Ways to know fear is holding you back

Fear. It can one of may blocks in the road for writers when they start or finish a project. I began to struggle with this after coming back from vacation and missing my self-imposed deadline. I kept putting my morning writing off until the evening and then I would say I’m tired and head to bed.

Anytime I did “try” and write, I kept distracting myself on the internet.

Trying to think of ways to link your scenes together is as hard as looking at a blank page.

But the other day I realized that it was just the fear and self-doubt keeping me from going back to what I enjoy.

Continue reading

Write Reads 2: Forest for the Trees

Hello writers, I wanted to start the Write Reads series this year with Betsy Lerner’s “Forest for the Trees.” I am hoping to bring these writing book reviews to my site to serve as a guide to pick up something you may want to read, or not read. Enjoy!

Please note, I will be paraphrasing anything from the book or it will be italicized and in quotes. If it’s long, I’ll put ellipses in them. Don’t worry, I will be leaving chapter and page numbers if you decide to pick this book up.

Here’s some quick book information:

Betsy Lerner, “Forest for the Trees”

Riverhead Books (Penguin Group), publisher.

Revised and updated edition, October 2010.

12 Chapters; 285 pages total; Pages include introduction that starts at page 1 and a bibliography that starts at 279. The book is broken up into two parts; First part is Writing and the second is Publishing.

After thoughts…

I was first assigned to read this book for my editing and publishing course that I took in my last semester of college — I was able to get through a big chunk of part 2 for an assignment. About a couple of years ago, I decided I wanted to pick it back up again for the sake of understanding the publishing industry and see what I could do in bettering my craft. Though it offers some quick tips on writing, it does not make up entire chapters. And like the subtitle says: “An editor’s advice to writers.”

At the end of reading this, I felt like I had an idea of what publishing industry is about; it’s as recent as 2010, but it’s still information that’s good to have.

Recently, I’ve been reviewing the some of the lines that I’ve highlighted. Some of these have grounded me in a way, serving as something to keep in mind now and for the future.

Most notes from…

Part 1 Writing:

Chapter 1, “The Ambivalent Writer.” Page 1.  /// 9 notes. Why: In the beginning of the book it talks about different types of writers; besides ambivalent and neurotic (below), there are the natural, wicked child, self-promoter and “Touching Fire” types. While each chapter (writer types) had parts that I could identify with, this chapter stood out to me because Lerner describes this writer as the one who bounces around between a multitude of ideas.  Yes, as writers we all bounce around with them, but this is more like the writer who can’t choose which one to work on and haven’t finished a story.

While I have grown a bit out of that, it was definitely me in the beginning. I would not finish a fan fiction (I do have plans to finish my Teen Wolf fic, but I digress) or start a story get about halfway through. This chapter kind of called me out on my flakey ways when it came to writing. In turn, it’s made even more determined to complete whatever I’m working on.

Chapter 5, “The Neurotic.” Page 93.  /// 9 notes. Why: Lerner approaches this chapter saying the neurotic writer has a ritual, or habit, that allows them to write in that one condition only. She also addresses those who present “the gamut of phobic behaviors from nervous tics…”.

I believe the point of this chapter is to making sure a writerly habit  doesn’t prevent you from producing work if you somehow can’t go through a ritual. Lerner put it best when she wrote: “Should you fail to achieve success, all these behaviors look only like excuses or sick behavior.”

Part 2 Publishing

Chapter 10, “What Authors Want.” Page 211. /// 9 notes. Why: This chapter was more so to understand what writers go through on the other end in the process of becoming published. The approach to this chapter seems as though Lerner is trying to mentor another editor. I believe it offers a perspective for writers of what other writers want, what a relationship could be like between them and an editor, and more.

Chapter 12, “Publication.” Page 255. /// 9 notes.  Why: It’s important to understand the process of getting published. This is good chapter for writers who think about going into the industry. Some of the things in this chapter served as reminders.

Most beneficial chapter…

Publishing — Chapter 11, “The Book.” Page 229. Why: When I read this chapter, I highlighted the crap out of it…I had at least 24 four things marked up with my purple-blue highlighter. The chapter basically discusses the process and the decision-making of the book. It also touches on writer careers and how it may take some time to build up an audience.

Honorable mentions…

Chapter 1, “The Ambivalent Writer,” pages 24: “If you’re struggling with what you should be writing, look at your scraps. Encoded there are themes and subjects that you should be grappling with as a writer. If you still can’t figure it out, whatever you do, I beg not to look at the bestseller list.”

Chapter 12, “Publication,” page 276:  “Again, Rome was not built in a day.”

Chapter 7, “Making contact: Seeking Agents and Publication,” page 149: “Multiply submit….Make two submissions that are a reach two that are in range and two you would consider ‘safety schools’” 

Write Reads 1: Writing New Adult Fiction

Welcome to the first Write Reads book discussion! I will break the discussion down by talking about my thoughts after finishing, chapters with the most notes, most beneficial chapter(s) and other flagged notes that I thought was worth mentioning. As you can see, I did not mention a “least beneficial chapter(s),” and that’s because something that may not be helpful for me, may be helpful for someone else.

Please note, I will be paraphrasing anything from the book or it will be italicized and in quotes. If it’s long, I’ll put ellipses in them. Don’t worry, I will be leaving chapter and page numbers if you decide to pick this book up.

Here’s some quick book information:
Deborah Halverson, “Writing New Adult Fiction.”
Writer’s Digest Books (F+W Media imprint), publisher.
First Edition, 2014
15 Chapters; 281 pages total; includes forward by Silvia Day on page 1 and Chapter 1 starts on page 8. The index starts at 278.

After thoughts…
Honestly, “Writing New Adult Fiction” was not what I expected to be. I think I went into this book expecting to get more background on New Adult (NA) fiction, but I did expect the “how-to” aspect — it does say “Writing” in the title. Overall, I think there was a balance with the NA publishing background and “how-to.”
The book seemed like it was more geared toward an older audience or someone who has an interest in NA fiction. As someone who is in the age range of a “New Adult,” (18-25), it seemed reflective in some ways; you already know what you do as a “New Adult” because you’re living it. It was sometimes a little hard to get through certain parts because it was something that I knew.
Getting to the back end of the book, I was beginning to like this book more. There is mention of self-publishing, traditional publishing, marketing yourself and other resources, which is helpful to writers at all stages in their careers.

Most Notes From…
Chapter 5, “How to Talk Like a New Adult.” Page 88. /// 3 pages flagged. Why: While this chapter was a chapter that I felt like was focused on an older audience, I do think it’s good to be aware of dialogue patterns to craft authentic characters.

Chapter 9, “Cranking Up the Conflict, Tension and Pacing in Your NA Fiction.” Page 145. // 2 pages flagged. Why: I also felt a similar way as I did when I read Chapter 5, but I specifically got the most from the “pacing” section of this chapter, an area I feel I need to work on.
Chapter 12, “Revising in a Speed Driven Market.” Page 187. /// 5 pages flagged. Why: Prompted questions and techniques are something to keep in general when revising — you can always alter the techniques when moving on to a different genre.

Most beneficial chapter…
Chapter 12, “Revising in a Speed Driven Market.” Page 187. Why: It gives you decent strategies when you’ve reached the end of your book; at the end of the chapter there are prompted questions you can ask yourself when it comes to something you may wish to change.
Chapter 13, “Self-Publishing Your New Adult Fiction.” Page 205. Why: For me, I always been set on going to a traditional publisher, but after reading this chapter, I felt like this is a option I can explore in the future. It would also be helpful to those that want to self publish. Halverson does mention pitfalls of it too.
Chapter 14, “Casting Your lot With a Traditional Publisher.” Page. 261. Why: As I mentioned above, I had always been set to go into traditional publishing. I have read other books that talk about what the process is of getting a book published, I always like getting more information about it.

Honorable mentions…
Secondary characters, from Chapter 4, pages 82-83: “Flesh Them Out: …Do thumbnail sketches and even full character sketches if the characters will have more of a brief appearance…it will help you from falling back on a stock character.
“Don’t Let Them Steal The Show: …that’s a red flag that you’re playing it too safe with your lead character.”

Flashbacks, from Chapter 8, pages 140-141: “Make sure that your flashback transitions in and out well so that it feels organic…create some kind of thematic or tonal link between flashback and regular narrative.”

Revision, Chapter 12, page 192: “When you get your feedback, resist the urge to try and defend yourself….You won’t be there to defend…to regular readers.”

I hope you all enjoyed this discussion/ review! If you have any other books you want me to check out, comment below. Also follow me on Instagram and Twitter.

Make the most of your time

When going back and forth between projects, or getting caught up with what life throws at you, you neglect the project that you’ve poured your soul into. And when you return to the beloved project, you can’t seem to find the right words. Sure, you can always plop some words onto the page but it isn’t flowing like it use to. Even when your words weren’t perfect, you kept going.

Well, what now?

Well, I’m not sure honestly, I’m still trying to figure that out myself. But I have passed the time doing things that will be beneficial later:

  • Read books that will develop your craft 

Personally I think this is a no brainer. This will help pass time as you’re trying to think of the next words to say (and may even inspire your next words). And if you’re struggling with adding more to your book in terms of scenes, character development, plot and, hell, even grammar and sentence structure, it will help you in the long run.

It’s also important to be a little selective of the books that are picked up; you can have all of these books about writing but it’s up to you, the writer, to finally apply or adapt what you’ve learned into your project. As well as something you can return to for a source.

  • Research literary agents

If you plan for your book to go to big publishing houses, it’s recommended to get a literary agent. I recently finished Chuck Sambuchino’s “Get a Literary Agent:…” and I found it so helpful and insightful. Literary agents are the writer’s eyes in the industry and your advocate.

Sambuchino suggests in the book to create a list of agents that may be a good fit for the book you’ve finished. He really stresses the researching about the agent you plan to query to; find out what books they’re looking for, see what they’ve sold, etc. If you have multiple projects, creating an Excel sheet may work best with tabs for different projects.

For smaller publishing houses, it’s possible to submit your manuscript without one, but be sure to check submission guidelines.

  • Hop into another project

Sometimes starting a new short story or novel can help. It will take your mind off what you’re struggling with in your main project. This way you’re keeping your mind moving so you don’t get into a slump that can leave you high and dry for months.

If starting a new project doesn’t seem too appealing, maybe what you need to do is create or draft a scene that will be later on in the future. This is a little trick that I like to do, especially if I’ve been thinking about it over a few days (or weeks, and/or months). Letting it stew in upstairs and then writing about it may help get the jitters out.

Even stepping away from the computer to write in a notebook or journal would be helpful.

  • Listen to music that keep you mind moving on ideas

Every writer has that one artist that can spark their imagination. If that’s not the case, then that’s ok too. Maybe instrumental music may work best — it can be anything. As long as it allows you to focus, or zone out, while thinking about your novel.

Hopefully these tips will keep you moving toward your ultimate goal.