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L. A. Monteiro: My own Version of Cabin Zen

When I told people I was taking two weeks in a cabin to focus on writing, they were unanimously envious of what sounded like a relaxing escape of ‘cabin zen’.

I should probably have added that I had an unfinished book on deadline (self published but with a pre-order on Amazon) and an ambitious writing schedule for my two week stay.

Planning for the fellowship helped me knuckle out a direction for writing this year and set some goals, even before I stepped foot in the cabin. Because of this, during my stay I could focus on writing. I completed the third novella in my orc and witch series, The Witch’s Tangle, and two more novelettes in the series. I also worked through an editor’s feedback on a couple of short stories Romance Writers Australia is publishing in their Spicy Bites and Diversions anthologies. I also wrote the second in a series of short monster romance stories based around zodiac avatars for publication later in the year.

Amongst all that, I left the cabin more than I thought I would. The days were very hot, so I went to the beach. I went out for dinner. I ducked home to spend time with my boyfriend and edit on my double screen setup. But even when I was away from the cabin, the commitment to writing over this time kept me returning to the page.

Because of this focus, for the first time in months the volume was turned down on anything but the craft of writing. I didn’t touch administration or marketing for ten days. I wrote, read books, reflected, talked with other writers and attended some workshops. I was still doing work, but I let go of the hustle. It was my own version of cabin zen, and I hope I can keep some of that going forward in the year ahead.

10 tips for writing:

  1. Keep writing. It gets easier and you get better. The things that tripped me up two years ago don’t trip me up now.

  2. Use external motivations where you can – mentorships, fellowships, writing competitions, writer’s groups. These can help keep you going and often have surprising results.

  3. Get off social media. I use social media for promotion but I no longer have it on my phone. I spend my time more intentionally now because it’s so precious.

  4. Make time to write (don’t wait to have time) and be firm and consistent with protecting that time.

  5. For plotting, I love Orson Scott Card’s MICE quotient, which breaks plot down into conflicts. This gives me a good estimation of length and a one-page snapshot of the overall story arc. There’s a fair bit about it online.

  6. Be experimental. There is no one process that will work for everyone, and possibly no process that will work every time. I remember a keynote speech from a woman who’d written 100 books saying her process changes every few books – sometimes she fast drafts, sometimes she audio transcribes.

  7. Here’s one from my mentor Stephen Dedman – remember your ‘why’ - why you’re writing. I like to review my reason often as it may change.

  8. As a romance writer, I know my readers read me to escape, so I write with universal pleasures in mind. Wherever possible I incorporate elements of beauty, competition, wealth, power, danger and touch into my work. Those elements play into a lot of bestsellers even outside the romance genre. Romance Writers America have a podcast about this, and it’s really stuck with me.

  9. Know your strengths. I know my top three CliftonStrengths are Learner, Arranger and Focus. Loving to learn new things isn’t unusual for a writer, but paired with being good at coordinating lots of moving parts and being stubbornly focused can be very helpful. I also have ADHD, which means not all writing advice works for me, but also means I can hyperfocus to write high-quality short work fast, especially to deadline.

  10. Honour your own path. Writing is a tough gig and it’s different for everyone. Try to avoid comparisonitis, and learn to appreciate your own unique journey.

L.A. Monteiro, KSP Fellow February 2024


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