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5 Things I’ve Learned About Writing by Cynthia Ellingsen

Writing.ie | Resources | Developing Your Craft
Cynthia Ellingsen

Cynthia Ellingsen

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Working as a writer has been a great teacher. I’ve learned so much throughout my journey from a struggling screenwriter in Los Angeles to an Amazon Charts bestselling author of contemporary women’s fiction. I plan to continue to learn and grow as my career progresses, but I wanted to share five things I’ve learned about writing so far.

Plan it Out

There’s a joke that says How do you eat an elephant? The answer, of course, is One bite at a time. Writing a novel is a huge process. It’s a lot of words, people. For me, the process was daunting at first, almost overwhelming, until I focused on the “one bite at a time” strategy.

To meet my deadlines, I do the math. I figure out how many words I need to write a day to complete a solid rough draft, and calculate how many weeks I’ll need to revise and revise that rough draft into a shiny draft.

Once I’ve planned out the timeline, I can get to work without the stress.

Let the Muse Rest

There are days the muse doesn’t show up. There are many, many days the muse doesn’t show up. I don’t know what the heck she’s doing but I’ve learned that it really doesn’t matter, because the muse isn’t the one writing the book – I am.

When she doesn’t show, I focus on writing the boring stuff. The things that will need to go in the book but don’t require the amount of intensity that say, a heavy scene would. I save those heavy scenes for the days the muse deigns to roll out of bed, latte in hand and ready to work.

Make the Changes

Imagine you’ve spent the entire day writing the scene of your dreams. It made you laugh, cry, and eat an entire box of chocolates. You’re high on that success, until you read through the draft of your book and realize that brilliant scene does nothing to move the story forward.

I’ve learned that if I want to excel, to make my books deeper and better each time, that I need to make changes where changes need to be made. Swiftly, without apology. There will be other books. Other great one-liners. The most important thing in the moment is to serve the story I am writing, and be willing to make the edits that will do that.

Cut that scene. You don’t need it.

The Sky is Blue

To go further with that topic, listen to what people are telling you. Your writer’s group, your agent, your editor. I’ve heard too many writers ignore valid critique because they’re stuck on the idea of what they want to write rather than the reality of what they have written.

Yes, it’s art and everyone has an opinion, but if everyone is telling you the sky is blue, it’s blue. It’s so important to listen to notes and adapt, because when it comes time for your editor to give notes to help make your story better, you need to be willing to make the changes.

Keep Going

I’m currently on my seventh novel. I’ve written six contemporary women’s fiction novels, and one middle grade novel. I’ve worked with Penguin Berkley, Lake Union, Albert Whitman and Co., and currently, Bookouture. Each experience has helped me grow as an author, and has helped me discover what I hope to accomplish through my work.

My current novel, The Choice I Made, is uplifting, inspiring, but it also touches on some heavy topics. Like everyone else, I’ve spent much of the year in lockdown. I’ve felt the gravity of this year, and the struggles that people are facing. I wanted to write a novel that people could escape into, and the atmospheric summer resort in the book is the perfect place to go. At the same time, I’ve also addressed several difficult topics in The Choice I Made, such as a crumbling marriage, lost pregnancies, the illness of a family member, and how our choices can impact others for years to come. It’s a departure from some of my previous works, and I’m excited to share it with readers.

In general, my goal as a writer is to write uplifting books that will brighten my reader’s day. I want to tell stories that will make my readers laugh, cry, and feel like they’ve made some friends along the way. Each time I achieve that goal, I feel the need to keep going further as a writer, and investing even more heart and hard work into my next book.

(c) Cynthia Ellingsen

About The Choice I Made:

One day you will understand that the heart is only as fragile as the choices we make. I tell you this now—we will make surprising decisions for love. Ones that can tear our heart out and leave us begging for answers. The most painful choice I’ve ever made, my dearest, was to say goodbye to you.

The last few months haven’t been easy for Julie. Her marriage is under strain following the trauma of another failed pregnancy and her high-pressure job is beginning to take its toll. Then Julie’s mother falls ill, and she has no choice but to return to Wood Violet, her parents’ resort in Wisconsin. She hopes that taking a break from the city will give her and husband Tristan a chance to heal.

But, on arriving home, Julie realizes the situation is far worse than she thought. Her mother, once the life and soul of the resort, can barely speak, and her father is struggling to keep the business afloat. Yet returning to the idyllic site of her childhood, surrounded by old friends and her first love, Julie starts to feel a sense of peace she’d thought she’d lost forever.

Then Julie stumbles upon an eighteen-year-old girl hiding out in an abandoned cabin. The girl, Margaret, seems lost in the world, and Julie takes her under her wing. But when Julie finds letters and a drawing in Margaret’s backpack, she realizes the girl hasn’t told her the whole truth about why she’s here.

If Margaret finds what she’s looking for, it could expose a long-buried secret that could tear Julie’s family apart and drive the resort into the ground for good. And as the summer draws to a close, Julie must make a choice: will she return to Chicago with the man she married, or stay and fight for her parents and the home she loves?

Lose yourself in a life-affirming tale about love, betrayal and finding your true home, from the bestselling author of The Lighthouse Keeper. Fans of Mary Ellen Taylor, Barbara O’Neal and This is Not How it Ends will adore Cynthia Ellingsen’s captivating novel.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Cynthia Ellingsen is an Amazon Charts bestselling author of contemporary women’s fiction. Her books feature heartwarming characters and strong family connections, often with a touch of mystery. The Starlight Cove series, her best-known work, is available on audio and has been translated into several languages.

Cynthia began her writing career as a screenwriter in Los Angeles and now lives in Kentucky with her family.

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