I’ve been an avid reader since my early obsession with Nancy Drew, but I never considered writing a novel until my late thirties when I was struggling to cope with the tragic death of my older brother. He was never diagnosed, but I believe Neal was self-medicating to cope with symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Despite his dark moods, he was much-loved for his outgoing personality and wonderful sense of humor. He was my hero as a child, and I was a mess for years following his death. My children were young at the time, which made my struggle more complicated.
In an effort to make sense of his death, I chaired education committees at my son’s school to promote alcohol and drug awareness to parents. But these efforts were not enough to fill the hole in my heart created by my brother’s death.
So I turned to writing. I took every online course offered through Gotham Writers Workshops. Through writing, I was finally able to express those pent-up feelings and come to terms with my loss. My first novel, Saving Ben, January 2013, is a tribute to Neal—the boy I loved, the man I could not save.
Like many stay-at-home moms, my identity became tied up in my children’s lives. As they grew older, I began searching for something that belonged solely to me. Despite my lack of success with Saving Ben, writing seemed the obvious choice. My husband encouraged me to continue writing, even if I never became a success, because it brought new meaning to my days. I continued to work hard, seven days a week, and my efforts have paid off. With the recent release of my latest novel, Sweet Tea Tuesdays, I am crazy busy juggling the demands of being an authorpreneur and I’ve never been happier.
I’m able to express my creativity through ways other than writing. I built and manage my own website. I’ve incorporated my love of photography into my work. And I design my own graphics for social media posts, bookmarks, and other printed materials. But the writing, itself, is the part that gives me the most satisfaction. Plot ideas and inspiration for characters continue to flow from my mind like a faucet I can’t turn off.
I’ve learned a few things along the way that I wanted to share with you today.
Never Give Up. That’s my biggest piece of advice for you. Although it’s not an original concept, it’s paramount to accomplishing your goals, whatever they may be. There is no obstacle you can’t overcome when you put your mind to it.
Find Your Niche. Because Neal and I were the closest during our college years, it seemed appropriate to write Saving Ben about a brother and sister of similar age. For my next project, however, I felt compelled to write about characters who are experiencing the same things I’m experiencing like middle age, empty nesting, and aging parents. Today’s book market is saturated with protagonists in their late twenties to early forties. But I struck a chord with the fifty-something crowd when I released Her Sister’s Shoes. Time and again, I hear from readers about how they relate to one, if not all, of my characters. Not only should you write what you know, you should also write what you read.
Many Ways to Skin a Cat. What is the ultimate validation for your work? Do you long to see your hard bound novel on the bookshelves at Barnes and Noble, or are you challenged by watching your Kindle book climb the rankings on Amazon. Working in today’s publishing industry is an exciting place to be. Securing a literary agent and having your novel published by a traditional publisher is not the only way to succeed in today’s publishing environment. I don’t have the patience for traditional publishing. Placing my novels into the hands of my readers as quickly as possible is my ultimate goal. Receiving emails from readers expressing their appreciation for my work is my ultimate reward.
Do Your Homework. You can learn everything you need to know on the Internet from online writing classes to free webinars on publishing, marketing, and website design. Not only have I learned an enormous amount about online marking through webinars and blog posts, I’ve also taught myself how to use Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Lightroom. Currently, I’m watching videos on how to improve my landscape photography.
Trust Your Gut. I belonged to an online critique group once with three intelligent women whose opinions I valued. Every critique group and workshop I’ve attended since has failed in comparison. Creative people need to express their opinions. But keep in mind they don’t understand your characters’ motivations and plot lines to the extent you do. Take what they say with a grain of salt. If their suggestions make your work stronger, then by all means adopt them. But don’t let them destroy your confidence by ridiculing your efforts simply because they need to put their stamp on your work.
Indulge Your Creative Brain. Open up the flood gates and let the creativity flow. Write that shitty first draft. You might cut two-thirds of your material when you’re finished, but you’ll have a solid foundation from which to work.
Develop Your Process. Having recently completed my ninth manuscript, I have finally created a system that works for me. I write three drafts. The free-flow first one. The second one when everything comes together. And the third draft when Alex, my automated computer voice, reads it back to me. I set deadlines for myself and work hard to meet them. And I never, ever give up.
I’d like to thank Women Writers, Women’s Books for having me here today. Please visit my website at ashleyfarley.net if you’re interested in learning more about my work. The Sweeney Sisters Series portrays three sisters who struggle to balance the demands of career and family while remaining true to themselves. Sweet Tea Tuesdays is the story of three best friends whose lives are ordinary but whose personalities are not. With enough drama to hold readers spellbound until the very last page, Sweet Tea Tuesdays explores the themes of friendship, parenting, trust, infidelity, and death. And that’s only the beginning.
Ashley Farley writes books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life issues. Her goal is to keep you turning the pages until the wee hours of the morning. If her story stays with you long after you’ve read the last word, then she’s done her job.
After her brother died in 1999 of an accidental overdose, she turned to writing as a way of releasing her pent-up emotions. She wrote SAVING BEN in honor of Neal, the boy she worshipped, the man she could not save.
Ashley is a wife and mother of two young adult children. While she’s lived in Richmond, Virginia for the past 21 years, part of her heart remains in the salty marshes of the South Carolina Lowcountry where she grew up. Through the eyes of her characters, she’s able to experience the moss-draped trees, delectable cuisine, and kind-hearted folks with lazy drawls that make the area so unique.
About Sweet Tea Tuesdays
Three best friends met every Tuesday for twenty-six years. And then they stopped.
From the author of the bestselling Sweeney Sisters Series comes a novel of friendship, family, and hope.When new next-door neighbors Georgia, Midge, and Lula first assembled on Georgia’s porch in Charleston for sweet tea, they couldn’t have known their gathering was the beginning of a treasured tradition. For twenty-six years they have met on Tuesdays at four o’clock, watching the seasons change and their children grow up, supporting each other in good times and in bad. With their ambitions as different as their personalities, these best friends anticipate many more years of tea time. And then, one Tuesday, Georgia shares news that brings their long-standing social hour to an abrupt halt. And that’s only the beginning as unraveling secrets threaten to alter their friendship forever.
Buy the book HERE
Category: How To and Tips