Here, published author and radio producer Lillian Brummet shares the highlights of her experience as a professional freelance writer for the past decade. She’s written three books, produces two radio programs, and manages both a blog and newsletter. Phew! Her husband Dave is a musician and photographer; he’s also the behind-the-scenes editor, graphic and website guy.
First, one of Lillian’s favorite writing quips:
“We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.” ~ Marian Write Edelman
In the same vein, Lillian says, “The main focus of every single thing we do in life is to inspire hope in individuals, helping them realize the value of their efforts, and encouraging them to become more positive, proactive in life. We truly believe in the power of the individual and do everything we can in our lives to make a difference.”
Wow! That’s an incredibly noble purpose in life. For more of Lillian’s inspiration click her book cover — Towards Understanding. And, for her writing tips and quips, read on…
Writing Tips From Published Author and Radio Producer, Lillian Brummet
LPK: What would surprise people to know about the writing process or your writing habits?
LB: People often ask us how we write together – because Dave and I are married and can only afford one computer. What we’ve done is split up our talents. I do the research, the first draft for the manuscript and a majority of the marketing. Dave takes the first draft and works his magic with it. He is an exceptional proofreader and has a way of crafting sentences that really appeal to the reader. Dave is also the website manager and creates all the images and graphics we need. We tend to really brainstorm together over each process that a project is going through, too. Without the collaborative efforts we’d never have accomplished so much in so little a time.
What question do you think all writers should be asked?
For me, I want to know what the author is saying. What is the point of their work, what is the message they are trying to get across?
Is there anything that you have published that you wish you could take back or re-do?
Plenty! (she laughs) I think every writer goes through this, perhaps with every piece they write. What happens behinds the scenes is the writer will create an article, for instance, and that article is edited, re-written and proofread before going to the editor – who takes a look at it before sending to their editing department where it undergoes the formatting process for their publication. Even with all of that going on after a piece is published, one can look at it and go – “oh no!” That sentence doesn’t make as much sense as I thought it would.” Or you might notice a word was misspelled or something like that. It happens. Sometimes, and mind you this doesn’t happen often – I have had editors of smaller publications work on the article and neglect to send a copy of the revised version, only to have it go to print with blatant errors in it.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Three little words: Do Your Research. Every stage of the writing process should be well researched. Every single potential marketing contact should be well researched prior to sending any query to them. Every single magazine should be researched to ensure you are not repeating a recent story and to ensure you will write a piece that appeals to their market. Much of the world of writing involves research, and not just in story creation.
What prior writing experience did you have, before getting published for the first time?
I started out with using poetry as a healing tool, a way to pull myself out of a very difficult life. I grew up in a broken, abusive home and was on my own before I was 14 years old. There were a lot of emotions involved around that and poetry kept me sane and out of the system. I always enjoyed English classes in school, and in fact is was the one class that kept me interested in continuing public school even though I was on my own and had to work to pay rent. Eventually, I grew brave enough to share a selection once in a while and was so encouraged by that, that I entered a few contests and began winning prizes and editorial awards. It was at that time that I realized that a writing career might be a possibility.
Have you taken writing courses or attended workshops? Were they helpful?
Officially, I’ve only taken one writing course – however I continued self-schooling on the subject by using writer’s education publications to hone the craft. I don’t think a writer is ever finished learning. I don’t know a lot about official language use and technical terms in the world of writing – I just write. I write for the reader; I write for myself.
How has your writing style changed during your writing career?
Every single day my writing changes. I learn so much from my writing peers, just by reading someone’s book I can glean so much from that. Each of these has a great deal of influence on my writing, so it is ever-changing. I love how lyricists and poets really play with words, sometimes creating their own words that are more effective for their work. I am in awe of authors who can write without describing the terrain, clothing or behind the scenes activities, and yet as a reader I can’t put the book down.
What qualities make you successful as a writer?
Having respect for others and being conscious of their schedules and requirements has played a huge role in my success. Having record keeping skills and performing regular follow-ups are very useful tools as well. I always thank each person I deal with, even if that contact ends up not working with us, and most importantly, I promote every single successful marketing endeavor – no matter how small – in as many ways as I can.
What are some of the best things about writing as a career? What’s the downside?
Well, the downside would be poor finances – writers do not get paid much. Writers must wait up to 3 months to get paid for one article, or longer. For book royalties, they can expect to receive 2-4 paychecks annually, depending on their publisher. So budgeting can be a real issue.
The upside, and the reason for our career in the first place, is that it offers us a way to leave a legacy – one that lasts – and creates positive change in the world. This writing tool, it gives reason for my existence.
Do you have a particular writing routine?
I work whenever my eyes are open, the dogs are tired and Dave is not on the computer (she laughs). So it varies. I can be in the office anywhere from 2-13 hours on any day of the week dealing with the various aspects of writing. Few people realize that marketing, communications and record keeping consume a large percentage of a writer’s life. The writing itself – that is the cherry on top.
Do you write entirely on computer or do you do any by hand?
I rely entirely on the computer for article writing and manuscript development, however outlines, research, brainstorming moments and poetry are all written free-hand. As such, I go through a lot of scrap paper and use every single piece of one-sided paper (bills, flyers, envelopes, letters, etc) before recycling it.
Do you experience writers’ block?
Yes. I currently have several short stories that I haven’t worked up the nerve to broach again. Luckily when it comes to issues like this, Dave and I tend to have several conversations, brainstorming on where we could go with this or that. Even if we aren’t working on that particular project as a team, we can still dig through the issue by talking it out.
Do you consider yourself primarily a writer or do you have another career, as well?
Primarily I am a writer, however I also partner with Dave in his drum teaching and repair business and I am a homemaker as well. I take care of the fur-kids (2 dogs and 1 cat), the laundry, the cleaning, the house, the yard, the garden, and pretty much everything else. Dave does the shopping and works a “day job” to keep our financial side of life running smoothly.
How do the skills you’ve developed in one field help in your writing career?
An excellent question. I think that because we have owned businesses in the past and have held supervisor positions, Dave and I were very familiar with the management and organization side of things. We were also familiar with office duties like bookkeeping and record keeping, dealing with accountants and these kinds of things. Being self-employed in the past, we were fully aware of the long hours and determined persistence that success in this field would require.
What’s the best gift someone could give you?
I think the best thing I have in my office are the gel mouse pad and keyboard pad which allows me to use the computer peripherals without causing repetitive damage to tendons and joints. Believe me these are real boons to me in the office – after writing nearly 1000 book reviews and freelance articles, 3 published books (one of which is being released as a 2nd revised edition by March 2009) and one book for the family; the finger joints and arm tendons can get really fatigued.
For more info on the Brummets, visit ConsciousDecisions.