Life Lessons, This Writer's Life, Up Close & Personal, Writing

The Writing Journey: Persistence Matters.

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In November of 2019, I self-published my first short story. Since then, I have published two more short stories and recently published my first novella, the first in a series. I have learned a few things along the way, and being an author is an occupation where you are always learning. But I think one of the biggest things I’ve learnt is that indie publishing is not for the faint of heart.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the most determined and obstinate people you will ever find (just ask my husband), but one of my biggest weaknesses is comparing myself to others. I’ve been telling myself (and you here on this blog), that everyone’s writing journey is different, and this is my way to remind myself of this reality. In her book Dear Writer, You Need to Quit, Becca Syme has an entire chapter on the subject – ‘Quit Trying to Be Like Everyone Else.’ It’s good to know that there are other people out there who feel the same way I do. Even though my husband has been telling me this for years, I guess I needed to also hear it from others.

However, back in September 2020, things started to fall down around me. Despite being in a network of other writers, I felt alone. Even though they are lovely people whom I’m happy to have as writing friends, it began to dawn on me that they were not my ‘tribe.’ What I write does not necessarily gel with theirs. I started to pull away and even though I published another book of short stories a couple of months later, I began to go through one of the longest bouts of depression I have ever experienced.

Throughout this period and into a new year, I spent months setting up and sending out newsletters, and preparing my first Gothic novella for publication. I wondered what the point was because nobody cared, no-one was interested. I felt like a complete failure, but I persisted. As recently as April, a month before publication, my husband told me that if I wasn’t enjoying it anymore, then don’t do it. Do something else. I couldn’t stop because writing is all I’ve ever wanted to do. ‘This is me,’ I told him. ‘This is who I am.’ He just didn’t get it.

I like to keep this quote on my desk as a constant reminder.

It was also around this time, that something started to happen, a kind of shift. A fellow writer put me onto David Gaughran’s course ‘Starting from Zero.’ As I prepared my next book for its release, I began to use what he taught me. Shortly after release, a Facebook friend sent me a request to join a group for indie horror writers. From that group, I was asked to participate in a competition for Gothic writers, as well as join a group for Gothic readers (which also included writers). I had finally found my ‘tribe.’

Together, these two incidents, helped make the launch of The Curse of Marsden Hall, my most successful. It reached as high as No.4 in one of its categories on Amazon Australia and was one of its ‘hot new releases.’ This then helped one of my other short stories, First Christmas, reach No.2 (yes, you read that right) in one of its categories on Amazon Australia.

A rare moment of seeing two of my books side by side in the Top 20.

Of-course such a high is short lived and it was a good couple of weeks while it lasted, but it gives me hope that maybe – just maybe – things might be starting to change on my writing journey.

For eight months I struggled with self-doubt and depression, but it was also a journey of self-discovery. I’ve learned who I am as a writer, both in my genre and my process. I’ve come to the conclusion, that although I may not become a big name, what’s important for me is the writing itself, and making my readers happy. Who knows, I might become an ‘overnight success’ by the time I’ve published my 20th book! 😉

Yes, I’ll continue to doubt myself and make mistakes along the way, but I’ve managed to overcome this hurdle. Persistence (and a healthy dose of stubbornness) pays off.

Being an indie author is hard work but there’s no point in worrying about things out of your control. Keep showing up and put yourself out there. Have fun, and love what you do!

It’s been some months since I last posted about writing and my writing journey (and reading this post, you’ll understand why). This hasn’t been an easy post for me to write, but I do so because I prefer to be honest with you and maybe help others who are struggling with their own writing journey.

Looking for spooky stories? Subscribe to my newsletter for regular updates and receive an exclusive flash fiction. I’d love it if you could join the discussion! 🙂

Book Promotion, Writing Process

My Newsletter is Here!

Image courtesy kaboompics on Pixabay.

For a few months now I’ve been working on creating my first newsletter. I’ve been working on it a bit at a time, a combination of planning and technical issues, but it’s finally ready.

And it’s certainly been a learning experience!

Like my blog, the newsletter will be sent out once a month. I’ll talk about my latest news, research articles, books, film, and television. And of course, there will be spooky stories of the paranormal, mysteries, and the unexplained. 😉

If you subscribe to my newsletter, you will also receive an exclusive flash fiction. Just visit my Newsletter page.

Receive a copy of ‘Forever Autumn’ when you subscribe to my newsletter.

Now that my newsletter is finally up and running, I look forward to getting back into doing some writing. 🙂

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

This Writer's Life, Writing Process

Celebrating One Year of Self-Publishing.

Image courtesy Social.Cut on Unsplash.

November is an important month for me, but this year, it is even more special. This month marks my one-year anniversary of being self-published!

It’s hard to believe a year has gone by already, and what a year it’s been (hello, 2020). When I first hit that ‘publish’ button, I thought I knew what I was in for. I had spent years reading up on self-publishing, but it wasn’t until I actually began my journey that I found there was still so much to learn. The best way to learn about anything is by doing!

Here are the biggest take-aways I have learned these past twelve months: –

Learn from our mistakes and be prepared to experiment

In some respects, I’m fortunate that I began self-publishing without a big bang. There have been plenty of highs and lows, and yes, I’ve made some mistakes, but we learn from them and try to do things better. It also helps to keep a bit of an open mind and experiment. It’s a matter of learning what works and what doesn’t.

Keep Finding Your Audience

Not everyone is going to like what you do, and that’s okay. We all have different tastes. We just need to find ways of locating our audience – they’re out there somewhere! You just need to keep rolling up your sleeves and put in the work.

Do What is Right for YOU

There is a lot of advice out there about the ‘best’ way to self-publish, but what works for one author won’t necessarily work for you. Some authors can do a ‘rapid release’ and produce quality work, but some may be like me and be in the ‘slow and steady’ camp. Neither one is right or wrong, you just need to do what fits with your personality.

Everyone’s journey is different

Having said that, it’s so easy to compare yourself to others. I’ve been doing this long before I hit that publish button and it still hasn’t changed. Whenever I compare myself to others, I take a step back and focus on my own writing and genre. I look at what I have accomplished so far and what I need to do to achieve my next goal. The writing journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Just keep moving forward one day at a time.

Love Your Network

I don’t think I would have got this far without my existing network. Apart from my husband, my support team has been entirely on-line. The writing community has been wonderful in their support, both for craft and morally. They have provided publicity for me, so I can reach readers that I would never have had access to, nor even considered. Cherish these people and reciprocate!

I love this quote! And I love getting creative with Canva & Book Brush too. 😉

Fellow writers, what have you learned this year on your writing journey? If you’re self-published, what was your biggest take-away during your first year? Has COVID-19 made you reassess your outlook and/or your goals?

IWSG, This Writer's Life

IWSG: Do You See Yourself as a Working Writer?

I have been writing for years, and it wasn’t until late 2019 that I became an indie author. Despite this, I did not really see myself as a working writer until only a few short months ago.

I could never understand those television shows where authors go about solving crimes, yet somehow manage to write books and be successful authors. To me, the term ‘working writer’ is someone glued to their chair doing a lot of writing with an assortment of pens and papers scattered around their desk. What I like to call ‘an organised mess’.

To me, a working writer is also someone who takes their writing seriously, are prepared to be in it for the long haul, learn new things (as well as from their mistakes), and adapt to change. Sometimes we can be doing all these things, but what is really required is a shift in our mindset.

When I released my two books of short stories in 2019, I put them out into the world with little fanfare. These were stories I had been holding onto for a number of years, so when I pressed ‘publish’, it was with a great deal of relief (and a lot of trepidation) that the job was finally done.

Recently, as I have been working on the release of my next book, my mindset has changed. Within the first six months as an indie author, I managed to learn more about the business – don’t we learn more by doing? I have learned from past mistakes and this time I am trying a different approach, and I’m sure I will try different ways of doing things with each book.

Looking back, despite having some knowledge of indie publishing, I was a bit naïve. I need to work harder and smarter if I want to be successful in this business, and I do! With that shift in mindset, I now see myself as a working writer.

This is something you will never see on these shows because it makes for boring television! 😉

Do you see yourself as a working writer? What do you think it looks like? Have you had a change in mindset and how has it worked for you? Are you an aspiring author or a hobbyist?

The purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Main image courtesy Unsplash

IWSG, Writing

IWSG: Write What You Love.

Some years ago, I woke up from a very strange dream. It was so strange, that I kept thinking about it throughout the day, and decided to write the idea down. It was a horror story, and it became my first attempt at a short story. My husband read it and called it macabre, which I naturally took as a compliment. 😉

Originally, I never intended to write short stories, nor paranormal fiction. When I first started writing, I wanted to write novel-length pieces, but I always fell short. I also think this was due, in part, to the fact that at the time, I wanted to write romances. I fell I love with Jane Austen and continue to admire her work. As a teen, I read a lot of sweet romances and even tried writing a novel for Mills and Boon. Despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t do it. Anything romantic would need to have a dark side. I was well and truly into Bronte territory.

My muse was clearly taking me down some dark alleys.

I grew up watching a lot of film and television. Horror, suspense, and mysteries really caught my attention. I was also fascinated by the paranormal. What was staring me in the face, I chose to ignore, until only a few years ago. I finally gave in to my muse and I believe I have now finally found my ‘voice’.

From that strange dream, I went on to write more short stories, entered short story competitions, and even self-published a couple of them. Later this year, in time for Christmas, I will be releasing a couple more. I am also currently working on a series of novellas.

I love the short form and will continue to write them. Meanwhile, with a lot of trial and error, my novel drafts are slowly beginning to take shape. 😉

Have you written in a form or genre you hadn’t planned writing in? Do you choose a form/genre in advance?

The purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Image courtesy Pixabay

IWSG, Writing Process

IWSG: Dealing with Re-writes & Feedback.

This past month, my insecurities have involved the re-writes to my first novella, and feedback from beta readers.

Fortunately, my beta readers came back with positive feedback, although it can get confusing sometimes when opinions vary. What one thinks needs some work, others might think it’s fine the way it is. It can take a little while to digest it all, but at the end of the day, it’s our stories and we take the suggestions on-board that resonate with us.

The re-writing itself though is a different matter.

Faced with doing re-writes for the novella, and incorporating the feedback, I felt overwhelmed by the challenge. It can be quite daunting, and I began to doubt if I could do it. I was beginning to feel like a rabbit caught in the headlights. This is pretty much the same reaction I used to have before writing an essay assignment for University. I know now, this is just part of my process.

I broke the re-writes down into smaller parts, working on one scene a day, which was much more manageable. I will probably use the same technique when I write my first novel.

I currently have two more novellas to re-write, as well as a couple of short stories I plan to self-publish in time for Christmas, but at least I know how to tackle it.

By the end of this year, I should be very experienced with the re-writing stage! 😉

How do you tackle the re-writing process? Have you found the feedback from beta readers beneficial to your writing? What have you been insecure about this month?

The purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

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IWSG, Up Close & Personal

IWSG: What Would Readers Never Know About You from Your Work?

For this month’s question, I was really struggling to find an answer.

Honestly, I don’t know if it is due to the weather (we are officially in winter here in Australia), current world events, or because I have been struggling with some depression lately. It could even be all three! Either way, I came up with a couple of different things that readers may not know about me from my work.

I enjoy some science fiction

I’m a hopeless romantic

Okay, they might get to learn this!

I like cute things and I’m a dog person

I enjoy fantasy (especially when it looks like this) 😉

What would readers never know about you from your work? Have world events started to take a toll on you? Have you been struggling with your writing lately?

The purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Main image courtesy Unsplash

This Writer's Life, Up Close & Personal

My First Author Interview.


I don’t normally post twice in one week, but this is a special occasion. I have had my first author interview!

Today, I speak with fellow blogger, Jonny Pongratz over at Jaunts & Haunts, about my writing process, film and television, and my short story, The Ghost at Willow Creek. I really enjoyed the interview and found it to be a lot of fun. Many thanks to Jonny for taking the time to do this, I really appreciate it.

You can read the full interview here at Meet the Author: Debbie Johansson

Does this make me a ‘real’ author now? 😉

Main image courtesy Pixabay

IWSG, This Writer's Life, Writing Process

IWSG: Writing in Obscurity.

Last year, I finally ventured into the world of indie publishing. I had read that writers should make the most of their time before publication and this worried me, for I am not comfortable with change. The biggest change has been the need for a shift in mindset, for now, I am running a business, which is a steep learning curve. Otherwise, I remain a small fish in a big pond.

It is now six months since I took that giant leap. My sales may be low, and although disappointing, I am not overly concerned. I never expected anything different. Right now, I am being realistic, knowing that I am only getting started and that I have a long road ahead of me. I am in this game for the long haul.

Of course, one hears stories of debut authors ‘making waves’, which is great as it gives the rest of us hope, but it also gives us pause for thought. We need to keep in mind that when it comes to writing, everyone’s road is different.

Keeping with that analogy, I haven’t made a ‘big splash’, but I am truly grateful for it. I continue to work in small steps, building up a body of work as well as my platform. I still feel, very much, within my comfort zone, knowing that some things take time. Like writing in general, being an indie author is a learning experience. I’m planning to make the most of it.

This is not to say that some good, and quite unexpected changes haven’t happened. 😉

In February, I decided to try the Kindle Unlimited program. My biggest takeaway from the entire ninety days? My short story, The Ghost at Willow Creek, made the Amazon Top 10 Bestseller list in Australia.

Last month after an awful lot of apprehension, I stepped out of my comfort zone once more and created a Facebook author page. I felt like a pretentious fraud. After all, who am I, and why would anyone be interested? I was pleasantly surprised to watch the numbers go up as people began to like and follow my page, and in a matter of weeks, I have come close to one hundred followers.

It was around this time that I received another pleasant surprise, which completely floored me. I received a request from a fellow blogger for an interview. Soon, I will be having my very first author interview, so watch this space!

I have been experiencing a lot of insecurities these past few months. Stepping out of our comfort zones is not without its challenges, but it also comes with some satisfying results.

Are you happy being a small fish in a big pond as an indie author? Have you had some pleasant surprises when you began self-publishing? What insecurities have you been experiencing lately?

The purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Main image courtesy Pixabay

IWSG, Writing

IWSG: Has Your Writing Ever Taken You by Surprise?

As writers, we can tend to become emotionally engaged with our characters and what happens to them. There are times when a theme or topic can move us so deeply, that sometimes we may need to step away.

While writing my short story The Ghost at Willow Creek, my husband and I were having a few issues at the time (which thankfully have been resolved and was nothing really too drastic), but I began to really feel for my main character, Eleanor, and what she was going through. I had put myself in her shoes. In one of my stories for my collection Legacy and Other Short Stories, I wrote about an incident where I began crying. I was going through the same hurt as my main character. Once again, I had put myself in their shoes, and I needed to walk away and spend some time to gather my thoughts.

A few years back, during a session of National Writing Novel Month (NaNoWriMo), of all times, I was doing fine, until I hit a rather awkward moment. I just had to stop, because what happened to my character caught me completely by surprise. I know some characters can tend to take over the stories we create, but as the creator, I did not want my character to go down this route. Although I did manage to finish NaNoWriMo that time by writing other scenes, I have not returned to that novel. It has since evolved into something a bit different, but what happened to my main character in that scene won’t be repeated. It is a subject that I find too disturbing. I wouldn’t want to impose it upon my characters and I would find it too difficult to write.

We need to put ourselves in our character’s shoes in order to empathise with them and if we feel that emotional bond with our characters, then our readers will too. Our characters then become real people to us and sometimes they may even surprise us with their actions.

It is for these reasons that being a writer can be a roller-coaster of emotions, but when we get it right, it can be very rewarding.

Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? Do you become emotionally engaged with your characters? Have you had to step away from your writing when it becomes too emotional?

*Side Note: My short story, The Ghost at Willow Creek is now available as an eBook through Kindle Unlimited. It will be available for FREE from 3-7 February 2020 in Australia, as well as various other countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

The purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Main image courtesy Pixabay