Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Tips for Fiction Writers on How to Writer-Proof Your Life

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1. If you’re writing full time, treat it like the job it is. Show up at your desk at 9:am, dressed, (ok, pajamas will do) ready to work. Work from 9-5, with a break for lunch. If you are not able to write full time, rise two hours early, before everyone else in your home. Or, stay up two hours after everyone else has gone to bed. Set a daily word limit for yourself. For example, 500-1000 words.

2. If you have a habit of keeping a diary or writing in a journal, break it. These activities eat into precious fiction writing hours. If you’re wedded to the idea of journaling I suggested you relegate it to after your fiction writing hours. Keep your fresh brain for the hard work of fiction. You’re going to need at the help you can get.

3. I like to use music to ease me into the mood of a scene or chapter. With Matadora it was the song Anthem, written by Leonard Cohen and sung by Perla Battalia and Julie Christensen. Music can have a trance-like effect and is highly conducive to accessing fiction.

4. Never check e-mail before 5pm.

5. Get rid of the TV or at least don’t get cable. With only two crappy reality show channels available to you, you are unlikely to waste your time watching TV.

6. Unplug the phone before you begin writing, or turn off the ringer. I have the same reaction to the telephone and I do to the doorbell. If someone is calling, they are clearly alive and there is no real emergency.

7. If you live with other people, sit them down and explain that when the door to your writing room is closed, no one is to enter. If someone tests this rule, all you need to do is rant and rave and generally behave like a mad person and it won’t happen again – trust me. (If you don’t actually have a writing room, you can claim territory in the kitchen, behind a curtain in the basement, wherever. The important thing here is to defend it fiercely.)

8. If you are responsible for feeding other members of the household, learn to cook in bulk and freeze meals. Thaw something several times a week and presto! You’ve saved yourself three or four hours for writing.

9. Lower your standards. Unlike a brilliant, fleeting idea, a sink full of dishes and a pile of dirty laundry can wait. Ignoring mundane household chores for a long as possible never hurt anyone, but not finishing your writing project will hurt you.

10. Post all rejection letters on the wall. Treat them like wallpaper. After a while you won’t notice them. Similarly, post all good reviews and look at them frequently. Big yourself up. No one else will.

1 comment

#9 is my favourite: "Lower your standards"! These are writing words to live by.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Elizabeth Ruth

Elizabeth Ruth’s first novel, Ten Good Seconds of Silence, was a finalist for the Writers Trust of Canada Fiction Prize, the Amazon.ca Best First Novel Award and the City of Toronto Book Award and was named a top 10 book of the year by NOW Magazine, the Vancouver Sun and the London Free Press. Smoke, her second novel, was chosen for the One Book, One Community program and also named a top 10 book of the year by NOW Magazine. Her most recent novel, Matadora, will be published in April, 2013 by Cormorant Books.

Go to Elizabeth Ruth’s Author Page