by Susan F. Craft
I’m always hesitant when asked to talk about the process of writing, because each author has his or her own way of going about it.
I’ve been writing professionally for over 40 years. Granted, some of it was, I told myself at the time, not what I really wanted to be writing—articles for agency publications, informational materials, speeches for the agency director. It was “my day job” that I couldn’t quit because I couldn’t get anyone interested in my novels.
Over the years, I have come to the realization that any writing hones your craft—the thought processes required to come up with an idea; the utilization of resources to research thoroughly; the time to learn correct grammar and spelling; the willingness to learn from the masters; the discipline to sit in the chair and work; the development of thick skin in order to learn from, and not resent, criticism; the humility that comes with rejection; and the absolute joy that comes when someone really likes what you’ve written and says those magic words, “I couldn’t put it down.”
With that realization came the “light bulb moment” when I understood that employees and their families were honored by my articles published in our agency newsletter; mental health patients and their families deeply appreciated the information about their or their loved one’s illness written in such a way that they could understand what was happening to them; and the audiences hearing the speeches gained insight into what our agency was trying to accomplish and were inspired to partner with us to achieve those goals. My writing actually helped some people. How rewarding is that.
I still work full time and continue to plug away at novel writing. The speaker at a writers’ workshop I attended this past week made the statement, “Persistence trumps talent.” Well, brothers and sisters, I’m here to tell you that I know a little bit about persistence. Over the past 30 years I’ve attended more writers’ workshops and conferences than I can remember. Sometimes the information would contradict something I had just heard in a previous conference. This happened mostly in the area of marketing—what genres were selling, what houses were looking for, what agents wanted to see, the acquisitions editor who threw manuscripts into her sludge pile because she had had a lousy breakfast. I listened and I learned to sift through the “old hat” information and glean the good stuff, which I incorporated into my writing.
My persistence was rewarded when in November 2011, the Ingalls Publishing Group, released my inspirational Revolutionary War romantic suspense, The Chamomile. Life hasn’t been the same since. I’ve travelled, mostly regionally, to talk to groups, as many as 100 once and as few as four another. I talk about my research that went into my novel, how I found what I call my research “treasures,” and how I wove them into the story. Our state Book Festival invited me to be a guest panelist. Over 6,000 people attended that event. When the wonderful reviews started showing up on places like Amazon and Goodreads, I was truly amazed and so excited. When The Chamomile won the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Okra Pick award, I was over the moon.
So, here’s my advice boiled down into the format I like best – a list:
- Write every day, preferably in the same place and at the same time. (I don’t follow my own advice about the same place, same time, but I write every day.)
- Participate in NaNoWriMo, which challenges you to write a 50,000 word novel in a month.
- Get up early one morning and start writing without stopping; especially don’t stop to edit. Try switching off your monitor when you’re typing. You can’t edit what you can’t see.
- After editing on the screen or in print, read your work aloud. You’ll be amazed at how many awkward sentences you can fix this way.
- Join a critique group, preferably with people who write in your genre. (Or find a critique partner.)
- Attend as many writers’ conference and workshops as you can. These things can get very expensive, so thoroughly check them out for those that sound helpful to you and your level of writing. The networking is invaluable.
- Read – a lot, especially the great writers. You’ll soon come to recognize what excellent writing is.
- Keep notebooks describing the interesting people you meet and the places that give you “vibes” (sorry, I’m a 60s girl).
- Enter writing contests; sometimes you get tremendous feedback from judges and you get name recognition, awards, and rewards if you win.
- Volunteer to work at your local Book Festivals. They are the ones who will invite you to speak once you’ve been published. You’ll meet some fine people and network with published authors who usually have good advice.
- If you write historical fiction, PLEASE, make every effort to assure that your facts are correct and your history is good.
- Self-publishing is separate from writing. Not every writer has the time, the talent, or the interest. Both writing and publishing take work. Self-publishing demands the work of both. Even if you land a contract with a traditional publisher, you must still work at self-promotion.
- Get an agent. Some writers complain that it is unnecessary and ask why they should give another person a piece of the royalties. My agent, Linda Glaz, with Hartline Literary Agency, is fabulous. She is my best ally, she knows where my book should be, and she knows the people to send it to, and they respect her opinions. While she’s out there promoting my novel, I’m free to write the sequel. I’m the first to admit, though, that finding an agent is just as difficult as finding a publisher.
- This last one is for Christian writers. Pray about and for what you are writing. Ask yourself, will this glorify his name? Will it lift up your readers? Will they be a better person for having read what you’ve written? Have you done your absolute best to honor the absolute sacrifice that was made for you? Will you handle rejection with grace and accolades with humility?
Here’s a list of quotes from famous authors I thought would interest you:
- Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. Anton Chekhov
- Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke. F. Scott Fitzgerald
- If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. I try to leave out the parts that people skip. Elmore Leonard
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. Never use a long word when a short one will do. George Orwell
- I’m always pretending that I’m sitting across from somebody. I’m telling them a story, and I don’t want them to get up until it’s finished. James Patterson
- Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised. John Steinbeck
- Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very”; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. Mart Twain
- Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action. Kurt Vonnegut
Meet the Author:
Susan F. Craft, author of The Chamomile, a Revolutionary War romantic suspense, has a degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of South Carolina. Her 40-year career includes working for SC Educational Television, the SC Department of Mental Health, the SC College of Pharmacy, and currently for the SC Senate.
The Chamomile, winner of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Okra Pick, is the fourth book she has authored. The first two were SC State Library award-winning professional works in the field of mental health, and the third, published in 2006, was A Perfect Tempest, a historical fiction set in Columbia during the Civil War.
Craft is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Palmetto Christian Writers Network, the Historical Novel Society, the SC Writers Workshop, the SC Historical Society, the Robert Burns Society, the Colonial American Christian Writers, John 316 Marketing Network, She Writes, Goodreads, Facebook, and Pinterest. Her website address is http://www.susanfcraft.com and her blogs are http://historicalfictionalightintime.blogspot.com and http://colonialquills.blogspot.com.
Craft wrote A Writer’s Guide to Horses, which is available on the website of the Long Riders’ Guild Academic Foundation, http://www.lrgaf.org. The Guide provides authors comprehensive information about horses to assist them to accurately portray horses in their works.
Craft says, “Researching for my novels brings me the same excitement Alan Quartermain must have felt hunting for King Solomon’s Mines. I’ve been known to spend an entire day in a library scribbling notes from someone’s diary, spending a wallet of quarters making copies of maps and old newspapers, and trekking from one book or document to the next with a perseverance Lewis and Clark would have applauded. I enjoy the chase when one clue leads me from one historical treasure to the next.”
“I cannot remember a time when I did not want to write. Somewhere in my attic I have a book, The Mystery of the Whistling Cave, which I wrote and bound myself when I was eight and enthralled with Nancy Drew.”
“I married Rick, who was my high school sweetheart and now husband of 43 years. We live in South Carolina and have two adult children whom we adore and one grandchild who is my bestest buddy. I gave my heart to Christ as a teenager and am an active member of my church, singing in the choir since I was ten.”
Click the picture below for information about buying Susan’s novel.
Lilyan Cameron joins patriot spies in British-occupied Charlestown, SC, to rescue her brother from a notorious prison ship. She’ll lie, steal, kill, or be killed she promises Nicholas Xanthakos, a scout with Francis Marion’s partisans, who leads the mission. In Nicholas’ arms she discovers enduring love … a home. But that home is a long time coming. Her journey requires she save the life of one British officer but kill another to protect her Cherokee friend, Elizabeth. In escaping bounty hunters, she treks miles of wilderness and very nearly loses everything before finally reuniting with her true love.