Thoughts for a New Year…

Beginnings are hard for me.  I’m much better with middles. 

When I’m starting a new writing project, I tend to think about it for months before I put words on paper.  I invite the characters over for hot chocolate, hang out with them, ask them about their relatives.  I dream about them.  I start weaving plot threads together in my brain.  I’m good with all that.  But heaven help me when it’s time to sit down and write Chapter 1.

So here we are, two days into the New Year, and I’m just getting around to posting some writerly goals.  I’m beginning late, but beginning…

  • I’m going to give myself permission to slow down.  When I have a draft finished or even a second or third revision, it nags at me to get back to it until it’s done. That can be a good thing.  But sometimes, what a story needs is a little distance and perspective, and you can’t do that the day after a revision.  It’s okay if my next novel takes longer.
  • My writing schedule works for me.  I get in a few hours a night after the kids are in bed, and they’re productive hours, so I’m going to stick to that schedule.  I’m going to make sure the other side of writing (blogging, answering emails, promotions, paperwork) doesn’t get in the way of telling stories.  I love Laurie Halse Anderson’s advice to keep that part of your writing life in a little box — give it, say, half an hour a day — and then don’t let it out.  I’m going to try to hold myself to that.
  • I’m going to blog more about process.   I love reading about other people’s writing process, but I’ve noticed that I’m pretty stingy when it comes to sharing my own. 
  • I will strike a better balance when my second book comes out next fall.  When SPITFIRE was released this year, it was thrilling and a dream come true and wonderful in so many ways.  But my schedule just about swallowed me whole, and I found myself yearning for more family time and more writing time.  Sales for my first book have been beyond what my publisher expected, so I’m glad I did so much to promote the book, but now I have a better idea for what works and what doesn’t.
  • I’ll remember to take time for wonder.  To remember that moments like these…


Central Park, November 2007


Baker Mountain, Saranac Lake, NY – October 2007


Atwater Market, Montreal, October 2007


Anzo-Borrego Desert State Park, CA – August 2007


Copperas Pond, Wilmington, NY – July 2007 (Yes, that’s me)


Lake Champlain, my back yard, June 2007

…are just as important for a writer’s soul as the time spent at the keyboard.

May your 2008 be full of moments, words, and beauty.

Happy New Year!!

11 Replies on “Thoughts for a New Year…

  1. Oh, I love your pictures — what a way to sum up the joy, wonder, and beauty of your year 🙂 And very encouraging to slow down and live. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for sharing your photos.
    I want to move into your neighborhood–but I’m moving to another country in 6 months.

    I look forward to hearing more of your process.

  3. Thank you for sharing your photographs Kate! I love the double rainbow over Lake Champlain!

    I think taking time to observe, whether it’s just soaking up the beauty, or trying to capture it in a photo, is an essential part of a writer’s soul. I know it is in mine. I need the trees and hills, the dirt road and beaver pond. I’m inspired by them.

    I’m looking forward to reading about your writing process

  4. Spitfire on Radio Reading Service for the blind

    Kate, you may possibly remember me from a boat visit on the lake years ago. My former husband was Tom Bradshaw from Channel Five. I am pleased to own one of the signed copies of Spitfire, which I have just finished recording for the blind. I volunteer for the Radio Reading Service and prepare a show called Audio Novel, where we record complete novels in serial form. I love it when I can find a suitable book with local interest, better yet by a local author. Our “narrowcasts” over single-frequency receivers are available free, and only to qualifying visually impaired people, through the CEF Library. I loved the challenge of presenting Pascal and Abigail in character, regardless of how well I may have succeeded. The book is exciting and educational, fun to read. However, I had a twinge in reading it whenever I came across the term “OK” and worse yet, “okay with that.” No child of that period could possibly have understood the phrase. According to David Wilton in Word Myths,Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends (pp 28-33,both the 1757 and 1790 alleged uses of the term result from erroneous reading. The next supposed use, in 1815, is questionable, and only in 1838 was there a likely genuine appearance of the initials indicating “all correct” in a misspelling. Please forgive my niggling here, but I simply had to let you know first, that I enjoyed your book immensely and, second, that the phrase “OK” made my wince more than the amputation surgery! With best regards to you and your family, and best wishes for continued success, Naomi Bradshaw, n17omi@gmail.com. PS: with greatest humililty, I will send along to you CDs of the Audio Novel presentation of Spitfire as soon as I finish the project.

  5. Re: Spitfire on Radio Reading Service for the blind

    Hi, Naomi! Thanks for your note, and I’m so pleased that you’re recording SPITFIRE to make it available for the hearing impaired. I’d love it if you could send me the cds — if you drop me an email (kmessner at katemessner dot com with no spaces) I’ll send you my address.

    Thanks so much for your note about language, too. As much as I scoured the manuscript for anachronisms (and my editors did, too), this one slipped by. I appreciate your note and will pass it along for our second printing.

    Best,
    -Kate