I wasn’t among the mourners when Joan Rivers died. I barely recognized this iteration of her face, and I didn’t think her brand of comedy particularly funny. Other than another celeb death gone-wrong, the event barely flickered my needle. But the outpouring of emotion over her death and life intrigued me. She was a female pioneer in the field, and for that alone she merited a footnote in the comedic annals. But people were genuinely moved by her passing. Hmmh. So, I did some reading.
She was an artist who took her craft seriously. After deciding that she’d never make it as an actress, she chose to be a comedian. And from that moment forward, her every aim was to make people laugh. Her mantra: live like a shark. Either swim forward or sink and die.
Good advice. Even for writers. So I’ve taken that mantra for myself. I’ve already published three thrillers with some success, but I’m not satisfied. So I made a hit-list of ways to swim forward.
Outline better. I tend to outline a general architecture when I start a novel and fill in the details as I progress. But it’s not enough. I need to think through the details of the entire novel before I begin to write. A good outline helps me weave the complex threads of action beforehand, making for a tidier process as I write. If the story line is part of a series, this becomes vital to continuity between the volumes. And personally, it’s security, a tether on my wandering sanity.
Write a series. My current WIP is a sequel to my bestselling thriller, 3 LIES, but I plan to write a series to complement my second novel, DARK POOL. I’ve found that I enjoy seeing the next adventure in a character’s life. A human isn’t limited to one growth arc in a lifetime and neither are my characters. As with their author, they still have lots to learn. And a bonus takeaway to a beloved series is sales. I’ve watched my son buy book after book from his favorite authors. So, cheers. I hoist my goblet in honor of my new watchword: series.
Write more. More words. More chapters. More stories. More books. Just more. There isn’t a shortage of ideas to write, so write them. When I have time. When I don’t have time. When I can’t wait to pour into a page. When the monitor stares at me and blinks. When my butt is numb from sitting, stand, sit on the bouncy ball, or write at the treadmill. Whatevs. Just. Write.
Write faster. I’ve taken to writing with a timer. Exactly how many words can I slam out in twenty minutes? Is it 300? 500? 1000? I keep track of my personal best, see if I can improve on it each time I caress QWERTY. Caffeine helps. Music with lyrics does not. If it helps, fine. If it hinders, ignore it. Life will never be perfect. Which only gives me more to write about.
Treasure my time. Time is the one resource we cannot replenish. I feel it at my back. There are things I must do and things I want to do. Everything else is optional. Choosing with care is difficult but necessary. The writerly groups one can frequent are endless. We just got a Roku, and I could watch new movies and television until the end of my days. And books. The queue on my reader is scary. I need to say no when I have to and yes when I can. I think I used that same logic in parenting my kid. Figures.
Try new things. Comfort zones are an amorphous entity. I’m stretching mine. No marquees in Times Square just yet, but I’m not ruling out the idea. There are a zIllion ways to reach readers in both the real and virtual realms. If I haven’t tried it, I might. If it didn’t work before, I might try it again. Even unmitigated disasters are better than inertia. And if it doesn’t kill me, it may end up being a good thread for my next thriller.
So, thanks, Joan. Even if I didn’t laugh at your jokes, even if I didn’t shed a tear, even if I couldn’t pick you out of a line-up, I wish you well. Your sixty years of swimming forward have inspired me.
Bestselling Kindle author Helen Hanson writes thrillers about desperate people with a high-tech bent. Hackers. The CIA. Industry titans. Guys on sailboats. Mobsters. Their personal maelstroms pit them against unrelenting forces willing to kill. Throughout the journey, they try to find some truth, a little humor, and their humanity — from either end of the trigger. Visit Helen at her website, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads.