Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Reviewer’s Dilemma

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group post.

This month isn’t about a writing insecurity per se, but more… an insecurity surrounding being a writer online.

Recently, I changed my posting strategy both for my blog and for my YouTube Channel. I realized that my blog content was more suitable for seasoned writers, while I could use my YouTube Channel to draw in new readers by posting tips for new writers (most are readers, no?) and by talking about books I’ve enjoyed reading.

The latter does have the extra benefit of encouraging me to read more, but it’s coming with a huge potential landmine:

 
What if I don’t like the book? 

In all the years I’ve been blogging (eight this year, btw), I’ve consistently refused to post reviews, simply because I never know what to do in the event of having a meh reaction to a book, or worse. I can’t lie and call it okay, because meh is not okay to me. Especially if I paid for said book.

Also, if people requested me to review the book, especially if we’ve built a relationship over the years, I could foresee that me just not being subjectively into their book would do damage to said relationship.

All in all, the issue of a writer reviewing other writers’ books felt like swimming in shark infested waters, and I had always refused to wade in.

Until now.

So why did I change my mind?

Short answer is I want to attract readers and grow my following, and my lurking for two years on YouTube and Tumblr has revealed that talking about books to readers is the way into their hearts. Also… really… I just really want to talk about the books I’ve read. Especially when I liked them. And since this year I have a goal of reading every day, knowing I need to whip up some content around my reading is doing a lot to act as an incentive so I don’t move my reading down my priority list the way I’ve done lately.

And I guess I thought that it’ll be okay. I read so many books that I love that I didn’t really think I would bump into one I didn’t enjoy.

And of course, I did just that in this first week after deciding to post my opinion on books I read.

Which means I’m firmly in chum-filled waters now. Do pretend I didn’t read it? Do I acknowledge reading it with a meh, moving on attitude?

I’m kinda thinking of going with the latter. Especially for this book. It wasn’t bad. It just had flaws. Explaining those flaws would make readers cry with boredom, though, so that’s not an option. Writing a post about those flaws for this blog without naming names, however, is.

Thing is, I still don’t know if acknowledging a book as being mediocre is a good idea. So maybe if I did a quick “what I liked, what I didn’t like” segment on it…

Sigh. 

I need to stew on it. Three more weeks before I have to make a call.

Any suggestions? Do you review the books you read? What do you do with the ones you don’t enjoy?

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Insecure Writer’s Support Group: …….. Already?!

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is a monthly bloghop where writers can share their doubts, fears and insecurities with each other. It’s a nice way to vent, but also to realize you’re not alone. If you’d like to sign up, click here.

You know, you’d think that starting fresh for the New Year would leave me fresh and renewed and at least a little less insecure than usual, but alas… No.

What’s the problem? Oh, it’s an old one. I have it frequently…

Namely, the sheer staggering amount of items I have on my to-do list. Except this year is worse. Why?

Last year, I kept track of my list with a diary and pens, which meant that I had at most 20 tasks on a given day. But I switched to Trello last year, which is the same thing, except digital, which means I can set myself an unlimited amount of tasks.

And it seems like my life has taken it upon itself to meet that challenge.

On January 1st, I cleaned up all my lists, starting from scratch with only my goals as a starting point.

Then I started adding the little tasks I have to do from day to day. And added… and added.

And in two days, my list of things I need to do today shot up from 0 to 30. Count them. 30 items.

*Cue maniacal laughter*

To be fair, I can shift a lot of them out to other days, but for some reason, I’m just not getting to the ones I deem to be essential, like having to spend at least 20 minutes today on editing my book. I literally can’t figure out where I’m going to squish that in yet.

And this is supposed to be a day off.

Whelp!

How are you doing? Do you also feel like 2018 is starting like an avalanche?

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Dun dun DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNN!

Hey everyone. On the first Wednesday of the month, it’s time to post updates to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The point of this bloghop is to share your writing insecurities, but also to encourage others. There’s also a monthly question you can answer if you’re not feeling all that insecure. For more information, just click the link.

So right in time for Halloween, I think my current WiP is cursed.

Why? Well. It was the first concept I ever started writing when I first decided to be serious about writing books. In other words, I’ve been working on it for sixteen years.

The first time I started it I saved it to a floppy disk that malfunctioned. (Yes, it’s that old.)

The second time, I saved it to my computer. And then one day, my grandmother (the writer) had a computer malfunction and needed another computer to save her work. So while I was at school (yes, it’s that old), my mom ripped the insides out of my computer and installed my grandmother’s. And also, because she thought I was only playing minesweeper (that. old.) on my computer, she just trashed the insides.

The third time I tried this book, I finished the rough draft. This time, because I made the point of saving it to Dropbox. It had been written on Ywriter (which is relevant, bear with me.) and I got into the rewrites. I wrote all of the rewrites. And when I finished it and did my final backup, something went wrong, and the entirety of my rewrite disappeared as if I had never written it.

Fourth time I wrote it on Scrivener and finished the rewrite. Yay! Then I discovered I had to rewrite it again. Awe.

And now, on the fifth try, after sixteen years, Scrivener lost me everything I had written on the weekend. Which doesn’t sound that bad, but oooooooohhhhh is it bad. Because I had shifted the focus this time, and this chapter had been the moment where the momentum picked up. And Scrivener has successfully gutted it.

And yes, it’s them. I save the file to my computer, and then save a copy to my dropbox. So the original file on my hard drive should be stable. And if you’re wondering why I don’t just get the back-up file Scrivener backed up for me… Did you know that Scrivener’s default is to back up only five versions? And did you know that back-up happens every time it autosaves? Yuuuuuuup. In the time it took me to figure out that no, it didn’t back up to my dropbox either, Scrivener had overwritten the back-ups from the day.

So yeah.

Cursed.

Have you ever worked on a cursed project? Did you ever manage to finish it?

IWSG: I’m Back and Boy Am I Feeling the Insecurity

Hey all!

Heads-up to everyone wanting to support Hurricane Harvey victims: There’s a charity auction going on right now here
If you’re planning to self-publish, you can bid on my ebook and paperback formatting offer.

I’ve been away from the Insecure Writers’ Support Group for a while, but yesterday I decided to get right back onto that bandwagon.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with IWSG, it’s the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, where us writers can go to share our fears and insecurities once a month, on the first Wednesday. In addition, there is also an optional extra question for those of us who just don’t feel that insecure at the time.

I have a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge insecurity this month, but I stupidly made that my vlog post for Friday.

Lucky me, I also have another, smaller, niggling insecurity that I’ve been trying to ignore. And that big insecurity has just made that feeling much worse.

In short, I feel like nothing’s getting done.

Which is a stupid feeling for me to have, as I literally have a list every day, where I’m checking off task after task that I’ve finished.

But.

There was once a time when I was capable of rough drafting, rewriting and editing a manuscript in six to eight months.

That’s a lovely pace to maintain. And I did it while having a day-job.

But since then, all of my projects just seem to be stuck in mud. Book 3 in The War of Six Crowns has been two years (!!!) in the making and it’s still not done. And now I’m having problems with another project that will be setting me back for some more months on that. (This is my big insecurity.)

That’s not the worst, though.

The worst is that I’ve made the decision to become a full-time writer a year ago. Did that help me speed up?

Nope. Because now that I have more time for writerly things, I somehow also have less time to actually write, because to be a writer who isn’t also a starving writer, I have to do other writing-related jobs for money. This part is surprisingly successful.

But actually writing?

Uhm….

Uhm….

Uhm…..

I haven’t been able to write in more than a month, now. Mainly because of the crippling insecurity around that other book. But also because I conveniently have a million other things to do, which makes it so easy to procrastinate.

Sigh.

Anyone else feel like they’re stuck in mud with their writing? I’d ask how you get over that feeling, but I already know the only thing to do is actually stop moaning and start actually working on something again. 

I Hate My Internal Editor Because It’s Right

Hey everyone! Before I get to today’s vlog post, I just wanted to let you know that I signed up for a charity auction for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. I’m offering to format a book for paperback and ebook, so if that’s something you need, you might end you getting my services for a steal. You can click here for more information.

Okay! Time for today’s vlog. As always, I left the script at the bottom for those of you who just can’t get into the vlog thing. Enjoy!

If I was to think of one word to summarize how I am right now, it would be:

FRUSTRATED.

Why?

Because I have this brain that tells me things like “Hah. You really want to just edit and publish this shit?”

Sarcastic voice and all.

Which I tend to ignore because often, that voice is dead wrong. However, out of two books I’ve wanted to pick up for revision, this voice chimed in twice. And it was right… twice.

Not that this is really a bad thing. I’m taking a long-term view of self-publishing. Yes, I could be publishing once every three months right now, but would I be happy with the quality of my books? Eh…no.

Which isn’t to bash people who are able to do that.

I just can’t.

It’s hard enough to let go of a book as it is. Let’s not rush the process.

But the thing is, my method has always worked as follows: Rough draft by hand, rewrite to computer (with a plan), revise, edit a million times, proofread a few times more, and then I’m ready for formatting.

Except now it’s not working that way. Because now, when my inner editor takes a look at my rewritten draft, it’s seeing glaring weaknesses that would be better solved with yet another rewrite than with revisions.

The previous three times this inner editor chimed up, I could say, “Hey chill out. Yes, it’s not perfect. But a scene here and there would be all this needs to be perfect.”

The last two times, though, my inner editor helpfully pointed out that somewhere between a half and three quarters of my plot wasn’t written.

And that’s a rewrite-scope problem. How do I know? Because the first time it happened, it took me almost a years’ worth of rewrites and FOUR TIMES the amount of words to tell the story in the right way.

But at least there I had the excuse of wanting to split a book in two.

This time, no such luck. This time, I just let major plot points occur way before intro and build-up was done. And so it feels like at least the first third of a story is missing.

Can I fix it by inserting those scenes? Not this time. Because stuff that’s missing now will impact reactions later.

So it’s another rewrite for me. On a book that’s been rewritten four times already, over sixteen years.

Kill me now.

Have you ever prepared to edit, only to realize the underlying draft isn’t worth editing? Did you ignore that feeling or did you rewrite? How did it work out for you?

Camp NaNoWriMo Progress Update: Nooooooooo!

Still ahead of schedule… Just.
I know that second weeks of NaNoWriMo months are harsh. They’re kinda notorious for being as difficult to get through as swimming through molasses. That’s why all of the encouragement we get from the organizers in week two features some version of “Hey it’s okay to struggle. You’re far from the only one, so just keep chipping away and things will get easier.”

To be honest, though, I thought I’d skip the difficult second week. Not because week one was epic (and it was), but because I’m in the final sixth of my book. These are the final chapters leading up to the climactic point and the last ones to finish the book off.

They write themselves.

They always have.

Usually when I hit the last quarter of a book, I can easily write up to 6k words in a day. (My record is 10k in a single push.)

But what I didn’t count on was that, when I threw a huge curve ball at my characters, they would retaliate with a massive one in return.

You’d think, after having about six iterations of this same event in my draft novels without much of a dent, nothing would change when I let the same thing happen now.

Boy, was I wrong.

Because I hadn’t taken into account one major thing: Every time before, the thing happened early in the story. This time, it happened near the end.

And because of everything that had happened before the event, the characters were now armed with a set of information that pointed to something I hadn’t even looked at.

Et voila. 

Devastation.

I’ve been struggling to write even 1000 words a day since Tuesday. The moment I get to scenes around this event, my unwilling fingers slow down to a drag and I want to burst into tears.

But hey! Drama’s good. So I can’t complain too much.

I just have to get over this.

And hopefully my poor readers will cry just as hard when they hit this scene. I’m not going to say what it was, but… I think you’ll know when you see it.

How are you doing? Have you ever had a character spring a whole new world of pain on you? How did you recover?

4 Tips to Make Sense of Writing Tips

Hey all! Before I get into today’s post, I just wanted to remind you guys of my new Before and After feature. It could be a way for you to get your hands on a really inexpensive custom design, so if you haven’t yet, go check out my announcement.

Okay! Time to get into the post. This is last week’s vlog that went live a bit too late, which is why it’s only being put on my blog today. As always, the script follows the video, but if you choose that, you’re missing an awesome Vader impersonation…

Show don’t tell. Never stop writing. Only write when you’re feeling inspired. Never start with a dream sequence. Never use a narrator. Never use prologues. Always plan ahead of writing. Never plan ahead. Edit as you write. NEVER edit as you write.

That’s only a small sample of the writing rules that one can get out there. And as you can see, a lot of it is contradictory. So what’s a writer to do?

In my sixteen or so years of writing stories, I’ve managed to develop a way to approach writing rules that makes it all… well… make a bit more sense. And since I’m awesome, I thought I’d share the tips with you.

Yes, I’m aware that this is a tip vlog about understanding tips, but there you go.

Let’s just get into it.

Tip #1: Before you even start researching writing, it’s a good idea to develop your own set of best practices first. 

The truth is that it’s a mad, senseless writing world out there. It seems like every writer has “advice” out there, and as someone who’s been around the block, a lot of advice out there is patently bad.

Terrible. Terrible advice.

And if you go into your research armed with your own personalized knowledge of what already works for you, you’re not going to be confused into the dark side all that easily. *Insert Vader Breath Here.*

Seriously though. If you know what works and someone’s acting like you’re doing it wrong, you know to roll your eyes and disregard at will.

Which brings me to my next tip.


Tip #2: If someone’s trying to convince you that theirs is the only, best way… they’re giving you bad advice. 

I don’t care what they’re saying. If they start off from the point of view that there is no other way to succeed at writing, you can’t trust the rest of what they’re saying. The guys that seem a bit hesitant, usually prefacing with a disclaimer of “I know other people do things differently and it works for them, but I find that…” usually are the ones that are worth listening to.

In particular, and this is a sad thing, there are some big names out there that try to sell themselves and their writing by making themselves seem like these literary geniuses that have the soul true knowledge to writing success.

 
DON’T LISTEN TO THEM.

Another bonus rule of thumb: If someone sounds like they’re talking out their arse, they probably are.

Tip #3: Understand why something is considered to be a rule.

Despite everything, some writers have a real, legitimate desire to help others, but because they’re not that experienced yet, they don’t quite understand what they’re saying. So their response is to come across as being dead certain about absolutes.

Never use adverbs. 

Never start with dream sequences. 

Never open with prologues.

Always do this. 

Never do that. 

The problem with subscribing yourself to these absolutes is that you’re actually limiting your own writing. But at the same time, those “rules” are there for a reason. So if you know those reasons, you’ll also know when and how you can bend the rules.

And that neatly brings me to my final tip.

Tip #4: Treat writing rules not as the x number writing commandments, but rather as guidelines. 

As I said before, a lot of the “rules” out there are considered to be such for some really good reasons.

That does not mean you’re doomed to always follow them slavishly. You’re the writer. You’re literally the master of your own story.

And if you say that rule doesn’t apply to you, that rule doesn’t apply to you.

Just remember, though, that if veering off from the rules results in bad writing, your readers will kick your ass for it. So don’t be irresponsible either.



And that’s basically it for me. Next week, I’ll share my own list of off-the-beaten-path writing rules that you might find useful. In the comments, let everyone know, which writing rules do you often disregard?