Category Archives: Perseverance

Writing: Doing What Scares You

I don’t know who said it originally, but whoever it was is right: “You should do the thing that scares you.” Or something close to that, anyway.

Now this doesn’t mean that if you’re afraid of poisonous spiders you should go buy one for a pet (some fears are survival-based, after all), but it does mean that you shouldn’t let thinking you can’t or shouldn’t do something keep you from ever trying it.

As writers this could mean many things. Maybe tackling a particular genre, or subject, or style, or narrative voice. Maybe someone told you men can’t write believable female voices. Maybe you think no one will read a book written in the second person. Maybe you think you suck at memoirs. Maybe you’re right about all these things, but are you right because you tried and failed or because you’re too scared to make the attempt?

Poetry is not my thing. Never has been. I like reading some–The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, for example, is great–but writing it has always seemed too hard. I have this in my head despite the fact that my AP high school English teacher–a woman who was notoriously stingy with compliments–told me that the poem I turned in as a response to Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women was one of the best things she’d ever seen at a high school level. If interested, you can read an excerpt of the poem here (the original, not mine) and I found this awesome comic strip here.

That being said, I started writing a book about two musicians and knew going into it that I would need to come up with song lyrics. I think that somewhere in the back of my head I had the vague idea of asking someone else to do it for me, but how realistic is that? And do I really want to rely on someone else’s vision for something as important as this? Nope. I don’t. I shut off my inner editor and started writing–I mean, it’s a first draft, right? Things can always be changed down the road.

I surprised myself. This writing form that I’d kept away from so long is suddenly consuming me. I’m writing more songs than I can possibly squeeze into the book (and I’m squeezing them in anyway, hoping most of them will make it through the editing process) and I’m actually liking them! I’m going to take a chance and post the song I wrote this morning. Keep in mind it’s a first draft, but feel free to tell me what you think!

Staring out my window
Dreaming of the sky 
Locked here in this tower 
Tho no one else knows why 
You appear then out of nowhere 
And try to help me fly 
And stare uncomprehending 
When I shake my head and sigh 
Your white horse don’t belong here 
But then, of course, if you’re sincere 
Won’t force this rescue till you here 
Why my tower’s worth fighting for, dear 
Cause what you didn’t see 
When you came barging through the door 
Is that the lock you broke through 
The one now lying on the floor 
Was done up on the inside 
And then, of course, what’s more 
Your horse stomped through my roses 
And I’m left with the chore 
Of picking up the pieces 
Of my once strong oak wood door 
Your white horse don’t belong here 
But then, of course, if you’re sincere 
Won’t force this rescue till you here 
Why my tower’s worth fighting for, dear 
Cause they may call me Cinderella 
But I’d much rather be 
The girl who stands up by your side 
Cause fallin’ behind ain’t me 
So take your horse and ride off 
Come back when you can see 
The truth behind my tower 
How the walls aren’t what they seem 
You think they’re meant to keep me in 
But in actuality 
That strong red brick I built by hand 
Wasn’t meant for me 
Wanted to keep the world out 
But now that I’m set free 
How ‘bout you and your horse 
Come fix these walls for me?

New Years: Resolution, Resolve, and Reality

First, an admission. I have never, ever come close to following through on a list of resolutions. Because I have no resolve? Maybe. Because I set myself overambitious goals? Possibly. Because life can throw you a series of unexpected, life altering, time consuming curve balls? Probably.

Whatever the excuses reasons, it’s still a fact. Will this year be different? Who can tell? Am I going to try anyway? Yep.

What does that mean to you? Not much. Posting it online is really just a form of accountability. We’ll check in with this next year and see how well I did on all of these.

1. I will redesign my blog with a custom template. (Done!)

2. I will finish book 2 of my current series. (The structure of the series changed completely, but outlines have been drawn up and chapters have been written! It’s all moving in the right direction.)

3. I will polish and shop book 1 of my current series. (Begun June 2012 Sold to SHP July 2012!)

4. I will attend at least one conference. (Yay! I’m going to BEA!)

5. I will post in this blog at least three times a week. (Close enough, I’d say! I was really close to doubling my count from last year)

6. I will develop the storylines for at least one additional series. (Two different series are in the works with Lani Woodland)

7. I will figure out how to make myself work out… somehow. (Yeah… this one is still an epic fail.)

8. I will develop some kind of a social life, even if it is a sporadic one. (The success of this one has been hit or miss, but I did get myself out of the house more often!)

9. I will budget better so I can either take my dream vacation or move to New York within three years. (Uhm… Yeah. Progress has definitely been made–I’m officially out of debt!–but this goal is still a LONG way off…)

10. I will not let more than two days pass without writing something, even if it’s only jotting down an idea that passes through my head. (The productivity of this year is kind of amazing, so I mark this one done!)

So, there you have it. I figured ten was a nice round number, ambitious without being impossible. Wish me luck! We’ll check back in with the list next year!

Writing: It’s Not Just About The Words You Put On The Page

Writing is not the only profession affected by this in the current market, but if you’re trying to become a professional writer (fiction, non-fiction, freelance, etc) this is an important list to keep in mind. Many thanks to Robert Lee Brewer (whose name is NOT Bob) for posting this on his blog.

Here are the 8 jobs of modern writers:

  1. Writer. Believe it or not, the writing should always come first. If the other seven jobs ever start to overwhelm you, remember to fall back on the writing. That’s your bread and butter as a writer.
  2. Editor. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that someone else can correct all your mistakes. Sure, an editor will help improve (or at least alter) your writing, but that’s only after your work has been accepted. Your job as a writer is not just to string words and sentences together; it’s to string the best words and sentences together–with a minimum of grammar and spelling mistakes.
  3. Copywriter. Jane Friedman wrote a great post about why this is important over at Writer Unboxed. Copywriting skills are needed for everything from writing query letters to bio notes.
  4. File clerk. Once your writing is great and your query skills pay the bills, you need the ability to keep accurate records. The site I edit offers a submission tracker tool, but writers need to also keep track of bills, payments, and expenses–for tax purposes. It’s not fun for most people (raising my hand), but it’s essential to freelance success.
  5. Negotiator. Here are my negotiation tips for writers–from the perspective of an editor. Put them to good use. For tips from the writer’s perspective, check out this post by Carol Tice. You don’t have to be super pushy to be a good negotiator–sometimes all you need to do is ask.
  6. Accountant. This is sort of related to number four, but money complicates everything and needs an extra level of care. If you’re trying to make a business out of your writing, you’ll need to keep receipts and accurate records of payments, expenses, bills, etc., that are related to your writing. If you go to a conference, that’s a business expense, including the hotel, mileage, etc. Learn more in the 2012 Writer’s Market, which has a great piece on this subject by full-time freelancer Sage Cohen.
  7. Marketer. Most writers don’t want to think about this job. After all, many are introverts. Then, there are the extroverted writers who actually want to move this ahead of the writing on the list of jobs. However, I think the writing always comes first, but writers have to build a platform. It’s essential to building your brand as a freelance writer and making you visible to potential opportunities.
  8. Speaker. Speaking of introverted writers, I’m sure most are spitting their coffee all over the computer screens in disbelief that I would include number eight as an essential job of modern writers. However, it’s true. Many of the best opportunities (both for platform building and making money) for writers moving forward will involve speaking. You don’t have to be the best speaker ever, but speaking is a skill that you work on and can improve over time. Trust me, I used to think it was impossible, and I still get nervous, but I am much better now than I used to be. Click here for a few of my tips on speaking.

Publication: Is The Grass Always Greener?

Say you work very hard on your manuscript, you get a recommendation from a published friend that lands you an agent, and that agent happens to have lunch with an editor who then decides to buy your book. You did it! You’re a published author! Now what?

Some aspiring writers believe that as soon as they get that phone call from their agent saying someone has offered them a contract, their life is set and all they have to do from there on out is attend signings and conferences and write the next book. Sometimes, this isn’t the case. In fact, I’m willing to bet it’s never the case, even if you’re someone like Stephen King or Stephenie Meyer. Some days are going to be great! You read a fabulous review of your book, receive a royalty check, and get a call from your agent saying the movie option for your book is now under contract. Other days? Not so much. A 1 star review on top of a low (or non-existent) royalty check and dead silence from your agent and your editor can make you start wondering why in the world you work so hard if you’re not really getting anything in return.

Jody Hedlund, author of inspirational romance, posted on her blog about what happens after publication and the struggle many midlist authors go through on their bad days.

Before publication, most of us have dreams of what we think being a published author will be like. And the more we rub shoulders with other writers and fan the flame for publication, the larger our dreams become, until we’ve made being a published author into this HUGE, BIG deal—perhaps bigger than it really is.

Isn’t it that way with most things out of our reach? We long for something. But the more it’s denied us, the more intensely we want it. And we start to think it will be SO fabulous when we finally get it.

Our expectations grow with our longing, until eventually, our expectations are slightly (or maybe greatly) out of proportion with reality.

She makes some excellent points and although I’ve seen some of them made before, it’s always good to read these reminders from people on the other side of the fence that the grass isn’t always greener.  I searched around Jody’s blog (which you might want to do as well) and also discovered a post on what to do with reviews. Using examples from user reviews on Amazon, she shows you how contradictory the feedback you get can be:

About the romance:

“The scenes where the husband and wife are falling in love with each other are a little intense. Nothing vulgar or across any lines, but enough to make me blush at times.”

“I soured on inspirational romance in part because I didn’t feel it dealt realistically with the physical attraction between men and women. The tension and desire between Priscilla and Eli in The Doctor’s Lady, however, is tangible. Jody handles it so tastefully that even people accustomed to the hand-holding-only atmosphere of other inspirational romances won’t be offended by it.”

About the hero:

At first, I didn’t particularly care for Eli. I thought him crass and kind of a jerk.”

It didn’t take me long to fall in love with Eli’s strong, but gentle ways. Wow, he sure sounded like a hunk.”

About the story development:

“I was bit disappointed. Not completely, because I was very impressed with Jody’s writing, and I will definitely pick up more from her. The Doctor’s Lady isn’t about the Whitman’s mission with the Nez Perce. It’s completely about their journey to the Nez Perce . . . I was just hoping there was more of the plot actually involving Native Americans.

I love every part of this book: the adventurous journey, the interaction with the natives, the beautiful description of nature, the struggle and courage of the characters, everything!”

About the ending:

“Although the end is predictable, the journey there is heart-wrenching and engaging – never flat.”

“By the end of this book you feel things coming together and I felt like I could just explode in emotions and tears of joy and I was sad that it had to come to an end. This is one of those books that although you are satisfied with the ending, you are disappointed that you are done reading about the characters that moved your life!”

Comparing my first two books:

“After disliking Jody’s first book, The Preacher’s Bride, I was pleasantly surprised by Jody’s second book, The Doctor’s Lady, and I enjoyed reading it very much.”

“This is a good traditional romance, and while it lacks the power of Hedlund’s first novel The Preacher’s Bride, it will keep readers hooked to finally see Eli and Priscilla admit their love for each other.”

What in the world are you supposed to do with such dichotomous comments? Jody reminds writers that “Everyone will view a book through his or her own worldview glasses. Our religious beliefs, values, expectations, personalities, likes/dislikes—all of that will come into play for how we experience a story.” You always have to keep this in mind or you’ll go crazy trying to get EVERYONE to like your story. It’s not going to happen. Ever. To anyone. Just look at the Twilight series if you want proof. Sure, it’s blasted its way to the top of the charts in both movie and book form, but for every thousand people who call themselves Twihards and fill their homes with Twilight memorabilia, there are a hundred others who spend their days writing articles that “prove” Edward is abusive, Bella is an idiot, and Stephenie Meyer is trying to tell everyone that girls are weak and need to be protected. And the more fervent her supporters got, the more furious her naysayers got. Trust me. I first read Twilight back in 2006 and I watched from inside the fandom as the negativity mounted along with the positive reinforcement. It would be enough to shake anybody’s confidence.

My point? Concentrate on the things you can control–your work and your outlook. The future and all the good and bad it will bring shall come eventually. Hope for the best, plan for the worst, and try to be happy even if you end up somewhere in between.

Writing: Hitting The Wall

Since October 31st, I’ve been moving forward in this draft at bullet-train speed. Some days my word count jumped by almost 10,000. That is unheard of for me! Most days my I averaged closer to 3,500, but even that is way above my normal productivity range.

And then yesterday I wrote about 650…

And, now, I’m worried I might end up like one of those guys who dresses in velcro and throws himself at a sticky wall…

Have I hit the wall? Have I pushed myself too hard the last few weeks? Do I need time to recharge? Or was yesterday just a day where a hundred other things were going on?

Even having hit this point before, I can’t yet tell if I’ve reached it again.

Then again, I did fall asleep before 9:00 PM last night. So maybe I was just exhausted.

What do you guys do when you stall on a story? And tricks? I’m hoping a LONG sleep will help me get back into the flow.

NaNoWriMo: I’m Halfway There!

Having never attempted NaNo before, I’ve never realized how consuming it is. Especially when you set yourself a goal that is double the normal NaNo goal. HOWEVER…


And, to make this victory even sweeter, I hit this very crucial landmark before the official halfway point of the competition. This is such an important occasion for me that it is now time for a happy dance!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, everyone! And don’t forget to enter my giveaway contest!!

News: Sing, Sweet Nightingale

So, it’s officially official. But it’s also a long story, so I’m going to go back to the beginning.

After I wrote Sing, Sweet Nightingale, I wanted to get to know my second main character better. This sparked an idea to write some of the scenes in Sing from his perspective. Like most of my projects, this turned into something a lot longer than I’d anticipated–longer than Sing, even–but I liked it a lot and it allowed me to get a much better understanding of his character and his background.

When the editing was about to start for Sing, I sent the editor this second story (which I’d titled The Damsel in Distress) just as a source of extra information about the world I’d created. “There is a lot of extra background information in here,” I told her. “If you feel any of it should be included in Sing to help round out the story or explain some of the idiosyncrises of the universe, please let me know.” So she read it and then sent me an email that essentially said this: I think you should turn these two stories into a novel.

A small part of me was kind of sad to hear that because I’d been SO proud of myself for finally writing something SHORT! However, this didn’t last long. The novel extension is an idea that had actually already passed through my head. Since I’d been trying to publish it in short story form at the time, I didn’t give the fleeting idea much thought. With this push however, I started to seriously consider the possibility of heading back to the drawing board:

I started messing around with ideas and, not surprisingly, ended up with more than I’d bargained for. In fact, I have a solid new beginning for the extended version of Sing (I like the title, so I’m keeping it for the novel). For those of you who have read the past few posts, this is the NaNo project I’ve been pumping through so forcefully. It’s kind of taken on a life of it’s own and therefore taken over my life. I love it when this happens!

The plus side of all this is that I’m working on something that I really think could be great. The downside is I’m back where I started from on the whole publication process. Have to get the draft done and edited and then resubmit to a few places. Well, no one ever claimed becoming a writer was an easy road to walk. Here’s to hoping that inspiration + perseverance (+ a little good luck) = publication

Writing: Staying Motivated

Sometimes, it’s not writers block and it’s not lack of time, it’s fatigue that stops people from writing. Nathan Bransford is an agent turned kidlit author who recently posted a great article on staying motivated. Possibly posted now to coincide with the beginning of NaNo, possibly not. Either way, it’s worth a read.

Plot: Figuring Out The Middle Bits

I am just over 56,000 words through my novel My Own Prince Charming, but unlike the last time I hit this mark in a project, I’m not fighting my way word by word to the end. I have the end. And I like it. I have the first 8 chapters. I like those, too. It’s that whole middle section that’s giving me trouble this time.

The story I’m building is complex and a little creepy and needs a lot of hints, subplots, and foreshadowing. Right now I’m not able to decide what scenes and dialogue are best to get my characters from where they are to where they end up. It’s a struggle writers have to face in every book they’re ever going to write and it’s going to be harder for some stories (and some authors) than others. How do you overcome it? Well, you just have to …. Honestly, I have no clue. Random scenes have popped into my head periodically through the last few months and I’ve written them as they’ve hit, but I haven’t made a significant dent in the progress in quite a while. The worst bit is not really being sure how much more I need. Am I three or four chapters from being done or do I need eight or nine chapters worth of story to really flesh everything out? Hopefully I’ll find some way to figure this all out. If/when I do, I’ll come back and let you know.

Do you have any ideas?

Editing: You Better Love It

This one is going to be short. Just one bit of advice for those who haven’t already figured it out. If you don’t like editing–hell, if you don’t LOVE editing, you better learn to. Writing the actual story is the easy part. The polishing and revising and criticism that comes after that is the real test of your endurance and your dedication. Few people can make it past the first draft stage. Even fewer last through the thousands of comments and edits it takes to actually make a story work.

Do you have what it takes?

I dare you to take the challenge. 😉

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