Making the Switch from Journalist to Novelist

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Guest Blogger: Mari Serebrov

As writers, we each have our own excuse for not putting words to paper. For some, it’s writer’s block. For others, it may be lack of time or just plain old procrastination. Mine is that, as a full-time journalist, I write all day. By the time I finish work, the last thing I want is to do more writing.

Since I work from home, I don’t have a commute or change of location to help me slip into creative writing mode. All I get is the sign-off from my work laptop to the sign-in on my personal one – with all its distractions of unanswered email, Facebook updates, unread tweets and breaking news.

So how do I switch from journalist to novelist? I don’t, at least not on weeknights. I reserve my afterhours for research, plot/character development, editing and book promotion. I save the actual writing for the weekends when I’m fresh.

Being a weekend warrior in quest of quality writing time means I’ve got to make every minute count. I cheated a bit by stretching my weekends to three days when I opted for a four-day work week instead of a higher paying job.

When necessary, I also take a few days off from my day job for writing time. I wrote the first half of my novel Mama Namibia during a two-week break I purposely scheduled when I was moving to a new job.

Even with extended weekends and days off devoted to writing, being a weekend writer takes serious discipline – something I’m still working on. Here are a few tips I try to follow:

Set hard deadlines. As a journalist, I thrive on deadlines. It only makes sense to give myself deadlines for my creative work.

Take advantage of the natural creative cycle. I’m at my most creative when I can wake up on my own with no pressing time commitments. When I’m lying in bed in a relaxed state of mind, all the thoughts that have been simmering on the back burner for the past week come together in coherent paragraphs that beg to be written. At that point, I’m raring to go and the words begin to flow.

Stop in the middle of a scene. Since I already know where I’m going with the scene, I can quickly return to writing mode when I come back to it. That way I don’t waste a lot of time regrouping.

Develop a sense of urgency. Mama Namibia, based on the true story of a 12-year-old girl who survived the first genocide of the 20th century, was a story I had to tell, but it took 13 years of research and writing. I don’t have that time for my next books. As a recent cancer survivor, I know it’s now or maybe never. If my stories insist on being told, I must give them voice today.


About the Writer

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Mari Serebrov is an award-winning journalist and a writer of historical fiction. Her novel, Mama Namibia, was the first to put a face to the 1904 genocide in what was then German South-West Africa. As a result of the novel, Serebrov was named the literary laureate for the Herero. In addition to a children’s series based on Mama Namibia, Serebrov is co-writing a historical fiction trilogy with her mother Adell Harvey. The Fugitive Son, the second book in the trilogy, was released this year. For more about the author, please visit Mari Serebrov