writing advice

A Year of Fear: Writing Full Time

August last year was a big month for me. I left behind eleven years of teaching English in Japan and came back to New Zealand. I had limited savings, no job lined up, and was entirely dependant on public transport/the generosity of my family for getting myself places. I gave myself one year to write full time, and then I would look for a real job. The one year limit was my way of dealing with my fear of the unknown, and of failing. A year was a really long time, and it made me sound as if I had a plan. And if it didn’t work out, well, it was only an experiment. A year’s sabbatical.

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I have no idea what I’m doing. Whee!

A year later, I can say that returning to New Zealand was the right decision. Only when I was away from did I realise just how much the stressful situation at my base school was affecting at me. I’ve got my full driver’s licence and my own car. I’ve made a ton of new writing friends and attended two incredible RWNZ conferences. But the biggest most important change has been how I live with fear.

This is the journal entry I wrote when leaving Japan last year:

August 9th, 2016. 

On flight to Auckland, leaving Japan after eight years with [company], six years in [town]. I am writing this not so much to mark the occasion as I am because I need to document my emotions. It has been an interesting week and as I keep going between sadness at saying goodbyes/wrapping up a big part of my life, and excitement for what is ahead, I have noticed that I keep hitting terror, especially when I try to sleep. Last night on the train, I realised I was scared and shying away from the why. I made myself look at what I was afraid of—not knowing what is going to happen when I get back to New Zealand—and felt better, but waiting for the plane to board this evening and talking to Mum via Skype, I realise the fear had snuck back. I need to acknowledge the fear and document it because I suspect this is not the first time I will be making a life choice that scares me and being able to put things in perspective will help. 

Fear was on my mind then, and that’s really interesting because I kept running into fear a lot, those first months in New Zealand especially. My biggest problem was sleeping. I was lying awake, night after night, while my mind cycled through an endless series of worries. My health and energy levels tanked. My usual coping methods weren’t working, so I consulted a professional counsellor about ways I could reduce my stress.

Big surprise! A lot of his recommendations were things I was already doing–goal setting, keeping a journal, making a list of things that I could do to address the things that were worrying me. But he introduced me to progressive muscle relaxation. Turns out that despite no longer being at my school in Japan, just the thought of a certain colleague was enough to make my entire body tense and trigger an angry reaction. By purposefully relaxing my muscles before going to bed I was able to go to sleep—and stay asleep.

I took steps to regain my independence. I started house-sitting and, when I realised that I was afraid of learning to drive, took lessons with a professional driving instructor whose car had a dual brake system (another really, really good decision. I’m sure that gave me the confidence I needed so I could concentrate on the driving). Driving itself was really good for me. It did not come easily at all, and after the first few lessons I felt like I was no longer improving and became frustrated. I’m the sort of person who takes failure personally and quits when things don’t come easily-but I needed that licence. This is where my teaching career came in handy! Having encouraged students to persist learning a foreign language with often contradictory rules, I knew it’s not how easily you pick it up that measures learning. I knew that if I persisted I would get there. And I did. In November I got my restricted licence, in March my full.

But fear is insidious. It found new ground in legitimate worries. The biggest one was money. Learning to drive was expensive, as was paying for fuel and insurance and servicing on my car. The royalties I was earning for my stories were just enough to cover my phone bill, but they wouldn’t stretch to groceries and fuel. Things like replacing tyres and repairs came out of my very depleted savings. I had started working as a freelancer, but my income fluctuated wildly month to month. I wanted to build myself a safety net but my emergency money disappeared as quickly as I could save it. I started stressing over finances and spent a lot of time seeking out new clients. My editing/proof-reading/ghost-writing work took priority over my writing time and left me too tired to write on my own projects, while I struggled to set prices low enough to compete with other freelancers that would still allow me to get by.

It wasn’t until June when I looked back at the first six months of 2017 that I realised how much my financial stress was holding me back. I had plans to write eight stories in 2017. Half the year was gone and I’d written two stories. I made the decision that from now on freelancing would fit in around my writing, not the other way round. Using the journalling methods outlined in The Journal Writing Superpower Secret I’ve kept myself focused and reminded of why my writing needs to be a priority. I’ve also used mindfulness techniques to combat stress, and between the two methods it seems to be working. I wrote a novella in July and a novel in August, and am planning one story a month until the end of the year. I’ve also started applying for jobs. I’m hoping that removing finances from the list of things I need to worry about while make up for time lost with mental energy reserved for writing.

Then there were old worries in new shapes. In Japan, I was very conscious of needing to conduct myself well even outside of school hours, knowing I was viewed as a representative of my company/New Zealanders in a town where everyone knew who I was. I still care a lot about making people happy/not disappointing expectations people have of me. Once I was back home, I spent a lot of time worrying that my relatives looked down on me because I wasn’t earning a big salary, that I had disappointed them. I discovered how deep this fear when when I signed up for the Shave for a Cure fundraising challenge. I was terrified my family would disapprove. Instead, they blew me away with their generous support. I still miss my hair, but knowing that I don’t need to conform to have the support of my family means so, so much more.

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The final fear is tied up with writing. Last year at the RWNZ conference, Michael Hauge who led seminar’s on story structure and the hero’s journey challenged us to take our own journey by identifying the thing which we were most afraid of–and doing it. For me this was really easy. Just the thought of pitching to an agent or hearing my work read aloud and critiqued gave me an immediate fear reaction. Which was odd. I had a few stories published and they were getting positive and negative views, both of which I was handling. I couldn’t be afraid of critique, could I?

Actually, yes! I felt safe writing about my fail!vampires and Morgen train wrecks for an audience that felt more like friends…and  the idea of putting my work before a larger audience scared the heck out of me. I was afraid that once my work was put in front of people who didn’t know me from the DRitC events or Facebook or wherever, that they’d see me for what I was: a clueless wannabe author with literary pretensions and clumsy prose, no idea of what she was doing and over complicated plots. That if I wrote something more mainstream, I’d find out I wasn’t ready for leaving my safety zone. I’d fail–and this time I wouldn’t have the comforting excuse of a really niche genre to hide behind. So I decided in August last year that this year I was going to conference and I was going to pitch a story that would appeal to a bigger audience.

The murder mystery (first draft finished yesterday) is that story. And it’s really funny. Before conference, I really had to fight the story to write it. I was constantly second guessing myself as I wrote. I eventually abandoned it in January. But then we had a family event and for reasons I don’t want to go into, it became really important to have the murder mystery finished as quickly as possible. In the lead up to conference, I wrote 23000 words over eighteen days. After conference, I wrote 49,000 words in six days. What made the difference? I went to conference. I pitched the murder mystery to agents. I heard it read aloud and critiqued in front of a group of writers who I respect myself. And instead of devastating me, it made me wonder what on earth I’d been afraid of.

Disclaimer: I’m sure that there will be all the panic when Gentlemen Don’t Murder comes out. But something really interesting happened to me when I decided that in 2017 I was going to pitch.

I had a year of knowing I was going to introduce myself to agents and pitch a story to them. And somewhere in that year, I stopped introducing myself as ‘a writer, but you don’t want to read what I write.’ When I met people at conference this year, I said ‘Hi, I’m Gillian. I write gay paranormal romance.’ This wasn’t a conscious decision either. It just happened–but it would not have happened if I hadn’t already decided that I was no longer afraid of being a small writer in a big pond. All the fears that I faced were stepping stones to growth.

Was my growth because of the fear or despite the fear? I don’t know, but I do know that acknowledging and addressing my fears then coming up with a strategy is the biggest reason I’m not on a plane heading back to Japan right now. Managing my fear is the best thing I could have done for myself–and I hope you’re encouraged to look at your fear in a different way.

Books that helped me address my fear (links go directly to Amazon):

The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey by Joanna Penn.

The Journal Writing Superpower Secret: Get Productivity Superpowers, Kill Procrastination and Stop Self-Sabotage, and Then Take Over the World by Michael Forest

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Prosperous Creation: Make Art and Make Money at the Same Time (Growth Hacking For Storytellers 5) by Monica Leonelle

A Kind of Magic.

I love writing books. Not only is it absolutely fascinating to see how other writers write and where they get their inspiration, but as a beginner writer, I know I have a lot to learn. I couldn’t tell you how many books about writing I’ve bought and read this year. Yay, writing!

Yet, for all of my hard work and focus, I seemed to be getting stuck, and spending more time second guessing myself than I was writing or editing. A lot of that was freelance work taking up my time, but I can’t blame everything on freelance work. After all, having a full-time job in Japan didn’t stop me from writing. So what was missing?

Most of the books I’d read were focused on planning, marketing, writing fast or increasing productivity. All good things! But somewhere along the way, I lost the fun part of writing—the part where you know you have no idea what you’re doing and that’s okay. That’s what Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic is all about.

 

Gilbert believes in creativity. Not just that it’s a worthwhile way to spend your time, but that it’s transformative and a force in itself. She gives ideas agency, but doesn’t relent on hard work either. She urges embracing the many contradictions involved in the writing process (take it seriously, but not that seriously), without trying to make sense of them. Most of all, she emphasises wonder.

Most of my writing mentors are really practical, proactive people, and I have the feeling that Gilbert’s approach is too woo-woo for most. While I don’t agree with all of her conclusions, I found that her strong belief in the magical aspects of creativity touched part of me that I’d been neglecting—the wonder. And strangely, the reminder that writing should be fun is what got me back to work, while Gilbert’s acknowledgement that any creative project might fail, and that’s okay, is also tremendously freeing. While I won’t be adopting Gilbert’s approach to writing, I think that her perspective is one I’ll be returning to again and again on my writing journey.

Big Magic on Amazon: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Queenships, Amnesia and Deadlines: Tami Veldura’s Perihelion.

Today I’m interviewing Tami Veldura about her story Perihelion, a story she wrote for last year’s DRitC event. I’d seen her around the forums during last year’s Love’s Only Road event, but it was in the M/M Romance Writers Group on Goodreads that we met. Welcome, Tami!

Tami: Hello! And thank you for hosting me 😀

Last year was my second DRitC event. I think it’s a great way for writers to challenge themselves and learn and readers to be introduced to a variety of stories and authors. Most of all, I find the collaborative atmosphere it produces really inspiring and encouraging. What attracted you to the DRitC event, Tami?

Tami: I first learned about DRitC not long after discovering Goodreads itself. I was still very new to the publishing world and had no real production schedule to fill my days. The event was in its second year, and back then they released all the prompts at once. I spent some time browsing them, not intending to write, but very captivated by the range of photos and stories being requested.

As these things tend to go, I came across a story that grabbed me and I claimed it. Oddly DRitC has always prompted me to claim photos/stories that are outside of my usual comfort zone. The first story I wrote was a contemporary M/M, the second, a small town contemporary M/M, then a historical paranormal story, followed by, finally, a hefty science fiction novel. While I’ve read my share of contemporary and historical books, I’ve never considered them “what I write” when someone asks. That’s probably something I should change!

Although you’ve written a lot of shorts, you mentioned that Perihelion is your first novel. I found DRitC a real learning experience, I imagine that you were in the same boat (spaceship?) with Perihelion! What did you learn from writing it?

PerihelionTami: Oh, goodness, what didn’t I learn from writing this book? First, it’s the longest work that I have finished and attempted to revise. I have a few other works pushing the 70k and 80k mark, but they’re not done and I haven’t made any effort to fix their errors. Perihelion is also a first on several other levels: my first multi-POV book, my first deliberately inclusive book, my first science fiction book, and my first trans main character!

All of these firsts added up to an intense experience while drafting the story. Thankfully I had no job at the time, I honestly believe it never would have been finished otherwise. I, personally, adore the outlining/brainstorming phase of writing the most and I spent a lot of time working Perihelion’s outline, almost 42 scenes if I remember correctly, before I ever started writing. The drafting phase of any project is the least fun for me. I find it a slog to get through on the best days and have only one good approach: hammer through it as quickly as possible. The editing and revising that happen afterward is another preferred phase and this phase with Perihelion was a massive overhaul that I’d never attempted to undertake before.

Two things kept me from abandoning the project. 1: I had a deadline to meet that I’d met three times in the past. I could do it if I focused. 2: I had an amazing editing team supporting me. There would be no Perihelion without them.

I still blew 3 deadlines in the course of the project, insisted on about 3 extra editing passes after my editor wanted to be done, and near the end of the project, I lost track of what day it was. My head was SO involved with the story that I missed about a week of my real life without noticing.

Wow, Tami! I thought my DRitC experience was intense, but that takes the cake! Based on your DRitC experiences, what advice would you give new authors considering participating in it or similar events?

Tami: If you have the time and you’re just starting on your writing adventure, absolutely take part. Assume that whatever project you start is going to take twice as long as you think it will. Then outline/brainstorm a short story that you know you can write within the deadline. Having a finished product, even if it’s small, is better than having nothing at all!

Onto Perihelion itself! How did you know that Perihelion was the prompt for you?

Tami: Having done DRitC a few times, I knew I wanted to utilize the event to write something personal rather than commercial. If it was going to take over three months of my life, I’d better get something I loved into the process.

I wasn’t thinking specifically scifi as I browsed through the prompts. In fact, this prompt wasn’t my first choice! I had settled on something more fantasy, but the prompt was released around 4 in the morning and I wasn’t quick enough with an alarm to claim that one. I’m glad I didn’t get it, because I also wasn’t planning on writing a novel for this event and look how that turned out.

But the Queenships as a concept have been in my head for at least five years, if not longer, and when I saw the photo and the prompt for this story that was the first thing that came to mind. I’m so glad it did.

Perihelion’s main characters look to have some really interesting dynamics! They start off soldier-prince and untrained pilot, and over the course of the story become a war hero and an injured, discarded veteran. That is almost like writing two relationships! Tell us about Kato and Mas’ud.

Tami: Kato and Mas’ud were both undefined characters that the time of the prompt claiming. It was really the Queenships that I knew most about. But the prompt specifically asked for a building relationship between the men that is then interrupted when they get amnesia in the middle of the story. The prompter wanted to know what they had going for them and then how they were going to deal with having lost that.

It’s hard to say that one character or the other suffers more. Kato looses his memory permanently. Mas’ud looses his memory only temporarily but permanently looses his ability to father children–something really important to him. The two of them are very different, they handle their situations is vastly different ways, but ultimately the story of the Queenships is larger than both of them.

You mentioned that you came up with the idea of Queenships for about five years before writing Perihelion. Reading the blurb, the Queenship sounds almost like a third party in Kato and Mas’ud’s relationship. What role does the Queenship play?

Tami: The Queenships and their pilots are central to the plot of the novel. The ships themselves are sentient. They talk to one another, their pilots, and the pilots of other ships. Through them, the pilots can contact any other ship or ship’s pilot instantly, even across the stretch of the galaxy. The first Queenship, Gaia, was built to be a haven in space for an overcrowded planet. She was intended to be an advanced AI, not sentient. How sentience came about is a story I want to write some day.

But all the Queenships are related to each other. New Queenships are born from older Queens, a combination of living crystal, metal, and organic membrane. They have genetic memories they pass from one to another.

All of this provides context and leverage for each Queen’s pilot and they’re organized into political families. A Queenship is a powerful thing to have on your side when there’s something you’re negotiating for.

What influences shaped Perihelion? Alternatively, what was your inspiration?

Tami: I have always loved the idea of ships that are aware or sentient. Magical devices. I didn’t know how I was going to use the idea, and for a long time I played with the thought of sailing ships. This concept eventually evolved into the Queenship idea which I held onto, waiting for some kind of plot to go along with it.

When I decided to apply this world to Roger’s prompt I knew immediately that I didn’t have the right background to write this story. But I also knew, immediately, how to fix that. Back in the 90’s a TV show called The West Wing was a popular show in my household. It’s on Netflix now. While I was outlining the story, I watched all 9 seasons of The West Wing in about 4 weeks. I just steeped in the political situations (and amazing writing!) in order to understand how political groups of people might butt up against each other. That show was a massive directional arrow for me, and fans may see echoes of it in the book.

During LOR, I remember being struck by Roger’s prompt. The fact that amnesia was not being used as a plot device to hide information from the readers was really interesting! How did that impact the story decisions you made?

Tami: It made outlining the story a lot easier than you might expect! I knew from the beginning that 1: not only were my characters supposed to forget themselves but 2: I knew it had to happen in the center somewhere. It divides Perihelion neatly down the middle, a before and after that none of my other stories have.

But I was also glad to see that specific request because I could develop these characters without worrying about knowing what came before them. And then I could explore the aftermath of amnesia and how these two very different men (with very different support groups) might react to it.

You mentioned that 90% of Perihelion’s cast was non-white. What dynamic did this decision add to your story?

Tami: It added a lot of research, for one. When selecting character names from foreign countries, especially for a cast this big, I made pages and pages of notes that never made it into the book. The vast majority of named characters have only one or two scenes in which to make an impact, so I wanted to give each of them traits that were traditional or common in their country of origin. The limitation here was me! I know very little about places outside my city, especially when it comes to cultural and religious influences, so I opened myself up to a lot of research to get the details right.

On the other side of that coin, all of that research and those details have put unique descriptions into my story where that texture wouldn’t have been otherwise. I’m a very spartan writer at the best of times and a poor visualizer of scenes and setting. Placing unfamiliar characters into my Queenships forced me to expand my visual vocabulary. I intend to maintain this for future books.

Perihelion’s full title is Perihelion (Queenships #1) — clearly a sequel is in the works! What direction are you taking the sequel?

Tami: I don’t know! I do know that Perihelion is just one little story in a very, very big one. Bigger than the humans that are in the galaxy. I have an idea for a prequel focusing on Gaia, the First Queenship. I also know that there’s a lot more to tell about Melpomene, the artificial Queenship.

As of right now, I’m not working on the world or its characters. The first book was a massive, painful undertaking and I’m not ready to put myself through that again. It will come, though. Ideas never stop bubbling up and one day I’ll have enough of them linked together that the next book will start nagging at me.

Not an interview question exactly, but I loved your multi-choice quiz that you hosted on the M/M Romance forums throughout the writing of Perihelion! I checked in a couple of times and it looked like a lot of fun! Are you a big quiz fan yourself?

Tami: Oh, I’d forgotten about that. Yes. Ok, so when an author is writing, there’s really nothing at all for the fans to do except wait. Which is really quite boring. I started the multi-choice quiz the year before with Blood In The Water and it was a big hit, so I repeated the event for Perihelion. People really seem to like it! No doubt I’ll do it again this year, I like how it keeps people involved and coming up with the questions also forces me to do a lot of world-building.

I don’t know if I’m personally a big quiz fan? The quiz layout seemed to work well 1: in a forum context and 2: over time. My goal was to stretch information out over a long period. But there have been adjustments to the system and I will probably continue to adjust it every year that I do it.

And finally, very off-topic, in addition to your writing, you also make your editing skills available to self-pub and indie authors. Do you have any difficulties balancing your editing and your own creative endeavours? Has editing other authors’ work helped you edit your own work?

Tami: I am! I generally find my clients through twitter or upwork and I’m always happy to give people a quote when they ask. Organizing my time around editing and writing is an always evolving process, and I wouldn’t say I have it down to a science just yet. Often the editing takes priority since it’s what pays the majority of my bills lately.

Yes, editing and critiquing other writers is absolutely the best way to see new flaws in your own writing. It’s something I did on a daily basis when studying in college and it’s something I encourage all writers to get involved in. If you have writer friends, ask if you can beta-read for them. If you don’t, go to critiquecircle.com and get started!

The other thing that has helped me both in editing and writing is having a work I consider complete edited by someone else. The mistakes and better phrasing and awkward moments are so obvious when someone else is pointing them out. And the process of revising that work to fix the odd spots is a big part of how I improve book over book.

Thanks again for allowing me to interview you, Tami! Before we say goodbye, please let us know how we can keep up with you and your writing.

Tami: I’m all over the place on the internet and would love to see you wherever you are!

tamiveldura@gmail.com

 twitter | Goodreads | Facebook page | Facebook Account | Tumblr | Patreon | Wattpad


Perihelion Blurb:

Kato Ozark, crown prince and soldier, has just been chosen to pilot his family’s queenship. He’s trained his entire life for this honor, but it comes with a catch. It seems that First Engineer Mas’ud Tavana has also been chosen as the queen’s pilot. Mas’ud has no formal training, and they both believe a mistake has been made. But when an attack on a distant Ozark queen forces them to work together, it’s clear their minds are better as one than apart.

They might even go on a proper date. Through mission briefings and politically required offspring, the mental link their queenship forges between them only grows stronger. Within this bond they find strength in each other. Then a rogue AI attacks their ship, ripping the queen open to the core. The two pilots feel it all; the assault destroys their connection and tears them adrift into open space.

Kato and Mas’ud wake up in the medical bay of a rival family with no memory of their queenship or each other. Hailed as a war hero, Kato retrains as a kingship pilot, preparing to defend Earth against the AI. Mas’ud, dismissed as permanently broken, struggles to rediscover his own truth.

Their queenship is out there, waiting for her pilots to come home. The future of their family depends on it.


 

Buy Links:

Amazon: [universal link] 

AllRomanceEbooks: [link]

Barnes & Noble: [link]

Apple iTunes: [link]

Kobo: [link]

Scribd: [link]

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Smashwords: [link]


TamiAuthor Bio: 

Tami Veldura is a writer, reader, lover, and artist. She currently resides in sunny California. She writes queer science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and YA fiction.

 

Fear and Writing

March has not been a great month for me writing-wise. I have done a great job of keeping up this blog, and even making some headway on April’s content (I have some interviews coming up that I hope you’ll really enjoy!), but when it came to creative writing … progress was lacking.

As I write this (well before the end of the month, so who knows what will happen between now and the time this goes live!), I have completed the new first chapter for Uprooted and started the second. And that’s it. Compared to the 70k I wrote last month, this feels appallingly slack. It took me a while to realise why I wasn’t making progress. I was constantly tired, waking often during the night and having trouble turning off my brain to sleep. My attention span for longer writing was severely lacking. I had chances to write or read, but instead I was unable to make myself do either. Finally, I worked it out. I was afraid.

I’m on the brink of some very big changes. I’m second guessing my decision to move back to New Zealand this year. I learned that some of my favourite colleagues are being transferred at the end of the month and have no idea what my teaching environment will be like from April. I’m less worried about the housemate situation, even though that will also mean big changes. On the other hand, the closer I get to leaving on WWOOFing, the more I worry about everything I have to prepare for it. I am, in short, a born worrier. Uncertainty makes me anxious. And anxiety and writing is a fatal combination.

I’m far from the only writer to face fear induced writer’s block! In fact, while I was drafting this post, an e-mail popped up in my inbox titled: Has Fear and Overwhelm Got You Stuck? Let’s Fix That. Monica Leonelle’s Write Better, Faster: How To Triple Your Writing Speed and Write More Every Day starts by examining the factors that contribute to writing stultification. She advises you to identify the areas in your life that are causing you stress and getting them in order before you start to write. Steven Pressfield shares how confronting his worst fear directly actually had a freeing effect in his book Turning Pro. Joanna Penn is working on a book all about author mindset that I expect will cover this same theme. Unfortunately for me, right now all I can do is wait and see. So I gave myself permission not to write.

And — as pretty much always happens when I decide I’m not going to write — writing happened. I have outlined two new stories, one a purely for fun murder mystery, the other which will remain secret for now, and have written 1000 words of the secret one. It will hopefully be short and I think it would be nice to work on something small and quickly completed before jumping right back into a novel length project.

 

I’m really lucky in that I have three in real life friends I can vent at about writing related woes, as well as share my concerns about my school situation. Another life-saver this month has been the wonderful Sera Trevor, who is incredibly easy to talk to about anything writing related and amazingly supportive and encouraging! I’ve also been encouraged by messages from other authors, whether in the M/M writers thread, e-mails or facebook messages — I feel incredibly lucky knowing that I wasn’t alone. I’m going to try to be better about reaching out to support and encourage those around me in April, because I’ve been so strongly reminded that even a quick comment, review or e-mail can mean a lot to the person on the receiving end.

Writing Resources:

My friend, Hina, is getting more into writing and she asked me what the resources I used were. After flailing at her excitedly, I realised that I needed to take the time and make a proper, organized list. And voila! That is today’s post.

Before we get into that, exciting news! Nominations for the M/M Romance Group’s Readers Choice Awards are underway, and there are some familiar faces among the nominees! Firstly, Bree Archer has been nominated twice in Best Cover Art, for both my Deep Magic and Sera Trevor’s The Troll Whisperer! I am stoked — I will tell anyone who listens how much I love working with Bree! Every single cover she has made for me has been a winner in my opinion, and I am very pleased to see her getting some recognition!

The Top Floor by K.C. Faelan is also getting attention! It is nominated in Best Historical along with Anne Barwell’s On Wings of Song. Top Floor is also nominated in Best LOR story by Deep Magic and The Troll Whisperer along with Kaje Harper’s Chasing Death Metal Dreams, Cari Z’s Ten Simple Tips for Surviving the Apocalypse and many, many more!

Sera’s other LOR story, A Shadow on the Sun, appears in Best Friends to Lovers, and K.C. and Alexis Woods Metamorphic Heart appears in Best Long Story. Personally, I am very pleased to see Deep Magic in Best Paranormal and The Biggest Scoop in Best Coming of Age. I’m sure it is hopelessly uncool to get excited now — we’re just at the nomination stage! Voting won’t start until January 1st … but I am very pleased to see so many of my favourite people represented in the nominations! Nominations remain open until Dec 25th, so there is still time to add your favourite stories of the year to the lists!


 

And now that’s out of my system … Writing Resources!

Books.

Writing Faster FTW by L.A. Witt. Currently about halfway through this. It’s good, very similar to Rachel Aaron’s writing book, but as Rachel Aaron’s advice worked for me, I’m finding L.A. Witt’s take on it very useful.

Rachel Aaron’s 2000 to 10, 000: How to write faster, write better, and write more of what you love. Exactly what it says on the cover.

Author Publisher Entrepeneur: How to Publish a Book by Kawasaki and Welch. A fantastic book about self-publishing.

Write Your Novel From the Middle, by James Scott Bell. I love this book! It has been amazingly useful and I cannot recommend it enough.

Story Trumps Structure by Steven James. Again, a good book though I haven’t referred to it as much as I do James Scott Bell.

The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass. Again, very good!

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King — good, solid advice!

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Also in a similar vein, Eats, Shoots, and Leaves although I know people who were driven up the wall by this one.

On Writing by Stephen King. I haven’t read this yet, but it comes highly recommended by Joanna Penn and James Scott Bell, so I intend to check it out. I also want to track down a copy of Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott.

Blogs.

Ellen Brock, freelance editor and organizer of the novel boot camp. 

Pratentious Title.  Rachel Aaron’s blog. Updates every Wednesday with a variety of writing advice from getting unstuck to NaNo to selling books. Self-published and Trad-published.

Podcasts.

The Creative Penn podcast. Joanna Penn is always cheerful, always inspiring and always informative. She is a strong proponent of self-publishing, but her podcast interviews cover a wide range of subjects.

Jeff and Will’s Big Gay Fiction Podcast. I just like these guys a lot, okay? As I’ve said before, writing is a solitary pursuit, but listening to Jeff and Will share their NaNo experiences went a long way to making me feel less alone during November!

Writing Excuses. This gets recommended to me a lot but … I don’t get it. Why do I need an excuse not to write? Or are we supposed to need an excuse to write? Including it in case it is helpful to others but this one is not for me.

Pro-blogger. This is more for non-fiction/blogging people, but occasionally an episode will come along that speaks to me. Darren is honest in talking about the mistakes he’s made, his methods and is very motivational.

I Don’t Even Own a Television. Because sometimes you need to be reminded that the story you’re writing is not the worst thing ever written — by listening to a podcast about terrible books.

I’m going to end this list here before it gets too ridiculously big, but please share any resources you’ve found useful in the comments!

Please Don’t Hate Me: How to Over Achieve at NaNo.

I am having a great NaNoWriMo. Ridiculously so. 8 days in, I have a wordcount of 42218, a daily average of 5277. I’m on track to achieve my goal of a complete novel in November (my goal is 100, 000 words). I have become, in short, the exact type of writer who, this time last year, was the bane of my NaNo experience. Last year, I plodded slowly along, struggling to hit the daily minimum. In fact, most NaNos, I have plodded along in the dust of my faster writing friends.

So, what went right?

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I’ve completed NaNo a few times, but I’ve never written a complete book. I thought I was just a slow writer. Then I discovered Rachel Aaron’s writing productivity book, From 2k to 10k: How to write faster, write better and write more of what you love. Great title, right? It’s a brilliant book. Rachel Aaron spells out the importance of managing your time, planning what you write (such as spending 5 minutes before a writing session jotting down what the important points of that scene are and how you’re going to get to them) so that you spend your writing time as efficiently as possible, and bringing enthusiasm to your work. Most importantly of all, in addition to sharing her methods, she makes you believe that you can do it. That however you write, by studying your writing habits and tweaking your surroundings, you can refine your methods and improve your output. That belief alone is pretty much worth the buying the book for (although she shares the gem of her book for free on her blog. Read it here).

Now, Rachel’s methods are very much geared towards plotters rather than pantsers. I am somewhere in the middle of both camps, and while the first days went by in a rush of words and enthusiasm and 5k days, by day 4, it was becoming a bit of a drag to get up at 5:00 am and write, even with my notes ready to guide me. I was still hitting my daily goals (3334 — which is really good! On par with my best days of previous NaNos!) but I wasn’t hitting the 5k highs that I was. I was bored.

So I turned to the enthusiasm part of Rachel’s equation, and spent some time reminding myself why I love these crazy characters. I compiled my book for epub and read it, and was surprised to see that all of the horrible things I imagined were wrong with my story weren’t there. Weird. I also discovered that while big blocks of uninterrupted writing time work very well for Rachel Aaron, but that when I’m struggling with the enthusiasm side, that short sprints work best for me. Sprints stop me worrying, and once I’m past that initial barrier, my enjoyment of the story carries me through. It will even carry into fresh, unplotted scenes, and that varying planned and unplanned writing gives me the mix I need to keep enjoying putting words on computer screen. I — and this is not the case for most writers I know — live alone, so it can get pretty lonely. Sprints (and the lovely M/M Writers comm) provide a social aspect to writing that I find absolutely essential at these times of lower enthusiasm.

Another really valuable thing that Rachel Aaron introduced me too was keeping tabs of when I write and how much I write. I’ve discovered that I am useless at night, unless I have sprints to keep me on track. I also discovered that the only thing I accomplish trying to write in breaks at work is frustrating myself. I looked at the numbers, realised it wasn’t worth it, and decided to use that time to read. I am reading articles by authors about writing, and a collection of books about writing books, Writing Success. I’m still working my way through it, but so far I’ve got a lot out of the parts written by James Scott Bell and Mary Demuth.

What I learnt from James Scott Bell (in addition to his advice on plot structure, which I got from Write Your Novel From the Middle another book that I highly recommend), is goal setting. He suggests looking at what you achieve now, increasing that by 10%, and believing that you can do that. I’d sort of subconsciously done this already, by deciding that I was going to increase my output with Rachel Aaron’s advice, and it really is amazing how quickly 3000 words a day became my new ‘minimum’ and 5000 words became ‘normal.’ I think the fact that I am writing so well right now is a combination of Aaron and Bell’s advice working in tandem. He also recommends things like checking your e-mail only twice a day, which I need to start doing. I have a bad habit of sitting in my inbox, waiting for an e-mail.

Mary Deluth, on the other hand, mentions that you’ve got to take care of yourself. She reminds us that it is important to have a writing support group, but it is also important to have people who care about you the person, and with whom you can share all parts of your story-writing journey. She puts this in spiritual terms, but it really is just taking care of you. I recently decided to share the fact I write gay romance with my Mum, and she responded far better than I ever imagined — by giving me story advice (“Why don’t you let your vampires have a little dog. Dogs make everything better.”) Talking to Mum about what I want my stories to express and what I am struggling with has contributed to me being much more centred and focused when I sit down to write (even though her advice drives me nuts– they’re vampires! How are they going to let the dog out during the day?).

James Scott Bell and Mary Deluth also recommend reading. Previous NaNos I have said “I don’t have time to read!” but by devoting dead/unproductive time at school to reading, I make myself enthusiastic and excited about writing, and keep myself fresh. And I get to read!

And finally, in totally personal changes, I am making all the use I can of my slow cooker and freezer! I have been making soups, curries, stews, anything that cooks slowly and freezes well. I made a big batch of baked oatmeal, cut it into slices and voila! A week and two days of breakfasts! I’ve also been baking one big thing at the weekend. Chocolate cake, apple cake, last night I made scones.  Having an afternoon snack waiting when I get back from work means that I don’t go to the convenience store, buy junk food and then crash a couple of hours later (I can load up my baking with fruit, etc). Baking makes me feel creative and happy, and it is a complete project, so I feel like I accomplished something (I am a goal orientated person who likes finishing things). So it is a nice little boost/change of pace.

I’m aware that my circumstances are different and that I have a lot of advantages — a quiet apartment to write in, only myself to cook and clean for — that other writers don’t have. But I hope that by showing how I took Rachel Aaron’s methods and tweaked them to my own circumstances/writing style, I can encourage others to experiment and try something new.

Thanks for reading! Thank you too to LM Brown for offering feedback on this post! Please let me know if this helped, or if you have discovered a method or resource that really helped you take your writing further!

NaNoWriMo Resources!

NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) starts in just two days. I cannot wait! I am hello goodbye if anyone wants to be NaNo friends!

You might have noticed the title of this blog post and inferred that I am about to share my recommendations for books, blogposts and podcasts for a successful NaNo. You would be right! These are writing tools that I’ve been using to get myself hyped and organised for this year’s novel.

aXm9875xjUFirst off, the ‘relentlessly positive’ Joanna Penn (she said it, not me). I talked about her amazing Creative Penn podcast already, but I’d like to link to a few specific episodes that I have particularly enjoyed or been inspired by. First of all, Episode 238: Creativity, productivity, fear and writing because a big part of NaNo is overcoming fear. Then Joanna’s interview with James Scot Bell whose Write Your Novel from the Middle is one of my favourite writer-help books ever: Episode 236: Writing discipline and mindset. Scrolling down the list of podcast episodes, I’m just seeing more and more must-listen episodes, so I’m going to stop here and link to a video Joanne created detailing her writing process and how she uses Scrivener in particular. Now, I’ve been using Scrivener for two years and I thought I had it figured out, and I learned a lot from this video! I really recommend watching it.

My next rec is a book, From 2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron. To get a good idea of what Rachel talks about, you can read the post that inspired the book on her blog here. Rachel talks about the difference sitting down to write and knowing what you want to write as opposed to sitting down and hoping inspiration strikes. She takes a much more thorough approach to plotting than I do, and I am working my way through her plotting methods to see how they work for me.

Not writing advice, but Sonali Dev’s post for How to Write Diverse Characters: A Simple Test is something I know that I am going to keep coming back to refer to. I wish I’d read this years ago. Another amazing resource is this, which was shared recently on the M/M Romance Group: Diversity Cross Check — an author resource to put you in touch with people willing to share their experiences. Also essential food for thought is pretty much every post over here at Queer Romance Month. Then 6 Writing Tips that have nothing to do with writing, because we need something to counter the crazy intensity of NaNo. Finally, 365 Days of Slow Cooking because writers need to eat and my slow cooker will definitely be getting a workout throughout November.

If you’ve got resources to share please do! I’d love to know your plan of attack.