I tackled the List of Five on the beautiful Write Castles in the Sky blog hosted by Jaye Viner. Here’s the interview and the link: http://www.writecastlesinthesky.blogspot.com/2013/09/list-of-five-with-lisa-mason.html#more

Five Views of the Writing Life

1. Cultivate the habit of reading and writing every day.

People used to keep diaries and write letters to each other by hand. For a writer, this provided a way to tap into the flow of words without the pressure of writing for publication, to let loose the emotions in an informal way, and was, I think, a useful exercise.

These days we don’t write diaries and letters anymore, so it’s imperative to constantly keep in touch with your flow of words, ideas, and emotions in other ways. Keep a notepad and pencil on the night table beside your bed, always carry these items with you (you don’t need an electronic device) even to the grocery store, maintain a blog, post on Facebook.

If you’re working on a story or book, naturally you’ll want to write that every day, but don’t worry overmuch if the flow isn’t happening today. Do keep taking notes, though, and reviewing your progress.

Read published fiction every day. Keep a book beside you always—at the office, when traveling, at your bedside. Maintaining interest in a novel can be a huge commitment, which is why I love short stories. In a day or two, you can whip through a story, watch a character arc unfold and resolve, witness a plot begin and end.

Ten million and one things compete for your attention these days. I believe it’s essential that you make daily reading and writing your obsession. Which leads us to—

2. Embrace your obsession.

I mean your writerly obsession, the essential core that drives you to write and underpins everything you write, no matter how different the material may be on the surface. Every writer writes only about one thing—his or her obsession.

Edith Wharton, for example, wrote about women exiled to the wilds of snowy Massachusetts, women in the thick richness of New York high society, and women in some pretty good ghost stories. But in all the variety of her writing, the story was always an Edith Wharton story, the writing was always her vigorous Edith Wharton style, and the underlying theme was always a woman in an unhappy marriage. Always.

Michael Chabon has said he’s obsessed with relationships between men. Louise Edrich with Native Americans and their uneasy relationship with Caucasian society. Jonathan Franzen with dysfunctional families. J.R.R. Tolkien with world war.

My writerly obsession is with self-realization, how life and circumstances may try to thwart you from what must be your true destiny, how you must overcome all the odds to realize your true self and find your personal power. My new book, Strange Ladies: 7 Stories, is a good example. The stories are wildly different but in each, the heroine empowers herself against the odds.

Your obsession is the underlying driving force, but the surface can and, I believe, should vary. Authors, even bestselling authors, may become pigeonholed—you know, those authors who only write about a particular nationality of immigrants—may become stale and fade away as readers grow bored with the same old thing.

You always want to search for new spins on your obsession, new surfaces to explore. Which brings us to—

3. Write what you don’t know.

The truism and cliché is “write what you know,” but if you embrace your obsession, you’ll always be writing what you know. The key to keeping fresh as a writer and creating stories that feel authentic, that feel truer than true, is to inform the work with research. To use just the right detail proving you know your subject better than just about anyone and that’s why the reader should invest his or her time in your work.

As a true believer in the power of research, I give a tip of my fedora to the excellent previous post, “Five Traps to Avoid as an Author,” Trap Two being “The Rabbit Hole of Internet Research.” Research is indeed a siren’s song. You’ll always find one more fascinating thing (or a million more fascinating things) to research. The trick is to recognize when you’ve found the telling detail that will enrich your story and make it special. At that point of the research, you’ve got to give it up. Which slams us headlong into—

4. Never give up.

I recently heard a radio interview with Ann Rice, who sold millions of vampire novels decades before vampire novels were trendy. She perfunctorily answered the usual questions, but when the interviewer asked her what advice she’d give to an author struggling to break into the business, her voice became animated and she said with great passion, “Never give up! No matter how many people say no, never give up!”

Big Publishing has always been tough, though in the 1970s through the early 1990s, the business was much more open and willing to support authors building an audience. All that’s changed (for reasons too complex to set out here), and these days Big Publishing is brutal.

Independent publishing is giving Big Publishing a serious run for the money. The business is changing almost daily. You must read the free portions of Publisher’s Weekly website, and Publisher’s Lunch free newsletter to keep tabs on developments. Independent publishing is a gigantic opportunity that literally didn’t exist before.

Make no mistake, though, independent publishing is tough. You bear the burden of producing a professional-quality product. But as a traditionally published author, I’m here to tell you Big Publishing is tough, too, and has shifted the burden of marketing and promoting a book squarely on the author’s shoulders.

That’s a huge burden to bear, so—

5. Take care of yourself.

Authors and artists notoriously abuse mood-altering substances. By definition, such substances induce a different consciousness, loosen up the subconscious mind, free inhibitions. At the beginning of a career, an author may pull a brilliant story out of his or her mind while smashed on a mood-altering substance.

Don’t make this a life-style habit. I remember how shocked I was reading about Stephen King in the throes of his cocaine and hard booze addiction, bleeding from his nose all over his keyboard and thinking, “This has got to stop.” He was one of the lucky ones. Mike McQuay dropped dead at age 48 from his cocaine habit.

Many authors today are also notoriously overweight or obese. Yes, we sit a lot. So do lawyers and accountants and corporate executives. Those folks, though, get out of the house, commute to an office. Authors tend to be house-bound.

Don’t go there. You can’t write well if you’re in poor health. You really can’t write if you’re dead. Eat right to write! Don’t do drugs, easy on the coffee and wine, rest, de-stress, and, most importantly, move your butt. Turn off the TV and go for a jog. Keep a stepper, treadmill, or exercise bike in your writing area. If you get stuck on a scene, pedal for fifteen minutes. Trust me, after fifteen minutes on the bike, you’ll be rarin’ to go on that scene.

From the author of Summer Of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony;

The Gilded Age, A Time Travel on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords;

The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords;

Celestial Girl (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) on Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony;

SHAKEN on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords;

Tomorrow’s Child on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords,  and

Strange Ladies: 7 Stories on Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony.

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, forthcoming projects and more, on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

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