Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The Insecure Writer and Those Darned Roadblocks


Today is March's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an insecure writer this month?

The inevitable stoppages in my writing progress. 

Some of you may remember that even though I'm working through edits on my debut urban fantasy, I’ve already begun working on the sequel. When you’re a slow writer like me, it’s best to keep the pipeline moving at all times. Progress has been good, but this month I finally hit one of those irritating roadblocks where the writing comes screeching to a halt.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

I didn’t expect this scene to be particularly tough. The protagonist has to sneak into the bad guy’s lair and steal something. But this was a scene I hadn’t initially planned on writing and the decisions I was forced to make brought the writing to a standstill. What would be the setting? Where would the bad guys be located and how many would there be? What special obstacles would be present that made this scene unique? And how would I weave it all together in a way that maximizes the reader’s entertainment. Needless to say, after a week or two of ineffectual floundering , I moved onto to the next scene, if only to retain my sanity.

This is how my writing always seems to work. I make good progress for a couple of weeks, and just when I think I've finally figured this whole writing thing out, something like this comes along and nothing gets written for a couple of weeks, bringing my productivity back down to its usual annoyingly slow pace. Who says writing is easy?

March's question: Everyone has a favorite genre or genres to write. But what about your reading preferences? Do you read widely or only within the genre(s) you create stories for? What motivates your reading choice? 

Several years ago, I read both science fiction and fantasy, both paranormal and urban, but now that I’m writing urban fantasy, that’s pretty much the only genre I read these days. If I had more time to read, I’d probably read more genres, but slow writers don’t have that luxury.
I’m proud to announce that I’m one of this month’s co-hosts. Please be sure to stop by the other co-host blogs and say hi. 

Take care everyone, and stay safe! 


Wednesday, February 3, 2021

The Insecure Writer and Tackling the Sequel


Today is February's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an insecure writer this month?

Working on the sequel to my debut urban fantasy.

It may seem strange to be working on the sequel when the first story hasn’t even seen an editor yet. I should be occupying my time with finding a cover designer, or polishing up my website, or reaching out to other authors, but here I am, typing away on my next story. 

Don’t get me wrong; I am working on those other tasks, but my editor isn’t free until July, so I’ve got plenty of time for writing. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about book marketing, it’s that it’s best for a debut author to have at least two books ready to go before publishing the first. And since it took five years to write the first one, it behooves me to begin the second one as soon as possible.

I have a better handle on my writing process now. I know when to obsess over something during the first draft and when to move on. I’m better at showing versus telling. Many of my characters are already developed. But as I look over what I’ve written so far, my stomach cringes at how much work it will be to polish those words to the same sheen as my first story.

I did it before, so I know I can do it again. I just wonder if we’ll be facing another presidential election by the time that day comes.

February's question: Blogging is often more than just sharing stories. It’s often the start of special friendships and relationships. Have you made any friends through the blogosphere? 

OMG, yes.  When I first began writing, I did it in a vacuum. I had no idea what I was doing or how many other authors were out there. Now, between critique groups, IWSG, and social media, I've made so many author friends I can't begin to count them. Some of them have come and gone over the years, but I still count them as blessings. Thanks for all the support guys!

Take care everyone, and stay safe! 


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

First Response From My Editor

Ha! Two non-IWSG posts in a row. Armageddon approaches. 

The sample edits for the first ten pages of my WIP came back this week, and I was happy enough with the editor’s comments that I’ve decided to go with her. My biggest concerns with my writing revolve around my word choices, pacing problems, and poorly constructed sentences, and her edits definitely focused on those areas. 

One aspect of my story that bothered her, however, was the way I portrayed a secondary character. He didn’t seem real to her. She felt "Mr. Fielding" was too much of cartoon caricature. My critique partners had mentioned something along the same lines, so this wasn’t a complete surprise. This chapter was written a long time ago, back when I was simultaneously working on my Hogwarts fan fiction. For those of you who remember reading the Harry Potter books or saw the movies, I was envisioning Vernon Dursley when I wrote this character. Short, a bit overweight, and a bit of a buffoon who was more worried about himself than others. 

Now I want this story to be fun, so I have plenty of crazy characters sprinkled throughout the story, but my presentation of Fielding was apparently a bit over the top. More middle grade than adult. I’ve reworked the chapter many times over the years to solve this problem, but apparently, I still haven’t gone far enough. So its back to the drawing board again. Fortunately, there’s no hurry. It’ll be many months before the editor can fit me in. 

So tell me, what was your initial response the first time you got something back from your editor?


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Debut Writer's Journey - In Search of An Editor

In 2020, I set myself three goals: 1) to finish my debut urban fantasy, 2) to prepare for the eventual publication of that manuscript, and 3) to blog about the journey. Needless to say, very little of that happened. I didn’t reach out to other authors in my genre, I didn’t choose a cover designer, I didn't find an editor, or build a separate author website, or work on my email list. And aside from my monthly IWSG posts, I didn’t post much at all. There were many reasons for this lack of productivity, but it all boils down to the first goal. I was so focused on actually finishing my story that I couldn’t focus on anything else. Every time I tried working on goals 2 and 3, I’d feel guilty. To be honest, my biggest non-writing accomplishment in 2020 was buying the domain name for my website.

2020 is over! Yay!

Well, it’s now 2021 and I’m happy to report that I’m only one short chapter away from finishing my manuscript. It’s been a long time coming (over five years by my count) and it’s a relief to finally be at this point. This means I can now focus on all the other author-related tasks I’ve been neglecting. And my first step is to find an editor. Fortunately, I already had a list of possible editors in my back pocket, so last week I sent the first ten pages of my manuscript to one of those editors for a sample edit. 

This can be a daunting time for a new writer. You hand over your baby to a stranger and ask them to judge it. It’s not that I have a thin skin about my writing—I know there are lots of writers out there who are far better than me, and I’m fine with that—but I don’t want to hear that my words are completely hopeless either. My biggest fear is that the editor will come back and tell me that something needs to be fixed, but I’ll have no idea how to fix it.

So what was it like for you when you sent out your very first manuscript?


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The Insecure Writer and Moving Out of the Writing Stage


Today is January's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an insecure writer this month?

Knowing that I’m almost done with the initial writing phase of my debut book, which means I’ll soon be moving into the editing, cover design, formatting, uploading, and marketing phases of being an author. All unknown territory for a first-time writer. 

It certainly is gratifying that I’m close to writing “The End” on my story after all these years, but it will still be an uphill battle before it's available for others to read. I've been studying these other phases for a few years now and learned a lot, but there's a big difference between "reading about something" and "doing it." So yeah, I'm insecure. 

As far as my 2020 writing goals were concerned, I pretty much sucked at meeting them. I didn’t finish my story (although I came close), my attempt at outreach with other authors in my genre didn’t go anywhere (mostly because I felt the need to keep working on my story), and the website I planned to build only got as far as me buying the domain name. Thank goodness my family isn’t depending on my author skills to set food on the table.

January's question: Being a writer, when you're reading someone else's work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people's books? 

Lack of interest.  I don’t mind grammatical errors or flat characters all that much, but as soon as the story stops going somewhere interesting, I’m out. The last book I stopped reading was by a well-known Urban Fantasy author. Her writing is excellent, way beyond my skill set, but the mystery the MC set out to solve kind of got lost as in the weeds as the story turned into encounter after encounter with the heads of the various clans (shifters, vampires, etc.), all of whom wanted to bed her.

Sorry for the lateness of this post. Despite having all sorts of Google calendar reminders about today’s post, I somehow convinced myself that Wednesday wasn’t until tomorrow. Great way to start off the year.

Take care everyone, and stay safe! 


Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The Insecure Writer and Obsessing Over Character Names


Today is December's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an insecure writer this month?

My inability to settle on my main character's name.

Seriously, after working on my (debut) manuscript for the last five years, I still haven’t decided on a name for my protagonist. Or her love interest. Sigh.

The shame is too much to bear.

Yes, yes, I know. Many, if not all of you, probably wouldn’t even be able to begin writing a story without knowing the name of your MC. Yet, here I am, working hard on final edits, and I’m still using placeholder names. 

At the moment, those placeholder names are Karen and Henry. (Karen was this girl I knew back in grade school and Henry was my father’s middle name.)  I considered staying with Karen, but my critique group thought the name sounded too old—even the person whose name IS Karen agreed. And I already knew Henry sounded too stodgy. (Sorry, Dad.)

I don’t think I’m being super picky, but I just haven’t found the right name yet. It was easier when I wrote my Hogwarts fan fiction, because I followed Rowling’s tendency of giving characters names with hidden alchemical meanings or based their physical characteristics or occupations.

I’ve recently thought up a name for my character which seems to have potential, but we’ll see. It won't be the first time, I've changed my mind. If any of you have any spare names to toss around, let me know.

December 2 question: Are there months or times of the year that you are more productive with your writing than other months, and why?

My best time of the year for writing would, without a doubt, be autumn and early winter, October to December. The early nights. The moist autumn smells. The feeling that nature is closing down all around you.  Halloween. Nothing gets my writing juices moving faster.  I can lock myself in my office with burning candles and the ambient sounds of a howling wind and I’m good to go. 

Be sure to visit this month's so-hosts: Pat Garcia, Sylvia Ney, Liesbet @ Roaming AboutCathrina Constantine, and Natalie Aguirre! 

Take care everyone, and stay safe! 


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The Insecure Writer and Maintaining Discipline


Today is November's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an insecure writer this month?

Wondering if I have the necessary discipline to be a writer.  

I’m beginning to learn that writing, regardless of whether you’re a part-time or full-time writer, requires discipline.

Back when I had a 9-5 job and the demands of a family, I didn’t have a set schedule for writing. I wrote whenever I could find the time. Ten minutes here, 30 minutes there. The process wasn’t optimal, but it worked well enough to allow me to progress through my story. 

Today, I’m tutoring part-time, and my kids are old enough to take care of themselves. Yet despite the extra time available to me, I’m not being very efficient with how I use it. I still run downstairs to my office and write whenever I have the chance, but now I have more tasks to worry about. Author comps, cover design queries, critique groups, blog posts. I'll admit I've scarcely thought about these things  in the last several months. Heck, I even let the first Wednesday of the month sneak up on me once again, even though I had it marked on Google calendar. (Needless to say, I’m adding multiple reminders from now on.)

What I need is to work up a real schedule so my efficiency improves, but that’s easier said than done. My tutoring sessions vary from day to day, from week to week, so any schedules I might prepare would have to be viewed more as guidelines. And even if I do work up a reasonable schedule, I’ll admit I’ve never been good at following them. Bad author! Bad, bad author!

We'll see what happens.

Optional November question: Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

I write because it allows me to use my imagination and be creative. I write in the hopes that other people will enjoy seeing where my imagination takes them. That's pretty much it for me.

Take care everyone, and stay safe!