Writing is hard work—and taking risks
Anne Perry and Victoria Zackheim were a tour de force, radiating playful power with a mesmerizing authority. They were on book tour, promoting their latest books, yet they chose to spend over three hours mentoring writers at the California Writers Club, Apple Valley branch. Their focus was on how to approach writing projects. Zackheim is an experienced editor and an author specializing in memoir and personal essays. Anne Perry is recognized as one of the world’s top 100 masters of crime and her series of detective novels are set in historical fiction.
Both authors agreed that writing is hard work. Worth it though, said Perry, because you’ll know you’ve done something. Zackheim added, “If you are a writer, it should be fun and an overall joyful experience. You should say to yourself “This is hard work, and I am loving it!”
Perry said the hardest work as a writer is putting in the time to outline a draft of the entire story. Zackheim concurred, adding that you have to take your work seriously and set aside time and space for it. When they are not on tour, they write nine to five, stopping only for lunch. Now over seventy, Perry can still pull a 14 hour day. Neither has ever missed a deadline, not by one minute. If you are a writer, project that attitude by respecting your work. It will become important to others too. Learn to say, “I’m working, sorry I have no time.” No lunch meetings, and no drop-in visitors.
After the plot outline comes the editing process, the most time consuming and absorbing work. They recommend using editors and workgroups for support and urge all writers to accept editing suggestions. “Re-write, re-write, re-write until you get to the point,” said Perry.
Both women noted that their careers prospered once they took more risks when they were in their mid-forties. They tried different genres, screenplays, conferences and anthologies. The more adventurous they were, the more productive they became, and the more fun they had. Zackheim insisted that writers must follow through on every creative idea, and not let them go. “Try out your own ideas. And if people have ideas for you, say yes. If your efforts work out, great, if not, you’ll gain focus and experience. If you don’t put your ideas out there, you’ll never know. Don’t play it safe.”