Tag Archives: tough love

Earliest Childhood Memory

Wow! I fell way behind on my own challenge. Since my last post, I started a new novel, and it took hold like wildfire. I decided to stick with that, just to get the first couple chapters done, and it left little time for working on my blog.

Now day 14, I’m just now coming back on a day that’s probably one of my favorites.

This one really shouldn’t be a favorite. A lot of my childhood memories were of me falling off something, or tripping over something, and winding up pretty hurt because of it. You’d think after years of adulting, and countless dance classes, I’d have stopped this nasty habit of falling, but it still hasn’t gone away.

My earliest memory goes like most of my memories of my childhood. I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing, in this case, climbing a huge rock, and then falling into a cactus bed.

In retrospect, the rock wasn’t probably as big as I remember, but because I was so small, it seemed like a mountain. This means the single cactus I fell into looked like a bush of spikes straight out of a nightmare.

My biological father was with me at the time, and I can remember screaming as he took me to the nearest gas station where he borrowed their first aid kit and pulled needle after needle out of my arms and legs. I vaguely remember being surrounded by men, each one trying to get me to stop crying, giving me an ice cream out of the freezer I was sitting on, and helping my dad hold my arm when I kept trying to pull away.

Why do I like this memory so much? It was pretty traumatic at the time, but it’s always stuck with me as something that taught me a valuable lesson.

One, when you’re experiencing something negative, things look bigger and badder than they really are. But as time passes you begin to realize it wasn’t as bad as you originally thought.

Two, you’re going to fall down, and sometimes it’s going to hurt, but rely on others to help you back on your feet. I didn’t have a choice as a child, I had to get help from strangers, but as an adult, I try to remember that the kindness of others can sometimes help more than you realize.

And lastly, if you do fall, and you will, always get back up and try again. Learn from that mistake, and do better next time. A tumble from a rock didn’t stop me from getting up the next day and climbing something else. It didn’t stop me from trying things to push myself a little harder. Again, I was a kid, but it’s still something I apply as an adult.

 

What was your earliest childhood memory and what did you learn from it?

Check out Tanja’s Day 14 here.

Want more January blogging challenges? Check out Tanja RamirezLily Couldridge, and Alexandra Burt‘s pages. They’re all taking part as well. It’s not too late for you to do the same! Just link me to whatever social media you’re posting your challenge on, and I’ll give you a shout out.

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Life Changes for 2018

I don’t like setting resolutions.

Maybe it’s the wording of it, just like I don’t like the word “diet”. Both seem so temporary to me. Sure, resolution means “a firm decision to do or not do something”, but how many people break these supposedly “firm decisions” within the first month of the new year? 

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Back in 2013, I started using the phrase “Life Changes” for the new year. Instead of saying I was going to do a diet, I said I was going to change the way I ate. Instead of saying I was going to exercise, I said I was going to make a change to how active I was in a day.

By focusing less on an end goal, I tweaked my day to day schedule and created solid habits. I wound up losing 20 pounds since then, and I finished writing a first draft of my book in a month, then edited it in another eight. Setting changes to my schedule helped me create long lasting results that I’m still benefiting from.

So here are ways I’m going to change my life in 2018.

~ I’m going to set aside one hour a day for reading, and one hour a day for writing. During those two hours, I can listen to music, however the tv must be off, and the phone needs to be on silent.

~ I plan on putting aside one day a week to focus on a new skill. It can be anything from learning a new crochet stitch, to finally learning how to parallel park (because I can finally admit that I have no idea how to do that). There is no pressure to master this skill (although learning how to parallel park would be nice), it’s simply to try a new thing.

~ I will dedicate two days a week to querying and learning more about the publishing world. I’ll talk with already published authors, take a class, or read more information that’s available, but I recognize that I need to change how I look at my road to publication.

~ Two days a month, I’ll attend a writing group meeting. If the other members of this writing group can’t show up, I’ll go someplace quiet and take that time to work on my next book.

~ I am going to travel one week next year to a place I’ve never been. It can be a different place every day, an hour away from my house, or it can be more than one day to somewhere I actually need to travel to.

~ I’m going to start going to bed later so I can wake up earlier to hit the gym for at least thirty minutes, every other day. While at the gym, I’m going to change how I work out, from taking it slow, to pushing myself a little harder every time I’m there. This also means I’ll need a gym membership, so I should probably get on that.

~ I will spend less time on my phone when I’m out in public by keeping my data off and making more of an effort in social situations.

~ I am going to change how I view social media by not putting such high standards on myself. This means posting only once a week on my blog, and scheduling other site posts instead of stressing over them.

~ And last, I will look for time in my schedule for volunteering with my community, either at the library, the children’s theater, or even stopping in at the blood donor center. I know I’ll have time, but I’ve never volunteered in the past because, let’s face it, I’m too focused on myself. By paying attention to when I’m being selfish, I hope to replace some of this time with giving back to others.

Beginner Tips for Building Your Writer Platform

Ah, the writer platform. Something I didn’t think I needed until someone said to me, “I don’t know who you are, so why should I pick up your work?”. Since then, I’ve been on a mission. Take precious time away from my novel and put it toward making a name for myself.

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Since I’m in the “building your online presence” part in my writer platform journey, most of these tips have to do with social media. There are many other sides to being a writer, so if you’re looking for a more detailed read, I recommend checking out Create Your Writer Platform, by Chuck Sambuchino.

  1. At first you are going to fail.
    • I don’t mean this in a bad way, in fact failure is great! It gives you only one direction to go, up. You’re going to make grammar mistakes, embarrass yourself in online circles, and delete a few posts that you should’ve put more time into. But then eventually the tiny failures will come fewer and farther in between. You’ll start to get little victories, and over time, forget how you failed when you first started.
  2. Know that success doesn’t happen overnight.
    • I hate this. I’m the type of person who likes instant results, damn it! I expect to have some interaction with people online regardless of how long I’ve been here! Sadly, this isn’t the case. No, you don’t get famous overnight, or even put on the radar for that matter. You have to be patient, interactive, and above all, entertaining to your target audience. Just having a social media account doesn’t mean people will line up to follow you.
  3. Key word in “social media” is social.
    • I tried to interact in small doses at first. It didn’t work. Instead, I found actually talking to people helped build my platform in the writing community. Comment on other people’s works, share what you’re reading or working on, or just talk to people in general. You don’t have to jump up and down for attention, but actually being social helps boost your popularity as a writer.
  4. Be real.
    • Don’t follow someone just to get a follow back. When you comment on stuff, try to post more than an emoji. Show people who you are, not just a shadow of yourself. And above all things, do not, do NOT send automatic DMs (direct messages). This is so impersonal, and many people will just unfollow you.
  5. Diversify your platform, while still staying with your target audience.
    • I have an Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Deviant Art account. Why? Because that’s where my readers are. I draw my characters, and I have some fans of my sketches, so I post on DA as a way to reach out to other artists. Find out what makes your platform unique and add that to your foundation.
  6. Don’t take all the advice given to you.
    • Hannah Heath wrote a great article about this, and I highly recommend you read it. In a nutshell, don’t take all the advice you get from other writers, especially not when it comes to creating your platform. What works for one writer might not work for you. Try to go at your own pace, and don’t feel like you need to take all the advice out there.
  7. Play games.
    • This is a big one. I didn’t know how to jump in when I first started out online, but hashtag games were a great place to start. I was able to see what other people were working on, and could interact with them on a creative level. There are hashtag games on Twitter that I would definitely check out if you’ve never done them before.
  8. And finally schedule your posts out.
    • I know I already said don’t auto DM, but definitely do get an app that can schedule posts. You’re going to burn yourself out if you try to stay up to date on all your social media. It’s best to save some of it for later, and post things up a little at a time, instead of all at once. Facebook and WordPress has it’s own scheduling system, but I use Hootsuite for things like Twitter and Instagram.

There are other people who have great tips about this, and who are extremely knowledgeable on the subject. This is just what I learned as a novice in the writer platform potion of my writing journey. I’m still a beginner, but I hope what I learned over the past year helps you!

What part of your building process are you in? What tips can you give to the people who are just a step under you? Share below and let me know! 

Learning how to edit

I’ve been working on Flightless since July 2016. I did my own NaNoWriMo, and finished the first draft in a month at close to 100k words.

Over the next year, I cut it back to 85k, submitted it, got rejected multiple times, and finally got some interest after I rewrote my query. Two agents asked for the full manuscript, and one got back to me and said sadly, I needed to refocus and make major changes.

I edited again, taking my time, fixing plot holes they pointed out, and staying up late to figure out how to make my novel more enjoyable. It was a tough lesson in writing, but I learned the importance of a fine tooth comb edit.

I thought I was done, but because I was in the middle of a move, I set Flightless aside and focused my attention on traveling. Then a funny thing happened. I got another idea. It was one of those ideas that should’ve been common sense, but that didn’t hit me till I was reading The Scarlet Gospels.

Make my antagonist more relatable.

I love my antagonist, Abram, but the problem was I loved him for reasons that weren’t in the book. In Flightless, I painted him in two dimensions. He was evil for the sake of being evil, something I can’t stand when other people do it, and that I was ashamed of when I realized my mistake. Here was a character I spent hours developing, crying over his character arch, but then gave him next to nothing when it came time to let him shine.

I’m back at edits again, this time with a few books about editing in hand, and narrowing my focus on my characters. I’m convinced this is my final round, and I hope that now that I’m close to being done, I can have Flightless back in the querying pool soon.

Here’s hoping, cause damn, it’s not the writing that’s hard when it comes to creating a book. It’s the rewriting.

Time to Get Offline

I’ve always hated social media, a fact I talk about often, both on and offline. Talking to strangers on twitter is fun, but it’s kind of impersonal to me, and if I can’t have that personal touch, I’d rather not be touching at all.

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And like the 90’s girl I am, this whole post might sound very “Clueless”. Bare with me.

 

I’m so bad that I even sit around and day dream about living a life like Thomas Harris. What would it be like to be an author who doesn’t bother doing anything with social media, and just lives with his brain monsters (and family of course)? As an unpublished writer it’s very appealing, but I’m not Tom Harris, and none of my characters are nearly as up to par with Hannibal Lector. Instead, I have to focus on building a writer’s platform.

But like all necessary evils in a person’s life, or persevered evils, sometimes it’s good to take a step back from them. I learned this lesson the hard way. I moved to a small Texas town where internet takes forever to get set up.

It’s amazing what a couple weeks without internet did to me. I’m not going to say I’ve had any life changing, soul altering moments, but it’s definitely been great. No pressure to get tweets out every day, or to post up something on instagram, or heaven forbid find something interesting enough to add to facebook. I knew I had an app still making posts on my behalf, but I wasn’t having to try and impress anyone by coming up with new, clever posts.

Instead of building a platform, I took a step back and picked up some books. Not just the quick easy reads I normally read when I needed a mental break from writing, no I dove into everything. I finished Clive Barker’s “The Scarlet Gospels”, Mercedes Lackey’s “Firebird, and even a graphic novel I secretly love. From there, I moved to “Plot Verses Character”, by Jerff Gerke, and tackled a few other non fiction pieces from my husband’s library. It was like finding my writing voice that I had years ago. The more I read, the more I began to feel like myself.

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It wasn’t just books, however. I drew pictures, practiced my digital art, took my dogs for walks, and explored the new city I just moved into. I came to realize that life without internet was great. As much as I know I still need to build a platform, I know that it’s more important not to get so lost in your online life that your offline one suffers.

So here’s my goal for 2018. Get on the internet when I need to, but only jump on social media once a day. If I miss some hashtag games, or lose a few followers, so be it. Being more worried about my follower count than my word count is counter productive for me at this moment in my writing life. While sure, other writers are building a strong social media game, they’re at that point in their walk that they can do that. I still have a long way to go, and can’t compare my journey to their’s.

While I’m at it, I’ll be changing my blog schedule, focusing more on quality vs. quantity of posts. I’m also going to try and build a more conversational tone, since I know I can sound a little dry sometimes. I’ll also try to interact with other bloggers more, to build better relationships with you lovely people who are consistently liking and reading my posts.

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If you’ve ever been in my shoes, and have some tips for finding a better balance, please let me know. I’m definitely open for a critique!

Writer on the Road – Day 3

There’s something about dying desert towns that makes me anxious. I drove through the small town of Green River, Utah tonight. As the sun went down at my back, the moon bleached out the buildings as I looked for my hotel.

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If you ever travel to Green River, you’ll notice one side of the street is lined with gaudy, half working neon lights, the other is long dead and empty. If you go on a full moon, the cold light will make the husks of closed motels and empty gas stations look haunted. \

When I finally made it over the river and looked back at the city behind me, I can’t tell if my imagination is running away with me, or if there really are figures moving on the plateau outlined in the setting sun.

It was unsettling to say the least.

But I learned some very important writing lessons today. One, every place you drive through can be inspiring enough to write a little overly flowery blog post, and two learn how to manage your time.

If you caught last night’s blog post, you’ll know I was having trouble at my last hotel with the wifi, and this night started out exactly the same. I downloaded my files to my phone, and managed to start last night’s words, even if I didn’t meet what I was originally hoping for. The funny thing is, I had net at one point, but thought “I can always finish this later, I want to screw around online right now”. I made plans for a later time, but that later time turned out to be problematic.

So here’s tonight lesson. If you want to write a book, start to notice when you’re wasting time, because you might not get it even if you plan for it. Even if you’re a night writer, if you get an hour in the morning, write in the morning. Worse case scenario, you get a little bit of work done, and you still have that night to write. Best case scenario, you lose that time, and you’re already done.

It should be an easy lesson to learn, but I’m still trying to figure out how to do this sort of thing. Maybe this trip will make it skip this time.

Writer on the Road – Day 2

This is a short one today, but definitely a good lesson.

Don’t rely on wifi while traveling. If a hotel says it has free internet, don’t think “Oh perfect! I can sign in to my online storage, download all my files and get some work done.”

There’s a chance they won’t have working internet and you’ll have to get all that important writing done on your phone.
In other news, 600 words into my NaNoWriMo novel and my protagonist is now a guy, my love interest turned into a strongwilled female lawyer, and my book went from a comedy to more of a fun romance.

Oh November. You’re full of surprises. My original idea will be recycled later, so don’t worry, those of you interested in my “Gilmore Girls meets Good Omens” idea. That one will come along in the same universe but different setting.

Okay all, time for bed. Sorry my post doesn’t have any pretty pictures to go along with today’s mini lesson. Have one of my dogs in the Uhaul instead.

Hope you all had a great writing day! Adios till tomorrow.

Tough Love Talk About “The Writing Fantasy”

This isn’t a tough love talk about writing fantasy. No, I’m talking about The Writing Fantasy. The fantasy all new writers and creators have about the world of writing.

This is coming from someone who’s never been published outside of vanity sites, so take it as you will. That being said the more I interact with writers, the more I get sick of hearing about this mythical world we’re supposed to live in.

So here we go! Top five fantasies I’m going to completely crush into the ground!

 

1. Every bad review or person who doesn’t like my work is personally attacking me!
 

Well okay there, self absorbed Sandra, let’s tone it down a notch. When someone doesn’t like your work, it has nothing to do with you as a person. I know it hurts when you put months or years into a project only to get rejected by agents, your audience, or even past fans, but you can’t make everyone happy. Is it okay to get your feelings hurt? Yes, but if every bad review makes you fall apart and threaten to quit creating art, maybe it’s time to take a step back.

Now there is an exception to this rule. If you’re getting the same negative feedback every single time you put something out there, but you’re not fixing your mistakes, yes, some of the reviews might start to get personal. This is because you’re not fixing things that your audience doesn’t like. If your counter to this is “Well, I’m writing it for me, not to make everyone else happy! I’m not a sell out!” then why bother caring about reviews in the first place? Heck, why even put it up for anyone else to read if it’s just for your personal enjoyment and you don’t care what other people think?

2. I don’t have to read other people’s work anymore because I’m a writer now.
 
This isn’t “I don’t have time”, this is the “Nick Miller” defense.

Most, if not all professionals in any job, keep themselves sharp through practice, study and staying informed. Reading is part of the studying/staying informed portion of that for writers. You learn how other authors break writing rules, what works in their market (or in some cases what doesn’t work), and how to better your writing by studying the works of others.

And for those who think “I can’t read anyone else anymore because I’m just so fantastic as a writer, it’s insulting to read their drivel.”

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Welcome back, self absorbed Sandra. Get over yourself. There’s ALWAYS someone better than you out there.

 

3. Writing is romantic so I should try and copy some of my favorite classic literature.

Copying an author’s style as a warm up is eye opening, or doing it so that it makes sense in the story can be acceptable when done well. It’s when you’re forcing it on every aspect of your writing does it get old. Here’s a little secret. Readers are smart. They’re going to know you’re trying to be someone you’re not. It comes off as insincere and boring. It’s one thing to try and find your voice, it’s another to be so pretentious to think you’re the next Hemingway or Poe so you have to copy their style down to the last period.

4. I’ll just get an agent and they’ll do everything for me!

No. Wrong. Don’t expect this. Agents are very busy and the last thing they want is an author who can’t pull their own weight. Many new authors have to do a LOT of work in order to get their work noticed. You need to self promote, keep up your writer’s platform, network with other authors, talk to your agents about possible marketing opportunities, travel on book tours, start your next book, look for contests or magazines to submit short stories to, and those are just things off the top of my head! There could very well be a million other chores to do in order to get your book off the ground. Don’t expect your agent to be your fairy godmother, as magical and amazing as many of them are.

5. Editing is for writers who don’t know how to write.

Editing is CRUCIAL to writing your book. I can’t tell you how many self published authors I’ve spoken to who’ve excitedly told me about how they “wrote a book in three weeks” and then instantly put it out to the public without even doing a second read through. I’m not going to point out that there could be HUGE grammatical errors (because trust me, there will be), but you could have completely forgotten to finish a paragraph, or you might’ve accidentally cut out something without realizing it that one night when you were up till 2am working. There could be glaring inconsistencies that might’ve been fixed if you just took the time to edit your work.

I’m not saying you have to spend years on edits, or completely rewrite your novel, but not even looking at your work once you’re done could turn off readers if you have annoyingly obvious problems with your work. I’m even going to go back through and do a round of edits on this blog posts just to make sure things look good! Editing is important!

If you don’t like editing, save up and hire an editor. There are a lot of affordable options out there, and if you’re serious about getting published, it’s easy to put aside the money here or there to get your work in the hands of a professional. (I’m putting aside my coffee funds every month to get one and yeah, it takes time to save up, but it’s a worthwhile sacrifice)

And that’s it! Those are the writing fantasies I’m crushing for today. I’ll probably do another Tough Love Talk about this later, but I figure this’ll be good for now.

What are some writing fantasies you’d like to crush for other people? Comment below and let me know!