Tag Archive | writing books

Confidence and the Writer

It’s interesting to see what advice professional writers give to aspiring authors on how to make their writing great.

Write everyday.  Practice word sprints.  Daydream.  Research marketing and business.  Network with other authors.  The pieces of advice given have helped many people strengthen their art and craft and we can certainly learn from the wisdom of our fellow writers who have more experience than we do.

But the thing I’ve noticed after publishing is that even after doing all these things (all great pieces of advice), I still find myself having days where I feel inadequate or unprepared.  When sales slow instead of speed up, when creativity is more of a trickle instead of a fountain, when the project you hoped would be done in a month is only half-way finished three months in.  There are just some days where no matter how much advice you’re given, stagnant sales remain stagnant and an empty page remains empty.

Going on eleven years since I started writing The Ripple Affair, I remember hitting a slump that literally took years to get out of.  Typically when writer’s block hits, it lasts a few days or weeks.  If it’s really bad, it’ll last a few months.  Mine lasted about four years.  What began as a dream that took up my nights and weekends with pages of productivity suddenly became hours of standing in front of the computer screen watching the cursor blink in a steady rhythm, all the while feeling the frustration build.  I’d try to write a page only to get a sentence.  I’d try to come up with an idea only to repeat the same, boring scene.  It became so persistent that I eventually gave up writing all together, only bothering to write a chapter when the creativity hit.

In those four years, hardly anything was created.  And no piece of advice or practice could bring me out of it, save one.

Confidence.

As a writer, self-confidence was something I was never really taught much about in school.  When I learned to write, it was all about talent and knowledge and remembering where the comma goes or what conjunction works best.  Writing became like singing-either you had it or you didn’t-and there was this idea that I developed, thinking that if the talent didn’t flow easily and I struggled to find something to write, then I wasn’t a writer.

So when my writer’s block hit after five years of productivity, I felt like whatever talent I had was suddenly thrown out the window.

I’m thankful that I can say I have a mother who sat me down and encouraged me to not give up on my dream, even though it seemed like it gave up on me.  “Believe in yourself.  Don’t give up,” she encouraged.  And even though I didn’t want to believe her, I forced myself to listen.  “Ideas will come in time.  You just have to be patient.”  It was the last thing I wanted to hear, but in the end, she was right.  Ideas eventually came.  Patience proved fruitful.

I can now look back at those four years as the most transforming time in my writing career.  Yes, it was frustrating.  Yes, it was long.  Yes, it made me feel like the worst writer in the world.  But it taught me perseverance.  It taught me that there is strength in believing in yourself.

When I talk with other people about writing, I usually get this response: “I want to write, but…”  What follows is a list of excuses.  “I’m not that good at it.”  “I don’t know what to write.”  “My grammar is terrible.”  “People say I’m not good at writing.”  Their insecurity stops them, paralyzing whatever dream they had and keeping it from coming forth.  And this doesn’t just apply to writing.  I’ve seen many talented people-singers, preachers, teachers, actors, businessmen/businesswomen-not even take a chance because they didn’t think they could do it.  How many van Gogh’s no longer paint?  How many Beethoven’s no longer compose?  How many Shakespeare’s no longer write?  Lack of talent isn’t the killer of creativity.  Insecurity is.

We all have a dream.  We all have a desire within us to do something meaningful with our lives.  But too often life gets in the way and tries to stifle that dream.  Too often people speak defeat into our talents when they should be speaking victory.  But whether our dream has a chance to become reality is left to us.  We are the ones who take the first step.  We are the ones who take the leap of faith and persist through all the struggles and doubts.  We are the ones who determine whether our dreams remain in our hearts or become a part of our lives.

All it takes is a little self-confidence to see it through.

A few little announcements before I end this post:

  • I’m now on Twitter!  Feel free to follow me @erincruey and stay up to date on book announcements or general attempts at comedy.  My Twitter page is also on my blog so you can see it from the Home Page, too.
  • Reign of Change, also known as Book Two in The Ripple Affair Series, is in the final editing stages and will be available very soon!  You can check out the cover on my Books page (just click on the Books tab on my website).

That’s all for now.  Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

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How My Minor Character Didn’t Listen to Me

I love playing The Sims.

There’s just something so oddly entertaining about taking control of a character, creating a story, and then telling them what to do.  One Sim skips work to swim all day while the other practically lives at the office.  Another Sim flirts with every person that walks in the room while the other stays faithful to that one, special love.  One Sim is lucky and gets everything handed to him easily while the other Sim gets a shock just for trying to fix the kitchen sink.

But if you’ve ever played the Sims, you know that sometimes the Sim doesn’t follow your command.  Yes, that Sim will purposely skip eating dinner and will near themselves to starvation just so they can binge watch the television for ten hours straight.  No matter how many times you tell them they must eat that macaroni and cheese to live, somehow the news is more important.

I’ve found in writing that my characters must think they’re Sims.  No matter what I tell them to do-what to say, how to act, or where to go-they somehow don’t listen.  They somehow go off on their own accord, even if it’s a bad idea.

Perhaps you’ve had it happen in your story.  You’re writing a scene and the plot is unfolding perfectly.  Everything is going to plan and you can’t help but pleased at how smoothly everything is going for once!

And then it happens.  As you are writing, your character does something drastic and strays from the original plan.  The story changes and suddenly chaos erupts as everything you thought your story was going to tell is thrown out the window because the character didn’t listen.

It happened to me recently as I was writing the second book in my series.  Everything was good until I started writing a scene with a certain minor character.  As I was writing, oblivious to the world around me, an idea popped into my head, and before I could rationally think the character’s actions out, it ended up on paper.  A new scene, a new plot point, and a twist that suddenly turned the story upside down.

All because the minor character didn’t follow the original plan.

I joke, of course, that my minor character had a mind of his/her own, but how many times (as writers) have we been in this predicament?  When the story doesn’t go to plan and suddenly a new story emerges in the middle of writing.  It’s frustrating for me at times when it happens, as I’m the kind of writer who enjoys planning things, but far too often I find the story moving away from the plan and creating its own unique path.

And in this situation, it wasn’t a bad thing.  Because my character didn’t follow the plan, a plot twist was developed that gave a whole new meaning to the series.  Because my character didn’t follow the plan, a once minor character suddenly developed a major role that basically altered the future for everyone in the story.  Because my character didn’t follow the plan, a typical story soon became deeper and more involved (and in my opinion, more interesting).

When I play The Sims, allowing my Sims to take the reins of their own free will doesn’t always produce good choices (I’m still waiting on that one Sim to eat the macaroni and cheese.)  But sometimes, as writers, when we allow our story to “write itself”, so to say, the product can be good.  Maybe even great.  It’s good to stick to a plan, but I’ve found in my own writing it’s even better to be open to spontaneity as well.  Inspiration and creativity are rarely on a schedule, and when it arrives you can’t help but take advantage of it.

Even if it makes your minor character not listen to the plan.

Eat, Sleep, and Write: A Writer’s Life

Being a writer isn’t easy.

I think there’s this common misconception that writers do nothing but sit at a desk that overlooks nature and compose perfect sentence after perfect sentence while taking the occasional sip of coffee and letting out a relaxed sigh. Birds are singing, the sun is shining, and everything is peace and bliss as the writer sits back and watches the money pour in from royalties.

Ah, if only that were true for all of us…

The first day of NaNoWriMo was Last Friday. Like many fellow writers who have yet to have a novel published, my day was spent in a variety of places, all of which did not include a country cottage in the middle of spring.  In fact, it was spent driving across the county on one hour’s worth of sleep and squeezing in some writing time after dinner late that night.  Yeah, not your ideal writing conditions, let me tell you.  And though I can’t speak for every other writer, I’m willing to believe that most of the other people who wrote that day did not spend their time in a country cottage as well.

It’s a shocker, I know.

The truth is being a writer is often times difficult, busy, and downright stressful.  For those of us who can make a living as writers, there’s drafts, revisions, and long days staring at the computer screen.  Many of them are sitting in an office not just sipping coffee but guzzling it because they’ve been trying to meet the ever-approaching deadline.  For those of us who make our living elsewhere (myself included), we fit writing into whatever time we can-early in the morning, lunch time, late at night while everyone else is asleep.  We write wherever it’s convenient.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled a notebook from beside the bed in the middle of the night and write an idea down with my only light being a flashlight app from my phone.

The writing process itself is also difficult.  Though some are very fortunate to have the ability to create prose and poetry that is brilliant in a few hours, most of us go through countless edits and revisions of our stories until we have every bit of detail right.  My first idea for a novel has been a work in progress for ten years and counting.  Ten years!  When I first started writing, I thought it’d be finished in a few months.  Boy, was I wrong.  Writing is often a long process in which some projects take months, years, or even decades to complete.  Some projects never get completed at all.  The writing process is long, hard, and at times grueling.  It doesn’t just ask for patience-it demands it.

But even though writing can be hard and difficult, the rewards and joy it brings are worth every late night and revision.  Being a writer is not just work, but it’s an art-and a joy.  It’s our way of bringing our imagination to life or sending a message we normally wouldn’t have the words to say.  It’s a way for us to attain a legacy that can last for generations to come.  It teaches, encourages, corrects, and beautifies.  And for many of us who feel writing is our calling, it’s not just a part of our life-it is our life.

So even though I’m not sitting in that cottage, sipping tea (yeah, I’m not a coffee drinker-sorry), I’m still living the writer’s life.

Ah, bliss.

Ready, Set! NaNoWriMo 2013 (A.K.A. What Have I Gotten Myself Into?)

I’m going to enjoy today.

I’m going to pass out candy to Trick or Treaters.  I’m going to eat my sandwich from Subway.  I going to squeeze in some TV time before getting some sleep.

Because after midnight, it’s November 1-it’s the first day of NaNoWriMo.

Which means (come tomorrow), I get an entire month of living off of caffeine and leftover Halloween candy while I stay up late and write a story.  Or at least 50,000 words worth of one.  All for the sake of saying “I wrote a story!” and calling it good.

Yeah, I agree it’s a little crazy and probably not the best idea when you’re working full time, going to church, prepping for a craft show, keeping up with a blog, and trying to finish the other novels you’ve been working on for the past decade.  Oh-and let’s not forget the upcoming Holiday season.  Guess who usually cooks Thanksgiving dinner?

Well, it’s actually my mom…but I do the dishes afterwards.  Sometimes that can be just as grueling as cooking.

But then again, when are things not hectic?  Life’s like a roller coaster.  You certainly can’t cruise along on one of those.  If I can’t write now, then when is a good time?

So this year I’m attempting it.  I’m writing a new story for NaNoWriMo and am going to try and finish it in a month’s time.  I’m not feeling too terribly confident in my ability to meet the deadline (again, my first novel has been a work-in-progress for 10 years.  A freaking decade!), but at the same time I’m excited about the thought of writing simply for the adventure of it.  And I won’t be alone-over 100,000 people will be joining me!  From the excitement of a new story to the feeling of encouragement and support from the community, NaNoWriMo won’t be just an event-it’ll be an adventure!  And this year, I’ll be a part of it.

So for those of you who are NaNoWriMo veterans, cheers to you and good luck with writing yet another story!  And for those of you who are like me and are completely new and have absolutely no idea what you’re getting yourself into, cheers to you as well!  We’ll all probably be exhausted and dreaming about plot holes in our sleep, but at least we’ll be telling our own tale and sharing our love of writing with the world.

I plan on regularly updating the blog as I’ve been doing and I may throw in a few NaNoWriMo updates as well.  What I hope is that any lessons I learn about trying to write a novel in a month, I’ll be able to share on here.  So stay tuned!

And before I go and finish that Subway sandwich, I just want to send a big thank you to all the readers who have been checking A Study of Story out!  It feels so very humbling seeing people read, like, and follow this blog and I am extremely grateful that you are taking time out of your busy schedules to read what I have to write.  You have no idea how encouraging that is, and from the bottom of my heart I thank you for it.

Cheers and God bless, and Happy NaNoWriMo!