~ By Gabi Stevens We all enter this writing career with dreams of best-sellerdom and fame. We all hope to write for a living and maybe even a little extra. Reality often derails those plans—your numbers were never big enough, you were orphaned, you never received support from your publishing house, your agent left the business; readers never discovered you in the morass of Amazon. Whatever. Honestly, your experience is not unusual. Few authors have had a smooth ride to superstardom, and I’d wager you can name authors who were on top a few years ago, but you don’t see them much now. Most of us have had setbacks or seemingly career-ending events. Or we’ve made mistakes. So now what do you do? The word is flexibility. “Wait,” I can hear you say. “I’ve always heard that perseverance is the key to a writing career.” It is. Flexibility is merely an aspect of perseverance, a subplot if you will. You’ve tried and tried in one genre and didn’t break through/didn’t sell/the genre died. You have two choices: give up or move on. Giving up is easy, and, if you can, I highly recommend it. No more worries about deadlines, editing, revisions, or (gasp!) a synopsis. You can live a “normal” life. Learn to cook healthy meals. Exercise and learn to really touch your toes. Have friends. However, if you’re like me, that isn’t an option. So moving on it is. You can continue to write the same books and expect the same results (Einstein’s definition of insanity) or you can try something new. A new genre. Surely there is more than one genre you read and love. Why not try writing something in that area. Do you write historical? Well, what about historical mysteries? Or fantasy? Many fantasies are set in medieval-like worlds. Do you write paranormal? Well, what about urban fantasy or steampunk? Then there’s always the self-publishing alternative. You no longer need to wait for NY to call. You have a viable route to get your work out there (Just do your homework and get professionals to help you along the way, please.). Look, I’m not telling you it’s easy. This business is heart-breaking. I was first published in historical romances. I wrote seven under contract, orphaned, agent left the business, whatever. I had lovely reviews but never broke through. So I changed and wrote paranormal romance. New contract, new name. Reviews were good. Orphaned again, agent issues again, whatever. I have been able to put my entire backlist up as ebooks and have published three original books by myself, and a short story collection of tales that frightened my husband. My latest career move is into straight fantasy, and I’m working on a novel in collaboration with my daughter. Writing is what I do. I have a proven track record, but no real fame. That’s okay. Don’t count me out yet. I’m still writing (perseverance) and I plan to continue in the foreseeable future. Just this week I heard cozy mysteries were making a comeback. I love cozy mysteries. Hmmm. Gives me yet another avenue to explore. I can bend. I can move. I can touch my toes in more than one way. --Gabi Gabi Stevens latest work is THE STONE KEY, a self-published time travel novel about a kick-ass heroine who can’t get home to the middle-ages unless she finds an ancient artifact. Too bad the one man who can help her doesn’t believe in magic and such nonsense. She is currently working on building a fantasy career, while still pursuing the romances she loves. You can find her at www.GabiStevens.com and on Facebook and Twitter.
~ Mary E. Thompson I have a confession to make. I’m a bit of an organization junkie. I fantasize about having a house that’s worthy of Pinterest. I’m not there yet, but when I put my mind to getting something organized, it always makes me feel so much better. The big thing I tackled this year was organizing my time. Both my kids were in school, so I had a full day to work for the first time ever. I just knew I’d get so much work done. But then there was laundry to do. Boxes to unpack (we moved a month after school started). Cleaning and shopping and… Squirrel! Yeah, it was easy to get distracted. It quickly became clear that if I didn’t organize my time I’d spend all my afternoons working instead of taking my kids outside to play and stay up too late instead of getting much needed sleep. Trust me, it’s not pretty when I’m tired. If I was going to achieve some semblance of work-life balance, I knew I needed help. Help to keep me on track and know what I needed to do every day so I could actually get my work done. Preferably before the bus showed up. Here’s what I did…
Create Reasonable Goals.I like goals. I make them all the time. It’s the reasonable part that usually trips me up. I forced myself to do that over the last year. I figured out how many words I can write in an hour and gave myself a goal per day. From there I could plan my work. If I needed about three hours of solid writing time each day, I had plenty of time for all the other stuff I had to get done. (Um, Pinterest anyone?) Then I knew how long it would take to complete a first draft and could go from there. Voila, my publishing schedule was set. With some buffer because… Life.
Write a To-Do List.I like to feel like I’m accomplishing something. Writing a book takes a long time. It can be discouraging because even as the words appear on the page it takes forever until you feel like you’re actually making progress. My to-do list became a good friend. Words this week? Check. Newsletter? Check. Laundry? Check. Playtime with kids? Check. Exercise? Check. I already feel more accomplished.
Prioritize and Keep Moving.Don’t forget to prioritize your to-do list. If you know what really needs to be done but you aren’t ready to tackle it yet, do some of the smaller, easier tasks. Getting a few checks on your list inspires you to keep going. Yes, you need to finish that manuscript, and the vacuuming can (probably) wait until tomorrow, but if it’s bugging you, get it done and go back to your manuscript fully focused. It’s okay to do something else as long as you go back to the most important items on your list.
Eliminate Distractions.I already confessed I get distracted easily. When we first moved, we had boxes stacked to the ceiling. (I wish I was exaggerating.) That was the biggest distraction I’d ever faced. I couldn’t work. At all. Those boxes stared me down every minute of the day. But I had deadlines and I wanted to get back into the flow of work. I couldn’t let it get to me. So I rewarded myself. Knowing once I got started it would be a while before I’d stop, I played a game. If I hit my goal on word count, or editing, then I could go through boxes for an hour or two. I was able to focus because I knew I could get everything done, eventually!
Avoid Procrastination.This is my achilles heel. When I have plenty of time to finish something, I put it off until later. Tomorrow is my favorite day to get things done. Then I end up with thoselate nights and busy afternoons I despise. To combat this, I bought a newplanner. Even more than I hate procrastinating, I hate being wrong. I set my word count goal for the day and push myself to meet it, because I don’t want to be wrong. When I have a goal for one day instead of for the week, I’m less likely to get overwhelmed by how much I need to do. Overwhelm leads to procrastination (no one said it had to make sense) and then it’s just a snowball from there. At the end of the day, you’re still going to have more you want to do than time to do it. It happens to all of us. Create your list for the next day and keep going. Because if you do everything today, you miss out on the things that really matter. The things that are the most important. Like spending a day at the pool with your kids. Or going on a date with your other half. Or finishing your latest manuscript. Don’t beat yourself up for that messy kitchen so you can enjoy life a little. Just put it on your to-do list. It’ll probably get done before that manuscript your editor is waiting for! Mary E. Thompson writes scintillating stories with a side of hope. She’s been indie published from the beginning and just released her 23rd novel. She spends her days hoping she’s raising her daughter and son to be good people and her nights snuggling with her own romance novel worthy husband. Visit her website at http://MaryEThompson.com to learn more!
~ By Marilyn Brant Note: This post originally appeared here. At the end of last year, I'd spent a lot of time pondering Criticism and Writers. This week, having reread those reflections, I realized I didn't have much to add to them after another year amidst the thrill, the chaos and the frequent insanity of being a part of the publishing industry. What was true for me 12 months ago is still true for me now. Although I have to admit, my determination to pull away from the gossiping maelstrom wasn't without consequences... Two friendships I'd valued came to an end in 2010, both due in part to our having different approaches to dealing with life stressors and criticism. Letting go is rarely easy and that was certainly true in these cases. However, there are times when the path on which we're traveling splits and we have to make a choice if we hope to move forward and live a healthier life. This year was, for me, a reevaluation year, and while there were a couple of losses, there were quite a few more gains. I met some awe-inspiring people and had the pleasure of getting to know better or reconnect with some wonderful friends -- online and off. This year made me even more appreciative of the insightful, compassionate, secure and genuine travel companions who are sharing the journey with me...and I thank you all for that. Now, as 2011 approaches, my thoughts have turned to a different but marginally related theme:Competition. I had an interesting, somewhat unexpected experience with it in recent months. I was taking part in a multi-author booksigning event and a reader came up to all of us to ask about our novels. Since the reader questioned me specifically about one of my books, I was in the midst of explaining the story's premise to her when the writer to my left jumped in and launched into a description of her own novel. It was a noticable interruption, but I liked the writer and attributed her behavior to a combination of over-eagerness and the simple desire to make a sale. The reader, however, raised her eyebrows, took a step back and laughed uneasily. "What? Are you guys in competition or something?" she asked. I started to shake my head, but the writer jumped in again and immediately said, "Yes!" Before I could respond, another writer near us said emphatically, "Oh, no! Reading one of our books makes readers want to find others that are similar. It's not a competition." I nodded mutely in gratitude, but found I couldn't put into words all that I was feeling at the time. The issue is complex. It has logical and emotional components, real-world battles pitted against internal, intensely personal ones -- and rarely are all of these addressed. As a result, I haven't been able to get the incident out of my head. Looking back, I probably should have been offended by the first writer trying to horn in on a potential sale, but I wasn't. I just thought it was ineffective, if it was a strategy (in the end, the reader chose to buy my book anyway), and merely strange, if it wasn't. I'm aware it's a mindset some people can get trapped by -- that whole zero-sum game where all the world is classified into winners and losers. In the realm of the arts, it tends to perplex me more often than not because, IMO, it may be an unavoidable business reality on one level, but it's a fallacy on a dozen others. Yes, there are Amazon rankings and, if someone else's book earns the #1 spot, that means mine will inevitably be lower. If someone else sells the most copies that means mine will sell fewer. If someone else's novel wins the fill-in-the-blank award that means mine won't. Okay. That's true -- literally. But that's not the only game that happens to be in progress. And in the game that's most often in the forefront of my mind, the win-lose construction is almost...laughable. Because I already won. I won years ago. And so did many of you. I won when I decided to pursue a passion rather than do something I hated. I won when I chose to write stories as honestly as I could whether or not anyone else on the entire planet liked them, understood them or cared about them. I won when the side of me that is grounded in self-belief chose to stand up to the side of me that isn't...or, rather, I've triumphed in a handful of battles against Lack of Confidence but the war is far from over. This much I can tell you about it, though: The end result won't be determined by a royalty statement. Or by the number of GoodReads raves or bashes. Those are irrelevant in the heat of such combat. Tell me, how many "wildly successful" (in the eyes of the society) actors, musicians, writers, athletes, etc., do you know who've crashed and burned when forced to face themselves? That have lost their fortunes, their families, their sobriety or their sanity? Yeah. A lot. So, a focus on comparing sales figures as a measure of success -- while not a wholly worthless endeavor -- is limited in scope when placed alongside all of the truly significant conflicts fought within. I physically cringe when I see someone setting him- or herself up as some kind of opponent against me. I want to tell them to chill out ("Here, have a cookie!") and to please use their energy more productively. Out of fairness, they should know there's no external competitor in the universe more powerful than somebody's internal demons. The notion of a mere human rival being strong enough to turn my attention away from Fear...well, that's absurd. I wishthe real battles were so simplistic. Alternately, how can anybody put a price tag on having done what one set out to do? On reaching one's intended audience -- no matter the size? What author could possibly "lose" by overhearing a reader tell another author that his/her novel touched them? That a character the other author created was one the reader closely identified with? That the author expressed something for that particular reader that this person couldn't express for him- or herself? How do you quantifymeaning and slap a win-or-lose label onto it? No one will convince me that what's meaningful to 5 people is worth less than what's meaningful to 50. I don't believe that the thoughts and emotions of those 5 can be dismissed just becausemore people happen to agree on something else. I think of all the times I saw a film or read a book and LOVED it and, yet, my positive opinion was in the extreme minority. Is the fact that it changed my life of less significance than the fact that another film or book changed someone else's? I know more than one book and more than one film have influenced me, but I fail to see where the competition is between them. They were each a gift to my mind and my soul. Each brought me something I needed. Each shared with me a message of value -- even if it only illuminated a tiny corner of some concept. There is no ranking that can be stamped on illumination. Am I the only person that finds such attempts futile?! Sigh. (Yeah, I'll get off my soapbox now... ;) Of course, on the materialistic, tangible plane of existence, competition abounds and it's often hard to ignore. Writers can't afford to go on writing if our books don't sell enough copies. Publishers won't take a chance on a debut author without a P&L statement that's in the writer's favor, and they won't pick up our option books if the financial pros don't outweigh the cons. But just because I can't completely close my eyes to the reality of competition in the literary world, it doesn't mean I have wrap my heart around it. I know what I'll remember in old age about being a writer in 2010 will have far less to do with my novels' placement on one list or another than the thrill of knowing I fought off Fear or Lack of Confidence long enough to write something a few people told me they loved... Wishing you all a 2011 filled with important battles won, meaningful memories created and peace throughout the process. And joy. May the New Year bring you much of that, too! Marilyn Brant is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of contemporary women’s fiction, romantic comedy & mystery. She was named the Author of the Year (2013) by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English. She loves all things Jane Austen, has a passion for Sherlock Holmes, is a travel addict and a music junkie, and lives on chocolate and gelato.
~ By Tanya Agler My son climbed into my minivan today, sniffed, and commented on how much the car smelled like Starbucks. I shrugged and told him that was where I wrote this morning. I’ve read with envy about writers who describe the closets they’ve converted to a great writing space. I’ve listened with envy to writers who talk about their children who know blood better be spouting out of multiple body parts if they disturb the parent who is wearing his or her writing hat. I’ve sighed with envy at writers who describe their writing space as located in their own house. My household consists of one husband, one rabbit, one Basset hound, one teenaged daughter, one tween son, and preschool twins. Whenever possible, I pile my copy of The Emotional Thesaurus, the latest RWR magazine, my binder with special craft class tips, my Kindle, my laptop charger, and my laptop into my trusty backpack and run to the car to go writing. In my case, my motto is “have In my case, my motto is “have laptop, will travel.” Local libraries. I always know the hours and locations of several branches. Not only do they often provide a quiet writing place, but if it’s my county branch, I can also check out books and audiobooks. The people are usually respectful and quiet, and there are always several outlets on the floor. At the library I often frequent on Sunday afternoons, the librarians often wave and warn me before they use the laminate machine. It’s a great place to write, and knowing other writers persevered until they were published often provides a great push for me. Restaurants and coffeehouses. After I drop off my twins at preschool, the easiest thing for me to do is head to the nearby Panera for a couple of hours of solid writing. Bagels, a quiet atmosphere, and caffeine guide me through two whole hours of plotting, writing or editing. For me, not having the laundry nearby reminding me of its need to get folded or having a dishwasher calling out to empty and reload it is well worth a couple of dollars. My local library also closes relatively early. If my husband comes home early enough where I can get a couple of hours of writing done in the evening, it’s off to Starbucks. I’ve tried writing at home at night. A stuffed animal invariably needs a bandage or a kiss. A board game needs an extra player. I have a hard time saying no to those requests. When my husband is working, I make sure I “babysit” the stuffed animals so my five-year-old daughter can go to work. I make sure I play a game of Life. I take time to listen to a story about school while I’m folding laundry. But when my husband is off, I usually head out to write, knowing my children are forming a strong bond with their father and knowing they are seeing their mom trying to turn her dream into reality. This fall, my life will be undergoing changes. For the first time, all of my children will be in school for a full day. No longer will I drive ten miles each way to take my two youngest to preschool. For the first time, I’ll have the whole day to write. Between you and me, I’ll probably still end up sneaking to Panera every once in a while. Have laptop, will travel. Do you write in one place or do you write in a variety of places like I do? Do you write at one specific time of day or does it vary depending on your schedule? I’d love to hear from you. Tanya Agler is a write-at-home mom who is often found at her local library, Starbucks or Panera. As yet unpublished, she is a member of RWA, CRW and Georgia Romance Writers. Her agent is Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency. She has been a finalist in several chapter contests (2014 Maggie Contest, 2014 and 2015 Marlene Contest among others). You can friend her on Facebook (Tanya Agler) or follow her on Twitter (@TanyaAgler). Her blog is tanyaagler.wordpress.com. She will be attending RWA 2015 in July and would love to hear all about your writing space and routine.
~ By Becke (Martin) Davis When I was a schoolgirl, I held one truth to be self-evident: that I could write. I might suck at a lot of other subjects, but give me a creative writing topic or even an essay, and I knew I could pull off an A. I’m not a schoolgirl anymore, and in place of essays I now write blog posts. I sweat those as much as algebra these days – not that there’s been much call for algebra in my adult life, thankfully. Along with a lot of my childhood beliefs that were tarnished by reality, my belief in myself as a writer is no longer set in stone. It isn’t enough to enjoy writing, I’ve learned, and a bright idea for a story isn’t the same as bringing that idea to fruition in the form of a completed book. Publishers, agents and readers have higher expectations than my lovely English teachers did. And there’s a whole world of competition now, instead of twenty-odd classmates who didn’t have “published author” on their career wish list. A neatly typed essay with no spelling errors could make the content of my grade school papers appear almost scintillating. And I learned early on that a touch of creativity could disguise a multitude of sins. For example, when I tossed A CATCHER IN THE RYE aside after a few chapters (apologies to J.D. Salinger – I much preferred mysteries in seventh grade) it left me critically short of material when my teacher sprung an assignment on the class that could have severely tarnished my grade. He asked us to write an essay from the point of view of any character in the book besides Holden Caulfield. I wracked my brain and vaguely remembered a dog. There’s always a dog, right? My essay, written from the point of view of the barely-remembered canine, garnered an A plus. The teacher raved about my paper, while I squirmed with the knowledge that the dog’s POV was an action of last resort rather than a brilliant stratagem. That’s when I began to suspect I wasn’t a real writer. Instead of becoming the investigative journalist I’d planned on becoming, I married young and worked in the advertising department of a couple newspapers and magazines. I knew writing ad copy wasn’t real writing, but it did help pay the bills. When we bought a new house that had zero landscaping, I began a crash course of self-taught horticulture. I noticed all the books I’d come across were by British gardeners, and having lived in London for several years, I doubted that the plants I’d grown there would survive a Chicago winter. This thought kicked off a period of intensive research that led to a 20-year career as a garden writer. This career shift confused my parents, since I had no training in horticulture. My dad couldn’t understand why professional landscaping associations would hire me to write for them when I had no credentials, specifically no horticulture degree. Instantly, I discounted all my research, all the workshops I’d attended, all the professors I’d interviewed about their work. Why were these people paying me, anyway? I reminded myself that I’d been hired to speak to master gardeners at the University of Illinois, so that must count for something – getting a paycheck from a university instead of writing checks to them seemed like a win/win. My paychecks went a long way to convincing me I was real garden writer, but wasn’t I just relaying factual information about plants? I had a talent for translating complicated facts, but did that make me a real writer? As always, I had my doubts. The difference was, real writers invented stories out of the whole cloth. I wouldn’t – couldn’t – be a real writer until I succeeded in fiction. By that time, I’d sold over 1,000 garden articles and written five books on landscaping. Apart from playing with some mystery short stories, I hadn’t attempted to write fiction in years. I read about a book a day, so I knew fiction like I knew my own face. How hard could writing it be? Make something up and write it down. Et voilà – a book! About a million words later, I knew exactly how hard fiction could be. Pretty. Freaking. Hard. I was old, for Pete’s sake, and I’d been a teenager when I got married. I hardly dated at all. How could I write a contemporary romance if I wasn’t even contemporary? Imposter Syndrome set up a suite in the writing quarters of my brain, reminding me of all the reasons I might not have what it takes to be a real writer. But here’s a reality check: I am a real writer. Not published yet, but I will be one day. Believe it. I almost believe it myself. Becke (Martin) Davis moderated the Garden Book Club and the Mystery Forum at BN.com until the forums were discontinued last year. Prior to that, she was a writer and instructor at B&Nâs Online University and for two years she wrote a garden blog for B&N. She has written six garden books and one book about âN Sync, co-authored with her daughter. Becke has two adult children, an awesome granddaughter and two cats. She has been married almost 44 years and lives in Chicagoâs Hyde Park.
Facebook Writer Page: https://www.facebook.com/BeckeMartinDavis
Twitter #1: https://twitter.com/Becke_Davis
Twitter #2: https://twitter.com/becke_martin
Blog #1: http://familytreethyme.blogspot.com/
Blog #2: http://the-garden-muse.blogspot.com/
~ By Jill Beck What are the odds? Do you ever ask yourself this question? For me, it rears its ugly head on the days my thoughts go over to the dark side. It’s my brain’s more subtle way of saying, “This is too hard. We might as well quit.” When I first started writing, I spent a lot of time worrying and the question wore a path, pacing back and forth through my mind. “How many people are writing books? Thousands and thousands. So, what are the odds that my little book is going to go anywhere?” Writing is hard all by itself. And on top of that, there’s a lot of competition in the field. Of course, there’s competition in every other field, too. It’s never easy. If you want to accomplish something, there are going to be obstacles to overcome – many of them, large and small. But one of the things I’ve learned in these early stages of my writing career is that the odds are not fixed. They’re fluid. Like me, you may have started out with no experience and those odds may have looked like a mountain in front of you. But maybe you sat down and started brainstorming ideas. Or maybe you decided to take a couple of writing classes or join an online writing group. You just chipped away at that mountain. You wrote a first draft of your book and, boy, did it need help. Jeez, it was terrible. But you finished it. You had a couple of people read it, you made some changes and you came out the other side with a much better second draft. Once again, you’ve changed the odds. What was once a crazy longshot is now starting to look pretty possible. Obviously, you have no control over factors outside yourself. You can’t control the trends in the market. Who can predict when vampires will take off or fizzle? Who know whether contemporary or historical or paranormal will suddenly be the rage? But you do have control over your part of the equation. Keep learning. Keep evolving. Develop a greater mastery of your craft. You play a huge role in your own personal chances. You’re moving forward. You’re learning and growing. And with every step you take, you’re altering the odds. You’re controlling them – not the other way around. You set the odds. If you don’t like how they look, change them. Keep going. Keep pushing until the balance has shifted and the numbers are in your favor. I still struggle with my own internal bookie, who insists on quoting odds to me. Yeah, they might not be the best odds, but I’m going to gamble anyway. Jill Beck is a graduate of Purdue University and spent the first thirteen years of her career in manufacturing, before setting it aside to raise her children. Once the kids were in school, she opted to embark on Career 2.0 and try something more creative and intrinsically rewarding – no offense, manufacturing. Jill lives in Indiana with her three beautiful children, two awesome dogs and the most supportive husband in the universe. Jill writes new adult contemporary romance and her first novel, Legacy of the Dog, was released by Boroughs Publishing Group in October of 2015.
~ By Marilyn Brant Note: This post originally appeared here. Writing a novel is such an emotionally intense and mentally involving task that, much of the time, we writers are so caught up in juggling the details of story structure and craft that we lose focus on the ultimate big picture: Why are we writing this book in the first place? For me, days, weeks, even months go by and I don't think about this huge, unstated question. Oh, no. I'm too busy pondering whether the point of view I'm using to narrate my latest project is, in fact, working effectively. Or wondering if the plot and turning points that I've laboriously beated out (thank you, Blake Snyder) are, actually, succeeding in escalating the conflict like they're supposed to... I spent most of the summer puzzling over the time period and the setting of my current manuscript, asking myself -- and just about anyone who stood near me long enough: "Hey, do you like this idea? Does it make sense? Is it as interesting as I hope it is?" These aren't bad questions, of course. But, at some point, isn't it more important to ask myself instead: "Who else cares about this? Why does this story matter? Will any narrative choice I make mean anything to anyone but me? Is going to all the trouble to write this book worth it?" In my opinion, there is a long and a short answer to that for each of us as we face our various projects. The long answer is undoubtedly a complicated equation involving an analysis of our writing goals, our resources, our ability to reach readers, our desire for some of the fantasies that typically come with the writing life (regardless of whether or not we end up achieving them), like being seen as famous, earning our idea of a good fortune, winning honors and awards, battling Death in our ever-present fight against our mortality, or feeling the rush we get by challenging on paper a personal fear. Essentially, by some semi-objective means, we try to determine how capable, connected, valuable and relevant our stories are in the eyes of our target audience. How meaningful our work is, at least as deemed by the society in which we live. The short answer is...I don't know. It's kind of like asking if Love is worth it. You can try to measure the quality of the relationship by whatever scale you value most (how attracted you are to that person, how smart or kind or wealthy he/she is, how often you laugh when you're with him/her, which ideals you both share, etc.), and you can answer the famous Ann Landers question -- "Are you better off with him or without him?" -- to try to get at the very core of what draws you to the relationship. But, when it comes right down to it, we all know it's still a leap of faith. That, ultimately, we have to come to terms with our own lack of absolute certainty in regards to what we hope is our Love of a Lifetime. Maybe that's why, as writers, we throw ourselves so wholeheartedly into the details of the writing craft. THAT is something we do know (or, at least, we're fairly confident people like Robert McKee and Anne Lamott have some idea ;), and it gives us hope that there are things about our calling that we can know for sure. ("Yes, third person point-of-view is definitely the way to go for this piece. No, no, don't put the first turning point in that scene...") In the end, we may or may not leave a literary legacy behind, we may or may not earn much money or many accolades for our work, and we may or may not even know all of the deep-seated reasons that drew us to writing stories in the first place, but I don't think we should have to justify our passion for writing any more than we have to justify falling in love with our spouse. Why do we do this? Why do we write? Somewhere inside of each of us, we know why. And though we may work hard to express every nuance in every sentence within our manuscripts, and we should be held accountable for those story choices by our readers, I don't believe we owe anyone an explanation about what drives us to set pen to paper in the first place. We may choose to share, of course, but I feel it's as personal a question as revealing a childhood secret. As much of an individual stamp as our writing voice. And as unique and hard-to-define as we are. What do you think? Marilyn Brant is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of contemporary women’s fiction, romantic comedy & mystery. She was named the Author of the Year (2013) by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English. She loves all things Jane Austen, has a passion for Sherlock Holmes, is a travel addict and a music junkie, and lives on chocolate and gelato.
~ By Kim Relph Czerwonka Hi, my name is Kim and I’m a procrastinator. Not only am I a procrastinator but I am at wizard level. Now the basic definition of procrastination is the practice of delaying or postponing the completion of a task. Advanced procrastinators don’t simply delay a task they often replace it with a less important activity. This less important activity is usually something that really doesn’t need to be done and certainly not in the timeframe of this very important task that clearly has a deadline. When I was in college I am pretty sure that I had the cleanest closet during finals week at my university. Every semester like clockwork classes would wind down and I’d find myself organizing my closet. Of course, I always had a good reason. At the end of the fall semester I told myself that with the holidays coming I needed to get it taken care of. Where would I hide gifts? At the end of the spring semester I justified it by reasoning that I needed to be able to find my sandals or other summer gear. It’s a problem with perfection, and it’s not that we, as procrastinators, think we are perfect or that we do things perfectly. It’s that we have illusions of grandeur. We can imagine perfection, and it looks really good. The only problem with perfection is that it’s well, perfect. Even if we ignore the idea that different people are going to have varying ideas of what is perfect, we are setting the bar exceptionally high. As my father, all around smart guy and my junior year Honors English teacher, would tell me, “It’s hard to be perfect and on time.” At the time I just thought he was talking about me, but since then I have found that this is a universal truth for procrastinators. You start with a task that needs to be done and then you come up with this great idea and you are really psyched about it. It’s going to be amazing, and groovy and maybe even blue and…wait. What now? There’s a deadline. Perfection and punctuality, fantastic, two of my favorite things, really. Awesome. Ok. At some point it turns into perfect or punctual, one or the other but not both. How do we choose? Perfection is fairly subjective, you ask a random sample of people a single question and you are going to get different answers. I think Chris Hemsworth is pretty close to perfect but I know a few people who are not impressed at all. Punctuality, however is definite, Thursday at noon means the same thing to everyone. (Yes, I know there are different time zones that could cause confusion but we all knew what I meant.) Clearly, the deadline is going to win over a fleeting chance at perfection. The deadline is the deal breaker but as a procrastinator we are then obligated to justify the lack of perfection. How can we be perfect when we have had such a busy day? And, yeah, sometimes we invent things that have to be done right now. It’s avoidance at its best, perfection takes time so we allow ourselves to be distracted by various shiny alternatives. When we triumphantly meet our deadline we can point to all of the distractions and pat ourselves on the back for doing so well in such a short amount of time. Here’s my shiny example, while writing this post I got an email letting me know that I had earned a $15 rewards certificate to a national shoe store chain. I stopped writing to go look at shoes. Do I need shoes right now? Nope. It is summer and I have a plethora of sandal options to choose from. All I thought was, “Wow, $15!” and I sprinted off to see if there was anything that I absolutely needed. Did I find anything that I needed right now? Nope…although I did find a darling pair of slouchy pull on boots that are on clearance, the avoidance thing, it’s not always bad. Is there a cure for procrastination? If you climb a mountain in Borneo and talk to the wise man…yeah. No, there is no cure. You can only treat the symptoms. Like perfection, treatment options vary among the procrastinator population. When it comes to writing schedules work for some people, block out the same time every day to write. Setting a timer is another favorite, set it for an hour and keep writing until you hear the ding. The best treatment, in my humble opinion is to drop the idea of perfect in favor of ideas like fun, inspired, heartwarming or relatable. Kim Relph Czerwonka writes contemporary romance. When not writing, she is most likely sewing themed family costumes, wrangling one of several pets or shushing people so she can finish reading one more chapter. She lives in Arizona with her husband and teen daughter, and dreams of living somewhere, anywhere at this point, with cooler summers.
~ By Susan Meier
Note: This post originally appeared here.I have two proposals due this month, a story to write and … well, there’s a major holiday in here too. So as I mentioned last week, I skimmed all my blogs and came up with some short, but helpful things I’d said this year that bear repeating… When you are too tired to think, you can do your manuscript a great disservice. You can delete good stuff and keep bad stuff…and not even know you’re doing it. So what do you do when you’re too tired to think? 1. Step away. Get so far away from the computer that you can’t even see it! Don’t tempt yourself to work when you’re too tired. 2. Give yourself options of ways to rest your brain. Normally housekeeping is my go-to mundane activity to heal my brain. Yesterday, it wasn’t cutting it. Why? I think because it was still part of a routine. And my brain wanted something different. My something different and your something different could be two totally different things. Some people like bubble baths. Some people shop. Some people eat out. There are lots of things you can do to rest your brain. Write a list of 20, give yourself choices so you really will rest your brain. 3. Once you’ve decided what you’re going to do…throw yourself into it. Forget your book. (Buy the popcorn!) 4. Remember to move. My trainer is a very smart woman. She can take one look at me and know when I need to push physically to help myself mentally. If you don’t belong to a gym and/or don’t have lots of workout tapes, ride your bike, take a walk, run up and down your stairs! LOL Do something to get the blood flowing. And most of all #5…don’t be mad at yourself for needing a day off. I usually work six days a week. Lately, I’ve been working seven. How fair is that to my poor brain? Taking a day off rather than pushing can usually reap the reward of a fully cooperative brain the next morning. It worked for me. Don’t push yourself so much that you hit that wall that totally stops you…maybe for a long time. Happy reading…
Susan Meier is the author of over 60 books for Harlequin and Silhouette, Entangled Indulgence, Red Hot Bliss and Bliss and one of Guideposts’ Grace Chapel Inn series books, THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS. In 2013 she lived one of her career-long dreams. Her book, THE TYCOON’S SECRET DAUGHER was a finalist for RWA’s highest honor, the Rita. The same year NANNY FOR THE MILLIONAIRE’S TWINS was a National Reader’s Choice finalist and won the Book Buyer’s Best Award.Susan is married with three children and is one of eleven children, which is why love and family are always part of her stories.
~ By Jade Chandler Please stand up now, raise your right hand and repeat. Writing is a solitary art. But that doesn’t mean you have to be lonely. One of many things I hear about writing is that it is for loners, that it’s all about the muse waking up full of ideas, and that with just a bit more time we’d all be done with that insert troublesome project. So I call bullsh*t on those, and for me, I see each as a challenge to embrace and find a way to work through, over, under or around it. And that is what my survival list is all about! Visual stimulation. And for me that means lots of mostly naked, hot men do are or could one day represent my main characters. When I need a specific image of a scene, a dress, a detail of any kind, I find it and pin it to Pinterest. This way my poor Swiss cheese brain doesn’t have to work too hard. Writing friends. So my husband was tapped out before I ended book one, and my vanilla friends (non-writers) are supportive but clueless. So I joined RWA, which you probably are too if you are reading this blog. Then I joined my local chapter, online chapters and a few other groups. I found critique groups and critique partners to share my journey with, and I connected with classmates from craft classes. Writers, especially romance writers, are generally very supportive. Find your people and embrace them! It gives you so much—accountability, advice, and encouragement to name a few. Reading: So I became a writer because I love books, really love books, and at some point, I became more interested in the stories in my head than the ones I was reading. But after obsessing in my writing pool a few months, I missed books. Sometimes I can’t read romance, other times I read romance for a publisher I’m trying to snag. But I read, no less than a book a week. I “read” by listening via audible.com. For me it makes driving, housework and all my tedious chores more fun. Balance. So like any newly-converted fan, I obsessed about writing at first, ignoring most things that didn’t pay the bills or bleed. But that was short-lived as my husband and kids staged an intervention (kidding about that intervention). I realized I was living with all my eggs in a single basket. Not healthy. And then there was guilt. I’m not a guilt-ridden person by default, but I knew I wasn’t doing the balancing thing. So now, I spend time playing games, hanging out, cooking, seeing vanilla friends, and I write in 30 minute chunks. I can find four to five of those chunks in my day instead of one long two-hour, don’t-interrupt-me, stretch. Find your balance, which could mean more writing time or less. Loser-free Zone: I kicked out all the losers who took up space inside my head, and they can’t come back.
- The Muse: She demanded I write on her schedule and didn’t give a diddly-damn about my schedule or my family. And I write without her, just as well, maybe better.
- The Critic: She was haughty, skeptical and laughed at every mistake. That bitch is now out and gone.
- The Doubter: This mousy girl liked to point out how she liked our writing but no one else would, ever.
- The Yes-Woman: She is the hardest to get rid of as I like to say yes to things. I like to think I’ve turned her into a Meh Woman.