NYT bestseller Jodi Thomas gives advice to authors

 

Jodi Thomas
Jodi Thomas

 

 

 

This past Friday afternoon and all day Saturday, I attended the annual writers conference put on by Northeast Texas Writers Organization (NETWO) in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. One of the featured speakers was Jodi Thomas, a New York Times bestselling author.

Jodi has written about 35 books over the last 22 years. She speaks with the voice of experience and accomplishment. She is an entertaining and informative speaker, a storyteller par excellence.

Two of her insights stuck in my head.

She told about speaking to her brother-in-law at a wake. He had a stop watch around his neck. (Sounds like a good set-up for a story, doesn’t it?)

“What’s the deal with the stopwatch?” she asked him.

“You know I teach classical guitar,” he said.  “My students keep telling me that they are practicing ten hours a week, as I suggest.  But their progress doesn’t show it.  So I asked them to buy a cheap stop watch and use it to keep track of how much time they were practicing.  They reported to me that, while they thought they were putting in ten hours a week, the stopwatch showed them they were really only practicing two or three hours.”

He scratched his head and continued. “So, I decided to follow my own advice and bought a stop watch, too.  Soon I realized that I was only practicing two or three hours per week, too, although I thought I was doing ten hours.”

Jodi tells this story to make a point.  Writers spend a lot of time at the keyboard doing things like reading and writing blogs, sending and answering emails, etc.  But when they start clicking the stopwatch, they learn that the time they really spend working on their latest book is much less than they thought.

Ms. Thomas went out on a limb about this. She said that a writer can start selling if he writes ten hours per week. She took it a step further and said that a writer can be a NYT bestselling author if she will write twenty hours per week.

Those are twenty stop watch hours spent working on a book.

That’s quite a challenge.

She also said that in order to call himself an author, a writer needs to have written 1,000 pages. By the normal standard of 250 words per page, that equals 250,000 words, or a little more than four 60,000 word novels.

Or, I guess a person could just write one big ol’ honkin book and qualify that way.

The other story that really stuck with me goes to the issue of persistence in writing.

Jodi said that she has observed that most writers don’t stop when they are new to the game. The excitement of their new venture propels them forward.  They don’t stop in the period where they are attending writers conferences for the first time and getting to know other writers.  The camaraderie propels them.  Rather it is as they climb higher up on the mountain, when they reach the timberline and have no trees to lean against or seek shelter among, when they reach that bare patch of rock between them and the summit that things get tough.

“It’s at the timberline where you find all the bodies,” Jodi said.

I am sure many of you reading this blog have come to the timberline. You face that make or break it decision:  Do I keep going or just give up?

I think I’ll go to Wal-Mart and price some stopwatches.

How about you?

 

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