Tag Archives: discipline

Another thought on “perfection”

I should have a “perfection” category on my blog. I’ve had a lot of posts related to those. The reason is that I want things to be perfect in my writing, but I know I can’t have that.

I go to a monthly writer’s group where we often will write a short piece and share it with the group, get feedback on it, etc. We keep the writing under 2,000 words, so it’s a nice easy writing exercise, at least for me. I love short pieces. But in the month between when we decide what we’re going to write, and when I actually share it with the group, I probably read and edit it at least three or four times. I go to the group and share it, hoping to get lots of good feedback and suggestions on how to improve it and most often what I get is this kind of stunned silence and a general, “That’s really good” comment. It sometimes frustrates me because I look at it and see all the problems. That’s my biggest stumbling block when it comes to publishing stories. I keep reworking them because I never feel like they’re perfect.

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I recently had an incredible experience in regards to this. One of my writing friends, Julia Ward, just published her first book. Every writer talks about how their novel is their baby. Well if Julia’s novel was her baby, I was the novel’s Auntie. I was there through the writing stage of the book, the editing stage of the book, the “why did I write this? It’s awful!” stage of the book, the “Oh wait, there are a few funny parts. Actually, this is pretty good,” stage of the book and finally the, “Holy crap, I’m just about to hit the publish button!” stage of the book. Through the whole thing, I saw that endless struggle for perfection, that endless self-doubt that she would ever be able to reach it. It was the same kind of feeling I had when working on my first novel, the same kind of doubt that it would be any good.

When the novel came out, I picked up my copy and started reading. It was cute, it was fun, it was funny. It wasn’t perfect, but I really didn’t care. I enjoyed it, and I was glad I had it to read. And it made me realize that, yes, I strive to make my novel the best it can be, and that struggle makes it such a much more enjoyable read to someone else, but I will never get it perfect, and I don’t need to, because people want to be transported to some other world, some other life, and as long as the imperfections aren’t extremely distracting, they’re happy to read what has been written.

If you’re interested in Julia’s debut novel, go check it out It really is a great read. (And I’m not biased, being the novel’s Auntie.)

Have fun, and enjoy the writing.

Sometimes… You just have to do it your way.

I think there’s a saying in the bible I need to use.

“I shall repent myself.”

About a year ago, I wrote a blog post all about staying focused as an author. I went on and on about how the difference between being a writer and an author was about caring enough about getting stuff finished that you actually worked on something until… it was finished. And just one something.

I was guilty of the opposite a lot before that blog post. In fact, as a kid I used to open five or six documents and work on multiple stories at one time.

The post I wrote was timely for me, and an important step in my progress as a writer. The truth is, I really hadn’t been focusing. I had wanted for a long time to be able to get something published, but I’d work on something for a while, get bored, then go do something else and never come back to the first thing.

Lately I’ve been letting myself feel guilty. As most of you know, I was part of this “It Gets Darker As You Go” anthology. So I focused on writing and editing the short story for that. And then thanks to that I remembered what fun it is to write short stories, so I crafted one titled “The Life of Miranda Chance” and edited one called “An Acceptable Future,” both of which will be coming out shortly. Then I started thinking about “Slavery’s Circle,” the first novel in my next trilogy that I’ll be releasing when I’m done with the Afterdeath series.

But with all of this focus going in all these different directions, I wasn’t working on Turning Point, which is book two in my Afterdeath series. There was kind of a dual reason why my attention wasn’t on the novel. The first was because I just don’t really know where to take it. I’ve written the entire novel already, and the revisions are going hard and slow. The second was because it was just fun to slip back into my old routine of multiple projects at once.

It was last night that I had a moment of genius, and I realized that even though picking one work and focusing on it is a good tactic, and it was certainly a great thing for me to do when I wrote Love is Death, that it’s not necessarily “required” of being an author.

Last night I opened up two documents. I opened Turning Point, and I opened Slavery’s Circle. I got one chapter revised on the Turning Point, and three chapters done on Slavery’s Circle. Now I realize, there’s a greater focus on the book that I’m not planning to put out right away, but it was time well spent, because otherwise I would have been surfing the internet or wasting my time creating a cover for some book I probably won’t publish for a few more months. Last night, though, when my mind hit its usual brick wall on Turning Point, I simply turned to my other novel. My productivity skyrocketed. Even if not all my time was spent on the one I’m supposed to “focus” on, I spent all my time writing, and the other book I was focusing on was one that will need to be finished eventually.

It’s great to pick one thing and focus, and there is definitely a time when that’s appropriate. In my opinion, NaNoWriMo is great for doing this. But at the same time, there’s nothing wrong with doing it your own way, doing what you’re most comfortable with. Even if that means writing two books at one time. With Camp NaNoWriMo coming up in July, I actually plan to work on both novels. I’ll be setting word count goals that I want to achieve for both Turning Point and Slavery’s Circle. I’ll be focusing. I’ll just be focusing on two things at once. Which, honestly, is something I do really well.

Have fun. And enjoy the writing.

Publish this, Publish that.

I’ve been writing this blog for a few months now, and as you may have noticed one of the themes that comes up in my posts quite often is perfection, (or the lack thereof.) Mostly I’ve been writing about perfection because I need to come to terms with my realization that I’m not, and I won’t be perfect, and that’s okay.

So a lot of my posts have helped prepare me for publishing my upcoming novel by letting me work out the thoughts and worries I have about publishing, but they’ve also helped in a much more practical way.

They’ve helped because I’ve been publishing them.

I write my posts. I read them, (probably two or three…or eight times) and then I click on the little blue button that says “Publish.”

I love that it says publish, because it’s giving me practice for that moment when I click my own “Publish” button on my novel. Just like my blog posts, it will not be perfect. it won’t be interesting to everyone. Some people might read the first few paragraphs. Some might get halfway through and then get struck with an acute case of boredom. While yet others might get all the way through and rave about how wonderful it was. (By the way, if you’d like to rave about how wonderful this post is in the comments, I wouldn’t mind. 😉

The fact is, though, that I’m publishing it. I’m putting it out there for others to see. I’m talking about it and sharing it, and giving other people the opportunity to like it or to hate it. Because writing is meant to be read. Ideas are meant to be shared, be they the small ideas expressed in a few hundred-word blog post, or the big ideas expressed in a 60,000 word novel.

So now that I’ve finished writing this blog post, I’m going to read through it a few times, and then I’m going to push that pretty blue “Publish” button. And in one month and eight days, I will click the Publish button on a different website, the one that will make my debut novel available to anyone who wants to read it.

I love it.

So have fun. And enjoy the writing.

 

Writer Vs. Author

My life has changed.

Well, my writing life. But the first sentence sounded more dramatic.

I’ve decided to act like an author, not a writer.

I have been writing for more than half my life, and all that time I have approached it like a “writer.” I write, yes, as both the writer and the author must do. But as a “writer” I write for myself. I have no specific goals. I work on whatever tickles my fancy at the time. Sometimes two…or three or four novels at a time. (I mean, take a look at the first fun fact I wrote about myself. I did this to the extreme when I was younger)

I wanted to get published when I was sixteen, but, well, that didn’t happen. I kind of forgot about it until 2010 when I decided to “actively” “try” to get published.

I love that. Actively try. That’s what I said I was doing. Actively trying to get published, and I couldn’t understand why it simply was not happening. And then it clicked.

I was acting like a writer. Not an author.

Wait. I have a little logic statement for you here. All authors are Writers, but not all “writers” are authors. (Go ahead. Draw up a Euler diagram if you’d like. If you’re a NaNoWriMo-er this may look familiar from a few years ago. This, however, is a Venn diagram. I had to look up the difference.)

Euler

Anyway. This whole distinction might just be something that makes sense only in my head. I might be the only person out there who sees a difference between being a writer and an author. But one thing I’ve learned throughout the years is that we’re not quite as unique as we think we are, and if I’m starting to realize there’s a difference between “writer” and “author,” then maybe someone else needs to realize that too.

So let me show you what it was like being a “writer.” A day in my life as a writer goes like this: I sit down to write, (usually late at night after all the bedtime battles have been won) and I open up my current “Work In Progress.” Good old WIP is completely written, had a quick read-through once, immediately after it was completed (because I love reading my books), and has had a few little errors here and there corrected, but it’s still pretty rough. There are plot holes and smudges, marshes and deserts, and at times a few skyscrapers of useless information. A little overwhelming, but I start to work. This needs fixed, that needs improved. Change this character and delete that one and…

By now I’m tired. Not ready to go to bed tired. I’m just tired of knocking down skyscrapers and filling in holes, firming up mud puddles and watering down deserts. My mind wanders to that wonderful idea I had a week and a half ago. Of course, that idea belongs in my New Book, but what harm would it do to jot the idea down? So up comes the file for NB and I jot down the idea. And I jot down how the love interest reacts. And I jot down how the antagonist uses that to her advantage. Oh, and there’s this incredible argument scene where the hero, the love interest, the antagonist all get into a fight and…

The next thing I know I have eight thousand new words. I feel so accomplished! I’ve done so much tonight, really getting somewhere! Next stop on this bus is getting published AND…

Wait. The WIP has been halted and ignored for the last six hours while I had my little affair with a love interest and antagonist duking it out in the New Book. I was supposed to have this whole chapter rewritten, but now it’s two AM and my brain is mush, and every word I put down in my revision feels a thousand times worse than the first words I used. And the first words were Awful!

I’m awful.

I’m a terrible writer.

How am I ever going to get published?

Well, some day luck might smile upon this “writer” and I might make it through ten or fifteen, or twenty revisions of that poor Work In Progress. All the skyscrapers will have been completely knocked down, every hole filled, leveled, and raked over. The landscape will be park-perfect grass as far as the eye can see…and the book will be boring.

But perfect, I suppose. Let’s just publish it.

Great. Time to work on another one to get published. Hopefully it won’t take me another ten years.

Perhaps this example is a little over the top, but honestly, not too over the top. I decided in 2010 that I had a book that was worthy of publishing. Everyone I showed it to, be they friends, family, or complete strangers in the writing world, thought it was worthy of publishing.

That was six years ago. Has the book been published? No. But it’s been through fifteen or twenty…or maybe forty-five revisions. The “writer” in me is still not satisfied with it.

I realized I needed to change something. There was no way I could keep up this sort of pace at getting books ready to publish and get anything done. As prolific a novel “starter” I am, I have literally dozens of books that need to be polished up and put out there. No one is enjoying them but me, and that’s selfish to keep them to myself. (At least, that’s what a writer said to me last October, when she exclaimed that she wanted to buy my book but didn’t have the opportunity because I hadn’t published it yet.)

It was last October that changed things for me. I realized I couldn’t live my life as only a “writer” if I wanted to be an “author.”

It’s about discipline. It’s about focusing, setting goals and actually striving to obtain them. Yes. I still have those random thoughts about that New Book I want to work on, but I don’t allow myself to get caught up in long chunks of writing on something that is not pertinent to my Work In Progress. I allow myself a few hours a week to work on something new if I really want to, but something I’ve started to realize since I have begun writing like an author, is that I don’t want to work on that New Book. Not now at least. Take notes, keep track of ideas, jot down those brilliant one-liners, yes. But sit down and work on it for hours? No. I’m an author. I’m going to publish my book, and I’m sure my readers won’t want to wait five or six or ten years before they can read the prequel, then book two and three. It’s a Young Adult novel. My whole audience will be like…thirty before the series is done. (okay, let’s not bring up Harry Potter right now.)

The thing is, I need to stop being selfish. I need to stop writing for myself. I love writing novels, but I also love sharing them. My world would be a pretty lonely world if I never let anyone else live in it.

So what are your thoughts? Do you write like a writer, or an author? If you’re a “writer,” are you happy with just being a writer? (I know a lot of people who are, and that’s fine.) If you’re not happy with it, are you willing to discipline yourself a little more in order to get that book out there? If you write like an author, but you haven’t gotten published yet, well then, in the words of my October friend, “You’re selfish! I want to read your books. Susan wants to read your books. The WORLD wants to read your books!”

Wherever you are as a Writer, (all inclusive,) I just want to say this: You never grow unless you push your boundaries.

Have fun, and enjoy the writing.

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P.S. Don’t let your Young Adult Readers look like this by the time they finish your series. Please. If they do, there might be something seriously wrong with them. Like…black magic or something.