A Girl’s Gotta Do What A Girl’s Gotta Do

Getting your butt in the chair.  It’s the hardest part about being a writer.  Well, not so much for the paying projects, but definitely for the ‘yet to be paying’ ones.  The  unpublished author faces many obstacles to getting her manuscript on the shelves—not the least of which is getting it written. Just ask Kathryn Stockett.  It took her five years to write The Help.  That fact alone should make me feel better about creeping along in my career.

Except it doesn’t.

I still want to get the book done yesterday, despite the many distractions of my day to day life—including the paying gigs.

At the RWA National Conference in New York this past summer, bestselling author Candace Havens presented a workshop promising to let authors in on the secret to getting a first draft down in no more than 14 days.  Needless to say, I scrambled to the session as quickly as I could—me and over 300 hundred other wannabe authors.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one needing a quick fix.

Now, here’s the thing about Candace Havens:  She is a dynamo!  A petite Texas spit-fire who has not only authored multiple books for Berkley Press and Harlequin Blaze, but she’s one of the country’s leading entertainment reporters, syndicated in over 600 newspapers. In her spare time, Candace also runs a free online writing workshop for more than 1600 writers. She does film reviews for a major Texas radio station, and is the Vice President of the Television Critics Association.

PHEW!! I was exhausted just listening to her bio.  And you know what else I was?  Embarrassed.  Seriously, I must really be a slacker if I can’t get a book written when she does all that AND manages to write bestsellers.  I’m pretty sure she is a mom, too, but I tuned that part out because then I’d have to stick a pencil in my eye.  Had the room not been so crowded—I mentioned the 300 or so others, right?—I would have crawled off to the concierge lounge for the some vinotherapy; but alas, I was pinned in my corner of the room.

So what was Candace Havens’ secret to getting the book written?  GET YOUR BUTT IN THE CHAIR!  She presented a wonderful plan for getting a draft written in two weeks and I have blocked out the month of October to carry it out.  What can I say?  I’m an underachiever.  I also gleaned a useful technique for keeping me in the chair for the edits and rewrites currently causing me grief:  reward yourself. Yeah, that great parenting technique we all used when our kids were toddlers–bribery.  Sweet! 🙂 This was going to be easy, all I had to do was decide on an incentive.

Candace warned in the session that M&M’s did NOT make a good reward.  Yeah, girl, no visual aid necessary.  I have my own thighs for that.  Instead, the prize needs to be something worthwhile and exciting and possibly something you wouldn’t want to do without.  Okay, my husband had some ideas here but as this a family site, we won’t go there.

It took me a few weeks, but I found one that’s working.  What is it?  It’s reading.  I’ve made a pact with myself that if I don’t write or revise 5 pages a day, I can’t delve into a good book.  Probably sounds lame to you, but for me, a voracious reader, it gets the job done.  Before I can escape to Pennyroyal Green, Twilight Texas, Maiden Lane or Lucky Harbor, I have to get some words written.  Instead of taking my Kindle to the barn each afternoon while my daughter rides, I heft my laptop or edit pages.  If my goal is met, I can crawl between the sheets later that night and enjoy a few chapters before I start over again the next day.

Like I said, this probably won’t work for anyone else, but I get jealous of the stack of books beside the bed when I am immersed in writing a manuscript.  This way, I can still get something done without giving up my guilty pleasure.

How about you?  How do you get yourselves in the chair?  What rewards or incentives to you “bribe” yourselves with?


About Tracy Solheim

Best-selling author of the Out of Bounds series--sexy, contemporary sports romance novels. See what she's up to at www.tracysolheim.com.

Posted on September 16, 2011, in Blog Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Tracy, the reward thing does work!! I was going great until I had to prep for the week before my reward… the beach! Hope when I get back I can get on the 5 pages a day bandwagon, myself.

  2. Laura,
    Have a great trip! You deserve it! Part of Candace’s strategy was to have a group you are accountable to for getting your work done. Thanks for being a part of my support group. 🙂

  3. I’ve been to two of Candace’s workshops over the past two years. That same one you’re talking about, and also Plotting for Pantsers. And yes, she will make you feel like slacker of the year with all she does. (and she is a mom…of overachieving kids…go figure)

    I haven’t figured out a reward system yet. But I have learned to “punch in” every day. I work full time, and have many obligations in the evening as well, but I go sit in front of my laptop and write/revise/plot…something every day. Some days it may be two hours, some days it might only be 20 minutes, but I make it a job that I report to.

    And I have to say…even now that I have a paying contract, it doesn’t make it any easier to sit in that chair…lol.

  4. Sharla,
    I’ve heard several published authors say the same thing! It makes me feel a bit better to hear everyone struggles with this. My problem is I have so many stories buzzing in my head just not enough time to get them on paper. I think if you love what you do, you find a way. I tend to be one who works well with deadlines and right now I don’t have any except those that are self imposed. It helps to treat writing like a job, no matter how you pay yourself.

  5. Tracy, you’re so right. Candace Havens is amazing and so are her writer workshops. I love the idea of a reward system and while I don’t use one for writing, I do have one for housework, which turns out to be the same one you’re using for writing. LOL! Vacuum upper floors and I get to read a chapter. Vacuum bottom floor and I get to read another chapter. Complete dusting and read another chapter. Etc, etc. This method words extremely well if I’m reading a real page-turner of a book.

    Good luck to you in October and keep us posted on how many books you read. That’ll tell us how many pages you’re writing a day. 🙂

  6. I like the idea of an incentive for sitting my booty in the chair and writing NO MATTER WHAT! I’ll have to think about what my reward will be but I know that if I couldn’t read those few pages each night before I go to bed I’d be curled up in a fetal position whining, so your method may indeed work for me!

  7. Candace sounds like the living example of the old committee phrase: If you want something done, give it to the busiest person. Simply, the more you do, the more you can do. Or as the yogi teach, energy begets energy. So where am I in this group of writing-full-time-working-moms … I’m the one who waited until the kids were grown, the job a memory. I decided to retire on less than I needed because what I needed more was to write full time.

    Four years later I have no regrets and never need an incentive. I’m grateful to finally get the chance to do what I love more than anything else. One of these days I will also get officially baptized in print. Until then, I can’t wait to put my Italian butt in chair and realize a life-long dream. Funny how each of us comes to this journey.

    Each of those sho have the courage to work and raise families and also write are super women. Never forget that and great success in your October goal 🙂

  8. Tracy,
    Great post and one I can relate to as I’ve had a really hard time getting my butt in the chair. I know how much you love to read, so I think your system is destined to work!

  9. I can relate–busy doesn’t begin to describe how I feel! Am I accomplishing on the level of Candace? Probably not. Am I producing on a level I can live with and respect? Absolutely.

    When all is said and done, life is about living. If I can feel good about my achievements and contributions for the day, then I’ve done all right. 🙂

  10. Found this site from the Writer’s Guide to E-publishing!

    I confess, I tried the reward thing, too. It kinda worked. It was nice to get the reward (a Nook Touch) once I finished my novel that I published last week. However, I have a more specific “butt in seat” mantra. I use the Twitter hash tag #wordmongering. Near the :00 of every hour you’ll find writers of all genres and backgrounds cheering each other on. Some bring virtual confetti. Anyway, clock hits :00 and we GO! Write non stop (or as non stop as your environment will let you) and at :30 you go back and give your word count. When i first started, I was 250 words, 300 words, but as I got the hang of it, I’m consistently 750-1,000 words a session. I also am an outliner, but people who don’t outline participate too. #editmongering is from :30 to the next :00, similar principle, but if I’m writing, I usually just take a break for the thirty minutes.

  11. Elizabeth,
    Thanks for the tip! I’m a frustrated time management type and this sounds like fun. The virtual confetti is intriguing. I haven’t started ‘tweeting’ yet, but this might be the very thing to push me on board. 🙂

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