by Sam Hilliard
1. If writing feels like work you might be doing it wrong. Writing works best when it’s an escape for the writer, as well as the reader. And when the writer lets the characters take over, time stops mattering; the days pass quickly. But if the manuscript is becoming a hassle, you either aren’t into the project, or the project needs some space so the ideas can finish germinating. In the meantime, write something else.
2. Every writing day is an adventure (or there is no typical writing day). Unless you work in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere, people will encroach on your routine. Taking the unplanned phone call or answering the door to deal with the Girl Scout hawking cookies not only provides an opportunity to socialize, albeit briefly, it forces the writer to act like a human instead of a super-serious badge of courage writer. Each day something interesting might happen when you temporarily step away from the keyboard—if you let it.
3. Some deadlines matter more than others. Generally the bigger the check attached to the deadline, the more it matters. So rank those projects according to the possibility that missing them might require legal counsel. If there’s no chance a lawyer will crawl out of his coffin to serve up a suit, it can probably wait.
4. Revisions should be as engaging as the original writing process. If you can’t spend 4 hours working a paragraph over, only to revert to what you had the day before without thinking you wasted your time, you might want to consider watching television instead of telling stories. Revisions are what make writing effective, and doing them well takes time.
5. When developing a character, don’t be afraid to talk out loud. Ask yourself a question and then answer in a different voice. Interviewing really helps you get to know your characters. One of the masters of fiction, Charles Dickens, pioneered the four mirror technique. Each mirror represented a different character and when he was unsure about a line of dialog, he stood in front of the appropriate mirror and acted out the passage before returning to the pages.
Born in Kansas City, MO, near the center of the United States, Sam Hilliard arrived during a very scary period of the 1970s. Since then he has lived on both coasts and quite a few places in between. Currently, Sam resides outside New York City with his girlfriend, and an army of four cats—one feline under the legal limit. His first book, The Last Track: A Mike Brody Novel, a mystery/thriller, released this Spring. When not writing, he’s the Director of IT at an all-girl boarding school where he gets to observe world-class drama firsthand. It’s also the reason he studies Krav Maga and Tai Chi.