Tag Archive | New Year

Things I Learned From Being A Writer (2015 Edition)

Another year has come and gone, and I have to admit I’ve learned a few things…

…like how chipmunks and squirrels have an uncanny way of chewing up things inside my car engine when I park near the bushes.  How did they get in there????

…like how staying spoiler-free when all your friends have seen the new Star Wars movie and you haven’t would be a great script for the new “Mission: Impossible” film.

…like no matter how hard I try, the mission “Lone Wolf” on “Halo: Reach” cannot be beaten.  Where’s Master Chief when you need him?

But aside from those nuggets of wisdom now fully integrated into my mind, there were a few things that being a writer introduced me to.   No, I didn’t learn all of these lessons in a year.   Most of them came over time.  But through this first full year of being a professional writer, I have to say that these lessons have kept me going and will continue to help as I begin 2016:

LESSON ONE: ALWAYS BACKUP YOUR WORK

I’ll never forget when my high school history teacher told his class the story of how he was eating at a restaurant and someone stole his laptop from his car in the parking lot.  Normally such an item could be replaced, but there was one thing on the hard drive of that computer that couldn’t be: his book.

During his cancer treatments, he had been working on the script, doing research and writing drafts.  He was nearly finished when it was stolen, and when he arrived at school, the frustration was evident.  On the laptop was his only copy of his work, and now…it’d be near impossible to get it back.

He died a few years later from cancer.  He never did get to publish that book.

Whether it’s on a flash drive, CD, hard drive, or paper, I’ve always made sure to have an extra copy of my work just in case my original gets lost or destroyed because of what my history teacher went through (and the lesson he taught us on how important it was to keep backup copies).  I can’t tell you how many times this has saved me when my computer crashed and deleted my work.  Is it inconvenient?  Probably.  Very few people like to put in the extra time of having multiple copies.  But will it save you a bunch of heartache if the original gets lost?  Certainly!

LESSON 2: SOMETIMES THE FIRST DRAFT IS THE BEST

Would you believe this lesson was learned in 2015?

Over the winter, I’ve been hard at work finishing the manuscript for “Captain Patty and the Boston Buccaneer”.  Truth is, I started this story earlier in 2015, but throughout the spring and summer, I’ve been plagued with what every writer eventually goes through:  “scrap/delete/rewrite/repeat”.

I had most of the manuscript finished by summer, but for some reason or another, I wasn’t happy with it, so I scrapped it.  Thankfully thanks to Lesson 1, I kept a backup copy, and so went on to write draft number two.  Months later, I was on draft number eleven (and about ready to lose my mind, ha ha.)  Unsure of what to do, I gave the drafts to my beta reader for input on which script was the more enjoyable.

Would you believe she enjoyed the first one?

Talk about a waste of time (on my part!)   I always heard my teachers say that sometimes the first draft written is always the best.  In my experience, that has never been the case, but with this story, it was!  Though I’m still a big supporter of multiple drafts and being happy with your work, sometimes it’s okay to be happy with the first whim of inspiration.

LESSON 3: THERE IS NO ‘ONE SIZE FITS ALL’ IN WRITING

I recently had lunch with a fellow author to discuss how our releases and marketing were going.  We’d both done research into how best to sell our books.  We’d also had a year of experience in being authors and were beginning to see the very first fruits of our labor.

Funny thing was, what helped him and what helped me were two very different things!

He benefited from public speaking engagements.  I benefited from social media and promotions.  How was it that everything else we tried seemed to not work like it had for others?

What we learned was that every writer has a different story.  No, I’m not talking about the books they write.  I’m talking about the story of their experience as a writer.  Not every author will do well on social media.  Not every author will do well traveling and speaking.  Not every author will find success right away despite doing everything right and by the book.  Not every author will work hard and see that hard work pay off.  Some will have it easy.  Some will have to work for it.  The point is this: what works for you may not work for others, and what works for others may not work for you.

Don’t get discouraged if the tried-and-true promotions don’t work for your book.  Don’t be surprised when the sales pick up out of nowhere because of that tiny book signing you did over the weekend.  We all have a story, and just like how we make everything different for our characters, everything is different for us.

LESSON FOUR: DON’T GIVE UP 

During the summer, I entered a craft show that was supposed to be the biggest event in the state (at least according to a fellow crafter and the great economy of the area).  I gathered up all my books, expecting the sales to be huge, and drove two hours to the event.

Guess what happened that day?  It rained.  It got hot and humid.  I nearly got stuck in the port-a-potty (never wear high heals going into one of those things…lesson number 5.)  And I made…one sale.  Mind you, this sale was from a fellow exhibitor who felt sorry for me, ha ha!

I couldn’t believe it.  How could such a popular show have gone so badly?  I was to the point of never wanting to do another show again, especially after the loss in revenue.

Then, months later, I got a call of a last-minute craft show at a local church near my house.  It was the first year this craft show opened up.  There was hardly any advertising.  It was guaranteed to be a failure.

But I went anyways, maybe just for the donuts they offered to exhibitors.  At least breakfast would be good.

Would you believe that ended up being the best show of the year?  Sales were great, I met some awesome people, got an offer to speak at a book club, and best of all…I got my donut for free!

As writers, we often expect success to follow right after publication.  For some lucky few, that’s true.  But for the rest of us, success takes time.  Months…years…decades?  We don’t know.  Success may actually never come.  But we don’t know what tomorrow brings.  Life is full of surprises, and we never know when that hard work is going to pay off.

What matters is that we don’t give up.  If we quit, success is guaranteed to not happen, but if we persevere, there’s still a chance.  Don’t give up and never lose hope.  You never know when the next success story will be yours.

With these lessons and many others, I hope you all have a wonderful 2016!  Don’t forget to check the Latest News for updates on books and promotions, like the Kindle release of “When Dreams Break“!

 

Lessons From Bilbo Baggins in 2014

Happy (belated) New Year!

I know, I know…I’m a little late to the New Year’s posting party.  With the holiday season finally winding down and things getting back to normal, I thought I’d take a break from writing and share my thoughts on the past year.  In the words of Charles Dickens, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times.  And yet, like many years past (and many more to come), the days were filled with life lessons that will certainly stay with me for the rest of my life.

I could give you a list like “14 Things I learned in 2014” (I admit that was the original title of this post, but you know how writing works-once you start typing, you automatically change your mind 30 seconds in.)  Instead of giving you my original idea, however, I thought I’d share some of the lessons I’ve learned using examples from Bilbo Baggins, everyone’s favorite Hobbit burglar!

  1. If you have a dream, live it.  Last New Year’s, I bought a Hobbit daily calendar.  On January 2, the picture for the day showed Bilbo Baggins walking out the door of Bag End and heading towards the great adventure that awaited him.  What was ironic about that, however, was that was the exact day I decided to finish and publish The Ripple Affair.  I had a dream of writing, but for so long (ten years, actually), I had delayed pursuing it.  On January 2, 2014, that all changed.  I made up my mind that no matter what, I was going to go on an adventure!  At least of the literary sort.  A few months later, my book was finished and headed to the publishing company.
  2. Be confident.  I have to admit that pursuing your dream is easier said than done.  Like what Bilbo faced, there’s a lot of scary things out there when you go out on your adventure.  There are (internet) trolls who will mock your work.  There are people (like Thorin) who might be unsure if you’re really qualified to accomplish that dream.  But the fire in your heart can only be quenched by you.  Believe in yourself.  Remember that you have a purpose.  And at the end of your adventure, your life will be golden knowing you’ve accomplished your dream.
  3. Have compassion.  There are a lot of hurting people in this world.  Maybe (like the Dwarves of Erebor), they lost their home.  Maybe (like Thorin), they lost a family member.  Or maybe they’re just plain having it rough and struggling with burdens (like Gollum and the One Ring).  Sometimes it isn’t easy to have compassion.  Sometimes we’d rather ignore the hurts and cares of others instead of listening or helping.  In the end, kindness triumphs, but only if we allow it.  Be kind.  Be compassionate.  And like Bilbo, you’ll be a history-changer.
  4. Let go of the past.  Maybe this would be a good time to play that one song from Frozen.  And in all honesty, I think this lesson should be based on Bard and Thorin instead of Bilbo.  Maybe we used to have it all and then a dragon swooped up and took it.  Maybe we come from a shamed family background that didn’t quite live up to expectations in saving the town from said dragon.  Or maybe we’ve just had a string of bad breaks, one after the other.  But like Bard and Thorin, we can choose how our past affects our present and future.  Will we obsess over what has happened and dwell on it until it consumes us, or will we let it go and let our past strengthen us for the days to come?  Will we be a Thorin, spending years over what used to be only to find our future spent?  Or will we be a Bard, remembering the past but knowing it doesn’t have to paralyze us, using what we’ve learned as preparation for the destiny in store.
  5. If you ever go on an adventure, hide the spoons.  Because we all have a Lobelia Sackville-Baggins in our family who would just love to have them.

I hope 2015 fills your days with joy, peace, prosperity, and purpose.  Have a wonderful New Year, everyone!

Thank You, 2013

I was at a friend’s wedding a few years ago when I met a nice, middle-aged woman who happened to sit next to me in the chapel.  Since I was pretty much the only person I knew at the wedding (besides the bride and her immediate family), this woman and I decided to buddy-up and chat during the reception dinner.  We got to talking and somehow, someway this lady figured I was a writer.  I’ll admit I’ve kept my true love of words a secret from practically everyone except my mom (most of my friends and family have very little interest in books), so the fact that she was able to deduce that so quickly let me know she was a woman of good insight.  As we got to talking about writing, she gave me a good piece of advice: “Just do it.”

At first, I thought she was sounding like a Nike commercial, but then she explained to me what she meant-if you want to write, then write.  Don’t let fear of failure or your own insecurities hold you back.

That wedding was nearly 3 years ago.  And though I felt inspired by her words after I went back home, I didn’t heed her advice.  I didn’t write hardly at all.  And for the most part, the stories I wanted to write just remained in my head.

And so 2013 came along.  I was working and staying involved, but writing was still in the background.  It was what I wanted to do, but with no money and no connections, it seemed like an impossibility.  On Sunday nights before bed my mom and I started watching Joel Osteen, the American Christian preacher based in Texas that’s on TV every once in awhile.  He had a sermon about having a calling-like something you knew you loved to do and you knew you were meant to do it.  Like this woman at the wedding, he talked about not letting fear or insecurities hold you back and that if you had a dream, you should pursue it.

I sat there listening to his words and was brought back to all the times this had been told to me.  First by my mom, then by the woman at the wedding, and now by this TV preacher.  And then I came to realize why my dream of being a writer wasn’t coming to pass-it was because I wasn’t making it happen.  I was just sitting around, waiting for inspiration to hit me when all along I had the inspiration inside myself and it was just waiting to come out.

So I started to change things.  I started writing, even when I didn’t feel like it.  I participated in NaNoWriMo even though I was working all day and exhausted by the time I came home to write.  I started a blog.  I tried to learn more about the art of writing itself.  I started researching publishing opportunities.

And after finally doing it-after finally putting my dream into action instead of just letting it fizzle in my mind-I’m seeing everything slowly come together.  I’m feeling more confident.  I’m happier with my work.  I’m writing more than ever.  I’m finally doing what I want to do.

I’m finally a writer.

So as 2013 comes to a close, I look back at this year as a beginning.  A beginning not only for a hopeful writer career (I’m trying to be optimistic, ha ha), but most importantly a new beginning for myself.  A beginning of a life that is not defined by insecurities and a fear of not succeeding, but a life that is defined by confidence and hope-that even if I never publish or finish a novel or anything, that I at least can say I’m doing what I love and I’m proud to follow my dream.

So thank you, 2013, for my beginning.  And here’s to 2014-whatever it may hold!

Happy New Year, everyone!