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Posts Tagged ‘writing career’

When you want to be a career author you can’t just write when the muse is singing. Sometimes you do need a little butt glue to keep you from wandering around doing everything but writing. That’s true… except when it isn’t.

Is butt glue always necessary?

Today I learned a very interesting thing about my writing needs. I’ve recently begun putting Larry Brooks‘ instructions on Story Engineering to good use re-plotting my novel Apprentice Cat, which has been floundering for some time now.

I’ve done everything from conceptualizing to character worksheets. Today was the first full day I’ve been able to spend creating the story structure and it was a revelation in how I develop plot.

According to Larry, there are only 60 to 90 scenes in any given novel, which are broken into four parts. I decided to put together an excel worksheet with the four major plot points and divide the rest of the necessary scenes between them. That worked fine until I began having problems coming up with scene ideas.

I tried applying butt glue, but it only made me itch.

My poor brain seemed to freeze. Every character had something he or she needed me to write at that very moment. It was like being in a room full of screaming pre-schoolers all wanting my attention at once. All I could think of was how I knew I needed to be creating these scenes, but they weren’t materializing.

That’s when I realized I needed to do something un-writerly, something physical like cleaning up the mess my toddler had made of my living room or doing dishes or anything. Butt glue was the last thing I needed.

I followed my instincts to a better story.

As soon as I stopped thinking about how much I needed to write and the self-imposed deadline I was on for finishing my plot outline, the scenes started appearing. I was hearing snippets of conversation and seeing my characters doing things I hadn’t even considered.

When a scene popped into my head, I quickly went back to my laptop and slotted it into the worksheet. If nothing else came to mind within a couple of minutes, I went back to doing whatever I was doing before. Worked great and I’m now 2/3 done with the outline. Yeah!

Butt glue is great when we’re just procrastinating, but it can get in the way of the creative process if our creative selves become paralyzed and overwhelmed by the blank page.

I’m curious to know, have any of you had the same thing happen? When do you find you need to apply butt glue? When has it hampered your creative flow?

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I had the loveliest, un-writerly night last night.

I didn’t read a book on Craft. I didn’t read any blogs about writing. I didn’t read a book or watch a movie in order to dissect it. I didn’t even read my email. I wasn’t waiting for my Muse, nor was I adhering butt glue in order to get just a little more done on my work in progress. In fact, I didn’t even think about my WIP at all.

So, does that make me an unprofessional slacker?

Absolutely not. The simple truth is I needed a break from the stress of being a writer. I certainly could have used last weekend’s four-day family bonanza as an excuse to burn the midnight oil, but I didn’t. I enjoyed my time with my family, but it wasn’t a totally stress-free, don’t think about writing weekend.

Sometimes we just need to take a break, not think about our careers or anything remotely related to writing.

If you’re like me, you eat-sleep-breath writing anyway, so taking a break from your passion may mean being firm with yourself to not do anything that could turn into a lesson.

Instead, find something to enjoy that won’t feed your natural addiction.

      • Don’t read a book just for fun, because you won’t be able to stop yourself from dissecting it.
      • Don’t watch a good movie, because, again, you’ll want to take it apart to see how it works.
      • Don’t peruse the internet, because you’ll invariably end up on yet another writer’s blog you just can’t pass up.


That leaves what?

Play a game. Listen to music. Watch your favorite reality show for four hours straight. Whatever you can think of to do that has nothing to do with writing.

Is it easy? No way. Is it necessary? Yes, because you’re brain needs rest.

Besides, you can always jump right back into it tomorrow.

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This week I found myself having nightmares about conspiracies and daydreaming about a long vacation at some remote beach. That’s when I realized my life was once again out of balance.

Who among us hasn’t felt like they were running uphill at full speed for days on end? It’s a common experience, especially if you’re trying to balance more than just a small family and your writing career. For most of us we’re balancing a day job, family (and all those household things that go with it), volunteer activities and a host of other responsibilities as well as launching (or maintaining) a writing career.

Yet even in the midst of all those responsibilities, and maybe even because we have them, it is important to find a balance between them and our peace of mind. The following 5 links can help you achieve a better balance.

  1. Downshifting: The First Day of the Rest of My Life, by J.D. Roth: J.D. shares his personal journey from being a regular 9-to-5 Joe with huge debt and lots of wasted time to being a problogger with finances in great shape and no time to finding a balance between his new self-employed status and having time to do nothing.
  2. 10 tips on leading a balanced life, by Allen Galbraith: Although this post is written for the 9-to-5 crowd and those self-employed in businesses other than writing, there are some helpful tips nonetheless.
  3. 5 Tips for Better Work-Life Balance, by Jen Uscher and Miranda Hitti: These tips are more generalized (and also more focussed on 9-to5ers) but, again, some of them are helpful, especially when it comes to family and household responsibilities.
  4. WE ARE NOT ALONE: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, by Kristen Lamb: This book is specifically for writers and is a great tool for learning how to manage marketing via social media so that it doesn’t become a time suck.
  5. Sensitive (Mental) Health: HSPs and Burnout by Elaine Aron: This very short article is specifically for highly sensitive people, though I think some of it applies to non-hsps as well.

Balance is attainable, even if for a brief period. What are some tips you’ve discovered on maintaining a balance between your writing career and the rest of your life?

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I love my mother. She’s one of my biggest cheerleaders (and marketers! :D) and a very good proofreader. She loves just about everything I write, which makes storytelling fun because I know someone will enjoy it. She’s also pretty good at giving me honest feed back, but let’s face it… she’s my mother. Of course she’s going to like what I write. She’s great for my ego, but not necessarily a good measuring tool when it comes to my WIPs being something anyone else would want to read.

On the other hand, my husband, who has read everything from the latest Star Wars series to Les Miserables by Victor Hugo to The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson, has usually been ho hum about my stories. What I write isn’t what he’s interested in, though he’s kind enough to read it if I ask. I know the best I’m likely to get is a “surprisingly not bad,” which is basically the same as “don’t call us we’ll call you.”

Imagine my surprise when I let him read some of my unfinished, unedited WIP and he begged for the as-yet-unwritten next chapter. To me, that means I’ve got something worth pursuing.

When we look for beta readers, we often go after those who read our genre and ignore everyone else. However, by doing that we miss a fantastic way to measure our product’s appeal to a larger audience.

Sure, most of the time the response will be “surprisingly not bad” (unless the person doesn’t care about your feelings, then it might be a more… honest… response), but there is always the possibility that person will love what we’ve written. It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask and even if they don’t enjoy the work, they may point out problems that could turn off readers we are targeting.

Knowing I have at least two people impatiently waiting for me to finish my current WIP makes me want to work harder because where there’s two there’s bound to be more.

What are some of your experiences with beta readers?

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The road to publication is filled with pain and tears… bloodshed… mayhem…. I’m being melodramatic here. Of course, that could just be that I’ve recently read several posts about how painful the publication process can be and how difficult it is to write good fiction. Here’s a small sampling:


“This is literally years of work you’re seeing. And hours and hours of work each day. The amount of time and energy I put into marketing is exhausting. I am continuously overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do that isn’t writing a book. I hardly have time to write anymore, which sucks and terrifies me.” — Amanda Hocking’s post Some Things That Need to Be Said


“When it comes to traditional publication, at times, it may feel like the journey is filled with one root canal and subsequent infection after another. We know what’s coming—the long waits, the rejections, the stinging feedback. We’ve heard others talk about it, we brace ourselves for it, but then when it comes we’re unprepared for how much it really hurts.” — Jody Hedlund’s post Enduring the Pain in the Quest for Publication


“I’ve been blogging for a little over three years. I’ve been writing fiction since … well, pretty much since I could write. My blog posts are read by thousands of people. Only 1% of the fiction I’ve ever written has been published. Fiction is incredibly hard to do well.” — Ali Luke’s post Why Fiction is So Hard to Write



Admittedly, I’m picking on these blogger/authors, but it’s only because these posts spotlight the prevailing problem I’m seeing amongst writers, both new and not-so-new. We’ve picked up the bad habit of looking at the challenges, the hardships, and forgetting the real reason behind why we write. Most of us write because we can’t stop writing. We may ask, “Is it time to just give it up?” as JM Tohlin did before finally publishing The Great Lenore, but when it comes down to brass tacks we simply are unable to.

There’s about as much choice in sitting down to craft a story as there is in breathing.

The fact is, yes, getting published traditionally is hard and being self-published can mean hard work (unless you’re JA Konrath). But here’s another fact: dwelling on how hard it is doesn’t get the story written. It’s time we dragged ourselves out of the pit of despair, step down from our high horses, and get to work.

So in the spirit of moving forward, here’s 4 great links to help get you in the groove:

  1. Opportunity Comes in Overalls by Kristen Lamb: She’s a social media expert with a sharp sense of humor who seems to know just when we need a kick in the pants and that’s exactly what she gives us in this post.

  2. A Perfectionist’s Guide to Editing: 4 Stages by Jami Gold: Jami’s a paranormal author on a deadline battling the imp of perfection, something many of us are doing, and gives us 4 great ways to ignore and use our inner perfectionist.

  3. Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris: This book is a plotter’s dream (and can help pantser’s too 😉 ) as it gives easy to use steps in developing a novel from the first spark of an idea to the finished product.

  4. Hooked by Les Edgerton: This book is the simplest guide I’ve found thus far on how to fashion a beginning that’ll keep ’em reading to the end.



What other ways have you found to pick yourself up and find that forward momentum you lost?

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If you’re a highly sensitive person like me, then you’ll understand how stressful marketing yourself, your product or your business can be. If you aren’t an HSP, then today’s marketing landscape with its hurry, scurry push in social media probably doesn’t bother you. You may, in fact, thrive on the pressure, the excitement. The downside to that is that mistakes can be made at a faster rate and be more challenging to correct.

It’s also true that HSPs will suffer more stress and anxiety if we jump into all of the things we’re told we should be doing before we take the time to fully plan where we want to end up or if we don’t pace ourselves the way we need to — at a slower rate than the rest of the world. Regardless of whether you’re thinking about blogging or using Twitter or Facebook or any other social media, as an HSP it is imperative to think it through and take your time.

I’m currently working my way through Kristen Lamb’s WE ARE NOT ALONE: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, which I highly recommend, but I have to continuously remind myself that I am not in a race. As Kristen has pointed out in previous blog posts, writing is more of a marathon than a sprint. Building an author platform goes right along with that. I may not be able to fit in 15 minutes each for Facebook, Twitter and MySpace (or whatever other social media outlet I’ve chosen) everyday, but I can certainly spend that much time on one per day, blog at least once per week and still have time left to work on my “masterpiece”.

Jumping into anything before you’re truly ready, or even mostly ready, gives a higher possibility of failure. It also means a greater possibility of losing your passion to write altogether. Still, it’s very difficult to reign in our enthusiasm, especially if we’re newer to the process. As Jody Hedlund says in her post The Pressure To Jump In Too Soon, “It’s hard enough to have patience. Therefore, when we get involved in the cyber writing world, eventually, we might begin to feel left behind or the pressure to keep up with what others are doing—even if we’re right where we need to be.”

Jody suggests 5 things newer writers can do to keep those feelings of pressure to a minimum, which I think really speak to HSPs:

  1. Concentrate on your writing because that is what will sell.

  2. You can put aside the book you’ve written without editing it. Consider it a project to revisit later when you’ve had more experience.

  3. If your story isn’t working or you’ve lost the passion for a project, it’s okay to put it away unfinished.

  4. Take the time to try out other genres. You may find your best writing isn’t in the genre you thought it was.

  5. Most importantly, spend less time thinking about what everyone else is doing and more time being you. As an HSP you know you’re unique. Capitalize on it.

It’s not the popular choice to take the slow lane when trying to forge ahead in a writing career, but for highly sensitive people it can be the best way. What other ways have you discovered to keep your career moving ahead while maintaining the balance you need as an HSP?

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