Writing · Writing Process

When Self-Doubt Kills Productivity.

Recently, I’d been struck with a wave of self-doubt. As I worked on my re-writes, it began as a trickle; my first six chapters were a complete mess and felt I couldn’t continue until they were fixed. That was my internal editor speaking to me and as they kicked in; the self-doubt began to swirl around me until it stopped me in my tracks. I was doing nothing more than going around in circles. It was then that I stepped away from the keyboard.

It was also around this time that I was reading up on self-publishing. This coincided with reading about the odds of author success. I always knew that going down the road to self-publishing was not going to be easy, but I guess the reality of it all really hit home.

I’d been dealt a blow from the stick of truth (thanks South Park 😉 )!

The reality was that when it came to these re-writes, once again, I was stalling. I was using perfectionism as a crutch; going back over something I had already covered was not moving me forward and getting the work done. Editing prematurely was hampering my efforts. My self-doubt had turned into perfectionism and they fed into each other.

After taking some time away to gather my thoughts, I was reminded that when it comes to writing professionally, it is a marathon, not a sprint. We just have to keep on going, one small step at a time. Those moments when we encounter self-doubt, get rejections, when we’re told we’re not good enough or to get a ‘real job’, if we really want to succeed as writers, we have to keep going. Self-doubt will always hamper our progress and it is at these times that determination and perseverance will be our greatest asset.

The trouble with going over the same ground, I was too busy thinking of the end result, rather than enjoying the journey. I was considering the big picture, and instead needed to concentrate on what I can control (James Scott Bell has a helpful post on what to expect from your first novel). Thinking of my writing as a ‘business’, what I really need to focus on right now is my product; my writing (of-course, the key word there being focus). The best way to do that is to just keep writing my stories and focus on my craft; everything else is secondary.

It’s easy to let disappointments and doubts get the better of us, but by focusing on our goals and being held accountable, either through a writing buddy or a group, we can continue the momentum to keep moving forward.

Do you ever feel the need to edit before you finish a writing project? What things do you do to help you move forward and finish? Do you tend to focus on the end result rather than just enjoying the journey?

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Writing · Writing Process

Writing in More than One Genre.

Before the end of last year, I began to consider writing in a different genre. I think it’s good for writers to experiment and find out what works and what doesn’t. It takes us out of our ‘comfort zones’ and gives that elusive muse plenty to work with. For quite some time writing a romance remained in the back of my mind and for someone that doesn’t always write happy endings, the thought had become quite a challenge.

I always envied those authors that chose one particular genre and stuck with it. My muse would jump from one idea to another, leaving me wondering what genre I actually wrote in and therefore making it difficult to ‘brand’ myself on social media.

More recently, though, the more I looked into my chosen genres, the more I realised that they all kind of blend in together. As I mainly write paranormal suspense, at least romance can always be included. My current work in progress is the ‘novel’ I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2015 and a romantic element plays a major role. Yes, it’s a mess, but I am having fun with it and could well be the longest thing I have written so far.

Recently I read a post from Cait Reynolds on Kristen Lamb’s blog regarding genre, which posed some interesting issues. If you haven’t already read it, it’s well worth a look. The main takeaway regarding genres is this – pick a genre and stick with it for about three years and keep other genres to a minimum. For someone who has had issues with plot bunnies for many years, this became a bit of a wake-up call.

Writing can be fun, especially if we give our muse free rein, which is great for those of us who write as a hobby or are just starting out. The thing is, though, if we are seriously considering publication, we may need to focus on one genre for a while (preferably the one that we get the most pleasure in). This allows us time to establish a readership.

Writing in one genre shouldn’t stop our muse completely; we just need to keep our ideas in different genres on the back burner for a little while before we can take our readers along for the ride.

Do you agree with sticking with one genre before trying something else? Do you struggle to control your plot bunnies? Have you published in different genres and how has that worked for you? If you write in more than one genre, are they similar genres or completely different?

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This Writer's Life · Writing

What Kind of Writer Do You Want to Be?

Many years ago, before the age of the internet, I was a great reader. As a writer, I used to envy particular authors the amount of books they had published. I would always make it a habit to look at the list of books a particular author had produced and whenever I saw a long list, I couldn’t help but envy them their output. That was the kind of writer I wanted to be.

These days, I would still love to be a prolific writer, but recently as I have taken a step back from social media, I have begun to look at things a bit differently. There is a life outside of writing; we have other interests, perhaps employment and a family and household to take care of. There is a lot of talk from ‘experts’ of what we writers should and shouldn’t do; that the only way to be successful is to keep on running on that hamster wheel.

Yes, there is a lot of good information out there; however, we also need to be aware of what kind of writers we really are. The majority of the conversation tends to be on writing novels, but not everyone can write one. A few years back I read a blog post from an indie author that basically said that writing short stories may be ‘fun’ but they are no way to build a ‘successful’ writing career. Now I get where this author was coming from, but this statement still managed to irk me. Who is to say that a short story writer cannot be successful? Besides, everyone’s idea of success is different, just like we are. What works for one person does not necessarily mean it will work for another.

The disadvantage to the internet is that there can be too much information out there, which is why it is important to take a step back occasionally. I was always one to devour blog posts from other writers, yet I felt the need to cut down on that too. It would appear I am not the only one feeling like my head is spinning from all that noise. Recently, author and blogger Kristen Lamb wrote a blog post stating that in this new age of publishing we have options – that it’s okay to take our time.

James Scott Bell had this to say recently on how to avoid burnout:-

The pressure comes when the writer who wants to make good dough at this thing (even a living) realizes that the only “formula” is to keep producing quality work at a steady pace. Notice that word, steady. I believe this is the key to avoiding writer burnout. Every writer has a sweet spot where production meets life and stays on its side of the fence.

I’ve found that spending less time on social media has been liberating and is gradually renewing my love for writing. As I’m unpublished, I have found social media has been great for networking and blogging has improved my writing skills, but now it’s time to take a step back and really focus on my stories. I want to go back to basics and do some courses (yes, I’m looking at you James Patterson) and brush up on my craft. As much as I’ve always wanted to be a prolific writer, I have also wanted my writing to be quality. As Mr Bell says, quality work at a steady pace.

Some authors may only produce one book or half a dozen in their lifetime, but their stories can create an impact upon their readers for generations to come (Jane Austen, the Brontes and Harper Lee to name a few).

If I could have a loyal fan base that felt that my writing was worth the wait, I’ll be a very happy writer. Anything else would be a bonus. 😉

Are you frustrated with all the advice out there? What kind of writer do you want to be? Have you felt the need to take a step back from the internet? What is your idea of success? Have you suffered from burnout?

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This Writer's Life · Up Close & Personal · Writing

The Fear of Failure.

Before I begin with this post, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Here’s hoping it will turn out to be a happy, healthy and prosperous one for all of us!

Recently I read a blog post by Kristen Lamb on the 5 Areas We Need Permission for Success. One of those was to allow ourselves the permission to fail. This is a big one as I believe that for me at least, this one area works like a domino affect as it creates all the others that she mentions.

Being the youngest of three daughters, I was labelled ‘different’ from an early age. I was imaginative, observant and a bit of a loner. The quiet one, or ‘shy’ as some would call it. My mother would call me ‘different’ as if it was a bad thing (yeah, still does). It’s as if there is something wrong with me. I always had the feeling that I didn’t quite fit in because I’d be compared to my sisters. When I started high school, teachers also started comparing me to my elder sisters, but it didn’t last long; I was ‘different’. There was always a level of high expectation. If I didn’t meet them, I was a ‘failure’, causing low self-esteem. I was afraid to try new things.

This fear of failure has resulted in being a perfectionist. I grew up with the belief that everything had to be perfect the first time around. It has become ingrained. During my University studies I would stall at starting any assignments which were all essays. The thought of writing something made me anxious, but I had a deadline to meet and once I began writing, I was fine. It’s the same these days when it comes to writing, only I don’t have any deadlines. Right now, I’m doing this for me. Perfectionism is the worst form of procrastination there is as I use different things to distract me; go on social media, play on the ipad, listen to podcasts, watch Netflix (yeah, I think you get the picture). I fail to try because I don’t want to fail.

The thing is though failure can be good for us. We learn what our strengths and weaknesses are. We learn through our mistakes and in order to make ourselves better, we work on them. We put in the hard yards until we are satisfied with the results. There can be times when mistakes can even take us down paths we never would have tried otherwise. Without making the effort to try, we’ll never know what we are capable of. We may live the rest of our lives with regrets.

I believe that I will be taking the path to self-publishing. That now is my biggest challenge. In all honesty just the very thought of it frightens the living daylights out of me. It is revealing myself to the world, revealing what has been private for so many years. Just writing this post is a frightening prospect, but this is why blogging has been such an enormous help. If I fail, then at least I know I’ve tried. And that’s all anyone can really ask for.

Are you afraid of failure? Has the thought of failure made you a perfectionist? Do you plan to step out of your comfort zone and do something different in 2018?

Side Note: Just a reminder that in 2018, I’ll be spending less time on social media and more time writing. I will continue to blog, although there may be times when my posts may become somewhat erratic, but it’s all in a good cause, so stick with me (pretty please). 😉

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This Writer's Life · Writing

Making Plans for the New Year.

It’s difficult to believe that it’s that time of year again. Christmas is almost upon us; it happened so fast in fact, that this year I was caught completely unaware. It was a good thing then that I had already begun to make plans as far as writing is concerned.

Looking back over 2017, this has been quite a personal journey for me. I have high hopes for 2018 and whether I accomplish all that I intend to remains to be seen, however, I have come to believe that small progress is still progress.

I seem to have become a slave to social media and the internet. I tend to spend a lot of time, if not on it, then thinking about it. Listening to all the advice of ‘experts’ telling us what we need to do makes one want to tear one’s hair out. My husband tells me to take these people’s advice with a grain of salt. Just go with your gut and do what works for you. I have seen other people lately take a back seat to social media and prioritise their writing, their families and their health. This will also be my plan for the coming year. I will continue to blog and be involved in other social media, but not quite so much.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Christmas and enjoy your holidays. Thank you so much for reading and being a part of the blogging community. You guys make this all worthwhile!

I look forward to seeing you all again in the New Year. Let’s make it a good one! 🙂

What are your plans for 2018? Do you hope to have more time to write? Will you also be spending less time on the internet in the new year?

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Writing · Writing Process

Writing In a Different Genre.

As an unpublished writer, I have the luxury of experimenting with what I write and how I write it. Recently one morning I woke up with an idea for a story title. I thought it sounded good – if I wrote in that particular genre. And therein lay the problem. Was my subconscious mind trying to tell me something?

For years I have struggled with this. No, I do not write romance, simply because I do not always like to see a happy ending. And right there are two important words – not always. So, sometimes I do like to see happy ever afters. In my teenage years I devoured Sweet Dreams Romance books, was introduced by a friend to Mills & Boon and enjoyed reading Jane Austen so much, back then I wanted to write just like her (yes, seriously). And just for balance I also read a lot of Stephen King (can you see my dilemma now?) 😉 This is why I believed my writing would be more suitable to women’s fiction, and my longest short story so far reflects that as there is no happy ending.

After I left High School, I wrote to Mills & Boon and received submission guidelines and a tape on how to write for them. Try as I might, I just couldn’t do it. I believed I could not write a romance, but perhaps the real problem for me was that they were too formulaic.

Perhaps, also, my greatest resistance to writing a romance is because I always looked at it in terms of the novel. As I enjoy writing in the shorter form and thanks to self-publishing, lately I have some ideas for romances of short story/novella length. It is a starting point to stepping out of my comfort zone and experimenting at the same time. Who knows if it will lead to something or not, but clearly such thoughts have remained repressed for some time. It just needed a little push. 😉

Do you write in different genres? Have you resisted writing a particular genre or are you happy to experiment? Has your subconscious told you something about your own writing and have you acted upon it?

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This Writer's Life · Writing

What Would You Do Differently in 2017?

Looking back, 2017 has been quite a personal journey for me. It began with an operation that helped with a long-standing medical condition. Recovery took longer than I expected, but in the end, the result was well worth it. I went on a diet, lost a few kilos and still have a long way to go to reach my ideal goal, but I’ll get there! In more recent months, I have reached a milestone birthday, saw my favourite band as well as discovering that I may be a ‘sensitive’ and I’m keen to find out more about such things. 2017 was also the year when I came to the conclusion that I needed a change in direction when it comes to writing and will be going down the path of self-publishing.

In 2017, I did a couple of courses, found some helpful beta readers, submitted stories to competitions and tried my hand at writing a novella only for it to turn out to be a long short story (the longest I’ve ever written). I also have a clearer picture of my genre.

So what will I do differently?

Write a heck of lot more than what I have been doing, that’s for sure! Unfortunately there are a couple of things that continually get in the way. One is called life, the other is time management. As a writer who has a family and household to maintain, there isn’t much I can do about the first one, but the other I can control. I’ve struggled with time management for a while now and I know that if I really want to get anywhere as a writer, especially on the self-publishing route, I have to lift my game and make some big changes.

One of those changes will be cutting back on time spent on the internet. Over the past few years I have become a political tragic (sad, I know), but with two teenage kids, I do worry about their future and that of the planet. Also, with social media lately, I have become a bit sporadic, so I have at least started to cut back on that and may need to start using a timer for this as well as my writing. Of-course I will continue to blog – it is still writing after all! 😉

Breaking some of those old habits is not going to be easy, but I enjoy the sense of accomplishment when I have reached one of my goals; and for me right now, the biggest goal of all is publication.

As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently? Have you learnt something about yourself this year? Do you find yourself struggling with time management? What habits have you had to break to get more writing done?

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