IWSG: Ready or Not…

InsecureWritersSupportGroupTomorrow I fly off for my first ever conference as a guest author rather than a mere attendee. (Not to slam being an attendee. I’ve been one many times over and love that, too.) I’m excited and nervous and… Yeah, insecure. Not so much about the panels because I think those will be fun. But about being alone, hanging out. Sort of like the first day at a new school. What if everyone ignores me and I have no one to talk to? And then there’s anxiety about the author table. What if no one buys any of my books and I’m just sitting there with a rictus smile on my face the whole time? But ready or not, I’m going in. Sign up for my newsletter (on the sidebar) to find out how it goes!

IWSG Question of the Month: How do you know when your story is ready?

I just know.

Sure, first I get feedback and make revisions. Nothing springs forth perfectly formed. If you think your writing is perfect the moment you put it on the page, then I’m sorry, but you’re probably not a very good writer. In fact, I’d say nothing is perfect even once published. There’s always room for improvement. So you have to look at the returns and decide when the amount of effort in revising is no longer less than or equal to the gains to be made. That is to say, the gains should always be more than or equal to the effort.

But even with this equation in the back of my mind, the truth is, I just know when it’s done. Ready. Or, perhaps more accurately, I know when there’s still something not quite right. I may not know what the problem is, but I’ll set the piece aside and work on something else while my subconscious runs a subroutine to figure it out. Sometimes my critique and beta readers can help me zero in, sometimes not. I rely to an extent on my gut instinct here. That’s part of being a writer, too, I think. Instinct. Knowing when to take someone’s advice and when not to, knowing when keep tinkering and when not. Don’t strive for perfection. You’ll make yourself crazy if you do and may never finish anything. Only aim to tell the best story you can, the best you know how. And remember that the more you do it, the better you’ll know how for the next story.

Read other IWSG posts and join by adding yourself to the list here.

IWSG: Finding Time

InsecureWritersSupportGroup If you want to know what I’m feeling insecure about, please take a look at my post on pre-conference jitters—and then share any advice you might have! In less than a month now I’ll be attending my first conference as a guest author. The panels don’t worry me; it’s handling my first signing table that’s giving me the shakes. Safety in numbers, though, or so I keep telling myself. (But what if I’m a bust and no one comes to my table? my inner voice keeps wailing.)

I’m also a little nervous about upcoming reviews of Manifesting Destiny which are due out tomorrow and on the 23rd. Hope the reviewers like the book. And if YOU happen to be a reviewer and interested in reading MD, please let me know and we’ll work out a way to get you a copy.

Okay, question of the month is: How do you find the time to write in your busy day?

Well, for one thing I’m very fortunate in that writing is my day job. I pack the kids off to school, take my morning walk, then come home and (ostensibly) write. That’s not to say I don’t have a dozen other things to distract me: laundry, dishes, trips to the store, other errands, appointments, etc. I try to keep all those to one or two days a week so that at least three days are clear for several hours of writing. Doesn’t always work that way, and laundry and dishes are a daily thing, but if I don’t schedule myself well, I feel like I’m wasting this wonderful opportunity of being home and “being a writer.” I want it to be a job, not a hobby. And I remind myself that if I ever want to see the results I crave, I have to take it seriously. Same as exercise. I don’t always love working out, and I don’t always love writing, but I dislike myself even more if I don’t do them.

Join in the fun by visiting other writers’ IWSG posts here.

IWSG: Back on the Horse

InsecureWritersSupportGroup (But what if I fall off again?)

What am I insecure about right now? Easy! My new book comes out in TWO DAYS! On August 5, Evernight Teen will release Changers: Manifesting Destiny and I am, of course, simultaneously exuberant and terrified. While I think this book has the potential for a wide audience, I felt equally excited about my previous book (The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller) only to watch it flounder despite all my best efforts to promote it.

What if that happens again?

I keep telling myself that Manifesting Destiny has wider market appeal. It’s YA fantasy. Peter is more of a niche book, more literary (editors called it “upmarket espionage”).

Then again, YA fantasy is a crowded market . . .

Aaaaagh!

I can only do my best to spread the word and hope readers find and enjoy the book. With that in mind, here it is:

Manifesting-Destiny-Evernight-teen-2016-smallpreview

Sixteen-year-old Cee has a hopeless crush on her best friend Marcus. Unfortunately for her, he’s gay. In the wake of Marcus’s older brother leaving home to join the Aerie, Marcus has become increasingly distant. Then, when Cee discovers she has a troublesome dragon named Livian living inside her things grow even more complicated.

Marcus urges Cee to go to the Magi to have Livian removed, but the more used to Livian Cee becomes, the less certain she is about letting him go. Should she change her natural self for the crush who will never love her anyway?

Read an excerpt on ARe Cafe here.

Question of the Month (found in the IWSG Newsletter): What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?

As an aspiring writer? So the very first thing I wrote once I knew I wanted to make that my career? Hmm. I’ve known I wanted to do some kind of writing for most of my life, and I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. But the first time I wrote something with an eye toward getting it published, it was fan fiction and I was sending it to a zine. (Back before fanfic was online—yes, I’m that old.) And it did get published in a zine, and then the zine did another issue that was devoted entirely to my work. I got invited to conventions as a guest fan author, and it was great fun and a bit bemusing. I miss that sometimes. The zine community was so connected, and while I think it’s great that the Internet has widened the doors, I don’t feel as connected any more. (Well, and now I write “real” books and don’t read much fan fiction. But I think cutting my teeth on fanfic was not a bad thing. It helped me hone my skills.)

Then as an undergrad getting my screenwriting degree, my final project was an X-Files spec. Which is like fan fiction in script form, really. That is, of course, collecting dust.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group posts the first Wednesday of each month. Find other insecure writers and/or join forces here.

IWSG: Falling Behind

InsecureWritersSupportGroupThe IWSG posts the first Wednesday of each month. Click here to find a full list of participants, and to join!

This month I’m insecure about not meeting my self-imposed deadlines.

I started June with a plan to finish Brynnde by the end of it. Alas, it was not to be. There was so much to do leading up to the end of the school year (x3 kids), and now summer has set in and . . . I’m trying to let go of my concerns about writing and just enjoy the now, the summer, the kids, the activities, but it’s difficult sometimes.

And then when I do get time to sit and write I find I’m stymied. Ugh. I’m lucky to eke out a couple paragraphs. It’s like I’ve dried up in the summer heat.

I really wanted Brynnde to be done for the conferences I’m attending, one of which is mid-August, the other not until October. It’s not the worst thing if it’s not done for August, but I have an author’s table at the October conference and would really, really like to have the book ready for that. Especially since I don’t know if Changers will be in print yet at that point. (Cross your fingers that it is!)

So that’s what I’m struggling with at the moment.

IWSG Question of the Month: What’s the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?

Someone once told me how glad they were that I hadn’t written a simple “happily ever after” when two characters got together, that I showed the real struggles of managing a relationship rather than glossing over it. (I had written a series of stories in which the characters came together, and the series extended past the HEA point and had the characters negotiating that new relationship.) The reader liked that it felt real to life as well as true to the characters involved. That compliment has stayed with me over the past few years.

Another nice thing someone said wasn’t about my writing per se, but I was talking to an editor at Tor who was asking me about Changers—specific, world-building questions—and told me she was impressed I was able to answer them all. “You’ve thought it through,” she said. “There’s no worse answer than ‘that’s just how it is in this world.'” So I was glad to pass that “test”!

The Question of the Month can be found in the IWSG newsletter.

IWSG: Writing the Sequel

InsecureWritersSupportGroup The Insecure Writers’ Support Group posts the first Wednesday of every month.

I’ve done it now. My YA fantasy novel Changers: Manifesting Destiny is due out from Evernight Teen some time this summer. (It’s in editing now, and I’m also waiting to see the cover.) Thing is, it’s ostensibly the first in a trilogy. Which means I’m on the hook for two more books.

I’ve outlined what needs to happen in the second book (Changers: The Great Divide), and I’ve begun writing it, but . . . It feels so much weightier to write a sequel. There’s more riding on it, and I keep asking myself whether it’s good enough, which strangely was not a question I asked myself while writing the first book.

What’s keeping me sane right now is having a second, unrelated project—a Regency romance—going at the same time. Yes, it’s more work, but it somehow actually helps relieve the pressure a bit.

So what causes me to seize up when writing a sequel? I do this, too, when writing new Sherlock Holmes stories, and I think it’s the pressure to “live up to” the others. Whatever that means. It’s such an amorphous, subjective thing. But there’s an expectation—one I put on myself more than anything others put on me—and it paralyzes me a bit.

Still, I must trudge forward. Don’t want too much time to pass between books. Of course, if the first book doesn’t do well, maybe there will be no call for a sequel. But that’s another worry for another IWSG.

Meanwhile, please do check out my short story “Aptera,” which was published today on Aurora Wolf. It’s a contemporary tale of mythological sirens. Read it here.

IWSG: Silence

InsecureWritersSupportGroup Right now I’m waiting to hear. About a lot of things. From a few different people. And I find that very unnerving.

I’m waiting to hear from the conference organizer about my presentation in October. She’s certainly busy, and there’s plenty of time, but I’m the type of person who likes things to be set and settled. Feeling up in the air makes me insecure.

And I’m waiting to hear from the publisher about Changers. Again, I’m sure I’m in a queue somewhere, and at least I’ve had some back and forth with the marketing person. (There’s a marketing person! Hurrah!) This is more about being excited; the anticipation has me on the edge of my seat. But at the same time, the longer I go without hearing from anyone, the more I fear I’ve been forgotten, fallen through the cracks.

In truth, I know I have personal issues with feeling ignored or overlooked. That’s on me. And it’s also really tough for me when I’ve done all I can and now the ball is in someone else’s court. Aside from nagging and making a nuisance of myself (and I try not to), there’s not much for me to do but wait.

In the meantime, I try to be productive by working on other projects. But this limbo is like Damocles’ sword; I find it difficult to focus on anything else while it hangs over me. But I’ll try to get some writing done anyway.

Learn more about the Insecure Writers’ Support Group—and join—by clicking here.

IWSG: Like, In Front of People?

InsecureWritersSupportGroupThe Insecure Writers Support Group was formed for authors to share their doubts and fears about writing and allow fellow authors to support and encourage them. They post the first Wednesday of each month. Learn more and sign up here.

The good news: I’ve been asked to present at the InD’Scribe conference in October! My very first time as a writing conference presenter rather than just an attendee. I’m naturally very excited! But also a little terrified.

I have plenty of time to plan, and I’ve already begun making notes. And I’ve taught classes before; I used to teach Shakespeare at a summer camp. Of course, back then my students were ages 9 to 14, so . . . This is a little different. These are my peers. And I’m going to be getting up in front of them and speaking as if what I have to say is interesting, even important or valuable.

I hope it is.

IWSG: Failure

InsecureWritersSupportGroup So my dread lately has been . . . failure. Specifically, the failure of my latest novel. It came out on January 15, and has had ups and downs in the Amazon rankings. (I can’t see the data, nor do I have any info on other platforms, so I can only go by the Amazon rank.) I mean, I can’t really say it’s a “failure” so much as not the break-out hit I wanted it to be. Which still feels like a failure to me.

I’m hugely disappointed. I know, objectively, that the book may yet find its audience, and I do have a big blog tour coming up in April that I hope will help. But as things stand, my publisher has told me it’s unlikely Peter will go into print, and so a lot of my plans have gone up in smoke. My big debut turned out not to be very big. (I call Peter a debut because it’s my first traditionally published book versus self-published.)

All the doubts are there, eating at me. Am I not a good writer? If I’d published it myself, could I have done better (my husband is a marketer and has done well by my other books)? But I did really want the experience of being published by someone other than myself. So at least I can say I’ve done that.

My writing group assures me my most recent manuscript—a YA fantasy called Changers, hopefully first in a trilogy—is far more commercial and should do well. Peter is decidedly a niche market novel. I get that. But despite all the sound logic and reasoning, I can’t help but be disappointed anyway.

Maybe Peter will find its feet somewhere down the line. I know I can’t dwell. Need to move on to the next thing. But it’s difficult to let go of something you worked so hard on, watch it sink. It’s quite depressing. So I’m taking a little time off to regroup. Don’t know how long just yet. An indefinite hiatus. But I’ll keep posting here, so do check back! I’ve started an author interview series; drop me a note if you’d like to be interviewed! And if you’d like to check out Peter, the Tirgearr Publishing site has a page featuring all the links to various e-formats. There’s an excerpt and several reviews there, too. I can at least take comfort in the fact the book has been generally well reviewed by the few who’ve read it. Maybe someday it’ll be considered one of those classics that was ahead of its time. Well, a girl can dream.

IWSG: Out of My Hands

InsecureWritersSupportGroupIt’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time to explore what’s making me insecure as a writer. And it’s all the usual stuff. Yesterday I received three rejections, which wasn’t fun. Two last week, too. And now I’m in the middle of a massive rewrite and worried it still won’t be good enough by the time I’m finished. But that’s normal for most writers, I think. We all pour effort into our work and then worry our best still isn’t good enough. (Or are we worried it’s still somehow not our best? Hmm.)

But the thing I’m most insecure about is my latest release, The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller. It has decent reviews on Amazon and has been bouncing up and down in the rankings there. But I usually self-publish and can see the sales numbers. Peter is my first book to be published by, well, a publisher. So I have no real idea how well it is or isn’t doing.

The publisher has told me if Peter does well enough, they’ll consider a print run. I really want that to happen; I’ve already been invited to a couple bookstores to do signings if/when I have books to sign. So not knowing how well Peter is selling is a bit frustrating. It feels like so much hinges on it! I guess I’ll have a better idea after the first quarter.

Then again, I also don’t know what counts for “well” per this particular publisher. I don’t know their metric for success.

It’s out of my hands. That’s what I need to learn to live with. All this energy should be put into my current projects. Focus. I need to focus on what I can do. It’s the difference between treading water and actually swimming. Gotta swim.

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IWSG: Loss for Words

InsecureWritersSupportGroupIt’s IWSG day again, the first of 2016! (Click here for info on IWSG. And here’s what I’m insecure about: not having anything to say.

I want to blog, but I honestly feel like I’ve got nothing much to talk about (except maybe my book coming out, but I don’t want to keep saying that over and over because I know it will bore people). I find myself thinking, I should post something today, but I can’t think of anything to post. In fact, I’m super glad today is IWSG, because it gives me something to write about!

What do people want to know and read about? I have no idea. And that’s pretty bad for an author, right? For someone who is supposed to keep people entertained through words? But then again, I’ve never been one to try and write to the public. I write what I want to write and hope a few people find it worth reading.

So is the problem really that I can’t find anything I want to write about? Hmm. Yes, that actually seems possible.

Which means the next question is: How do you figure out what you want to write [about]?

How do people choose blog topics?

I’d love to hear how some of you decide what to write and post on your blogs and sites!