25 Tips to Help You Keep Writing
By Mary Buckham
You’re not alone!
Every writer can create a million reasons to stop writing, whether they’ve just started writing, have been at the process for a while, or are multi-published.
Here are 25 tips and words of advice that might make writing that next page, finishing that next manuscript, or contacting that key person who could help you, a little easier.
* An important question to ask yourself at the beginning of the month, the beginning of the week, the beginning of the day is “ Are the activities you are currently engaged in taking you where you want to go?
* Treat other authors as friends, not competition.
* Start associating fear (that shaking butterfly feeling in your stomach) as being something good. It means you’re moving outside your comfort zone and, while being a scary place, it also means you’re growing as a writer.
* Focus on what you CAN do not what you CAN’T do.
* Assume success with each project, then take the steps necessary to make that happen.
* Find a mentor. You don’t even have to know them to have them help you. I’m always asking, “What would Harlan Coben do?” when faced with something outside my comfort zone.
* Have patience with yourself.
* Celebrate your successes. This is a way of thanking the Universe for achieving them.
* Expect speed bumps. They don’t mean the road doesn’t exist, just that you might need to strategically adjust your course a smidge.
* Print out for yourself the reviews you want for your work. Then write to them.
* Surround yourself with other writers who are succeeding. With writers who will challenge you. Writers who are passionate about achieving something with their work.
* Reject the false comfort of security. It’s a trap that will keep you right where you are now. Sometimes that works. Most times it can stifle you.
* Learn from those around you—the good and the not-so-great ways other writers succeed or sabotage themselves.
* Be clear about WHY you are writing. Don’t confuse your definition of success with everyone else’s definition.
* Taking time off short term can sometimes be a better option long term. Stuck? Tell yourself you CAN’T write for a week. You might be pleasantly surprised at the results.
* Honor your own process, while being willing to try something and see if it helps. If it doesn’t, you learned something new.
* Ask yourself how bad do you want it?
* Treat yourself as you’d treat your best friend or loved one. If they were having doubts or a bad spell would you flog them?
* Every day do something as an author, even if you only spend ten minutes on your career.
* Writing is nothing more than waking up each day, remaining focused on the task at hand, and trusting that the result will take care of itself.
* Don’t assume you don’t know an answer. You always do. You just might not be asking the right questions to access it.
* Network, rather than ask for help from those in the publishing business. Networking is not a race. It takes time to build a solid network.
* Ask yourself “‘What are you doing that is working or not working?”
* Give yourself permission to fail. That’s when you learn something that can help you move forward.
* Have fun!
Here’s a recent quote I heard from an actor, not a story teller, but he gets what it is we all attempt every time we face a blank page:
“The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing, isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and soul-crushing inadequacies. And that’s on a good day.” ~ Robert DeNiro
What about you? Do you have a favorite quote? Words of wisdom? Insights you’d like to share?
USA Today bestselling author Mary Buckham writes the Amazon best selling WRITING ACTIVE SETTING series (in e-format and now in book form) as well as Urban Fantasy w/attitude. Love romance, danger & kick-ass heroines? Find it in her Invisible Recruits series: www.MaryBuckham.com or www.InvisibleRecruits.com.
Want to know how I lost 50 pounds in 5 months? I wrote an article about it here:
Prologue or no prologue? That is the question all writers face! Fortunately we have expert advice today on the subject. Anna Steffl, a wonderful author and past president of Georgia Romance Writers, tells us how to write a prologue that won’t suck. And she knows what she’s talking about! Anna finaled in the prestigious Golden Heart awards and she’s just released a novel, Seeking Solace, the first book in the Solace trilogy. It follows Arvana, the only Solacian capable of seeing the Blue Eye’s revelations, as she reluctantly leaves her cloistered refuge to seek a champion to wield a relic against the resurrected draeden.
Leave a question or comment for Anna because one lucky commenter will be randomly chosen to receive a free e-copy of Seeking Solace!
Prologues that Don’t Entirely Suck
Or, What Would George R.R. Martin Do?
By: Anna Steffl
The prologue has the reputation of a Norwalk virus on a Caribbean cruise ship—something to be avoided at all costs. But, sometimes you just need to bathe in hand sanitizer and risk the feta cheese on the buffet line because your tongue—er, worldbuilding if you write paranormal/SF/F—needs a little tang. I judge a fair number of paranormal/SF/F manuscripts in contests, and it is surprising how often I find myself telling an author that the work needs a prologue. Most of the time, it is to either heighten the threat or get overly intrusive worldbuilding out of the way.
So, if you need a prologue, how do you write one that sucks people in instead of sucking? I wrestled with this problem myself—hence the blog article. I needed a prologue for the exact reasons I usually counsel people to use one. Remember that two-headed-Norwalk-virus-breathing dragon of threat and worldbuiling? I needed one of those. At first, I used a diary entry as the prologue, and enough people liked it, and the partial, to final the manuscript in the Golden Heart contest. Alas, though that diary entry was a nice little bit of writing, it didn’t suck people in. Being a mother superior’s diary, it didn’t have the sexy and naughty bits that people read diaries for. And, the danger was just too vague. I had to scrap it.
After a dozen numbingly bad drafts, I bowed to common sense and asked, “What would George R.R. Martin do?” In Game of Thrones he writes a one-and-off POV character in an action-packed scene that introduces enough of the baddies to make you curious and a little freaked-out. He works in the backstory. Let’s all shout “Bingo!” Here’s how I started my prologue:
How the Tendrils Grew
Though he’d lost his senses of smell and taste a dozen years ago, Lieutenant Juvenot swore he could smell fear —and it made his mouth water like his once-favorite food, new pickles. He recalled the heat of the summer solstice and tiny yellow flowers peeking from a green mat of hairy cucumber leaves and tendrils. What a fine time in his life that was, before everything had been ruined. But now, in the snowy depth of winter, within a cast-iron pot so big five men could curl in its belly, was the promise for even better times.
His raiding party’s two light sleighs had flown through their escort regiment’s encampment and down the road toward him until they reined in the horses and stopped two hundred paces off. His mouth filled with pleasantly hot spit from the sight of his raiders unbundling four Sarapostan captives from the sleighs.
In the first couple paragraphs, you learn that there is a military aspect (lieutenant), something nasty is in the pot (because it must be bad-ass if you think it is going to change your shi**y life), it is winter, the society is low-tech (horses, sleds, cast iron) and fantasy (where the hell is Sarapost?), that Juvenot is a creep (he gets off on fear) and Sarapostans are his enemy. But, I tried not to be overwhelming with the fantasy elements. Let the characters and situation be the hook. From here, we get go straight into an unfolding scene that almost answers what is in the pot, why it won’t be there forever, and that shows the scary things that happen to the captives—which gives a warning of the larger havoc awaiting the world.
The editor really liked the new prologue. Then, a funny thing happened. Juvenot was such a good character that I couldn’t let him be a one-and-off POV. He returns in the next two books and became the source of tension that was missing in a section of the last book. Woohoo!
Full disclosure—another funny thing happened. The editor redlined the word prologue, a move that scared the s#$% out of me. What if people think Juvenot is the main character? He’s a creeper. They’ll wonder what the hell kind of book this is. But, she argued that since I use chapter titles instead of numbers, people will get it because of the title, “How the Tendrils Grew.” Plus, readers wouldn’t skip it, a depraved act that even I admit to committing when they suck.
There you go. Do you skip prologues? Have a troublesome one on your hands? Please tell. I promise I don’t have the Norwalk virus…not yet…there is that New Year’s cruise I’m booked on. I’ll spread it around after that.
BIO: Anna Steffl lives in Athens, Georgia, home of the New World gods of football and alternative music. She has held a string of wildly unrelated jobs, from frying chicken to one that required applying for a Department of Defense security clearance. She is a past president of Georgia Romance Writers and a Golden Heart Award finalist.
Today I’m thrilled to host a friend of mind, bestselling author Renee Bernard. I first met Renee back in 2007 when she gave me an interview for TIME TO WRITE. She gave some great advice for the book and in her blog post today, she gives great advice again, this time on how to create interesting and fun plot lines!
One lucky commenter or questioner will win a free audio copy of A Lady’s Pleasure!
Creating Fresh Plot Lines
By Renee Bernard
Hello, all! I know the smart guest blogger leads right off into telling about her latest and providing juicy hints on her next big release…but when Kelly said we could talk craft, I’m going to admit, I was amped. Then I was nervous. Because let’s face it, I think I could be decades into this journey and still see myself as more of a student than a teacher.
But I wanted to share the latest battle of the page as I like to call them on the off chance that it might help someone else with theirs. There’s a lot of advice out there aimed at character development which is always fun but today, let’s crack at plot lines. Because to be honest, I think it’s where a lot of less experienced writers struggle. That sexy hero comes to them in complete perfection and they can describe him down to his toes…but then he gets plunked into a story line that—well—is lacking.
A good rule of thumb is that if someone can see where it’s going, then you need to change directions. Here’s a fun game to play with a Very Trusted Critique Partner. Ask them to listen to your “pitch” or a brief description of your plot. If at any point they think they know what’s going to happen, they raise their hand. If they’re wrong, you get to keep telling them the story. If they’re right, and if they’re right repeatedly, and if they can see how you’re going to solve that big problem and achieve that HEA before you tell them, then take a deep breath and get ready to work it out with a re-write.
The last thing you want to put your name on is a story that is like the movie we’ve all been to, where in the first ten minutes, you know exactly what’s going to happen, few surprises, etc. (Remember? That movie where when you got up to go to the bathroom, you were really confident that you weren’t going to miss anything because there wasn’t anything to miss?)
This is Romance, we’re talking about. Every reader expects the boy to get the girl, lose the girl and then get the girl. We all have a fairly firm idea about what an HEA looks like and as a result, we can generally see them coming. If you let us!
Try not to let us.
Twist it. Turn it. Get creative. And when in doubt, let your characters point you in the right direction. After all, if you’ve got a villain in the mix, then let them give you some ideas of what a really good villain can do to ruin a hero’s day. Make sure your obstacles are substantial and when possible, as tightly connected to your main characters as you can manage. Turn the plot upside down and shake it. See what falls out and what sticks. Ask your secondary characters how it appears from their vantage point and see if they can’t make it more interesting for you.
(I’m sorry. Is it becoming a little too apparent that I have a lot of people in my head that I *gulp* talk to?)
Don’t be afraid. Readers want you to surprise them. Remember. You aren’t fast food cranking out the same meal every time. Every book is a feast to make us widen our eyes when we say, “Wow! I did NOT see that coming!”
But let’s open it up. Any questions? Seriously. Any. Even if it isn’t about plotting, I’m shamelessly thrilled to answer any and all questions you might have about writing, publishing, how to negotiate with the voices in your head so you can finish a book on time, you name it!
I will personally boycott all products made in Japan until this annual “traditional” slaughter of thousands of whales and dolphins comes to an end. This is barbaric.
Ambassador Caroline Kennedy publicly condemned the practice; please thank her for doing so at this link: http://dolphinproject.org/blog/post/support-ambassador-caroline-kennedy-and-the-dolphins
I am so happy to welcome today’s guest, Nicki Salcedo. I met Nicki years ago when I was a newcomer at an RWA chapter; Nicki sat by me, chatted me up, showed me the ropes, and was in general an all around great gal and class act. I came to learn over the years that she’s also an incredible writer; her first novel, ALL BEAUTIFUL THINGS was just released, and it’s wonderful (you can read the first chapter below)! You definitely want to get your copy today! In the post below, Nicki explains the dynamics of rejection/critiques and gives great advice on how to cope with it and use it to your benefit. Make sure to tell us your worst rejection story [no names, please] and/or the most encouraging thing that’s happened to you in your writing career because Nicki is giving away a 10 page critique to one random commenter! Comments can be left through Tuesday so make sure to check back on Wednesday to see if you’re the winner!
[Don't forget that my popular online class, No Matter How Busy You Are, You Can Find Time to Write! starts Monday, January 27. Class fee includes a free critique or phone coaching session with me: click here for more info.]
And now, welcome Nicki!
Turning the Other Cheek: Handling Rejection
by Nicki Salcedo
Have you ever been slapped across the face? Has someone ever told you that your shoes are ugly? Wanted to go to the dance with the cutest boy in school? What about your job and your writing? We face negativity all the time. What do you do when people discourage you and reject you?
Most people don’t have experience receiving criticism, but it is important to know how to handle harsh feedback.
You need to know where critiques come from, how to interpret and respond, and most importantly strategies to go on writing after meanest rejection. Most importantly you need to say, “I will never let rejection stop me from writing again.”
Who gives the critique and why it matters? “Whoever slaps you on the right cheek…”
At each stage of your writing career you are going to have to put your writing in front of people. Some will dislike your writing. You need to practice receiving feedback from the earliest stages of your writing career.
- Critique groups/Beta Readers. Network of peer writers or avid readers who help you in the initial stages of your writing. They can see the really rough drafts.
- Contests/Author critiques. Published professionals who analyze your work on a larger scale and know about the industry.
- Editor/Agent. Industry experts who buy and sell your novel.
- The public. Book reviewers, blogs can impact current/future sales.
The great thing about the first three stages critique groups, contests, even with editors and agents: You can fix things. The first three are getting your ready for the public. Learn how to respond to criticism early in your writing career.
How to take criticism? “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
- Check your emotions at the door. I cannot stress this one enough. Writing is business, not personal.
- Be prepared. Seek out criticism only when you are ready to hear it and plan use it to improve your writing.
- Value honesty. Hopefully you are soliciting feedback from a network of professionals who are trying to help you get published. With time you will be able to recognize good honest feedback. Even if it hurts.
- Don’t make excuses for your writing. What you write is what you write. Stand by it. Even if it needs revision. Everything we need to know about the story should be in the pages of your novel. Your rebuttal is your revision.
- Take time to evaluate rejection. Some editors/agents provide very detailed comments in their rejections, but you may also get a rejection with no comments? Did you consider genre or stylistic preferences of editor or agent? What about her/his workload and ability to take on new projects?
What types of critiques? Feedback usually falls into these categories:
- Grammar and technical. Spelling, punctuation.
- Plot. Goal, motivation, conflict, action.
- Stylistic. Voice, genre, dialogue, pacing.
- Marketing. How to make it more salable.
“I hated it,” isn’t feedback that can help you. Or it helps you know not to ask that person for feedback again. You don’t have to change what someone doesn’t like, but you need to understand what they are saying they don’t like.
How to respond? “If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.”
- Thank everyone. Your critique partners, authors, contest judges, editors, and agents. Anyone who takes the time to read your manuscript deserves thanks. Write the same cheerful thank you to the contest judge who gave your manuscript the lowest score in the competition.
“If you fall down, get up sexy.” – Sally Kilpatrick
- Read between the lines of the harshest critique and pretend you agree. A harsh critique may hurt at first, but it may also help you.
- Be skeptical of very positive critiques that offer no suggestions for improvement.
- Re-write. Words are meant to be re-written. You should expect suggestions for revision.
- Get angry. Don’t confuse turning the other cheek with turning off your emotions. It is completely natural to get angry or sad or cry.
- Ignore. This is very important for book reviews, but also for any rejection. Do not respond to negative reviews ever. (Ok, write a response, and then burn it!) If there has ever been a critique or review that has stopped you from writing, even for a day, put the critique in a box. Or forward it to your sister. Send it to me. Maybe come back to it later and consider the critique after you’ve gotten back to writing. Remember that very harsh/unhelpful reviews reveal more about reviewer than about weaknesses in your book.
- Write new words. Don’t stop ever writing, editing, or creating because of another person’s opinion. All critiques are subjective. Don’t write because you are seeking approval. Write, because you love it writing.
- Critique for other people. Learn to give constructive criticism to help you receive critiques.
Happy writing! Happy revising. “Never give up. Never surrender.” – Galaxy Quest
All Beautiful Things is my debut novel. A contest judge gave me a 28 out of 100 on this manuscript and said, “Your writing is terrible. It doesn’t make sense. The heroine is completely unlikeable and unrealistic. No one will buy this book ever.” Somebody wrote this on my manuscript! This same manuscript won the Maggie Award of Excellence and was a Golden Heart Finalist and is now published with Belle Bridge Books.
All Beautiful Things: Seven years ago, Ava Camden endured a vicious attack. She survived, but her face was brutally scarred. Now Graham Sapphire is determined to clear his brother’s name and win her trust in a desperate search for the truth.
Ava crawled onto the child-sized bed and pulled the covers over her face, pretending the quilt was a river above her. The patchwork calmed her breathing. In, blue. Out, white. There were thirty-six squares of blue and thirty-six squares of white. Sometimes she was hidden long enough to count each one. In the distance, she heard loud whispers and stifled giggling as her nieces searched the house. She always hid in the same place, and they didn’t go to her usual spot until last. They looked everywhere except where she’d be found. They enjoyed the art of seeking. But for Ava Camden there was a joy in being hidden.
It felt silly being a grown woman in a child’s bed, but her nieces expected her to dress up on command and hide so they could seek. She couldn’t deny them anything, because they were like her own children. When she thought of the future, she didn’t see a family. She saw a void resembling a hollow space in a tree. The rest of the world grew around her absence.
The approaching laughter allowed her little time for remorse or cynicism.
The girls climbed on the bed. This was their favorite part. When they uncovered Ava she was hidden again in the mass of her dark hair. The long twisted strands protected her from unwanted eyes when she needed it.
“I’m sleeping,” she said. Her nieces went back to loud whispers. They put a tiara on her head and smoothed the hair away from her face. The good side was revealed. The side with the scars pressed against the pillow. She knew that when she turned to face them, these two girls would hug her and say she was beautiful…
BIO: Nicki Salcedo is a graduate of Stanford University with a degree in English and Creative Writing. She is a member of Romance Writers of America© and a Past President of Georgia Romance Writers. Nicki is a two-time recipient of the Maggie Award of Excellence and a Golden Heart Finalist. She has four children, a husband, and a cat. Nicki thinks everyone should write. She loves connecting with readers. For more go to www.nickisalcedo.com. All Beautiful Things is now available.
Nicki is giving away a 10 page critique for someone who comments. She’d love to hear your worst rejection story, but no identifying information on the other person please! She’d also love to hear about the most encouraging thing that has happened in your writing career.
Get Over Your Fear…of Rejection
By Kelly James-Enger
I’ve been a fulltime freelancer for more than 16 years, and have taught at least 2,000 students during that time, many of whom have the skills necessary to write for publication. Yet a huge number of writers never send anything out. They’re afraid to submit work or to even to send a query letter to a target market. It comes down to fear: fear of being rejected.
Don’t fear rejection. Instead, expect it. Take the step toward publication, and you will get rejected. I guarantee it! So stop worrying about it. Instead, have a plan for what you will do when you get rejected. My personal rule of thumb is what I call the 24-hour rule. That means that when I get a rejection (and I have received more than 1,000 of them at this point!), I do two things within 24 hours.
First, I get the query out to a new market. I call this a ?resubmission, or a resub. Woman’s Day didn’t want the idea? No problem. I’d try Family Circle. Parents said no? Then I tried Parenting instead. If The Chicago Tribune rejected me, I’d try the Chicago Sun-Times. A pitch isn’t doing you any good sitting on your hard drive. As soon as you get a no, or you don’t receive a response, you need to get that query out to another potential market.
Second, and this may seem counterintuitive, I’d come up with a new pitch for the editor who had turned me down. I’d start this query by saying something like: Thank you for your response [note that I don't say rejection!] to my query about perfectionism. I’m sorry you can’t use the idea right now, but I have another query I’d love for you to consider. Then I would start my new query.
There were some instances where even multiple queries produced nothing more than a series of rejections. After a half-dozen of those, yes, it’s time to move on. But with many other markets, it wasn’t my first query that got me an assignment. It was my second, or third, or fourth. I didn’t give up, and eventually I got that assignment, and started writing for that market!
That’s a secret that most new freelancers don’t know and it hurts them. The fledgling writer receives a rejection, slinks away, and never querys that market again. Don’t be that writer! Give yourself a tight deadline. I like 24 hours but you can choose a timeframe that works for you and get a new query out to your original publication and resub your initial idea to another market within that amount of time. You’ll turn what was a rejection into two opportunities and boost your chances of succeeding as a freelancer.
When I have a good idea, I shop it around until I sell it or until I run out of markets to approach! I’m not joking. I had one idea that was rejected by nine markets. But the tenth one bought it. Had I given up at any point along the way, I wouldn’t have made that sale. So don’t let rejection derail you. Expect it, plan for it, and overcome it and you’ll be on your way to a successful freelance career.
BIO: Kelly James-Enger is a long time freelancer who has written for more than 60 national magazines. She recently launched her own publishing company, Improvise Press, which produces books for creative people who want to profit from their passions. The company?s first two books, Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets, and Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer?s Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition, can be ordered through any brick-and-mortar or online bookstore, or through www.improvisepress.com. Use the discount code, IMPROVISEPRESS (all caps, no breaks) for 20 percent off of your order.
I love love love this idea of 5 daily habits that allow you to make steady progress toward your writing goals. Thanks to Elke Feuer for the post. Elke is a former student of mine (No Matter How Busy You Are, You Can Find TIME TO WRITE) and recently got her first publishing contract! Go Elke!
Leave a comment and be entered into a drawing to win an e-copy of Elke’s novel, For the Love of Jazz.
What’s your daily five?
By Elke Feuer
At the beginning of each year I excitedly create the goals I plan to accomplish. I pulse with excitement as I imagine each one coming to fruition. It’s a great feeling. Then it happens. You know what I’m talking about. Reality sets in. You see the long list of tasks you have to do to make those dreams come true and they’re added to your already long list. By the start of March (or sometimes sooner) you run out of steam and don’t accomplish half of what you wanted to. Another year goes by and you’re right where you don’t want to be. No step closer to your goals and dreams.
Just recently, I subscribed to Success Magazine which comes with a bonus audio CD with every issue. One of the main points I got from listening to one CD was creating a daily five list to help you reach your goals. These are five daily habits that take you one step closer to any and all goals you want to reach.
What makes the daily five different from anything I’ve done before is you chose beliefs that are important to how you live out your daily (in my case writing) life. For example, mine are:
I love being part of my writing communities. They embrace with me so much love, support, and encouragement, something I missed out on growing up where I live. Writing can be a very lonely profession and the connections I made encouraged me and I want to do the same for other aspiring writers. Encouraging people to follow their dreams and reach for the stars is important to me and the reason why it’s number one on my list. I do this through my blog, a tweet/retweet and Facebook posts.
2. Study and File
Growth and personal improvement are essential to me and my livelihood as a writer, so I study (reading books, and articles, blogs, etc.) daily and file them away for future reference. I also attend online classes that improve my craft as a writer. The filing is equally important because let’s face it, how many times do we read about a useful topic that we can’t find when we really need it.
“Who wants to be the richest millionaire in the graveyard?” That was a quote from the Success audio CD and also applies to writers. This means doing something good for me whether it’s exercise, a home facial, bubble bath, or going for a massage. Relaxing is important. It recharges us and makes the things we have to do an easier pill to swallow, not to mention we get our best ideas when our brains go into alpha mode.
This is a difficult one for me as my personality is not naturally that of a sales person, but I’m quickly realizing that it’s something I have to do if I’m going to get my name out there and have a long writing career. Maybe one day I’ll be fortunate enough to have someone doing that for me, but for now it’s got to be me. Besides, no one is more qualified (or as excited) about your book as you are. The key is to find a platform or platforms that fit your needs and personality and that you feel comfortable using. I’m still looking for mine.
Writers write! There’s no getting around that one folks. My stories aren’t going to write themselves or get on the bookshelves if I don’t write them. Writing every day for me means working on my WIP in one form or another, whether it’s plotting, character and setting sketches, brainstorming a book blurb, or finding ideas for the book cover. It’s anything that gets me one step closer to finishing my book and submitting it. To paraphrase Kelly, “If it’s important to you, you make time for it.”
The best part about these daily fives is they can be applied to personal goals. They can be used to accomplish any goal that you set for yourself since they are part of your everyday life. They can be the compass that charts you destinations.
Take a moment and jot down the things most important to you. If you had to pick your daily five, what would they be?
BIO: Elke Feuer stumbled into writing suspense, and to her surprise found she enjoyed it, along with writing about serial killers. She’s fascinated by them, and what motivates them to kill. She writes time travel, historical, and contemporary novels to even out her dark side. She’s currently writing her first mystery series set in Grand Cayman where she lives with her husband and two awesome kids.
Reading, spending time with her family, encouraging aspiring writers and meeting people is her joy. Writing is her passion. Visit Elke at http://elkefeuer.com/ to find out more about her.
Happy Halloween! Today’s guest post is from author Kelsey Browning with Romance University dot org, who writes about one of my favorite topics: the fear of failure AND the fear of success. Both of those can hold you back from achieving your dreams. Kelsey gives you sound advice on how to identify what’s holding you back, and tips on how to overcome it.
To add a little fun to today’s special post, leave a comment and include who your favorite Sexiest Bad Guy is…you’ll be entered into a contest to win a free kindle edition of a writing craft book!
Four Essential Questions to Banish the Writing Boogeyman
by Kelsey Browning
If you’ve read my Brain Candy blog, you know I’m afraid of clowns, mimes and china dolls. Those are personal phobias. But I’ve found when it comes to writing, we tend to be afraid of two things:
I can hear you scoffing out there (yes, even you folks in Australia) and mumbling things like: “Me, afraid of success? Kelsey, you obviously haven’t had your clear-the-cobwebs morning coffee yet. I’ve been working my little patootie off for the past (insert number here) years to become a published author. What do you mean I’m afraid of success?”
And, yes, I heard that shrill high note on the end of your question, too.
Maybe you’re placing in writing contests and your critique partners love your writing and that’s become your measure of success. Sometimes pre-published author status becomes a comfortable career stage, and we have a hard time moving beyond it. I know, because I’ve been there.
But by asking yourself a handful of pointed—and possibly painful—questions, you can get over the fear of success hump.
- What do I get to avoid by staying where I am?
- What guarantee am I looking for?
- What emotional payoff am I receiving?
- What am I afraid of losing if I succeed?
Take a minute to skim those questions again. And if you’re serious about moving forward in your writing career, take several minutes to scratch out answers to them.
Do your responses look anything like these?
What do I get to avoid by staying where I am?
- Learning how to _______ (plot, develop characters, market my work).
- Networking with editors and other authors.
- Setting myself up for rejection.
- Realizing my story idea isn’t (or is) good. (from Mary Jo Burke)
- Discovering I really do suck as a writer . (from Adrienne Giordano)
What guarantee am I looking for?
- Time well spent. Am I spending a lot of time writing something no one may ever read? Am I spending my time on the right thing? (from Nancy Naigle) Fear that I’ll spend months writing and no one will buy it. (from Joan Leacott)
- Career certainty/staying power. What if I make it only to find out writing isn’t my calling? What if I become a bestseller, but can’t handle the pressure? What if I get a book contract, but it’s not with the press I want? What if I can’t meet my deadlines? What if I hate my editor?
What emotional payoff am I receiving?
- Sympathy. My critique group moans and groans with me each time I receive a rejection.
- Self-pity. I allow myself to mope and eat a half-gallon of Rocky Road for a week after hearing “No, thanks.”
- Anger. No one will give me a chance, dammit!
What am I afraid of losing if I succeed?
- Reputation. What if people find out I’m a fraud, that I really don’t know what the heck I’m doing? That I’m really not as good of a writer as I think? What if I get a bad review?
- Relationships. What if my critique group is jealous? What if they resent my success? What if I don’t have as much time for my family and friends? What if I outgrow the people around me? What if they abandon me?
- Comfort Zone. What would people—my editor, agent, readers—demand of me? What would I have to do differently?
Honestly answering these four questions can feel a bit like food poisoning—you know that crampy, sweaty, nauseous feeling I’m talking about. Breathe through it. Then revisit your answers, and I think you’ll find many of your concerns may begin with the words “What if…?” And what if almost always means you’re borrowing trouble, that you’re placing artificial barriers in your own way.
So there’s one more powerful question that can help you get beyond many of these unfounded fears:
What is the absolute worst thing that could happen?
Answer this for each one of your biggest, scariest what ifs. How likely is your worst case scenario? And what would you do if it actually happened? I bet you’ll find yourself laughing at some of the outlandish answers you come up with. And we all know laughter is a great way to banish any boogeyman.
Kelsey Browning writes sass kickin’ southern love stories. She’s also a co-founder of Romance University blog, one of Write to Done’s Top Ten Blogs for Writers. Originally from a Texas town smaller than the ones she writes about, Kelsey has also lived in the Middle East and Los Angeles, proving she’s either adventurous or downright nuts. These days, she hangs out in a hobbit house in northeast Georgia with her IT-savvy husband, baseball-obsessed son and seriously spoiled dog. She’s currently at work on the third book in her Shelbyville, Texas, series. For more about Kelsey, visit www.KelseyBrowning.com.
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