One of the most inspiring speeches I've ever heard about writing was given last month by Mystery Writers of America President and New York Times best-selling author Lisa Scottoline, who talked about how difficult it is to keep -- and nurture -- a dream when you are over the age of 12.
She was speaking about being a writer, of course. And as part of her presentation on "How to Write a Novel" at last month's MWA Edgars Symposium, she said that dream is our candle and we must do everything possible to protect it. We can't let people blow it out, take it away from us or diminish it.
Scottoline's story of living on credit cards to be a writer and stay-at-home mom is well-known. She believed in her dream, worked hard to achieve it and now is the author of 18 novels and two non-fiction books. She says we all can be published writers, too, if we "protect the candle."
That means even if we have day jobs and other responsibilities, we must make writing a priority and find time wherever and whenever we can to devote to our dream. To help illustrate her point, she said she declines luncheon and other fun invitations that might interrupt her work because writing is her job -- and it comes first.
And, as she notes, if you write 1,000 words a day, you'll have a novel in a couple of months. Even if you write a page a day, you'll have a novel in a year. In her 42-page "Lisa Scottoline's Handy-Dandy Author Kit" distributed at the Symposium she included this inspirational advice from Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland":
"Begin at the beginning," the King said gravely, "and go on till you come to the end; then stop."
But in the process, do you "protect the candle"? Do you say "no" to people and activities that can interfere or distract you from your writing? This includes your family. Do they understand how important it is for you to invest in your craft and your dream? Protecting the candle means doing so against everything and everyone.
I wish I could say I am successful at this, but Lisa Scottoline has shown me I need to work much harder. I can say with certainty that when she finished her hour-long presentation, I wasn't the only one in the room who wanted to run home and get back to writing.
Along with inspiring us all and providing the name and contact information for her agent, she also discussed premise, voice, point of view, setting, time, starting your story, telling your story, ending and getting published.
I urge every one of you -- whether published or unpublished -- to spend $10 for the DVD of her speech or $9 for the CD by going to this link. You won't regret it.
And please don't forget to protect your candle. You won't regret that either.