• Marion Balyszak

Writing Emma Prince Kaua'i Mysteries


Just another day in the office

Aloha!


I receive frequent questions about how I spend my days in the 'office' and thought I would share a perspective on what writing Emma Prince Kaua'i Mysteries has involved.


As a former non-profit administrator, getting things done required the ability to work independently. Therefore, I was prepared to spend a lot of time in the office when I began this writing life. Until a book is finished and publicly released, the process is a very private one over a lengthy period of time. In fact, I frequently tell people ‘I work alone’ because, at its very heart, writing is largely spent in the company of me, myself, and I.


It also requires discipline. Long hours-sometimes years-are involved in research, plot development, writing, editing, layout and design, not to mention development of platform content (aka website). I routinely spend upwards of eight hours a day in the 'office' five days a week, no matter whether I'm working at my house in upstate New York, a condo in Princeville, Hawaii, or at the Princeville Public Library. People stopped asking how my first book was coming along. I'm sure they figured it was never going to happen. Instead of announcing you are writing a book, you could take a cue from one of my favorite authors, the late Peter Mayle, who said it would have been easier to just tell people he was 'raising rabbits'.


Some days are a whirlwind of activity, others frustrating and without progress. It can take a whole day or longer to edit just a few pages, or just a half hour. Expect interruptions and setbacks. They can include a computer suddenly crashing which requires replacement, the discovery that Microsoft Word no longer includes your font in the newer version in 2018 (but that it's back again in 2019 when you buy a smaller laptop for traveling), and quirks with layout, design, or uploading files in the independent publishing process. There's even health complications from a switch in thyroid medication in 2017, unexpected surgery in 2018, and a foot injury in 2019 which took five months to heal. YIKES! I've concluded that the line in the movie, The Proposal, said it best...'Congratulations, I'm a hundred'.


As for the process, I work predominantly on my laptop or a desktop computer, although some portions of each book were handwritten. I also maintain journals for each book containing thoughts or ideas about plots and characters, draft dialogue, snippets of historical information pertinent to the setting, plot, or characters, and reference historical resources, all organized by a table of contents of sorts. At the end of the day, I close the door to escape the disarray I’ve created. The next morning, I pick up where I left off with handwritten notes or edits, file folders or computer files containing historical research, draft manuscript pages, plotline charts, maps, open reference books with now-worn pages, and post-it notes. Strangely, I always seem to know where to find things.


I barely leave the 'office' when I’m writing, although I do try to take regular breaks from the desk to move about and stretch. Next to my laptop, Pandora is always one of the first things I turn on so that I can listen to one of the multiple stations I've programmed, including Hawaiian Radio. I can't write without music and sometimes it’s loud. Coffee and food, when I eat at all, are usually consumed at the desk. I don't spend time on emails or internet, unless it involves research. I save everything...and back up the computer daily on multiple external flash drives and email files to myself as well.


Emma Prince Kaua'i Mysteries continue to be deeply personal for me. But I've discovered that clicking 'Publish Book Now' always seems to take longer than I anticipate it will. Part of this is connected to how long it takes to reach a point when I feel I'm ready to publish. My finger gets 'twitchy', my heart rate goes up, and there's a lot of trepidation before that 'almost-done' moment. More importantly, however, since a large portion of each manuscript was developed while on Kaua'i, I inherently believe the island is the place where I must launch my books. Therefore, I wait until I'm there.


The release of Waking the Sleeping Giant has again left me with the same feeling of being adrift as when I released A Telling of Ancestors in January 2019, the first book in the series, Emma Prince Kauai Mysteries. I’m all at once thrilled and excited that the book is completed and now available to readers, yet also filled with trepidation, anxiety, sadness, and uncertainty. However, I know it's normal to experience this at the end of a long process which has consumed this author's ‘writing life’.


Despite the marathon from start to finish to release two books, along with the angst, I'm compelled to write more Emma Prince adventures. I’m already miles into the third book in the series, Beneath Still Waters, including the ending. I'm also developing ideas for two more Emma Prince books beyond that. I feel exhilarated and will keep you posted.


My advice to anyone who is currently writing or has an interest in writing - go for it!



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