Karen E. Olson happened to be in Anchorage a year ago when we both attend Bouchercon 2007 and since then she's produced yet another novel, Shot Girl while still finding time to be a wife and mother. For those of us wondering how someone squeezes the birth of a book--let alone FOUR--into those same 24-hour periods Ms. Olson's here to share her bits of wisdom on the subject.
I don’t have time to write.
But somehow I’ve managed to write four books in three years. That’s with a job, a kid, a husband, and a house that needs cleaning every now and then. I could forgo the dusting, but not the vacuuming. We’ve got two cats that shed even in winter, and with the amount of fur I pick up, I could make a whole ‘nother cat.
So, you ask, how do I do it?
I used to stay up with the little elves in the night, writing furiously after a shift on the newspaper’s copy desk. But when I stopped being a vampire, it got a little more dicey. Do I wait until my daughter goes to bed and risk falling asleep on my keyboard? Do I pick my daughter up after work and sit her in front of the TV while I selfishly ignore her and create a world she can’t read until she’s 21? Do I abandon my family after supper, leaving my husband to clean up and make sure the violin gets practiced?
It’s somewhere in the middle and all of the above. I steal moments. Like that proverbial thief in the night, I’ll throw a load of laundry in the washer and creep into my office when I don’t think anyone’s looking. I don’t allow myself to look at what I’ve done the day before, that would take way too much time, but instead I finish the sentence I left unfinished and type as quickly as I can.
Mrs. Guida, my high school typing teacher, would be proud I’ve kept up my speed.
The key is just writing. No waiting for muses to tap me on the shoulder. Those taps are usually just my daughter wanting a snack or help with math homework.
And instead of telling myself I have to sit for an hour and write something (because with that sort of edict, I’ll just end up surfing the web or playing Scramble on Facebook), I set a page goal for the day. It’s much less daunting than a word count. I can’t think in thousands, or even hundreds. A writer friend pointed out that three pages a day equaled a book in three months. He was right. I started at three pages a day for my book Dead of the Day. With Shot Girl, I was up to four pages a day. And the book I wrote this past summer? The Missing Ink was done in two months, at five pages a day. It’s amazing how once you get into a rhythm with it, how it becomes part of the fabric of everyday life as much as picking up your kids, picking up the clutter in the house, and picking out an outfit to wear to work.
No one has time to write. But it can be done.
Karen E. Olson is the author of the Annie Seymour mysteries. Shot Girl, the fourth in the series, is available now. She's got a daughter, Julia, who's 11 going on 16, and a husband and a job editing a a medical journal at Yale. Her website is www.kareneolson.com and she blogs at www.firstoffenders.typepad.com
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