Plays With Words: On Finding Time with Tracy Clark

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plays with words feature

It’s been a few weeks since I chatted with Joshua David Bellin about how he manages to find time to write in addition to all the other responsibilities he has. Since then, the April edition of Camp NaNoWriMo has come and passed, and I’m still enviously eyeing fellow writers and wondering how they do it.

Luckily, Tracy Clark, author of Scintillate, was kind enough to share some of her insight..


E.M. Caines: Hi, Tracey! Thanks for agreeing to chat about writing and time management. Your novel, Scintillate, was released by Entangled Teen this past February. And did I see correctly that French and Turkish rights have been sold for Scintillate and the rest of the Light Key Trilogy? Congratulations! I’m so excited for you!

Tracy Clark: Thanks so much for having me on YA Interrobang! Yes, Scintillate came out in February and I was thrilled that French and Turkish rights were already licensed! To think… my words will be in languages I can’t even read!

E.M. Caines: Most authors these days don’t have the luxury of just being a full-time writer. So in addition to that of author, what are some of the other hats you wear? How do you manage to juggle it all?

Tracy Clark: Though I do have the luxury of writing (mostly) full time, I juggle being a stay-at-home mom to a 14yo and 12yo and am the new Regional Advisor for the Nevada chapter of SCBWI (replacing Ellen Hopkins). I’m very structured with my time so that I can juggle it all and sometimes I still feel like I schedule-fail.

E.M. Caines: A couple of months ago, I talked to a few writers about their writing and revision process, and it was interesting to see how different and yet somewhat similar everyone’s approach is. With all of your other responsibilities and commitments, how do you find (or make) the time to write? How do you deal with the days when you’ve been pulled in every direction and don’t want to write? (Or has that ever even happened to you?)

Tracy Clark: I’m definitely pulled in many different directions on any given day. I try to hit emails and do a bit of promotional stuff in the morning after I drop my kids off at school. That leaves me about five hours to write and I set daily word goals. When I’m heavy in drafting mode, I want at least 1,000 words a day. Doesn’t sound like a lot and often I’ll do more, but it adds up! And if I manage to write more it makes up for the days when my tally is a big fat zero

E.M. Caines: This is going to sound like a weird question, but when do you write? Like, do you set aside some time at a certain hour every day? Or are you more of a whenever-I-can-get-words-on-the-page sort of writer?

Tracy Clark: It’s not a weird question at all! Every day is different. For example, I’m drafting heavily on book 3 of the trilogy right now because I’m waiting for my editor to send my first-pass edits on book 2. Once I get those in my hot little hands, drafting stops and I’ll devote my time solely to revisions. It will go back and forth like that until I turn in the final copy of book 2 sometime in the summer. I do most of my work during the day if I can but there are some days where you get twenty minutes here, an hour there, and just hope to push forward even if it feels like I’m sliding backward off a hill.

E.M. Caines: I’ve discovered many authors take on some if not all of the responsibility of marketing their books. How has that impacted your schedule, specifically your writing time?

Tracy Clark: This has probably been the biggest reality check for me! Entangled Teen is wonderfully supportive but most marketing falls on me. It is shocking how much time I must spend to promote (hopefully without being annoying) and contact schools for school visits, or setting up and then attending book store signings. It’s wonderful work and I LOVE meeting reader,s but it also takes away from the business of actually writing! Definitely a struggle. Recently, I tried instituting one day for marketing and was Captain Clever about it, calling it “Marketing Mondays” and guess what? Didn’t work. That’s because I get great opportunities (like this one!) that come at different times. I’ve learned to be more flexible and fluid about it.

E.M. Caines: The one thing I personally think is hard for me to manage is a sense of balance, especially when the muse is happy and I’m completely focused on writing or obsessed with editing. How do you maintain a sense of balance? (Or do you?)

Tracy Clark: Oh boy do I hear you! I love what I do so much that I actually struggle to maintain balance. I’d sit here ten hours a day (and have!) if I could. I constantly have to remind myself that while there are rewards to doing what I love, if I’m not also playing, spending time with my kids and friends, relaxing and enjoying my life, then can I say I’m successful in the truest sense? It’s something I’m working on. I drive myself pretty hard. Self is yelling, “Yeah you do!”

E.M. Caines: And last, what advice would you give someone who says she wants to write but doesn’t have the time to do it?

Tracy Clark. Courtesy of Tracy Clark.

Tracy Clark: Believe me, I know I’m lucky to write without also having a full-time job and be a parent, etc. I can’t imagine how hard that is for some writers I know. I’m grateful for my situation. I think we make time for the things that are truly important to us and if we don’t it’s likely to result in a constant nagging feeling of dissatisfaction. Writing is who I am—not just what I do. I wouldn’t be fulfilled if I didn’t make time for it no matter what. But to those who struggle to find the time, I’d say from experience that even short burst of work count toward the larger goal.

E.M. Caines: Thank you so much for your time and insight, Tracy!

Tracy Clark: My pleasure! Thanks for the invite!

She’s fabulous, isn’t she? If you’d like to find out more about Tracy, check out her blog, or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

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About Author

E.M. Caines

E.M. Caines writes as Ella Martin and is the author of Will the Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up?.

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