Erotic fiction writer Katya Harris tells us how she learnt to fend off the demon procrastination by getting organised and working to deadlines. Follow her advice to be brave when writing, submitting stories and in facing up to criticism and rejection.
Warning – writing advice!
I always think there should be a warning on every piece of writing advice. Warning: This won’t work for everyone. As writers and artists we all have different methods to our creative madness, and what may work for some of us won’t necessarily work for all of us. So please, do keep that in mind – try my methods, but please don’t feel bad if they don’t work for you, and don’t worry, another way will.
Write to deadline
So. Deadlines. That’s what the lovely Bec from Write-Track wished for me to talk to you about, and I have to say that deadlines have contributed the most to my progress as a writer.
In 2012, I saw a submission call for an anthology of gay erotica. I had messed around with erotic fiction a little bit before this, but I had never really thought about submitting any of it before. Still, I was intrigued by the call even as I was unsure about it. I had never written gay characters before, and I’d never sent a story into a publisher. I had an idea though, and taking the plunge, I wrote the story and submitted it. To my absolute delight, it was accepted, and that was the first story of mine to be published. It was a lot of firsts actually, but the most important one in relation to this blog post, is that it was the first time I had ever worked to a deadline.
“it was the first time I had ever worked to a deadline”
Since then I’ve discovered something. For the most part, I love deadlines. Yes, sometimes as they’re looming over me and time is rapidly depleting, I get a case of the “Oh my God, what the **** am I going to do!”s, but they also force me to be organised.
When I say organised, I mean organised. I have two diaries, an A5 one that I use to write down my everyday goals and targets, to-do lists and such, and a behemoth Master Diary in which I keep all submission call deadlines as well as any ideas I might have.
See? Ridiculously organised, but nearly all the writing I do is for specific calls so I need to keep track of everything. Publishers, word-counts, guidelines, themes. If I don’t note them all down, then there is no way I’d remember them all. Even then, I still slip-up, like the time I sent the right story to the right publisher, but under a different call’s name. Ouch! Luckily, the publisher didn’t hold it against me, and I learned my lesson well. Next time, triple check! Hopefully, this discipline will especially pay off this year as I move into novel-writing. Time will tell.
Fend off procrastination
I don’t know what it’s like for other writers, but for me, procrastination is my eternal bane. If I can put something off, I will, forever waiting until the very last minute before I get anything done. Deadlines help me deal with that, even if they’re self-imposed ones. They help me fend off the demon that sits on my shoulders and whispers at me to just finish reading that book, or binge-watch Person of Interest. Seeing those deadlines written down reminds me that if I want to be a writer, I have to sit my butt in my chair, crack open my laptop, and write.
“if I want to be a writer, I have to sit my butt in my chair, crack open my laptop, and write”
Do I meet every deadline every time? No, of course not. Do I feel bad about that? Sometimes yes if it’s a particular call I’m excited about, but mostly no. Sometimes life gets in the way, I don’t have an idea, or if I do but the story doesn’t work out. Bottom line though, deadlines prod me to get going, to work toward something, and even if I end up not hitting the ‘send’ button, every word I write is practice for another story I haven’t yet written.
Be brave and submit
I’ve also found that submission calls have been excellent help in developing my voice as a writer. They’ve made me take risks, and experiment with subjects and characters that I would have felt too daunted to attempt before. In fact, until I wrote that piece of gay erotica three years ago, I didn’t think I could write short fiction at all (although I do still find non-erotica more difficult to write).
“Brave in the act of writing. Brave in the vulnerability of submitting. Brave in the face of criticism and rejection.”
I’ve learned so many things from submission calls and deadlines, but I guess the most important lesson was how to be brave. Brave in the act of writing. Brave in the vulnerability of submitting. Brave in the face of criticism and rejection. It was a powerful and often difficult lesson for me to learn, and one that will still probably never defeat the self-doubt I harbour as a writer. But if I can be brave once, I can do it again and again and again, I just have to remind myself of that.
Laters, my writerly peeps and keep those words flowing!