My biggest challenge? TIME!
I’m married to a world traveler and it’s difficult for me to carve out blocks of time to write, edit for friends, and read. Although, I do take books with me on all of my trips and voyages. I’m not a Kindle user—I’m an old dinosaur, and love the feel of a book in hand and turning pages!
While I was still in Grad school for the MFA in Creative Writing, I used to take work with me to critique or to revise on trips, but those days are long behind me.
Writing While Traveling: I Take Notes on Places I Visit
When I’m home, I write and read. On trips, I always take books to read. I also make sure to take notes on what I’m visiting—for instance, India. I wrote snatches of images, partial or whole poems while traveling on a bus or plane from one destination to another. I took many pictures of cremation sites on the Ganges and I’m sure, even if they haven’t up until now, these will fit somewhere in my future writing.
In Armenia, I collected postcards, sketches of World Heritage and Unesco sites: ruins, churches, forts, etc., and hope to use these in a future endeavor. I visited these sites, always taking photographs to document what I’d seen. I’d scribble interesting words, images, ideas, names of people, flowers, trees, mountain ranges, rivers, valleys, monuments, wines, food, fruit, even names on bottled water or soft drinks.
I always write descriptions of people, places and things—recipes for food or drinks like the proper preparation for chai tea. I have never kept a diary, but I’ve always kept a writer’s journal filled with these kinds of things.
At home, when I do have time to write, I make sure to get up from sitting at the computer to take short walks and do stretches for shoulders, arms, and hips. Long periods of sitting in a chair in front of a computer isn’t good for the body. When I was younger, I used to do it for very long periods of time—but not anymore! It’s hard on the hips and the back.
I drink a great deal of water both in Florida and in the mountains of Utah, and always have it handy on my desk.
I Sent Queries to 84 Agents Before I Hooked One
Everyone gets rejected. It’s part of the process of learning, and although it stings at the moment, I was certain that this was only one person’s opinion, and I should simply send the work to someone else.
I did this repeatedly—with stories, poems, etc. I sent out query letters to eighty-four literary agents—that number again is 84!—before I hooked one. Outcome, I learned to write a great query letter, and eventually, I got one.
Are we still together? No. Have I published without one? Yes. Innumerable times. Would I have made the bestsellers list with a literary agent backing me? God only knows.
Angst is a Detriment to a Writer in Today’s World
I get depressed. I get into what I call my blue funk blues. I work like hell to pull myself out of these moods.
My brother used to say that my highs are so high they reach the sky and my lows are an abyss somewhere between purgatory and the underworld.
I’m not bipolar, but he used to kid and ask me all the time: “Are you sure you’re not bipolar?”
I am a worrier by nature. I have to internalize and talk myself out of irrational fears, worry, apprehension, nervousness. When? When giving readings, or appearances on TV, sometimes facing a workshop class, or teaching a seminar.
I was never plagued by doubt about my writing. I always knew I could write poetry and prose. I never doubted my ability to pen words to paper.
What I didn’t know was if I’d publish. However, since I started publishing even before getting a degree in English or an MFA in Creative Writing, I was pretty sure I’d always find someone interested enough in my work to publish it.
I am a self-motivator. I challenge myself. Constantly. So I can’t enumerate further on this point. I can say that I miss deadlines! Self-imposed deadlines don’t work really well for me.
Writer’s Block is Often a Lack of Desire to Continue
Writer’s block. It doesn’t exist. What exists is lack of desire to continue or determination to finish a given writing project for a number of reasons. I get stalled, or stopped in the middle of something and starting up again is difficult. Like now.
I was over 200 pages in to my WIP, and now know I have to cut 67 pages—so I’m wondering is it worth the effort and sacrifice it’ll take me to finish. I hate leaving anything undone. Not completed seems such a cop out! I know I’ll get back to it—eventually. I don’t abandon writing just because it’s tough.
My dear friend Rita, who was a lovely short story writer and who passed away a few years ago, used to tell me I wasn’t afraid of failure, but if I wasn’t writing it was because I had fear of success. To this day, I miss and love Rita!
Don’t Let Book Marketing Take Over Your Life
Stress of promotion: Here’s a biggie for sure. Marketing is not writing—it’s the business end but it “comes with the territory.” You must set time aside to market—this is not easy if you are writing something new.
Angst is a detriment to a writer in today’s world—we do not sit in our lonely garrets dashing off sonnets, poems with rhymes and meters, or plays for the king or queen. We have to be out in the public and on social media. Competition is overwhelming—everybody has a story to tell, or a book to write. Everyone is hawking their wares—books— in the public arena.
Marketing can take over your life and consume you if you let it. Don’t let it. You do so much, and then you let it go and get on to the next writing project.
You jump back in and put on your saleswoman suit whenever you can for your past publications, but you cannot let it exhaust or destroy your creativity.
Most of us have other obligations besides writing—husbands, children, other family members, pets to care for, jobs to do, etc., and trying to keep it all in balance isn’t easy. You have to relegate time for all of these things and still find time for reading as well as writing because you cannot write if you don’t read!
Most Days I’m Writing Are Good Days
I’ve got good days, and “down in the dumper” days. Most days when I’m writing anything at all are good days.
Writing can also mean thinking about a project: short-story, poem, novel. Or it can mean reading, or promoting. Writing answers to interview questions, or writing blogs and articles all dovetail into WRITING, which is a mutli-faceted jewel—depending on the slant you give it, the brighter it shines.
Talking through the challenges confronting me on a particular project can help ease or diminish the stress level.
Two Large Monitors Help Me See Well While Writing
I’m very blessed, my husband bought me two huge monitors this past year—one for my office in Florida and one for my office in Utah. I write now sometimes with 172% large letters! And I can finally read on a screen instead of having to print out!
I had cataract surgery recently, so I get up from the computer to bathe my eyes regularly with warm water. Sometimes I use sterile drops without any preservatives.
I love music but never listen to it while writing—I find music with lyrics a huge distraction, although, words set to music can be an inspiration to something I’m writing. I always listen to music while driving in the car or truck! I used to listen to audio books, but of late, I’ve cut that out. In Florida, I don’t drive long distances anymore. My husband and I do take long road trips, but he can only listen to music—he can’t concentrate on driving and an audio book. We talk a great deal!
We eat healthy—a Mediterranean diet with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. My husband and I lived in Rome, Italy, for twenty years. I love cooking—been doing it since I was eleven years old, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love to go out for dinner once in a while!
I never make the same thing two days in a row. We alternate meat and fish, we utilize many fresh vegetable and fruits. I like wine—my husband is a wine collector—we drink great wines! We’ve visited more wineries than I can count on fingers and toes in countries like: Italy, Spain, Romania, Armenia, Georgia, and the USA. I especially like Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. I know the process in making excellent wines, grappa and olive oil!
I’ve Never Been Able to Meditate, but I Say Affirmations
Although, I’ve tried, I have never been able to meditate—I do deep breathing. I say affirmations—little aspirations or tiny prayers to try to convince myself of positive things: I’m healthy and happy, I’m in love and I’m loved, I’m strong, powerful, harmonious, hilarious—I’m grateful for my family, friends, sky, trees, flowers, my ability to sing, dance, write, etc. Any of these things and many more are the types of things I tell myself—especially when I get down in the dumper!
I read encouraging books, not necessarily how to books, but books on writing, memoirs, biographies, a great deal of fiction and poetry. I talk with friends, work with mentees—there is a great feeling knowing you can trust and depend on someone and tell them what you’re going though, and they “get it.” There is enormous satisfaction in teaching someone the craft of writing. I mentored a poet for eight years—what a joy she was! Currently, I’m mentoring a young poet in Nigeria. We met on Twitter!
I can’t do yoga—double knee replacements, one hip replacement, not to mention: rips, tears and shreds in my shoulders prevent this! I did a great deal of sports when I was young—tennis and skiing. I also taught physical education and coached sports. Now, I walk.
Everything That Surrounds Me is Inspiration for Writing
The vital source to all my creativity is my brain. Everything that surrounds me is inspiration for writing. I often can’t get to sleep because I can’t quiet down my brain—if it’s really zipping me from one thought to another, I usually just get up and go to the computer to write or pick up a book I’m reading.
I think my brain is constantly buzzing with ideas—in fact, my friend Louise says I speak in stream of consciousness!
I Always Thought Writing a Book in a Year Was Impossible, but Then I Did It!
My darkest moment: It took me nine complete revisions to finish The Secret Language of Women, which translates nine years in the writing. This is the first novel in the Wayfarer Trilogy, but my second novel. Lemon Blossoms came first—I started that one in Grad school. It became the second book of the trilogy. I had a great deal of encouragement from my mentor, advisor, professor and friend, a wonderful writer, John Dufresne.
My greatest triumph: I signed a three-book deal with Turner Publishing. I had two of the novels already written, but not the third one. This forced me to write the third novel of the Wayfarer Trilogy, In America, within one year. I was under contract and had to draft, revise and finish the manuscript in twelve little months. And I did it!
I always thought writing a book in a year was an utter impossibility, but that deadline proved to me it is very possible!
When I Hit a Raw Nerve, I know the Writing is Powerful and I’m Doing It Justice
Despite difficulties, oftentimes lack of encouragement, and family obligations, etc. I’ve always wanted to write ever since I was a child. I love language and what I call flinging the English! Because I’m a poet, I write lyrically and poetically even when writing about some of the most challenging things to put into words: death, murder, rape, abortion, to name a few.
I tend to write about subjects I’m passionate about, highly emotional themes and deep-seeded feelings. These issues take courage and bravery to write about. Many a time, I’ve had to get up and leave what I was writing because I was overcome by emotion due to the seriousness, the implications, the outcomes, or the desire to describe the unthinkable, abominable, or cruelty in human nature.
When I’ve hit a raw nerve, I usually know that the writing is strong and powerful and I am doing it justice—that doesn’t mean, however, I’m not crying, weeping or sobbing during the writing process.
The Greatest Reassurance that You’re On the Right Track Comes from Within
I can honestly say, I lost the best source of encouragement when my brother Bud passed away five years ago, but I’ve been blessed and also gained other sources of encouragement—my friend Jane isn’t a writer, but she’s an avid, eclectic reader, and supports my work. She’s a beta reader, editor, and chief rain dancer asking some benevolent gods she doesn’t even believe in, to assist me gain particular outcomes!
I’ve also met some authors in the #writingcommunity of Twitter, who are extremely supportive, certainly not to the degree my brother was or Jane is, although the backing is there. However, I feel a writer cannot always count on these wonderful external suppliers of reinforcement—the greatest reassurance that you’re on the right track, must come from within—deep down in your solar plexus.
When I’m in the middle of a writing project, it gives me a sense of purpose. I want to the best job possible—finish the draft, the revision, whatever. I want the piece to sing and to succeed. I enter what another dear writer friend Elaine used to say to me. “Nina, you’re in the zone.”
What she meant by that is you cannot escape from the writing—your characters speak to you, call to you, bother the hell out of you when you’re cooking, or trying to relax, or watch a movie. You cannot escape the story you’re writing—you eat, sleep, dream, the novel, the short-story, the poem—whatever it is.
Even if it means you have to stop washing the dishes to write something down, or get up from bed to jot notes or bits of dialogue on a pad of paper on your night table.
Advice for a Young Writer: Make Sure You Have a Backup Job
Make sure you have a back-up job and a patient, loving family, or else seek another profession! Writing is hard work and requires a great deal of energy. It means dedication and sacrifice.
If you’re enthusiastic enough to put heart and soul into it, then it’s for you—but if you’re unwilling, and can do anything else in this world, do it!
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Nina Romano earned a B.S. from Ithaca College, an M.A. from Adelphi University and a B.A. and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from FIU. She lived in Rome, Italy, for twenty years, and is fluent in Italian and Spanish. She has authored a short story collection, The Other Side of the Gates, and has published five poetry collections and two poetry chapbooks with independent publishers. She co-authored Writing in a Changing World. Romano has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry.
Nina Romano’s historical Wayfarer Trilogy has been published from Turner Publishing. The Secret Language of Women, Book #1, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist and Gold Medal winner of the Independent Publisher’s 2016 IPPY Book Award. Lemon Blossoms, Book # 2, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist, and In America, Book #3, was a finalist in Chanticleer Media’s Chatelaine Book Awards.
Her latest novel, The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley, a Western Historical Romance, has recently been released from Prairie Rose Publications.
The Secret Language of Women: This first book in the Wayfarer series from award-winning writer Nina Romano is a love story set against the backdrop of war and upheaval, an era infused with superstition, history, and exotic customs. The story explores the universal themes of love and the atrocities of war, affirming that even in the face of tragedy, enduring love brings hope.
A love story―set against the backdrop of war and upheaval, an era infused with superstition, history, and exotic customs―that explores the universal themes of love and the atrocities of war, affirming that even in the face of tragedy, enduring love brings hope.
Available at Amazon.
The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley: When Darby McPhee falls in love with Cayo Bradley, a wild cowboy from a nearby ranch, her world is ripped apart. Caught in a lifeless existence of caring for her father and brothers since her mother’s death, Darby does little else but work. But a death-bed promise to her mother to get her education now stands in the way of her heart’s desire to belong to the rough-and-tumble Cayo Bradley.
Darby is Cayo’s redemption from a horrific act in his past that torments him. After being captured as a young boy by the Jicarilla Apache, he now tries to settle back into white society—but how can he? If he loses Darby, he loses everything.
Darby is determined to keep her promise to her mother, but will Cayo wait for her? In this stunning tale of love and loss, Darby comes to understand that no matter what happens, she will always be The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley…
Available at Amazon.