Miscellaneous · Writing Tips

The Truth About Giving Up on Writing

Have you ever considered giving up on writing?

I know I have. 

Though I’ve been writing stories as long as I can remember, I consider myself as having two true starts. 

1) When I was eleven, my mom died unexpectedly, and I told myself that day I would spend my life pursuing my dreams, no matter how short my life would be. 

2) Around my senior year in college, I decided I wanted to pursue publishing again after a major break from writing. For a few years after that, I wrote for two indie publishers, and then made the decision to try to get an agent. I got one! Then I lost one. 

Now I’m out here writing again. Dreaming again. Wondering where my future will take me. 

Over the past few weeks, I have had a lot of serious decisions to make. Do I want to write in the same genre? Age category? Pursue the stories I’ve trunked or left otherwise unfinished? Do I even keep writing?

That last question is one I know most writers think about at least some point in their career. I certainly have, though I admit that I eventually realize that the question isn’t whether or not I want to keep writing. I always write. Even when I don’t want to, I find a pen in my hand. Writing is my gravity. The real question is if I want to continue pursuing publication. And that’s a whole different can of worms writers have to contend with. 

Do I want to keep pursuing traditional publishing, or do I want to find another method? Do I want to share my words with the world at all? Why do I feel the need to?

These questions are important for all writers to ask themselves. Why? Well, because of surrender. 

Giving up isn’t a giant Aha! moment, where you throw your pages in the trash and set it on fire, declaring your rage-freedom. 

It’s a culmination of a million little moments, where you prioritize this over that, miss deadline after deadline, trunk project after half-written project, until a striking amount of time has passed without much done. It happens. Sometimes, it happens again and again and again until you no longer remember the last time you gave yourself an afternoon to weave words together. Maybe one quiet morning you find time to sit, only to find all your old weavings in tatters, old files corrupted, versions unsaved or lost. Time now shows the errors you couldn’t once see. Which is just more reason to sigh and click delete, delete, delete until you’re staring at a blank page and have no self-confidence to begin anew.

Why write, you think, when you can buy perfectly good books at the store? There’s no point in making your own. It’s a waste of time and resources. You can simply enjoy what others have made. And yes, maybe you would be happy with that. And entertained. But would you feel pride? 

That’s what I am chasing. 

Pride. Not ego. But rather, feeling proud of myself for pursuing the life I always wanted. The dream I cultivated. Worked hard toward, year after year, no matter what stood in my way.

Writing takes a lot of momentum. For me, it’s not difficult to take breaks, but it is difficult to get started again. Which is why I’m so weary of pauses, especially long ones. During those pauses, I sometimes wonder if I’ve been chasing the dream so long, I don’t even know if I’m dreaming anymore. Have I gotten so used to this chasing that it has become an accepted chore? Is writing more habit than happiness?

Writing used to bring me such joy. Such high. There was nothing like sneaking pages of my romance novels between taking notes in biology class. Nothing like passing pages along to my best friend and chat-giggling about them over the phone late into the night. It was fanfiction of my own imagination. Wild ideas and even wilder characters. Dreamy as they were flighty. Emotions high. Secrets higher. 

The structure of what I’ve learned over the years has broken that all back down. 

Now I look at the Timely Death trilogy—a series I first wrote when I was 14—and wonder if I’d create two-faced, sword-dwelling, Midwest magic teens now. 

Probably not. 

Too bizarre, I’d think. Not in line enough with the market. 

Besides, my teens skip school, and students are on lockdown nowadays. Not to mention the homework on paper rather than take-home laptops.

I feel so out of touch sometimes, I think, who am I writing for?

Years ago, I set out to write for kids like me, but do kids like me still exist? Not really. 

Even the book I am currently writing—a personal story about a child affected by the opioid crisis—would hit differently now than when I was young and needed it. When I was eleven and my mom overdosed, it was unheard of in my neighborhood. I got picked on for it. I didn’t know another classmate whose parent died until I was 16, and that was from cancer. I didn’t know another classmate whose parent died from a drug overdose until I was well into college. And by then, my classmates were overdosing, too. 

Most recently, I’ve written poems about her skipping from pharmacy to pharmacy to fill the same prescription over and over again—and now, there are laws in place that prevent that. (Thank God.) But by God, my truth died with her. Of course there will always be universal truths—grief and all that. But the details of the moment are so dependent on the environment that I fear being unable to connect with the audience I once promised myself I would go back and write for. 

I was 11 and lost in the bookstore. There are still 11-year-olds lost in those stores. But can I help them? Reach them? Will it matter or make a difference?

I have to believe I can. I have to believe in myself. I have to believe that I’ve turned writing into a habit, because it takes dedication to succeed. And honestly, it still brings me a lot of joy. 

Most importantly, to this day, I have yet to find a book that was made for a kid like me. (Though I’d highly recommend “Hey, Kiddo” by Jarrett J. Krosoczka.) 

I cannot put into words how much it would’ve meant to me to see a book in the middle grade section that covered what I was going through. And though I still made it in real-life without those sorts of books, I wish I could tell you about the many kids I met who didn’t make it. But their stories aren’t mine to tell. I can only tell mine. And for now, I haven’t given up.   

I am still writing. I am still pursuing publication. 

For 11-year-old me. For other 11-year-olds like me. For that college senior who knew she wanted something different out of life. For me now, who still enjoys the written word over much else. Who now chat-giggles about her work over ZOOM with her writer friends.

Giving up may not be a giant Aha! moment, but neither is deciding to continue the pursuit. 

It’s a decision you make every day. It can be undone. It can be remade. 

The choice is up to you.

For now, I am still here, writing, dreaming, doing my absolute best. Tomorrow, I hope to make the same decision to continue. 

~SAT

Miscellaneous

Ageism in Publishing

The other day some truly awesome people began talking about ageism in publishing via Twitter. I first heard about it from Ashley Hearn, an editor at Page Street Publishing, but here’s an awesome thread from Susan Dennard, NYT bestseller author of the Witchland series.

I encourage you to get online and read some of the ongoing threads/comments, especially if you’re struggling with this particular pressure.

A lot of writers feel ageism in a variety of ways.

Many feel like they have to have an agent by 20, or a book deal by 25, or become a NYT bestseller by 30. Others expressed the pressure to graduate from a master’s program or have a bazillion short stories under your belt before you submit anywhere else. And the symptoms go on and on.

I get it. I do.

The pressure to be someone sooner rather than later feels as if it getting worse.

In my opinion, ageism has grown over the last decade. I’ve been published since 2007, even before eBooks went on the rise, and never saw ageism the way I see it now. Everyone wants that fresh-faced 20-something straight out of an MFA program with the next best thing. And I think we can all understand that from a marketing perspective, but it is very disheartening from…well, any other perspective.

Why should a book be judged on anything other than the writer’s capabilities?

It shouldn’t be, but we don’t live in a perfect world, so many writers struggle with pressure, anxiety, disappointment, and overall hopelessness, because—let’s be real—aging is out of our control.

I’m not immune to this pressure.

I have this weird obsession with wanting to be a NYT bestseller before I’m 32. Why 32? Who cares. The point being is that I have no logical reason for this, and yet I think about it all the time. And it doesn’t do me any good, especially when I start adding up the “future” years that publishing lives in. What are “future” years, you ask? Well, the years that I know it would take to get something out right now if I miraculously signed with an agent tomorrow.

Here’s an example breakdown: I’m 26, almost 27. Let’s be super kind and say I signed with an agent on my 27th birthday, and somehow another miracle takes place and that agent signs one of my manuscripts within a year. Now I’m 28. And that book is slated for release in another two years. So I’m 30. And let’s not even get into the chances of it hitting any sort of list.

Basically, I’m always living five years in the future, and that age constantly feels like it’s getting worse, and though I logically know that is ridiculous, I can’t help but feel that way, and I know I’m not alone.

It’s SO easy to feel like you’re running out of time. But we’re not. We have every day to try.

With more pressure being added for authors to be public personas—often extremely public personas—the “young” face has been an inevitable repercussion.  

We see extremely photoshopped faces or out-of-date photos used all the time, (which there is nothing wrong with if the author wants their photos that way, but I have heard many authors who felt pressured into it, and that is not okay). One author online pointed out that older authors are less likely to get their photo printed on books, not because they don’t want to, but because publishers don’t want to print them. And that’s super messed up.

Age is a beautiful thing.

With every year, we learn more. We grow more confidence. We step out of our comfort zones and meet new people and try amazing things. Age can bring a lot of positivity to literature and life in general. But don’t get me wrong. Being older doesn’t automatically mean you’re a better writer or understand life more. I know tons of young people who’ve been through much tougher lives than many adults I know. There are fantastic young writers and fantastic old writers and every age of writer in between. But it shouldn’t be a defining factor in publishing. It shouldn’t feel like one either.

So if ageism is getting you down, here is a list of amazing articles about authors succeeding later in life:

11 Writers Who Started Late

Debut Books By Writers Over 40

The Authors Who Prove It’s Never Too Late to Write a Book

Reading conversations about this happening and how others feel has really opened my eyes about how I was perpetuating this by putting age-related goals on my calendar.

This is my pledge to stop putting pressure on myself to reach a certain goal by a particular age.

My age doesn’t define my career. My writing does.

I hope you’ll join me,

~SAT

Writing Tips

Why I Don’t Have a Publication Coming Out This Year

If you’ve been following my publication journey over the past few years, then some of you have probably already guessed that I don’t have a book coming out this year. Usually, you’re not supposed to admit these sorts of trials as an author, but I like to be transparent because I wish more authors were transparent when I was an aspiring author (and I wish more industry professionals would stop frowning upon us sharing these experiences). Alas, being transparent about struggles helps others know they are not alone, and to me, that is important, so I wanted to share my story about going unpublished for the first time since 2012.

There were quite a few factors.

1. I got really sick last year.

Like really, really sick. I danced on the line of homebound more days than not, and to be perfectly honest, I’m still going through treatments with specialists to get better. That’s all I really want to say about that topic, but I’m hopeful that my health will continue to get better and return soon.

Despite being more or less homebound, I was working three part-time jobs from home. Two to pay regular bills and another one to pay off medical bills. Trying to keep up with all of that while trying to get better was too stressful to handle most days. Basically, being sick wasn’t something I could predict on my busy calendar. Scheduling time to write was an impossible, if not laughable, idea at the time.

Sometimes life gets in the way of your responsibilities, let alone dreams, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up the dream.

I still wrote when I could, even though my writing time was dwindled down to a miniscule amount, and I tried not to be too hard on myself when I stared at the number of words (or lack thereof) I was completing any given week.

I am happy that I still managed to finish one novel, a half-novel, and outline a few others. Which brings me to the steps after writing.

2. Choosing Between Opportunities & Taking Risks

About a year ago, I decided I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to write new genres and explore types of publication I haven’t considered before, and so I did.

I only had so much time to write, so I had to take chances on what I wanted to invest my time in. This often meant choosing between an opportunity that was 99% likely to work out that I felt comfortable in or an opportunity that was 10% likely to work out but I truly, truly wanted. I decided to go for it and tackle the opportunities that scared the hell out of me, the ones that I knew were less likely to work out than not, but also the opportunities that would challenge me and push me to push myself to learn new and exciting skills. In the end, those investments didn’t end with a publishing deal, but they did end with new lessons learned. At least I tried. And I have four great books sitting on my laptop that might one day see the light of day. 

I am proud that I submitted a lot. I am excited that I tried new things. I am trying.

Nothing is going to stop me from trying again this year, or next year, or the year after that.  

But there is disappointment. 

3. So How Does One Cope? 

One thing I try to stress to new writers is that publishing has many, many ups and downs. You’ll have years where everything seems to fall into your lap and years where you feel like you’re falling off every mountain you’ve climbed. (Okay. So my metaphors are awful in this piece, but you get it.) Just because one door opens up for you doesn’t mean that all the doors after that will open in unison. It doesn’t even guarantee that the doors you’ve already opened will stay open. Writing a great book doesn’t guarantee an agent. Getting an agent doesn’t guarantee a book deal. A book deal doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get another book published. And so on. Writing is a business, and you have to keep working every day. There is no finish line, but you can keep running. (All right, I’ll stop with the metaphors.)

Basically, coping is important. Staying energized is important. Focusing on the positive but understanding the negative is also important.

Try to remember you are a person, not a writing machine.

Despite all this…

I can’t help but feel like I’m letting down my readers, but I also hope my readers understand that I am trying my hardest to follow the right path, and finding my footing on this new path might take a long time.

Heck, I might not even be on the right path, but I won’t know until I try.

Is it scary? Absolutely. Could it be a massive mistake? Sure it could. But what is art without risk? What is pursuing your dreams without exploring possibilities?

I have no clue when or if I will be published again, but I still love writing, and I am determined to share my words with world again one day. I hope that if you’re struggling with what I’m struggling with that you know you’re not alone and we can share our disappointments/frustrations/confusion just as much as we share our successes. No one’s path is paved in publishing. Every journey is different, but we can at least celebrate that fact.

So let’s keep writing,

~SAT

Writing Tips

Writing in a New Genre

Maybe you hit a slump with your usual genre. Maybe you’re feeling the urge to explore. Maybe you just want to. Sometimes, authors want to write in a genre they’ve never written in before, but they don’t know where to start. Well, that’s what I’m here for. In fact, I recently went through this myself, so today I’m sharing three tips and a little story about what I learned from this attempt. I hope it helps you explore a new genre!

1. Ask Yourself Why

First and foremost, I truly believe every author should ask themselves why they want to write the project they are currently sitting down to write. Why? Because being honest with yourself might save you some heartache. If you’re chasing a trend, you might find your passion burns out rather quickly (or when the trend passes…because it will, probably before you finish your first draft). This will make you feel like you wasted your time and energy, even if you did technically learn from it. So…take a step back before you sit down to write. Why are writing this book? Why are you writing in this genre? Are you following trends? Are you the best person to tell it? What is the main reason for switching genres: the story, the genre, the characters, the challenge, etc.? What drives you the most is up to you. Knowing why you’re writing it and what your goals are for it will help you stay focused.

Isn’t it fun to discover a new genre?

2. Read the Genre

If you’re not reading, you don’t have the tools to write. I know, I know. There are so many people who loathe that rule, but it’s true. Reading within and outside of your genre helps you see what has been done before, what is expected, and where you can succeed. Have you read widely in this genre? Have you seen gaps that need to be filled? Do you understand your reader’s expectations? What about successful tropes or overused ones? Read, read, read. You will love it. And if you don’t enjoy reading it, then you probably won’t enjoy writing it. Find the genre where you feel at home.

3. Research the Genre

This is a step I’m not sure many consider, but researching the history of your genre can give you excellent insight. You’ll come across controversies, learn how it correlated with history, and watch it expand into what it has become today. By knowing this, you might be inspired by the greats or see where the shape of your genre is most likely headed. Rather than chasing trends as they pop up, this might help you walk down an educated path of where that trend might pop before it ever happens…and you’ll have your book written, rather than scrambling to finish something. Again, this isn’t about chasing trends, but rather—at a fundamental level—knowing what needs to be done next in order to fulfill readers’ wants/needs/desires ahead of time. Make sure to check out writing blogs. Look up your favorite authors in that genre and see if they offer writing tips in interviews or elsewhere. They’ve already written this genre and made mistakes, so listen to their lessons ahead of time. You might still make the same mistakes, but at least you’ll recognize it for what it is and move on to the next step. Let knowledge guide your passion.

As an example, I generally read and write YA SFF, but last year, I set out to write my first historical. I still haven’t finished. It’s been SUPER hard, much harder than I anticipated, but I set out knowing I wanted to learn first and worry about publication later (if I ever pursue publication with it at all).

I began by reading all the historical fiction I could get my hands on. (I already read historical fiction, but I pushed to read more.) I tried different sub-genres and time periods and styles. In between books, I researched my time period thoroughly. I took notes. I researched again. I took MORE notes. I visited libraries and museums. I took notes again. I organized. Then, I began to write. Funny enough, even though I thought I had all the notes I needed to write, it became quite clear the moment I sat down that historical fiction demanded more than I expected and totally different tools than SFF. I made mistakes. I backtracked. I set it down. I came back to it. I wrote again. I took it to my beta readers. I deleted over half of it. I started over. I continued to write. Most recently, I’ve set it down again. But I still love it. And I don’t feel like I wasted a second of my time.

In the end, I was passionate about the tale. I was willing to learn and make mistakes. I still haven’t finished the novel, as it was my first attempt, but I believe in the story. I might pick it back up. I might not. But I believe in trying new genres and following your heart and challenging your art. Just don’t let bumps in the road convince you that you’re failing. You are trying. You are learning. And that’s something to be proud of.

Every author in the world had to write in their genre for the first time.

Why can’t this be your first leap toward success?

~SAT

Writing Tips

Authors Who Give Up

As writers, we discuss lots of ups and downs. Writer’s block, in particular. But what about something stronger than writer’s block?

What about feeling like you want to give up?

“Giving up” is hard to define. Quite frankly, the definition will be different for every writer. One author might feel like giving up writing altogether, while another writer might only want to give up pursuing publication. These two versions of “giving up” are very different, but could appear similar to those on the outside.

This is why defining what you want to “give up” is important.

By considering what, exactly, you are giving up, you might realize what is actually making you so miserable.

For instance, I’ve talked to a lot of authors who feel like giving up because marketing is so difficult, or getting an agent feels impossible, or self-publishing is too expensive. But all of these issues have solutions that don’t involve giving up everything. If marketing is difficult, reevaluate what and where you’re marketing. Consider posting less. (Your readers will understand, trust me.) If querying agents/publishers is putting you down, slide that goal aside for a while. Write something new instead. If self-publishing is too expensive, save up or consider options like Patreon. This list goes on and on. Many writing issues that cause the “giving up” bug have solutions. Sometimes stepping away and taking a break will help clear your mind so you can sort things out.

But what about actually wanting to give up writing?

Who knows what caused it. Maybe it was one major disappointment that took place on one horrible afternoon. Maybe it was a million disappointments all compounded together over time. Either way, feeling like you want to give up is valid. It’s okay. And if you choose to give up, that’s okay, too. One of my recent writer friends actually took this path—not because they couldn’t handle the stress of a writing career, but because they no longer felt joy while writing their last two books. Until they get that joy back, they don’t want to write anymore. That is their choice.

I know I won’t give up. Not right now. Not any time soon. Hopefully, never. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t felt this way sometimes. It happens every now and then—more than I’d like to admit—but many authors have felt this way, and we either overcome it, or we move on to a new dream.

In the end, I will never judge an author for shelving their manuscripts. It’s their life. I will support their decision to leave, and I will welcome them back with open arms—both as a reader and a fellow writer—if they ever choose to return.

Just because a writer gives up on writing, doesn’t mean the community has to give up on the writer. 

But I hope no one gives up on their dreams,

~SAT

P.S. My first audiobook is going on tour! You can listen to free review copies and interview the narrator and me by signing up here.