InsecureWritersSupportGroup It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Read and support writers by clicking here, and if you’re a writer you can also join!

Writer’s block is what has me insecure this month. I simply can’t seem to make headway with the Changers sequel, and that’s causing a certain amount of anxiety in me. I’ve got a little over 20k words written, and now I’m well and truly stuck. I’ve tried just writing through it, but no. I’ve outlined, so I know where I need to go, I just feel like a wagon with its wheels in the mud. I’ve considered skipping the chapter I’m on and writing the rest, but I can’t work that way—I’m a linear writer. I’ve dabbled with other projects on the side, but I know this book needs to get finished, and that’s probably making things that much worse. *headdesk* Anyone else want to write this book for me?

Question of the Month: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Uh, I’ve pulled out some old stuff now and then and looked at it. I’ve even thought, I should do something with this. And then I never do. I don’t know why. In particular, I would like to rework my Master’s thesis, which was a middle grade historical fantasy. It’s on my list of project, but I don’t know if or when I’ll ever actually be ready to tackle it.

InsecureWritersSupportGroup It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Read and support writers by clicking here, and if you’re a writer you can also join!

This month I’m both nervous and excited. Nervcited? A couple of things are happening: 1. I’m putting out a new book in a completely new genre for me. I’ve long loved reading Regency romances but never thought to write one until now. I’d been writing a lot of heavy books and found myself needing a lighter project. I was just playing around, really, but found I loved it! So I’m hoping you will all enjoy Brynnde too, and that I’ll find fellow Regency lovers to read it. 2. I’m doing an audiobook! I attended a talk about audiobooks at last year’s InD’Scribe and it really planted the seed for me to want to have one of my books adapted to that format. I don’t know yet how it will work out, but I’m hopeful. So far I’ve had some great auditions and plan to pick a narrator soon. Stay tuned!

As for being nervcited, well, of course there’s the nagging fear of: What if it all goes to hell? What if it all fails? But I’ll never know until I try, right?

Question of the month: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

I recently noticed this as I was re-reading Dune and then again while reading Anne Perry’s The Face of a Stranger—that my knowledge of “rules” for writing sometimes pulls me out of a book when I notice one of those rules being broken. And the truth is, these writing rules are relatively modern and new, and the books cited above are somewhat older and probably not beholden to those rules. But I still noticed. In the same way that I notice things in movies because I have a film degree and also have worked on film sets. I think any time you have experience in an area, you’re going to notice things, for good or ill. You’ll get the inside jokes but you’ll also notice the errors.

InsecureWritersSupportGroup It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Read and support writers by clicking here, and if you’re a writer you can also join!

Last year I had two books and one short story published. This year I plan to publish at least one book, and I hope to finish a couple other manuscripts. I’m feeling hopeful about that.

Last year I attended two conferences. This year I’m not sure if I’ll be able to attend any (unless invited as a guest). I feel a little sad about that.

How are you feeling going into the new year?

Question of the Month: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

All of them?

I think too much advice hobbles the writer, stems the natural flow. Or, rather, I think too many rules at the wrong time do. Rules are important. Rules of grammar, and then also how to handle character and plot and pacing and description. But if a writer goes in worried about all the rules, he or she can become paralyzed, afraid to do anything because it might be “wrong.” And there’s no wrong way to write. At least not at first.

So here is MY rule: Write. Don’t look at advice or how-to or anything else until you’ve written it. THEN go back and figure out what needs to be fixed. I go into more detail about this and the writing/submission process in this guest post. I hope you’ll give it a read.

InsecureWritersSupportGroup It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Read and support writers by clicking here, and if you’re a writer you can also join!

Lately I’m having that bit of insecurity many of us have in life whether we’re writers or not: the fear of not being good enough. Sometimes it seems, no matter what I do or how hard I try, it just isn’t enough. That leads to wondering why I’m wasting all this time and energy on writing. It can be a terrible, depressing spiral.

When you’ve given something your all—and I’m talking about not just doing something but having done your very best, put blood and sweat and tears into it—the last thing you want to hear is that you still fell short of the mark. But the truth is, sometimes your best at that time won’t be quite enough. Sometimes a story (or other project) exceeds your abilities. That doesn’t mean you won’t ever be able to get it right. It just means you need to hone your craft a bit more first.

Think of it as reaching for something that’s just beyond your fingertips. Sometimes you just barely swipe it, but then it falls and crashes. What you need is a stepping stool. In this example, that stool is the hours you put into writing and getting better. You can reach farther and farther the more you write because writing = adding steps to your stool.

Not good enough is a fact of life. But it doesn’t ever mean you can’t get better. You just have to be willing to put in the work. And when you’ve put in a ton of work and it’s still not good enough? That’s hard. But know that the work you’ve put in is adding to your stepping stool—even if it’s not high enough yet, it will be eventually.

IWSG Question of the Month: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

Ahahahaha! What’s the saying? “Man makes plans and God laughs”?

I think it’s important to have goals, but it’s also important to remain flexible. In five years I expect to have put out at least five more books, and hopefully they will be selling steadily. I plan to continue attending conferences, ideally as a guest author and presenter, but sometimes just as an attendee. I’d also like to be doing more signings and events. I’m currently trying to figure out that side of things by making connections with independent bookstores and event planners. (Anyone want to split a table at BookCon with me?) And I’m planning to explore the possibility of audiobooks, too.

Being a writer these days also means being a small business. You have to invest in yourself and your career, which sometimes means spending money to make money. I struggle with that, and I think a lot of other writers do, too. We don’t have a lot of money, so we have to figure out how best to use our dollars. That’s where the planning comes in. Because you do need to plan. You can’t sit and hope to be stumbled upon by readers. You need to leave a trail of breadcrumbs for them so they can find you—and with all these other writers leaving goodies, too, you’d better have the best bread in order to entice readers to your door. So I plan to get out there where people can see me, hopefully in places where readers can be found. It’s not easy. Not only because I’m shy but because I have to sell myself, and that doesn’t come naturally at all. But I’ve discovered a great community of writers at these events, people willing to help one another. If nothing else, at the end of the day I’ll have that much.

Aim high, but count every little blessing.

InsecureWritersSupportGroup It’s time again for the Insecure Writers Support Group! This post goes up the first Wednesday of the month. Read and support other writers by clicking here. You can sign up to participate, too!

This month I’m insecure about marketing. Actually, I’m insecure about that every month. Things that used to work no longer do, and it’s getting increasingly difficult to catch and keep readers. That starts me worrying that I’m just not a good enough writer—a fear any good writer has—though I know a big part of the problem is that there are simply so many books out there in the world, and so many people hawking theirs, that it’s almost impossible to be heard. Readers can get books for free pretty much all the time, so why should they buy mine? Until I build that loyal following, it will continue to be a struggle, and it can be very disheartening.

(Want to make me feel better? Consider signing up for my newsletter there on the sidebar. Pretty please? I don’t send it out too often and I don’t share your email address with anyone.)

Okay, question of the month: What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

Not having to work in a “real” office? Seriously, though, I’m very fortunate to be able to make writing my career. I worked in publishing for a while but I don’t do office politics well and I’m better off working on my own terms. I like that I’m making something that will exist after I’m gone, even if no one ever reads these books. A legacy of sorts. And I really enjoy the community of writers I’ve found along the way, the ones I’ve met at conferences, the mutual support. So much better than the backstabbing I encountered in the professional environment!

As for writing itself, I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of it. I’m a creative thinker but have an analytic streak and enjoy writing through things and seeing how the plot points connect—like bones and sinew. Hmm, that’d make a fine title . . .

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.