Welcome guest blogger, friend of mine, and fabulous author, Rhett Devane, as she talks about surviving as an author! Her new novel, Secondhand Sister, launches today!
The trouble with a novel is that someone has to write it. As an author—a living conduit for a congress of miscreant muses—that someone is me.
When I first set out on this adventure/trek/marathon over fifteen years ago (longer if you count the stories I constructed as soon as I could hold a pencil), I couldn’t for the life of me understand those more mature writers who spoke of “toiling” and “suffering” for their art. Was I missing something? Creating a world and peppering it with characters to torment equaled pure joy: finger painting with chocolate pudding; building a sandcastle from crystal sugar; strolling down a canopy lane, sipping sweet tea, my toes digging into pale sand soft as talcum.
I took words out to play, a delighted kid with a dictionary fat with possibilities and a thesaurus heavy enough to slay dragons.
No one bothered to tell me the essential truths of this writer’s life. Now, as an author and survivor, I will reveal these truths, as I see them.
1. Do not quit your day job. It pays the food and utility bills, covers health and car insurance, and most important, pays for the paper, ink cartridges, notebooks, laptops, printers, flash drives, pens, pencils, highlighters, Kleenex, aspirin, and coffee. Perhaps wine and beer, And chocolate. And a therapist.
2. Writing is work. Period. The first draft is grade school recess compared to revisions, overhauls, rewrites, proofs, and tantrums. Hours in critique groups, conferences, workshops, and whining online and over the phone to fellow sufferers. Swearing. A lot. Feeling bad about swearing. Swearing some more.
Then, there’s approaching agents and editors, deciding between traditional or self-publishing. Formatting for Kindle. Finding copyeditors and a graphic cover designer. And marketing. Don’t get me started on that. Wait. I did all of that and now I have to yammer incessantly about myself and my books? When, exactly, do I carve out time to write?
3. Balance is as essential as breathing. If I don’t take breaks to garden, love my family, travel, or catch a fleeting whiff of fall in the air, how can I reflect that life in my novels? Answer: I can’t. The storyline and characters won’t desert me if I come up for air. But my short life will, if I don’t stop to enjoy it.
4. Writing demands courage and resiliency. If I keep a personal log beneath a stack of socks, no problem. It can suck, riddled with incorrect grammar and wording, lazy language. Hurled onto the pages like vomit after an all-night fraternity kegger. The moment I switch intentions, actually allow others to read it, that is when courage and flexibility join the que.
5. Successful writers are without a doubt, the most blindly optimistic, unsinkable, troubled, and somewhat fulfilled people on this planet. They share a mission: to relay the human experience and by golly, figure out what makes us all tick. Thank the heavens for writers. Without them, we would be in deep doo-doo.
6. Not everyone is slated for stardom. I may never be great. But I can strive to grow, to learn the craft, to become as good as I can be. Besides, if fame was my only driving factor, that would be sad. I would chase the current flavor, never true to myself. No thanks.
7. Some books are more fun to live with than others. The one I just kicked out, er, launched, Secondhand Sister, is my tenth published novel. And this one was the delinquent, beer-swilling, back-talking, reckless-driving problem child. Ask my friends. They know how many times I threatened to throw it, and the laptop it rode in on, to the curb. I hung in there. Finally, I had to let it go. Truly, writing a novel is a bit like holiday shopping. You never really finish, you just have to stop at some point.
Ironically, Secondhand Sister is my favorite child. I look forward to the places it might go. With hope and a sense of relief, I sent it off. Maybe it will come home every now and then. Have a good meal. Wash clothes.
8. Errors occur. No matter how many times you proof the final copy, no matter how many talented folks cull the pages, no matter if you smudge the room and call in every guardian angel this side of Saturn, those pesky typos are there. Lurking. Do the best you can. Don’t be sloppy. But don’t obsess. Errors prove you are human, and therefore not perfect. Besides, perfect people are annoying.
9. In order to be a writer you must also be a reader. No exceptions. But be selective. Choose the best quality writing. Avoid the junk food. All you’ll get is lard in your own writing and decayed holes in your plotlines.
10. Finally, and this is the most important: Write! Don’t sit around and jabber on Facebook about writing. Quit tweeting and freeping and finding anything else to do besides what you must do. Silence the ring tone on your phone. Turn off the television. Sit down. And do the one thing that will make you a better writer, practice. Let go of your fear. The words and muses will join you if you only ask.
Like my homeless and hopeless protagonist in Secondhand Sister, I am as persistent as a ditch weed.
Don’t give up. Keep learning. Keep writing.
In keeping with my Deep South heritage, let me add: Bless your heart.
Rhett DeVane is a true Southerner, born and raised in the muggy, bug-infested forests of the Florida panhandle. For the past thirty-plus years, Rhett has made her home in Tallahassee, located in Florida’s Big Bend area, where she splits her workdays between her two professions: dental hygienist and novelist.
Rhett is the author of five published mainstream humorous fiction novels set in her hometown of Chattahoochee, a place with “two stoplights and a mental institution on the main drag”: The Madhatter’s Guide to Chocolate, Up the Devil’s Belly, Mama’s Comfort Food, Cathead Crazy, and Suicide Supper Club. She is the coauthor of two novels: Evenings on Dark Island with Larry Rock and Accidental Ambition with Robert W. McKnight. In addition, Rhett has released two books in a series of middle grade fiction, Elsbeth and Sim and Dig Within.
Suicide Supper Club won first place in 2014 for fiction from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association. She’d wear the medal every day if it wasn’t so heavy and perhaps a bit braggity. Plus finding earrings to match, there’s that. Her tenth novel, Secondhand Sister, is slated for release in October of 2015.
Rhett writes to stay balanced and reasonably happy. The way this world is today, it’s a must. “Humor lifts me. As long as I am on this side of the dirt, I will find a way to laugh, and to share that with as many people as possible.”
To learn more about Rhett and her writing, visit her website and blogs:
Rhett’s website: www.rhettdevane.com
Rhett’s crazy Southern blog: www.southernhat-titude.blogspot.com
Rhett’s writers’ blog: www.writers4higher.blogspot.com
Rhett’s author page on Amazon: www.amazon.com/-/e/B001JS46UM
About Secondhand Sister:
How can a woman blend the person she believed she was with the person she never had the chance to be?
Mary-Esther Day Alford Fernandez Sloat owns little besides her piecemeal past—a tattered childhood, misspent youth, three failed marriages, and a series of menial jobs. When she attempts to donate a kidney to her estranged mother, Mary-Esther learns a life-altering truth: Loretta Boudreau Day is not her biological parent.
The final blow comes when Hurricane Katrina destroys her Nana’s house: the last link to her beloved grandmother, and to the life Mary-Esther thought was hers.
Armed with a faded birth certificate, Mary-Esther arrives in North Florida in a beat-up Chevy van, determined to unravel the mystery.
Instead of welcoming arms, she finds a clannish community determined to keep her from learning the truth. Until one man risks everything to help her find the courage to face who she really is.