Protecting Your Creativity & Hearing Feedback

As a writer, critique partners and beta readers are a crucial part of the process. Critique partners ask the important, hard questions. They point out inconsistencies or plot holes. They also serve as checks and balances against the writer’s ego.

Trust is the most critical aspect of any critique relationship. Trust that the feedback is coming from a place of support and with good intentions. As writers, we are often emotionally tied to our work and sharing it is a vulnerable process. It’s hard to put yourself and your work out into the world. When feedback comes from a voice you trust, it’s easier to hear.

In addition to personal trust, it’s important to find critique partners that understand your genre and readers. If your critique partner or beta readers aren’t well-versed in your genre and similar novels, their feedback could be good, but not relatable.

One other thing I’ve identified as important when working with critique partners is to find people in a similar head space. When you can connect to writing beyond your current work, that helps. You can build rapport as you discuss things outside of critiques.

Critique groups are an entirely different beast. Having participated in very few of these, I’ve found them to not be helpful. The mob mentality can take over quickly, leading to the group being a chorus of echos after one person comments on something they may or may not have seen or even considered. Groups are great for getting a variety of ideas, but I’ve found them to be more harmful than helpful.

As I’ve embarked on a journey to make writing a career (eventually), I’ve started seeking out more critique partners and advice. While on this journey, I’ve heard some pretty hurtful comments that didn’t actually help my process. They hurt it. Thankfully, I have a core group of readers and writers that I trust that can talk me off of the ledge when I need it.

At the end of the day, as hard as it can be to hear that your baby isn’t as cute as you think she is, it is necessary. Every writer wants to get better. But we have to be careful with feedback—it’s easy to crave, but tough to swallow—you ultimately need to trust your gut. If the feedback feels wrong, consider why it feels wrong. If the feedback consistently feels wrong, move on. Find partners and readers you trust.

Now, I’m off to take my own advice,

Just Write

As a writer, I’m constantly questioning my words. What are words? What are sentences? Does Stephen King really never use adverbs in his books or daily conversations?

One of the hardest things for me to accept is that sometimes the words I put down on paper (or, Google Drive, because 2019), aren’t the greatest. I don’t know that I’ll ever be the type of writer that makes people discuss my prose or verbose language. I’d rather let the story lead the discussion. I want my words to be accessible. And, selfishly, I want readers to devour a book in one sitting. Hard to do that when they have to ask Siri what pontificate means.

But there are times I write words and sentences that make me want to burn it all day. Sometimes I do. That’s what editing is for. Write it out. Set it aside. Edit. Edit. Edit.

We rarely hit perfection on the first try. Hell, we rarely ever hit it. And that’s okay. Life isn’t perfect and neither is fiction.

The minute writing stops being fun is the moment I lose my passion. I don’t ever want to get to that point. I get frustrated and annoyed. I re-read a chapter and wonder if I even understand language. But I never want those doubts or fears to stop me from doing what I love.

Writers: just write the words. You can edit them later. Get it out, if even its nonsense now, it won’t be after you edit and revision.

Don’t Let Fear Win

You won’t find my books in the library or on the shelves at Target or Barnes & Noble (not yet, anyway). They aren’t on any best seller lists or included on popular must read lists (yet).

Between self-doubt, my day job, motherhood and life, I never allowed myself to believe that traditional publishing was possible. I let fear and a million what-ifs drive me.

I knew going Indie was a risk, but that it was also one way to share my work. I’ve written a total of 7 complete novels. Three of those are sitting in this photo. Three are tucked safely away from the world. One is being pitched and queried to literary agents.

I owe this last fact to Bookstagram and the amazing readers and writers I’ve met here. The encouraging words from @thebooksocialite (my biggest and, arguably, only fan) gave me the boost to actually think I might do it. She’s also been a wealth of knowledge of what to do and what not to do when it comes to querying.

Being indie is rewarding and challenging. It’s removed barriers and allowed me to get my work out. But it also means it’s all on me. That’s been hard. I do Marketing in my day job and it’s the last thing I want to do when I get home. I have two young, demanding kids. It’s exhausting balancing it all.

It’s also rewarding and challenging putting myself out there. Hearing no is tough, but worth it. Every single no is one step closer to a yes. I only need one yes, and the 100 no’s are steps toward the one.

All this to say, stop letting fear and self-doubt stop you. You can do anything. No is just a word. It can feel personal, but it’s not. It’s a chance to learn and grow.

Misery Loves Company

Writing is often a lonely pursuit. Aside from the characters, dialogue, stories and ideas floating around your brain, writers prefer to be left alone while writing. I’ve also found that many writers, like me, are introverted. Human interaction is taxing and, sometimes, uncomfortable.

For may writers, the process of writing a novel is torture. This is not the case for me. I love writing. Maybe I don’t love editing, but I love what it means… that I have finished a book and am getting it ready to share with the world. That is huge.

Often when I hear other writers talk about spending decades writing a book and bemoaning how miserable they are during the process, I start to wonder if I am doing it wrong. Can I really be a good writer if it only takes me 30-45 days to write a first draft? Does it mean I am horrible at it if I don’t hate it? Am I doing it wrong?

It is so hard to avoid the comparison game. As hard as I try to, I still fall into the trap. But why do I feel bad for not being miserable and hating the process? If a friend were to express these concerns, I would remind them that every writer’s process is different. One isn’t better than the other. What matters is that you produce your best work and deliver a manuscript you are proud of.

As I write this and lament my feelings of self-doubt and impostor syndrome, I am forcing myself to be both mentor and friend. It’s okay to feel this way on occasion, but I cannot let it deter or distract me. I can only write the way I write. My process is mine and mine alone.

Okay enough stalling, off to edit and revise and do it all again.

Lie Baby Lie – Cover Reveal

I am so excited to (finally) share the Lie Baby Lie cover with you! This book has been a labor of love, and I cannot wait to get it into your hands. The preorder is officially live and the countdown to February 5 is on!

Caroline has a one track mind. She wants a baby, and she’s willing to do anything to get what she wants. Her husband, promised her she’d have her wish. When a secret from his past threatens to ruin Caroline’s plans, she takes matters into her own hands. His lies soon become her own web of lies and deceit.

Reese is desperate for a child too, but years of infertility and loss have jaded her. Secrets and lies have become second nature. The secrets she’s kept from her daughter. The lies to her husband about pregnancy tests. Reese hides behind these lies, protecting her family from truths that could hurt them and her.

Their lives are woven together in a way neither women understand. An unlikely, fragile friendship is born. Can it withstand the secrets and lies?

Preorder on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07MRFZJ2F

 

Reflecting on 2018 & Looking Forward

Confession time… When I released Life is But a Dream four years ago, I had huge dreams and goals of writing full time. A few weeks after the release, it was clear to me that quitting my day job was not an option. LIBAD sold less than 25 copies. I gave away about 600 in the hopes that people would read it and leave reviews. They didn’t. (PS reviews are vital to an author’s success.)

Writing is my passion. I may not be perfect at it, but I am proud of the work I do. Every ounce of me is poured into the stories I write (just ask my husband what it’s like trying to get my attention when I’m knee deep in a WIP).

Four years later, I decided on a whim to try again. I wrote Happily Ever Never in February of 2017 and completely forgot about it. When I set out to release a second book, I had two other manuscripts sitting on the back burner. But as soon as I reread Janna’s story, I knew hers was the one I wanted to share.

This time I didn’t have any huge dreams. All I wanted was to get another book in the hands of the readers that supported me. I arbitrarily picked a number as my big goal of how many copies I wanted to sell. Initially, I set that goal for launch week. While I didn’t hit it, HEN sold more copies in week one than LIBAD did in four years.

Progress, not perfection.

Today, two months after its release, I am just five copies away from that goal.

Thank you to all of you who have supported me with reviews and your purchases. I hope Janna’s story has touched you in some way.

I look forward to 2019 and all that I have planned. I can’t wait for you to meet the characters that have been in my head for so long.

Here is a little sneak peek into what to look for 2019:

  • Lie, Baby, Lie – February 5, 2019
    Caroline Davis has a one track mind. She wants a baby, and she’s willing to do do anything to get what she wants. Her husband, Ben Davis, promised her she’d have her wish. But a secret from his past threatens to ruin Caroline’s plans. Can she forgive his lie of omission or will she take matters into her own hands?
    Reese is desperate for a child too, but years of infertility and loss have jaded her. For Reese, secrets and lies have become second nature. The secret she’s kept from her daughter, Lily. The lies to her husband, Greg, about pregnancy tests. Reese hides behind these lies, protecting her family from truths that could hurt them.
    Their lives are woven together in a way neither women understand. How can two women in such different life stages have so much in common? An unlikely, fragile friendship is born, but can it withstand the secrets and lies?
  • Walk Like Her – June 2019
    Cassie Landon is the daughter of the perfect Belle Meade society woman, but she’s never quite lived up to her mother’s expectations. Her job isn’t good enough. Her boyfriend isn’t well-bred enough. She isn’t enough. When her father dies, a family secret is unraveled leaving Cassie to pick up the pieces and figure out where she belongs.

 

Happily Ever Never Available Now!

Happily Ever Never is now available on Amazon, iBooks and Google Play!

Amazon
Google Play
iBooks

Janna Hargrove’s life wasn’t a fairy tale, not even close. She’d never imagined her life would have it’s happily ever after moment. Until she met Ryan. The moment their eyes met, everything changed. She knew he was the one – he was her happily ever after.

Five years into their two-year plan, Ryan finally popped the question. The moment was everything Janna had dreamed of. She had the man, the ring, the wedding date, the house, the career and the plan for 2.5 kids living in suburbia bliss. Everything was just as she’d always dreamed, designer dress and all.

Everything she’d ever wanted was within reach.

Until it wasn’t.

Happily Ever Never

“Deep down, I knew that you were too good to be true
But every piece and part of me wanted to believe in you
But now it’s happily ever never”

The words played over my car speakers as I sat in traffic. I’d been listening to “Peter Pan” by Kelsea Ballerini on repeat for weeks now.  I’d crank it as loud as my Camry would allow and sing along at the top of my lungs (horribly, sorry fellow commuters).

On this particular day, sometime in early 2017, I heard those two lines a little louder than normal. I started the song over and listened again. The wheels in my brain started turning; a story was unfolding. Who was this girl and how had she fallen for this Peter Pan? How had she ignored the voice that nagged at her?

I sat in traffic and pictured this girl, a girl I’d now named Janna, and the boy, whom I called Ryan. What was their story and how did it fall apart (no spoilers here folks, the book is called Happily Ever Never, you know it’s coming), and more importantly, how does Janna grow?

As I pulled into the parking garage at work, I had a good idea of their story. I pulled out my phone and started making notes as I walked to the elevator and then through downtown Nashville. Their story was so perfectly clear.

When an idea or story comes to me, usually as snipers of scenes or conversations and, almost always inspired by a song, it consumes me (more apologies to those around me) until I get their stories out. The characters nag and nag, filling my brain with dialogue and backstories.

To some, this idea may seem foreign. But, to my fellow imagineers, this is the process. For so long, I ignored these stories or simplified them into short lyrics or stories I told myself and then let fly away. Every once in a while, these stories become too big to stay in my brain and I start writing. And writing. And writing.

That’s what happened with Happily Ever Never. It happened when I wrote it in early 2017 and again now as I’m editing it to share with you.

When I was trying to decide which book to publish next, I’d initially chosen a different manuscript. I had it printed, started editing and stopped. I didn’t love the characters, they didn’t speak to me anymore. Janna kept nagging. I opened the preface that I wrote and started reading. Then chapter one, two, three … you get the idea. She pulled me right back into her story and I knew this was the book I had to share. I’ve now read it four times in the editing and revision process. Four times in a month and I still love it.

My plan is to release in October, so be sure to sign up for my newsletter to get early access to the first three chapters (starting 9/21, I’ll be sharing the first three chapters exclusively with my subscribers).

Stay tuned 💗