It’s Okay to Let Go

Just write. Pick up the pen and let ‘er rip.

I stare at the blank page and then close my eyes as if I’m willing the words to appear. Of course, they don’t.

While there is a bit of magic in finding the right words, the right story, and the right characters, it also requires work.

I know I’ve discussed this in past posts, but I’m a plotter. I like to sit with my characters and listen for their voice and stories. My outlines are usually rough sketches written with the intent of being changed as I write and discover the quirks of my characters.

Sometimes, though, I write the perfect outline with characters and stories that I fall in love with. But somewhere along the way, I lose inspiration and stop writing.

Those moments hurt. I tell myself that I can come back to them when the time is right, but I rarely do. In some small way, I mourn the loss and move on. Occasionally, the characters come back to me and I find their new/true story. Most of the time, I don’t. I let them go and move on.

I’m slowly learning to be okay with this, and to accept that while it feels like a failure, it’s not. As a writer, it’s important to know when to walk away and when o push through. The hard stories need to be told, too.

Some day, I’ll find the words and inspiration to return to those characters I’ve left behind. If I don’t, though, that’s okay too.

What Comes Next

As I dive head-first back into my self-publishing journey, I keep looking back at the books and characters that started it all.

When I started my writing journey, I wrote poems and song lyrics. Music was and is a huge part of my life. I could spend hours getting lost in an album dissecting lyrics and searching for a line that spoke to me.

The shift to writing novels was gradual and intimidating. I didn’t know how I could write 80,000 words about anything. Did I even know that many words.

Turns out I did, and once I started, I couldn’t stop.

My latest book, After Everything (keep reading for the blurb), pulls my love of music and songwriting into my love for storytelling. In it, a young woman leaves behind her life to start over and chase her dreams.

While I’ve loved all of my books, this is the one I’m most excited for. It is the most “me” too be allowed my writing to be.

Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing a little bit more about Abby & After Everything, and I hope you fall as in love with her as I did.

All Abby Rhodes wants is a chance to pursue her songwriting dreams. When she leaves her husband on Christmas Eve and puts their Missouri hometown in her rearview mirror, she heads straight to Nashville and onto the doorstep of her estranged father.

But in typical Abby fashion, nothing goes as planned.

Unemployed and alone, Abby lands a job waiting tables at her neighborhood dive bar. There she meets a local singer-songwriter with steel-grey eyes and a reputation that threatens to unlock Abby’s small-town innocence.

Just as Nashville starts to feel like home, her past comes crashing back in the form of her soon-to-be ex-husband, forcing her to confront the truth behind her midnight escape.

If Abby can’t reconcile her history with her future, she might lose out on her dreams and her second chance at finding love.

Like Air

Waiting is a game I’m not that great at.

If you’re a Hamilton fan, you’re probably familiar with the song “Nonstop.” The lines, “why do you write like you’re running out of time; write day and night like you’re running out of time” are very personal to me.

The pressure to constantly be producing and going is entirely internal. I don’t have a deadline or a word quota but I constantly feel like if I’m not writing, I’m not breathing.

There is something about creating words on a page that was once blank that breaths life into me.

But the need to write can also be suffocating. Especially when the words aren’t flowing. It often feels like I’m letting my characters down when I leave their stories untold or unfinished.

Both of these feelings—invigoration and suffocation—drive new forward. Both inspire me. Both are necessary to the process.

I’m currently in between projects and in the without air phase of writing. I’m fairly certain I know what story is coming next but I’m waiting for the words to find their way to the page.

Falling in Love with my Characters

Have you ever fallen so in love with a project that we’re we’re scared to set it free?

I am 2 chapters and an epilogue away from finishing the first draft of my latest WIP. and I cannot wait to go back and read it from the beginning.

I realized yesterday that I was telling the story of an old friend who had big dreams and never chased them. I don’t think I sat down with the intention of writing that story. When the realization hit me, I fell a bit more in love with my characters and story.

It also made me want to go back and make it perfect, and then hold it close and protect it from the world.

This new project also brought me back to my first writing love—lyrics. As I started writing this book, I dug up my old songs and listened to them on SoundCloud. 

I Will Write Them

Just write. Just go for it. Just do it. There are a million and one platitudes that are meant to inspire us to take a chance on something we want.

As a writer, few things are more intimidating and invigorating than a blank page or a blinking cursor.

The desire to create is always there. Stories and characters fill my imagination.

But …

There are times I wonder if I have the skill or talent to adequately bring those characters and their stories to life. I’ve put a few ideas aside because some were so big that I wasn’t sure I was ready for them. But they’re out there waiting for me, and I will write them one day.

I will write them.

Write. Edit. Revise.

How do you begin a project?

For me, nothing beats pen and paper for those initial ideas. There’s just something magical about a smooth flowing pen on pristine white paper.

One question I get asked consistently is where do my ideas come from. The answer? Literally everywhere. In songs, conversations, the news, TV shows, movies, books, etc. Once I get the spark of an idea, I usually spend a couple of weeks thinking and obsessing about the characters and the story. Who are they? What do they want? What’s in their way?

Sometimes, I get it right. Sometimes, I’m wrong.

Back in November, I started a novel during NaNoWriMo. It was inspired by a news story, and I had this fear that it was too big for my current skills as a writer. But I wrote it anyway. Well, 60k words of it.

Then, I realized it was all wrong. I added a layer that didn’t need to be there. It became a story I didn’t want to tell.

So, I tried to start over (which is painful after 2/3 of it was written). I waited. I reworked the story. I waited. I started hating it. I took a two-month break from it.

Then, while trying to revise another manuscript, I realized what I wanted to do. So, I took the outline and plot and I deconstructed it. Now, I’m rewriting it and actually excited about it.

It took sitting down with a pen in hand and answering those fundamental character questions—who are they, what do they want, what’s in their way, what do they stand to lose if they don’t get what they want?

Cheers to new beginnings for old characters.

We Are (Good) Enough

I have to get something off my chest.

When I tell people I self-published, I get a mixed bag of reactions—good and bad.

But when I talk to readers who don’t know I self-published, I sometimes get to hear the unfiltered truth on their opinions towards self-publishing.

It hurts. I won’t lie.

Most of what I hear is that writers turn to self-publishing because they aren’t good enough for traditional publishers. This one hurts the most. Why? Because it’s what I used to tell myself. It took years of supportive conversations with fellow writers and friends to realize I was good enough.

Guys, my own family won’t read my books. I know and understand now that it’s not because they don’t like my writing, but rather that they don’t like to read the genre I write. It took me a while to get there and it stung at first.

Let me dispel this myth once and for all. Writers self-publish for a multitude of reasons. The main one, control. The least common one? They aren’t good enough.

They are. I am.

Indie authors choose self-publishing because it’s damn near impossible to break through the gates of traditional publishing. Agents see hundreds of queries a day. And reject hundreds of letters a day because of various reasons that have little to do with an author’s skill.

I won’t get into the other reasons authors choose to self-publish (yet), but let’s stop immediately dismissing indie authors because of some preconceived notion that they’re lacking talent or skill.

Kicking off 2020 With Edits

This week, I’m reading working on editing my manuscript that I plan to start querying in a few weeks. This is (hopefully) the last rounds of edits and revisions.

It’s been a slow few months for my writing, with several false starts and unfinished works.

I’m hoping once I start getting this book out into the querying world, I’ll be able to start focusing on a new project. I have a few ideas I’m tossing around, one or two that I really want to write. So, we’ll see where this goes.

My Writing Process

I present to you a decade of writing, give or take a manuscript or two. Not to mention the mountain of unfinished or not started manuscripts buried deep within my Google Drive.

Here’s a fun insight into my writing chaos: I’m a fast writer. Once I get an idea fleshed, I’m gone. I could spend weeks on character developments and outlines but once I sit down to write, I will knock out the first draft in about 45 days.

Every writer has their own method of what works for them. There are pantsers and plotters. Speed writers and slow writers, and everything in between. No approach is better than another, we’re all just different. Plotting doesn’t ruin creativity or take away the spontaneity (my outlines are living documents and change as my characters and stories reveal paths forward). Pantsing doesn’t mean a story isn’t fully developed. It’s just a different way of doing things.

I loved writing every one of these books. The characters are still nagging at me to come back and revise their stories. One day, I will. For now, I’m in a different headspace and am full throttle. I have so many stories I want to tell.

The Burn Out

I’ve written close to half a million words this year. Three complete manuscripts. A dozen or so InstaShorties. A handful of false starts on novel ideas I lost interest in.

I’ve pushed myself creatively and professionally, going well outside my comfort zone.

When I started the year, I thought my path forward was self-publishing. I didn’t see a home for my writing or books in the traditional space. Well, that’s not entirely the reason. The main reason was self-doubt and not believing my words were good enough. But I’ve written that post a few times already and frankly, I’m tired of it myself.

Querying agents and researching the traditional publishing world was something I used to dread. It seemed too daunting to even try but once I did, I realized it was doable. I still found it intimidating but I could do it. I could write and revise a query. I could take my outline and make it a synopsis. I could live with rejection and learn to grow from it.

The hardest part now is the burnout. I’ve got three manuscripts sitting on a shelf. Two of which I love and one I want to overhaul completely. Like, it might as well be a brand new book. I’ve started a new project, but it’s kind of fallen to the wayside as I wait and see where things in play pan out.

In the past when I hit the burnout stage, I stopped writing altogether. I didn’t even want to think about my books or words. But after the disciplines I’ve put into place this year, the burnout has me antsy. I am constantly thinking about my WIP and the characters, wondering when the words will start flowing again. I know they will.

Maybe that’s the difference. I’ve proven to myself that rejection can’t and won’t stop me. I have more than one idea. I can write more than one book. I can do this.

I just need a little space to breathe for a moment.