Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Insecure Writer and Transitioning Into a (Mostly) Full Time Writer.

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

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because  after six months, I’m still not settled into the routine of being a (productive) writer.

Some of you may know I was downsized from my job at the end of February. Although it was a bit of a shock at the time, I eventually considered this to be a sign that I should devote myself to writing (at least during my more optimistic moods). However, the transition to writing has not come easily.

Feeling guilty for not bringing in as much money as I had before, I dabbled with the idea of taking a less well-paying job, at least for the short term, in order to cushion the financial blow to the family. Not only did searching for such jobs take away from my writing time, but guilt made it harder to concentrate on writing. 

Eventually I began tutoring chemistry students, and although the pay isn’t nearly as lucrative as a job in industry, it lessened my need to find another job.  Still, learning the ins and outs of the tutoring business took more time than I expected, further limiting my writing time.

And then there was the constant feeling that the time I spent writing was taking away from things that were “more important,” like helping my wife around the house, interacting with the kids, or tackling projects that have been on my to-do list for years. I felt pulled in all directions, guilt gnawing at me every time I sat in front of my computer.

But all that is in the past. Six months later, I’ve come to accept my new position in life and no longer feel guilty about not having a regular 9 to 5 job. I’m definitely more productive on the writing front and no longer find myself having to write feverishly at the last minute so as to have something to submit to my monthly critique groups.  However, my transition to being a writer isn’t complete. It may be easier for me to sit down and work on my WIP these days, but there are plenty of other writing related activities where I’m falling short. For example:

•  My lack of blogging. Last week was my first non-IWSG post in several months. Heck, I use to post twice a week back when I had that 9 to 5 job!
•  I’ve been bad about visiting other writer’s blogs, except on the first Wednesday of every month.
•  I haven’t touched my Hogwarts fan fiction in months, despite the fact that I’m supposed to be uploading the chapters to Wattpad once a week.
•  I haven’t been making contact with other authors in my genre, although that task was one of my New Year’s resolutions.

I’ve come to realize I will have to structure my time better if I expect to become a productive writer. At the moment, all my focus is on finishing my debut novel. Not that focusing on the actual writing is a bad thing, but sooner or later I’m going to finish the darn thing and then the real work will begin (editing, publishing, marketing, etc.) So, I better have a structure in place by then or things will get very ugly, very quickly.

Let’s move on to more enjoyable topics, like this month’s IWSG question: If you could pick one place in the world to sit and write your next story, where would it be and why?

This one’s a no-brainer.  It would be in an old castle somewhere in Britain (preferably Scotland), surrounded by fog shrouded moors, preferably in the autumn.  If you don't know why… well, I guess no amount of explanation would suffice. 

My future writing space

Be sure to stop by and say hello to the other ISWG co-hosts this month: Gwen GardnerTyrean MartinsonDoreen McGettigan, and Cathrina Constantine


Thursday, August 29, 2019

Do Readers Really Become the Viewpoint Character?

Every so often I come across a piece of writing advice, or rule, or opinion that leaves me perplexed.  Here's one I've been seeing a lot lately.

Readers become the POV characters in the stories they read.

What? Really?

Here's an excerpt from Deep Point of View, by Marcy Kennedy.

As readers, we're not simply experiencing the story along with the viewpoint character. We become the viewpoint character. We climb inside their mind and body.

I don't know about you, but that's not the way it works for me. I may feel that I'm in the same room as them; I may even be peeking around inside their heads, but I'm definitely not them. Not even close.

I've often wondered if the people who say this don't quite mean what they appear to be saying. Perhaps they really mean "We ride along with the viewpoint character.", But I've seen this sentiment voiced so often I think they really mean it. So are they wrong, or am I simply different from everyone else?

I don't mean to imply that I sit back and watch the scene at a distance, like I'm at a movie, although that can be the case when the POV is distant enough.  But no matter how deep the POV, no matter how much I'm inside their head, I'm still a separate observer. I may be sitting in the same roller coaster as the viewpoint character, experiencing the same sorts of thrills, but there's no overlap between the two of us.

To be honest, I don't understand how anyone could feel as though they were the viewpoint character.  He/She constantly makes choices or says things that I would never consider doing, so I'd never be able to maintain the illusion of being them. Heck, authors typically go out of their way to have characters do the exact opposite of what we readers expect them to do. For example, when the POV character sees the magic ring that will allow them to vanquish the bad guy, and  we're yelling at them to pick the damn thing up and fulfill their destiny, but the character says "no way" and does their best to ignore the ring. Or how about when readers scream at a character because he's not asking the girl to dance even though the girl is so obviously smitten with him that my cat rolls his eyes at the character's stupidity. Are we screaming at ourselves?  I think not.

So is it just me, or do the rest of you become the viewpoint character when you read?



Wednesday, August 7, 2019

On Vacation!

I'm returning home today from a family vacation at Virginia Beach, and since I somehow convinced myself that the first Wednesday of the month would not occur during the trip, I don't  have an IWSG post ready for this month. However, I can still answer this month's question: Has your writing ever taken you by surprise?

I'm still early in my writing career, but the first big surprise I received from my writing was the first time I looked back at an earlier chapter and realized it wasn't a mess (which up until then hadn't been the case). I guess practice makes perfect after all.

I won't be visiting other IWSG sites today since I'll be on the road, but I look forward to seeing you all next month when I'm one of the co-hosts.

Happy writing!


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The Insecure Writer and Approaching the Publishing Threshold

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

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I’m approaching the point where I'll be transitioning from a wannabe writer to a published writer who needs to worry about all the many facets of marketing.

For years, I’ve contemplated all the things I’d have to do if I ever got around to finishing a book. Things like setting up an author website, learning to format ebooks, newsletters, street teams, Amazon keywords, email lists, finding a cover designer, finding an editor, learning how to get reviews, Facebook ads, social media, book trailers, audiobooks... The list goes on and on. Almost makes me think writing the book was the easy part. (Please tell me it's not!)

But the time has come where I can no longer just fantasize about these duties.  I’m three-quarters of the way through my urban fantasy, so the clock is ticking, especially since many of the aforementioned items should be started long before a book comes out. 

It’s not like there aren’t a ton of resources out there to help guide me.  The IWSG website has a section devoted to marketing tips. Our very own Chrys Fey has 100 marketing tips on her site.  This month's IWSG post by Tara Tyler discusses how to get buzz for your book.

Now I just have to get around to implementing all this advice without going crazy. 


This month's question is:  What personal traits have you written into your character(s)?

I usually give my main characters a sense of inferiority, often plucked from somewhere out of my own past. My characters worry that people will think they're too young or inexperienced, or that their skills aren't good enough for them to do what they need to do to win in the end. The kinds of things that used to bother me. Like the experts always say, write what you know!

Have a Happy Fourth of July! 


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Insecure Writer and Feeling Guilty

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

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I only manage to update this blog once a month, just in time for the IWSG post.  And that’s kind of depressing.

There was a time when I used to update this blog with a writing related post at least once a week. Twice a week if you counted the Friday writing links. And yet, now that I’m only working part time, I scarcely even think about the blog. 

Bad author! Bad, bad author!

On the plus side, I’ve spent the extra time working on my stories, so they are progressing at a nice pace, but that doesn’t make me feel any better when the first Wednesday of the month day comes around.  I don’t want to let this blog slip any further. Heck, my plan is to start a new website somewhere down the line, designed more for my eventual readers, while keeping this one for communicating with other writers.

What it basically boils down to is guilt.  I feel guilty that I’m not posting more, but I feel even more guilty if I’m not working on my book. (Even as I write this post, my stomach is churning because I’m not adding any words to my WIP.) I know I should be doing more on social media to prepare for my career as an author. I know I should be attending conferences and reading the latest craft books and making connections with other writers in my genre, but that only takes away from the writing time. I’m sure the guilt will lessen once I start releasing books, but in the meantime, guilt is what drives my schedule.
And that’s not a good way to write, or to live.

I suspect the answer is to do what I’ve been putting off for years. Set up a schedule for all writing related activities. A schedule that forces me to set aside time to focus on this blog, or read other blogs, or keep in contact with my writer friends.

The only question is: Will I stick with it?

This month's question is:  Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?

My answer is definitely fantasy. I like reading science fiction too, but as far as writing goes, fantasy gives me more leeway to do crazy things without worrying too much about how they could have happened.  When I write science fiction, I feel somewhat obligated to make sure everything has a logical, scientific reason for existing.

Until next month week!


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Insecure Writer and Picking A Genre

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

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I don't not sure what genre my story belongs in.

You'd think this would be a pretty simple question to answer.  My story is a simple fantasy, not particularly ground-breaking in any way, but fantasy is too vague a term these days.  There are all sorts of sub-genres under the fantasy umbrella--urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and paranormal romance to name a few.  And based on what I've learned about marketing books over the years, picking the correct sub-genre is extremely important, especially if you're selling through Amazon. Pick the wrong sub-genre and you'll miss many of the readers who would like your work as well as outraging those readers who did read your book expecting something else. And outraged readers typically leave bad reviews. 

I've always considered my story to be urban fantasy.  It takes place in the present, in an urban setting. The heroine gets caught up in an alchemical war that's been raging on our world unbeknownst to the general public for centuries. And these alchemists have the power to manipulate chemical reactions. So far, so good.  Sounds like urban fantasy to me.

But there are other ways in which the story doesn't follow urban fantasy tropes.  There is no magic. Period. The powers wielded by the alchemists may seem like magic to the normal person, but they are never presented as magic.  In fact, there are very specific scientific rules concerning how those powers can and cannot be used--kind of like the powers in Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series. Will urban fantasy readers be disappointed there aren't any spells?  

Another trope involves the inclusion of various fantasy creatures such as werewolves, vampires, wizards, witches, the Fae, dragons--you get the picture.  I only have one such creature, the tiny subatomic beings that work with the alchemists to give them their powers. That's it. Would not having any other creatures be enough for urban fantasy readers to turn up their noses at the story? 

This isn't an academic question. To be successful in today's market, the book's cover has to convey the sub-genre at a glance.  My inclination was to have a female character on the cover, much like other urban fantasy covers, but instead of having her glowing with magical energy (as most of those UF covers do, see below), I would surround her with chemical and alchemical imagery. 

So will having an urban fantasy type cover cause the wrong readership to consider purchasing my book? That's the question I'm struggling with as I finish my book.

Any comments or suggestions?


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Rescuing Mara's Father Blog Tour

Today, I'm pleased to welcome a fellow Michigander to the blog.  Diane Burton is an accomplished writer with many stories under her belt.  Although her usual genres are science fiction, suspense, and mystery--usually with a dash of romance thrown in for good measure--her newest book marks her foray into middle grade.  

Rescuing Mara's Father is about a young girl who will do whatever it takes to rescue her father. The fact that it takes place on another planet is the icing on the cake! Diane's style is relaxed and easy to read, and she does a wonderful job of capturing Mara's feelings. I highly recommend you check out her book. And don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of this post!


A Middle Grade Science Fiction Adventure
By D.M. Burton
Approx. 75,000 words
ISBN:  978-0-9990452-4-4 (ebook)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9990452-5-1 (print)


Her father is gone! Taken by the Queen of Compara’s agents. Mara has to rescue him before the Queen tortures and kills him.

Instead of the kind, loving father she’s always known, he’s become demanding, critical, with impossible expectations—not just as Father but also as the only teacher in their frontier outpost. Mara would rather scoop zircan poop than listen to another boring lecture about governments on Central Planets. Give her a starship engine to take apart or, better yet, fly, and she’s happy. Now, he’s gone.

Never mind, they’ve had a rocky road lately.

Never mind, Father promised she could go off planet to Tech Institute next month when she turns fifteen, where she’ll learn to fly starships.

Never mind, she ran away because she’s furious with him because he reneged on that promise. Father is her only parent. She has to save him.

Along with her best friend, eleven-year-old Jako, and his brother 15-year-old Lukus, Mara sets off to find her father. Her mentor, old spaceport mechanic, seems to know why the Queen captured Father. In fact, he seems to know her father well. But, does he tell her everything? Of course not. He dribbles out info like a mush-eating baby. Worse, he indicates he’ll be leaving them soon. And Lukus can’t wait to get off our planet. Mara’s afraid they will all leave, and she’ll be on her own. Despite her fears, Mara has to rescue her father.


At spaceport, the sound of voices, two male and one female, make me stop. They’re coming from the back side of ‘port and speaking Coalition Standard. Strangers. Nobody in our village uses Standard. After school hours, Father teaches those who want to learn Standard—like Lukus and Wilanda. He makes me stay, too, so whether I want to or not I’ve learned the language of the Central Planets.

The speakers pass within a meter of where I’m making like a statue. They’re so busy talking in low tones about the target and their mission they don’t even look my way. As they head toward the village center, I slip around to the back of the ‘port building. I gasp at what’s parked there. A sleek Gilean Cruiser. What a fine ship. Jako would go ballistic if he knew. I’d seen one before, just once when Magistrate from the Consortium of Mines came after the riot. Basco let me work on it.

Okay, not really. I got to hold his tools as he repaired a small leak in the hydraulics. Father thinks I don’t want to improve my mind. I sure do. I want to learn to all about starships like this. And fly them, too.

I linger for a moment, wanting to reach out and touch the shiny skin of one of the fastest ships in the galaxy. Only the thought that they might have left a guard on board prevents me. Reluctantly, I make for the hills and the safety of the scrub trees. They offer some concealment, especially now that the clouds are breaking up. Looks like no rain tonight. First Moon is setting behind the mountains. Soon, larger Second Moon will rise in the south. When it does, it will flood the farmland and illuminate the foothills.

Heavy footsteps come from the southeast. I crouch under the thickest scrub tree in the copse and hear grumbling. The Dunpus brothers. If they catch me out alone, I’m done for.

“. . . gonna get that Teacher’s kid, teach her a lesson.”

“Yeah, and the little brat, too.”

“It’ll take too long for that little brilium rat to come out of the mine tunnels. The girl is easier. We’ll wait outside her house, and when Teacher leaves . . .” The oldest one’s voice trails off as they stomp away.

I’m clutching the tree so hard I have splinters. Jako and I’d better make sure we see them coming or we’re going to be in deep planetary poop.

After I climb toward a mine that was played out years ago, I crouch behind a rock near the entrance. I don’t want to run into any packs—especially not the two-legged variety, like the Dunpus brothers. Gangs usually roam the village late at night, searching for anything people haven’t locked up or just wreaking havoc. I’m lucky I haven’t run into them. Whoa. Maybe that was why Lukus pulled a knife.

Jako lives in one of the tunnels. He would be good company. With Lukus at the café, Jako will be alone. Finding him is my biggest problem. I could search the tunnels, call his name. But then I might run into a gang roaming the mine. Or, the Dunpus brothers could return.

When I took off from home, I didn’t think about the dangers. I guess I didn’t think, period. Running away is a stupid idea. Coming up here alone is even dumber. It’s one thing to come with Father or to explore with Jako during the day. Everything looks different at night.

I square my shoulders. I can’t depend on anyone except myself now. Father forbid me to go to Pamyria, to the Tech Institute. I’m going anyway. I just have to figure out how.

About the Author:

The first time D.M. Burton saw Star Wars IV: A New Hope, she was hooked on science fiction and space travel. The Star Trek movies made her want to travel to other planets. Alas, she is still Earth-bound. D.M. and her husband live in Michigan, close to their two children and five grandchildren.

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For more info and excerpts, visit D.M.’s website:

She writes adult fiction as Diane Burton, where she combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides writing science fiction romance, she writes romantic suspense, and cozy mysteries.

For more info and excerpts from her books, visit Diane’s website:

Connect with Diane Burton online.

Goodreads: Diane Burton Author

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