Fiction author Carolyn Miller has had an amazing output in the last few years, with thirteen novels and novellas published since 2017, another two due later this year, and more stories set for release in 2022. My novel ‘Scattered’ took seven years and eight months from conception to birth, so I was interested in finding out the secrets to Carolyn’s success. In this post, I asked her to share her productivity tips with us. So much wisdom in these responses. Enjoy!
Keep On Writing
Thanks for inviting me to the blog today, Nola.
This may sound simple, but if you want to be productive, finish the first story then write the next. Then the next. Then the next. I think a lot of authors are like me and can spend way too long tinkering with our first stories, adjusting a word here or there, gazing fondly at our darling, when often those first stories are practice stories, where we learn how to write. Even though we might think that book is the best thing ever (and of course, finishing a book IS a great achievement), not every book we write is one that should necessarily be published.
It’s because I had written a number of Regency stories before I got my contract that I was able to see nine books release in three years. Of those, I only had to write five in that time period, as I had the others already written, and could see them linked into series with a little tweaking as necessary.
The Value of Editing and Marketing
It’s only now that I’m about to see my very first stories (after a HUGE amount of editing that brought one of them down from 155000 words to a more publishable 95,000 words) actually released to the world, as part of a new contemporary series called the Original Six, based on the teams that formed the original ice hockey league in Canada and the US. This is because I’ve built a readership, I’ve learned about marketing and branding (thanks to Iola Goulton’s excellent course), and I’ve invested in key connections. (Nola’s note: I also strongly recommend Iola’s online course, Kick-start Your Author Platform.)
Yes, it helps that I quit my teaching career to do something I love way more (even though writing still doesn’t pay all the bills!), but regardless of whether we can write full-time or part-time, words only get written when we switch off the distractions (I’m looking at you, Facebook!), switch off the emails, close the door and park backside in chair until our word count for the day is done.
I learned from my first writing contract (which saw me stepping out and trusting God to write two 90k books in 9 months) that I can write well when given deadlines, so I’m a huge believer in deadlines (it works well for my personality type), whether given by a publisher or self-imposed.
NaNoWriMo is awesome for this (and is actually when I wrote my fifth published novel, Miss Serena’s Secret, after an Omega Conference when Narelle Atkins spoke about the value of writing in series). Having just finished writing the previous book, Winning Miss Winthrop, I knew the story world, the characters, the basic premise, and was able to write 80,000 words in 30 days.
This set me up to know I could write fast when motivated, and earlier this year I was able to write a 50,000 word novel in twelve days. Does it mean it’s perfect? No way. But I know you can’t edit something that isn’t written, so I believe in getting that first draft out there, letting it rest, writing the next thing, coming back to look at the previous story with fresh eyes, and editing then. And there’s something about writing and getting into that flow which makes it easier to write the next book, then the next.
I’m also a big believer in protecting my headspace, so I try to stay focused on one story until it’s done, and only read stuff of that genre, or do editing related to that genre, so I can meet my deadlines. I regard writing as my work, and just like you wouldn’t let your mum drop in at your office, I see my desk at home as a similar space to protect as much as possible – which gets interesting with four kids! It does mean being organised, checking for school holidays to allow down-time then, scheduling things on calendars, etc.
Next year I’m looking at releasing 8 stories (I know!) which means I’ve been very careful with my time to make sure I have everything ready to go – extra challenging when I’m self-publishing five of them! (the first one actually releases December 29 this year). I know writing and publishing like this isn’t for everyone, but I like the challenge, and given the Winter Olympics timing, I have to do it now or wait another four years.
Faith and Purpose
Over the past few years I’ve seen God’s faithfulness time and again, from praying through tears ‘God, this will be the last contest I enter if I don’t win!’ which saw me finally win and an agent offer to represent me, to that strong sense of ‘don’t press send on that self-published book’ which saw an email from a US publisher the following day, to stepping out and trusting God to help me write books that meet my publishers’ expectations and deadlines. God IS faithful, something I hope is reflected in all of my stories, and I’m trying to live what I write, trusting God and working hard, and believing that He can work all things out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. I really feel like part of my purpose in life is to write stories of hope and heart, and that offer an Aussie twist of humour.
Thanks for sharing those tips with us, Carolyn. I’m still in awe of you, but you’ve given some great practical examples that we can pick up on.
Carolyn’s latest book, Regaining Mercy, releases today! It’s a contemporary romance novella that’s part of the Independence Islands series. When single Mum Mindy returns to Elnora after appearing on a reality TV show, not everyone is accepting of her, but she has to do what’s best for her son. Enter Dermott, the interim boss of Greener Gardens landscaping business, and things could get … complicated. Throw in a storm and a missing child, and you’ll just have to read it to find out what happens!
If you enjoyed Carolyn’s tips, stay tuned for an extended blog interview in a few weeks’ time in which Carolyn shares more about her life, books and writing. In the meantime, do you have any of your own productivity tips to share? We’d love to hear your examples.
Carolyn Miller lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia, with her husband and four children. A longtime lover of romance, Carolyn loves drawing readers into fictional worlds that show the truth of God’s grace in our lives. Her Regency and contemporary novels are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Koorong, etc