After eight years, the time has finally come to get another writing buddy of the four-legged variety. It has been something I had put off for a while because I just wasn’t ready and I never thought I would get another dog after our last one, Dana, had to be put down.
We got Dana as a puppy, back in 1995 and after my son was born, they were great playmates. Both my children grew up with her and I wondered how they would take the news. Dana had become disorientated, blind, deaf, walked into walls and sometimes would fall off the back ramp. She was going downhill rapidly, and I had no wish to remember her that way. My son, being the eldest, took it pretty badly, which upset me even more. The night we put her down he wrote her an epitaph on a piece of paper: ‘3/1/11 Dana was and always has been a good FRIEND’.
It took all of us a long time to get over it (hence the eight years), and with an awful lot of pestering from our son, we have finally buckled.
We now have another dog of the same breed (a Pomeranian) and is a male puppy, which we have yet to name. The first few days had certainly been a bit chaotic, and in all honesty, I wondered if we had made the right decision. I can see the same or similar characteristics with this dog as Dana had so it may take me a bit longer to adjust as she was my baby (yeah, I’m a big softie). Perhaps once we get past the toilet training phrase, things might get better. 😉
My writing routine has certainly been put out of whack, but I think (I hope) things are beginning to settle down. As my kids are now older and this is really my son’s dog, it’s good to know that they can share some of the responsibilities.
If nothing else, it’s a good way for me to get some writing breaks. 😉
Do you have a pet as a writing buddy? Did it ever take you a while to adjust to a new pet?
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.
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?
Over the past few months, I have been hearing a lot from other authors about the need for a blog. Some believe that it’s just not worth it; that they are better off staying with social networks like Facebook, or that it takes too much time and effort, which would be better put towards writing. I understand their reasoning as I’ve been there before. I’ve been blogging on and off now for eight years and I’ve often wondered why I even bother. However, over that same length of time I have been reading popular blogs within the writing community and books on the subject. Recently I also attended some social media courses, including one on blogging.
Here are five reasons why I believe new writers should seriously consider blogging:-
1. Blogging Helps Create Your Own Community
A blog helps you to break out of your comfort zone and puts your writing ‘out there’. Readers of your blog, whether they are other writers, bloggers or future book readers become a part of your community. As a solitary pursuit, it’s comforting to know that you are communicating with others and forming friendships. Years ago, I joined a blog hop community that has since folded, but I have remained friends with people I met back then (some of whom have become my beta readers). More recently I have joined the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, another blog hop, and have made some new friends. Because you’ve created a community, when you are ready to publish your books, you’ll already have their support to cheer you on and help spread the word (and word of mouth sells books more than anything else).
2. A Blog Secures Your Place on the Internet
Don’t rely too much on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter when trying to secure your place on the internet. They have a tendency to change things and may even become obsolete in years to come. Having your own space on the internet is safer. Just like having your own website, you control your blog’s content, how it looks, etc. Claim your piece of internet real estate by buying your domain name. Not only does it help you get your name out there, it also proves you are serious when it comes to your writing future.
3. Blogging Allows You to Focus on Your Genre/Niche
I have found that as a fiction writer, blogging helps me to focus on my writing genre and can write blog posts accordingly. Blogging about your genre/niche helps to ‘test the waters’. Is your genre popular? Are your readers interested in your research? By focusing on your genre/niche, you are also focusing on your target audience and what appeals to them.
4. Blogging Helps You Get Used to Working to Deadlines
Whether you plan to publish traditionally or self-publish, you need to get used to working to deadlines. When you blog, you need to set yourself to a schedule and preferably it needs to be one which suits you (even once a week is acceptable). When you have subscribers, your readers rely on you to be consistent, so you need to be someone they can trust. Getting used to deadlines now will help you when the time comes to publish your first book. Google counts attendance, so the more you blog, the more your name gets out there.
5. Blogging Gets You Writing
My husband once told me blogging is not writing. I scratched my head on that one until I realised that what he meant to say was I always wanted to be a fiction writer, not a blogger. That’s true, however, blogging is still writing and it helps to test out our writing skills. Experimenting and trying different writing styles helps to make you a better writer. It may even lead to a different career path!
As you can see, creating a blog makes a lot of sense. The trouble I think some writers have is that they don’t know what to write about. I’ve had this problem too, but when you really stop to think about it, there are plenty of things to blog about (Anne R Allen has a helpful post to get you started). And when this happens, blogging becomes less of a chore and can be a lot of fun. And isn’t this what writing is all about? 🙂
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While we’re on the subject of blogging, I have been nominated for the Mystery Blogger Award. It took me completely by surprise, so many thanks goes to Ronel the Mythmaker for thinking that my blog is worthy enough! It’s been a long time since I’ve had a blog award, so I appreciate the recognition.
“Mystery Blogger Award” is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates, it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging, and they do it with so much love and passion.
I have also been nominated for The Versatile Blogger Award. To receive two awards in a matter of weeks comes as another pleasant surprise. It’s a recognition of all the work that goes into blogging (and yes, at times it can become consuming), so many thanks to Adam! It’s good to know that our blogging efforts are appreciated.
Honor those bloggers who bring something special to your life whether every day or only now and then.
Receiving these two awards goes to show that blogging is not always a complete waste of time. Others recognise our efforts and appreciate what we do. Blogging may not be for everyone and we don’t know until we try. But if we are consistent, make it fun and make friendships along the way, then blogging can be an enormous benefit to us as writers in the long run.
Do you blog and if so, what has been the best part of blogging for you? Do you dislike blogging and what don’t you like about it? Do you think blogging takes too much time away from our ‘real’ writing? How do you balance writing with blogging?
Some years ago I read a book that was popular at the time. It was not normally one that I would go out of my way to read, but there was so much talk about it, my curiosity eventually got the better of me and I borrowed the book from the library.
The book began alright and I gradually worked my way half way through it, when after a while, I felt the need to put it down. I began to wonder. ‘Is this it? How much longer does this go on for?’ The problem was – nothing was happening. There was no conflict, just people going about their business. I knew something had to happen eventually, so I picked it up again and persevered with it some more, but still, nothing was happening. There were no ‘blips’, just one long endless flat line. Boring! I didn’t waste any more time with it and returned it to the library.
A few years after this incident, another book came out that once again, people were raving about. My husband had become curious and eventually bought the book. He began telling me about the plot and thought the characters (made out to be intelligent people) must have been incredibly stupid if he could solve the problem before they could. Of-course the writer in me paid attention to that one straight away. My husband suggested I take a look at it. In all honesty, I could not make it past the first chapter. It was full of clichés and my writing brain couldn’t take any more. I began to wonder how this ever got published.
From these experiences I’ve come to learn that it is in our own best interests as writers to read widely. These two books may not have been ones I would usually read, but it made me aware of particular trends. It also gave me the courage to continue writing and work harder at my craft.
I quickly discovered that when a book doesn’t do it for me, to put it down and move on. Perhaps the real lesson here is that I shouldn’t fall for books that generate a lot of ‘hype’ and follow my instincts. 😉
How has being a writer changed you as a reader? Do you read books that ‘trend’? Is there a book that you’ve read recently that you just couldn’t finish? Do you see some published books as a way to improve your own writing?
Giving up work to write full-time I think is every writer’s dream come true. The thought of simply writing what we want to write in whatever hours that suits us, sounds appealing, but that’s far from the reality. I’ve found out the hard way that writing takes a lot more time and energy than what we’ve all been led to believe.
A few months after I got married, I handed in my notice to my employer of almost ten years. It was a decision that was not made lightly, but one I knew had to be made. I had tired of my job and as far as I could see there was no future for me there. It was time I moved on to something different.
Excited by the prospect of fulfilling the writing dream of writing full time, I gathered enough notebooks and pens to last me a good while. I spent time making sure the computer had enough space to accommodate my works, and living in the Blue Mountains at the time, I had an inspiring view of the Grose Valley from my balcony. I was in a perfect situation in which to write.
With so much time on my hands, I began to squander it. Projects I had eagerly begun were tossed aside for the next project, only to see the process repeated. After these ‘failures’, doubts began to fester until I dreaded starting anything new and spent less time writing altogether. It was about this time that my husband landed a job in the country, and we relocated, giving me the chance to have some casual work within the same department. Almost two years later, I became pregnant with my first child. Writing during this time was very much on the back-burner.
Looking back, I realise that although I wanted to write, that period in my life was not the time; clearly I was not ready. Also I did not have a plan. It may sound simple, but in my eagerness, I had no idea where I going. Before handing in my resignation, I should have put more thought into what exactly I was going to do, have some kind of back up plan, consider finances, etc.
These days, I’m working to two different pieces of advice: plan your work, work your plan and finish what you started. Planning ahead can save you a lot of time and effort. It also allows you to focus on the task ahead and gives you the confidence you need to reach those goals.
Have you ever stopped working to pursue writing full-time and it didn’t work out? Do you feel guilty when you squander your time rather than write? Do you have any writing projects that are incomplete?
Recently, I read an interesting article regarding the health risks of being a writer. Like any desk job, it is a helpful reminder of the need to get out of the chair and get active. Yes, this can be particularly difficult to do when working to a deadline, or being in the ‘zone’, whether it be writing or from studying, but getting away from your desk every 30 minutes is good for both your body and your mind.
The article was also timely, because only a few short weeks ago, I went on a diet. Winter is a difficult time in which to lose weight; your progress can be hampered by weather conditions. I also have a tendency to hibernate, be a couch potato and curl up with some good books. In the winter months, combining weight loss and writing can sometimes be difficult. It made me think of the similarities between the two and the different ways to get through it*.
1.It Takes Time: In a world where everyone wants instant results, it’s just not possible when it comes to both writing and losing weight. Years ago, I joined one of those famous weight loss programs and lost 10 kilos in 6 months. Great result, however, no sooner did I stop the program, but I gained all that weight again (and more). I learned the hard way that doesn’t work; instead slow progress is still progress. When it comes to both writing and weight loss, little things over time do add up.
2.You Need to Stick to a Routine: It may sound monotonous, but the only way to make any real progress is to have some kind of routine and stick to it. Writing and exercise every day should be as much of a habit as cleaning your teeth. It becomes so common place that when you don’t do it, you’ll notice. Once the habit is broken, it’s difficult to get back into the way of things again.
3.It’s Hard Work: Learn to push yourself. There will be days when you won’t feel up to it. Those days can be really hard because writing (and sometimes exercise) can be a solitary endeavour. Once, I was so tired from exercise the previous day, yet I forced myself to go out for another walk. After doing so, I came back refreshed and energised once more. Times like these, you have to learn to be your own motivator. In both writing and weight loss, you need to be in it for the long haul – it’s so easy to give up when you are not seeing instant results. That’s when you need to ask yourself how badly do you want it?
4.Sometimes You May Need Support: Have one or more people encourage you to reach your goals. Find someone who is prepared to undertake fitness with you, become a beta reader, accountability buddy, mentor, or perhaps join a group of like-minded people (a gym class, writers group). As keeping fit and writing requires determination, sometimes a little encouragement from others can go a long way.
5.You May Need to Try Something Different: Sometimes we can grow stale; things that used to work and give us results may not work anymore. We may grow tired of a particular genre or writing longer works. We may not see the same progress walking every day used to give us. We need to change – our mind/body demands it. Broaden your outlook and try something different; experiment. Step out of your comfort zone. It will give you renewed enthusiasm and a reason to keep you motivated.
Do you struggle with writing and/or exercise during the winter months? What routines do you have? Do you find it hard to keep fit/write on your own? Do you need to use a timer to get you out of the chair?
Last week I finally completed the first draft of my first novella (yay)! I’m still short of my intended word count, but I’ll leave that for later when the ‘real’ writing starts – that is, the dreaded edits and re-writes. 😉
In order to help with the plot for your novella, it’s handy to get some research done before you start. Even if you have some idea of facts for your novella, when you stew over your plot you may find you require a bit more information. You don’t want to leave a hole in your plot while you are writing, as this only prevents you from moving forward (note to self). By having some research up your sleeve before you start writing frees you up from having to do a lot of it when you’ve finished.
2. Do Up an Outline
Like short stories, in a novella, you need to concentrate on one plot with a limited cast of characters. I tend to sit on the fence a bit when it comes to being a plotter or a pantster. I usually do up rough outlines for my ‘novel’ ideas, whereas for short stories, there is no planning involved; I have an idea and run with it. In the case of writing a novella, I found that doing a rough outline helps. It allowed me to help focus on the relationship between the two main characters (in this case a husband and wife) and how they came to be in the situation the novella finds them in. Breaking the plot outline down into each scene also helps build tension and conflict.
3. Know How it Will End
As I was converting my bush poem into a novella, I already had my story’s ending. I found this quite helpful in telling the story, because from there I could work backwards by asking myself the ‘why’ questions, resulting in digging deeper into my characters personalities and their relationship with each other as well as helping with the plot. Because I knew the ending, this was one of the first scenes I actually wrote. This helped with the setting, giving me a better picture of what time of year the events took place and setting up the mood for the rest of the novella. Writing the last sentence also gave me an unexpected idea that could possibly be worked into the novella.
4. Don’t Think about Word Count
You need to make sure that both your characters and your plot are strong enough to last anywhere between 20,000 – 40,000 words. I’m used to writing short stories (the longest short story I have written so far is about 2,500 words), so stretching for a longer word limit appeared somewhat daunting. I was reaching a point where I became more focused on the word count than the actual story itself. My husband, being the helpful accountability buddy that he is, mentioned that the story itself should dictate how long it will be. It was at that point in time when I told myself to worry about that later in the re-writing/editing phase.
5. Go Where the Story Takes You
I know this flies in the face of what I mentioned before about doing an outline, but bear with me. There are occasions when stories can go off in a completely different direction than what we had originally planned. Sometimes characters can take a life of their own; you want a particular character to go one way, when they decide they want to go another. Like a determined child, no matter how much you try to rein them in, things don’t always work out the way you want it to. That’s when you need to give up and just go with it – you may find that the character knows better than you do. The same can also be said if a novella takes you along the path to an entirely different genre. Experiment, but above all, have fun!
Have you written a novella and what did you learn from the experience? Are you a plotter or a pantster? Do you worry about word count when you’re writing? Have you found your plot and/or characters take you on a completely different direction than what you had planned?
Recently I read a blog post that clearly struck a lot of writers. Being a solitary endeavour, when we start out as writers, we can have a tendency to wonder why we even bother. Does anyone really care what we do? Does anyone really read what we write anyway? We can ask ourselves these questions when we reach our lowest point, which is why it is so important to have someone – at least just one person who is prepared to encourage us to keep on going.
An accountability buddy can help keep you focused on your writing path and help steer you towards meeting your deadlines. They are also helpful in giving you the kick in the pants you need when you begin to slacken off, yet supportive in those times when you feel you’re not good enough. Being with a group of writers as accountability buddies can help energise you towards your goals as you may wish to emulate the success others may be having; proving that with hard work and determination, anything is possible.
I’m fortunate that my husband believes in me enough to be my accountability buddy. Yes, he does indeed give me the kick in the pants I deserve, insisting I avoid listening to the negativity of others. I still have a long way to go, but I know that without the support of that one particular person, my goal of becoming a published writer would never have come this far.
Do you have someone who encourages you to keep writing? Do you have a partner, friend or relative as an accountability buddy? Are you part of a supportive writing group?
Some years ago, I read a particular piece of writing advice that has always stuck in my mind. That advice was this – ‘Don’t write what you want to write. Write what a publisher wants to publish’. Yes, I understand that in order to get published, one has to keep an eye on the marketplace and what is currently being published, however, such advice can be overwhelming for the new and unpublished writer.
As unpublished writers, one needs to spend time concentrating on perfecting the craft, finding your writer’s voice and even experimenting with genres and different styles of writing. Like any art form, writing is no get rich quick scheme. You need to be writing for the love of it, and if you really enjoy doing it, then you are prepared to work at it. You are willing to place some of your own heart and soul into your writing and it is this very emotion in your stories that readers remember and are prepared to come back to. If you don’t feel passionate about what you’re writing, readers will notice that too.
Being creative is being free to express your artistic side, whether it be writing, art, music or film. We may talk about our fictional characters evolving; so too, should we allow ourselves as writers to evolve. Through experimentation, we may find ourselves going down totally different paths and therefore discovering something about ourselves. As long as you find something you are passionate about when it comes to writing, you will find your audience.
In an age where discoverability is important, do you think about your potential audience/readers when you write or do you prefer to concentrate on the writing process? Have you found a topic or genre that you feel passionate about?
For the past few months, I have been doing a fair amount of soul-searching; family health issues have made me question my own mortality and goals in life. This is why last month I wrote about perfectionism and self-criticism; criticism that also comes from those around us, which can sadly include family members. Such criticism leads to you doubting your own abilities, which therefore sets you up for failure.
So, what can we do to fix these self-doubts when it comes to our writing? I have come up with these five ideas:-
1. Become part of a writing community: Being with other like-minded people helps you understand that you’re not alone and they can help you get out of that rut that you find yourself in. Such communication helps to cheer you up, which can motivate you to keep moving forward in your writing goals.
2. Find some beta readers: Finding the right group of beta readers can take time, so you need to be clear in what you want from them. Letting other people read your work helps you to work on your strengths and weaknesses, as well as developing that thick skin.
3. Work to deadlines: If you don’t work to deadlines, you will never get that work finished; having no deadline helps you to procrastinate. If you don’t have a deadline, create your own and make sure that you will be held accountable when meeting that deadline (eg. sending work out to beta readers).
4. Blog: There are many benefits to writing a blog, but the main reasons for new writers to blog are that it gets you writing, you are sharing your writing with the world, creating a community and learning to work to a deadline. You are learning to put yourself ‘out there’ and making a name for yourself which is beneficial for when you publish your other works.
5. Sending work out: This is the big one, but if you really want to get published, you need to bite the bullet and just do it. If you have the support of a writing community and beta readers, this will help ease the fear and after sending your first couple of pieces out, it becomes a habit. As the saying goes, there is nothing to fear but fear itself.
Writing is a pursuit that not only should be habit forming, but one that needs an awful lot of perseverance. It takes time to make any real progress with this writing venture, so you cannot afford to waste that time on self-doubts and listening to those who insist on placing those doubts in your head in the first place (and yes, I’m taking my own advice 😉 ).
Are you too hard on yourself? Have you spent too long believing in the negative opinions of others? What do you do to overcome your self-doubts? Do you believe life is too short to worry what other people think? Have you had a health scare that made you question your own mortality?