Three Lessons I’ve Learned as an Author / Robert Bailey

Sometimes the hardest part of writing is the very first word. Getting motivated and maintaining that creative energy is crucial to completing your novel. Writing for at least a few moments each day will help you to get into the rhythm of writing on a regular basis and make getting motivated to sit down and get to work that much easier. This weeks Killer Nashville guest blogger, Robert Bailey, discusses how to do just that.

Happy reading!
Clay Stafford
Clay Stafford
Founder Killer Nashville
Publisher / Editorial Director Killer Nashville Magazine

Ever since I read The Bobbsey Twins in the Country in the third grade, I have loved fiction. My first crack at writing my own stories was during my senior year at Davidson College when I took a creative writing class. However, crazily enough, my writing career did not begin in earnest until I had a vivid daydream during a particularly boring day of law school: What would happen if my professor actually had to try a case? It was very much a smart aleck idea at the time, but it became the spark for a story that would feature a longtime law professor at the University of Alabama who returns to the courtroom to try a case with a young former student.

Eight years, three re-writes and thirty-eight drafts of the last re-write later, I signed my first publishing contract. The Professor was originally published in January 2014 from Exhibit A Books, and a second edition was released by Thomas & Mercer in August 2015. This past March, the sequel, Between Black and White, was published by Thomas & Mercer, and I am currently working on a third title in the series. I have learned many lessons since I began writing the prologue to The Professor over a decade ago. Here are three of the most important:

  1. It doesn’t get any easier. You would think with two published novels under my belt that the writing process would become easier, right? Wrong. If anything, the process is more challenging now because I recognize mistakes in the narrative quicker than when I began my first book many moons ago. My expectations are higher, and it is harder to build momentum. And…
  1. Momentum is critical. When writing the first draft of a novel, doubts are inevitable. Is the main character engaging? Is the plot moving? Is the villain realistic? Are character descriptions consistent? With all of this second-guessing going on in your head, it is important to move the story, even if it is just a page or a measly paragraph. Force yourself to keep the accelerator pressed down. During the writing of the first draft of Between Black and White, I had to try a jury trial over in Tuscumbia, Alabama. I was away from home for most of two weeks and did not write a word. When I returned to the computer a few weeks later, the manuscript felt dry and stale. I had to re-read large chunks of it to get up to speed, and, after doing so, I wasn’t happy with the story. All total, that two-week break probably cost me two months time in completing the manuscript. Now, regardless of my trial schedule, my goal is always to…
  1. Write every day. Not only is daily writing important in creating momentum, it also breeds confidence and harnesses talent. I call it being “oily.” When a pro golfer has played several tournaments in a row and his fingers have band aids on them from constant practice, playing the course becomes a process defined by execution that day. There are few jitters—only the round at hand. First tee nerves are lessened, because he is on the first tee all the time, four times a week, in competition. Contrast that with the golfer coming back from injury who hasn’t played any competitive tournaments: will she be as sharp as the player that has been on the course every day? Of course not. Writing is the same way, and it is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. After finishing both The Professor and Between Black and White, I rewarded myself with several weeks off writing. The only thing the time away from the craft accomplished was to make me rusty and restless. Trust me: the best time to start your next book is the day after you finish your last book. 

Robert Bailey is the author of Between Black and White released on March 15, 2016 by Thomas & Mercer. His debut novel, “The Professor, won the 2014 Beverly Hills Book Award for legal thriller of the year and was an Amazon bestseller, spending several weeks at No. 1 in the legal thriller category. He lives in Huntsville, Ala., where he practices law with the firm of Lanier Ford Shaver & Payne.

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Thanks to Tom Wood, Arthur Jackson, and publisher/editorial director Clay Stafford for their assistance in putting together this week’s blog.

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