Tag Archives: writers block

A Writer’s Freakout Schedule

29 Aug

Between COVID and (insert any number of other awful things happening right now), freakouts are commonplace at the moment. Right? RIGHT???

I don’t know. Maybe you’re not going through it, but I know I’ve certainly had my moments of heightened stress, which is probably why I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the delicate balance of productivity and mindfulness. On one hand, I want to maintain my level of productivity, be successful, follow the dream. On the other, I just want to eat this tub of ice cream and be left alone. So, I guess the solution is to sit here with my ice cream while I write this article. (It’s Cherry Garcia, if you’re wondering.)

Writers are used to wearing a lot of hats. Between day jobs and family, squeezing in time to write is nothing new to the aspiring novelist. Neither is imposter syndrome or writers’ burnout, not to mention writers’ block. But the other day, I finally heard a new one. 

A writers’ freakout schedule.

But first, a little backstory: 

Once a month, I meet up with some fellow writers on ZOOM just to chat about what we’re going through and how we’re handling it. We talk about our projects, but there’s no pressure to exchange pages or anything. If you don’t have something like this in your life, I highly recommend it. I look forward to it every month. 

During one of these monthly calls, I was talking about how bonkers life is at the moment and how to manage all these tectonic plates that are now life, when Jessica Conoley (authorpreneurship coach) mentioned how knowing her “freakout” schedule has helped her manage.

The moment she mentioned it, a lightbulb went off in my head. I had never thought about the concept of a freakout schedule before, but I also recognized how true the sentiment was right away.

Understanding when and how you will react to news, such as a critique or a rejection, can help you stay focused and calm, especially in these strange and twisty times. 

That being said, I wasn’t always aware of my freakout schedule. In fact, I’m pretty sure my roommate had to point it out to me once. (Okay. So, maybe a couple dozen times.) Basically, I used to think I didn’t have a freakout schedule. I would hear criticism or get a rejection and brush it off pretty quickly. Publishing is just business, right? I can adjust and keep trying. And I would. Right away, I would dive into revisions or go about writing life as normal…but two weeks later, the doubt would creep in. Then, the inevitable imposter syndrome. Soon, I’d be asking friends if I was delusional in my capabilities to finish a likeable story. I would threaten to put everything down, eventually declaring, “This is it! I quit!” 

The next day, I’d sit down at my computer, determined to delete it all and never look back…but hey, it couldn’t hurt to read it one last time. Soon, I’d be revising. And reading. And writing like nothing ever happened. 

My freakouts definitely have varying degrees, depending on what caused the situation to spiral. 

A little writers block isn’t going to last as long for me as a brutally honest critique from a trusted colleague. However, for someone else, it might be the complete opposite. Which brings me to my next piece of advice:

Understanding what sets you off—and for how long—is just as important as understanding you’re in a cycle. The cycle will end. 

This is just your freakout schedule.

~SAT

P.S. You may have noticed a new badge on my website. In case you didn’t, I am officially going to co-mentor with Sandra Proudman for Pitch Wars this year. Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer to spend three months revising their manuscript. It ends in February with an Agent Showcase, where agents can read a pitch/first page and can request to read more. Learn more at PitchWars.orgOur wishlist will go up right here on September 12!

Starting a Novel: Tips, Tricks, & A Little Chaos

11 Jul

I recently finished a major revision on a manuscript. Typically that calls for a well-deserved break, to which I shake my fists at, because I am a write-aholic, and I love nothing more than to immediately jump into my next, shiny, new project. That’s right. 

I already started another novel. 

Why did I already start another book? Well, for one, I’ve been working on the aforementioned revision for six months. It’s been a bit, and I’ve been dying to oil my creative gears and discover something new, whether that be a fresh, exciting world or a character that shocks me. I also know that a writer should never put their writing dreams into one book. If my revision doesn’t work out, well, I need something else, don’t I? Might as well get on that. 

So how does someone start a novel?

Quick answer: It’s different for every writer and often every project. Some of my projects are more outlined than others. Some come to me in a blink; others fight me the whole way. But there are ways you can enhance your chances for success. 

Here are those tips: 

  1. Set Yourself Up Before You Begin

On any given day, I’m working on about three novels. One that I’m revising, one that I’m writing, and one that I’m outlining. Because my recent revision was more of a rewrite, it had been taking up both my revising and writing focus—so, when I turned that in, I had space available for one of the novels I’ve been outlining. (I currently have three strong contenders.) These three ideas have been rattling around in my brain for a while. (One I recently came up with only a few weeks ago; another is based on an idea I actually started drafting when I was 14. That’s right, the idea is 15 years old! But now I’m giving away my age. Always keep your notes.)

By having notes ahead of time, you won’t feel burdened by the blank page, because, well, you aren’t starting on a blank page. You’re starting with bursts of character, fun dialogue snippets, exciting scenes, and more.

2. Research, Research, Research

Research comes into the writing process at different stages for everyone. For example, when I write my fantasy novels, research might not come into play until the later drafting stages. I typically write the book, realize the type of research it needs, then do that. My science fiction novels are the complete opposite. I need to know how certain technologies work long before I start writing, or I’m going to have a mess on my hands. Same thing with the historical novel I wrote. Research happened before writing. Significant research. Knowing what sort of project you are writing and how research will affect the project is important. If you aren’t sure, go ahead and jot down a couple topics you know are in your story but you don’t know that much about. Next time you’re having a writer’s block day, guess what? You now have something to do. Better to research earlier on and prevent a blundering plot hole than to write an entire book and realize the premise is flawed. Amiright?

3. Start Writing that FIRST Draft 

Write however you want to. Write messy. Write in order. Just write. Right now, I’ve been writing in one of those three fun ideas I’ve had laying around, and I’m still at the stage where I’m writing snippets all over the place. I wrote Chapter One – Six, and then I went back and added a short prologue, flipped three chapters, and started outlining the rest. I have one document titled ORGANIZEDwhich includes notes I can put in order by scene, and one called UNORGANIZED, which is my chaos document. I have no idea where these snippets will go or even if I’ll use them, but I love them and hope to use them as the book shapes up. 

A sneak peek behind the curtains

Basically, my Scrivener project looks like a mess right now, but I’ve been here a dozen times before. I trust that it will come together as it should. I trust the process. I trust me. If you don’t trust yourself to write or finish, then you’re still at the stage of your writing career where you’re figuring out what your process is and how to go about it, and that’s totally valid. Try different times of the day. Experiment with new writing methods. Are you used to plotting? Go ahead and be a pantser for the afternoon. Play with a new genre you’ve never tried before. Explore, and eventually you’ll find an adventure worth pursuing. If you’re struggling with meeting your goals, try NaNoWriMo, setting goals, or using tools like PaceMaker Planner

At the end of the day, you’re at the start line, not the finish line, so treat it as such. You shouldn’t be comparing your new words to someone’s edited words. Remember: This is your first draft. You can be as messy as you need to be in order to figure out what your book is about—as long as you plan on revising later. And guess what? No matter how perfect you think your first draft is, you will have to revise, so embrace the moment. 

Start writing your novel today.  

~SAT

P.S. For more tips and tricks on starting a novel, I will be teaching a FREE virtual class on Monday, July 27 at 6:30 PM (CST). More information: Starting a Writing Project. It is taught through ZOOM. Go ahead and register, and I will see you there! 

Tracking Character Motivations with a Free Spreadsheet

1 Feb

It’s no secret that I’m currently revising a manuscript. I’ve been talking about revising a lot lately and giving glimpses into what my revision process looks like. I’m currently on my third draft of a multi-POV sci-fi novel, and I am still smoothing out my character motivations. (What can I say? It can be tricky! Especially when you change something in chapter 3 and it causes a domino effect for the next thirty chapters.) In fact, character motivations can get trickier the more you revise. Why? Because you have to remember the exact decision each character made and why in this particular version. Obviously, you might see where lines start to blur. No one expects you to remember every little detail of every manuscript you’ve ever written, but readers do expect consistent, believable characters. And it’s your job as the writer to deliver.

One way I track the motivations of my characters is an Excel spreadsheet. 

If you follow me elsewhere, you might have seen me upload the photo of my Excel spreadsheet, which actually led me to today’s topic. I received a lot of messages asking for more information and tips on motivations, so I thought I would dive deep into this topic today. 

Motivations are important. So. Incredibly. Important. Without motivation, characters will come across as bland and unbelievable, which, quite frankly, makes them hard to follow or care about. There’s a lot to consider when choosing any particular character’s motivation. (Did I mention that ALL of your characters need a driving force? It isn’t just your protagonist, though your protagonist’s will probably matter the most since they are, well, you know, the protagonist.) Mostly, I find there’s a misconception that the bigger the motivation, the more important the story will feel to the reader. But it’s really the opposite. The more personal the motivation, the better. Why? Because the reader is more likely to empathize with personal stakes rather than worldly stakes. Which one do you care about more: A main character who must save the world or a main character who must save their little sister while the world is ending?

Typically, readers are drawn to characters who have personal stakes driving their motivation, even if the overall arc is huge (like saving the world). A great example is Katniss Everdeen. While she is the heroine at the center of a dystopian novel – and saving her country could’ve been the driving force – her true motivation was keeping her little sister safe. Without having a sister to save, Katniss wouldn’t have volunteered. (We know this as fact, because she had been in many lotteries before, and hadn’t volunteered before her sister was chosen.) Without a sister, Katniss wouldn’t be Katniss. Which is why what happens to her sister is so devastating. This sister-led motivation also creates a solid foundation for the reader to see why saving the “world” matters so much. (Why save a world if you don’t care about anyone in it?) Personal motivation will resonant more; therefore, allowing worldly stakes to have a solid platform. So let’s talk about those stakes. 

Your characters’ motivations should be challenged at all times. This is mostly referred to as “raising the stakes”. 

Ex. What does Katniss have to sacrifice in order to save her sister? What does saving her sister do to others around her? How does that affect Katniss’s future decisions? When does it change her decisions and motivation?

In addition to paying attention to your characters’ motivations (and upping those stakes), it’s important that your characters (especially your protagonist), change. At the end of the book, your characters should not be the same people we met on the first page. If they are the exact same person with the same feelings and motivations, then what actually happened in 300 pages? 

By creating a spreadsheet, you are forcing yourself to answer hard questions: “Did my character change in this scene? Did those changes push them forward or hold them back? Did it affect the story at all?” Spoiler alert: you should be answering YES to each of these questions, from chapter one allllll the way to the end.  

Typically, when I start writing a novel, I know where I’m going to begin and end. It rarely changes for me. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever started a book when I didn’t know the ending (or have a really close idea to what my ending would be). Why? Because the beginning tells me who the character started as, whereas the ending tells me where the character ends. The middle is going to be my character arc (herein referred to as the “rainbow”). If I don’t know where that rainbow is going, I will struggle to form all those colors that makes the story colorful, let alone form an ending that’s a believable treasure chest of gold. 

The spreadsheet helps me most out in the middle. I’ve found the middle is a place where a lot of writers struggle. In fact, the place I always get stuck at is about 65%. And when I get stuck, I love to work backward. This is where my motivational spreadsheet becomes super helpful. I can see where I want my characters end and compare it to where I got stuck. Then, I can ask myself, “What has to happen to these characters to get them here?” Once I start brainstorming, I can fill those motivations in. 

A spreadsheet is additionally helpful if you have multiple POVs or characters (ex. if you are struggling to track minor characters or the villain’s motivations), especially if Character A and B know something that Character C has yet to learn. In the end, I track the following: Chapter number/title, Chapter Summary, Character A, Character B, etc. (Typically listed in the order of importance.) I put the POV note in the chapter number. I also sum up what Character C is thinking/doing even if they don’t physically appear in a particular scene. That way, I am forcing each character to have their own presence, even in the “white noise” of their nonexistence in a scene. 

I highly encourage you to try this out if you are struggling with motivation, pushing stakes, and/or filling in that ugly middle. I gravitated toward this method because I’m an INTJ. I thrive with tasks dependent on logic. (Which is also why writing can be so hard sometimes.) Characters, as we all know, aren’t always logical, and yet they need to make logical sense to the reader. This single truth can feel like a huge contradiction to fledgling writers, when it isn’t. Not really. In reality, readers need to understand your character, even in your character’s most illogical moments. They need to believe that your characters illogical moments made sense to your character. Ex. Let’s say Character A loves Character B, and Character B has been kidnapped. Character A has a chance to save them, but only a 2% chance. And if they took that 2% chance, there’s a 98% chance they’ll both die. And yet, there’s no other chances coming their way. Logically, Character A should probably save themselves and hope for another chance. But we’re reading about heros! Character A is going to take that 2% chance, with all odds against them. Your reader should get that. They should feel how emotions have driven their decision-making. 

That’s what a spreadsheet is for. It’s forcing you, the writer, to give us those reasons, and making sure you’ve made those reasons clear in your story. 

Download your free Excel spreadsheet here. 

How do you track your character motivations? 

Also, what else do you want help with? I love to hear from you! In fact, it helps me help you more when I hear from you. I heard a lot from a lot of you all in my latest newsletter. (Whaaaaat? Shannon, you have a newsletter? I do! It releases once a quarter, and I always include more writing tips, sneak peeks at my work, and an exclusive surprise giveaway. Subscribe here.

My blog posts happen the first Saturday of every month, so check back in on Saturday, March 7. 

~SAT

A Writer’s Health + Tips

14 Apr

As some of you know, I’m going through some health issues, and though I’m not really open about what those issues are, the struggles have definitely caused me to appreciate good health a lot more. I also pay more attention to health now, so I thought I’d write up a list of health issues writers should look out for. Of course, everyone should look out for a variety of issues, but here’s a specific list of health issues that affect writers.

Always consult your doctor about lifestyle/health changes, and don’t forget your yearly checkups. ❤

1. Get your eyes checked

Don’t be like me and wait 26 years to find out your nearsighted. Seriously, I got my first pair of glasses in March, and my life is so different now. My headaches have all but disappeared. I used to get these terrible, debilitating migraines, especially on editing days. Turns out this was mainly happening because one of my eyes is much worse than my other one, and it was causing my eyes to overcompensate, so BAM. Headaches. Granted, I know headaches happen for a variety of reasons, and there are more reasons to get your eyes checked than headaches, but if you spend a lot of time reading, it’s good to keep those eyeballs as healthy as possible.

Here’s some extra tips:

  • Get great eye drops.
  • Take care of allergies.
  • Make sure to look away from the computer screen if working long hours.

2. Check your desk posture

Writers often sit for long hours at a desk typing away at a computer. Make sure your desk posture is healthy, and even if it is, be conscious about checking in as often as possible. If you don’t know what healthy desk posture looks like, here’s a place to startHaving a healthy writing environment in essential for productivity and happiness. This might mean a bigger computer screen, more space, better lighting, or cute cat memes taped to the wall.

Extra tips:

  • Get familiar with stretches that specifically help those who have to sit at a desk a lot.
  • Have a timer that reminds you of breaks for stretches and looking away from the screen. Oh! And snacks. Don’t forget snacks.
  • Joint support: Lots of writers develop carpal tunnel and tennis elbow for a reason. We use our hands A LOT. In fact, I have early on-set carpal tunnel syndrome, and let me tell you, it sucks. But I have wrist supports and know therapeutic stretches that help. Take care of those precious hands. They have worlds to write down!
  • Yoga! So I’m in love with yoga, but if you are like me, you might not have the time or funds to sign up for a class. The best part about yoga? You don’t have to. I recommend the Down Dog app. It’s been a lifesaver for me. It’s completely free, has lots of settings/options, and you can do it right from home. I had never taken a single class before using this app, and it was super easy to use.

3. Mental Health

A lot of artists get their inspiration from dark places, and then they share it with the world, inviting critique and rejection from strangers into a very personal place, so it comes as no surprise that many writers struggle with mental health throughout their life. Don’t get burnt out. Don’t let rejections destroy your dreams. Take breaks. Breathe. One thing that has always helped me is reminding myself why I write in the first place. It’s easy to get caught up in publication goals, but it’s important to remember that I love writing at the end of the day. If everything becomes too much, I still have writing for myself. In retrospect, I think I write a lot about mental health right here on this blog. It might not be labeled that way, but if I scroll back, I find lots of articles that are discussing emotional well being, so here’s some other tips:

In the end…

Health is a personal issue, and it’s important to look out for your overall well being, but I hope this gives a place for writers to start if they want to be healthier about writing. I’ve totally allowed my writing to get unhealthy, either by getting too wrapped up emotionally over a rejection or forgetting to drink more water (rather than another cup of coffee). There’s a reason that artists are the only people who defy Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.We often put art above all else, and it takes conscious effort to put health first. I know I could be better at it, so if anything else, this is a nice little reminder for myself, but I hope it helped you too!

Feel free to share your health tips!

~SAT

I’m a Writer with Imposter Syndrome

17 Mar

I have imposter syndrome. For those of you who don’t know, imposter syndrome “is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud.” At least according to Wikipedia. (And, yes, I see the humor in starting this article with a quote from Wikipedia, but they honestly had the best to-the-point definition I could find, so…)

I’m surprised I haven’t discussed imposter syndrome before. Or maybe I have and it was archived at one point. Either way, it’s time to discuss it, because imposter syndrome is awful.

Imposter syndrome can also make you feel like you’re not yourself, that you’re hiding something, that you’re failing, hard. But hopefully this will help!

I tend to get imposter syndrome for two reasons:

1. I haven’t had a lot of writing time

This is actually my #1 reason. When I don’t have a lot of time to write, I don’t feel like a writer. I mean, writers write, right? (Say that ten times fast.) While, yes, writers definitely write, that statement bothers a lot of writers, because it puts an unnecessary pressure on them to always be writing, and that’s not always the case. Some writers write every day, sure, and that’s awesome! But some writers only write a few days a week. Or only once a week. And that’s awesome, too! Heck, I know published authors who tend to write-write (meaning putting prose on paper) only a few months out of the year. The other months are strictly for other types of writing (outlining, discussing ideas, researching, etc.). Whatever works for the writer and allows them to meet deadlines (and hopefully feel creative and happy) is what matters. But that doesn’t mean we writers don’t have moments where we don’t feel like we’re doing enough, where we don’t feel like enough. Believe me, I’ve been there. In fact, I’m feeling that way right now. (I’ll get to why in a minute.)

So my tip if you’re going through this: While you’re running errands or driving to and from work, really consider why you don’t have time to write. Do you actually have time that you can clear out on your schedule or are you going through a life change? Don’t be too hard on yourself either way. It’s okay to acknowledge that maybe you have been neglecting your craft. Admitting it is the first step to finding time again. If you haven’t been purposely neglecting anything—and your schedule is just rough—consider whether or not it’s temporary. If it’s temporary, relax. Get done what you need to get done. Communicate with agents, editors, publishers, etc. about what is going on in your life and see if anyone (like betas) can help. If it isn’t temporary, try to figure out what you can give up in your schedule for writing. Maybe you don’t need to watch five television shows a week. Instead, reward yourself with the whole season once you finish your first draft. Tah-dah!

 2. I’m pushing myself too hard

Now this is the other reason I get imposter syndrome. If you didn’t notice, it’s basically the opposite reason I listed above, right? Sort of. Sometimes they can go hand-in-hand. How? Well, because I might be pushing myself too hard somewhere else in my life (and still not getting writing time), and when I get exhausted, I get a little irrational. I start thinking there is 24 hours in a day. What do I mean by that? I mean that I forget basic necessities need to be done in 24 hours. You can’t pack all 24 hours with things to accomplish. You also need to sleep, to eat, to breathe. Pushing myself too hard can mess me up, especially when I’m not finding a lot of time to write, because I feel like I’ve done a lot and done nothing at all at the same time. This happens because I forget that writing is a part of my whole life, not a separated life from my job or home struggles. It’s easy to put writing accomplishments in one basket and everything else in the other, but try to put them in the same basket. That way, you’re acknowledging everything you’re doing in your life right now, not just your writing ups and downs, and you won’t feel like you’re failing when you’re actually working really, really hard.

I’m not going to lie. I think I’m going through both of these at the moment. Adjusting to the new job and still dealing with health issues has been rough. Fun but rough. (Fun fact: I found out I’ve been near-sighted my whole life this week, so I’m getting glasses soon. And hopefully, less headaches.) I definitely haven’t had a lot (if any) time to write between that and editing and marketing my current books (and keeping up on my TBR). Basically, I feel really disconnected to my writing, while also feeling too tired to try to write when I have a little time off. Granted, I should be following my own advice from the article a few weeks ago, Tips For Going Through a Life Change, and allowing myself to have an adjustment period, but let’s be real, easier said than done, right?

What I think triggered the imposter syndrome was meeting a bunch of new (and awesome) people who didn’t know I was an author. People, especially people who work in libraries, tend to get really excited/surprised/interested to hear about it when they first meet you, and while that should feel heartwarming, it feels really overwhelming when I’m not actively able to write as much as I like. It makes me feel like I’m neglecting everything, that I’m not accomplishing anything new, that I’m—you guessed it—an imposter.

But I’m trying to take a step back and remind myself that this is imposter syndrome. Though it feels real, it isn’t. Not really. It’s a construct, a pressure I’ve put on myself, and unhealthy at best.

I’m not quite out of the imposter woods, but admitting it to myself has helped me see the light, so to speak.

I have taken a moment to acknowledge how I feel and why I feel that way and what steps I can take to feel better—mainly rest, allowing myself to adjust to my job, and feeling good when I get a few words down. But the #1 thing I’m reminding myself—that I hope will help you—is an ultimatum I don’t see talked about enough.

As long as you’re not stealing someone’s identity, none of us are imposters. We’re writers. We’re all on a different path to publication, and we’re in this together, on good days and bad days. We aren’t “faking” anything if we are trying, and that’s what matters. Love your journey, always remember why you love writing, and love yourself.

There’s only one of you out there, and trust me, you are not an imposter.

You are a writer.

~SAT

Tips for Writing During a Life Change

3 Mar

Life is crazy, right? There’s moving, job changes, babies, weddings, divorces, health complications, weather disasters, and (okay, I’ll stop listing all these crazy life changes. You get the point.) Life is fun, but it can get complicated.

Working full time while writing is hard enough, but what do you do when you’re also coping with a life change?

You could curl up at your desk and cry…(which, totally valid)…or you could try these tips below.

To be honest, the answer to this question is going to be different for everyone. But I’m actually going through this right now. I just began a new job at the library, so my hours are totally different than what I’ve been used to for the past three years. Even my sleep schedule has changed, dramatically, and adjusting to my new way of living while trying to keep up with my writing goals is a little difficult.

So here are some quick tips I’ve learned by going through this.

1. Give Yourself Time to Breathe

If you’re not on a serious deadline, try to give yourself time to adjust to your new situation. In my case, that meant relaxing when I got home from work (even if it was a super short shift) and only writing on my days off. Slowly, I started to write after or before work too, but to be honest, I’m still adjusting to my new schedule, and my new job has to come first right now. Remember: writing isn’t a race. Start slowly. Getting burnout is the last thing you need, both for your new life change and your writing life. If you’re on a deadline though, you probably don’t have this luxury. In that case, I suggest as much sleep as you can get and, if possible, support from friends and family. Ex. If you’re moving, try to see if you can get a buddy to unbox a few things for you while you write. Pay them with pizza. Heck, hang out with them for five minutes if you can. You still deserve a little time to de-stress. Clearing your mind will help you hit those goals more than pushing yourself too hard all the time. If your stress levels are too high to write, binge-read all the books you’ve missed out on. Breathe.

2. Experiment

Whether you just had a baby or moved or divorced or (whatever), you will have to experiment with your new life to see what fits you best. It might take a while to realize whether or not the experiment is working. Like I said above, I’m still adjusting. I first made a goal to write on days I was off, but then realized I was exhausted during my first few days off. (Adjusting to a new sleep schedule has been the hardest part.) It took two weeks to realize I needed to try that experiment again, and sure enough, it was successful the second time around. My goal is to adjust, not to perform the exact same right away. Granted, my eventual goal is to get back up to speed, but for now I’m concentrating on work training, feeling energized, and getting back on my feet. Which brings me to my next point…

3. Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself

Adjusting to something is HARD. The last thing you need to do is be any more hard on yourself than life already is. If you struggle with writers block because of the change, take a bigger break or write anyway (and don’t judge yourself when you hate what you wrote. You might find out when you read it later on that it wasn’t so bad after all). Remind yourself why you love writing and that this is a temporary feeling. You will adjust. Reward yourself for the little things (because those little, first steps can feel huge). For instance, on my old schedule, I tended to write 10,000 words per week pretty easily, but lately, I’ve been managing about 5,000, and that’s okay. I’m just glad that I’m still figuring out when and how I can write, so that I can continue more in the future.

So these are my tips!

If you’re currently going through a life change, I hope these help you write well and feel good about writing again.

~SAT

Why You Should Make Time To Write While Editing/Revising

10 Feb

I’m not going to lie. I’m basically writing this article because I failed at this, miserably, and I want to prevent others from making the same mistake. 

Once upon a time, I wrote a book. The moment I was inspired to write it, I knew it was more special than my other books. Not that I don’t love my other books, I do, but some stories leap out at you and steal your soul from your body. Others are just fun to write. And this book felt like the “one.” The one that would lead me to my next step in my career, the one my readers would love the most, the one that I could spend years in writing sequels or spin-offs or short story extras.

With unattainable excitement, I sat down and wrote. I cranked out the first draft in less than a month, and I spent a couple months rewriting and editing. I worked with betas and rewrote some more. I loved it. I thought others would, too. So, I started submitting. Sure enough, a couple people did love it! Yay! But then, I was asked to revise. 

Treat your writing projects like plants: water them all.

So I revised. I revised a lot. I revised until I forgot which version I was writing.

That’s when my emotions got messy. Sometimes, I would mess up versions, or backtrack too much, or be too set in one scene to try something new again. Sometimes, revision notes came back contradictory, and other times, the notes didn’t match my vision at all. But I didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity…which caused me to learn a hard lesson. See my past article: Should You Revise and Resubmit? I was spending every moment of my writing time revising. Meanwhile I was watching some of my awesome writer friends get agents and book deals with pieces of work before they had to revise anything again. And I wasn’t getting any promises from anyone.

I was spinning in circles, but I couldn’t stop myself.

I believed in my work so much. I loved the story endlessly. And every writer in the world will tell you that revising is part of the process, that every good book will find a home, that every writer willing to work hard will find friends and fans and supporters. But I just…wasn’t. I was beginning to feel a little crazy when the inevitable “Your writing is spot-on, your idea is so imaginative, and I loved it…but not enough. Send me your next piece.” would come in.

My next piece? I would think. What next piece? I had been so busy revising this piece for everyone for so long that I had completely disregarded my next piece.

I forgot to give myself time to create.

I forgot to be a writer, not just someone who is revising or editing.

No wonder I was so miserable.  

I spent almost the entire year revising and editing one book. As long as it was a better version that remained true to my story, I believed I was heading in the right direction. And while I still think I was heading in the right direction, I should’ve given myself time and space elsewhere. Granted, if I were 100% honest, I wrote half of another book, and I outlined/researched a couple awesome ideas, but all of those projects inevitably got pushed aside to edit this one, special book.

That book is still my special book. I love it with all my heart. In fact, I still don’t know if I’ll ever love another book this much again, but my love for it doesn’t have to be defined by others’ love for it. I can love it, whether or not anyone gets to read it in the future. And something I’m unsure about might be something others fall head over heels for. The “one” (if there is such a thing) might be a book idea I left sitting on my shelf while being too busy revising. It could be a book I have been neglecting to create. It could be a book that I learn to love, rather than falling in love right on the spot.

Don’t let your writing identity get wrapped up in one piece. Why? Because that piece might fail to work out in the way you had hoped, and then it’ll be harder to get back up on your feet again. Getting back into the creative swing was the hardest part for me, anyway. I struggled to settle on a new idea. I had to start over a lot. I had to come to terms with shelving a piece I loved. But I began to love writing again. Now I have so many pieces I want to finish.

There is nothing wrong with investing a significant part of your time in editing or revising, but you also deserve time to create.

So go write.

~SAT

P.S. I have some exciting news to share! I am officially a Youth Services Associate for the Mid-Continent Public Library! As some of you know, my dream has been to work for a library, and I tried really, really hard last year, but it didn’t work out. See past article: 2017 Wasn’t My Writing Year. I didn’t give up on my goals though! Now I am here. I’m super excited to help the young people of Kansas City with everything the library has to offer. Wish me luck!

Authors Who Give Up

14 Oct

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.

When Your Writing Issue Is…

24 Jul

Writing a book—or anything—comes along with a lot of challenges, and sometimes those challenges can feel overwhelming. So here’s a quick tip guide to help you navigate your writing journey.

I have an idea, but now what?

Well, now you write. (And write and write and write again.) Don’t focus on being perfect. Don’t focus on getting published. In fact, don’t spend months studying how to write on blogs like this one. There’s only so much you’re going to learn from reading about writing. You’re going to have to write yourself to learn about yourself and your craft. So, sure, research, but make sure you’re writing…and reading (a lot). Related article: No, Reading is Not an Option

I don’t have time to write.

Listen, no one has time to write. Some of us definitely have more time (or less), but comparing yourself to anyone is not going to get you anywhere. Write when you can and write what you can. Don’t beat yourself up. Just do your best. Related article: Making More Time to Write & Confessions of a Slow Writer

I can’t begin.

So don’t worry about beginning. Start in the middle. Start at the end. Start anywhere that you want to start. When I’m struggling with a story idea, I just hop around in all types of scenes, jot down some ideas, and hop around again. Eventually, it comes together. Embrace the mess. You can fix it later. Related articles: World BuildingNaming Your Characters.

I can’t finish!

Finish. I know that is the worst thing I can say. (Trust me, I do.) But sometimes you have to write the “wrong” ending to learn what the “right” ending is. Another place to look at is your middle. If you’re feeling awkward about the ending, you might have gone “wrong” earlier. Track back and see where you start feeling unsure. Try something new, then finish that. The last chapter is a lot like the first chapter. You’re probably going to change it a lot. That’s okay! Related articles: Writing Quicksand & The Ideal Writing Pace

Extra tip: Remember an issue is just that – an issue. It will be solved. You will overcome it, and you will move forward. Try to keep that in mind.

I’m overwhelmed/depressed/numb to my writing.

Whoa there. Take a step back. Your mental health and well being is more important than getting another 1,000 words down. Granted, I can admit I’m horrible at taking my own advice here. But it’s true. Taking a step back is okay—and necessary sometimes. Related articles: The Lonely Writer & How to Avoid Writer Burnout

OMG. I’m editing?!

An editing process is a lot like a writing process. It is unique to every writer and often every project. I recently wrote an editing series about my process if you’re interested—My Editing Process Starts in my Writing Process, Editing (Rewriting) the First Draft, and Editing the “Final” Draft—but try not to feel overwhelmed or down. Editing is another part of the writing process. You’ll learn to love it. (Or love to hate it.) Either way, try to concentrate on the “love” part.

Someone had the same book idea as me. 😦

Ideas are everywhere. So is inspiration. And then there’s that classic “Everything’s been done before” line. Trust me, you’re going to come in contact with someone who has a similar idea/book/character as you. Sometimes you might even see that book get published (eek) before yours. Don’t. Panic. Your book and you are perfectly okay, because YOU are the unique part of your book. Only you can tell a book like you can. Emphasize what is unique about your story and keep writing. Related article: Writers, Stop Comparing Yourselves

It’s complete! Now what?

Slow down and consider what you want out of your career for this book. Do you want to go traditional? Do you want an agent? Do you want to self-publish? Take your time and research what is best for you and your novel. Don’t be afraid to ask fellow writers for help, guidance, or opinions. We’re all here to help you! General rule: Money always flows toward the author, not away. Never pay an agent or a publisher to publish you or your book. (Oh, and write another book.) Related article: The Emotions of Finishing a Novel & How To Get A Literary Agent

Offer of Rep/Publication

Like I said above, research, research, research. Never sign a contract without fully understanding what you’re getting into. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to turn an offer down, if it isn’t right for you or your book. There will be another one. One piece of advice I love? A bad agent/publisher is worse than no agent/publisher. Oh! And congratulations! You are awesome.

An agent/publisher offers a R&R (Revise and Resubmit)?

First, congrats! Those are pretty rare, and someone likes your work enough to give you a second shot. But don’t jump the gun. If someone gave you an R&R, chances are they gave you some significant feedback to help you revise. Figure out how you feel about that feedback first. Does it match your vision? Are you okay with it? If so, go for it! If not, it’s okay to thank that person and move on.

I’m published! Yay! (But I secretly feel like an imposter)

Feeling like you got “lucky” or don’t deserve to be where you are at is called Imposter Syndrome…and everyone feels it eventually. It sucks, I know, but it normally fades. Hanging out or talking with fellow writers will probably help you feel better here. If not, try any kind of self-care. Read your favorite book. Watch a TV show. Step away. You deserve it!

If you have any issues, feel free to share them below.

I’ll try to give a quick tip to help.

~SAT

When Writing Makes Reading Hard

23 Jan

When Writing Makes Reading Hard

by Susannah Ailene Martin

I’ve been writing seriously since I was 15. In other words, I’ve had 5 years of training in the craft of writing. That’s how writing works; the more you do it, the better you get at it. I’ve learned a lot about how story structure works and how to create interesting characters.

Now the good news about this is that my writing has become exponentially better. I mean, seriously, reading stuff I wrote when I was 15 makes my eyes bleed. The bad news is that’s it’s making reading less fun.

It’s a strange phenomenon that the more you understand how something works, the more the mystery behind that thing vanishes. Reading used to be something that I could sit down and do for hours without once thinking about how the book came to be. It used to be something that impacted me, but I didn’t know why.

Now I understand, and yeah, it kinda sucks.

Because I know so much more about writing, I see every trick and trope (well, maybe not every trick; I’m only human) that an author uses. No longer can I really enjoy reading a scene in a book without thinking, “Ah, that’s a neat little thing you did there.” I constantly, and subconsciously, analyze and look for ways to improve my own writing as I read along.

It’s also become much more easy for me to be able to tell when a book is objectively just bad. Have you ever watched a TV show with a younger kid and thought, “You know what, if I was ten years younger, I would have loved this”? That’s kind of what it’s like for me reading books that years ago might have entertained me, but now that I know a bit about writing, I can’t help but see every mistake the author made.

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I know that being able to analyze a book like this is a good thing for my writing. It shows that I’m getting it, that I’m learning. But I do miss just being able to mindlessly consume words on a page.

The worst part is that I don’t just write for my novels and short stories, but I have also been studying screenwriting for the past two years. That means that not only have books been (kinda-sorta) ruined for me, but also movies and television shows. *sobs*

If you think books are hideously formulaic, then you don’t want to study screenwriting. The formula for most movies is so similar that I can sit down and, without seeing the movie, tell you exactly what general thing is going to happen when and be absolutely correct.

For instance, did you know that there’s a scene in every movie about 20 minutes before the end and right before the climax where all seems lost and it looks like the heroes have failed? It’s in EVERY SINGLE BLOODY MOVIE. Seriously, just go watch any movie, and tell me I’m wrong.

And by the way, I’m sorry, because now you’ll be looking for it.

But that’s what I do now. I look for things that I know are going to be in everything. And it’s really annoying. I want to be able to just sit back and enjoy something without thinking, “Oh hey, there’s the inciting incident.”

So I’m sure you’re starting to think, “Sheesh, you make it sound like writing ruins all forms of entertainment. Why would I ever want to write?”

The last thing I want to do is to discourage someone from writing. But you should know that this is how it’s going to be. When you write, you are going to find it harder to be entertained by every mediocre book you read. BUT, that just means you have to find better books.

It’s rarer now, but there are still books that suck me in so completely that I forget to analyze. I still occasionally finish books and feel that old familiar sense of wonder. And my mind is richer for it.

Plus, you’ll never learn it all. If you feel like your reading is getting stale lately, go out and try a new genre. I read and write mostly in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, but my mom recently got me into reading this historical romance series. Because I don’t know the tropes for romance, it’s hard for me to predict where the story is going, which makes it more fun.

But whatever you do, don’t stop reading. The moment you do, your writing will suffer.


About Susannah

Website | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter | Wattpad

SusannahSusannah Ailene Martin is an author from Norfolk, Va. She is currently a junior at Liberty University studying transmedia writing (which is just a fancy way of saying ‘various forms of screenwriting’). She blogs at Susannah Contra Mundum about her life, thoughts, and experiences. You can purchase her novelette, The Lifeguard: A Short Story, at Amazon for $0.99.


Thank you, Susannah, for writing such a great article! I know many writers who struggle with finding time to read and write, as well as feel that pure joy for both over and over again, so I’m sure many can relate. By sharing these struggles, we can help one another find those great reads and wonderful writing programs to keep us inspired and our work fresh.

Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep on being you.

Have a great week everyone!

~SAT

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