Today, MamaWriters is happy to welcome New York Times bestselling author Madeline Hunter to join us. Madeline is the author of over twenty books, a RITA award winner and the mother of two sons. Welcome, Madeline!
Madeline Hunter: A Writer’s Journey, Two Hours at a Time
Every time I visit this blog, your tag line makes me smile. “Writing two hours a day” is how I started. There are weeks when it is still how I write.
My story will sound familiar to many of you. I began my first novel when my first son was an infant. I wrote during his naps. I would put him in his crib, and wait for him to settle down. Then I would rush to my typewriter (yes, it was a while ago). I already knew what I was going to write because I had worked out the next turn in the plot while he was awake. It was very productive to write that way, with my time in the chair spent on actual writing, not figuring out what to write.
I had a goal of sorts then, but it wasn’t about getting published. I just wanted to finish. I also wanted to learn how to compose at that typewriter, instead of writing longhand first. There were these new, cool machines called computers, see. I wanted one BAD. I realized they were revolutionary, but not if I wrote longhand first. I needed to compose at the keyboard to make the purchase worth it. So that was one thing I was doing during those two hours-making that transition. As soon as I finished the first manuscript doing that, I bought my first computer. (This was not all that long ago, actually. Technology has moved even faster than we realize most of the time.)
After writing the first manuscript, I wrote a second one.— And then number one son stopped taking those naps. Trust me, I held him off as long as possible. Other mothers spoke with a peculiar pride about how their kids wouldn’t nap at age two, as if it meant they were geniuses or something. My son napped as long as I could get him to.
Life happened and I stopped writing for some years. I am sharing that because I think it is important to, especially with mothers. Sometimes the two hours are not there. Sometimes we have to take jobs that leave us too tired to write. I think it is important to accept that this can happen, and that it does not mean we are slackers or not committed.
So there was a hiatus in my writing. When I returned to it, I still only had two hours a day, but now because I had a job as well as children. This time I was determined, though. This time my goal was publication, not only seeing if I could do it. I gave myself deadlines (8 months for a manuscript) according to what I had figured out most romance authors got in their contracts then. I sent my work to agents. I kept writing, producing story after story. By the time I got “the call,” I had six completed manuscripts and three long partials.
When I began trying to sell my work, the hardest moment came with the first rejection. I think it is important to admit that too. I will often read some authors speak of rejection as something you just have to expect, like it is no big deal. Maybe they are just tougher than I ever was. I didn’t expect it, and it was hard. Really hard. Even after a lot of them, when I knew the odds were I would get another one, it was depressing. So I am not going to pooh-pooh that part of it and scold to get a thick skin. No skin is ever thick enough that disappointment does not penetrate it.
The secret is this—it is a well-known secret and yet I think many people don’t believe it—-the writers who succeed in this business are the ones who, no matter how depressed rejections make them, go back to their computers or typewriters or pad and pencils, and go forward anyway. Tenacity counts far more than talent. It really does.
Did I always believe that I would get published? Sort of. It was more a case of refusing to allow myself to believe I would not. I knew in my heart it might not happen, though. I ignored the little flutter that said that, but I knew the truth. In the end I did get published, in ways I had never dreamed.
But what if I hadn’t? Would that have made me a failure? Would I have been wasting my time during all of those two hour sessions?
Not at all. My writing represented so much achievement and growth in and of itself, and I took pride in that. That very first paragraph that I typed while a baby slept in the next room was a daring step in self-affirmation, and I knew it. I claimed something of myself, and for myself, with that paragraph, and first chapter, and first manuscript. I let my imagination be free again, and I forged an identity that no one else had to validate for it to be mine.
We are able to find each other on the web—the mothers and women writing two hours a day. We can take comfort in not being alone and joy in having a community. Sometimes, though, I think that when we see the number of us doing this, we discount how special it is. We lose sight of how incredible these achievements are. Being a writer is not easy. Writing is not something that just anyone can do, or will have the discipline to do. Especially when they only have two hours a day.