A High Point In My Writing Career

The time I’ve spent in developing my writing career has been amazing. Just waking up every day and reminding myself, “Hey, I’m a writer,” is pretty awesome all by itself. But there have been a few standout moments, events that may seem small to others, yet have instilled in me a confidence and a sense of validation that have enabled me to move forward. With my writing career still in its baby stages, I can count these events on one hand. For example:  Winning my first contest on Writing.com and getting a short story published with Dreamspinner Press. Strangely enough, these events always seem to pop up when I need them most, even if I didn’t realize I needed them until after they occurred.

I had one such experience the other night, by far one of the best experiences I’ve had so far as a writer. I’d begun flagging again, losing my grip on Sovereign of Shadow. While at a family gathering, I pulled up my new logo to show it off (I love my kitty!). My sister-in-law poked around a little on my site, looking for a sample of my writing. She found an excerpt, and I’ve never been so amazed at someone’s reaction to my stories. She asked me all sorts of questions about what was happening, and she was genuinely worried for Kieran. She went on to show the rest of my family. They all enjoyed it, but my sister-in-law’s reaction in particular meant the world. It was priceless to me. Even if I only affect a handful of people the way I affected her, I will be happy.

As a writer, all I’ve ever wanted was to entertain people with stories. These stories and characters mean so much to me that I want them to matter to others as well. To see someone so entertained… that’s the dream, isn’t it?

And I know this probably seems such a small thing – a family member enjoying a story I wrote. But for me, the fact that I opened up my story to others that way is huge. During my childhood, I had my privacy intruded upon in such a profound way that even still, to this day, I have issues with sharing my written word. I’ve even stopped keeping a journal for fear that someone will see it. It affected me deeply, and unfortunately it has carried over into adulthood, and into my writing.

That’s why this experience meant so much to me. Because in that moment I let go. I shared my story – my passion and soul – with other people. And there is no longer any doubt in my mind that writing stories for others to enjoy is what I am meant to do.

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Heinlein’s Rules of Writing

Though they’ve been around for some time, I’ve only recently discovered this set of writing rules suggested by author Robert Heinlein. When I found them, it was a game-changing moment for me. I had already been beyond excited about the prospects of taking my publishing into my own hands, and then I found these “rules.” Though I would be more inclined to call them guidelines, as I don’t really feel that any form of art or creativity should have a steadfast list of rules. In any case, my motivation and determination after familiarizing myself with the rules were sky high. Now that I’ve been able to take a little time to reflect on the rules and what they mean to me personally, I can better apply them to my writing habits.

And so, here are the rules (guidelines!) that further changed the way I approach my writing, and the way I view them.

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Heinlein’s Rules of Writing

1. You must write.

Well, now. That seems simple enough, doesn’t it? It should have been obvious to me that the only way to write and publish novels would be to… you know… write. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realized that what I was doing was avoiding writing. I would sit down during my allotted writing time and plan, or plot, or world build, or brainstorm on characters, or read over what I had written in the past, or read about writing. Sure, that’s all good, but unless I actually wrote something – produced an actual word count toward my story – none of that extra stuff was going to do me any good.

Luckily, deciding to go full indie had destroyed the anxiety and fear that had been blocking me from actually creating anything. This to me is the only real rule that every writer must follow. How can a writer expect to succeed without writing?

I’ve always had issues with allowing myself to worry about what others are going to think of my stories, and I end up dwelling on it so much that my creative process shuts down completely. The way I have to make this rule work for me is by always keeping in mind a quote from author Hugh Howey:  “Write as if nobody will read it; publish as if everyone will read it.”

2. You must finish what you write.

This is another important one that has always been rough for me. I firmly believe that seeing a project through to the end (unless said project is making you absolutely miserable) is an essential part of learning to be a successful writer. Now, this is not to say that every single story you attempt must be drafted, edited, polished, and published. Some stories just aren’t meant to be. Some need more time to percolate in your mind. Some are better used as a practice story. And some are written just for us, a private story or world where we can go to play anytime we want without having to share it.

What I believe is imperative for every story a writer starts, however, is completing the first draft from beginning to end. If all you write is beginnings, never practicing middles and ends, then your craft will never be as well rounded as it needs to be. Same goes for only writing endings or random scenes and never bothering with the rest of it.

To truly get a feel for an entire story, a writer must write the entire story. That is really the only way you’ll be able to figure out what needs to be changed or rewritten, and what needs to be added or removed. Having the entire idea out there on paper (or screen!) lets your mind see the entire scope of your story, and the writer’s mind will automatically begin piecing it together properly. It’s something I think all writers can do – I truly believe we all develop this natural ability to see exactly how a story must go to be the exciting journey we want it to be. But without that completed first draft, the initial outburst of ideas for our story, I believe this ability becomes hindered and is never allowed to really bloom.

3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.

I’ve done a lot of reading on Heinlein’s rules, and this is by far the Point that receives the most attention. There’s a lot of debate revolving around this one little statement, and I have to say that I can clearly understand the opposing opinions.

Some writers believe that the first draft is where the creative magic happens, particularly if you have learned to shut off your inner editor while writing it. They believe that the initial spark of imagination, the words that flow while writing something as raw as a rough draft, is where the story should stay. Rewriting and fiddling around with your story after this point, other than to repair glaring errors or contradictions, is only going to hurt your creativity.

Now, that is not to say that the writers on this side of the fence refrain from editing their work. In fact, I don’t recall once seeing a writer that mentioned they submitted or published immediately after the first draft. Most go on to proofread and lightly edit for spelling, grammatical, and continuity errors.

I tend toward the other side of things. While I can see the magic of the above viewpoint, I can say that for me personally this would never work. And that’s exactly why I disagree with this rule.

All the other guidelines are something that every writer must do in order to gain success. Except, perhaps, for rule #5, which I’ll mention later on. These are simple, concrete goals. “You must write. You must finish what you write. You must put the work on the market.”

But rule #3 seems out of place almost, going so far as to tell writers how to attain their goals. Every writer out there is different, and every writer has to develop their own way of doing things. Anyone can tell you that writers write and sell their work. It’s what they do. But a writer’s process is a very personal thing. Refraining from rewriting, “except to editorial order” … now, that’s a “how.” Though some writers might love this, not everyone will be successful by following this advice. Not only do some writers do the opposite, but others might even change up their process from story to story. It’s an intimate thing, a writer’s process.

I’m a firm believer that we must develop our own path through our own stories.

4. You must put the work on the market.

Yes, get it out there! Do it in the way you are most comfortable, the way that brings you the most excitement. Want to go the traditional publishing route? Send the manuscript out. If it’s rejected, send it out again immediately. Rinse, repeat, until you land the sale or an editor makes rewriting suggestions you agree with. But don’t stop writing while the manuscript is out there – get to work on the next one.

Self-publishing? Then get to work on your cover and your formatting, and publish that sucker! Forget about the fear. Just do it.

If you’re anything like me, you’re dying to find readers who love your characters and stories as much as you do. So, get those stories circulating.

5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

This I agree with to a certain extent. By all means, if you’ve polished a story up all nice and shiny and you love it, make sure you get it out there. And keep it out there. If you’ve ever attempted to sell a story, you know that this part’s not easy. It’s discouraging to get continuous rejections or bad reviews, and it can shake your confidence in the story itself.

But think about it this way – if you absolutely love your story and characters, then there’s bound to be someone else out there who loves them too, right? Keep trying, and keep searching. Give your creative masterpiece a fighting chance out there in the world!

Now, here’s that “certain extent” I mentioned above. Some stories may not be ready for the world yet. It’s difficult to see what’s wrong in a novel you’ve worked so hard on. Sometimes the story should be seen by a fresh pair of eyes, whether that be an agent, editor, or reader who bought your story on Amazon. And some of those readers might just deliver the missing piece to your story’s puzzle in the form of a review or a letter of constructive criticism from an editor. When you receive the right advice, the suggestions that make sense and that resonate with you, then you’ll know what to fix.

Once you’ve fixed it, send that manuscript out again!

Getting A Grip On Life

So far, I’ve tried to keep my posts limited to the topic of writing. But I realized there’s a lot more to my journey than just the act of writing stories. It’s about all aspects of my life – kids and family, paying bills, hobbies, mental health, etc. – and learning how to balance them all to get where I want to be. Its about getting my entire life under control and being who I want to be.

On that note, I’ve learned a few things since quitting my job. First, and perhaps most important, I miss medical transcription. More than that, I miss making money. It might sound superficial, but I do. I miss making good money. I hate budgets. I hate scrimping month after month. I hate asking for help with my bills, and I hate that I can’t pay those loans back. I hate that I can’t spend money on my kids. And I hate that I can’t support my family anymore.

I don’t miss the company I left, not in the slightest. But I do miss the company that left me. I want that job back. I want my training and experience to mean something again. I don’t want to spend every moment of my spare time going back and forth on various at-will transcription sites only to be paid a few bucks for my efforts. I’m worth so much more than that.

After I understood that this wasn’t going to work for me, I started asking around and applying, looking for a hospital or clinic that still had an in-house transcription department. Had no luck for a while. But then I get an email out of the blue from my old supervisor, the one from the job I loved. She’s now heading the transcription department for another local hospital. The in-house transcription department. She emailed to let me know that there was a position available.

Long story short, I applied, interviewed, and was hired for a full time medical transcription position. Benefits and excellent pay. I only have to put up with a few more weeks of poverty, then things will start improving for us. I’ll be forever grateful to my supervisor for putting the word out there and letting me know specifically that there was an opening.

She pretty much saved us. Saved our finances, our lifestyle, and in a way, she saved my dream.

Now I can relax. I feel relieved. My free time can once again be used for what it should be… Writing.

I’m behind on my goals and the publications I’d scheduled for this year. That sucks. But at least now there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Once I reach it, I can get myself back on track.

I haven’t had much time to write, but I finally started to fiddle around with my domain and website. Check it out if you like. I’m not very good at things like that, so I’d love some feedback.

Quillcraft Publishing

Thanks for listening to me ramble! :)

Beka

A New Beginning

Less than an hour ago, I officially resigned from my job as a medical transcriptionist. I carefully crafted my email in a positive way, even though working for that particular company had been a demoralizing experience. Then, I sent it. Just like that. Didn’t allow myself time to chicken out. I keep checking my sent mail folder, just to make sure it’s real. And every time, there it is – “Subject: Letter of Resignation”. Waiting in the inbox of my supervisor. My stomach is still fluttering. It’s a scary thing, taking a plunge like that. I’m honestly scared. But, that email was like my ticket to freedom.

I’m free. Finally. I knew the job was bad for my health and well being, but I hadn’t realized to what extent until an hour ago. The reality hit me that I didn’t have to drag myself out of bed, chain myself to that computer for hours, and type until my fingertips went numb – only to be told that I’m not good enough. It’s still sinking in. Looking around, the room seems brighter. My head stopped aching, I’m not freaking out because I haven’t vacuumed yet, my baby’s hair smells even more delicious than usual… I just feel happy :)

Tomorrow morning, I will get up and send my son off to school, feed my daughter, make a big pot of coffee… and write. And that’s it. How delightful :)

This is Nano month, but I’m skipping it this year. My deadline for finishing up my fantasy novel, “Sovereign of Shadow,” is December 31st, so no new novels for me this month. I’ve already begun tinkering with my book cover, which I’m doing in Power Point. Yes, Power Point! (Thank you, William King!) I’m no good with those PhotoShop-y type programs. My chapters and scenes are scattered over many different files at the moment, so I don’t yet have a current word count. Over the next week I’ll be piecing them together and pulling the plot a little tighter, so I’ll have a better idea of my progress thus far. I’ll be able to post up an excerpt for you guys by the end of the week.

I’ve never felt this good about every aspect of my life all at once. It’s kind of overwhelming, but in good way. A nice change of pace for me.

Don’t wait around for the “right time” to make things happen … Dreams are meant to be chased! You have to make it the right time :)

~B

Paving My Own Road

I’ve never felt more sure of myself and my decisions. Ever. It’s a wonderful feeling, and one I’m going to cling to as if my life depended on it. Because in a way, it does.

And so, since making the decision to forgo traditional publishing in favor of becoming a full-blown Indie Writer, I’ve been spending my last few weeks constructing my plans and goals for the next year. The first important thing I needed to figure out was whether or not I wanted to set up a publishing company name or do everything by my own name. I’ve decided on the publishing company, for a few different reasons. For me personally, having the company rather than just my own name will put me in a more professional mindset – and having failed at treating my writing as my job and my business in the past, I need this badly. I have set up a publishing schedule for most of this next year, starting with a fantasy novel that I have given myself until the end of December to complete. And yes, by “complete” I mean drafted, revised, beta read, and cover complete, with the intent of publishing it in January 2014.

At first, as I was talking about my future publications with my husband, I was referring to my set dates as “tentative,” using the excuse that I needed some time to work out how long each project type was going to take me. But I realized even saying that was detrimental to any progress I wanted to make. It showed me that I have a real fear of setting and sticking to actual goals involving my writing. So the “tentative” was stripped away and the dates are set. These dates are realistic for me, as I have a good grasp of how fast I can work (participating in Nano has certainly helped), particularly when I’m having fun with my story and have somehow managed to get past the stress and worry that was eating away at my mind whenever I tried to sit down and write.

My schedule will be three novels a year, as well as a short story per month, focusing on fantasy for the year 2014. Yes, that’s a lot compared to what I do now… but when I made the decision to jump in head-first, I meant it. I’m also in the process of securing my DBA (Doing Business As) name for my publishing company, and have already snagged the domain as well. I plan to have my site up and running by the time my first fantasy novel is complete, and announced in January 2014.

Here we go :)

~Beka