Publishing: The Aftermath

DUN DUN DUN

Hi. It’s a rainy, dark day here this Monday morning, perfect for writing in some comfy sweats, and not too bad for a bit of reflection, too. I realized recently I have this thing that happens to me after almost every single book/story/poem I publish. Without fail, it goes something like this:

-With completed manuscript in hand: Wow. I’m proud. I wrote this? It’s not perfect (nothing is) but I love it. I love my characters. I have to share this with someone. Maybe I should publish it someday…

-Pre-publication (months or years later): I’m soooo nervous! I’m excited! I’m thinking about all the tiny details, reading over every word, choosing carefully, hoping release goes smoothly, hoping I sell some copies, hoping people like it.

-Release day: Holy shit! I’ve published something! That’s amazing, and I’m proud, and I’m humbled, and can’t believe it. And yay- people are buying!

-Post-release: People are liking it?!?! Are they telling me the truth? Are they just being nice? All my confidence is gone. I’m embarrassed. I’d change so much about the story. What was I thinking? Am I a total loser? Is my story complete garbage? Why did I do it from point-of-view? Why did I filter so much? Why did I write it to begin with? What gave me the balls to think I should put it (and myself) out there like this?

-Post-release (long-term): Person: “Oh? You wrote a new book, right?” Me: ::Blushes furiously, fumbles with words, finally answers in apologetic tone:: “Um, yeah.”

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME???

Really. What is that about? I get publishing-remorse after almost everything. I would say not my anthologies, perhaps because I am more confident in those stories. For the rest, I know in part it’s because having something put out in the world that is my creation, that opens my work up to criticism, is difficult. Particularly in the case of my poetry book– I’m still freaking out over that being live. Because what if I’m blinded by my own love and affection for each project? What if it’s really a mistake to publish? Despite having beta readers, critique partners, professional editing, etc, what if it’s just not good enough? What if I’m not?

It’s been almost two years since my debut novel was published, and since then I’ve published another 3 books, and numerous short stories and poems. Two years is not long. Maybe this feeling will go away eventually. I’m still a baby in the publishing world. I’m not sure if I just need more confidence, or a stronger sense of “what’s done is done” but something needs to change. It’s not that I’m not still proud, of myself, or my work. It’s not that I’ve been bludgeoned with awful reviews–because I am proud, and my reviews have mostly been very generous and kind. It’s just…I second-guess everything. I keep thinking of everything I’d change. I need to stop looking backward, take a deep breath, and take compliments better, instead of getting a sick feeling in my stomach every time someone tells me they’re reading my book!

Because really, so what if some people don’t like my books? My intent is to have readers love my work, so it’s hard to be cavalier about but the simple truth is not everyone will. And I won’t lie, I’ve had a couple of low reviews that stung. In general, maybe because they pointed out critiques that I myself have of my own stories. Like, damn it, they mentioned XYZ, and I had a feeling that was a weak point. It makes me want to smack myself a little, to be honest. But I am not perfect. And I never said my work was either. You guys know that, I’m sure.

Why do I keep forgetting?

With that said, please consider supporting this awkward, emotionally-complicated, yet lovingly quirky author by buying one of my books. Head on over to the Books & More tab if you’re unsure where to start.

Thank you for reading,

Amanda ❤

 

 

 

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Bookloot Unboxing August 

Yay! I received my second subscription box from BookLoot the other day. 

Without further ado…

In the box was:

-Lord of the Rings inspired bookmarks 

-Aslan-inspired soap. Kid used this, and liked it. 

-Loose leaf tea. I’m not a tea-drinker, but I will pass it to a family member 

-Seeds to plant my own tree- love this! 

-A short story, Protecting Neverland, by C.A. Perkins. Sounds interesting.

-insert card

-and the book of the month, The Wood, by Chelsea Bobulski, including a letter from the author, which was neat 🙂 I haven’t heard of the book, but I am excited to read! Sounds very cool. 

There was also some gummy bears, which again, my rugrats ate. It was a fun box, and I plan to order again!

Thanks for checking out my post! I’ll be back with another unboxing in October, and the theme is Horror Remixed..oooooo.. 

Poetry book (mini) update & a new poem!

Hi guys!

I’m super boring lately, and I feel bad I haven’t been blogging regularly but I have a little update and a new poem for you. First, here’s the scoop:

I was super stressed recently, trying to write TWO brand new YA manuscripts that just flew into my brain and were driving me crazy with excitement, trying to revise Weightless (my YA fairytale retelling), trying to edit Witch Lessons (after admitting I needed to stop querying for a bit. DAMN IT) and also working on poems. So, deep breaths, my BookBestie Jamie McLachlan suggested I focus on ONE thing at a time. That is super hard for me, I tell ya, but I decided to follow her advice.

First, I sent Witch Lessons to my editor Dani for a round of professional editing. That way it’s still being worked on, but I’m not the one who has to worry about it (yet)! Then, I decided to shift my focus to Weightless. At 40,000 words, told for a middle-grade audience, and written in 3rd person point-of-view, it just didn’t feel right. I’m currently revising it, adding in at least 25,000 words, for a YA audience, and told in alternaing first person POV (four of them!) so you can see I’ve got my work cut out for me. The good news? I already, so far at 18,000 words into the revision, LOVE it! It’s so much better this way. Bad news? It means I am not working on anything else. The advice is working, and I am making progress. But I’m antsy to move on to the next thing.
Which is…. like waves! My ultimate goal for the release is the end of August. As soon as Weightless is revised, hopefully by the end of July, I will be getting like waves edited. I pretty much have it all compiled, however I DO keep adding poems, haha. But, fun bit of the update, is cover reveal and pre-order up REALLY soon! Like, fingers crossed by the end of next week. I can’t wait to share it with you! I am gaga for the cover. In the meantime, I am sharing a brand, spanking new poem, I LITERALLY just wrote. Be kind. I’ll clean it up some 😉 Let me know what you think! Thanks! 

okay

okay, so i’m a poet
i remind myself of this in case i forget
i scatter thoughts all around me
in notebooks and journals
on the palm of my hand
the way i used to draw
paisleys and faux-mendhi designs in math class
okay, so i’m a poet

and i don’t know all the rules
and i know i don’t know much but
i do finally know myself know who and what
i aim to be, know the way the words
come out of me like birth
know the way love can heal
okay, so i’m a poet

and my body isn’t battered and my
blood doesn’t make the muse awaken like it used to
but i find my words anyway; i find them in memories
in the perfect mix of cool rain hitting the hot pavement
in my ever-stopping-heart’s reminder
that i am lucky enough to get almost everything
i ever wanted

and i am newly born, i am old as night
i am charred with sin, and most of the time
i’m not even sorry
i write down some of my secrets and the rest
i lock up tight for no one to see
not even my pen, my ink, my laptop screen
i am a hoarder of words, a giver of them, too
okay? so i’m a poet.

Accepted!

Good afternoon! So, yesterday was a busy day. I blogged, I worked out some manuscript details, I talked publishing, I chatted with friends, I read (alas, no writing). And sometime in the evening I checked my email, which I admit I’m in the habit of doing a little too often lately (damn query-stage), to find that not one, but TWO of my poems have been accepted! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Now, if you sneak a peek at this somewhat grim picture below, you’ll see the majority of my submissions via Submittable have been rejected since beginning my account a couple years ago. Note: This is only page 1. That doesn’t even show the email submissions I’ve made. These are submissions of poetry, creative non-fiction, and short fiction, to literary journals and magazines. With some of these places I have submitted more than one thing in a single submission– some allow up to 5, 6, or more pieces of short fiction or poems. Hell, some of those were poetry chapbook submissions, with a good 40 poems. You can see how this can get pretty damn depressing fast, just like querying with a lot of rejections or no answers. Rejection is hard. It is painful, sometimes. It hurts your feeligs, it makes you question your worth. Or at least, it has for me at times. But, thankfully, I’ve grown a thick enough skin these day, and rejection ain’t so bad anymore (or surprising whatsoever). In fact, the very first thought I get when I see an email from Submittable, is rejection. Followed by oh. screenshot_2017-01-27-12-55-38-1

However, I am not so jaded that I can’t be thrilled to see that green box on there with ACCEPTED! I am really so happy. When I made the decision to publish my poetry manuscript (working title: Like Waves) I told myself my goal was to get at least two poems accepted somewhere first, to lend credibility to my work. If you recall, I’ve had one poem accepted prior with Literary Mama, and that was such a great feeling. But in all the time before, and all the time since, NADA. Although side note, I did place as a quarter-finalist in the Mary Shay Ballard Poetry Prize in 2014 for my manuscript. So, that’s something after all!

Last night I got my second acceptance ever, for my poetry, from Mothers Always Write, and for two poems at that! So, I have met my goal of another acceptance, and it feels really good. If you’re a writer, take this as proof that you have to keep submitting, even if you get gray box after gray box after gray box, for years. All is not lost. And for my lovely readers, I hope you’ll keep checking back for when I find out the details of when my poems, when my arms are full, and from my body, will be published on MAW!

In the meantime, I’m busy revising my entire poetry manuscript, and really making progress. So far, its divided into three sections, though that may change: Before, During, and Now/Still. I’m having fun reading other poets work in my downtime, including my all-time favorite, Maya Angelou, but also Mckayla Robbin, Rita Dove, Adrienne Rich, Mary Oliver, Jennae Cecilia, Christine Heppermann, Francis Euclide, and Rupi Kaur. Seeing the way others craft poems is fascinating, and a lot of the time, it makes me second-guess my own style, but I’m trying to take in all the good inspiration, and leave the self-doubt at the door. After all, someone must like my work, three acceptances remind me of that 🙂

Thank you for following along with my journey! Have a safe, happy, and fulfilling weekend. I’ll be spending it ripping wallpaper off some walls, organizing some closets, and family time, of course. Will I be writing? You bet! What about you? Any fun plan, or minor (or major) successes in your life? Share below!

Cheers,

Amanda

The manuscript giving me gray hair.

I should not be writing this blog post, you guys.

What I should be doing is working on fixing the mess of a manuscript that is causing me endless amounts of anxiety, frustration, and guilt.

But…you know. Denial, and all that.

Have I mentioned Weightless much? Having a habit of not talking about projects much while I’m working on them, probably not. I guess I like to keep them private until they’re “ready” to be out in the world. Until they’re published, or going to be.

However, I have to “talk” this one out. I am driving myself mad with it.

Weightless is a fairytale retelling. It’s based on The Light Princess, by George MacDonald. It takes place in Scotland, and is about a princess (Ailsa) who is cursed to live without her gravity. Not only is she light physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. The curse takes away most of her wit, intelligence, and compassion. She becomes a shallow, ditzy, laughing thing, unable to cry or feel things deeply. Not to mention, unable to move without being tied down! There’s fairies, and magic, and evil, and true love. It’s funny, and heartbreaking, and really FUN in ways.

I adore this story. I really do. But never has a story given me so much problems. And it’s not the poor story’s fault, really. You see, I finished the manuscript a while ago. It was right around 40,000 words, and I queried it as an Upper-Middle-Grade (which is roughly for ages 8-12) story to several literary agents. I even had a couple requests for the full manuscript (a big deal!), however, they all passed in the end.

Then, I had my super cool editor Dani do a manuscript analysis. She remarked, among other things, on the voice, and POV (point-of-view). As well as that she had a difficult time connecting with the characters. Of course there were good things too! But I had to fix the issues. Agents had mentioned the connection thing as well.

I decided to tackle a major revision, turning the story from limited omniscient third person, where the POV is from numerous characters, and unfortunately included a bit of head-hopping, which can be jarring and confusing, to third-person from the POV of only four characters- the heroine Ailsa, the fairy godmother Sorcha, the villain Griselda, and the hero Graeme. For the first time ever, I opened a new doc in Scrivener and got to work. I should mention that it took me a good two weeks to finally decide on that POV set-up, and I went back and forth a few times.

However, I had settled on the 4 main characters’ perspectives, and got to writing.

What was good: The level of immediacy and urgency improved once I narrowed the focus on to those four characters. I felt much more connected, and so did my readers.

What was not so good: It still felt scattered in places, and it just didn’t feel right. I can’t explain that entirely, only to say that while I loved the story, I didn’t like the way I was telling it. I knew I could do better. Also, I was not sure it really was a MG story. I was thinking it could be an adult fantasy. Or maybe YA. God, I was confused.

Revision, take 2.

Thank goodness I hadn’t made it that far in that Scrivener doc. Only about three chapters worth, and I scrapped it. I made lists. Actual lists of pros and cons to doing different POV. Should I do first person present from Ailsa’s perspective? What about alternating only two characters? What to do? What to do?!

I’m not exaggerating when I say I was freaking out. Why so much? IDK. Because I believe in this freaking story and I want to get it published in this lifetime, probably.

I have now opened a new Scrivener doc, actually two. Because I started writing one in first person, past tense from Ailsa’s point-of-view and LOVED it, that is where I’m leaning, and hoping to tell the entire novel like that. However, because there are many important scenes that she’s just not included in, I feel it is necessary to also try another option, so I have yet another doc open where I’m trying out three POV- the three leading ladies (Ailsa, Sorcha, Griselda), and doing all three in 1st person, past tense. Also, I have concluded the story is YA. I think.

SIGH. SIGH. SIGH.

What I’m hoping, is that I can get three solid chapters done in both versions. Then I’d like to get my editor and readers’ opinions on which flows best, which is more urgent and interesting, and which version they connect with more. Because I feel like I can’t be objective anymore. I don’t trust myself. I love it, yet I’m incredibly frustrated. What’s that saying about forests and trees? I’m lost, and I think I desperately need someone NOT ME to say, This version rocks, or This version sucks.

I no longer know the best way to tell this story because I have overthought it.

I guess this happens?

An interesting consequence of all this mess, and multiple docs open, and the mass of confusion around me, is that I, a verified pantser, have begun plotting! I have a whole outline, going into each scene in each chapter. Oh wow. I am even surprising myself here!

Side note: You know what I love about blogging? It’s like free therapy. Sorry, guys. I’m a little neurotic, I guess. Still, it helps to vent.

So, sometime this century I hope to be done with this ms. Actually, I’m going to have to give myself a hard deadline, because otherwise I’ll just ignore it, hoping it’ll magically fix itself, and we all know that ain’t happening.

Weigh in, make me feel better. Have you ever been so frustrated with a project, and been able to work it out with enough time and dedication?

Thanks guys,

Amanda

A Mini Vent

Well, hello.

I wish I could say this blog post would contain some cool news, or a free story, or an amazing update on the agent search for Witch Lessons (actually, I did get a 50-page request last night!) but really, it is a vent post. Sigh. Double sigh.

The realization came to me just now that I have two problems (well, that I’m focusing on now)—the first is I feel weirdly antsy and static not having released any new stories or anything. I KNOW. I know. It’s only been a couple of weeks since my last one. But publishing is pretty addictive! And I’m sitting on Sonja Uncaged, just waiting on cover art. I feel like a total slacker, which I know isn’t fair to me, or that it even makes sense! I just always want to be moving forward.

The second, and biggest problem this morning, is that I am unbelievably confused and frustrated with my fairytale retelling Weightless. I’ve queried agents for it with some requests for fulls (Yippee!) but they all passed. Sad. When my editor did a manuscript analysis she remarked that she had a difficult time connecting to the story and characters—a comment more than one agent stated. I currently have the entire manuscript in third person limited point-of-view, meaning you, the reader, would know what multiple characters are thinking and feeling. Based on feedback, I thought perhaps I should use first person (where the narrator uses I, and me), but that’s getting too messy! Part of the problem is one of my main characters is just not a good narrator. She misses a good 50% of the story, if not more, and when she is there, she’s still not fully “there”. I can’t tell it only from her perspective. But there is not one single character who “sees” everything. Each characters has a truly unique perspective of the story. So…I’m stuck. How do I close the disconnect of feeling far from the characters without creating a botched-up mess of multiple points-of-view in different tenses?

Arrrrrgghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, that surprisingly helped a little.

I think I just need to ask myself some hard questions about whose story this is exactly, and who is best equipped to tell it. I know the story is for middle-grade (age 8-12), and I’m pretty happy with the actual plot. I just…I need to figure this part out so I can move on with a new set of queries. Please send me some good vibes, guys. I really love this story, and I want it to be right. As of now, it just is not.

Peace & Happy Holidays. I’ll check in soon.

Amanda

UPDATE (A few hours later):

-Got a rejection on those first 50 pages. Oh well. You’d think that would really upset me (it did for a second, till I reminded myself that it was my FIRST agent rejection on WL, plus a quick rejection is better than a drawn-out one. And then, this second thing happened)

-I totally figured out what I want to do with the POV in this story. You know how sometimes venting or talking about something (or totally rambling/whining) can give you clarity? Well, this totally did. I know now what I want to do, and have already started changing things! Thanks for letting me vent. I feel much better now. YAY! Break-throughs are such a relief.

Background Noise & Writing

I think writers fall into two camps when it comes to background noise. Those who are adamantly for it. And those who are just as adamantly against it. I fall into the former category. I’m also the type of person who prefers falling asleep with a fan, or the sound of rain, or white noise (connection? I think perhaps). When things are too quiet, I tend to overthink, or my mind wanders places it really doesn’t need to go (thank you, Anxiety).

Pre-kid-crazy-life, I used to write in coffee shops, because I loved the hustle and bustle, the clamor of coffee machines, spoons, and chit-chat from strangers. Nowadays, I write from home and I usually have music playing quietly in the background as I write. Sometimes I have a movie playing, which connects somehow to the story I’m writing. When I work on fantasy, I like to have something like Harry Potter on, for example. I don’t necessarily watch it other than to drift my eyes up every now and again if I’m stuck. It’s just there for comfort. To set the mood.

Back to music, though. When I was writing Ditch Flowers I made a playlist that would help get me into the mindset I needed to be in, and would help me to keep my mind on task. If I would get distracted from the story, there was the music going on to help pull me back in. My brain was going, “Oh, right. I hear music. This song. It is here to set the scene. Of the novel I’m trying to write. Back to it!”

When I wrote Ditch Flowers, I had a thoughtful, emotional soundtrack of songs, including “Grey Street” by Dave Matthews Band, and “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles. My current favorite playlist is for when I write fantasy and fabulism. It’s got F.K.A. Twigs, Solange, tons of Florence + the Machine (also on my Ditch Flowers list), Alessia Cara, Ryn Weaver, and more. My Witch Lessons playlist contains 50% groovy songs, as part of the story takes place in 1971, and the other half sexy, moody, witchy music. Rod Stewart? Check. The Doors? Check. Gladys Knight & The Pips? Check. There’s also Mazzy Star, Annie Lennox, Sia, Odessa, Grace, The Weeknd, and Amy Winehouse on the list. Hey, I never said my music taste wasn’t eclectic.

If you’re a writer who enjoys background noise, consider making a soundtrack to set the mood to your story. Sometimes if you’re stuck, and/or not even writing, just playing it while you’re doing other activities can help to spark some inspiration. A fun bonus? You could burn copies onto CDs and give them out as prizes for your book launch or other giveaways! (Am I stuck in the 90’s a bit, or is this still a sweet idea?)

Weigh in- are you pro-noise or no-noise when you write?

 

 

Ideas Do Return

image

I want to confess something:

In the last week, I began to fear I was done. I thought my well of ideas was all dried up. I thought I would never have another new idea.

Now, these were just glimpses of fear, just hints of anxiety. But still, they were there in the darkest corners of my mind. More than once, I had to shove these thoughts aside.

And it was ridiculous. It has only been a week since I wrote a new story (a story I really love, I might add). Only a week! Actually, it was less than a week. However, for some reason in the span of a few days, my mind went quiet. This could have been because I was hard at work in a different way—editing my witch novel—in fact, I’ll bet anything that the ideas coming toward me just slowed, to make room, to make time for me to work on the big editing project I’m in the midst of, so as not to overwhelm me.

You see, I’m trying something new. To backtrack just a bit, I’ll explain that I started listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic on audiobook last week, and I think it is brilliant so far. You might know Gilbert from Eat, Pray, Love, or The Signature of All Things, but Big Magic is all about the process of creativity, and living a creative, fulfilled life. And it is fabulous, and makes so much sense. One thing she talks about is that we should try to think of ideas as actual forces, as beings, almost like people. When they come to us, we should thank them (if we are so inclined to accept their proposition) and so that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been thinking of my ideas as separate beings, with energy, with thought. Sound kooky? I don’t care. It’s been liberating. I am welcoming the ideas to me, and thanking for being in my life. It’s similar to thanking God, or the Universe, or whatever, for your blessings. Being grateful, and having gratitude is a huge factor for having a positive experience in this life. Simply the act of writing down a few postives each day makes you happier, so they say.

If ya’ll recall I had an epiphany recently, about the kind of stories I want to create, and the kind of writer I really am, and since that epiphany, I was almost overwhelmed with new ideas, writing several new short stories in a very small amount of time. Instead of thinking of it as a muse nowadays, I think of it as an Idea. Capital. A force that won’t leave me alone. Except, you know, when it leaves me alone.

And the last few days, that is what happened. The Ideas around me quieted, to allow me to focus on my revision. Thank goodness they did, because I really did get so much accomplished (in fact, I’ll be ready to query Witch Lessons soon!). But, it did leave me worried, and I admit even to myself that I briefly thought the Ideas would not return. What if I ran out of Ideas? What if I never had another Idea come to me again?

I should not have worried, and you shouldn’t either. When they come to you, thank your Ideas, as Elizabeth Gilbert suggests. When they leave, let them go willingly. They will be back. They will, if you work hard, and welcome them.

This morning, fresh from a good night’s sleep, and a successful night of editing, I was flooded with so many new Ideas I needed to grab a pen and paper so I wouldn’t forget what was coming to me—what was coming through me. I jotted the Ideas down as swiftly as I could, and then afterwards counted. Six. Six new Ideas. And these aren’t just six new titles, or six new images. These are six new stories that came to me almost fully formed. Of course, I’ll still have to work for them. Of course, I’ll still have to bust my butt for some of it. But the bones are there, the plot, the structure, the characters.

I am not lucky, in that this is not something that can’t happen to everyone. It is. I fully believe that. To create what wants to be created is not something that you have to reach for, at least not all the time. Sometimes, yes, the Ideas are stubborn, or you don’t pay them enough mind, and as Big Magic says, they get sick of waiting around for you, and move on to someone else. However, a lot of the time (and I mean, A LOT), they are there, and you just need to listen. Be grateful when they arrive, be grateful that they’ve come to visit. Know that it is fleeting, and someday, they’ll be gone. But there will always be new Ideas who come to you, if you have dedicated yourself to creative living. Gilbert is right (and I can’t wait to finish her book so I can hear more)—this is magic. Creating is the best magic there is.

Now, I’m off to re-read the new short story I just wrote. It is 1,500 rough words, of a story that wanted to be born so badly it stopped me in my steps this morning, forced me to find a pen and paper, and passed everything it wanted to be to me in just the title: Goldfish Wish. I was simply the conduit for this story, just as I was the conduit for The Peony and the Sun, and Witch Lessons, and Sonja Uncaged, and Briar Rose, and The Maiden and the Maple Tree, and so on, and so forth. I don’t say that to be braggy, and most of you haven’t even heard me mention the majority of those, but they are there, they are written, they are going to be shared with you sooner, rather than later. And they all started the same way: an Idea.

Thank you, Ideas, for visiting me. You’re welcome anytime, but if you hold off while I’m editing, that’s okay, too. I know you’ll come back a different time. And I look forward to it.

And thank you readers. I hope you create something today. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t have to be important. It just has to make you feel.

Good night.

-Amanda

 

 

Your Words Matter (what are you waiting for?)

mary-oliver-quote

I ripped the page above from a magazine many years ago, and framed it. It is on my wall to this day. The words touched me, particularly the last two lines. (It doesn’t even really matter that I am a firm believer in reincarnation, so the “one” life part might be debatable pour moi…the words make me feel something.) Beautiful sentiment, beautiful question.

I want to tell you, you writers, you artists, you photographers, you filmmakers, designers, and those pursuing every other creative endeavor, that your work matters. I especially want to address this post to my fellow writers, because I assume many who follow this blog are tied to the literary in some way. Your words matter.

You may be afraid to share your work. You may be hesitant to submit it to literary journals, or magazines. You may refuse to submit for publication, or even publish it on your own blog. You may not let your friends, family or critique groups read it. You may think you’re not good enough, that you haven’t anything worthwhile to say. You may not finish your work. You may not write a single word. Perhaps you feel unworthy. Perhaps you feel talentless. Perhaps you think it does not matter.

You’re wrong.

If you have the passion and drive to write (or paint, or sculpt, or whatever), then you have something worth saying, or you’ll manage to find it along the way. In a world of doubt, where creativity is sometimes stifled at the expense of happiness, or health, it is important you remind yourself again and again, that what you’re doing matters. Words have tremendous power. They are not “just words” as some people say. Words are important, books are important, art is important. Is it necessary for survival? Well, not exactly. Water, shelter, food, yes. But if you have a creative soul, you will be stifled trying to ignore it.

I used to live this way. Every weekday I went to work at a bank (nothing wrong with banks, just…not for me). Every Sunday evening I would cry. I called it the Sunday Blues. I dreaded going to work the next day. I even once, fantasized about falling down the stairs and breaking my leg to avoid going to work. Normal reaction to an upcoming work day? No. Not really. I was there over two years, aching for a life of something else. Anything else. I made good money there, but money was not enough. I’m privileged enough to acknowledge that, I realize. However, even if money is your number one focus in your reason to work, it doesn’t mean you can’t listen to your right-brained side in other areas of your life. You don’t have to love your job, or even like it. But you do have to listen to your heart at least a little bit.

Do not postpone your art. If you need to work 9-5 at the most boring, corporate job you can think of, well,  sometimes bringing home the (turkey) bacon means doing things you don’t always love to do. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create in your other hours. Do what you can. Do the best that you can. Write on the weekends, or at night. Jot down notes on napkins, and receipts. Use voice-software to get your thoughts out of your head and onto the page. Learn. Surprise yourself.

I want to dispel the notion that pursuing creativity is self-indulgent. If you choose to bust your ass working a job to pay the bills, or if you choose to be a “staving” artist to live the creative life you desire, it is no one’s business. What matters is your level of contentment with how well you are living your life. Being creative, and choosing creative work, or creative hobbies, is not indulging in childish fantasies. It is living authentically. If you are called to create, it is only doing a disservice to ignore that. It not only hurts you in the long run, it hurts others. You know why? Because you may deprive the world of your talent, your joy. So don’t do that. Don’t make the world sad. Don’t stifle your creative self.

Your words matter. You have one life, at least that you’re likely aware of. Do not waste it living a life of half-way there. Go for your dreams. Go for your goals. Beat the shit out of your fears, and prove to yourself, and everyone else that you have something to say. Ignore the naysayers, the people who doubt you, the emotional vampires, and the people who hurt you. It does not matter what they think.

Push yourself. There is no better time. There is no reason to wait. Think of how many people say they’ll “someday” write a novel, or “learn to paint” or anything else. Don’t wait. You will never regret starting.

Your life is wild. Precious. Ask yourself what you plan to do with it. And then, go out and do it.

 

Writing What You Love

writing

This post might sound overly simplistic in some ways, and overly complex in others, but it’s neither. Let’s break it down with a little background on me as a writer.

First, let me explain that my debut novel, which was published last year, is contemporary Women’s Fiction. It’s raw, and heart-breaking, and hopeful. It is not, in any shape or form, fantastical or unrealistic (other than taking creative liberties with plot, as any writer does). There are no fairies. There are no witches, no vampires, no werewolves, no magic potions, and no wands. There is nary a Phoenix, a griffin (Grphyon? I realized just now I have no clue how to spell that beast), unicorn, or any other mythical creature. It is a story firmly based in reality. Many readers have raved that it is realistic, that it’s something they can relate to. It could be the serious issue of recurrent pregnancy loss which the main character Julia experiences, or the underlying issue of communication within relationships (or lack thereof), or the question of infidelity within marriage. Whatever the reason, I love that it has connected with readers. I was driven to write Ditch Flowers, and I worked hard to write it. I’m happy, and proud that it came out as it was meant to come out.

With that said,  my writing has changed since I began writing Ditch Flowers years ago (God, over 7 years ago!). I have changed as a writer. I still write Women’s Fiction, but it is pretty much exclusively kept in short forms, such as my completed short story manuscript, and I have no plans to write another WF novel. Now, I suppose my work-in-progress Witch Lessons could be categorized as a type of WF novel, because it deals with post-partum depression, relationships, sexuality, and other women’s issues, but it also is a sort of modern-day Salem witch trial complete with real magic, so…it’s a stretch.

Let me also say I had never given thought to writing any sort of fantasy. And that’s a disconnect I still don’t understand about myself. My favorite book ever is Beauty by Robin McKinley, a retelling of Beauty & the Beast. Besides that fairytale, I’m a sucker for pretty much any other. I am a Disney movie fanatic. A Harry Potter nerd. A fable, folk-tale, and fantasy FUH-REAK.

So, why didn’t I realize I should be writing the fantastical sooner? Even after I started Witch Lessons I realized of course it was a type of fantasy, but I just thought it was what it was, and that was it. The story poured out of me, as I’ve stated before, and even as I’m revising it now, I can’t believe how easily it is coming to me. I thought it was just a fluke, just a lucky sort of thing. Even my recent post about the muse being kind, still didn’t connect the dots to me. And then I had an ah-ha moment. Maybe, just maybe, the inspiration is here, the creativity is absolutely flowing with that manuscript, because I am writing what I am MEANT to write.

If you are struggling, I am going to suggest some things. They may ring true, and they may not. Maybe your situation is totally different, and I’m just a dunce, and everyone else already gets this, but here goes. I can tell you that the peace, joy, and simple acceptance I feel now is wonderful. I’ve never felt stronger as a writer. I’ve never felt more at home. If I can help anyone else feel that too, well, golly, that would rock.

First of all, as simple as this sounds, identify your favorite kinds of stories to read. It seems so apparent, like duh, I know what I like to read. But because it’s such an easy question, with a pretty obvious question, that I never actually asked it of myself. I still pick up Women’s Fiction, and enjoy it, and I read non-fiction, and like that quite a lot, too. But what I am increasingly drawn to, what I have been since I was a child, is all the fantasy stories I mentioned above- fairy tales, fables, etc. Seriously. If there’s any chance in hell I can escape everyday life, and dive into a story that makes me want to believe, that makes me want to disappear into that made-up world, I am THERE.

Maybe you write creative non-fiction, but you pick up cozy mysteries again, and again. Perhaps you’re supremely talented at erotica, but you tend to read memoirs over anything else. Maybe you are an award-winning writer of thrillers, but you devour historical fiction. Or YA. Or picture books. Whatever it may be, listen to yourself. Really, take a moment, and ask yourself what you love to read. Ask yourself what you have to read. If it’s different than what you are writing, feel compelled to write, or have written in the past, then ask yourself why. Ask yourself if you’re pushing yourself to be something you aren’t.

Now, it very well may be that you do enjoy what you write, and read in that genre as well. Like I stated above, I’m proud of Ditch Flowers, and I do still read WF. But my passion has always been, and continues to be Fantasy. I just didn’t *know* it until recently. Even after writing The Peony and the Sun, a fable, I still didn’t truly understand. It was literally within the last couple weeks that I knew it is what I should be writing.

Ditch Flowers was a labor of love. It was squeezed out of me. Many of the pages were like contractions. Painful, and hard-coming. It took me years to write. Because it was so difficult to get out of me, as rewarding as it is now, I have to wonder in hindsight, is that because it didn’t come naturally? Witch Lessons is less than a year out from the start, and it has been a bajillion times easier to write—and much faster. Besides that, the last month or so alone, I’ve written or started a good 6 or 7 fabulism stories. Granted, those are very short. But every single one of them came to me easily. I don’t mean to say that I’m not still working for my art (why does that sound so pompous? I don’t mean it to be) but if writing DF was like giving birth med-free, then writing these stories is like having an awesome epidural. (And yes, I’ve done both, and both were wonderful in different ways.)

So, if you’ve identified the type of stories you love to read, then you know the kind of stories you should try writing. We can break that down even further into identifying the length of story. I read short stories just as much, if not more, than full-length novels. I know I should be writing fantasy novels, novellas, and short stories now. Besides that, you can figure out the age group you should be writing for. I read adult, YA, and children’s books, and I love all three. It’s no surprise that I’m now writing in all these categories. Seriously, if you do not read in the genre in which you write, how can you improve your craft? And why would you want to write in a category you don’t deign to read? Don’t take that harshly, because my intention is to be gentle, yet firm. Read the genre you write. Write the genre you read. Your reading will be more enjoyable. You will write better. I truly believe both those statements.

If you now have answered the kind of books you read- genre, length, age group, then you can even delve further. Do you like books with a smidgen of mystery, a bit of romance? A lot of intellectual reasoning? Try weaving those details into whatever type of book you’re writing. It doesn’t mean you have to write full-on mystery, romance, or textbooks. It just means those elements should be included. Do you prefer reading minimalistic, simple prose? Or would you rather lose yourself in poetic, flowery description? Pay attention to the kind of writing that calls to you. It is what you probably should be writing yourself.

Now, it’s not as though you can’t admire work that you don’t care to create yourself. I absolutely do enjoy reading good historical romance now and then. But I have NO desire to write my own. Do I admire the authors who can research the dickens out of a time period, and create amazing settings with lots of historical detail, all while adding a feisty heroine and smoldering hero? Yes, and I like reading these kind of books, but they don’t speak to my soul personally, the way fantasy does. Alright, I sound like a total reading dork, and that’s okay.

If for some reason you still can’t answer what kind of books you like to read, I suspect this means you need to read more. Read different kinds of books, read books you think you may not even like. You could surprise yourself. If reading big books is too overwhelming, then try reading an assortment of very short stories in all different genres. That might help you narrow down your list. Then, you can go from there.

Once you are confident in the kind of books you like to read, and the kind you would like to write, you need to actually start writing. It wasn’t until I was a few short stories in, with a finished novel manuscript under my belt, to use a common cliché, that I realized fantasy was the one for me. So start writing. And if you’re unsure what exactly to write, my suggestion is once more, to give some love to the short story format. Diving into a whole novel can be overwhelming, exhausting, and intimidating. If you are still “finding yourself” as a writer, starting short may be just the jumpstart you need to get there. Start with 500 words. Even less, if you wish. On the other hand, it is already mid-October, and #nanowrimo (or writing a whole 50,000 word novel for National Novel Writing November) is coming up really soon. So, you could always begin there.

Beyond that, your work will improve, and increase in frequency, if you know what kind of a writer you are as far as habits, skill, and everything in between. It sounds like a lot to ask yourself, and maybe it doesn’t matter all that much, but once you really know who you are, and accept yourself, you can stop trying to fit into any other mold of what you think a writer should be. This could apply to any other category in life, too, for that matter. Stop trying to be something else. Learn who you are. Appreciate the uniqueness that is you. Find your passion.

I have learned the following things about myself as a writer: I do not, nor can I, write every day. (And I am still a writer, goddamnit). I am a pantser who feels lost without at least a paragraph of an outline. I have to write with background noise. Coffee is almost always a necessity. I hate writing around other people, unless those other people are strangers in a café who won’t bother me. I like to write between 9am and 11am if I can. Otherwise, I can hit my stride from around 7pm to 9pm. I like writing in an empty house, or when my family is asleep. I am inspired visually (thank you, Pinterest). I am inspired by prompts. I like reinventing familiar tales. I like to keep my drafts private until I don’t. Once I’m ready to show people, I rely heavily on feedback from trusted friends and readers. I want validation. I want critique, and suggestions. I need to hear my own fears, and thoughts of my writing reflected by another. I have to keep creating. I feel terrible when I’m not writing. I have to get the words out. I have to let the stories out. I am a short story writer. A novel writer. A writer of fantasy, fables, and folklore. I strive to be as talented as J.K. Rowling, Carolyn Turgeon, Robin McKinley, Judith Merkle Riley, Audrey Niffenegger, Alice Hoffman, and Laura Esquivel. (I realize that list could be much more diverse, so if you know some writers I should check out, please let me know) I need a happy ending, or at least a hopeful ending. I like a bittersweet tale, a little love, a little hope, a hint of magic. This is who I am.

Who are you?

 

Thanks for reading this long post, guys.