More often than you might think, freelance writers stare in aggravation at an empty space where something they need–and thought they had–used to be. Whether it’s printer paper, a legal pad, batteries for a mouse, or even a memory stick, things run out just when you need them. As a writer, these items are an important part of your work. Some authors prefer using legal pads for rough drafts, while those who live and breathe by a laptop might loathe the trackpad and always use a mouse. When these things aren’t readily accessible, it can throw off a writer’s game.
Something I Have to Do
There’s only one person who needs a glass of water oftener than a small child tucked in for the night, and that’s a writer sitting down to write. – Mignon McLaughlin
Quips about writers and procrastination abound. But octogenarian Olivene Godfrey isn’t opting in. The 87-year-old writer is as relentless as ever in a writing career that has lasted more than forty years. Describing writing as a “compulsion,” she says she gets lost in the stories she weaves. It’s something I have to do,” she says. “I used to stay up all hours of the night when creating my initial draft.” Continue reading
A Solid Foundation is Essential: Article Two
In the previous column we defined a foundation as “the basis or groundwork of anything; the natural or prepared ground or base on which some structure rests.” For the purpose of this fourth series, I want to whittle down that definition specifically to include only those most essential parts of a foundation that will hold up your story. Those parts are a beginning, a middle, and an ending.*
Let’s face it. No matter how talented and dedicated you are, there will always be competition. Jobs may be easier to come by now, but everyone wants the best possible contracts. While there’s nothing wrong with that—we all need to make a decent living—it means that you could be one out of a hundred applicants. When this is the case, you have to make sure you stand out from the crowd in some manner.
Occasionally, even the best freelance writer will run dry. Clients seem scarcer than good TV shows, and no matter how many projects you apply for, you don’t get the job. It’s times like these that can make anyone who needs a steady paycheck prone to panic. So what is a writer in need of work to do?
This is the time of year I hate living in my beloved South. The heat and humidity is daunting to say the least. I become a whiner of the worst kind and want to hibernate in the nice cool confines of air conditioning. Yet, there is a part of me that needs the fresh air, the sunlight, the sounds of the birds floating in the open windows. So, I am at battle. I rise early on most mornings when the world is only beginning to stir and the sun isn’t streaking through the gathering of trees we have behind our house. I open the windows to the gray blanket of light. Dayclean is what the Geechee call it. The space between the shadows of night and the first rays of sun. I love this time of day so much I used this saying at the beginning of my second novel, The Storycatcher. A novel, now, I often want to shove to the side, forget about entirely. Why, you ask, would an author want to forget one of her published works?
The Writer Within
A Solid Foundation is Essential: Article One
In this fourth series, we will begin our journey into the actual “writing” process, allowing our writers within to take the wheel and spearhead that trip to the finished manuscript. In “What Kind of Writer Are You?” we met our personal creative souls and established a relationship with them. “Embolden Your Writer With a Plan” gave them direction. Then we looked at providing them with the proper tools in “Give Your Writer Resources.” If you’ve followed the steps at the end of each column, you have done everything possible to prepare your writer within for the road ahead…now it’s his/her time to begin working! In “A Solid Foundation Is Essential” we will look at why a rock-steady base is so important, discuss in general possible footprints on which to build stories, and end with the example of “how-to-write-an-essay” as an illustration of one possible foundation.
Give Your Writer Resources: Article Ten
We have accumulated quite a number of resources! Visualize sitting in your workspace and assessing your stockpile. I’ll use my office as a guide, but let’s refer to it in the third person “Janice,” my writer within because it has been designed for her working style.
Janice’s workspace is a “U” shape. Her computer sits in the center of the setup with two long areas where she can spread out her writing to either side. Shelves line the wall above her computer, and the area between the desktop and shelves is a bulletin board.
On the lower two shelves Janice has placed her writing reference books, some resources useful to all writers, others specific to what she writes:
Philip Lee Williams is a name many of you will recognize as the Georgia Author of the Year, as he has already received the honor four times. Williams is the author of nineteen books, including twelve novels, four works of non-fiction, and three volumes of poetry. His books have been published by such presses as W. W. Norton, Random House, Grove Press, Ballantine, Dell, Viking/Penguin, and Mercer University Press, as well a number of smaller presses.
His latest novel, Emerson’s Brother, was published in 2012 by Mercer University Press. His most recent book of poetry, The Color of All Things: 99 Love Poems, is also from Mercer, published this spring, and was named winner of the Adrienne Bond Award for Poetry. His memoir, It Is Written: My Life in Letters, was published in October 2014 and is a nominee in this year’s Memoir/Autobiography category. We took a few moments to ask Mr. Williams about his process and his success as a writer. Continue reading