writing Archives | Sheryl Steines

Category Archives for writing

Next: Where to Go From Here

Next

Next. I feel as though, since I finished The Rise of the Black Market, I need to find the next project. In a way, I do. I had been looking for a writing position before coronavirus stopped everything. But as I discovered with the ups and downs my life has gone through, writing has been my way of working through it.

So I feel stuck at the present moment, as I'm sure most of you do as well. But for me, my block has to do with managing my way out of a badly managed situation. My career. It's full of holes, it's been inconsistent, and now I have to scramble to figure out where to go next.

I've always wanted to be a writer and get paid for what I've written. That hasn't changed. Not selling books has been the hardest thing for me professionally, especially now, knowing I do have some fans and the product is pretty good. I wrote what I liked. At the time I wrote it, I didn't know that I should have researched the market a bit more.

So where do you go when you're stuck? How do you move forward? Well like others, I've been purging. Cleaning out closets and drawers and finishing projects that have been waiting for me for years.

Books

I have an opportunity to do things different this time. While I wrote what I wanted, I realized, the market expects certain things, and maybe this time, I should write a little closer to it.

But there's still that desire to differentiate myself from what's already out there. So having said that, I'm returning to my first love; the mystery. I'm obsessed with Sue Grafton and the ABC mysteries, I'm reading J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts) and the In Death series.

What I've noticed, I'm still drawn to strong, female characters, but as I read through the newest series for me, I want to do it a little different. A little less, in your face, a little more vulnerable. A little more a reflection of myself.

Next Steps

In the coming months, I'm putting together something I hope is more in line of what the market likes to read, because realistically, it's really what I like to read as well. I still hope to have a likeable character, who grows and changes and stumbles and succeeds.

I've been lucky and safe and my children are fine and pushing forward with school in the midst of all this madness. And me, I'm taking a hard look at my writing career so that I can move forward, hopefully successfully, hopefully happily.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy spring and wish you all the happiness.

For something to escape from reality, catch up on The Wizard Hall Chronicles, today.

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What are Your Experiences During the Pandemic?

Committed

I decided at the start of 2020, I would commit to learning new things, new experiences whether that entailed new people or places. The plan was to simply be open to whatever might cross my path.

A pandemic, was surely, not on my list.

It's been two and a half weeks since Illinois issued the stay-at-home order. It's a struggle for the for of us to continue with online schooling, working from home and generally not annoying each other.

What I've Been Doing

While we can't enjoy places we love, like the zoo or botanic garden, nor can we travel or gather, I've continued to exercise and will start online yoga classes. I walk and see neighbors (at a 6 foot distance,) that I haven't seen in months. I spend time with my kids just talking.

I continue to write and create, taking on different projects to keep myself engaged. I bake and cook. We finished putting trim on the windows that had been off for years. I'll be staining my bookshelves when the weather warms.

Being limited during the pandemic and forcing four bored people to find something to do, has slowed us down a bit and caused us to be creative, and present with each other.

Having said that, here's some recommendations for reading and television that might make those quiet times a little less boring, or frightening or tedious.

My New Experiences

New Authors I've tried: JD. Robb, Laurence Shames, Neil Gaiman, Molly Fitz. What your new favorite author? Tweet me their name @SherylSteines.

New Television Shows since the stay at home was enforced: Deadwood (Prime), Justified (Hulu), Queens of Mystery (Acorn TV), Hunters (Prime). Send me some new recommendations on Facebook at Sheryl Steines Author.

Movies: Ford vs. Ferrari, Deadwood (the movie), Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears. I'm looking for more recommendations. SherylSAuthor on Instagram.

Re-watch: One of my favorite shows ever, Avatar the last Airbender. I also re-watched Star Trek Beyond, Kingsman The Golden Circle and Supernatural. What are you rewatching while at home?

Stay safe. Try something new. Learn something. And share. Experiences don't have to be big and grand, they just need to be. Looking forward to your new ideas. Hope to hear from you.

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Writing and Believing and Being Stuck

Writing

Writing has always been my dream and from an early age, I've always thought of myself as one. Even at age 9, I was told, I was pretty good at it. When I started writing my first book, I realized it might not be so.

I always believed in the characters and the story, it took me years before I felt comfortable and not guilty for selling my books. Positive reviews have built me up, while negative reviews made me lose my confidence.

Believing

Comic cons, and talking with future fans always built me up and invigorated me as I kept crafting the series. I always believed in each story, I always believed that each one got better and better. Not just the writing but the plots and the characters. They grew, became complex. I believed I had something.

And then book four – Prophecy, happened. I knew I had something great. It was a rewrite of the book She-Wulf. I worked really hard to rewrite, restructure, and tie the story into the series. I had multiple content edits to ensure the story flowed, that there were no plot holes, that it bridged books 1, 2, and 3 into book 5, the series conclusion. I knew it in my bones. I had it right.

Prophecy

I wasn't expecting what happened. While I sent out a request for ARC readers, I had usually received 50 to 100 responses. For Prophecy I received 10. I was disappointed. I hoped in all the other requests I would have had readers who wanted to continue the story.

I accepted there were only ten, and hoped for the best.

Prophecy currently has nine, 5 star reviews. Some of them made me cry. I was pleased to know that the story worked, that book was entertaining, that someone was pissed at the ending and sad and confused.

All of what I had I put into the story. I felt stressed as I wrote the journey, I cried at the end. The results were what I hoped for.

Stuck in the Writing

I worry the final book, the conclusion to Annie's journey, won't live up to the book four. It terrifies me, and now I'm suffering from a bit of writer's block as I work on my next series.

Writing is always an up and down as you try to write complex, exciting, enjoyable stories, as you try to sell them so you can continue to live your dream.

The process offers me the most confidence I have ever felt in my life, I was meant to spend my days writing. And the process deflates me faster than anything else in my life.

I love writing. No matter how stressful the rest of my life can get, it is and will be the most satisfaction I have ever had and I don't think I can give it up. For now, I'll enjoy the results of Prophecy and feel proud that I did it!

Prophecy – today on Amazon.

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Prophecy – Answering the Unknown Questions

Prophecy

When I wrote Prophecy, I knew it would be the re-write of She Wulf, a book I wrote after falling asleep during a documentary about the epic poem, Beowulf.

I loved the idea of going to the past to save the future. The problem this time around was, Prophecy had to do more than She Wulf did. She Wulf could be a stand alone story, an adventure to the past. Unfortunately, as I rewrote the series, book four now needed to be that epic time travel story as well as a bridge between books 1,2, and 3 to book 5.

It is a complex story line.

I always spoke of Annie's dad; his death seemed to weave itself throughout the series in a way I hadn't expected when I first wrote the series. As I moved through book one, two, three, and finally four, I realized there were some questions that finally needed to be answered.

Where is Annie's mom. And that was the most important theme I needed to convey in book four. How do you do that when are writing a stand alone time travel adventure? You write two stories simultaneous and interweave them because in reality, we have more than one thing going on at a time. We don't live our lives in a vacuum.

So there. I give you the beginning of the end of the Wizard Hall Chronicles. I'm so excited for this book. It was the most challenging and aside from the first book being the one I'm the most proud of because it was my first, I'm really the most proud of Prophecy, because it is the story that nearly ended my dream and it is the one that brought it back to life.

Excerpt:

“How much do you know about my dad’s murder?” Annie whispered. Instinctively, he placed a hand on the wall and sent a muffle spell across his small cubicle, enveloping them in privacy.

 “I know Rathbone did it. It’s related to the Fraternitatem and the Chintamani stones. Beyond that, I’m clueless,” Bucky said.

 Annie shook her head. “This needs to stay between you and me. If I’m not around, find Cham. He’s the only person who knows this.” Bucky understood her stern, serious expression and nodded in agreement.  

 She handed Bucky a picture of Dr. Arden Blakely with Emily Pearce. He examined the picture and glanced back at Annie. “Isn’t this that doctor? The assassin? She looks younger, but . . .” 

 “It’s Dr. Arden Blakely,” she said quietly.

  “That’s not why you want me to see this,” Bucky said.

Annie nodded.

Bucky grimaced and reviewed the picture again. This time, he couldn’t ignore the striking similarities between the other woman and Annie. He stared back at Annie. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say the other one is related to you,” he said guardedly. Bucky observed Annie carefully.

Annie cleared her throat to find her voice. “It’s my mom, Emily Pearce.”

 

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To Write Helps Keep the Pity Party Away

I Write what I Like

When I wrote my first book, I wrote what I liked. I was greatly influence by Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed; urban fantasy, female lead, real women saving the world on a weekly basis. At that point in time the thought was, write what you like.

What I discovered over the course of the years, not everyone wants to read what I like, and the new thought is, write to market.

A Lifetime of Dreaming

I write what I like, it gives me pleasure. I gain confidence when a story works out well, whether I planned it or not.

This is what I had wanted since I was seven years old, to sit at home and write stories, and earn my living entertaining the masses with my words.

Sometimes it doesn't work out that way.

To Write to Market: Research

So I'm spending my time trying to do two things, write what I like and write it to market. I've been researching what the market really is. What do readers enjoy and clamor to read?

The problem is, I'm not enjoying the books I'm reading. I feel like they're, not as original as they could be. Well yeah, they're written for market.

Congrats to the writers who can make it work. As I sit at this crossroad, I have to make a decision. Do I write to please the masses so that I can stay at home and live my life long dream, or do I write for me and get a job elsewhere to make money?

Where I am Now?

A few weeks ago, I announced that my pity party is over. I came to believe that I was addicted to the pity party, that it was consuming me and I needed to be done. Like any addiction, it doesn't go away just because you say so.

I'm in the middle of a bump in the row. I'm feeling pity for myself again. But I can't stop writing. It's who I am at the core.

So I'm diligently preparing to release book four and get book five ready to publish. I hope that the boxed set of the books will sell better than they do now. It will always be a struggle for me; to write or not to write. To live with passion or not to live with the passion, the thing that makes me uniquely me.

So where do I go from here?

I'm a writer. It's what I do. I'm getting better at it. I don't want to quit. I use these bumps in the road to re-examine where I'm at and where I need to be. I've decided I need a new project. I'm working on my memoirs. My experiences raising three children with very difficult situations. I'm writing short stories, I plan to enter writing contests and submit my work to magazines. I want to freelance.

What I don't want to do is quit the thing that gives me joy, confidence, and passion. Ironically, it's also the thing that makes me angry, jealous and bitter, but I'm trying really hard to focus on the good.

So I'm in a good place. I'm continuing with yoga, I'm cutting back on crackers, cookies and sugar. I'm working out harder than I've been able to in years. It's all about controlling the positive and letting the negative go. It's not easy by any stretch, but I finally switched that thing in my brain that gets me out of the hole and back into the light.

I'm a writer at the core. It's what I know.

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Confidence – Take Your Inspiration Where You Can Get It

Confidence and the Childhood Role Models

I was watching a documentary this weekend on the Eighties – you know, big hair, no cell phones. It was my childhood in review as they discussed the women on television story. I watched Murphy Brown, Designing Women, Cagney and Lacey, and while I was in high school, I wasn't quite self-aware and didn't understand how groundbreaking it was and what that could mean for me and my confidence.

Early Disconnects and Lack of Self Confidence

Sometimes looking back on my early days, I feel disassociated with my life as though I wasn't actively participating in it. While I had a dream for myself and my future, I never connected an action to that dream. I didn't really think about the process of writing and what that would mean.

So back to my shows about strong, hard-working women who fought for the right to be treated equally in whatever job they took on. I could have used those ideas as a guide on how to manage my own career but a lack of confidence, had me taking one path rather than working on the path I really wanted. I spent my time working on Plan B, the plan to become a writer for some large company as I pursued my real passion. The problem is, I never really worked on my real passion, to become an author, spending my day writing books or magazine articles. There was too much fear in that unknown.

Today's Confidence

I find myself now, searching for the imaginary role models in Lorelei Gilmore, who finally followed her passion and opened her own inn rather than working in someone else's. I love old episodes of Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer where the women are strong and real as they work through their daily problems AND save the world.

When there's nothing on television or movies to use as a kick in the ass, I think of women like Amelia Earhart, or Kathryn Johnson whose mathematical calculations sent men to the moon, who followed their passions in their chosen field, fighting an uphill battle based on their sex and/or race.

The Answer

It's not lost on me that what held me back from achieving my dreams wasn't necessarily my lack of opportunity it was a lack of confidence in myself. It's not an easy to fix to all of a sudden find the confidence to achieve your dreams. What I've learned in my 50 years is this, you don't achieve your goals by hoping and thinking it will happen. There is no guarantee that you'll accomplish your goals but you most certainly will not if you don't try.

The answer for me was to take my jealously and work harder, try different things as I try to finish my next book and sell the three others on Amazon.com.

Even if I have to fake the confidence for the time being, I must take the first step and the next step and continue, one at a time if I must. It keeps me moving forward rather than keeping me stagnant, in one place. And yes, I still watch the old shows, and the new gathering inspiration. It's like a recharge and reminds me that we all have similar struggles and if we can share the stories, we can all benefit.

It's something I remember especially on #InternationalWomensDay as I try to be my own hero, an active participant in my own life. It's sometimes a struggle, but totally worth the effort.

 

 

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Being You – If I Won the Lottery This is What I’d Do

Being You

I've been a fan of the rock group Queen since I was in middle school. Queen was my first rock concert in August, 1982. I finally saw Bohemian Rhapsody today actually. The move struck a chord with me.

Freddie Mercury, he was at times an ass, he was at times a great love, he was most of the time so sure of himself and his talent and his vision.

I've shared many times my desire to be an author since I was 7. I very rarely strayed from that dream. I always chose jobs that would inevitably lead me to a writing position.

Taking a Chance on Me

I watched Bohemian Rhapsody, I clearly saw the idea that you have to believe in yourself, you have to take chances. I quit my job when I first read the quote: “She believed she could so she did,” by R.S Gray. I had never heard the quote before, I found it on a charm and bought it. It stuck with me. So much so I decided it was time to quit, time to manage my ads, get my books ready to be published. I needed to take a chance on myself and believe in me.

The Daily Struggle

I started really selling books last summer, though I've been trying for years. It was about learning to target, to write engaging copy, to put myself out there. For three months I sold something everyday. It was time. But it's been a struggle. Sales drop off, ads change, testimonial makes me nutty. But my friend Bri asked me what I would be doing if I won the lottery tomorrow.

I would be a writer.

Being You/Being Me

And back to Bohemian Rhapsody. Freddie Mercury found himself, in how he dressed, how he spoke, how he engaged with people, he believed he was born to perform. He went on his own personal journey and in the end, he found his success, happiness and love.

I learned a valuable lesson. I have me, and if I don't believe that I wrote a good book, or that I should put myself out there, than why do it. As always, it's about being myself, taking risks, and believing that I can do what I set out to do.

It may not work but then again, I may just find myself with everything I ever hoped to have. And if I won the lottery tomorrow, this is what I'd still do.

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Beginnings, Middles and Endings – Day 21

Endings

After sending book four of The Wizard Hall Chronicles, Prophecy, to my editor for a content edit, I decided it was time to plan for book five called The Rise of the Black Market. I wasn't quite ready to start the book, I was prepping the document adding a title page, the list of the books in the series, the copyright page, an acknowledgement page, Chapter 1. As I saved the beginnings of the book, it occurred to me in a very concrete sort of way, that this would be the last book I write in The Wizard Hall Chronicles.

Beginnings

The Wizard Hall Chronicles was the start of my author career. I had lived with the characters in my head for almost two years, learning about them, discovering their likes and dislikes, personality traits I wanted to explore, stories I wanted to tell, until one day I had enough confidence to sit down and finally write the story.

It started with the first draft of The Day of First Sun which in the end became over 50 drafts. Because I was new at the craft of writing novels, I ended up publishing the story three times. It was a necessary evil that propelled the story in a way I hadn't expected.

When I originally started The Wizard Hall Chronicles, I first had no series name and I had intended to write the series with stand alone books. The characters would waft in and out as they took on new paranormal cases. But that's now how the series progressed.

Middles

You see, before rewriting The Day of First Sun and publishing it for the third time, I was stuck. I published book two She Wulf, and it didn't go well. I found it difficult to move the story forward. I tried two different stories. neither worked.

I realized the problem was book one and in a flash, I was rewriting, in a major rewrite sort of way, until I had something that was so much better than any other incarnation.

When that happened, the rest of the series flew from my fingers in lightning speed. And another interesting thing happened. I found myself with a theme I never intended; the death of Annie Pearce's father. He was never supposed to be anything but Annie's background. Instead, his death was her past, her present and her future.

Sometimes you can't fight the direction the series will traverse. Sometimes you have to go with it. I went with it and it led me to the series finale, The Rise of the Black Market and I wasn't expecting how it would make me feel.

Endings

The series filled out. Characters went in and out of the stories as their roles changed or grew. I filled in more background of the characters so much so that Wizard War became the continuation of The Day of First Sun while Prophecy linked the first three books and acted as a bridge to the series finale.

But as I started Chapter 1, The Rise of the Black Market, it hit me hard. This book is the last of the series. It made me sad. It made my prematurely miss the characters that I had been living with for the last 12 years. unexpectedly, it made me long for the finale so I could start a new project, something different.

I'm a mix of emotions as I work through Annie Pearce and Cham Chamsky's final case. The case that brings all the stories together, the battle that will change their lives forever. I look forward to the work on this book, I look forward to putting the series to rest, to moving on and yet I know I will miss Annie, my alter ego. As she grew, I grew.

Beginnings, Middles and Endings

Here's to the next stage in my writing career!

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Resolutions at the new year – I don’t need them anymore.

It's that time of year for resolutions

It's the time of year for resolutions when we make these pronouncements:

  • To lose weight
  • Start exercising
  • Take up a class
  • Finish a book

I don't make New Year's resolutions anymore.

Yes, I like to have a date when I will begin a new book, or have a book ready for publishing, but when it comes to these shouldas, couldas, wouldas, about my person, I feel as though I need to make a decision and begin, whether it's the beginning, middle or end of the year.

It's because I know what I need to do. I just have to get off my butt and do it, whatever it is, whenever it is.

What I know

See, I know I need to lose a few pounds. I need to eat smaller portions and eat less sugar. I didn't wait for the end of the year to make my New Year's resolution to begin. I just said, “This is what I need to be healthy.”

And I know it's not a diet. This is the way of life. I just have to do it.

For my career I knew I needed to manage the advertising and marketing and writing. I quit my job because at the moment I was able to. Because this is what I had to do if I want to be an author.

New Beginnings

We like the idea of new beginnings. The ability to shed the bad stuff from the previous year. I have a lot of baggage I could do that with. What I need to do instead, is remember to live in the moment. Not my resolution, but my real life, all the time.

It's not a resolution, it's simply me remembering that today is a new day and I need to live today with all that entails. No more resolutions, no more attempts. Just one day at a time. If I slip today, I pick up and do it again the next without judging myself or being hard on myself when one day goes badly. I tomorrow, not January 1. There's always tomorrow.

If you must have resolutions

If you must make a resolution, do this: Each and everyday I will:

  • Honor myself and my dreams
  • Live in the moment
  • Be passionate about something
  • Stop judging myself
  • Have a bad day and move on
  • Forgive myself for infractions that mean nothing

We mess up. We take corrective actions we move on. I will remember to live in the moment, not starting on January 1, but starting today.

Have yourself a very happy holiday season and be your best self, even if that means you lay around in your jammies watching Doctor Who episodes once and while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Big Release – Wizard War

The Wizard War is Coming. What side will you choose?

I'm very proud to announce my third book in The Wizard Hall Chronicles series, Wizard War.

After spending the last year deep in edits, working with beta readers, and sending out books to ARC readers, I'm so excited to share this new adventure with Annie Pearce, Cham Chamsky and the rest of the Wizard Guards as they traipse through Europe in search of a vampire on a murderous streak.

The book in few words…

Eight months ago, Annie Pearce, closed the murder investigation of Princess Amelie of Amborix and put her killer in prison. So receiving a newspaper article with a picture of the princess alive and well, walking the streets of Paris, left Annie shocked and confused.

Who sent the picture?

With the threat of exposure hanging over her, Annie and her wizard guard partner, Spencer Ray chase the wily, young, vampire across Europe attempting to stop her murderous streak. When finding the vampire seems nearly impossible, Annie seeks out an old nemesis, Sturtagaard the vampire, to help them kill the demon princess.

But all is not as it seems. As Annie traipses across the jurisdiction of other wizard guard units, who blame her for the situation, tensions rise. A vulnerable Annie, must push aside her self-doubt and focus her energy on stopping the vampire. If she’s not careful, all her plans can lead to a wizard war, one that only she can stop.

Want More?

Get your fix of the Wizard Hall Chronicles anytime by signing up for my newsletter here on the site, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

 

 

 

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Not a Self-Help Kinda Girl But This Changed My Life

She Believed She Could, So She Did – R. S. Grey

I'm not much of a self-help kinda girl. I don't criticize those who like that stuff. For me it's just so cult like. That someone could convince you to be a certain way or do a certain thing by what they say, versus you being able to do that for yourself.

When I Read Motivation, Self-Help Non Fiction, This Happens

That notwithstanding, I have on occasion read non-fiction works that have left me thinking, wishing, wanting something. My favorite has been and will always be On Writing by Stephen King. All writer's should read this, though I admit, it didn't quite light that fire under my butt and get me writing. And once I was a writer of a real book, it didn't inspire me to quit my job.

So next read, was Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. It was also a journey about finding fulfillment and doing what makes you happy. What it made me want to do was prune and care for my yard. But as it was mid winter and my yard was covered under several inches of snow, I never made it to the reconstruction of my back yard and the growing of grapes on a trellis.

My last foray into the non-fiction inspirational type of self-help book, was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I came across that quite by accident, when surfing cable for something to watch. Weirdly, I thought, it actually hooked me but really it only left me wanting to take a trip to Naples, Italy, find the restaurant with the green and white tiles and eat a margarita pizza. So much so I put it on my bucket list. No kidding.

Everything Changed With the Arrival of a Gift

Nothing, I say NOTHING has ever left me more motivated to do anything than the quote, “She Believed She Could, So She Did by R.S. Grey. Funny story. I received a Pandora bracelet for my 50th birthday recently. Not knowing much about it, I went online searching for a charm that represented me as a writer. Surprisingly I found a typewriter, with a disk and that exact quote etched into it. It was specifically marketed as a charm for writers, authors, bloggers. Perfect.

I had never heard the quote. But I ordered the charm. It stuck with me. The quintessential quote about confidence. The kind of confidence that lights a fire under your butt and forces a change in the way you live.

It took me all of two weeks to assess my situation; to realize that I've been steadily selling books. Maybe not enough to replace my salary, but enough to that I could quit a job I really didn't like and make a major push for the end goal.  A full-time writing career.

I Didn't Look Back

I kept my job because I wasn't selling enough books. But in order to sell more books, I needed more time. Once I found that quote, once I realized that all I needed was pure confidence in myself, than I could take that first scary step and author for a bit. Truly become that person that I knew I wanted to be when I was seven years old.

I never wavered from that dream. It has traveled with my from the time I was seven. It was all I wanted to be, and everything I did from writing my own detective stories at seven, to taking English classes in high school and getting a BA degree in English, to taking as a procedure writer, a blogger, writing brochures, newsletters or biographies. Everything I have done as been for that single moment when I took that step forward into the world I had dreamt of most of my life. To be an author, to say what I have to say, to be who I want.

It was all because of that quote. “She Believed She Could, So She Did.” To RS Grey I thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Writer’s Block – It’s Only a Fallacy – Just Write Something

There is No Such Thing as Writer's Block

So how can I say that? Because yes, there are days that I can sit at the computer and the words don't come. Other days, different things become more important and I put off the writing because it's hard. It's not writer's block. It's anxiety of my own making.

How I Overcome What Isn't Writer's Block

Writing a book, a poem, a novella, a short story, is a scary proposition. You put yourself out there, expose your emotions, your story, personal story. The anxiety of that can be overwhelming. My anxiety stems from the fact that I'm rewriting my former second book in the series called She Wulf. I'm using part of the original story and expanding on it to now fit in the new series arc. It's a daunting project and in a way, I'm tied to the series, and have to work within these new parameters.

There's been a lot of that thing called writer's block, that thing that doesn't really exist. So how do I get past it. I write. I'm not talking about amusing, well written, ready to publish writing either. I'm talking about raw, nearly outlining, crap. Stuff I wouldn't bother to show my best of friends.

I Just Write

Being a writer is just that. We write. Even though this is essentially a re-write, it is truly a new book that has to do more than one thing. It has to link all of the books together, it has to explain a lot of unexplained plot points, it has to be an interesting story. And when I struggle to sit down and write chapter 9 because in all other incarnations of the book, this scene was always troublesome and never worked well, I had to seriously look at how I put this scene together.

It took me two days to work through the problem and only tonight was I able to really figure out how it happens. It's a pivotal scene. It moves the story from here to there, it had to be right. It also stinks. The writing is poor, but the story is the way it needs to be.

Believe in Yourself, Believe in Your Story

I truly believe there is no such thing as Writer's Block. After working on my fourth book, I understand that when I'm blocked, it has more to do with anxiety of the scene I'm setting up. When I understand that I have the ability to forgive myself for taking my time, for wasting time away from the book. And when I release some of the anxiety I can I ultimately always do, return to the book and write past the block.

I think it's the same with anything in life. New experiences can cause us to put things off because we're uncomfortable. Or we can feel stuck at a job, or just feeling the blues. It happens. Life is tricky and I think the key to working past the bumps whether its life or writing books is to believe in yourself, believe in your vision or in my case my story, and chip away little by little at the problem or the plot point that isn't working.

Or in some cases, completely re-write the book to make it work. Don't settle. You are worth the effort.

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Distraction can be used for Something Good

Distraction

So I have a confession to make — I sort of skew ADHD. No, I haven’t been officially diagnosed anything. But, distraction, when other things need to be done, oftentimes gets in the way. Does this ever happen with you? I have set myself a deadline to write, but the kitchen is slightly messy; I need to clean it before I can string together even a few words. I have calls to make for doctor appointments or for workmen to come fix things in the house, but the beds aren’t made so the calls go unmade. I find group projects can be a bit frustrating because I can see the order of the work flow and my colleagues may want to approach the topic from a different direction. Sometimes, I need to be all caught up on my “to-do” list to move forward in life.

This “affliction” drives my family crazy. My children do not understand why I need their rooms straightened so that I can focus on the writing. Perfection is a heavy burden to put on anyone’s shoulders.

Channeling this to be a Better Writer

But sometimes, this tendency of mine helps me to be a better writer. The “messiness” of a storyline may send me through a loop back to the very beginning of the writing process. For example, something didn’t click the when I finished the original book for the Wizard Hall Chronicles. While a great deal of time and effort went into the first publication of the series, I began to realize it “wasn’t in its right place.” Part of me knew I couldn’t move forward without going back to start again to put things on the right track. I was correct. Rewriting the story propelled everything forward.

So, as frustrating as it may be to others and myself, I know that my compulsion to have a certain amount of “order” in my personal and professional life is a secret weapon of some sort. Do you have any secret weapons? Are they personality quirks that may seem difficult on the one hand but bring you to a better place in the long run? Do these traits help you move forward or hold you back? Are you even aware that you have these traits? I think that being self-aware is the ticket to using your superpowers for good and not for evil.

 

 

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Pitching an Agent – Someone Please Read My Book!

The Opportunity: Pitching an Agent

All we writers want is that single opportunity to give our book to an agent. To have one person be intrigued enough to ask for a full manuscript.

It's the first step, to traditionally publishing a book. You don't interview agents and pick the one you want to work with. You pitch the book with a query letter, and a small sampling of the book, usually the first 50 pages and a short synopsis. If you're lucky, they'll respond and ask for the whole book.

I've sent cold queries. Lots and lots and lots of them. I've come close. I had an agent tell me she wanted to like the book but couldn't get into the first three chapters I was required to send with the query. I was crushed.

When you find yourself with an opportunity to pitch an agent, you take it. I've been set up with agents through friends. I've been unsuccessful. I've gone to book conferences where I've met agents who have asked for more.

It was my weekend activity. I had the chance to pitch my book to several agents, four to be exact. Now the first pitch when badly in that I was all over the board and in the end realized I had mislabeled my genre. Who knew I wasn't urban fantasy. I am indeed, contemporary fantasy.

But I digress.

The Stress of Pitching: The Reward

The reward is to give enough information about your book that someone will ask for more; more chapters and the ultimate goal, the entire manuscript.

So back to this weekend. I had a total of four pitches. The first not so good. However, the second, third and fourth went better than expected. All agents asked for me to send them a pitch. One wasn't specific on requirements, I looked them up online. One agent was specific, I sent her what was required; the first 50 pages of the book to the address she requested.

Now the last agent was unexpected. She asked for the synopsis, my author bio and wait for it…. the manuscript. The holy grail of pitching the book. An actual request for the actual book.

The Aftermath

In the aftermath of a successful pitch; there's a down side. The feelings that come with sending your book to the agent. After hitting send, the feeling of dread that you've sent the book off and it wasn't ready. It sucks. It needs more work. “What was I thinking?” The process is a painful one for writers. It's sending your baby off to be critiqued, to be hated, or hopefully to be loved.

Thankfully, I was fortunate. Three of the four requested additional info, from synopses, to the entire manuscript.

I just sent my baby off to the agent. I hope she likes it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Writing: The Process – It Goes Round and Round

Once upon a time…

I had a story to tell, my own story of writing. I sat down at the computer and began to type. My fingers flew over the keyboard and the words poured out of me. And in six weeks’ time, I had a book. The End.
Only, it wasn’t the end. It was really the beginning. After that first draft, I must have made 30 more sets of changes. I was a total novice to this process. I used an online self-publishing site to create my book from cover-to-cover. I self-published the book in 2010. The End.

But this wasn’t the end either. After working on Book Two of the series, I hired an editor who suggested that I re-work the first book and re-release it. It had been widely reviewed and very well received. After a blog tour, my book was #1 in occult fiction on Amazon. The End.

The Writing Process Sometimes Doesn't End

Only, once again, I wasn’t at the end. I released what was then second book in the series called “She Wulf.”* And the writing process completely stalled. I realized that changes needed to be made to the whole series. I decided to rewrite the ending of The Day of First Sun and finish up story lines such as what happened to all the dead bodies and discuss what happened to the zombies.

As I read through the book, I saw many different things I hadn't seen before. I added scenes, I added conflict, and in the end, I completely rewrote the last half of the book, putting Annie in some serious situations she'd have to work through.

I also added more changes on the advice of my editor. She told me to put in more of the “beginnings” of the relationships rather than having all established relationships in between the pages.

In the process, one seemingly minor change, set the whole tone of the book with the addition of a dead body outside the bar. This new beginning unveiled the theme of protecting the secret of magic from the non-magical world. Lastly, I added a whole new character to the story that will play a big role in the series someone wanting to expose her and magic.

The Final Product

All of these changes led to a fuller, richer story. At least I hope so. In the end, I'm guessing that there were about 40 or 50 different drafts of the book. The current published version of The Day of First Sun is very different from what I sat down to write in 2009. And the process has been very different from I expected it to be when I had the dream of writing a book. It takes flexibility and the willingness to open your heart to change. It takes the advice of experts and listening to the inner voice within yourself about direction of the story and conveying the truth about the characters that you create. And, of course, it takes patience. The End. (for now…)

* She Wulf was shelved for a time and will be rewritten to fit the new timeline as Book 4 in the series. A new Book 2 was then written and published, Black Market. Click here for more information on this exciting chapter in the Wizard Hall Chronicles.

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