Archive | March 2017

First Draft Blues

As a writer, I’m just not in a great place.

I’m working on completing the first draft of a story that has turned into something completely different than what I originally intended

As I’m writing this book, I’m reminded of my younger years when I began a story and became so discouraged that I could never see it through to completion. I’d write a few chapters and then give up because I knew it sucked. At that time in my life, I didn’t realize that first drafts are supposed to, so I just surrendered to the suck and gave up. I know better now, but the feelings remain.

I’ve often struggled with the story for months at a time. Leaving Eva took about a year to complete. When I became frustrated with the story I simply walked away from it for weeks at a time. As I try to hone my writing skills, I find now that walking away simply makes me rusty. When I pick it up again, I have to sharpen those skills all over again and I just feel as though I’m trudging in knee-deep mud, unable to move forward. I’ve been more committed to writing regularly, so walking away from the story this time, isn’t an option.

Writing this story is so difficult that I want to pull my hair out. I know… I believe… that somewhere in there is the beautiful story of a young woman whose past is dark, but her love for her husband and children changes her. These are the stories that I love.
I’ve also been experimenting with my medium. This is also the first book that I’ve written mostly by dictation, so instead of the words flowing out from my fingers they have to come out down from my brain and out  of my mouth. The connection has often been fuzzy and the process, difficult. Although my brain is often racing as the words hit my mouth I often want to take them back, the moment I hear them come out. The biggest difference is that with dictation there is no backspace. I often find that what I’ve written is unintelligible and as I go back to reread, I struggle to try and figure out what the hell I was thinking.

Still, I am tenacious.  Although it’s been a struggle and I’m convinced that this is the worst story I’ve ever written, I’ll press on because I need to see how it ends. While, dictating has given me the ability to write thousands more words faster than I might normally have time for, I know I’ll send up cutting many of them. The heart of the story is somewhere in the mess of  extra words and tangled chapters; I can feel it. I just have to find it.

I know that in the characters of Liv and Danny, there is great love and passion. However as with many couples, there is also deep conflict which is all I can share right now. Will they end up together? Will they be happy? Even I don’t know the answers yet. I do know that the characters love one other deeply but as with most of my stories, and much of life, it’s not always about love. It’s about so much more.

This books is about love, betrayal, and deception. It’s about lives ruined by selfishness and indulgence, neglect and  regret. The dynamic between the characters is heartbreaking and strong, and I can’t wait to flesh it all out. In many ways, I know this will be the most challenging first draft I’ve ever had to pick apart. I would love say writing gets easier; instead it seems to get harder. I’ve expected that the story will fall into place faster but it has eluded me.  There’s something magical about the moment when a story clicks in place, and with this one it hasn’t had that moment yet.

I am happy that I’ve dictated this book despite the challenges and frustration. The importance of learning a new process and sticking to it has taught me that there are other ways to be productive. With limited time as a wife, mother, and a full-time career, it is often impossible to put pen to paper. Dictating has become my saving grace and I am committed to becoming more skilled in this process

As I struggle with this first draft, I am in a place where I am also wrestling with self-doubt. It’s the moment when I question my ability to write well at all, which is a common fear for many writers. I imagine that if the process was easier I would have already written a thousand books already, so I am trying to remind myself that I can do this. I am going to pull myself up by the collar, kick myself in the butt, and tell myself to stop whining. 

I know that I’ll make it through this somehow. I can feel it in my heart and deep down in my bones. I’m searching for the story and reminding myself why I love to write so much. Through this journey, I’m sure I’ll find what I’m looking for … those two beautiful words …

The End. 

You I First Reviews 

The first five star review I received made me felt validated. As a writer, I hadn’t shown my writing to many, and those I did show it to said positive things. They were almost required to as it was only a few close friends and a family member of two.

To get a review from a complete stranger, felt magical. It still does even when it’s not a five star, even when it’s much lower.

Every time I release a book into the world, I hold my breath, and then I wait. The reviews tell me that people are reading. They tell me that my stories mean something and that they matter. They tell me that my words have touched someone, and if I’ve done it well, that I’ve possibly even changed someone for the better. Reviews are more than just stars, they are actual love from a reader. When you get one, it’s like someone hugged you and told you that all of those long hours of writing and editing were worthwhile. Even when they aren’t favorable or are critical, they still tell you that someone read your words. As a writer, that’s what you hope for. You hope that people read your words.

I’ve gleaned much from critical reviews, and I appreciate them as much as I do the positive ones. The critical ones tell me what I can do better. They tell me how I can grow, and when they’re written to be helpful, they do help and I love them just as much.

Every time I release a book into the world, I can wait. Will someone like it? Will anyone read it? Will it matter? 

When it does, the sheer joy is undeniable, and for one split second I realize that I might just be okay at this writing thing after all. 

Lessons Learned

I released my first book into the world in 2013. It was like releasing my heart, raw and vulnerable, into a tank full of sharks and doing it terrified me. I nearly hyperventilated  the moment I hit publish, as I paced my bedroom and wished for the floor to swallow me whole.

I was terrified and had so many doubts running through my mind.

Maybe nobody will read it.

Maybe EVERYONE will read it.

Maybe nobody will even notice. 

 Worse yet, what if someone reads it and hates it?

What if I can’t write and this story is crap?

What if people love it?

Oh God, what if they think it sucks?

What if they think that I suck?

What if I really do suck and I’m a bit fat phony?

The fear was palpable and paralyzingly. Then I posted that I published my book on Facebook, and I had no choice but to look ahead. I had done something that I’d always dreamed of doing from the age of fifteen. Even though it scared the living hell out of me, after the fear fell away, it felt right and I was finally a complete person.

The process  wasn’t perfect.  I’ve hit a lot of bumps along the way but have learned much since releasing that first unedited, Createspace-generated cover for Leaving Eva. I haven’t just learned technical skills, but also marketing and writing skills. Most importantly I’ve discovered who I want to be (and don’t want to be) as an artist, and what is important to me in this journey.

I’ve learned from doing, watching, and listening to others who know more than I do. I’m a religious podcast listener and Joanna Penn and Tim Grahl are two of my favorites. I consume their experiences and learn from them regularly. It just makes sense to learn as much as possible from successful and experienced people in all of life. Joanna covers countless helpful topics with an endless backlist, which has helped shape my mindset as a Creative.

I’ve learned much, which applies to life, not just to publishing :

  • Use your resources. If you don’t know the answer, just ask. There are many others who have the answer if you don’t. I’ve spent the past few years getting to know so many wonderful people in the publishing world and they are always so generous with their knowledge and time.
  • Don’t be afraid to learn something new. Once you’ve mastered one thing, learn something new. It can be extremely daunting to begin but like Plato said, “The beginning is the most important part of any work.”
  • Read! Read anything and everything. Read fiction, non-fiction, and blogs and books that you might not normally read. The War of Art, Your First 1000 Copies, and The Successful Author Mindset  have been inspiring and interesting non-fiction reads. I also love reading classics, YA, Women’s Contemporary Fiction, and books/blogs that are outside of my normal wheelhouse because they are interesting and inspiring.
  • Stay away from the drama.As with anything, in the book world, there is drama; lots and lots of drama. I make it a point to stay far away and while its important to be informed, it’s also vital to stay out of it. It can be ugly, divisive, and distracting from your work.
  •  Don’t compare your journey to others. It can be hard not to get discouraged by watching the successes of others if you feel that your own is struggling. You have to remember that everyone is on their own journey and that it’s important to be happy for others! Everyone’s story is different and every road has its own twists and turns. Focus on yours and don’t get off track. When success does find you, share it by paying it forward to others. Call it karma or just being a good person, but your path is your own, so work hard and you’ll get there.
  • Know thyself. Do you write for money, for recognition, for the love of the craft? Knowing why you write is crucial in order to recognize your own success when it comes. 
  • When you get discouraged, don’t quit. Pick yourself back up.When I get discouraged, I go back through old messages, or read positive reviews to remind myself that what I’m doing is worthwhile. There have been plenty of times that I’ve wanted to quit but then I remind myself why I’m writing. I’m doing it for myself, for the love of the story, and for those I meet a long the way who want to share it with me. If I ever stop loving or needed it, then I’ll quit. 
  • Don’t put all of your eggs in the same basket!  Keeping your options open in this precarious business can be important. Publishing Houses open and close and your rights are crucial to your lifelong success. Be careful with your eggs and keep them close to your own basket! 
  • Not everyone is going to like you and that’s totally okay! You’ll get reviews from people who didn’t like your book or don’t like your style and they might not be that nice about it. People can be mean and there are a lot of trolls out there with big internet balls. Ignore them. When the feedback is negative but constructive, pay attention to it and grow from it. When the feedback is mean, ignore it. Find your tribe and embrace the ones who care about you. If you’re kind, there will be plenty who do. The ones who don’t… well, they’ll just be missing out on the wonder that is you!
  • Put yourself out there and share your journey. Being a more private person, I’ve always struggled with this. How much do I share? How much do I keep?  My writing doesn’t always reflect the entirety of who I am, and I’m learning to be more open. I’m learning to share more of myself, even the stuff that scares the hell out of me. I’m tired of being afraid that people will know who I am deep inside and I’m learning that transparency and openess are important (though there are still limitations). The parameters vary per person, so you have to learn what you’re comfortable with and what works for you. Your comfort level may be drastically different than someone else’s, but I would be remiss not to stress that internet safety is crucial. There are a lot of people out there you’ll want/need to stay away from and you’ll recognize them pretty quickly. (Don’t be afraid to defriend and block anyone who freaks you out.)
  • Have fun. Writing books is fun! Authors, bloggers, and readers are fun! Book signings and events are fun. Takeovers, reader groups, and meeting new people is fun. Enjoy it. All of it. Because it’s pretty amazing. 

I’ve learned much, but there is yet so much left to learn. Every day I discover something I didn’t know and it’s exhilarating and exciting to be able to gain so much in life. Each day brings a new person into my life, a new perspective and experience and I love it. I hope that as this journey continues that I’ll be able to share more of what I’ve learned with you. In turn, please feel free to comment below with what you’ve learned a long the way too.

The Whisper that Began the Eva Series

For me, every book idea begins with one tiny whisper.

It may be so quiet at first that I don’t hear it, but then it works it’s way deep down inside until I can’t stop thinking about it. This is what happened with the Eva Series.

The story of Eva began as the whisper about a little girl who was abandoned and completely alone. Frightened and afraid, I couldn’t get her out of my mind. I thought about her incessantly until I had no choice but to write her story. When it was all finally there on the page, for the first time in my entire life, there was a part of me that was free. The story of Eva was born … and in many ways, her story was my own. Like Eva, I was also abandoned at around the age of two. While I don’t remember any of it, and the circumstances were completely different, the little girl left in a puddle lost and alone made me believe that I had to feel the same. As heartbreaking as her story is, there’s always been that part of me that kept it buried deep down, telling myself that it didn’t matter and it didn’t hurt anymore.

The truth is, it didn’t hurt at all until I had children of my own and I finally knew what true, honest, pure, undeniable love felt like. The pain I had been carrying around inside suddenly exploded without warning until I couldn’t imagine anything worse.

Writing Eva’s story was a way to exorcise my own demons and heal my own deepest wounds. I wrote it at a time in my life when I was the most alone and lost. While writing Leaving Eva helped to heal the past, it was also a distraction from the present because I had been deeply struggling with life on many levels. The only time I could find any normalcy was when I was writing because I was able to focus on the story instead of on my life, which was a train wreck. Throughout the years, getting married, having children, and building a career, I had forgotten how much writing had meant to me. It had been my own form of therapy when I was younger, and I had needed it.

Once I began writing,  it was impossible to stop, and though Eva’s story took many twists and turns that were not autobiographical, there are many elements that are. While I know that leaves much untold, the moments that are true are recognizable for those who can see it, and it’s best that way.

Eventually the series took on a life of its own and with healing, also came a renewed vision and creativity. What began as the story of a girl abandoned and alone became the story of a woman who was far stronger and more resilient than she ever imagined she could be. Her life and circumstances veered far from my own, and while Eva’s story will always be close to my heart, the story that remains the closest to my own, is only the first one.

I’m happy that I wrote it because it became far more than I ever imagined it to be, opening doors to friendships and people that I never realized would mean so much. What began as a whisper, became an orchestra of beautiful music and a world that has brought me more joy and happiness that I ever knew could be possible.

For that one tiny whisper and for Eva, I will forever be grateful.