• Sofia Sawyer

Author Life: How I Spent my “Hiatus”

Nearly a month ago, I was sitting in a cozy cabin in the snowy mountains of North Carolina. The long weekend was a mixture of skiing (which I was horrible at) and writing retreat. Those few quiet days gave me the time I needed to complete the first draft of my WIP Tangled Up in You. In a matter of two months, I was able to write 60k words! When I closed my laptop, the start of a new phase of my writing process began: a hiatus.


They say to get better at writing, you need to write every day. True. But you also need to give yourself a break. And before you gasp at that, I’ll assure you that your break doesn’t need to halt all progress when it comes to writing. I know it didn’t for me at least.

I found that giving myself a few weeks between first drafts and rewrites, and then again between rewrites and edits, I’m more creative. My brain isn’t burnt out. My eyes aren’t glossing over words, reading things my brain thinks are there but really aren’t. It also gives me time to breathe and refocus. After pouring myself into it with my mind hyper-focused on the story, it’s nice to step away and get some perspective before diving into rewrites.


Did I kick back and relax during my month-long hiatus? Oh no, my dear friends. I got to work! Here’s what I tackled in February:


Website Redesign


My website will always go through iterations, but I’m feeling pretty good about the recent update. I basically scraped the old layout and went for a minimalist look. I love the white space and clean lines. It makes it easier to scan so you can find what you’re looking for faster.


Another change was the mock cover art I did for my stories. People are visual, so I felt having images to go along with the titles and descriptions added a little pop of something. I’m no designer (clearly), but it’s a start!


Lastly, I restructured the way my stories are offered up. Previously, I had a blog post for each chapter. Now the full stories are condensed into one. I still don’t think this is the best format for reading, but at least people don’t have to hunt around for the next chapter of the story. I’ll have to look into other reading options down the line.


Blog


Hi. You’re reading it! I know many authors have advised that blogging isn’t the best use of our time and it can be super hard to generate traffic. And that’s sound advice to consider depending on what your goals are for the blog and what resources/time you have available to make it a success.


For me, it’s a way to connect with my readers and the writing community. If my blog eventually reaches hundreds or thousands of readers each month, cool. If it just reaches a small handful of people who use it as a way to get to know me and vice versa, also cool.


Throughout my non-writing career, I’ve learned the importance of putting yourself out there. I had a lot of success in my career and even completely changed my career path because I started a blog while I was struggling to find work during the recession. People got to know me, saw what I was passionate about, and was able to connect with me. It’s also how I landed a job when I was out of work for nearly half a year. It’s amazing how starting a simple blog had transformed my life. I can’t wait to see how a blog like this will impact my writing career as it already has in my professional life.


Visual Design


As I mentioned, I’m not a designer. But I’m trying! I know people’s attention spans are two seconds long and in order to capture their eye and increase awareness, you need something recognizable. Sometimes that’s a logo, other times it’s literally the colors associated with your brand.


So, I started playing around with my “writing brand” colors and here’s what I came up with. What do you think of this palette?


KissPitch


This was my first ever pitching contest, and I learned a lot! Before the one-day event, I educated myself through KissPitch blogs and reviewed some of the pitches that did well last year. Holy God, was it hard! Trying to condense the premise of your story into an engaging single tweet was tough stuff. I give so much credit to people who did it effectively. I had to rewrite mine a bunch of times until I felt like it was ready.


Truly, I wasn’t expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised to get a few agent requests for chapters. I’ll be excited to see what comes out of it, but the main lesson I took from this was that I really need to work on my elevator pitch.


Plotting Process


Some of you may know that I love testing new tools for the plotting process. These last few months, I’ve taken workshops through RWA’s Contemporary Romance Writers group and did some basic research on my own.


Between the two, I was able to craft templates for three-act, chapters/scenes, and character details that work with my process. Some templates I made from scratch and others I took from the research I did and made tweaks.


Of course, the new process just gave me another excuse to order more office supplies (my kryptonite). This time I’ll type out my details and print them to fit into an A5 binder that will hopefully fit into my purse so I can write on the go.


Side note: had to purchase a larger purse to fit more than just my wallet and phone. Oh well.


Plotting Always, Ella


With all of these wonderful templates, it was time to put them into practice to see how they worked. I spent the last few weeks building out my three-act, characters, and chapters for my upcoming book Always, Ella.


I took a workshop through RWA about crafting better opening scenes, so I’m pretty excited to get to work on this story and try the new things I learned.


Reading


And finally, would I be a writer if I didn’t read? Here were the books I read this month:

  • Rebirth by H.P. Mallory

  • Batter Up by Robyn Neeley

  • Better Off Wed by Laura Durham

  • Big Sexy Love by Kirsty Greenwood

Wow. What a month! As I look back on this list, I really wonder how I was able to accomplish all of this while working full-time. I in no way believe this will be the pace I regularly work at, but it’s great to know that I can do a lot in a short amount of time.


I always wondered how authors were able to publish a few books a year while balancing work and family, and now I see it’s possible. If you’re passionate about something, set goals for yourself, and won’t sacrifice the time you set aside specifically for writing, you truly can be successful.


In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy a weekend off before I dive into rewrites for Tangled Up in You. Cheers.

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