Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hallie Ephron The Writing Life: Are We Having Fun Yet?


Writing is hard. If you’re like me, you have more than a few moments of discouragement. You might need someone to encourage you to press on, keep writing -- it gets better.
Hallie Ephron’s keynote speech at the recent Lakefly Literary Conference did that for me.  Even though she has written and published at least nine novels, she remembers what it was like to be the only non-writer in a family of highly successful authors. Hallie’s parents, Phoebe and Henry Ephron, were playwrights and screen-writers, while sisters Nora, Dalia and Amy were established novelists.

Hallie decided to write in her 40s after a reporter asked if he could do a story about her because she was the only Ephron sister who wasn’t an author. Hallie refused, thinking if anybody was going to write about her not writing it was going to be her.

Although there obviously were writing skills in her genes, she says it took 10 years to get published. She brought a handful of rejection letters to the Wisconsin conference and shared snippets with us.

Most of us in the audience were smiling and nodding, having fielded rejection letters containing similar discouraging messages.

Hallie’s counsel was clear: There’s hope if we, as working-to-get-published authors, keep trying and acquiring wisdom along the way, eventually we're likely to get there. And, she went on to say, in the process, why not enjoy the trip?

I scribbled notes, trying to commit to paper as many of her affirmations as I could. The end result: 13 encouraging comments from Hallie, which I'd like to share.


            1.  "For a long time your taste will outrun your talent."  But if you keep writing, you WILL get better.
            2.  Practice is important -- and writers must realize that first drafts are often less than wonderful. Sometimes you simply have to “hold your nose and write.” In other words, get the words and scenes in your head on paper, even if they’re not perfect.  Each practice session makes you a tiny bit better.
            3.  But remember, on the way to getting better, you’ll have flops and failures. It’s simply a part of learning. We master new skills by making and correcting mistakes. Even when you get your story polished, it might turn out to be not quite right for a particular editor, agent or publishing house. So Hallie cautioned, "Be prepared for rejection."
            4.  "So much in what makes for success is out of your control. Get used to it."  She added: "There might be times when you do everything right and still your book isn’t snapped up."  Unfortunately, this can happen.  
            5.  So you might as well learn to have fun in this journey to develop your craft. Enjoy what you do. "Don’t wait until you sell the book to celebrate. Champagne is meant to be opened."
            6.  Know that you have a very special story to tell. "No one can write exactly what you will write."
            7.  Everything in your life, even the frustrations, can help develop your story and your craft. Learn from your daily experiences. “Everything [in life] is copy. Take notes."
            8.  Never forget:  You can learn from others. And reading is vital.  As she puts it: “You must be a READER if you want to be a successful writer.”
            9.  When you write, spend more time listening to yourself than trying to follow trends or attempting to re-create a recent best-seller. "In your writing, please yourself first."
            10.  The story you’re going to tell likely will require many hours of effort, so the best approach is to choose your topic wisely so you'll be "writing what you love."
            11.  If you want to become more proficient in writing, set aside a specific place and time to practice.  Her advice: Don't be haphazard in "making space and time in your life to write!”
            12.  As you write, remember that it’s an art and know that hard and fast rules won’t always work and that sometimes the writing and selling process doesn’t seem to make sense. That’s OK.  "Trust the chaos."
            13. Don’t consider your status as a pre-published author to be a negative. "Having never published a book might be a "brilliant place" to be. Agents and editors are on the lookout for the next new talent."
            Really? Agents and editors are looking for me? Like most of the Hallie’s Wisconsin audience, I hope so, but even if they aren't, I’m going to take her advice and enjoy my time as I work toward refining my craft.

                       
            Hallie’s latest mystery, There Was an Old Woman, has just been published.  Actually, first, I’m hoping to read her book, "The Everything Guide to Writing Your First Novel: All the tools you need to write and sell your first novel."




            In the meantime, I’m open to hearing encouraging advice. Do you have any tips on starting a new hobby? Or finishing a novel? Please share.                

22 comments:

  1. miss her movies and her window on the world

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  2. Grin. I'm guessing you're thinking of Hallie's older sister Nora. If you liked Nora, you'll probably love Hallie. Consider checking out her stories.

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  3. Brenda, thanks for the great writeup!

    Sandyland... must be talking about my sister! we miss her, too.

    (Agents REALLY REALLY are looking for unpublished talent...)

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    1. Hallie,

      Thanks for stopping by and thanks for your encouraging words.

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  4. Excellent advice. I love when she says this: “hold your nose and write.” How true for a first draft!

    (Thanks for stopping by my blog this morning. My post was late getting up.)

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    1. mjdresselbooks,
      I thought the advice was great, too and I enjoyed visiting you.

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  5. I had only known of Nora. Good to hear her story and she gave some helpful tips for writers.

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    1. Colleen,
      Me too, but now that I've met Hallie. I'm excited to read her books.

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  6. #11 is great advice. I offer it often to others as well.

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  7. Ron,
    Your right. I think having a space and time helps the muse know when she can visit. :)

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  8. I had read Heartburn by Nora. Very interesting will have to write some of this down. Or buy some ink for my printer.

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    1. Jennifer Anderson,
      Thanks. I'm glad the post was helpful.

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  9. " Hallie refused, thinking if anybody was going to write about her not writing it was going to be her." LOL!!! What an awesome reason to start! I love the little things you picked up. This is great.

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    1. Thanks Jennifer,
      I liked Hallie's reason for starting to write too.

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  10. I am so tired of people telling me, "as long as you're having fun" with respect to my writing. Writing hasn't been about fun for me ever. Not that there aren't good moments, but good moments are pure icing.

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    1. Alice Audrey,
      You've got a point, like any art, writing takes effort, but those moments when you get it right are pure icing.

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  11. Some good advice in there. My advice? Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard. That's the only way to get it done.

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    1. CountryDew,
      Yep, there's a lot to be said about putting time in. :)

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  12. I had no idea there was an entire Ephron writing dynasty. *G* Sounds like it was an interesting and inspiring talk -- thanks for sharing Hallie's tidbits of wisdom with us. Have a great Memorial Weekend!

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    1. Heather,
      It's cool to learn something new, isn't it? I'm excited because now I've new authors to read.

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  13. So many great gems in their. My advice is to sit down and write. Talking about it will never achieve a thing. Off to open my bottle of champagne.

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  14. Shelley,
    You're speaking to me. I've got to stop blogging and get back to my manuscript.

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