Overcoming Fear & Moving Forward

So I have one scene left to flesh out before printing out the new version of Guarded and buffing out the hard edges, but I am dragging my feet. Seriously I can’t tell if it’s the fact that NaNo starts in a few days or the undercurrent of fear for what comes next. Mind you, I WANT to query, I WANT to publish, I WANT to share this thing I love so much with the entire world.

But the impending, soul-crushing rejections.

I know that fear is the reason why I’m struggling with crossing the finish line of this draft. Because if I don’t finish, then it can’t be rejected.

This post may be more pity-party than I intended it because I recognize that I’ve already come quite far in terms of creating something that people may [hopefully] want to read. But that god-awful fear. I don’t consciously fear much, so when those pesky subconscious ones rise up, they can be quite the little devils.

I imagine fear as a Gremlin, and my MS is poor Gismo.

I imagine fear as a Gremlin, and my MS is poor Gismo.

Like Gismo, I know my MS will kick fear is its arse, but right now, in this moment, I’m looking at my notes, then at my computer screen, then at my notes, then I walk away.

So in an attempt to get my mojo back, I went to the YouTube’s. Ya’know, like ya do. I spend more time on YouTube than I should for entertainment anyway, but I do a lot of research on there as well (especially in terms of what dislocating an elbow looks like – spoiler alert: it’s vomit-worthy).

Anyhoo, last year, Under Armour launched its “Will What I Want” campaign, which IMO was one of the most positive and inspiring campaigns created by an athletic clothing’s company. But they did this brilliant thing by launching the campaign with Misty Copeland as its first spokeswoman. A ballerina. An artist. A black woman who defied the standards of her industry to become the first black female Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre.

Here’s the ad.

She’s an inspiration to people across the world, and even though I have no way of properly empathizing with her struggles, her work ethic and determination motivate me to keep chasing my own dreams.

So here’s me mowing over my fears and willing what I want.


Featured image via Hard Body News via Under Armour.

The Try-Fail Cycle: What makes an ending epic.

One of my favorite podcasts, Writing Excuses, introduced me to the idea of the Try-Fail Cycle a while ago, and as someone whose WIP revolves around someone’s competency, it hit pretty close to home.

Summed up, the Try-Fail Cycle is the progression of attempts a character makes toward their goal before achieving it in the end. It’s those failures that keep us rooting for the character and what makes that final win so epic.

This cycle applies to both character and plot development, and when they intersect, it’s this incredible hodge-podge of feels and goosebumps.

Let’s look at last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy as an example. Each of our heroes fails individually as well as a team prior to them coming together to kick total ass in the end. The way the film is plotted, we see that each character has their own issue to overcome because we see them fail as a result. If it weren’t for those fails, the epic ending would feel more like a plot device (looking at you, 2015’s Fantastic Four reboot).

But beyond how useful this concept is in developing our works in progress, I think it also relates to the writing process in general.

We try to write a book >> That first draft isn’t great.

We revise, send to beta readers >> Need to rework some things.

Have a new version of the MS post-beta >> Still need to flesh out and polish.

The glory of the Try-Fail Cycle is that the protagonist usually finds their win in the end. So don’t let your massive revision to-do list intimidate you. It’s just power for the course.

Happy writing!


For more information on the Try-Fail Cycle, check out Writing Excuses, Season 10, Episode 29: Why Should My Characters Fail Spectacularly?. Available on iTunes or their website, www.writingexcuses.com.

The Best Writing Advice Anyone’s Ever Given Me

So I got this idea from the Confessions Of A Writer Tag I did last week. The tag was created by my dear friend and fellow blogger, Nicolette Elzie, where you answer 20 questions about your writing and reading habits/preferences.

One of the questions was “What was the best writing advice you’ve ever received?”

My answer: Write the story you want to read.

I’ve mentioned this tidbit a few times in previous posts, but I want to expand on it because it affects more than one aspect of the writing game…

Here’s the long and hard truth of it: your novel, the thing you’ve been slaving over, may very well not get traditionally published. It sucks and that’s awful, but if you started writing for the monetary benefit or the “prestige,” this may not be a good venture for you to jump into.

AND even if you do get traditionally published, rest assured you will still spend more time with your manuscript than anyone else on this globe. So you might as well enjoy it.

Reason No. 1 – Fads are fickle beasts
So this first one applies more to YA than most audiences because the age group itself is in a constant state of flux. It’s that brilliant time in one’s life where you get to decide what kind of person you’re going to be, along with finding out what appeals to you on both superficial and deep-rooted levels. Granted, I wasn’t following the industry prior to Twilight (was in high school at the time), but since then, there are clear cut “fads” that have run through the YA SFF genre.

In a nutshell: Vampires >> Angels & Demons >> Dystopian

Of course there were sprinkles of mermaids and zombies in there, but the above ripped through the industry in a way that left some agents and editors “done” with the topic. But the important note here is that it commonly (there are outliers based on cultural prevalence) takes a minimum of two years to get from acquisition to bookshelves in traditional publishing. Basically, the books being acquired now [will be] published late 2017(ish).

So by the time you realize a “Fad” and decide to write to fit what’s “popular,” odds are you’ve already missed the boat.

Reason No. 2 – You’re going to be rereading the MS again and again and again.
I’ve said it before: your first draft is not you final draft. You’ll be rewriting and revising that thing a few times before you’re even ready to query, let alone go on submission, so don’t write a story you hate. Create a story and a world that you want to get lost in for hours. Create characters you want to spend days/weeks/months/years getting to know. That passion will shine through in the work and those who read it will pick up on it. 🙂

Reason No. 3 – You can’t please everyone.
Whether we like it or not, everyone has their biases. Because I write YA F, I’ve dealt with my fair share of up-turned noses by people in and outside the writing community. LitFic people scoff at genre. Adult genre scoff at the audience. Civilians (non-writers in this context) ask “oh, like Harry Potter and Twilight?”

hulk smash

^^How I feel when confronted with these situations…

Point is, prior to submission, the only person you need to worry about pleasing is yourself. Any advice/criticism you receive should be filtered through your wants for the story. No one knows the story better than you. No one knows the world better than you. No one knows the characters better than you.

No one can write your story but YOU.

So write the story you want to read and enjoy the project you’re working on.

Happy Writing!

Working Mindset & Imposed Deadlines

Writing is work. Plain and simple. In order to have something worth reading, you have to put the time in. There’s no other way. You have to do the work.

I know I’ve spoken many times about how it’s okay for the first draft to be rough. You’re getting a sense of your characters, their motivations, your world and all of its rules. Unfortunately once you finish that first draft, the lengthy revision stage begins to weigh down on you. It’s crushing and intimidating and awful. But it doesn’t have to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I have had my fair share of self-deprecating rants about how my writing is god-awful and metaphors are the devil. Seriously, I’ve spent HOURS getting just one metaphor right. All because I desperately want others to love my characters and their stories as much as I do.

But I recently had a revelation about my writing process and what helps me stay productive. I know this won’t work for everyone, but here it is…

1. Take your story one draft at a time.

The hard truth of it is that you’re not going to become John Green overnight. It’s not going to happen. Even John Green didn’t become John Green overnight. It took multiple drafts and revisions to create books like The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns. So while I would love for the next draft of my WIP to be the last, I’m not going to stress myself out about it because in all honesty, I know it won’t be. But I’m also not going to think about how many revisions stand between me and querying because that’s a daunting idea that will only bring on another wave of crippling self-doubt.

2. Admit you are a baby writer. There are things you simply haven’t learned yet.

This isn’t an insult, I promise. Think of it more as your tether to reality. Like I said in No. 1, it takes time to cultivate your skill. So give yourself opportunities to grow and learn. Join a critique group or find critique partners. Go to writing conferences and workshops. Take a class. Your writing will thank you for it.

3. Don’t stop writing.

I know this one is hard, but seriously, your writing won’t improve if you sit back and wait for it to do so. You have to put in the words in order to grasp what it means to create a novel. Sarah J. Maas has said in multiple interviews how her first draft of Throne of Glass was its own learning experience. And if you’ve written more than one MS, you also know this to be true. So keep writing, keep learning.

4. Give yourself a deadline.

I don’t mean, “THIS BOOK SHOULD BE DONE BY NOV 1st!” No, because you’ll drive yourself crazy that way… trust me, I know. Give yourself word count goals or chapter goals. Start each week by saying, “I’m going to accomplish [X] this week.” And do it! Make and keep promises to your work and yourself. Confidence in one’s writing ability is a cumulative thing. Each promise you keep builds on the last until writing/editing is a part of your regular routine.

A really great place to start is with the Twitter Monthly Writing Challenge. It’s a commitment to writing 500 words a day. The community is incredibly supportive and encouraging. You can learn more here.


What about ya’ll? What revelations have you had about your writing that keeps you productive? Share in the comments below.

Happy Writing!

Don’t be afraid to let your characters be dark.

So there are a few times during the writing process when my characters do something unexpected. Or they do something expected, but in a completely different way, usually making them WAAAAY darker than I thought they were.

And this isn’t a bad thing.

We all know that a great story begins and ends with a well-developed, fully rounded character. Sometimes, we feel the urge to downplay their flaws and their demons. DON’T!

I recently read the first four books of Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series, and her MC, Celaena Sardothien, is far from being a perfect human being. In fact, Celaena has some of the darkest-rooted demons of any MC I’ve read to date and that’s what makes her so terrifyingly awesome.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Throne of Glass is about a teenage assassin who is brought out of slavery to work for a corrupt king, thrusting her into the middle of a conspiracy that could tear the kingdom and her world apart.

There are distinct moments where Maas lets Celaena loose on the people who have harmed her or her loved ones, and each one is darker and more terrifying than the last. Which makes sense, because Celaena is a freaking ASSASSIN (also so many other things, but I refuse to spoil it for you).

Maas offsets Celaena’s demons with how fiercely she loves and how deeply she feels the repercussions of her own actions.

It’s okay that your characters are dark. It’s okay that your characters do things that terrify you. Just be sure that everything each character does derives from his/her core. Terrifying moments of character darkness shouldn’t be there for shock value, but should be a pivotal and necessary moment in that character’s development.

Happy Writing!

If you haven’t started the Throne of Glass series, DO IT! Then email me and we’ll discuss. 🙂 It’s my new favorite series and there’s still two books left! I’m dying in anticipation, but we’re still at least two years from a resolution. Sigh.