How NOT to Talk to Me as a Writer

How NOT to Talk to Me as a Writer

Lately as more people have found out that I’m getting published, I’ve come across a lot of interesting situations both out in the world and on the internet. So I’ve decided to compile a list of things you probably shouldn’t say to an author. Or to me, specifically.

1. “Tell me a story!”

Whoa, okay. Slow down there. For one thing, I wrote a book, a thing that took a week to outline. I didn’t just pull it out of my butt and start writing by the seat of my pants. I am not a panster. I don’t like writer’s block.

Second, I don’t exist for YOUR entertainment. Oh, sure, I wrote a book and books are entertainment, but my book exists for your entertainment, not me.

Also, storytelling and writing are two very different skill sets. I can applaud people who can come up with a story on the fly to tell someone, but I am not one of those people who can.

And don’t be mad when I tell you that I don’t like being put on the spot. This is a common complaint among writers for a reason.

2. “I want to write a book that is about…”

First off, not to be rude, but I frankly don’t care what your book is about. I want to see you writing that book because your story means absolutely nothing to me unless it’s on paper. When I come up with ideas, I don’t even mention this idea until I actually have the first draft written because an idea means nothing until it has come to fruition.

Plus, most people who constantly talk about their ideas do very little in the way of actually getting anything done.

3. “Where do you have the time?”

Oh my gosh. I really don’t. Seriously. But I have to make time because it’s my career, just as you have to make time for your job. It’s going to be even worse when school starts because I might only have time for revisions instead of actually being able to write the sequel to When Stars Die. I might only be able to plan the sequel and actually get writing it come December, when I have an entire month off.

4. “Well, when you get rich and famous…”

Hold it right there. What makes you think suddenly writing a book is going to garner me fame and fortune? Because JK did it, Stephenie Meyer, Stephen King, whoever else? Those authors are one in a million. They don’t make up the world of authors.

I mean, it’s great that you want me to get big and make lots of money. So do I! It’s my goal to be a bestseller and to be an inspiration to my fans. I think I can make that goal come true with constant hard work. But also realize fame and fortune doesn’t happen overnight. Also realize fame and fortune doesn’t happen for most authors. And, last, also realize that an author’s first book usually isn’t the book that gains them success.

However, this doesn’t mean I’m not working toward success. I certainly hope When Stars Die is a success. I want it to be, but I’m also writing this other book too, and I’m going to keep writing.

5. “Will you read my manuscript?”

This question isn’t so bad, but they ask it with the assumption that I’ll do it for free. I’m only willing to do this with other AEC authors with the assumption that they’ll read my manuscript back–mostly because they are expected to critique it.

Otherwise, if you’re not an AEC Stellar author, I’m charging you. Sorry.

I just don’t have the time to read for free. I can’t even make time to participate in my writer group’s critique sessions–as in returning the favor by critiquing other writers. I can only attend the write-ins because, well, we write.

6. “I don’t really like to read.”

We are done with this conversation.

The Madness of Self-Doubt: A Guest Blog Post by Mariah Wilson

The Madness of Self-Doubt: A Guest Blog Post by Mariah Wilson

tumblr_mmvohvsRXb1rnvzfwo1_500This afternoon will be a blog post by Mariah Wilson on facing self-doubt as a writer. You can find her blog here.

Onward!

If you’re a writer then you know what the biggest obstacle to being a writer is. It’s not writer’s block, it’s not the critics, it’s not even the people who tell you that your dream isn’t worth dreaming. It’s the little voice inside your head that comes alive to fan all of your insecurities. It’s the little voice known as self-doubt.

Self doubt kills careers before they start. Self doubt stops novels and poems halfway through and they sit in the pile labeled “I’m not good enough” and as that pile grows, so does self doubt. See, he’s a greedy little voice and he likes to feed himself, and he’ll devour you if you’re not careful. Here’s what I do when my own self doubt gets out of control.

1) Remind yourself that you are still a student of the craft. No matter how many years you’ve been writing, you still have more to learn, if not about the craft, then about yourself. Nothing is a wasted effort as long as there was effort made. Learning is grand, let yourself learn.

2) Savour your successes. Remember that character description that you nailed the first try the other day? Print it off and pin it on your wall to remind yourself that you are capable of great things. Do the same thing with anything you wrote that you think is awesome. The pride you will feel reading those gems months later will surely light your darkest hour. Remind yourself that you can, and do, get it right. Probably more often than you give yourself credit for.

3) Be specific. When you’re looking at something you’ve written and you’re getting those dark doubty feelings, ask yourself why. Often, it’s not the entire piece we are doubting, but a specific element. If you can pinpoint it, you can fix it, whether it be weak description, poor characterization etc. etc. etc. Let your doubt guide you to the places that need fixing and know that you can fix them.

4) Remember, writing is a process, it’s not a once and done kind of deal. Characters need to be shaped, worlds need to be brought to life, catastrophe has to happen and beautiful disasters aren’t solved overnight. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your novel won’t be either. Give it time, give it patience, give it confidence. Only you can write your story, so go write it.

5) Self doubt only grows if you feed it. So don’t feed it. A small amount of doubt is healthy, it keeps our egos in check and saves us from turning into narcissistic maniacs, but do not feed the doubt. Keep it the size of a kitten, not a cougar. Don’t feed your doubt. Tell yourself nice things about yourself and your writing. Find positive things to say and refrain from thinking or saying negative things about your writing. Be kind to yourself.

6) Find people who lift you up and inspire you. Sometimes, regardless of the methods we’ve tried, our doubt gets away on us. This is when you should find someone who inspires you and let yourself be inspired by them. Let their life and their determination help you to realize that you are capable of the same greatness they possess that inspires you.

7) When in doubt, get a second opinion. Take your piece and show it to a friend. This friend must be honest and you have to trust that they are giving you a real opinion and not a white washed, sugar coated version of the truth. Show your piece to this friend. If they like it, then stop doubting yourself, you are doing it right. If they don’t like it, stop doubting yourself and ask them where it went wrong. Once you know what the problem is, it can be fixed.

8) I do not recommend drowning your doubt in alcohol or trying to drug him out of your system. Both ways have been proven highly ineffective in the battle of self doubt and actually only turn doubt into a raging monster. Try going for a walk to clear your head instead. Go to the gym and sweat him out. Put your work away and go play, have fun and live life, enjoy life. Sometimes a good clear head is all we need.

9) We writers think we’re pretty special, like we’re the only people who are crippled from time to time by self doubt, but the truth is, doubt is not choosy. Doubt will consume anything, attack anyone. No one is immune. If you realize that everyone doubts, you won’t feel so alone when you’re stuck doubting yourself, again.

The next time you are faced with doubt just take a deep breath and think happy thoughts. Doubt hates positivity and confidence, he can’t survive through those two things. If that fails, give doubt a name and kill him in your next book.

What Writers Owe Readers and Vice-Versa

What Writers Owe Readers and Vice-Versa

tumblr_mmvohvsRXb1rnvzfwo1_500Okay, so I’m really sorry, but I don’t remember where I received the link for an interesting Huffington Post article I read yesterday that was essentially a rant more than a column (it’ll probably show up in my related content feed, so you’ll probably find it at the bottom). However, I can give you the gist. The writer of this article I read believes readers owe writers nothing and writers owe readers nothing in return. The writer feels this way because of a FEW entitled writers angry that reviews aren’t being left for books readers have read. Now, in this light readers really don’t owe writers anything. The book is there for their entertainment, not for the purpose of being reviewed or to help a writer’s career. So if they want to buy a book at a second-hand book store, that is their business and not the author’s.

However, I believe we writers do owe readers a good book, but we also don’t owe them the book they want.

In any case, I found a flaw in the article. It was very hateful, to start. Essentially we writers should be left to our own devices to drown in our careers. Sure, we can posit all we want that readers owe us nothing, but then when does that stop? Mid-listers and small press authors and indie authors depend on reviews to be noticed, depend on reviews for sales, depend on reviews to make money. If we impress upon readers they owe us nothing, they really will owe us nothing and then it’s very possible our careers as writers will flounder. Then we won’t be writing and readers won’t be reading.

I have 40 interested reviewers for my book so far. I am allowed to expect that they owe me a review or a quote in exchange for a free ARC. Does that make me entitled? I don’t think so. I am depending on reviews, word-of-mouth, to really push my book out there, and if I’m not getting those reviews, I’m going to be upset. You just got a free book. Write even a one sentence review. I don’t care if the review of my book is bad. Even bad reviews can still garner sales because readers can read that review and still discover something in that review that they like that the reviewer didn’t like. I’m not going to be hurt. I’m not going to attack you. That is your right as a reader. I am just going to be grateful you took the time out of your schedule to give my book a chance at all.

Now outside of giving free books in exchange for reviews, readers don’t owe us anything. They bought our books. That should be good enough. I am going to be grateful to every reader who buys my book, even the ones who bought it and discovered it wasn’t their cup of tea. They gave me and the book a chance, and that is enough.

The mentality, too, that writers owe readers nothing is a little dangerous. Sure, we owe them nothing insofar as to what we want to write, but we owe them a darn good book because a darn good book will help our sales. A fantastic book is the best way to ensure good sales, along with an expanding base of followers THAT YOU INTERACT WITH. A darn good book will also foster literacy and hopefully inspire people in their lives and affect a change in their lives. I certainly want my book to inspire someone.

I don’t write for the money. Period. But if I spend years pouring everything I have into a book, I expect compensation of sorts. You wouldn’t expect a chef to give you a free meal without some sort of compensation so don’t expect a writer to give you a free book without some sort of compensation either.

The arts seem to be the one thing where receivers of art hold this entitled attitude that we should starve for our work, while all other vocations are expected to receive compensation. We need to put more value into our arts than that.

 

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Publishing a Book: A Single Interview Question

Publishing a Book: A Single Interview Question

I really don't drink. I can't drink anyway because of my meds.
I really don’t drink. I can’t drink anyway because of my meds.

So someone, after scouring through my Tumblr, posed this question to me, and while I already answered it, I decided to create a better answer in the form of a blog post.

Was it difficult to get to where you are today? What did you have to do?

Yes, it was difficult. I had to pretty much struggle on my own because while I did find decent beta readers, they couldn’t do for my story what needed to be done–the sequel to When Stars Die. While they were able to point out what was wrong, they couldn’t step outside of the box and present to me a different way of going about it. Instead they were trying to fix what was already there instead of what wasn’t there, and I needed the latter. I just didn’t know it at the time.

It wasn’t until I stumbled across YALITCHAT and decided to intern for its Founder did I really begin to learn how to write. She obliterated my first chapter. I was so daunted at first because I never had anyway tear the chapter apart. In fact, people loved it, but they were only trying to fix what was there. The founder told me to start my story earlier, that the chapter could work if I did that, and I was just astonished. How come no one had ever told me that before? How come it took a professional freelance editor who charges a hefty sum to tell me that? Perhaps I should have learned to reach outside the box myself, but no one was telling me that.

I had a short story published before meeting this brilliant woman, but novels are so much different, and at the time, I was more of a short story writer, even though I wanted to be a novelist. It was lucky I had never subbed a novel before though because I probably would have learned some very difficult lessons. So I interned for her and she looked over my book. My writing was spot on, but my novel storytelling skills needed some work, and I learned immense amounts from her on the art of storytelling, something that, in spite of reading many writing books and receiving critique from others, I couldn’t manage on my own. I was lucky, blessed even, to have found her. I had to work hard for her, and she in turn worked hard for me.

As soon as she sent me critiques, I got right to work on them and sent them back to her within two hours. I struggled the most with chapter three. I re-wrote that thing five times before finally understanding that something needs to develop every chapter, be it character or plot. She believed in me and my story, as did I.

Unfortunately, for reasons that have nothing to do with her editing, we had to part ways, but I took what I learned from the sequel and applied it to When Stars Die. The sequel couldn’t work as a first book because there was so much information within the first half alone, so I had to unearth the prequel and get to work on it because it spread the information over the entire book. The sequel simply reiterates it and reveals more historical background of my world. I re-wrote When Stars Die five times to get it to its current story. It was not easy, especially because I was going over everything by myself, with no one reading it, not even a single word or sentence. After I re-read it a sixth time, I finally sent it out to my beta reader and took a break from writing (because of burnout and depression).

Depression made me apathetic about my writing career. I no longer cared about When Stars Die. I couldn’t even care that my beta reader loved it. She even had chapter-by-chapter notes for why she loved it, instead of simply shoving it back at me only saying she loved it with nothing else. But I had to get my stuff together. I couldn’t throw away  a childhood dream because depression was trying to tell me the happiness I sought wasn’t worth it. I found AEC Stellar, took a chance, and got an acceptance within a few days. I was, again, lucky and blessed. So even though I got accepted on a first go around, I had to pull teeth to get myself as a writer into shape to be able to create the story found within When Stars Die without needing a professional telling me this is what I should do. Now, of course, I’m going to have edits, but the point is that I was able to do this on my own, with only one beta reader, because the Founder of YALITCHAT taught me how to be my own self-editor.

It is never easy to become a great writer. A good writer. Even a decent writer. We can dream, but we also need to strip ourselves of this grandeur that we have when approaching writing. Any published writer will tell you that in spite of having a contract, it is no fairytale getting there.

What Depression Feels Like for a Writer Like Me

What Depression Feels Like for a Writer Like Me

My Stars, this is a very honest post. I hope you can handle my honesty because I want you to be able to know me, all of me. I don’t want to hold or hide anything back, so if you’re the kind of person who is uncomfortable around real people, stay away from this post.

I’ve decided to up my blogging to twice a day, in case you haven’t noticed. One blog post will be personal, and another will be purely writing related. This one I’m writing because I’m feeling the depression puppeteer pulling on my strings and trying to make me do its bidding.

I use American McGee's Alice a lot because I feel like her a good majority of the time--not abused by an external force, but my own mind.
I use American McGee’s Alice a lot because I feel like her a good majority of the time–not abused by an external force, but my own mind.

I hate the way I feel right now. I’m irritable and exhausted and feeling a little hopeless. I finished chapter one in my new novel and am 1/3 of the way through chapter two. I know I can finish chapter two by dance class tonight–well, rather, I should–but I’m exhausted and don’t have it in me.

It honestly sucks breathing right now. I just want to stop. I just want to sleep. But I can’t. Not without meds. It’s terrible. It really is. I feel like my brain has given up on me. It doesn’t want to function right without meds. It hates me, and I hate it. It’s a terrifying thought knowing my moods are at the whim of chemicals in my mind. Certainly I can control the way I think, but not the way I feel. And I’m trying to remind myself that I can become better again, but it’s hard when you’re at war with your mind and your mind is telling you that it’s hopeless, how can you feel better when you feel this way.

Right now, I feel like I’m not good enough, as a human being and a writer. I feel like this new novel will turn to crap because of my traitorous mind. I feel so dispassionate right now, about everything. I don’t want to go to dance tonight. I don’t want to be around people. I just want to take my meds and go to bed and wake up hoping for a better life, a better day.

I shouldn’t be feeling this way. My website, my blog, is finally kicking off. I’m getting lots of likes on posts. I’m finally getting followers. I should be proud I was able to outline 37 chapters plus an epilogue last week, that I finally imagined a story that can rival When Stars Die. I have so many ideas of what I’m going to do to market When Stars Die that I should be bursting with motivation to hunker down and pound out the chapters for my new novel (I already have a freaking cover design in mind for this novel!).

But I can’t feel anything but apathy and seething hatred for feeling this way. My therapist tells me I need to accept the feelings, but it’s hard when these feelings prevent you from doing what you want to do–because you don’t want to do it at the time but you know you normally would.

I honestly hate cliché gifs like this, but there is no other way to describe how I feel at the moment.
I honestly hate cliché gifs like this, but there is no other way to describe how I feel at the moment.

Depression does this. You are its puppet. You cannot break the strings. Some days you can control what the strings do, and other days you cannot. This is one of those days for me. I pray during work tomorrow I’m not so run over that I can’t work on my novel during the lulls at work. I’m a freaking writer. It’s what I do, what I need to do.

I’m on a new medication though. Abilify. My therapist thinks I’ll like it. Unfortunately, I’m on a child’s dosage, so I probably won’t feel any improvements. Another torturous month, I suppose. But Stars, I’m not giving up. I might be giving in, but I know things aren’t always this way.