Posts Tagged ‘writing articles’

The Soul of the Matter: Create or fade away…

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

I’m an overwhelmed writer who’s been hiding from my writing for a week or two…or three. But not writing makes me feel even more overwhelmed. It’s not a cliche. Whether you’re an artist or not, if you’re not interacting with what inspires you in the world, you’re pretty much guaranteed to make whatever funk’s messing with you worse.


It’s easy to feel burned out these days. As parents and business people and friends and lovers and, yes, creators of things that inspire others, we’re doing more each day and often getting paid less, which means if we want to pay our bills that even more doing looms on the horizon. And our souls can suffer, bottoming out and leaving us in a mental fetal position where we feel we have nothing else to give ourselves or others.

And then it’s not quite winter anymore and not quite spring, and crawling under the covers (at least mentally) and feeling blue seems like a good one-day, short-term solution…until it turns into weeks of letting ourselves off the hook.

soul weary tree

It’s so easy to stop interacting with what challenges us and feeds us at the same time. It’s human nature when we’re on overload to scale things back to the bare minimum. We get the day-to-day done that keeps the water coming out of the faucets and lights on, while we’re emotionally absent in ways that at first protect us, but then begin to drain us.

There’s a common ground to find. There’s a balance we need to seek, instead of the oblivion of just turning our creative, vulnerable, softer side off for a while, so it can lick its wounds.

We think backing away from what makes us uniquely us (and the part of us that’s so exhausted, because we’ve put so much of ourselves out there already) is the answer. And maybe for a a day or two, it is. But not feeling stressed (or telling ourselves that’s the ideal) is a gateway drug. For a day or two, it’s a lovely zen. Then it becomes a hideout, and then an addiction in which we convince ourselves that we don’t want to go to that stressed place again. Ever.

Creatively, stress is most often what drives us. (more…)

How We Write: When we’re not…

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

I’ve been frozen. My fingers have been still. But my mind has been racing. I’m a writer who’s been in one of those fugue states between projects that is full of thinking and planning and anxiously wondering, but not full of words. They’re not coming. They’re not my friends right now. They want to be now, but I’m mute. They’re jealous and needy and greedy and bitchy, and I’m not sleeping, the way I don’t when I’m on deadline. I can’t write. Not yet. But I will. Soon. Why can’t the words understand that?

i can and i will watch me

I stress about and regress into and resist these times between most every major project. I should be catching up on business and planning. I should be enjoying the peace and freedom of a deadline well met. But I’m angtsty instead. Writing is my natural state. I feel at loose ends and a little like I’m lazy when I’m not.  But I’ve delivered three books in a row in the last nine months, and my mind needs a break–whether it wants one or not.

People are waiting for me to get up-to-date on emails and commitments and plans for the rest of 2013. Friends are wanting to catch up, and so do I! But I’m still wanting to hide a bit. Okay, a lot. The pressure hasn’t let up, and I’m not sure it will until the next story is flowing. It’s not natural for me–this down time. But it IS part of my writing, and it’s time I accept that.

I need to conquer this state of letting go that renews and gives me direction and fills me with the hope (often unreasonable hope) that the next book will be magic, just as the last one was (you know, once I’d revised it like 100 times, because I was dreading working on it not to long ago, the same way I’m dreading the new words).

Let go of things

We need to trust the not writing parts of our creative process, the same as we do the writing ones. We need to see that we can’t always be ON, and that trying to force ourselves to be will defeat us in the end. (more…)

The Soul of the Matter: Sunday, Sunday…Rest with me, won’t you?

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Resting isn’t for the faint of heart. Resting with purpose, that is. Being lazy has its place, no doubt. But resting isn’t all we need, when rebuilding is the goal. Revitalizing. Renewing. Reconnecting with who and what we are beneath the work and the responsibilities and the demands on our emotional selves that drive us to the brink. These are the intricate, delicate bones of real rest.


Good times, bad times, all the time that we spend being and doing and saying what the world accepts we are… Our outward selves are important. But it’s the inner us that only we know how to feed, and it’s our own renewal that only we are responsible for in the end.

To others, we are the combination of everything they’ve seen and heard us do and say, and everything they’ve thought about that person they’ve watched perform for them. But unless we come with our own running narrative (too bad we can’t all live in a novel, right?) others don’t know what we really fee and need and aren’t getting, not unless we tell them. And who wants to be that needy girl, right?

So we muddle through–the kind of muddling that takes a lot of skill and deflection while we take care of our own stuff, on our own, so others won’t see so much of it that they’d get fed up with how demanding we could really be if we let our insecurities off their leash. That kind of muddling can be exhausting. (more…)

How We Write: When our soul is tired…

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Ever panic, thinking you might never be able to do what you love again?


Me? I love writing. It’s my job,  but also my passion; how I enter the world. And after a season of not feeling well enough to do much of it, I was on a roll in 2012. That is, until the great crash of early 2013.

Hello, my name is Anna. And I haven’t been able to write for over two weeks. Not even a blog post. Me–and I LOVE to blog. Three, sometimes four times a week,  blogging is my morning writing exercise.

It’s how I prime the creative pump. It’s the blood that flows first, engaging my creativity, helping me smile or think or dig a little deeper  until I’m ready to tackle my daily pages. But ever since I turned in the final developmental rewrites for Three Days on Mimosa Lane the first week in February…nada. The well wasn’t just dry–picture a bunch of two-by-fours nailed across the opening, daring me to rip through them and face the big, bad ugly lurking beyond.

But why? Have the two and a half weeks been about being lazy? Giving up? What about the month before that, when I barely had the energy to complete the TDOML developmental edits and didn’t blog in January, either?

You’ve heard of bone tired. I think I’ve stumbled across the state of being I’m going to call Soul Tired.

soul tired

Overwhelmed. That’s where we sometimes find ourselves, whether its about writing or family or friends or other commitments that we love but realize we can’t face. Not right now. Not with a smile on our faces and a I’m so glad to be here hug.

When you’re soul tired, you’re disconnected. Sometimes, you’re overwhelmed. But always, always, you’re looking at the world around you and realizing you no longer know or feel your place in it. (more…)

How We Write: Deconstructing BEFORE Rewriting. No more excuses…

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Anyone–ANYONE–can deconstruct and rewrite a manuscript. Anyone can learn to rework a story one scene at a time. And we’re talking rewriting–NOT copy editing a manuscript to catch punctuation or grammar mistakes, or line editing to make sure prose flows beautifully. These skills are important, too, but only after an author has dissected the first draft and rewoven it’s parts into the best story possible. These are the ideas I discuss with writers at conferences year around.

This week in HoWW, I’ll do my best to cover the high points of a deconstruction technique that, combined with rewriting, it takes me a two-day weekend workshop to teach properly. This is interactive stuff that I love to work with in person, while students apply what I’m showing them to a work in progress. In fact I’m already lining up several hands-on rewriting workshops for 2013. And the mindset of one of these weekend retreats that I hope you’ll also achieve, at least a little, after reading this post, is–

  • No more excuses for not rewriting.
  • No more hiding behind “not seeing” what needs to be changed in your story.
  • No more big, scary book that’s too complicated to rework.
  • No more feeling out of control of your creativity as you rewrite!

Next Wednesday, we’ll get more into what to do with your story once you can see its various pieces more clearly. Today, let’s zero in on the seeing part!

Once your draft is completed, the story can seem too complex to tackle, right?

You feel too close to your work to be able to analyze and re-craft it. There’s just too much there, and it’s impossible to see where each change will take the story. It’s easy to find yourself rewriting in circles, never really getting anywhere. And who has that kind of time?


So, let’s talk deconstruction technique. Not HOW to do the revisions themselves–that will be for next week.  And, frankly, fully learning how to revise a scene or a chapter or an act or an entire novel is more about trial and error and learning from experience). This is a post about how to deconstruct what you have, so you can get to work on what needs to be done–THAT I can show you today ;o)

How can you challenge each story component in your draft? (more…)

The Soul of the Matter: Too Close to Quit?

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Ever notice that the closer you draw to something you really want, the more inclined you can be to quit the race that’s gotten you there? I know I can’t be the only one who’s natural tendency is to dream big and fight hard to make that dream happen, only to begin doubting (or dreading failure) just as the moment of victory draws closest… It’s so easy to pursue something beyond your reach, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t intimidate or quit or back down. Not so easy, for many of those same people, to accept that the achievement of all that’s been fought for has really, truly arrived.

dont quit every difficulty is an opportunity in disguise

Precipitory anxiety is as natural an occurrence to my creative mind as craving the sound of water, feeling more inspired between midnight and 3 am than any other time of the day, and always looking for a different way to see and experience ordinary things others pass by without a second thought. I’m good in a fight. I’m the point person who believes any threat or challenge can not only be tackled but conquered. I’m a gamer. But…wait a minute…what do I do at game’s end? More often than not, I find my instincts screaming, “But…what do you mean it’s over?” Because, I think, it’s easier for me to be in love with the dream than to accept the scary proposition that I could actually bomb at the very thing I’m wanting so badly to happen. Sound familiar?

Puppy Dream big

I don’t know about you, but I feel much more in control when I’m scrapping and slugging it out and no one really expects me to get where I’m going but me.But put me in the end zone with folks cheering me on (or flash me an early glimpse of what that moment’s going to be like as I draw ever nearer), and I’m at least for a moment or two a freaked out writer geek who is terrified that everyone’s going to be looking while I somehow find a way to f**k it all up. (more…)

The Soul of the Matter: Suck it up. This is life. Live it out loud!

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” we want to say some days. A lot of days lately. For so many people I know, this is a year of volatile change and redirection. “Enough is enough,” a lot of us have insisted, bending beneath the pressure but refusing to break. “I just want a little peace…” Understandable, unless what you’re saying is that you’d rather go back than forward. Reasonable, unless what you’re thinking is that the change is what’s crushing your sense of stability. It’s not. Life has gotten very real for a whole lot of my friends and family. It’s not at the moment something we can sit back and appreciate as we sip our coffee or toast with a glass of wine. It’s in our faces and demanding our attention and dragging us into its momentum as it shouts for us to wake up and LIVE!

you've got to be kidding me

Oh, come on. This is what we’re here for, right? To learn and grow and change and see what we’re meant to become next. It’s easy. To change jobs (or publishers) over and over until you find the right fit (hopefully…this time…), and somehow find a way to feel grateful that you have a job/publisher when so many others don’t. To pay all your bills as the teenager grows ever older and more of a money pit and to see your savings and retirement shrink because of the rising cost of living and the dwindling interest rates and volatile returns on stock market investments. To accept that retirement might be as far away a date for you now as it was when you first entered the workforce, but again, you’re working so keep you mind on the present and celebrate that joyous fact that the dollar you earn today is worth about a third of that first dollar you brought home straight out of college.

It’s easy to face all that and feel warm and fuzzy about your crumbling spot on the ledge overlooking the abyss, right? RIGHT?!

Josy and Pussycats

Yeah, I feel it too. That pinch. That pressure. That sense that everything’s spinning and spiralling and I’m clinging to my balance and putting everything I have into merely staying on my feet. But that’s reality, my friends. That’s what being alive feels like right now. That’s the world we’re living in, and we ARE lucky to be living it. To have choices and to have jobs and publishers and financial resources to compete for. 

The world can look grim all it wants to, but I tell myself every morning that I don’t have to see things that way. (more…)

Publishing Isn’t for Sissies: Me and Dorchester, the CliffsNotes Version

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

You have to be willing to take risks in this business of ours. Calculated risks that are nonetheless precarious for the careful thought you put into jumping off whatever cliff of opportunity looms before you. Sometimes a marvelous parachute glide awaits you, easing you into your next step forward. Sometimes there turn out to be holes in your plan and you land in the trees–if you’re lucky. Sometimes you crash and burn completely. My experience with Dorchester Publishing these last few years, like many authors, has been more the latter.  But as of last week I can officially say it hasn’t been a crash and burn fiasco, and the trees that were grabbing at my chute are receding farther and farther away each time I look back. Perspective?One might call it that, this ah-ha sensation filling me. Hind sight gives us the illusion of finally seeing things as they were always meant to be. Maybe it’s just dumb luck… You be the judge.


Too often it feels as if I have absolutely NO idea how I got to this moment of deep sighing and appreciation for a journey well traveled and a fight bravely faced and won (Amazon, the publisher who also recently signed a three book deal with me to publish a women’s fiction/contemporary romance series has bought out Dorchester’s list at auction and will not only pay me royalties due from the last three years, but will re-list and potentially buy new titles into my sci-fi/fantasy series).

To be honest, I have some idea. But my mind’s still spinning as I process the twists and turns and decisions and retreats–stopping myself, ultimately, from making several end-game decisions that would have ended this wild ride before I achieved what I’d set out to. What follows is the CliffsNotes version of that adventure, because publishing can be a sucky journey for all of us and I’m happy to share my personal suckage if it might possibly help others finding themselves in their own potentially no-win situations, trying to choose the least objectionable of the unsatisfying options before them.

no win decision

But first, let’s identify what exactly I wanted to achieve from the start. Because the best business decisions are potentially bad business decisions, regardless of the odds in your favor, if you don’t understand your goal. My best advice to anyone when they ask me my opinion of what they should do about a book, agent, publisher or contract is to figure out what you want and determine the best way to achieve that. Beyond that, I got nothing. Because as you’ll see below, the rules are always changing and what works for me or someone else now may be a no-win choice for you tomorrow. You have to be flexible in this business. You have to dodge and duck and know when to jump or stand still.  None of which you can do effectively if you aren’t sure where you’re headed.

My goal with my sci-fi/fantasy series: To establish my mainstream fiction work and to build a series for a broader audience than my contemporary romance roots, into which I could continue to sell future novels. Simple right?

success failure

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

  • Round about the fall of 2008: Dorchester offers a 2-book deal for my Legacy Series. Dark Legacy to release nationwide in mass market paperback in the fall of 2009.
  • I deliver the book on time, but the advance money isn’t coming from the publisher as quickly as it should. Agent pushes hard behind the scenes, but we don’t pull the book from the schedule. It’s more important to my goal to be established as a mainstream author with bigger stories to sell than my category romance roots, than it is to join in the shrieks of dissatisfaction with the publisher beginning to rumble all over the Internet.
  • Fall, 2009: Dark Legacy in stores, positioned well, I’m signing in the B&N flagship store in New York’s Lincoln Center, and we’re off. Sales are good but nothing fabulous. We can do better, publisher says. My series is repositioned away from traditional romance and closer to the sci-fi/thriller market it’s better suited for.
  • Secret Legacy due to editor in early 2010 for a rushed summer 2010 release because they want to break it out. They’re behind this very different, edgy thing I’m doing with my mainstream work 110%. They’ve also by now paid me the advance I’m owed to date. Agent and I see this as a good chance to shine within a smaller traditional press, so I keep working.
  • Health issues and surgery prevent me from turning the second book in on time. Editor and publisher couldn’t have been more understanding. Deadline for delivering Secret Legacy is pushed to the spring of 2010, with a fall release. It’s the hardest writing period I’ve ever had, and I called my agent to quit more than once, but the book was finished and revised in a gruelingly short amount of time. If nothing else, this experience proved to me that I had to keep writing–if for no other reason than I couldn’t seem to make myself stop.
  • Fall 2010: Serious money spent on my part and committed by publisher to promote the book that should break out, even though remaining advance for the second book on the contract hasn’t yet been paid. However, lots of publisher plans–print and digital promotion. Extensive online blog tour being set up. Again, agent and I are staying focused on the publishing possibilities and my investing in my mainstream future, which means I continue to do my job and play nice while she rattles their cages fighting to get me the money owed.
  • Two weeks before Secret Legacy’s launch: it’s announced on the Internet (not to individual authors) that overnight Dorchester’s pulling their print publishing arm (meaning all my mass market print books are being yanked, never to be distributed retail) and beginning immediately  to shift to a digital first/print on demand business. My break out release: not going to happen. My sizable investment in promoting to mass market retailers and readers: wasted. My remaining faith in publisher: destroyed.
  • (more…)

How We Write: When we don’t wanna!

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

When you’re a tech writer, you learn you have to have head’s-down writing days. Whether you’re in a busy office or working at home and everyone’s pinging you on your laptop through your DSL or whatever and the phone won’t stop ringing, you have to learn how to tell everyone that you can’t chat today, or do lunch, or even make a hour-long meeting that should only take fifteen minutes. You have a certain number of pages to get done to stay on your project plan, and that’s just the way it’s going  to be. You’re not moving from your desk or even going to try and pretend to be social until they’re done.

Fiction writers need head’s-down days, too. I was talking with someone yesterday about meeting daily page count goals. If I could do it writing 600 pg. security administration guides (brain damge would be a more interesting pursuit), I can damn well do it writing something fun like how to make dreams leathal or how to kill a bad guy with a Yoo-hoo-spewing vending machine (don’t ask). Your daily fiction writing goal is your professional project. If you have to, make a formal plan to track it. Then follow the plan. Even if you think you can’t be creative today. Of course you can be creative. You’re a creative writer. It’s you job. DO IT.

writer defined

Sorry for yelling. I’m on target to write more this year than I have in the last two years combined, and I think it’s getting to me

AND I know it’s not that simple. We all have lives, and some of us (me included) work at home and that comes with a whole other world of distractions. But be committed to your page count. To your story. It has to be a priority. Otherwise, you’re not giving your creative job your all. And it will show in the characters and plot you develop. (more…)

The Soul of the Matter: Milestones and pushing beyond them…

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Whatever your long-term goal, meeting short-term milestones is the key to success. As is  enduring between them. The troughs between the high points is where it’s easiest to quit. Our souls are most vulnerable there. Our love for competing with ourselves is most at risk. It’s these between places where we’re more likely to hit a wall we feel we can’t possible scale…

hitting the wall woman

I’ve achieved several of work/book milestones the first half of 2012: getting back under contract; finishing novels; building up the editing side of my business; rediscovering what feeds me as an artists and committing myself to that journey above all else.

Personally, there have been even more highs: 21st wedding anniversary; my teenager’s success in his 3rd semester of high school, his kick-ass internship, his (waaaaaaa!) obtaining his driver’s license and next step toward freedom; my getting a handle on the health issues that have ground most everything else into the dust for 3 years and owning, along with my artistic inspiration, what will be required likely for the rest of my life to keep me thriving.

Startling progress for six months of living, particularly after the slow down that became my 2010 and 2011… Then I hit a wall in July that narrowed my focus to quite honestly getting through the next minute, next hour, next day, next deadline. So help me God, I was going to get through! And I did. Where, exactly, did July and the first part of August go?

hitting the wall sculpture

No wonder all I want to do right now is sit in a corner and quietly, passively, watch the world go by.

Like with the distance runners and swimmers we cheered on in the Olympics, just before and just after a peak in performance we’re exhausted as our bodies and minds are wanting to let down. We’re inspired, yes, but often least able to believe that pushing through MUST be done before all else. Our focus is skewed toward a short-term goal, and we begin to wander, to wonder, to miss the point0–that the journey is key, not the result. (more…)