I've always wanted to be a writer. It started with the very vivid memories of reading my first Nancy Drew mystery. I can almost touch those memories, the emotions of being engrossed in the story, and being unable to wait for the next episode.
I remember the joy of getting my first library card, of riding my bicycle to the library, my book list in my pocket as I searched for the next edition that I hadn't read yet.
The library was place you could travel when you couldn't travel in your real life.
I always had books. And I always wanted to be a writer.
I was that kid who wrote a four page story when my classmates wrote one page. I was that kid who took all English classes my senior year of school. I was that kid who had an active imagination, who could scare myself or make myself laugh and I always wanted to be a writer.
Somewhere along the path, I stopped writing stories, my goal became plan B. I would find a writing position at some company until I could concentrate on plan A.
I got married. I struggled to find a job. I struggled to have children. My children have issues. And one day I realized, that I forgot I had always dreamed of being a writer. That day I remembered.
It has been a combination of soaring to the most confident you could be to falling to the lowest you could feel. I have had good days, I have had bad days where I could barely speak without crying. I have decided to quit.
And yet, I'm like a gambler who keeps saying, one more, one more hand, one more pull of the slot handle. Just one more. For me it's just one more ad, one more post, another marketing meeting, one more edit. Maybe then it will all come together.
It hasn't yet.
I've been trying to find a job because the realization that this is something I can do for a living quickly fades away. There aren't many sales, and the cost of publishing a book and marketing it, frankly is a lot.
Finding a job isn't easy, and not just because the pandemic is sweeping across the planet, but because, I've got 20 years of writing experience but it just isn't enough. There are holes in my background, I was a stay at home mom on and off for years. The jobs I had were smaller scale. Or maybe I just don't know how to best sell myself.
It doesn't matter much as I sit in a new crossroads, as I begin to think of the rest of my life in terms of what will make me happy, what I need to do to have a satisfying career, and home life. I find myself needing to quit being a writing hobbyist. Someone who's just writing with no financial gain. And yet, I haven't been able to quit.
I have ideas. I'm not sure if I'm up to the challenge. What I do know is this, you cannot succeed if you don't try. And you can't succeed if you don't put your heart and soul into something. Maybe you can try something new.
I should quit trying to write for a living and write for me. But in this job market at this time, I'm finding that it really doesn't matter. I write because it makes me happy. I'm getting better at it. It's the only way I know. One foot in front of the other and keep moving.
For me, I hope one day, I have all that I've ever dreamt about. One day. Keep fighting. Stay safe and stay home.
Sheryl's books: The Day of First Sun, Black Market, Wizard War, Prophecy can be found on Amazon. The series finale, The Rise of the Black Market, comes out July, 2020.Continue reading
I had every intention of using my marketing plan this year. I had the plan down to weeks. I had a theme for each month, I had topics determined and I knew what I'd be writing in each blog for the year. Really, I did.
But stuff happens and it's the last day of March and I didn't follow any of it. Nothing. No themes, no blogs, and my advertising went out the window.
And I just filled out my expenses for last year and I'm having a minor heart attack.
You see, I've never really been good at making a plan and executing it the way I planned. It's actually how I write books. I've mentioned it here several times; I'm a pantser not a plotter, I write by the seat of my pants rather than plot out my books. I tried, really I did, but planning has a way of binding me, I lose creativity, my freedom. And in that it takes me longer to write a book. There are down sides you see.
My marketing seems to work the same way. Things happen, I read something on line and decide I should write about it, or advertise that way, or rewrite my descriptions, change my keywords. You get the idea.
I do worry as I pulled together all of my expenses for 2018 that I really need to keep with a plan or I need to quit this writing thing all together and do something else. Spending way more than I should have makes you rethink a lot of stuff.
And that's the point of the marketing plan.
But it still didn't work.
What I really learned is this, I personally love my books, the characters I've lived with for a decade. But that doesn't mean the stories are right for the market. I missed an essential piece of this, what would people like to read.
I've also learned to cut back on the things that do me no good. The stuff that makes other people rich on my writing career.
No more buying other people's books. There's plenty of free advice out there if you know where to look.
I'm just going to write what I love, and slowly, organically pass it around. I'm going back to comic cons where I know there are fans. I'm starting to connect with people on line, who like the same things I do. Just simple statements, simply retweeting, liking , sharing. Nothing fancy.
It's the problem of the writer's journey. How do we find the audience who will like what we write. I can't quit, it's something that's been a part of me for so long. All I can do, is make a plan and this time stick to it.
I don't throw the word Confidence around lightly. It is my biggest foe, my biggest hope. I lack it most of the time, but when I am a confident writer, employee, mother, I'm unstoppable.
Confidence is the writer's biggest asset, it gives you the strength to endure low sales, or none at all, and helps you to ignore the bad reviews that inevitably will come.
I've been doing the things I should have been doing 10 years ago, but have only begun doing. Concentrating on ads, blogs, creating relationships, researching the genre, author branding, updating the website.
Why did I wait? Lack of knowledge, lack of confidence, mostly the reasons I didn't start writing until I was 40.
It's been a tough few weeks. I always heard, write the books you want to read. So I did. But I didn't research the genre I write in and realized, my books are niche, and I'm not finding much similarities in other books out there.
I'm in a position now that I'm very discouraged, after misjudging my genre. It's time to fall back, review the marketing plans, shake things up.
But it's more than that. It's the idea that it might be the time to quit, time to let mediocrity envelop me, get a 9-5 job and move on.
But I can't.
It's all I knew, all I ever wanted to be. I gain so much confidence when I write, when I create a complex, full story with great characters in all of their glory and their low points. When the books come together as a complete story, it's a high like nothing I've ever experienced. It's where my confidence comes from.
I was born to create and be this. As I write my final book of The Wizard Hall Chronicles, I find myself to be sad that it will be over, glad that I can start completely fresh with something else. But what I really see, is this; Annie is me and I am her and what I'm experiencing now is what she is experiencing.
Changes are coming for both her and I and we are struggling to work through challenges. It takes me longer to work through plot points because this time, I'm not just working things out for Annie, I'm doing it for me to.
It's never as bad as we think or it's much worse than we know. I'm pushing myself more, more words per day, more ads, more time on social media. More, more, more, all in the hopes that I can move this crazy train forward and achieve something more than mediocrity.
I supposed that's the lesson here. Sometimes the confidence wanes and sometimes we have to push ourselves beyond that low point and move forward. We only get to where we are going if we keep moving forward.
As long as I remember that, there will never be room to quit.
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.
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.
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.
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.Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here's to the next stage in my writing career!Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
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.Continue reading
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 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.
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.
The greatest boost of confidence that I have ever experienced was writing my first book. The greatest loss of confidence started when I tried to sell the book.
Being confident is like riding a roller coaster. There are so many highs and lows, twists and turns, and big-ass drop that turns your stomach as you purse your lips to hold back the vomit.
Trying to sell books is that same roller coaster. There's tiny bits of good luck and lots of down turns-Much frustration and then the high when the story comes together in a way you did not predict when you first started writing the book.
I'm not the only one who struggles to remain confident. Life gets in the way, we all have problems, situations that are so overwhelming, all of this can attack our total being.
That's where I am right now. Honestly, my confidence, at this moment is low, I feel as though I'm the worst writer ever, not only as a fiction writer but as a technical writer. I sometimes feel as though I can't string words together to form a complete sentence.
I struggle to find something to change the tide of emotion, that one thing to make that upturn. Basically, I am looking for the path that leads me to a place where readers find me and read my books and get enjoyment from the story.
Though there's been some positive movement, there's been much disappointment. So much so, I've been researching options in which to find that boost, that change, a way out of this perpetual rut I find myself in.
At first I thought I'd, try some self-help books. I'm not great at self-help books. They may inspire for a moment, but I can't carry it through to a conclusion. They just don't get me.
Next I've opened myself to new experiences. This one is a work in progress. I've joined writer's groups. And as my schedule opens up, I plan on participating and trying to glean something from the experience. I hope this will finally convince me I'm actually a writer. If I keep telling myself that, maybe one day I'll believe it.
As I open to new experiences, I need to remember to acknowledge those moments. Single moments in which I feel confidence. When I feel fierce and indestructible. When I look in the mirror and confidence radiates from my face, in my clothes, in my psyche, there's no more brushing it off as if it doesn't matter. It's time to work toward the greater good. The more I tell myself I'm confident, the more I'll start to believe it.
I keep plugging along because I so believe in myself at times, regardless of the underestimation that comes my way. You can't win, if you don't play; you can't succeed, if you don't try. I can because I do. Join me on the journey, because someday is almost here.Continue reading