Insecure Writer’s Support Group: This is a big one.

Hey everyone. Today I’m a bit all over the place. (Okay not really. Just here and three other blogs.) 
I’ll get to this month’s insecurity now, but first, let me just warn inform you of my whereabouts. 
First, I’m visiting Denise, sharing a story of the insecurities I faced when I started writing Endless. She cross-posts to two blog platforms, so if you’re on Blogger, click here. WordPress: here
Then, Jessica interviewed me on Author Tracker and Ken interviewed me on My Hogwarts Sabatical
But it doesn’t feel like to skip the Insecure Writers’ Support Group (and boy, do I have a doozie today), so I thought I’d leave a post here too. 
Okay so this is going to be hard. Because today I’m going to share a bit of a secret. Or not. I’m pretty sure I might have mentioned this once or twice before. 
The thing is, I don’t like talking about it. 
But hey, as I said, it’s a doozie of a cause for insecurity and I’ve been struggling with working through my feelings. So, since writing is a good way to do this (and posting gives me motivation to actually do it…) 
*Deep breaths* Warning. This does occasionally go into ranting territory. 
So on Saturday, I woke up to the thought that nothing I ever do is enough to actually succeed. 
Which, on its own, might seem like a rather silly little issue. 
Except I have an anxiety disorder. 
Yeah. I do. Had a psychologist who diagnosed me in my third year of university. Maybe I’ve had it forever. I know I had my first (and oddly enough last) panic attack when I was in sixth grade. People didn’t handle it well. I suppressed it and thought that it had gone away. 
But yeah. My second year of university wrecked me. So badly that my mom made me go to a psychologist because she thought I either suffered from depression or did drugs. Yes. My emotional state had gradually darkened and grew so bad that my mom thought I had taken a control substance because my entire outlook on life had changed. 
I had gone from being a go-getter with huge goals and the daring to get it to someone who no longer felt like there was a point to trying anymore. 
It took me an entire year (and an existential crisis) to find myself again. During which I almost ran away (and I’m purposefully using the phrase) to the navy because I couldn’t deal with my fears that I’d get trapped in a job I hated because of a degree I no longer even wanted to get.
But I clawed my way out. Step by step. First by realizing that I didn’t actually have to do what people expected of me. Then, but proving to myself that I could get ahead and still write (which is actually one of the key aspects to my dealing with my mind.) 
And boy. I got ahead. I finished a shit ton of books. I got a publishing deal at 24. At exactly the same time, I was a co-owner and shareholder of an 8-digit turnover company.
It’s easy to function through my insecurity when things are actually going well. 
That was 2013. 
In 2014, everything went to hell, basically, except for my and my family’s health (which I’m grateful for). 
But materially speaking, we lost everything. My whole life went into a dive and I’ve been fighting to pull out of it ever since. 
In January 2015, I was determined to pull out and just. 
It’s May 2016 now. And yes, I’ve made progress. At the moment I’m touring the third book I released in two years. My mother and I started a business that we merged with another. 
But it’s also May 2016, and after months of hard work, most of which I’ve spent working 12 to 14 hour work days (you know, not writing). 
And, except for the fact that I’m not able to write for vast majorities of the time and risking burn-out by writing in literally every available moment of time when I’m not sleeping, (I’m serious. Except for about eight hours of singing in total and maybe four t.v. days, I’ve done nothing but working, writing and sleeping since December.) I’m no better off now than I was last year this time. (In fact I’m worse off, but explaining that will probably stretch the post too far.) 
I can’t describe the mixture of fury and hopelessness welling up within me as I write this. 
So on Saturday, I guess I came to the point where my anxiety would no longer be ignored. But if I give up, I’m fucked. And I won’t be the only one. 
Somehow, I have to ignore the patent evidence around me to say that there is a point to this. That it must break at some point — hopefully before I do. That yes, doing all the right things and working hard will bring me success again. 
That this time, my success won’t be stolen by another asshole that I will see on t.v. with my fucking business that was also a casualty of 2014 (not kidding. Happened yesterday.). Or someone else I will probably hear of in my day-job due to (yep, you guessed it) anther 2014 casualty. 
Somehow, I have to fool myself into believing that all this will happen so that I can at least write again. Because if I stop writing, there’s no point to hoping I’ll become a writer, is there? 

Insecure Writers Support Group

Wow, time’s flying. I can’t believe it’s already February. It’s also time for another IWSG post. For those of you who don’t know, IWSG is a bloghop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh, where writers share their insecurities and encouragement once a month. It’s never too late to join, so if you want to, go here.

On the night of 26 December, 2011, I suffered the most catastrophic loss of data ever. I’d used a certain freeware program to do all my rewrites, which added up to well over one hundred thousand words. After many attempts, I managed to save a few chapters of some of the projects. But the original rewrite of Doorways was gone. Luckily, I’d already started to edit at that time, so I had a copy if I declined all edits.

What broke my heart was this. I’d written a western that year. I rewrote it too. I finished the rewrite on 24 December.

I lost: Every. Single. Word.

Of all the words I wanted to recover, that project was it.

It broke me. Really. Sure, I went on with all the other projects I saved, but I just didn’t have the heart to start the western again. So I postponed the rewrite to 2012. Didn’t happen. And 2013. That didn’t happen either.

But this will be the year. In fact, I’m going to read the rough draft today. By the end of the week, I want the first words of the re-rewrite down.

Thing is, I have this horrible thought. I’d loved the rewrite. I thought it was touching, and emotionally rich and brilliant. And I know that theoretically, I should be able to make this rewrite even better.

Except… what if I can’t? What if I lost its heart and soul that night?

Needless to say, I know I’m being stupid, but the idea of opening that rough draft fills me with trepidation. Nothing to do but start, though.

Have you ever lost a project and delayed starting it again due to insecurity?

Writing Lesson in Horse Riding

I recently figured that hey, I write about knights and cowboys. Maybe I should learn how to ride a horse myself.

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. There’s something absolutely beautiful about seeing a horse and rider in harmony. Something almost mystical.

Learning how to ride, is another animal altogether. There was Calypso, who hates me. Really. I went up to him, trusting him and… well… He tried to head-butt me. And the riding went worse.

So given that Calypso was out to get me, my instructor introduced me to Juno. Now Juno and I hit it off. With Juno, I thought I’d be able to go all the way.

Except the second time I rode him (yes, I know it’s stupid to name a stallion for the Roman goddess of women and motherhood), he started to do things that made me less than comfortable. I mean, I’m new to this riding thing. So when I want the horse to stop, it’s nice to know the horse will stop. Still, I figured it’d be okay, since I’d grow better as I practiced more.

The lesson after that, though, I was asked to ride Quicksilver. Now Quicky is rather an ornery beast. He’s the one who puts all the horses on the farm in their places. And when he does, he kicks butt and takes names. He’s also the one who wants to be in front no matter what, so he’s faster than either of the other two. And he bites any horse who tries to take the lead from him.

The thing is… Quicky and I simply hit it off. Sure, he was fast, but never in a way that undermined the trust I had to put in him. In fact, riding him gave me the confidence to think I could actually learn other things. Most importantly, though, he loves me too. If there’s a group of people and he’s loose, he comes to me and lowers his head for me to pet him. Is he the horse I can trust? Possibly. He might change his mind later, but for now, we’re getting along perfectly, even if logic says I shouldn’t have liked him.

Incidentally, today, I had to ride Juno and my mom had to ride Quicky. Juno was actually scarier today than Calypso. And my mother felt the same way about Quicky.

Now, I bet you’re wondering how I’m bringing this to writing. Well.

When I started writing, there was a western. We got along okay, but when my mom took my computer and gave it to someone else, I stopped working on it for years. The spark just wasn’t there. (Juno.)

Later on, there was a fantasy. A quest, in fact. With a chosen one. But it was dark. Took me places I didn’t want to go. In fact, it was part of some stuff I was going through at the time that really really messed me up in ways that made my university issues look like kindergarten. In the end, I burnt it. Yep. Wiped it, and all the back-ups, and burnt all the plans and drawings I’d made for it. (Calypso)

I have a few other drafts that I could explain, but right now, there aren’t horses that match them.

Finally, in walked a character while I was re-reading Chronicles of Narnia. After all those failed attempts, I’d decided to give up on writing idea until I was certain that my idea was a good one. The character didn’t take no for an answer, and the story he revealed to me was so good that I knew I’d finish it. To put money where my mouth was, I even started this blog as My First Book. I planned it to be a blog of me finishing a book and getting it published.

Was it because the story was easy? No. In fact, my older bloggy friends might recall that I called it The Beast. The story was huge. It defied my every attempt at pre-planning. The characters were reticent. In fact I hated one of the main characters. But I couldn’t give up. I didn’t want to. (That story went on to become The Vanished Knight.)

Maybe it’s too soon to make this call, but that sounds a lot like Quicksilver. A bit of a bastard, but hey, it picked me and I love it for giving me that honor.

So in summary, the lesson I’ve learnt so far in writing and horse riding:

Just because you’re struggling to get into it doesn’t mean that you should give up. It could be that you just have the wrong horse for right now. 
Anyone want to talk about the drafts before the one they finished? 

IWSG and Novel Films Blogfest II

Hey all, welcome to another round of IWSG. First of all, I want to thank Alex J. Cavanaugh for putting together such a great group where we can share our insecurities without judgement and encourage others who are worse off than us. Thank you for a great two years.

If you haven’t yet, and want to join, please go here.

So, for once, I’m not particularly insecure about anything.

Instead, since this is the two year anniversary, I thought I’d turn it around and post 10 messages of encouragement. I hope you’ll find one that fits you.

1) Any novel is a scary prospect in the beginning. Keep going. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

2) Word for word. That’s how a novel is finished.

3) Reading is a valid way to spend writing time if you’re too tired to write.

4) Inspiration comes from life, so don’t resent it when life comes knocking at your office door.

5) Never let rejections get you down. You only need to find the right person. You might also want to look to yourself, or to indie publishers if you’re stuck with agents.

6) No matter what people say, you’re a writer when you write. So never stop because someone doubted your writer status.

7) On that subject, there are idiots out there who will try to get you down. Laugh at them and go on. Odds are, they’re trying to hurt you because they’re living empty, meaningless lives.

8) Writing is your legacy. Don’t waste it by publishing too early because you’re dang tired of editing.

9) Editing sucks, but to see the finished project is awesome. Let that be your reward. An amazing finished manuscript.

10) No unfinished novel is a failure. It’s a lesson. The difference between a writer with a shelved novel and a failed writer is that the latter gave up on writing altogether.

Anyone else have words of encouragement?

Now, on to the final post on the Novel Films Blogfest

Today’s Questions: Have you read any novels where you have yet to see the films/ TV adaptations?

I probably read a few, since I’m a voracious reader. But the one that matters most to me is this one, because the movie still needs to be released. 

Which book adaptions are you looking forward to? 

In which I give my two cents on what makes a real writer.

I know I said I’d open up nominations today, but I decided this is a bit more important.

See there’s this little discussion going around on google plus about what makes someone a real writer.

Here’s the highlights of what people said that I’ve read before I decided to write this. And hey, maybe it’s completely unnecessary. I have no idea how many new writers come to my blog.

But I guess you all figured out that I have a heart for helping them. I love encouraging people to write. I love giving advice on stuff I’ve learnt that helps them to crack stuff that took me years. Because honestly, I know that the stuff I write on plot, structure, characterization etc. doesn’t really interest the veteran writers. They know all this already.

The thing is, being a writer, in its purest form, is dedication to writing.

It’s not about you writing like me. Or me writing like you.

It’s not about writing the perfect first draft.

It’s not about a deep knowledge of grammar. It’s not about having a huge and obscure vocabulary.

It’s about dedication to the craft. It’s about writing until you want to cry because you don’t think the story will end. And then, it’s about writing some more until you do get there. All that stuff about having a good manuscript, and fixing grammar, and picking the better word to say exactly what you mean, the way you mean it, come later.

All that stuff, even if you can write like Mark Twain or Ernest Hemingway or whoever, doesn’t make you a writer any more than putting icing over a brick turns it into a cake.

What makes you a writer, is wanting to write when you can’t. And writing whenever you can. Even if it means giving up t.v. time or sleeping an hour later.

Yes, there are some writers who are better than others. That is determined by the icing I mentioned. So I’m not saying that it’s wise to publish without editing. I am saying that you should learn how to build a story around a structure.

But don’t put off writing until after you’ve learnt. You’ll never learn the perfect amount of writing knowledge. There’s nothing that will qualify you as a writer.

Except. For. Writing.

Thanks for reading.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Welcome to another IWSG post. For those who don’t know, it’s a bloghop hosted once a month by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Here we can share our insecurities and encourage others who are feeling insecure. So if you want to join, go here to check out the details. 

As for me, I’m filled with insecurities. I could practically pick a new insecurity every day. But hey, to give us a bit of variation, I’ll move away from Doorways related fears and focus on something different. 
Well… somewhat unrelated. Or… uhm… not directly related? Oh screw it. It’s still Doorways related. But in a different way from normal. 
See, I handed Doorways over to my editor again. She might be a while on these edits, so it left me with what I think will be a few weeks before I need to edit again. 
Lo and behold, I got invited to Camp NaNoWriMo. It made me think. “Oh hey perfect! I can get some writing done. See how much I can add to my poor neglected rough drafts. Wonderful.”
But on 29 June, insecurity struck with the force of a bullet train. 
You see… I’ve taken to flying into my rough drafts with wild abandon. Often, I only know a tiny bit about the characters, and the climax of the story, or the end. Sometimes I only know the climax and that’s okay, because I still have something to write towards. 
But my insecurity lies with… You guessed it. 

I spent six months just thinking about it and the world before I started writing it. After that, I spent a bit more than six painstaking years changing it into the story I sold to Etopia Press. I went through heaven and hell with that story. With the characters in it. 
And now… I finish rough drafts like… Well… I’ve gotten four into the shape I call “ready to rewrite” in the past three years. Doorways took four (or something similar). 
Thing is, I never feel as connected to the other stories. Doorways always lives in my head. The others… well… I think they do too, but I can’t hear it through all the Doorways noise. 
So on 29 June (most inconvenient timing EVER!) I suddenly wondered if I’m writing the other stories wrong. Obviously Doorways worked. But I basically ignored that method and flew into story after story. Possibly before they’re even ready to be written. 
The horror! 
It was like building a huge block tower, working on it for years, only to watch it topple because I removed the last block I’d placed. 
What did I do? Well. I melted down on twitter, only to have three awesome writers console me. Because of their messages, I realized two things I want to share now. 
1) You’re not the only one to ever feel this way. 
2) It really might not be as bad as you think. 
After spending a few hours calming down on the 30th, I grabbed one of those WiPs I “rushed into” and read it. 
And… it was good. Not brilliant, but not remotely close to the disaster I’d imagined it to be. 
I’m working on it now. Bits at a time, because it’s a fun book to write. 
Have you ever had a melt down because you thought you worked on an idea before it was ready? 

Before you go!

Sarah’s Reviews is giving away each of C. Lee McKenzie’s books here, here and here. Go check it out!

In which I follow my own advice.

I just finished reading an awesome book. And it makes me want to write. So bad.

I haven’t had this urge to write since finishing Doorways, really. And I love this feeling.

Even if it feels a lot like I’m going nuts.

My mind’s whirring thoughts past so fast, I can’t even really see them. I just know they’re there. Hopefully, once I start writing, they’ll pin down and I can write.

Right now is sort of inconvenient, though, since I’m still smack in the middle of edits. But you know what? I’ve been thinking.

While I wrote my previous post, I kept thinking of this once scene in the movie Center Stage. Now, I suspect that the ballet movie probably won’t fall in everyone’s tastes, but bear with me.

See in that movie is a scene that stayed with me ever since I saw it.

Basically, one of the main characters wants to be a Prima Ballerina, but feels like no one’s giving her the chance she deserves. One evening, one of the teachers catches her practicing and gives her advice.

It’s a bit of a long time since I watched the scene, but the gist is this:

No matter what, go back to the practice bar. If something goes well, go back. If someone upsets you. Go back. If you lose out at an audition, go back. Never give up. One day, your dedication will pay off.

That’s the same for us writers. No matter what, we have to go back to writing. If someone gets an agent and you don’t, write. If you’re stuck on sub, write. If you feel like no one will see the talent you know you’re gifted with, write. If you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. If you missed out on yet another contest. If you missed a requested for partials by this much. If you’re terrified of how your book will be received on the eve of publication.




That dedication will pay off in some form.

And you know what? While I don’t have a looming deadline on edits waiting, I’m going to follow my own advice. Who’s with me?

A to Z Challenge: Holding On

Recently, I wrote about determination, and one of my dear blogging friends brought up a very valid point that’s just as valid in holding on continuing to write. 

Belief in yourself. 
And now I know everyone is rolling their eyes. Thinking that I’m going into power of positive thinking territory. 
Uhmmm… no. And let me mention one thing. If I ever say that I think that positive thought will create positive events on their own, you can shoot me. Because odds are that I’m rabid. 
Because the way I see it (and I’m quite vocal about this) is that positive thinking serves to give you the determination to do what you need to do. But hey, there are people who think differently about positive thought, and maybe they’re right. 
Anyway… I’m digressing really – did you hear Margaret Thatcher died?- really badly. 
The fact is, writing a book is only the beginning. That finished product has a name. A first draft. After that, you have a second draft (maybe) and revisions (definitely) and edits (ad nauseum). And then… then comes this terrifying and truly trying time of a writer’s career. Querying and publishing. 
Because you’re probably going to get treated like your writing sucks. 
A lot. 
So. To make a long story short, determination alone won’t cut it. You need to believe in your abilities as a writer. In the beginning, you won’t have that, but your confidence will grow as you learn. And then, you also have to believe in the potential of your story. Once you’re really finished, you need to believe in the strength of it. 
Because if you don’t, you won’t make it. This I promise you. If your faith in yourself and your skills isn’t strong enough, you’ll buckle at the first no you get. Or at the first bad review if you self-publish.
And none of us want that. Because it might mean that we readers miss out on some wonderful stories you wrote. Or could have written. 
Don’t lose faith when things take longer than expected. You’ll get there in the end. 
If you hang on enough. 
Who of you veteran novelists were almost at the point of giving up when you got a  “yes”? Any stories of determination from the self-publishing trenches? 

A to Z Challenge: Determination

On A-day, I asked the veterans what advice they wanted to share with the new kids.

About 90% of them had versions of the same message:


There’s a very good reason why this is so big in the veterans’ eyes.

They know. They’ve been beyond the point where the new idea’s shininess wears off. They kept going. They’ve been at edges of mile-wide plot holes. They kept going. They’ve had to beg, plead and bribe uncooperative characters to play along. They kept going. Their muses have vanished. For days. They kept going.

They kept going.

Oh it all sounds glorious to you now, doesn’t it? So clean and surgical. But if you were a fly on the wall of a writer’s office, you’ll see it’s not pretty.

Some writers get buzzed on caffeine to deal with the stress. Some become nervous wrecks.

Some (I’m in this group) do this…

Sometimes I do it while screaming like a banshee.

Yeah. Not pretty at all.

But we keep going. At some point, we stop messing around and get back to writing. We go looking for the story’s shine again. We go filling up plot holes. We find some middle way with out characters and they show us where the story should be heading. And we let the muse back in to continue.

Sad. Isn’t it?

Yet, there’s no other way for a writer to live. Without writing — without finishing what we’re writing — we (at least I) feel incomplete.

So we keep going. Because shit. What else are we going to do?

What do you do when bumping into a problem while writing?
New kids. Do you think what I described is normal? Congrats! You might just make it.

Query woes

I’m meeeeeltiiing!

Yeah… really. I wanted to do this post hours ago, but it was so hot that my only option was to stay in the pool until I resembled a raisin.

And then I remained in the water for an hour longer.

Which means, of course, that nothing I want to do is getting done. But while I’m there, I’m swimming and doing some resistance stuff, so at least I’m getting a bit fitter.

Other than that, I’m basically resisting the siren’s call that is the Doorways sequel. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with writing it per se… but it’s a problem when I still haven’t worked on the query or the synopsis like I’m supposed to.

That’s a problem.

Thing is. I don’t really know what to do with the query. Even an agent said that I should have people look it over, but all I get when I do that is more contradiction. How am I supposed to learn what I’m doing wrong when all I’m getting is some people saying add more and others saying take more away?

It just really annoys me. Then there’s this situation where some agents insist that my sub-genre is unsellable, but when asked directly, agents say that there’s no such thing.

So yeah… me wondering if it’s even WORTH the effort isn’t helping me get a new query done.

It’s all just one big procrastination exercise right now.

Anyone else getting frustrated with queries?

I mean, I don’t mind getting no’s. But getting no’s when I don’t know what’s turning the agents off really is starting to annoy me.