The Right Way to Write

The Right Way to Write, guest post by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

I started writing when I was a child, my first book was published when I was a freshman in highschool, and I have continued publishing a book a year since then. Through highschool, college, graduate school, relationships, marriage, divorce, and life as a parent, I’ve continued to write and publish, and my backlist now includes seventeen young-adult books, three short stories, three adult fantasy novels. Throughout it all, the hardest skill to master has been managing my increasingly-limited time.

The Right Way to Write, guest post by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Before I get too far, I need to warn: Writing isn’t math. It isn’t car mechanics. It isn’t IKEA furniture. There isn’t one perfect process you can follow to get the right answer. A lot of writers get hung up on wanting to do something the right way, instead of their way. If your way isn’t working for you, I’m happy to give advice, but as the disclaimer goes, “Your mileage may vary.” I hope you’ll find the following thoughts helpful, but they’re not law.

As I mentioned before, I have always written. Sometimes I lost sleep over it, or missed homework assignments (I admit, I was a terrible student until college), but it wasn’t until I had my first child that I hit a point where my drive to tell stories didn’t magically result in my having time to tell stories. That was when my writing method needed to change.

Before then, I wrote whenever I had time-- before school, during lunch, on the train, whenever I had five minutes, and then in longer stretches on evenings and weekends. When people asked how I scheduled time for writing, I always said, “I don’t schedule. I just use every bit of time I have.” Writing on a schedule didn’t work for me. If I sat down to write at a specific time, the words simply didn’t come. For you, that might still be the way it is, in which case my advice is, “Don’t force it.”

When “whenever I have time” stopped working for me, the first hurdle was convincing myself that writing wasn’t just a hobby and a luxury, and I had the right to set aside time for it. Partly because I started professional writing when I was a kid dodging schoolwork, and partly because I had a long-term partner who was offended whenever I prioritized writing over spending time together, I had this feeling in the back of my head like I was wasting time and doing something wrong when I was writing. In retrospect, this is completely absurd-- by the time I had my daughter, I had been publishing for over a decade and made a successful career of it-- but I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling. I think a lot of would-be writers who say they want to write but can’t make time are probably thinking this way, like it’s not acceptable to set aside time for art until everything else is done (and frankly, everything else is never done). If you’re publishing, writing is your job. You need to make time for it. And if you’re not publishing yet, it is still alright to make time for your passions and dreams.

As for myself, I did two things to develop a schedule: I started getting up early to work, and I started regularly attending a local writing group.

4 am to 5:30 am might not be the best time for most people, but for me, it’s the only time of day when I can concentrate on writing before other real-life tasks. (Unlike now, when I’m composing this blog post with Bolt in the background while minding my 3-year-old as she eats breakfast.) I had to learn to get focused quickly after I sit down, and to set specific goals for the day so I didn’t dither about. I had always said before that I couldn't work on demand, but now that it was my only choice, I found a way to make it work.

Joining a group of other serious writers helped keep me on track, too. It can be hard to find a writing group that work for you, but I recommend it highly. My group mostly just sits and writes together (sometimes we gather for critique groups, but not on our regular Wednesdays), and that’s what I need.

In conclusion, as far as I can tell, no one really has time for serious writing, much less the extra time and effort required for publishing. Yet people do it. Whether you work by whim or strictly schedule, do what works for you, as long as it works for you, and trust you have a right to it.

The Right Way to Write, guest post by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Amelia Atwater-Rhodes wrote her first novel, In the Forests of the Night, when she was 13 years old. Other books in the Den of Shadows series are Demon in My View, Shattered Mirror, Midnight Predator, all ALA Quick Picks for Young Adults. She has also published the five-volume series The Kiesha’ra: Hawksong, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and VOYA Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror List Selection; Snakecharm; Falcondance; Wolfcry; and Wyvernhail.


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