I have written almost every day for the last two weeks. But there have been some nights that I’ve walked away knowing what I just wrote was utter garbage! Things even teenage me would have cringed to read.
That is the beauty of a first draft though, it can all be garbage. Because the magic of the red pen can fix it! (Yes, I edit with a red pen. It’s the English Teacher in me.) But I am not a multiple draft writer. I write a 1st draft then I do a hard edit/second draft before sending it to my editor. Sometimes I wonder if I am doing this wrong. I see so many people who write draft after draft, and that just seems exhausting? Maybe I’m the one doing it wrong.
This is one of my favorite meme’s. I think we all need a reminder that first drafts are crap. Just get the words out.
Because my writing has been so blah lately, I have pushed back my announcement for my next book for a few weeks. This is just to give me more time to write a more polished draft and get a better handle on a new book launch strategy. That is the beauty of self publishing. You can make adjustments to fit you and your life.
It feels like I have all the time in the world and no time at all.
On top of writing, Kris and I have an exciting project coming up that we will share in the coming weeks.
It is very cold here today. The high is suppose to be 3 and they are predicting 3 inches of snow. I’m going to go curl up with a warm latte and a book. If you are looking for a break and haven’t already read them, I’ve linked my books below. As a reviewer on Amazon said of The Haunting of Locker 31 “This book was incredible and suspenseful!! I couldn’t put it down! I had to keep reading to find out what would happen next!”
My personal experience with conferences has never been good. I’ve never found the speakers to be engaging and most attendees seem more interested in the after conference night life than the actual conference itself. I also always balk at the price tag associated with most conferences. Yikes, they can be a budget buster. Instead of full-fledged conferences, I sign up for free webinars and virtual workshops. I like the price tag but I find I usually get what I pay for.
Last week, I attended a free virtual author’s talk with Darcy Coates. This week, I am attending a class about getting through writing challenges. The talk with Darcy was fun, and she provided some helpful tips, motivation, and an interesting reading list. I am hoping the workshop today helps me get some more motivation to finish this damn novel.
After Darcy Coates talk, I woke up the next day anxious. I couldn’t focus on my normal reading, even though it was the brand new issue of Writer’s Digest. I googled “Best Writing Conferences” and I was not surprised but a little disappointed to find that most are being held online this year. I was thrilled to find there are several writers conferences being held in Colorado this year. The Northern Colorado Writer’s Conference is mostly online, but I was happy to discover they were having 1 in person day with limited seating. So I signed up. I actually paid a fee. Woo! That’s a big step for me.
This will be first in person writing conference and although it isn’t until April, I am so excited. I am tempted to do as my sister-in-law does for my niece and nephew when they are anxiously waiting for something big and exciting to happen. They create those paper chains out of colorful construction paper and every morning; they get to cut off on the link, counting down until the day.
Have you ever attended a conference or a workshop? Did you make connections? Learn something that helped you with your goals? Do you have any recommendations?
Before I begin, perhaps you aren’t the person who needs to hear this. But about two weeks ago, I was the one who needed these words. I gave the lecture to myself in the mirror one day and it has inspired me to keep trudging along.
You are the reason your book isn’t a thing.
There, I said it.
You can stop reading now if I offended you.
There are two reasons your book isn’t successful. You aren’t writing it, or you aren’t marketing it correctly. I will focus this post on writing the book. Next week’s post will be about marketing, my personal demon, and things we can try to overcome this hurdle.
First things first. I know you have heard this before, but I’m going to say it again. No one else can write your book for you. You have to take the time, make the time to write. As writers, we have to so many ideas swirling around in our heads, from what a really cool book idea is to how would be to how it will feel when our book is number 1 on the best-selling list of all the best-selling lists? I know, I do it too!
But hey, your book won’t make that list if you don’t actually write it.
Maybe your goal isn’t to be on the best-selling list. Maybe you just want someone to read your work and appreciate it.
Cool story, bro. Hate to burst your bubble, but if you don’t write it, no one will read it!
So what can you do? The obvious answer is to write. But for some of us, finding the time to write can be a challenge.
As a teacher, I leave my house at 6:45 in the morning and I get home a little after 4. When I make it home; I have to take care of my dogs, fit in a workout, make sure my lessons are ready for the next day, cook dinner, make lunch, catch the news, say hello to my husband and make sure I find some time to decompress. I can’t imagine what your day looks like if you have kids, especially little ones.
These are things that I’ve done that have helped me. Take what you need and ignore the rest.
Make a schedule. I physically write out what I need to get done that day. I have always loved planners and I still keep one. Mostly for work, but now I jot down my writing goals. Every night after dinner, I spend an hour at my computer. I don’t set a word goal for those days. I know that sometimes I feel like a failure if I don’t meet a word goal. Get into the habit of doing it and soon, you will just migrate away from the TV and to your writing space instead. Once you have a routine, then you can start figuring out your word goals.
I stick to the schedule. It would be so easy to come up with an excuse why I can’t write. I spent all day teaching kids on the computer, I can’t stare at the screen any longer. I am exhausted from the day. I don’t want to. Something I did was having my husband join me. We each put on headphones and enjoy an hour of doing things for us. He plays video games or goes down one of his research fueled rabbit holes for whatever project he has brewing. But don’t rely on that person to make you do your writing. That isn’t fair to them. Again, it is your story, not there’s.
Try adjusting your day to fit writing in. Maybe you can get up a little earlier every day to spend time writing. Maybe instead of mindlessly scrolling your phone during your commute, you write. Maybe at lunch, you write. You have to figure out what works for you. I tried getting up at 5 AM to write. In the summer, when the sun is coming up around that time, it works well for me. But when it is still pitch dark and cold, it doesn’t work. Keep adjusting until you find something that works for you.
Be kind to yourself. I’m not saying you are going to be able to do this every day. Professional writers’ number one piece of advice is to write every day. Well, buddy, let me tell you, we mere aspiring full-time writers can’t do that all the time. Cause we got other stuff we gotta do! We have families and full-time jobs and stuff that needs to be taken care of. If my job was to get up and walk to my office, I would write every day. The perk of being a teacher, I get at least one month where I can do that! But most people don’t get to do that.
If you are dreading writing, maybe you aren’t writing the right story. Or you are writing for the wrong reasons. Now that I am back to writing, I am reminded that writing makes me happy. It gives my endless racing mind a place to go, to run free and have fun. It also serves as an escape from the stresses of the day. Sure, I want to be successful enough to one day be one of those stuck up authors whose advice is to “write every day” and actually be able to do that. But, until then, I need to remind myself that my writing is my escape, my fun. Similar to people who do puzzles or go mountain biking, it is a hobby that hopefully one day will be a career.’
Don’t do everything at once. Figure one thing out and then work on another. Build up until you have your writing and life figured out. You could always write three times a week, then four, and so on. You could write more on the weekends, or days you have more downtime. Think about what works for you. I personally write longer on weekends than weekdays, just because I have the time.
One these things may work for you. Some may not. Remember, the only way your book will be published is if you write it first!
Next week, I’ll talk about marketing and what steps I am taking to overcome my weakness in that area. Until then, let me know what you do to make sure you get your writing done!
One of the very first pieces of advice I read when I embarked on the self publishing journey just under a year ago was to stick with one genre for at least three books. It seemed like sound advice. Until I thought it might be fun to write a different genre. (Which it was.)
This summer, around July, I found myself bored. I had just finished Three Finger Jack and had stuck it in a drawer for it’s required two weeks of stewing. Not really sure where I would go next in that series, I sat down at the computer and began writing a romance. Not sure why, but light-hearted and hopeful in the time of Covid seemed like a good plan.
Now my Cowboy Christmas Romance is almost ready to be released, and I am thinking about that advice. I only have two Paranormal fiction novels out. The big fancy writers claim that my readers would be upset or angry if they picked up another novel of mine, and it wasn’t the same thing.
Well, here’ s my dilemma. Readers aren’t that stupid, are they? And do all readers other than myself really stick to one genre? I mean, I love a good ghost story. But I read light romance before bed. I listen to mysteries in the car. I devour nonfiction on Saturday mornings while Kris is sleeping in.
I would be an angry reader if I picked up a third book in a series and discovered a genre change. But if the author I liked explored a new genre, in a separate series or new standalone, I wouldn’t be upset or confused. I might be excited to read the genre knowing I enjoyed that author’s previous work.
I am working on the second in the Deadly Ghost Stories series. It won’t be ready until sometime early next year. Will I turn off my readership, which is relatively low, by publishing a Holiday Romance? Or will I find new readers, who, like me, enjoy reading more than one genre?
This weekend was weird. On Friday, I had 3 wisdom teeth removed. I have needed it done for a while and I just couldn’t put it off any longer. The day wasn’t great. I was hungry. My appointment wasn’t until 2 and I couldn’t eat or drink anything. Why doctors think that’s cool to do to people is beyond me! I distracted myself with some writing and cleaning the house.
The procedure itself was pretty easy. I remember them making a comment that the IV went in at 2:30 and then I was awake at 3:10, missing three teeth. Easy and smooth. I was back home before 4. Still a little drugged but at least numb.
Kris took great care of me, making me follow all the rules, despite my protests. Saturday was a lazy day, full of icing my face and eating pudding or jello. Sunday, we went on a Jeep drive to get out of the house. We went through Phantom Canyon, not far from where we live. We stopped at Cripple Creek, attempting to win big at a few casinos. (We didn’t.) We did run into the Cripple Creek donkeys wandering the down the sidewalks.
Driving through the mountains reminded me of the rough story I had waiting for me at home.
I bragged a few weeks ago about having the first draft of my second book complete. Which was true. The first draft is done. But it is the bare bones of a story. I spent a week, reading over and over different parts, adding in one line, deleting another. So, I took some writing advice and put the story away for two weeks and worked on something else.
Today, I printed off the second book and sat down to read it with fresh eyes. Oh man. Was it rough. My characters are weak, my plot if full of holes and the pacing was off.
And I loved ripping it apart! That’s what the first draft is all about right? Getting the idea out. Vomit style. I know what I can add now, what it was missing.
This story is another paranormal ghost story. I based it off an old ghost story I heard while on a class camping trip when I was in the 5th grade. I am ramping up the scare in this one.
I am setting a deadline to have my second draft ready to go off to see the editor at the end of July. I would love to have this book out by Halloween.
My book, The Haunting of Locker 31 came out on Friday. I’m officially a published author. Friends have already read the book and are asking for a sequel. It’s a weird feeling, knowing that something I have dreamed about for so long has finally happened. It is even weirder because I do feel different. But not the way that you might expect.
I wasn’t expecting to feel any sort of change. I figured it would be like a birthday. When you were younger, you would get so excited for the special day. Because when you hit that milestone, 13, 16, 21, you would expect to feel different. There would be something that day that would activate inside you. You would feel that age. But that was never the case. You still felt the same. Which always made me a little sad.
But this time, something did change. I started my third novel, a little adventure away from the others. And I have sat down to write it every day this past week, with no excuses. As I am writing it, I know that it is okay that not everything coming out is perfect. There will be time to edit, to review. But I can’t do any of that until I have it done. I found my confidence!
And I am having fun again with my writing. I feel good while I write and even after. I love this feeling. It reminds me of why I even started.
I know that this first novel will not make me rich, successful and famous. I hope to make enough to recoup what it cost me to make. And maybe a little extra to help me with my second novel.
I also have to continue figuring out the marketing game. Which I feel is a never ending battle for everyone.
But the writing stuff. I finally have that figured out. And it only took me publishing a book to get there.
Good news! The manuscript is not as big of a disaster as I was expecting. Going back and reading during the writing process really helped me keep the plot under control. I’m not saying there are no mistakes. Because there are a lot of those. But it isn’t as bad as last time I attempted an edit.
I started developmental edits today. I added in an entirely new first chapter. I realized that I needed to start my book off with a bigger bang than the slow pace it had been. I also wanted to provide some context for the backstory and avoid summarizing it throughout the rest of the book. While I did my read through, I wrote on my notepad what needed changed and my goal is to have those edits completed by next weekend so I can devote Friday and Saturday to copy editing. (I wrote a complete plan for my editing process in my last post Holey Moley, it’s first read day!)
My biggest issue this week was motivation. I had a draining week at work and by the time I got home, the thought of reading, or doing anything related to my book, was exhausting. I pushed through and worked Monday and Tuesday night, but Wednesday and Thursday, Kris and I played one of my favorite games, Stardew Valley. Ridiculously simple, but so engaging. A little addictive too.
I felt guilty because I took the time off. But on Friday I hit it hard, catching up on everything! I think sometimes we look at those professional writers who tell us to write every day and we have to take a step back and say “I wish I could buddy but here’s the real deal, I work full time. And some days, if I don’t have a little me time, this book will never get done cause I’m gonna quit.” So if you are like me and you just need a few days off, do it! Don’t feel guilty because some yahoo with a YouTube channel can write every day. (On that note, should you really be taking advice from a girl who just took 2 days off for no reason other than being tired? See, I’m just as mean to myself as I am to others!)
I tell my husband all the time, I would kill it if I stayed home and wrote for a living. I woke up this morning and wrote 1400 words without blinking. Then went through my story, adding in those details I noted and moving text around. I researched some editors I want to contact. Now I’m working on a blog post. It is just a little after 11 and I didn’t start until just before 8. This afternoon, I’ll work a little more on the developmental edits. I feel good about what I have accomplished and know that it makes up for my two days of not working.
I have to work a 9 to 5 job because I like nice things like food and a roof over my head. Writing might have to take a back seat every once in a while. I should never feel guilty because I would rather spend some time with my husband and playing fetch with my dogs than working on a book.
Last year, I decided that I would sit down and write my first book. I had an idea for one rolling around in my head for years, started it several times and gave up. This time differed from all the other times for a variety of reasons. The main reason, I had my husband’s unwavering support and encouragement. Before I embarked this time, I read all the books on writing that I had bought over the years, including Steven King’s On Writing. (If you haven’t read that yet, please do. It is full of great advice.)
The biggest take away: write every day. I needed to write whether I felt like it, whether I was inspired or had the energy or wanted too.
So I set a goal for myself. I would write 1500 words a day. (I would do more on the weekends when I was not working. Rarely happened though.)
I also told myself to “pants it”; never peek back at what I wrote. Just write. Editing would come later. But, there would be no major issues, right? (Cue canned crowd laughter)
For a little over three weeks, I stuck to it. Every day, I would come home from work and I would take care of the dogs, cook dinner, etc. After dinner, I would sit down at the table and write my words.
I struggled at first, checking every two hundred words to see if I had hit my goal. After the first week, I needed to check less and less. Then I was writing those words without blinking.
I got sick after week 3: I couldn’t write. My poor dogs didn’t get their daily walks. My husband hid from me to avoid catching what I had. The Bjorson household was miserable.
But then I picked the writing up again and after two long months, I completed my first draft! Doing as I had read, I put the manuscript away for a few weeks.
My husband bought a printer, and we printed off two copies. He started reading my precious book.
And he did not have much to say. So I asked him to say something.
He said it was hard to read because it was so full of errors.
And he was right.
My story could be interesting. But because I took everyone’s advice and never looked back to look at what I wrote, I had some major errors in my writing.
So I started the monumental task of editing. I bought a couple books, read a couple blog posts, watched YouTube videos on what is the best way to do this. I settled at the desk again and read my story. I attacked it the way I attack my students’ essays. And you know what happened?
I got overwhelmed.
Because there was so much to fix, so many plot holes and so much that was just wrong. The story I had loved and poured hours into was suddenly something I hated.
It didn’t help that I was planning a wedding. We also moved, selling our home and buying a new one. All within two months of each other. (If you want to test your relationship, do this. If you survive, it means you are meant to be together.)
Once we settled into our new home and married life, I now had a cluttered, bright office to call my own. I pulled out the manuscript and tried tackling it again. This was just under six months ago.
I’m still working on it. Because it is hard. A lot harder than anyone ever made it sound.
November rolled around, and I took part in my first writing challenge for NaMoWriMo. And I did decently well. I did not hit the 50,000 word limit but did get to 30,000. With this new story, I tried a different tactic. I completed a plan/outline of how I wanted the story to go. Which helped me get started and stay organized. Halfway through, I back-tracked to the beginning. I started editing, and I started filling in holes. I recognized events I had set up I needed to reveal, or discovered major plot points I needed to fix.
What’s my point?
Figuring out my writing style took a full year. I thought I had to do what other authors did. I read so many books saying that editing as you wrote was detrimental to your writing, it would cause you to never finish. This process would send me into a vortex of editing and not writing, never adding any words!
For me, it worked exactly opposite. I realized plot holes sooner. If I got stuck, I could edit a little. This always led me to being inspired to continue writing.
This book is on track to be done by the end of February. (Fingers Crossed!) Which means I can send it off to the editor!
I’m still working on the other one. I will finish. But for all my future novels, I will stick with the editing as I go. This may not be what the books say to do, but it works for me. And it may not work for you.
Don’t be discouraged if you have been struggling. Try something new. Try writing at a different time of day; go back and look at what you have been writing. Talk to someone about your book. Skip to a different part of your novel.