Sunday, June 30, 2013

You can write

As I think back over the last few years, I realize that a lot has changed, and a lot hasn't. I may have a few more books under my belt now, but I'm just as unsure of myself as the day I did my first pitch to an agent. Today, I'd like to talk about our fears as authors.

I'm not good enough. Seriously. It doesn't matter what I've written or the epic stories that are currently  whirring around inside my brain, waiting to be typed up... I'm just not good enough. Now, I know, I know, some of my friends that are reading this right now are getting ready to give me that kick in the pants they're so awesome at doing, but I just have to say that it's true. I think this just comes with the territory. I don't know a single author who doesn't fret over what they've written. The key is to just try and believe in yourself.

What If's will kill you
I, for one, am a worry wart. I'm a nutcase - never being able to make decisions and always wondering "what if?". Should I write so-and-so's story now, or someone else's? Should I write my story in first or third person - or both? Should I have long chapters or short? I can't tell you how many times I've written entire chapters in two different ways so that I could figure out what felt right. There really isn't a fix I can give you for those of us who just can't seem to decide what to do. All I can say is: just let your characters roll with it. It's your job to write what they give you. If a certain character is motivating you today, write about him/her. If a different character is pushing you tomorrow, give that one the spotlight. Very rarely will you get anywhere by trying to force a story out of someone who isn't ready to tell it.

Your story will never EVER be perfect
This is true. You will finish your book and go through X number of edits before you might feel like it's ready to submit to a publisher (or self-publish if that's your route). You'll probably have read the words "The End" at least five times, and you might even hate your story by the time you're ready for that next step. I've been there. I've done that. And then I've sent off my query letter, synopsis, and (in some cases), the full  manuscript. As soon as you hit that send button, those doubts fill you and you think, "Crap, did I change this? And did I ever change that his eyes were blue instead of green? Or, did I write enough detail, or did I head hop, or did I..."
You get my point.

My suggestion is to make notes as you think of those problems. If you've already sent off that full manuscript, at least you'll have a chance to make those changes during the editing process. If you've only sent off your query and synopsis, then I'd sleep on it (again, take notes as you think of fixes) and go back in after at least a day to make those changes. You might hate your book by the time it's published, and you might feel like everyone will hate it as much as you do at the moment (we authors can have a love/hate relationship with our book sometimes). Don't worry though, it'll turn into full-on love again after you've gotten a break from it.

Full of What If's, self doubt, and a story that may or may not suck? Here are my notes:

  • As I just mentioned, make notes. Whether it's tweaks you need to make to the story line or to details within the story, or maybe it's mistakes you make over and over again, make a "BEFORE YOU SUBMIT" list, and follow it every time. Spell check, double spaces, formatting, etc.
  • Ever heard of the phrase: Two sets of eyes are better than one? Yeah, there's a reason that's a saying. Find someone you can trust to read and critique your work. Chances are, you're like me, and your brain auto-corrects words/sentences, so you could have really jacked up somewhere. A critique partner will help you catch those. 
  • Read it out loud. I know, that sounds weird, and it can feel uncomfortable. If you can find some alone time, read your book out loud. This can help you improve flow, and sometimes you'll even catch those pesky mistypes I just mentioned. Chances are, if it reads well when you speak it, then you've nailed it.
  • Don't write for someone else. Write for your characters. Write for you. Some people will like your book, some will hate it. Don't focus on those haters. For one, some people thrive by making others feel bad (aka: bullies). For another, you shouldn't waste a single breath on them because there are other, more important people to focus on: the people who love your book, those whose lives were changed by merely losing themselves in the story you brought to life.

And finally...
You can write. Your characters chose you, because you rock that much. Anyone who tells you otherwise can bite you.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

First Time

I often have people tell me that they wish they could write a book. This always makes me laugh because I never thought that I'd be able to. That got me thinking about the first time I decided to sit down and write. I was sitting in my car listening to music and I got the strange feeling that I was being watched. I looked around and no one was there, but that got me thinking. Who would be watching me? Why would they be watching me? How would they go about watching me? When and where would they watch me?

I started piecing together a story in my head by asking the most essential questions (who, what, why, where, when, and how) and making up my own answers, or so I thought. One thing I've learned in my adventures with my characters is that they are very, very selfish. They desperately want to have their story told and as long as you are willing to listen and let them tell it they will give you all the details. It wasn't me coming up with the answers, I was just listening patiently and taking the time to write down what they told me.

So, I have a question and some advice. My question is, what was your experience the first time you started writing? My advice is very simple. If you want to write, shut up and listen!

Sunday, June 16, 2013


If there's one thing I've learned with an infant at home, it's that human beings love routine.  Once we start our nighttime routine for the baby, it's like a switch goes off in that developing brain that says, "It's bedtime.  I'll get a story read to me, followed by a nice bath, clean pajamas, and a warm bottle with a song to put me to sleep."
Why haven't I programmed my own brain to respond to writing like that?  It takes such a long time from the moment I open my computer until the time I start working on my book that anywhere from twenty to forty minutes have passed.  Yeah, time waster!  If you asked me what I do during that time on the computer, I wouldn't be able to tell you because I find myself stunned that so much time has elapsed.  It's embarrassing. 
I need a routine.  Granted, my routine can't take nearly as long as the bedtime routine does, but if I had some sort of routine that took anywhere from two to five minutes where my brain recognizes that it's time to let all my creative sauces spill then I could work for as little as fifteen minutes and still get something done.  Maybe I need a song or a snack that I only pull out when it's time to write.  The snack itself might be worth writing for...
So that's what I'm hoping to learn from all of you: what do you do to tell your brain that it's time to write?  

Sunday, June 9, 2013


You know, I've had all week to work on this, you would assume that I would have thought it less poignant to write this before now. But, I am getting ahead of myself. Recently I visited my sister and her family down in Arizona and she had me listen to the first couple chapters of a book/author who I instantly admired. The author's name is Jon Acuff and his book is, "Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job & Your Dream Job". Within the first chapter, Jon is able to make any dreamer feel as though their dream is well within grasp, but he also brings you plummeting back toward earth making you realize that truly achieving your dream, means hard work, focus, and sacrifice. He brings to life that quitting your day job, which chances are, you aren't that happy with, isn't going to get you anywhere near your dream job. You need the day job, to fuel the dream job. 

I have put off writing my novel, or just writing in general, for a number of different reasons. Currently, I am sure I could list of every single one of them and tell you exactly why each one is so applicable to why I haven't written in months. They are rock solid excuses, no getting around a one. So I think the reason I really latched on to this great idea so much is because currently, there are a lot of things I really love about my day job, but it also has a lot of restrictions. I find myself day dreaming of quitting my job and working full time to finally achieve finishing my novel. Usually this day dream lasts a total of 10 seconds, because then I instantly let monthly bills flash through my head; knowing that quitting isn't the answer. What usually happens is the opposite. I let my day job dictate how much time I put into my dream job. I get home from my day job and I am tired or I have social functions to attend, because not only do I have to support myself, I have to get out there so I can hopefully find my prince charming that will sweep me off my feet and take care of me so I don't have to work a regular job like everyone else. Then... I can have all the time in the WORLD to write! .... I've started day dreaming again. Back to business. I let excuses get in the way of my dreams. Basically that is what I am trying to say. I let every little tiny excuse get in the way of something that I really, really want. And why? Because, I'm scared it isn't going to be worth anything? Because, I am scared of getting rejected? Because, I'm worried no one is going to like it? 

So what. If its something I really, really want. I will force myself through the tiredness, I will skip the social functions, I will push past the questions and doubt and I will push harder than I ever felt possible, because thats what you do when you want to make a dream a reality. 

Or... so thats what I got from what Mr. Acuff was trying to say...