MBM: Priorities and Choices for Writers, by Braden Bell

Braden

Welcome to the eleventh day of

MARCH BOOK MADNESS!

If you’re new to March Book Madness, it’s an excuse for me to discuss everything about writing, editing, and reading books with some amazing authors and readers. Fun, fun, fun!

Here’s the schedule:

The collective talent listed above . . . Wow! If you’ve missed any days, make sure to catch up. It’s been awesome.

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Today, Braden Bell is here discussing priorities for writers

Braden Bell is the author of Kindling, a middle-grade novel that’s fast-paced and a lot of fun. I loved it!

You may remember me mentioning Kindling before. It’s book 1 in the Middle School Magic series. Last summer, I was part of Braden’s book tour. As part of the tour, he answered some of my questions about his book. Read that interview here.

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This blurb describes the book perfectly:

  • Homework? Of course. Crushes? Sure. But who knew seventh grade included superpowers?

Awesome.

Book 2 in the series, Penumbras, will be released this July, and I can’t wait.

Braden and I both share a love of books and music. We both have five children. We also serve on the LDStorymakers BOD together, so that’s cool. Super nice, talented guy. I’m excited he agreed to share his thoughts for March Book Madness.

So here he is.

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Priorities and Choices for Writers, by Braden Bell

When I published my first book, I heard a particular comment that irritated me.  A number of people said some variant of, “How did you find the time to do that?” or “How fun! Boy, I wish I had that much time!”

In my mind, that is one of the most obnoxious things you can say to a writer. It seems analogous to me telling an Olympic athlete something like, “Boy, I wish I had your body.”

Why is it so obnoxious?

Because it makes it sound as if writing a book—or being in top physical shape—is a happy accident, something the person simply lucked into.

The reality is that I could be an Olympian—if I was willing to practice all day and devote my whole life to it. But I’m not. I like Mexican food and soda. I have other things that take higher priority in my life. I’ve made my choices—and I accept the consequences that come with those choices. The Olympic athlete worked and paid a price most of us cannot understand.

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Writing a book meant that I gave up a great deal

I rarely watch TV. In fact, I rarely do anything except write, actually. Whenever I go anywhere, chances are I have either my laptop or a binder with pages to edit.

Publishing a book was not some fluke of nature. It was the result of years and years of effort and sacrifice. Anyone could conceivably do it—if they choose to. Many people don’t, and that’s fine.

The second reason this was annoying was because people often said it in a tone of, “Wow, you are lucky to have so many leisure hours to devote to a fun hobby.”

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The reality is that writing is not “fun”

Let me qualify that.

I started writing, of course, because I loved and enjoyed it. I would sit down at the computer and let ideas run riot across the screen, filling pages with imaginary creations. Then, I’d run into a plot problem or just lose interest. I’d get bored and leave that story, moving on to the next shiny idea. I have at least a dozen partially-completed books in computer from this phase.

That was fun.

But then I set a goal to finish the book I wrote. It was still fun, but involved a great deal more work. Once I finished it, I started editing and revising. That skewed the fun-to-work ratio decidedly towards “work.”

After I signed a contract for that book, things became serious. It wasn’t a full-time job, but it was something for which I was being paid and I needed to give it my best effort.

I went over that manuscript time and time again. If anything, I would now go through it some more times and do even more revisions—more work. Less fun.

Now that my third book is coming out, and I’m working on the fourth, fifth, and sixth, writing is much like my day job—it’s something that I enjoy and find fulfilling at a certain level. But it’s not a hobby. It’s not fun. It demands my time and effort. It is hard work and requires me to make sacrifices. I happen to think those sacrifices are worth it. 

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If you know someone who writes…

Be respectful of that person’s time and effort. Writing a book requires copious amounts of both.

Also, may I suggest you never say, “Wow, I wish I had that much time!” or “How fun!”

They might just laugh it off. Or, if they are vindictive, they might do something really nasty, like writing you into their next book and making unpleasant things happen to you.

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Braden headshot 2012Bio:

Braden Bell grew up in Farmington, Utah and graduated from Davis High School. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theatre from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. in educational theatre from New York University. He and his wife, Meredith live with their five children on a quiet, wooded lot outside of Nashville, Tennessee, where he teaches theatre and music at a private school. An experienced performer, Braden enjoys singing, acting, reading, gardening, and long walks with the dog. 

Find him:

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Rebecca:

Thanks, Braden! I’ve had more than a few people say something along those same lines. “Oh, I wish I had time to write a book.” I’ve yet to put one of them into my books, but thanks for the idea. :)

Like Braden, I rarely watch TV. When I do, it’s because my family drags me into it. I spend little time on the phone, doing my nails, or cleaning my house (oops, did I admit that?). If it’s not family or church stuff, I’m writing. That’s how I’ve prioritized. I guard my spare time like I guard the last chocolate brownie (oops, did I admit that, too?).

But it’s worth it.

Obviously it’s worth it, or we wouldn’t keep writing. But I appreciate Braden pointing out the sacrifices. I don’t know many authors who write full-time. That means they’re juggling things and squeezing it in between whatever life throws at them.

On the flip side for writers, don’t think you can just fall into the perfect book. No books come perfectly in the first draft. It takes work. Lots and lots and lots of work. Don’t give up when it doesn’t just fall into your lap. Don’t quit when the first draft kinda stinks. Olympians don’t break world records the first time they jump in the pool. Neither will you. It’s the ones who don’t quit that are successful.

Honestly, it’s amazing there are as many books in the world as there are. :)

Thanks again, Braden. If you haven’t read the Kindling, read it. It’s awesome. Your kids would love it, too. And be looking for Penumbras this July.

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What about you? How do you prioritize your writing? What have you given up? Comment below.

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Tomorrow is the last day of MARCH BOOK MADNESS. I can’t believe it. I’ve learned a ton. If you’ve missed any posts, make sure to scroll up to the top of this post and check them out.

Last up …

Janice

Don’t miss any MARCH BOOK MADNESS posts. Subscribe here or enter your e-mail address below. #marchbookmadness

Check out last year’s MARCH BOOK MADNESS here.

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Author: Rebecca Belliston @rlbelliston

Hopeless romantic and author of CITIZENS OF LOGAN POND, SADIE and AUGUSTINA. Music nerd and composer of RELIGIOUS and CLASSICAL-STYLE music. I live in Michigan with my husband and five kids.

8 thoughts on “MBM: Priorities and Choices for Writers, by Braden Bell”

  1. Great post, Braden and Rebecca. One thing I’ve given up (in addition to TV) is a lot of my fun reading. I still read fiction, but over the last few years I’ve found myself reading more research books than novels. It’s my choice, and I enjoy most of the books I read, but I often wish there were more hours in the day! It is work to find time for writing.

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    1. I’ve done something similar with my reading in that I’m limiting myself to reading my genre (or friend’s stuff). I wish I had more time because I have a huge stack to read. I keep thinking this fall when my youngest starts kindergarten. Maybe. Just maybe.

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  2. Excellent post. Though I’ve not written a book myself (I plan to change that one day when my priorities are shifted), my mom has, and she busted her ass to do so. She can’t count the number of times someone has said something like this to her. Or this kicker: “My husband would never let me do that!” Say WHAT now? LET you? That implies my mom had to get PERMISSION from her husband to do all that “fun” writing and revising, and revising some more, and revising again. Some people don’t get it. But they can be taught.

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    1. Some people don’t get it. I agree completely. I usually laugh it off because more often than not, I don’t get their profession either. What kind of stuff does your mom right?

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  3. Nice post, Braden. It’s so true. Writing has some fun stages, but lots more work stages that are very taxing (ew! bad word at this time of year. I wish I could write my taxes off into my story and do bad things to them). Rebecca, you make me laugh with the house cleaning and brownie comments. We are way too alike.

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    1. Ha. I worked on my taxes today. Yuck. I’d much rather be writing. Glad to know I’m not the only one with house-cleaning aversions and brownie-hiding addictions. You know, if you didn’t live so far away, we could go do lunch. :) Some day maybe. (We’ll get brownies.)

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  4. Thanks, Braden and Rebecca. I’ve been so worn out from rewrites that I took 2 weeks off of writing for the first time in a couple years. In some weird way, this has motivated me to get working on that 4th novel again.

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