Q&A with Rochelle Melander, author of Write-A-Thon
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How many books have you written in 26 days or less?
Five! I wrote Write-A-Thon in 26 days during National Novel Writing Month in 2009. Of course, I had to revise and polish the book when the month was over. A year later, when the publisher accepted the book proposal, my editors wanted me to expand the book. I wrote the additional 25,000 words over the next two weeks.
In 2004, I wrote Welcome Forward: A Field Guide to Global Travel with a friend in just 9 days. In 2010, I wrote three children’s novels (about 16,000 words each) during National Novel Writing Month. They remain in my computer, waiting to be revised!
Describe your first marathon book writing experience.
In the late 90s, I wrote books with my husband, Harold Eppley. When our son was six months old, we went to a writing conference and pitched an idea to an editor. He hated it. We pitched another. He asked for a book proposal. We went home, researched, and wrote the proposal in two weeks. Nine months later, we received an acceptance letter, contract and due date: we had six weeks to write the book. My husband worked full time, I worked part time, and we had no childcare for our young son. Yikes!
Because the book was a collection of exercises, we were able to talk through the main content of the book while our son played on the floor. I took notes. I got up early every morning to write up what we had discussed the afternoon before. In the evenings, my husband would polish the manuscript. We did this every day until we finished the book.
What piece of advice have you received over the course of your career that has had the biggest impact on your success?
Work hard and be persistent. Okay, I know that is two pieces of advice—but they go together.
In the big world of writing and publishing, you only control you. Work hard and produce the best writing possible. Then be persistent and submit. If necessary, revise and submit again.
Early on, I heard an editor say that good writing gets published. It may take a long time, but eventually it finds its way into the world. Knowing this has helped me get through many difficult weeks when my work was being rejected more than it was being accepted.
What message do you find yourself repeating over and over to writers?
Write what you love. You will be spending a lot of time with the material—researching, writing the first draft, revising, submitting, and marketing. It helps if you love your topic!
What’s the worst kind of mistake that marathon book writers make?
They get stuck and quit before they finish. During the write-a-thon, don’t let little things hold you up. If you have a bad day or miss a writing day, get up the next day and start again. If you cannot figure out how to write a particular scene, write a different one. If you get stuck on the structure of the book, write out of order and figure out the structure later. Just keep working.
What’s the one thing you can’t live without in your writing life?
Walking. I walk nearly every day (and every day that I am writing). Walking releases my imagination and helps me organize ideas. If I am ever stuck, I go for a walk. Usually the problem is solved before the walk is over!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I get up early, and read something inspiring while I eat. I work a bit on writing before my kids get up. During the summer, I walk the dog and then come back and write. During the school year, I take my daughter to school, go to the Y to work out, and come home and write. I take a break to eat lunch. After lunch, I check email, Facebook, and Twitter. I spend the afternoon working with clients. I do have a few days when I see clients in the morning. On those days, I try to get up early to get in my writing time. At the end of the day, I check in with email and social media again. On a good day, I am out of my home office by 5 and ready to hang out with my family, walk the dog (again!) and read a book. When life is busier, and I have a book deadline, I will sometimes do reading or research at night.
If you could change one thing about publishing, what would it be?
It’s a tough time to be in the book industry. I would like good writers to get more breaks, good editors to have more time to make manuscripts better, and marketing departments to have enough people, time, and resources to market each book well!
In what ways has your writing life changed in the past 5 years?
I shifted genres. My husband and I started writing and publishing books in 1995, and we had written mostly for the spiritual nonfiction market. In 2006, I published a book on spiritual leadership called A Generous Presence: Spiritual Leadership and the Art of Coaching. After that book came out, I began to think seriously about moving out of the spiritual market and into the general nonfiction market, where I could reach more readers. I began planning Write-A-Thon and another nonfiction book and worked on finishing my memoir. In the past five years, I have worked hard at this move. I wrote several book proposals, got an agent, increased my writing coaching business, and got Write-A-Thon published!
In 2006, I also started Dream Keepers, my program that teaches writing to at risk teens and tweens in the city. Though the program has changed a lot over the last five years, teaching writing remains a high point in my week.
Throughout the past five years, one thing has remained constant for me: the satisfaction I get from writing and helping other writers succeed. I will keep doing both no matter what happens with the world of publishing.
Do you have any advice for new writers on fostering a strong author/editor relationship?
Know that you both have the same goal: to make your book or article the best it can be. Know also that your editor is probably juggling a bunch of writers and books. Ask the editor to tell you about the editing process. (Every publishing house does things differently.) Ask about policies and procedures. When does the editor like to be contacted? How does he or she want to be contacted? How much time should you wait for a response before contacting again?
When your editor offers you feedback, listen. Ask questions. Make the changes your editor asks for or propose a better solution. Do all of this in a timely fashion.
And enjoy the process! In this solitary field, it is a joy to work with someone on a project. The editing process gives you that experience!
Any final thoughts?
Know that though you will write your book in 26 days, it may take longer to revise it. That’s normal! Don’t fret. You can use the same tools you sharpened to write the book fast to edit the book. Go for it!
About the Book
To find out how to prepare for, plan, and survive a 26 day writing marathon, check out Write-A-Thon by Rochelle Melander.
Read an Excerpt!
Find out how to avoid getting overwhelmed in the midst of your writing marathon.