The Halfway Point

Writing Process

I’m in the middle of revising the last chapter of the third book in my new YA series and it’s just hit me that when I count all of the writing and revising I’ve done and all of the writing and revising I still have left to do, I’m officially at the halfway point of developing and creating this series. Halfway, as in once I start the first draft for the final book in the series, with just that first sentence, that first word, I’ll be closer to the end of this process than the beginning. It’s a really exciting thought but it’s also a really scary one because at this point it’s too late to turn back.

If something’s not working or if something doesn’t make sense or if the concept is totally unoriginal or something else terribly horrifying goes wrong, I can’t just trunk this entire series. At this point I’m so emotionally invested in this story and this journey that I’d have no choice but to fix it. So there is no backing out. There is no hiding or running away. I have taken on the responsibility of telling this story and that means that not only do I have to tell it right but that I have to finish. Both equally as hard, both equally as terrifying.

Writing this series has been incredibly fulfilling for me in so many ways, many of which I’ve only realized during these brief moments where I actually just stop and reflect. But probably the greatest thing has been just to live in this world for so long, undisturbed, without obligations or expectations. I’ve been free to do this because no one is pressuring me or waiting on me but myself, which means I have the time to do things right and with purpose. It feels good just to write. To sit down every day and know that regardless of whatever comes of this, I did it for me. It feels good to trust myself and it feels good to BE myself.

I daydream a lot about the fall and about all of the amazing things that could happen after these books are out there in the world. But ever since I made the conscious choice not to publish anything new for so long, I’m also learning to really appreciate the freedom that goes along with that choice. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be patient and to grow and to learn. I’m learning so much about myself and about what I’m capable of and without being doubtful or negative concerning the future in any way, I’m realizing that regardless of what happens I already have so much to be thankful for.

Sometimes I get so caught up in the end result that it’s all I can see and it’s all that I want. But I’m beginning to realize that it isn’t the end result that’s the most rewarding. It’s the journey. It’s the journey I crave and it’s the journey I will be grateful for above all else. Because it’s the journey, the actual sitting down every day to write, that has made me rich in more ways than I can even comprehend. Writing these books keeps me sane, they give me purpose, they give me passion. Writing these books inspires me and comforts me. But most importantly, writing these books just makes me happy.

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Coping Mechanisms For Writers

Mental Health, Motivation & Inspiration, Writing Process

I’ve been in hiding lately in an attempt to finally finish this YA book series which started out as a standalone and then became a trilogy and is now a total of four books. I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster, something I know all of my fellow writers can relate to and even though some of my “coping mechanisms” for stress and writer’s block and just fear in general may be a bit unorthodox or maybe even to some of you downright insane at least they work. Well…most of the time. Okay sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, hence the extreme variety. But for any of my fellows writers who are stuck or blocked or just downright terrified I’d definitely recommend giving some of these methods a try.

For Stress:

  1. Candy-Some people smoke cigarettes, some people do shots of tequila, and I gorge on chocolate or anything within arm’s distance that is made of sugar and rainbows. Not only will it lighten your mood but by knocking back an m&m or a chewy caramel and creating a false sense of reward you will be able to trick your body into thinking it’s already accomplished something great and deserves a treat.
  2. Writing on a yoga ball-It’s bouncy, it’s good for your back, and it’s just plain fun. Let’s face it, sitting at a desk all day isn’t enjoyable, comfortable, or ideal for our health. And since nothing gets the creative juices flowing like exercise why not write and get a little physical at the same time. Not only that but it gives you a soft place to land when you feel like jumping off a cliff.
  3. A hot bath infused with vitamin e-This is to detox your body of all of that sugar. Not only are baths relaxing but I find that I do my best thinking when submerged in water. If you respond better to fear you could always water board yourself until you come up with the solution to that plot hole that’s been driving you mad or if you prefer a more playful approach you can turn your soap and shampoo bottles into characters from your story and act out crucial scenes right on the edge of the tub.
  4. Role play your Oprah interview-Nothing cheers me up more than pretending like I’m already rich and famous. Visualization is truly the secret to success, which means wishing will get you nowhere in this world. Dreams don’t come true because we wish for them. Dreams come true because we think them into existence. Remind yourself on a daily basis what your vision is and how you’re actively achieving it and one day you’ll be sitting with Oprah and talking about how amazing you are.
  5. Plan a “staycation”-Nothing induces more guilt in a writer than idle time, which is why we rarely take a day off for fear of wasting it on watching reality television and drinking wine when we could be adding three thousand more words to our WIP. But here’s the thing, we need breaks. Regular breaks. But if you’re like me and can’t stand to just lay around when you could be writing, here’s a tip. Schedule meaningful free time for yourself where you and your friends or family are actually doing something worthwhile. If you can’t go out plan a “staycation” complete with a really ambitious home-cooked meal with desert of course and eight hours catching up on House of Cards because you only like classy narratives.
  6. Disappear off the face of the earth-Or maybe just from social media. I’m one of those authors who still hasn’t figured out how to navigate social media and seamlessly incorporate it into my daily life. Blogging is a different story. I love blogging and I love connecting with other writers and readers but when I’m in the middle of a project, sometimes it’s just not possible. Sometimes it’s okay, actually it’s more than okay, to step away from your Twitter and your Facebook and your blog and just focus on what needs to get done.

For Writer’s Block:

  1. Candy-See above.
  2. Read all the books-This is going to sound strange but sometimes when I’m in the middle of a WIP I have this fear of books. Of reading them and sometimes just looking at them. I know as writers we should be reading as much, if not more, than we write, but sometimes I’m stopped by the fear that I might read something so amazing and so gut-wrenchingly perfect that my own work will look like a disaster in comparison. This fear hits me at some point during the writing of every project, usually when I’m stuck, but you know what? This frightening scenario has never actually happened to me. Do you want to know what has happened? Every time I’ve chosen to pick up a book when I was feeling stuck with my own I’ve had some kind of epiphany. Reading inspires. It unlocks things in us and it reveals things to us we couldn’t see before and it’s the fastest way through writer’s block that I know of.
  3. Harry Potter Move Marathon-Because there is nothing more magical or more inspiring than the story of an orphan who triumphs over evil or the story of the author who created him who just happened to be piss-ass broke and is now a billionaire. Not to mention once you come to the glaring realization around the end of the third movie that you will never write something as spectacularly world-changing you can stop trying to be perfect and just write.
  4. Read negative reviews-Not of your own work. That would be counterproductive. The thing is, writer’s block is often caused by our impossible pursuit of perfection and we spend hours analyzing and re-writing the same paragraph because for some reason it’s just not right and because we’re holding it to some standard that doesn’t exist. But there is no such thing as perfect and there is no pleasing everyone, which is evidenced by all of the negative reviews given to New York Time’s bestselling books. However few, I promise, even your favorite author has some unflattering reviews of their books out there. Take a stroll through Goodreads or Amazon and you’ll see what I mean and not only will you probably have a good laugh you’ll realize that it’s all relative and you might as well write for the only person whose opinion really matters–you.

How To Be Binge-Worthy

Self Publishing, Writing Process

Earlier in the week I wrote about “binge-reading” being the newest trend that’s causing yet another revolution in the publishing world. Readers want books sooner which means publishers are demanding more from their authors which means that soon slow and steady might not be enough to win the race. Let’s face it, writing an entire novel, revisions included, in less than four months might not be possible for all of us no matter how dedicated we are, and since quality should always trump quantity, this means that publishing more won’t necessarily be about writing more but about writing and publishing more strategically.

Here’s my strategy for publishing more, lengthening my backlist, and becoming binge-worthy:

Step One: Write.

I know it’s a no-brainer but here’s how to be more strategic about it. First of all, blogging prior to publication is a MUST. This is something I didn’t take advantage of mostly because I was terrified. I didn’t think I had anything worth saying to complete strangers, especially as a “pre-published” author who, unfortunately, still struggles with feeling legitimate. But not only did all of those fears and anxieties keep me from potentially embarrassing myself they also kept me from connecting. These days we know the value of connection because it takes more than one person to bring a book to publication. There are beta readers, bloggers, and street teams, and finding them before you even publish your first book will only make your debut that much more successful.

We should make blogging a priority but obviously first priority is definitely getting that novel finished. This means start to finish, revisions and copy edits included. This means not even thinking about publishing or blog tours or giveaways or any of the other very fun stuff that can precede publication. This is not the time to get ahead of ourselves because this is the time for writing and even more importantly finishing. So FINISH!

Step Two: Build a Backlist.

So now that you’ve finished your very first novel and it’s as close to perfection as you can possibly make it here is what I want you to do. Shelve it. I know, I know, your grimace was practically audible. But trust me, unless you can churn out a new novel every 3-4 months, this the only way.

I didn’t publish my first novel until I was through the third draft of my second and halfway through the first draft of my third. Why? Because when I first decided to self-publish the authors who were already having great success at it seemed to be putting things out every 4-6 months and it was a pace I knew I wouldn’t be able to match unless I held back on publishing my first novel and became more strategic with the release dates of the others. Momentum is the secret ingredient when it comes to finding success as a self-published author because it’s the only way to truly conquer your obscurity. So even though I know it’ll kill you not to hit publish, just wait. Sit on that novel and focus on building up your backlist until you can create the illusion of being a fast writer when really you’re just a smart one.

Step Three: Choose Strategic Release Dates.

Step two was all about learning to finish and being patient and step three is all about rewarding yourself for that patience. Publishing a book because it’s ready is never a good reason. Part of the reason that self-publishing has such a bad reputation is that too many people jumped the gun, publishing a novel as soon as they typed THE END just because they couldn’t stand waiting another second and they wanted to pass go and collect a hundred dollars. But that kind of thinking does not a career author make. Because career authors have a little something called foresight, meaning they treat their successes and their failures as road markers instead of road blocks and every decision they make from the sentence level all the way to publication is based on maintaining their livelihood long-term.

And now that creating a backlist and maintaining momentum is going to be more important than ever there are even more things to consider when choosing a publication date. Like whether or not your desired release date would allow you to be able to publish something new in 4-6 months. The rule I followed last year and that I hope to follow starting in the fall is to publish something new, at the very least, every 6 months. This means that while one novel is being prepped for publication, I have another in need of it’s final revisions and another in it’s first or second draft. I know not all writers like to work on more than one project at a time but learning to multi-task and alternate your focus between multiple projects really is the key to high productivity and it’s the key to maintaining momentum.

Despite the fact that creating binge-worthy books might seem like you have to move at lightning speed, the real key is actually patience. Because creating a presence and building moment isn’t just about putting out a bunch of books, but about putting out good books. Books that weren’t just written for publication or for the purpose of building a backlist but books that were written simply because we couldn’t help it.

WIP Wednesday

Writing Process

I know I can’t be the only one who thought that January was the longest month in the history of months. You’d think a writer would thrive in all of this dreary winter weather but I really can’t wait for spring, or more specifically, I can’t wait to shed all of last year’s doubts and dead weight. I’m just ready for a fresh start and desperate to regain that optimism I’d had about 2014 being my year. Speaking of which, I’m afraid I’m grappling with a very difficult decision that pertains to my next release.

As you can see I’m approaching the final copy edit but even though this novel should be ready to go by the spring, I don’t see how I’m going to be able to come up with the money to release it in just a few months. I’ve talked about the financial strain of being an indie author before and even though I’m really heartbroken that I’m going to have to sit on this piece for a while longer, there’s really nothing I can do about it. I recently posed a question to other indie authors about how they choose their release dates and the consensus seemed to be that the summer is the worst time to put out something new. And because of that, I’m wondering if postponing the release of the entire series until the fall might be the smartest choice. Although if I do somehow manage to get lucky and end up coming up with the funds, you can expect a POSSIBLE April 30th release date and a massive blog tour to accompany the sequel in August.

WP-OOP-050113

Speaking of the sequel, I’m currently working my way through the third draft. After receiving feedback from my Alpha readers I marked up the MS with approximately 180 changes, notes, and revisions, and have finally dwindled them down to just 65. And I feel like I’m going to puke. These re-writes are so extensive that the latter half of the story is practically being written from scratch and it’s been such a mentally draining process that I had to give myself a few days off to indulge in a Harry Potter move marathon–something I definitely recommend for all writers when they’re hitting a particularly crippling block. But tomorrow is the last full day I’ll devote to these revisions and then I’ll finish them up by the end of the month while simultaneously drafting the third and final book of the series.

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This one’s currently sitting at about 25,000 words, which isn’t a huge improvement from the last time I checked in but not only have I been revising but I also gave myself a week off to flesh out something new.

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My seventh novel (wow, I really can’t believe that number) is a standalone contemporary, which is really the genre I most love to write in and it’s been such a breath of fresh air to step back into the real world. Not to mention I’ve really fallen hard for these characters and I can’t wait to start spending more time with them in a few weeks. I’ve mentioned that I’ve been attempting to become an even better multi-tasker by working on multiple things at once, which is why I plan on working on my YA series during the weekdays and this new novel on the weekends. I couldn’t quite get the hang of it last month but I think it was because my 6th book just wasn’t far enough along so it was hard to allow myself to focus on anything else. Two weeks from now though I hope to have a better handle on both projects so that I can have both first drafts done by April.

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As always, I’m probably biting off more than I can chew, but I find that life can get a little boring when I’m not panic-stricken and desperately trying to meet an impossible deadline so until I have the luxury to only write when I “feel” like it, I guess I have no choice but to continue on with this torture.

The Beauty of Beta Readers

Writing Process

Writing a book is like carving words into your flesh in reverse. It hurts and it’s messy and it’s terribly personal. And when we finally make the decision to open the door and let someone else in, it’s terrifying.

Because it isn’t just some story. It’s my story. Each and every project is the culmination of my entire identity at that point in time–my hopes and fears and imperfections–all of it buried beneath some fictional character’s quest for self-enlightment.

My book is me, whether I’m like the characters or not, whether I share their beliefs or not. My book is me and when I send it off to a complete stranger to be critiqued, I’m the one who feels like she’s exposed and I’m the one who’s afraid of being rejected.

Negative feedback, especially from a stranger, has the unfortunate power to totally crush a writer’s spirit. And even though it’s necessary, that initial sting stays with us, resurfacing every time we sit down to write, our own voice trapped under the opinion of someone else. Because they didn’t like it. Because it wasn’t their style. Because it wasn’t their genre. Because they just didn’t get it. They didn’t get us.

But then someone does.

They get it. They feel something. They connect. They understand. They just get it. And that’s the true beauty of beta readers. Besides all of the technical benefits of having a critique partner and besides all of the obvious connections that can be made with someone who shares our love of writing, it’s that one moment of finally being understood that is truly worth waiting for.