoughts on the Olympics and the writer’s  life… 

Whenever I watch the Olympics, I’m struck by the  contrasting reactions of the athletes. While everyone is thrilled to win the gold, the responses to the lesser medals are often strikingly different. One athlete appears disappointed to win “only” a silver medal, while another is ecstatic at the prospect of claiming a bronze. Still others seem delighted simply to have competed in the Olympics, whether they win a medal or not.  Clearly, success means something different to each of these  athletes.
I sometimes wonder what it would take for me to feel truly successful as a writer. At first, my whole ambition was to see my book in  print, and I’ll never forget the thrill of seeing my first book, of holding it in my hands and flipping the pages to see my own words printed inside. But almost immediately, that wasn’t enough. Would I ever have a second book in print? A third? Would I ever attract the attention of the major reviewers? What about foreign language editions? Fan mail? 

I’ve accomplished all those things, and yet still something seems to be missing. So, what would it take for me to feel successful? The New York Times Bestseller List? If so, I’m afraid I’m doomed to failure. I don’t write the type of book that makes the list, and don’t really
want to. What about money? If I got a six-figure contract, would I be satisfied? Again, I’d better not hold my breath. I don’t write the type of books for which there is that sort of market. But that’s okay; I made a conscious decision to write the kind of books I like to read, and I don’t regret that decision. While income from writing is nice (okay, it’s very nice!), it’s not like I have to make a living that way. I’m fortunate enough to have a loving and supportive  husband with a good income. And a good thing, too: I can’t think of anything more muse-killing than the pressure that would come with knowing I must make a big sale!
Where, then, can I turn to feel good about what I’ve accomplished? I remember my own words while watching the Olympics. “Hmmph!” I  remarked to my husband and son, “if she doesn’t want that bronze medal, I’m sure there are plenty of gymnasts (or swimmers, or volleyball players, or pole vaulters) who would be happy to change places with her!” Likewise, there are  plenty of writers who are where I once was, wanting desperately to see their  names in print. They would be happy to be where I am now. There are other things, too, little things that make me realize it’s possible to have an impact without ever hitting the New York Times Bestseller List: the chance encounter with a young adult writer (two, in fact) who says she was inspired to write after reading my Bantam Sweet Dreams title Wrong-Way Romance as a  teenager; the terminal cancer patient who was given a copy of The Cobra and the Lily, and told all her hospital visitors how much she enjoyed the story.
I may never be famous, but my stories are being read and, in at least a few cases, have made a difference in readers’ lives.
Maybe that’s success enough for any writer.

RWA 2012


Random thoughts on the 2012 Romance Writers of America  conference in Anaheim,

 This was the first conference I’d attended in 12 years,  having taken a break for my kids’ summer activities—and, to be perfectly
  honest, during some of those years I wasn’t bringing in enough income from my writing to justify the expense. I was struck immediately by how much had  changed—and how much had not. E-pubbing and self-pubbing, once anathema to RWA  and considered a last-ditch effort for those who couldn’t see any other way of  getting their books published, was now the subject of numerous workshops.  Social media, in its infancy twelve years ago, was another hot topic. But some things remained the same: book giveaways so extravagant that attendees had to  ship their bounty home (to the relief of numerous sky caps, I don’t doubt!), the editor & agent appointments, the literacy signing, the RITA and Golden Heart awards, to name only a few.
A conference highlight for me is the Beau Monde’s  min-conference the day before RWA kicks off, the culmination being the  Wednesday night soiree with its Regency costumes and period dancing. I made a  new dress for the occasion, and I am pleased to say that this, along with my
  turban and quizzing-glass, was much admired. 

One of the enduring delights of RWA is the discovery  every year that the best things are not on the conference schedule. No, the  conference highlights are those things that happen spontaneously: the agent  seated next to me at luncheon, who expresses interest in my work, then hands me  his card and asks to see more; the surprising discovery that some of the Big
  Names in historical romance seem to know who I am(!); the passenger on the  airport shuttle who exclaims, “I know you! I read your book! I loved that  book!”
I also was reminded of the big rewards small courtesies  can bring. After eating dinner in the hotel restaurant, I slipped a bookmark  into the little leather pad along with my credit card. The waitress saw it and  thanked me with an enthusiasm far out of proportion to what I thought the  gesture deserved. It was such a little thing on my part, but she seemed so
genuinely grateful.

 These are the things that make me eager to return to RWA  next year. Maybe I’ll see you in
Atlanta in 2013!