NaNoWriMo Day #23 – 6 Lessons From a Debut Author

By  Allison Temple

“So how long have you been a writer?” he says.

“Well, I mean, I think people who are writers have always been writers. They’ve all got notebooks full of terrible poetry or teenage angst masquerading as short stories stashed away somewhere. It’s not like—”

“Sorry.” My banker glances at me from behind his computer monitor. “That’s not what I meant. I need to put a date in the file for your employment history.”


Lesson #1: Being a published author is an art and a business. You will get those identities confused sometimes. Your banker will not.

But back to the story…

I have been a writer for as long as I’ve been able to write sentences down. Somewhere in my basement are those angsty journals my mom lovingly stored and returned to me when I bought my first house, and which I (and you) will never ever read, but they’re down there.

I wrote funny short stories that went nowhere in college while I finished my biology degree. I still have them. Might publish them someday, might not, but I’ve got them.

I tried NaNoWriMo for the first (and only) time in 2011. I wrote the first 50k of the book of my heart, and then by Christmastime that year my laptop had melted down and all the words were gone. I still can’t bring myself to rewrite it.

Lesson #2: Back up your work. Every day. Every time you write.

The witching hour is 45k words. Predictably. Unavoidably. When I get to that magic number in every manuscript, I realize it’s trash. I question my life choices. I wonder why I ever thought I could write another book. The last story, and the one before that, and the one before that, they were clearly all flukes. The magic is gone. I am no longer a unicorn, just a weary old cart horse.

It’s time for the three ch’s. Chardonnay, chocolate, and chriends. Ok, friends work too. I am supremely uncomfortable asking people for things, including reassurance, but I have learned to fling myself at a friend’s chat window and beg her to make me feel better. She always does. Eventually I finish the draft. So far, it has never actually turned out to be trash.

Lesson #3: You’re better at this than you think. Writing is hard, and while practice can make it easier, it is never easy. Build a support network and learn to give yourself a break.

I had a series of truly awful English teachers in high school. If any of them are reading this, I’m sorry, but inflicting Pilgrim’s Progress and The Pearl on me did not enhance the quality of my life or my appreciation of the written word in any meaningful way. Consequently, I didn’t take a single English class in university.

Lesson #4: You don’t need a humanities degree and a drawer full of rejections from literary magazines to be a published author. But…

I started taking writing classes again in 2014. I took an amazing online course on how to plot fiction in 2016. I joined my local RWA chapter last fall. Even when I go to a workshop on a topic I think I already know about, I learn something new. And I get to hang out with people who speak my language. Non-writer people think I’m famous and that Hollywood will call any day now. My writer peeps understand. We talk plot holes, the Amazon monster, and why ‘just’ is an insidious infection that needs to die horribly.

Lesson #5: There are so many people out there who know more than you do. Be grateful for the ones who are willing to share a little bit of their knowledge and time.

I write my drafts in Scrivener. Or Word. But lately I’ve been writing the hard scenes by hand and then transcribing them to the computer later. And I was at a conference workshop about dictation and that sounds like the coolest thing ever. So I will definitely be trying that. And sometimes I plot my stories using the Hero’s Journey framework. But then there are times when I pants the heck out of it and write around in circles until the story reveals itself. If you’re reading this post closely, you’ll notice I really don’t care that you’re not supposed to start sentences with a conjunction, but I will defend the Oxford comma until I die.

Lesson #6: There is no One Way to be a writer. Not even for yourself from story to story. So play around. Try new things. Write the plot synopsis and then don’t follow it at all. The only thing you must do is put in the work. There is no magic bullet. To quote the Dread Pirate Roberts, anyone who says differently is selling something.



Allison’s best writing happens on her back porch in Toronto, armed with a glass of wine and her feline critique partner, Kirby. Fortunately, he loves everything she writes.

Allison Temple has been a writer since the second grade, when she wrote a short story about a girl and her horse. Her grandmother typed it out for her and said she’s never seen so many quotation marks from a seven-year-old before. Allison took that as a challenge and has gone on to try to break her previous record in all her subsequent works.

Allison lives in Toronto with her very patient husband and the world’s neediest cat. She splits her free time between writing, community theater stage management, and traveling anywhere that has good wine. Tragically, this leaves no time to clean her house.

Allison Temple is a romance writer from Toronto, Ontario. She lives with her very patient husband and the world’s neediest cat. Her debut, The Pick Up, will be published by Riptide Publishing in 2018.

Allison has been writing stories since the second grade, when she wrote a short story about a girl and her horse. Her grandmother typed it out for her and said she’d never seen so many quotation marks from a seven-year-old before. Allison’s fascination with the way characters speak and communicate with each other in novels has not diminished in the ensuing thirty-ish years.

Despite living in Canada’s largest city for more than a decade, Allison’s fiction writing draws inspiration from her small town roots. Originally from Brockville, Ontario, she knows what it’s like to live in a place where nothing is more than a ten-minute drive away, and you’ll see everyone you know on a Saturday morning at the farmers’ market. Her first job was selling coffee and making sandwiches at a bakery that has been family-owned for over a hundred years. She was once given an award for ‘most improved tomato slicer’.

Since that early professional start, Allison has been, at various times, an odor lab technician, environmental consultant, corporate proposal writer, and marketing manager. She fills her free time with writing, community theater stage management, and traveling to destinations with good wine.

Allison came late to reading and writing romance novels. She didn’t read her first one until she was twenty-six, but it has been a landslide since then. She loves LGBT romance for the stories it tells and the characters it brings to life. She is very excited to be joining the circle of passionate and talented authors in the genre, and credits Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton for introducing her to it.



Posted in ,