Nancy: There Is No Light Without the Darkness

A few weeks ago, I went through a rough patch in my writing life. More accurately, I started going through the rough patch, because I haven’t yet climbed completely out of that hole of writerly despair. At least now I’m close enough to the surface to catch a glimpse of sunlight filtering down from above me.

There were reasons I fell into the hole, of course. I had too many deadlines on multiple projects converging at once. I was running a low-grade fever (precursor to a virus that towered a whole weekend and then some). I came to the realization that I couldn’t stay on course for meeting my publishing deadlines and at the same time attend an amazing writers’ conference being held in paradise this coming fall. I bailed on paradise because it was the right thing to do, but sometimes the right think sucks.

But there were deeper reasons, too. Poking a stick into a story idea that’s not baked enough yet. Coming to the point in one of my stories where I realized it’s all complete drivel (this happens at several points per story for me; YMMV). Falling into the pit of despair known as imposter syndrome. I knew talking to someone would help, but I wasn’t ready to share with other writers (which makes up about 90% of my circle of friends and acquaintances IRL) for fear of hearing well-meaning advice or platitudes, neither of which would have worked for me in that particular state. In fairness, my wonderful friends who also happen to be writers would have known not to do that, but I was stuck down in that hole, not seeing things all that clearly.

Which left me with the small number of non-writers in my life, and led to the realization that not only did I not want to discuss the trials and tribulations of the writing life with them in that moment, I didn’t want to discuss those harsh realities with them ever. I really had to ponder my own reaction. These are good eggs, kind people, of the loving and caring sort. Why did I recoil from sharing these truths with them? Maybe I was afraid – to paraphrase Col. Jessup from A Few Good Men – they couldn’t handle the truth, because most conversations with non-writers that touch on writing reveal a lot of misunderstanding about what it means to pursue the writing life. Continue reading

Nancy: When Your Book Is a Moody Teenager

You’ve probably heard some writers say their books are like children. If that’s the case, my current WIP is definitely in the cranky teenager stage.

In it’s nascent stage, I was content to nest and let the story incubate, finally letting it hatch when I knew the idea was ready to come out of my head and onto the page. Then there were the heady, frenetic days of discovery, of getting to know this baby story, of giving it guide rails and parameters as it grew from a blob of words to a someday-could-be-a-readable book, in the form of a weirdly gawky and awkward (I will not use the word ugly!) first draft. Then I assessed and worked and sculpted some more, until I had a reasonably stable story world and through line. In that process, I’d weeded out some unnecessary subplots and exposed some minor plot holes. (And had begun to mix my child metaphor with a gardening one, but stick with me!)

So now my book is on the brink of adulthood. The story is pretty well-formed. It’s easy to see what it will be when it’s finished and where it will find its niche in the world. But there’s stuff still to be done. This is akin to the stage of parenting where we have to nurse broken hearts and teach safe driving and prepare our almost fully-grown progeny for life in the real world. But we’re so close. Easy peasy!

Said no parent of teens or writer of books EVER. Continue reading

Kay: Take that Failure and Shove It

Here I am, not a failure, at the indie author signing, RWA 2016.

Here I am, not a failure, at the indie author signing, RWA 2016. My hair, though, is another story.

As writers, we’re probably all aware of disappointments and failures. An editor’s or agent’s rejection. A one-star review on Amazon. No sales—or even a contract—of any kind. No progress on the WIP.

I’ve been feeling a bit like a failure lately. Life intervened, so I haven’t written much in the past year. My WIP is going poorly. I got a two-star review on Amazon. Sales, contracts, and future prospects seem shrouded in the mists of Never-Never Land.

The RWA national conference, while it’s inspiring and uplifting and all that, has a subtle way of feeding into your sense of failure. Everybody has a book—no, a trilogy; no, a 30-book series. Everyone has a mailing list. These writers do Goodreads giveaways monthly. They have street teams and review bloggers on speed dial. They do swag and Facebook parties. They rock.

I do none of this. Continue reading

Kay: Time to Throw in the Towel

Photo by Jan Jacobsen 2008.

Photo by Jan Jacobsen 2008.

I’ve been working on the second book of a planned three-part trilogy for a while—it seems like years, but it’s been just a few months. Time has been dragging because the book has been progressing poorly.

Sometimes I think all my books progress poorly, but this one really has hit Olympian heights of lousy progression. Everything is bad. My outline refuses to come together, and no matter how I approach it, I can’t seem to fill the holes. My writing is flat. To look at my story notes, you’d think I have enough good, strong conflict, but it isn’t working. I have a cute opening scene that I like a lot, but it doesn’t reflect the rest of the book or sufficiently introduce the story questions. If I cut that, I’ll be cutting the best thing in the book. I want to just keep writing—get that first draft done!—and so far, that’s been my path. I’ve got almost 45,000 words now, and I hate it. Nobody wants to read this mess, including me.

So now what? Continue reading

Kay: Making Romance Real

marriedJust recently I had a setback with my WIP when a long-time critique partner said, after reading three chapters, that she didn’t know why my main characters were on the page. She didn’t see the attraction between my hero and heroine. She didn’t see any conflict.

I’ve struggled with this book, so I tried a new approach: I’ve been writing the turning points first and then filling in chapters as the mood struck. My plan is to write as quickly as possible and then revise until I’m happy. Her assessment of the romance in this book was disappointing, because I’ve been working hard to strengthen the execution of romance elements. My romance plots usually struggle to stay in front of my exterior plots, but in this case, I thought I’d done a pretty good job of keeping the romance hot and prominent.

However, I know I have a problem with it: Continue reading

Justine: When It’s Time to Leave Your Critique Group

red flagI’ve been involved in an informal critique group for just about 3 years now – the Eight Ladies – and another regular group (meaning we meet weekly) for just over a year. A few months ago, I joined a third critique group, but I just notified the members that I must withdraw from it.

There are many reasons to join a critique group, and also many reasons to leave one, but there are a few things that should be red flags. If any of the things listed below are happening in your critique group, perhaps it’s time to set sail and find another. Continue reading

Justine: Not All Smiles at RWA

Rosenhagen, Hans (1908). "Uhde: des Meisters Gemälde" ("A Weeping Girl") courtesy wikimedia commons.

Rosenhagen, Hans (1908). “Uhde: des Meisters Gemälde” (“A Weeping Girl”) courtesy wikimedia commons.

Three years ago, when we started the McDaniel Romance Writing program, Jenny told us a story about how, at some conferences, she would hole up in a hotel room with her friends, one of them crying about what a hack writer she was, the other two consoling the weepy one over a bottle (or few) of wine.

Friday was one of those nights for me — minus the friends and wine. Not because my friends, the fellow Eight Ladies, wouldn’t have been there if I wanted them, but I was sick, and didn’t want them to catch what I had.

I’m not even sure how I ended up in a weepy puddle while on the phone with my husband. I’ve had Continue reading