inspiration

The Thrill Is Gone

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. The awesome co-hosts for the March 1 posting of the IWSG will be Tamara Narayan, Patsy Collins, M.J. Fifield, and Nicohle Christopherson!

My insecurity this month revolves around the fact that the second novel in my Kentucky Haints series, White Witch Magic, came out on February 21st. Well, I’m not insecure about that actually, that was pretty awesome, and it’s gotten some nice reviews and generally been well-received.

The thing is, I wrote the first and second book one right after another, a couple years ago. The story arc definitely needs a trilogy to be complete and wrap up the loose ends I left hanging at the end of the second book. I even know how I want to tie those ends up. However, I’ve written about a chapter of the third book so far and I’m feeling kinda bleh about the whole thing, just wanting to move on to something else.

I feel like if I put myself to the task I can probably complete the third book and wrap it up nicely. But I’m also wishing I wrote it when I wrote the other two, before the fire dwindled and my passion for the story dampened. Ugh. Have you ever found yourself in this situation? What did you do? Maybe simply working on the book will bring back my interest in the series. Goodness knows when I put my fingers to the keyboard and write, instead of procrastinating and whining, magical things happen.

March 1 Question: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

One thing I’ve learned for myself is to let sleeping dogs lie. I’ve tried to reawaken stories a couple times and discovered that if I had really wanted the story to come to fruition, I would have completed it and made more of it at the time. Not to mention the further back in my writing I go, the worse it is and the more work it needs to be brought up to my current self-standards.

However, I have taken scenes from scrapped stories, reworked them, and put them into new stories. It’s a very patchwork quilt method of writing. That’s why we keep a scrap box!

The Joy In Doing

I’ve discovered lately, and maybe you already know this as a writer, that when you actually make yourself focus and write, the more you can write, and sometimes even much more than you expected to. For example:

I’m an ultra-procrastinator. I have writing projects to work on, I really do want to work on them, I have time to work on them, but when it comes to actually sitting down and getting the work done, it’s a big old groaaaan. I can find a million ways to distract myself: internet, TV, reading pointless things, doing chores. I like to write, I want to write, but that also means putting the work in, and that doesn’t seem like much fun.

But, with a lot of griping and grumbling, I finally make myself do it. I give myself a small word count to reach and tell myself if I get to that I can consider it an accomplishment. And you know what happens, very often? Once I start writing, I don’t usually stop at that small number. The words start flowing, the ideas start coming, and before I know it, I’m writing. The kind of good, happy writing that makes me feel satisfied when I’m finished with it. The other day I told myself I’d just hammer out 1,000 words and I ended up writing over 6,000! My hands were actually sore and that’s why I stopped. That doesn’t happen every day, of course, and I don’t always have time for that much work, but it just goes to show when I actually put the effort in it quickly becomes enjoyable and easy.

Sometimes it’s just about getting over that initial block and reluctance. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish after you didn’t want to start to begin with. The story is in there, if you’re willing to put the time in to follow it. It’s another one of those writing mysteries.

For example, I put off working on this blog post for a few hours, and now it’s finished. Score!

5 Reasons You Should Start A Blog

On Wednesday, I talked about the reasons you should write a book. Even if the industry has too many books and not enough readers, that doesn’t mean we don’t need your book, or that you don’t need your book. If you’re looking for reasons to keep typing, go check it out.

Today, I’m going to tell you why you should start a blog.

I blog three days a week–usually Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, though sometimes it varies. So you may be surprised to hear that I, for the most part, freakin’ hate blogging. More often than not, I’m wracking my brain for the next blog topic and it’s aggravating. I never know what I’m going to write most weeks, unless I already have something lined up. I’m a tour host for Goddess Fish Promotions, because I want to promote other writers, but also because on average it gives me one ready-made post per week. I’m part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group because it’s an awesome, fun group, but it also gives me a blog topic once a month. I like when it’s easy.

So why do I blog, if I don’t really like it? Well, after you read the list below, maybe you’ll understand.

And here are some reasons why you should add another blog to the internet, because clearly what the internet needs is more blogs:

Five reasons you should start a blog:

  1. It’s cathartic to talk to yourself. When you start out, probably no one is going to be reading your blog, except maybe a few friends who are too nice to tell you no when you ask them to follow you. That’s okay. Blogging is kinda like a diary when you first start out, and it helps you sort your thoughts and learn how you feel about things. It also gives you time to practice before people actually start reading your blog. The more you do it, the better you get at it, and the more interesting things you have to say. It’s okay to fumble around when you first start. Somehow, miraculously, after two years of blogging I have over a thousand subscribers. That means I have to provide some content instead of just talking to myself–and hopefully, I’m managing that. Talk to yourself first, and you will learn to talk to the public.
  2. If you suck at social media, it will give you a platform. I really suck at Twitter and Facebook. I had a personal Twitter a long time ago, and loved using it, but eventually my Twitter fever went away. I have a personal Facebook I’m much more active on than my writing one, but it’s locked to friends and family. My writing Facebook, Twitter, G+, and everywhere else I’m expected to be are mostly full of promotion and regurgitating my blog posts. At least with a blog I’m still reaching an audience, and I can say more here anyway. I can be present without having to be good at everything.
  3. It’s great for procrastinating on your writing. I should be working on the book I’m writing right now, but I’m blogging instead. And I can still say I’m ‘working.’ Ha! Take THAT, productivity!
  4. You can reach people who don’t even read the kind of stuff you write. I know that most of my subscribers don’t even read romance and erotica, but we’ve made friends and enjoy talking to each other because we’ve found each other through places like the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This is why I started a general writing blog instead of focusing on one genre of writing. I’m more interested in engaging other writers than specifically engaging other romance writers. This is up to you, though–but remember, if you make your blog very specific, you need to find a way to reach that specific audience. Sometimes broader is better. It also gives you a lot of freedom in topic matter, too.
  5. It provides site content. If your website is lacking content, if there’s not much to put on there, a blog puts some meat on the skeleton of your online presence. Also, it can be really good for driving traffic to your site. People come to read your posts and check out the rest of the site–that’s a big bonus!

Whether you have a blog already or you’re considering starting one, you should know this: the internet is infinite, and there’s room for you. If you want to blog, then blog! You have a right to express yourself just like everyone else. And even if you find it aggravating, there’s a lot of good reasons to keep at it

Have a great weekend!

10 Reasons You Should Write A Book

If you follow any writing industry blogs and/or news sites, you’ve probably read the disheartening information a million times: less people are reading books these days! Book sales are down! Print/ebooks (whichever one they’re predicting doom and gloom for this week) have had a huge dip in sales and will be obsolete by this time next year! The exact genre you write in is trash and no one is buying those kind of books anymore!

I take most industry ‘facts’ with a grain of salt, largely because I read statistics on one site and the exact opposite projections on another. It’s true we live in a weird age for books because it’s a much more digital age where people are consuming their entertainment in varying forms in ways they’ve never been able to before. I know publishing is very different now than when I first started writing many years ago. It’s true that publishing is easier but it’s harder to get people to read our books, because they’re not a limited commodity that only has one specific path to access anymore.

So under this landslide of books and this lack of readership, why should you still write a book? Because, you’re a writer! And here’s some other reasons why:

Ten reasons you should write a book:

  1. Because non-writers think it’s cool. Seriously, most people in my life who don’t write, no matter if they’re readers or not, think I’m performing some kind of arcane magic. They think I wave a wand when in reality I grit my teeth and yank my hair out a lot.
  2. It gives you reasons to be on your laptop. When people are like “are you gonna stare at that screen all day?” you can tell them you’re working, and shh, please leave me alone I’m trying to concentrate really hard. Make sure you minimize the tab full of cat memes first.
  3. You can get out of boring social situations. Feel free to turn down that invitation to your aunt’s goat’s birthday party by telling her you have a deadline to meet.
  4. You learn how to write blurbs/taglines. Every time someone asks you what your book is about you get a little bit better at telling them in as few words as possible. This trains you to write those short descriptions that have to encapsulate the entire book in one breath. The WHOLE book, in ONE sentence? Are you playing with me right now, Mr. Editor???
  5. On that note, you learn how to deal with disinterest. When people ask you what your book is about, and you tell them, and their eyes glaze over, this prepares you for when no one cares about your book on release day.
  6. Real life is boring. You get to create the fun, fast-paced, exciting world that you wish this one was, so you don’t go crazy like everyone else.
  7. It gives you something to talk about at social gatherings. At least for the first twenty seconds until people’s eyes start to glaze over.
  8. It’s fun to commiserate with other writers. Like ones who write humor-filled yet harrowing lists about what it’s like to be a writer.
  9. If you don’t write, you’re going to have to find some other creative outlet so your brain doesn’t eat itself. And frankly, no one is impressed by my ability to draw a mean stick figure.
  10. Because even if it’s true less people are reading today, and the book market is oversaturated, and it’s harder than ever to make it, somewhere out there, there’s an avid reader who is longing to get lost in the kind of worlds you create, and you need each other.

It’s a hard knock life being a writer, but most of us wouldn’t trade it for the world.

On Friday, I’ll give you five reasons why you should start a blog. Because like books, what we clearly need is more blogs!

Resolutions

It’s that time of year again when we make resolutions and promises to ourselves. The problem with resolutions is that we break them so easily, and the truth is we could choose to improve ourselves and our lives at any time of the year. However, the start of a new year seems to give us a clean slate, at least mentally. I think the reason a lot of resolutions fail is because it’s such an abrupt change. It’s hard to suddenly stop a bad habit and never pick it up again. Some people can, I’m sure, but for most of us it’s extraordinarily difficult. We would do well to start prepping for the change months in advance–that is, start doing little things and eliminating little behaviors that will ultimately set you up for success when you attempt to change altogether on January 1st.

For myself, I’m planning on making some personal changes, and I was thinking how best to make them stick. I haven’t done any ‘prepping,’ so what’s the second best solution? Of course, it’s the opposite of prepping–committing to the changes slowly over time. We see this a lot in people who want to lose weight. If you crash diet, you’re going to put the weight back on. If you lose it slowly over time and gradually change your eating habits and your lifestyle, it sticks much better.

Since this is a writing blog, I’ll address some writing resolutions that you may have, and talk about how to make them stick if you haven’t been gradually building up to your goal already.

Resolutions:

  • I want to write every day. If you don’t write every day now (I’m guilty of this, by quite a lot) you’re probably not going to start writing on January 1st and keep it up every single day of 2017. However, if you start in little increments: say, writing 200 words a day instead of 2000 when you first start, you might stick to it better. You may quickly find you don’t have time in your life to write every single day, but surely you can find the time to write 100 words? 50? It still counts as ‘writing every day,’ and the days you do have more time, you can write a lot more.
  • I want to finish X amount of stories/books in 2017. If you haven’t started on these stories/books, now is the time to start planning them. Project how long you want these works to be and how long it will take you to write them. You can perhaps schedule time frames, even. Also, pick a number that you know is realistic for you, or else you’re going to disappoint yourself and run out of steam. Even just one is better than none!
  • I want to get published. Whether going the traditional route or self-publishing, this takes work and research, and you need to do that first. Learn how to perfect a query letter, compile a list of agents or publishers, or research self-publishing services. With knowledge in hand you’re much more likely to reach your goal. Publishing isn’t just about writing, it’s a business too.
  • I want to be more active on social media/my blog. I’m terrible at social media. I hardly ever post on FB or Twitter unless it’s something promotional. However, I’m not going to be able to just jump in and become the belle of the ball. Start out making Tweets or posts a few times a week, then move up to once a day, and then if you’re really starting to feel comfortable with it, you can start posting multiple times a day and engaging your readers. Some people are just never going to get the hang of social media, and that’s okay, but remember as a writer making personal connections with your audience is important.
  • I want to get myself out there more. You can buy virtual tours, or approach bloggers yourself. Make a list of where you want to promote yourself and start finding ways to get in. Talk to people and seek out who is taking on guests. I’ve found that I can actually schedule tons of promotion without spending a dime this way.

It’s my opinion that resolutions shouldn’t be all or nothing, but should be a commitment to working toward improvement. Giving or picking something up all at once is hard, and will probably fail. However, a dedication to change over time lays a foundation for you to stand steady on.

What are your resolutions for 2017, and how do you plan to implement them?

The Idea Fairy

If you’ve been writing for any reasonable length of time, and the people around you know that you write, you’ve probably heard the question: where do you get your ideas from? This question most often comes from non-writers, who can’t wrap their mind around how you can just make something up and then put that made-up thing on paper, in coherent form, in a way that conveys emotion, message, and a plot. Some writers may ask you the question too, fishing for ways to find their own ideas.

The thing is, there’s no one clear answer to such a question. And for that reason, it’s complicated–sometimes even impossible–to come up with an adequate reply.

Ideas for stories come from everywhere. Not all the ideas in a story come at once, and they don’t all come from the same place. Stories are more like a puzzle where you take an idea from here, a vision from there, a bit of clever dialog or the elements for a scene from over there…it’s a lot of borrowing from various sources. Also, some of it doesn’t come from anywhere but our own minds.

Here are some places I ‘get my ideas from:’

  • Other stories. Not just books, but movies and TV, songs, and other forms of entertainment. I don’t mean I steal ideas, I mean that creative works can inspire us to create our own things. Sometimes I use characters I like in other works as rough templates for my own characters. Not meaning that they’re the same, but I take things I like about the original character and twist it around into something of my own. Music is very inspiring for me too. A song can tell an entire story.
  • My own life experiences. Sometimes it’s beneficial to draw things from your own life. Not only do you know those things well, it can help you understand and work through things.
  • People I know. The experiences of others can be inspiring as well. Sometimes you meet someone so interesting, or deep, or fascinating, you just have to borrow a little something from their world for your next work.
  • An inspiring event. Occasionally something happens that’s so peculiar you just have to document it. It might just be an anecdote tucked into a story somewhere, or it can become an entire story unto itself.
  • Nowhere. Sometimes, ideas just come. It’s hard to pinpoint what sparked them. You just know that you think like a writer and sometimes it happens.

It’s not easy to explain where ideas come from, at least not in the broad sense. If you ask me where I got the idea for a book, that’s hard to answer because the book taken as a whole is a series of ideas from all sorts of places. However, ask me something more specific, like how I got the idea for a character trait, or a scene, or a setting, and I might be able to explain it. Maybe. Maybe it just sprung up and I have no idea!

Where do most of your ideas come from? Do people ask you about them?

A Writer’s Gratitude

This week is Thanksgiving in the US, and for that reason it’s time to reflect on what I’m thankful for when it comes to writing. Feel free to tell me why you, too, are thankful to be a writer! You don’t need to be from the US or be celebrating Thanksgiving to share your joy.

I’m thankful to be a writer because:

  • I get to make up stories and share them with others–and sometimes, they even like them and want me to share more!
  • Writing is a form of therapy for me.
  • I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since a young age. It always gave me focus and direction, and a dream to follow.
  • Language is fun to play with.
  • I love the stories that others give the world, and I love being part of that community. Being one of them.
  • If there’s a story I’d love to read, I can write it.
  • Writing is an ever-growing skill and there’s always something new to learn. It’s never boring.
  • As a writer, I can understand the structure of and what goes into making some of my favorite stories and entertainment. Knowing how it works doesn’t ruin the magic, quite the contrary!
  • I have a ‘calling.’
  • Though I don’t make much money from writing, the fact that anybody pays me at all to do what I love is a miracle.
  • When I’m screwing around on my laptop, I can still pretend I’m working. 😉

Those are just a few of the reasons I’m thankful to be among the ranks of those who create stories for the enjoyment of others, and just as importantly, for themselves. What about being a writer makes you thankful?

Being Part of the Story

You’ve probably heard the adage that we’re all the protagonist in our own story. As writers, we appreciate writing metaphors, of course. We are the main character in the book of our life, and that can be rather comforting, or downright frightening, depending on how you look at it. We each have our own ideas about who is writing the book, and sometimes we wish they’d stop torturing us, or wonder why they’re being so kind to us. Some of us feel we are the author of our own book, and we create our own plot. But something we also should remember is that everyone has their own book, not just us.

The thing about being the protagonist of a story is that everything happens to you. You also have to go through a lot of struggles to reach your goal. A story isn’t interesting if the main character doesn’t have obstacles thrown in their way and doesn’t have to fight for what they want. We like to see the protagonist overcome–we hope for ourselves that we can overcome, as well.

Life is exactly like a story in that sense. Many things get dropped in our path and trip us up. Just like in a story, we also have advantages and disadvantages. We might have more than another person in one area, and be happy and content, but be fighting and failing in another area and striving toward something we don’t have. Life throws us plenty of plot twists: illnesses, disaster, death, heartbreak, loss, bills we can’t pay, people who hurt us, and a million other things.

The story of life is exhausting!

That’s why I also try to appreciate that I play a role in the stories of other people. I am a supporting and minor character in other people’s books, and that can be very fulfilling. We can learn, enjoy, and witness so much in the stories of others. It’s a chance to take a breath, but still be part of the great overreaching arc of a sweeping tale.

For example, I have several musician friends. I have no musical talent whatsoever and would never be part of the music world if I wasn’t a supporting character in these people’s books. Through them, I get to sit in front rows, hang out backstage, and observe musicians in their creative environment. Likewise, I know a couple filmmakers and actually got to play an assistant and extra on one of their productions–something I wouldn’t have sought out on my own, but since I was a bit character in their stories, I got to experience it.

Of course, we may find ourselves involved in the grief, hardship, and struggle of other people’s books too, but that also gives a chance to learn, grow, and find new strength for our own journey. We’re all connected. We all play parts in each other’s tales and learn from one another.

What stories are you playing a supporting character in? How does it help you on your own quest?

I Hate This Book

Can you write an entire book, beginning to end, whole and complete, and hate the result despite all the time you spent on it? Yes, you sure can. I’m going through this particular weird writer hell at the moment.

I wrote the perfect book. By ‘perfect,’ I don’t mean it’s a sweeping, flawless example of high literature. I mean I constructed it to every technical specification. It has a forward-moving plot that comes to a dramatic climax followed by a satisfying ending. The characters are all fleshed out with well-defined and sympathetic motivations, and believable backstories that influence their actions. I hit on every point and marker for the genre and intended audience. There’s no loose ends or anything frivolous. I even managed to construct a somewhat unique and interesting premise, if I do say so myself.

The problem is, when I finished it, I didn’t feel a great glowing sense of accomplishment. I didn’t feel creatively fulfilled. I just sort of felt like I’d finished a homework assignment.

I thought perhaps the passion would come in the revision, as it sometimes does for me; that when I clipped and rearranged and polished, I’d find the glowing gems beneath. It’s happened to me before, after all. I’m almost done revising it now, and I still haven’t found the gleam. Sure, there were a few scenes that gave me a mild feeling of joy like “hey, I wrote that,” but there’s been no overall thrill. I feel like I’ve written a long essay on some subject I have no real interest in and now I’m shoring it up so I can at least get an A on it.

In part, I think it’s because I just don’t like the characters. They’re great characters in their construction, as I said above, but I’m just not into them. It’s kinda like watching a show that everyone else loves but you just can’t get into. You can’t explain why, it’s a fine enough show, it’s just not your bag.

Earlier this year, in contrast, I wrote a story that I absolutely loved. I raced to the page each day to write it, and it all unfolded before me in brilliant clarity. I loved every aspect of creating it, I loved the characters, and when I finished I was breathless with the pounding of my brimming writer’s heart. Not to mention I was actually sad I was done writing it and there was no more. I wrote it in less than a month, revised it in a few weeks, and it was picked up for publication a few scant months later. It was a whirlwind romance of…writing a romance.

I find these two reactions are the extremes, though. Hating what you wrote and being absolutely in love with it are two ends of the spectrum, and most pieces we write fall somewhere in between. You may love parts of something you wrote and hate others, you may have to dig a while to find contentment in the prose, or you may just find that ‘good enough’ feeling eventually. Writing is a game of ups and downs, joy and sorrow.

But what of the hated, finished story? Should I complete the revision and send it off to a publisher? It definitely needs a sequel, and was always written toward having a sequel. I have some ideas for that sequel but I fear by a few chapters in, I would once again feel like I was writing a homework assignment.  Do I scrap it? The sunk cost fallacy involved will haunt me for weeks, I know. Do I repurpose it into something else? Change the characters? Chalk it up as practice and move on?

Isn’t writing just glamorous?

Have you ever written something you hated and couldn’t bring yourself to feel passionate about? How did you handle it? What did you do with the story?

A Unique View

The apartment complex where I live consists of several buildings. I live in one of the buildings closest to the street, and because of the apartment I live in, I have something unique right outside my bedroom window. The only tree that grows directly on the complex property is right outside my window, on a little lawn, which is also the only lawn in the complex. So, I have scenery that no one else does.

I absolutely love the view out my bedroom window. My bed is positioned so when I’m lying down I look right up into the tree and I almost always leave my curtains open, day or night. During the full moon a few nights ago, the moon shone directly in my window. When I wake up, the sun is shining down on me. I’ve only lived here long enough to experience the summer, but I can’t wait to see what it looks like all snow-covered too. It’s an amazing view that is uniquely my own. The people below me are in below-ground apartments and only see the base of the tree. The people above me see over the top of it. It’s a view only I have.

This is connected to writing, I promise.

We all have our own ‘view’ that is ours and ours alone. There are some experiences that are common to all humans, and some experiences that we share with a few others, but there are some things that are unique to us, and there is no one else, alive or dead, who has ever or will ever see the world through our eyes. That’s how writing is, too. You write in the same genre as many other writers, you may write stories similar to someone else’s stories, but there is no one who can bring to the page the same ‘view’ that you have. No one else has your knowledge, vision, or voice.

Our lives and experiences influence our writing, whether we realize it or not. Even if two writers sat down and wrote the same exact plot, the stories would be different because both writers have a different experience of life. All writing is unique in that sense–no one can bring the things to the page that you can, because they have never seen things from your view. Bring your vision of the world to your writing and you will find it not only the most satisfying, but the most true. It’s the only way we can share what we see with each other, at least to some extent.

I think sometimes when people are new to writing, they fear they’ll write something that sounds like something else, or something that’s already been written, or they’ll ‘steal’ an idea without meaning to. But there’s no real need to fear this, because no one else sees the world through your eyes. When you stay true to what you see, you bring something unique to every sentence you write.

Look out your own window and tell us what you see. No one else has that unique view.


Side Note: Right now I’m giving away a copy of The Burning City at All Things Urban Fantasy! Stop by and find out my top 10 favorite ghost stories and enter to win. Contest closes on Thursday Sept. 22nd!