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Everything I Write Sucks

This is where I am.

Everything I write sucks and I’m struggling to find a rhythm but this is different. This isn’t simply trying to find time; it’s struggling with the story I’m writing. There’s a crucial piece missing and I need to find it … soon.

I’m beginning to believe that Ms. Plath was right. Perhaps the answer is simply to just keep writing.

So I’m going to stop freaking out and just … 

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 Eva Series, the Whoa-Giveaway, and other Things

On February 17th, the Eva Series was finished with the release of Saving Eva. It took almost four years, but Eva’s story is finally complete.

While I thought that writing the first book, Leaving Eva, was the most difficult, this one was certainly the hardest to write for a number of reasons. The main character, Brynn’s, life has been heartbreaking and cruel but with every tortuous moment, also came hope. I was unsure how to leave the final book in the series, afraid that I would let the readers down and taint the beautiful stories and characters they had come to love. But early feedback and reviews of Saving Eva are good … even better than good, and some of my most beloved readers are happy with the ending, which makes me incredibly happy.

With the completion of the series, I also wanted to make it available as a collection so that you could cry your eyes out with all three of them, at once. (Major tissue alert here!) If you love ugly cry books, believe me, you’ll want to read these. I’ve had readers message me about support groups for this series, as well as how much these books made them laugh and cry. If you want books that will rip your heart out, the collection is available on Amazon and is free on Kindle Unlimited. Don’t get mad at me if your eyes are too puffy to leave the house for a week. You’ve been warned!

Since the release of Leaving Eva, much like Eva’s story, my author life has taken numerous twists and turns.  Though certainly not as violent or uncertain as Brynn’s, nonetheless it has been rocky and surprising. I began as an Indie Author in 2013, admittedly naive and totally clueless. I then joined two separate publishers and subsequently lost them. While both experiences were vastly different, one lost by choice and one not, I learned a great deal about who I wanted to be and what I wanted my writing journey to look like.

As a result, I started my own imprint, Soul Sister Press, LLC. and while I am certainly not an expert in this  creative life, I continue to learn every day. The name Soul Sister Press made sense to me because I truly believe that soul mates come to us in many forms. I’ve been fortunate to have found many of mine in the form of sisters; other professionals and creatives who understand me and share my vision and passion. I love that we get to choose one another to bring our love of books to a beautiful completion. It’s the part of this journey that I love so much.

With Eva series complete, I’ll continue to work on more beautifully broken stories throughout the remainder of the year, as well as search for ways to thank everyone who has helped me along the way. With the help of Brenda Gonet of Starbound books, who is coordinating a WHOA-Sized giveaway, we’ll be gifting signed paperbacks, ebooks, and swag to lucky winners just for being amazing! I have the most wonderful readers that I could ever imagine and I am so thankful for them every day. This WHOA-sized giveaway will give points for everything below and at the end of the month (March), Brenda will tally them up and the WINNERS will get some very nice prizes! If you want to get in on the fun, just message  Brenda Gonet on Facebook with your entries!

whoa-giveaway

I’m also anticipating the release of my first audio book for I Run to You, which is set for release on my birthday, March 15th! Christine Rauch has a wonderful voice and I think she has the perfect voice to tell the story of Alyssa Bennet.

There are so many exciting things happening in 2017 and I can only look ahead to an even more incredible year! If you’re reading this, you’ll also notice that my blog and website got a new makeover, thanks to the wonderful Brenda!

Honestly … I just don’t know what I would do without my soul sisters!

White Flag

Question…

When do you give up?

What is your breaking point in life? How do you know when enough is enough and that its time to say that you’ve  done all you can do but you can’t do it any longer?

Does anyone ever know? Is it when you’ve almost lost everything? Is it when someone else tells you that it’s enough?

Life is funny this way because there is never a clear answer and isn’t it different for all of us?  This journey that we’re on doesn’t come with a guidebook or a set of rules. We make them up as we go and often we’re just flying by the seat of our pants. As much as we might want to believe that we are governed and guided by the same principles in life, aren’t they different for everyone? Who gets to decide when we’ve reached our potential? Who gets to say that we will never go any further than where we are, right now? When do we face reality? When do we face our mortality? When do we raise the white flag and say that this isn’t working any longer, and that its time to give up on our dreams?

Who gets to say when we’re too old to try and that we’ve reached our full potential in life?

Are the people who tell us that we’ve done enough and that we should give up our friends or our foes? Or  are the people who are feeding our empty dreams and the belief that we can reach deeper and go farther, the real enemy? Are we sabotaging ourselves by continuing to believe in our purpose?

How do you ever know? Are we foolish and stubborn not to listen, or do we follow our hearts, and pray that we aren’t wrong?

When do we give up on it all and face reality? When do we stop believing?

Does anyone know?

 

 

30 Day Writing Challenge-First Kiss and First Love

Even though it’s only day three of the challenge, this day had me a little miffed on how I would write about it.

Writing about my  first kiss, is easy. I was thirteen, he had blonde hair and blue eyes, and it was unremarkable, unemotional, and nothing special. I only remembered it because it was the first one of my young life.

Writing about my first love is more complicated, but nobody said this writing challenge would be easy. I mentioned in my post yesterday about my first memory and how my journey began alone and unknown. In hindsight, it seems that those early beginnings galvanized me and while I fell into infatuation in my younger years, romantic love didn’t come easily or openly to me.

But this is about first loves and I’ve had many.

I can remember falling in love with books at a young age. I remember reading the simple ones, then moving on to comic books and then the more difficult reads as I grew older. I read every Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Nancy Drew, and VC Andrews book that I could get my hands on. I read anything and everything that captured my young heart and mind. Reading was bliss and nothing in the world made me happier than a good book. My mom used to say that the house could fall down around me while I was reading, and that I would never know. She wasn’t wrong. I read in the car, on vacation, on the bus, and in bed when I was supposed to be asleep. I had a book in my hand everywhere I went and the library was my refuge. 

God was also one of my first loves, teaching me selflessness and dedication. For many years in my early life, I clung to my spirituality, committed to it like one is to committed to their first romantic relationship. I was so in love that I even went to a Christian College, and contemplated a life of service, but certain events in my life steered  me in a completely different direction. 

Only as an adult did I discover my first opportunity for romantic love. But as it happens in life,  I didn’t realize it until it was too late.  By the time I did, too much had shifted and settled, and I realized that  it came down to most things in life; timing. Our timing was always off so we were left with only memories.

Years later, I met my husband, my first great love. Through hell and back, ups and downs, I’ve learned what it means to love, honor, and cherish, until death do us part. The vows weren’t “only when it’s perfect,” and while there have been plenty of opportunities for both of us to give it all up, in spite of it all we love each other. We love and fiercely protect the family we’ve made and the bonds we’ve created, for ourselves and our children. We’ve laughed and cried, walked away from and ran toward one another. But so far, we haven’t given up, on ourselves or on each other, which is what we promised in the beginning.

Lastly, my boys have been the first people I’ve loved in this life, without condition. They’ve taught me what it’s like to love from a perfect heart and I’ve become a better, stronger, and kinder person because of their love. I see myself through their eyes, even when it’s not good, and I know now what true love is. It’s accepting every apology, righting every wrong, and loving someone until you feel that your heart will explode out of your chest. It’s doing what you don’t want to because you know it’s the right thing to do, for them. It’s doing everything in your power to protect their hearts and preserve their minds from anger, hatred, and imperfection so that they can stay little boys for just a little while longer.

Loving my children had been a willing exercise in humility and sacrifice, that makes me want to do my best every day.

As I thought about this post, I knew that I would need to be thoughtful about it because love of any kind is personal and emotional. I’m fortunate that I’ve loved a great deal and had so much love in my life. I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.