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SO YOU WANT TO BE AN AUTHOR.

Here are a few things I wish someone had told me.

If you feel that your life will not be complete unless you write and that you are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve your dream, then go for it.

1) Believe in yourself. If I could, not only make a go of writing in my fifties but become successful at it, then trust me, you can too. But do yourself a favor. Learn from my mistakes, my first one being, don’t wait so long. Chase your dream today.

2) Park your butt in that chair and write. There is no other way to do it than to sit down and get cracking, whether you feel like it or not. To become successful, you must stick to your goal. I remember reading somewhere that a person only becomes proficient at something after about ten thousand hours of practice. This little piece of advice, maybe the best you’ll ever get.

3) A first draft is always lousy. No matter how great the premise of your story might be, that manuscript will only begin to sound good somewhere around your twenty-fifth edit. Okay, so I might be exaggerating here, but only slightly. So don’t give up because it’s bad. Just keep working at making it good.

4) Don’t tell everyone your story. When I started writing, I used to outline my novel to anyone who would listen, and then, by the time I’d told a half dozen people, the need to finish writing it had vanished. Every telling of the story takes away a bit of your need to write it. As a storyteller, it is entirely natural that you feel compelled to entertain an audience. But you should get your satisfaction from people reading your book, not from you reciting it.

5) One of the tricks I use to get myself going every morning is this. At the end of each session, I stop writing in the middle of a sentence, which gives me an instant starting point the next day.

6) Another good tip is this. Every night, as you drift off to sleep, plan the writing you want to do the next morning. Where will the scene take place? Who will be in it? What will be the action? And most important, how will it push the story forward? You’ll be amazed how fast you get going the next day.

7) If you ever get stuck and can’t figure out where to go next, pick up your manuscript and start editing from the beginning. By the time you get to where you left off, you’ll be unstuck.

8) As magical as my path to being published may seem, it was not fraught without frustration. (For those of you who don’t know, I was picked up by an agent and publisher at a writers’ conference only weeks after I had finished the manuscript for my first novel. Within a year, I had two contracts for a total of six books.) I had done my research, found out what was selling, and pumped out a novel I felt would sell quickly. But here is the caveat. It may have been strategically wise of me to adopt a writing genre that was popular at that time. However, it quickly became apparent to me that signing those two first contracts might not have been so wise after all. These locked me into writing a genre about which I did feel passionate. It is only now, seven long years later, that I am finally writing what I love, in a style much grittier than my early cozy mysteries for which I earned my national-best- selling-author label. My advice is to think long and hard before you sign a contract. If you write a series, you’d better really love your characters because you’ll be spending a lot of time with them.