Tag: help

I Don’t Know What to Write

I am a published author. It’s my job to write all the things…and when I finish writing them, to write something else. For the first time in five years, I don’t know what to write next.

That doesn’t sound too bad, right?

But it is. Because I don’t know if I even WANT to figure out what to write next.

Where is this Coming From?

This year, I stepped outside of my comfort zone to write a series. No, it’s not a series that is out of the zone for me. It’s the genre of this series and the method of publishing it.

I don’t want to be an independently published author. Crazy, right?

In this day when indies make as much money as many traditionally published mid-list authors (if they have a backlist and a decent following), you’d think I would embrace this new paradigm. Ah, the freedom! The income!

The stress. The multiple hat-wearing. The crazy schedule. The headaches of finding affordable cover designers, editors and formatters.

But I didn’t consider all this. After all, I had the second story half written. The third book was the same story from a different character’s perspective (how hard could that be?) And the fourth story…yeah, it might never exist.

I wrote two stories. I’m revising and editing book three (while book two is with my line editor), but the plan to write book four during November? It’s out. Because there is NO story. Not enough to write 30,000 words for sure.

I tell myself it is the burnout of writing this difficult genre (historical fiction based on biblical characters). Or it’s the fact I’ve been doing so very little “creative” work during this process. After all, I’m following the Bible’s outline.

Too much revising and editing make this writer a very cranky girl. Could I sell that along with a little “redrum” to the horror crowd?

Where could this Lead?

What’s scary to me is that in the five years I’ve been “doing this author thing” for real, I’ve never ONCE run out of passion, drive or stories.

Truthfully, I haven’t run short on story ideas now, either. But not a single one of them calls to me. Nothing says, “Tell my story or I will keep you awake.”

And since I don’t want to be an indie author, I’m looking mostly to my small publisher for ideas. Of course, SPP is all about series. The publisher is offering two “solo series” each year to authors who have published in any of her shared series. I have some ideas to pitch.

But none of them are siren songs to my creative soul.

I applied to write a story in one of the existing series. (The one that I wrote for originally is NOT going to be opened for any new stories.) The “open worlds” are going to be released in batches and only one time per calendar year. I have several ideas for that series, but I don’t know if I want to write them or not.

This lack of passion could lead to a total derailment of my “author career.” And just when I’m starting to get a “regular” paycheck that can buy more than a cup of coffee, too.

What if I have to take more sub jobs? Or write a ton of $5 emails on Fiverr? Is that what I want to do for the rest of my life?

No. I’ve said it before. My sub license expires in 2021, and I’m praying I’ll be making enough from other sources (especially my back list of novellas) that I won’t “need” to renew it. And I raised my prices on Fiverr which has led to a marked decrease of orders because I didn’t have time to deal with those piddly emails.

Where I’m NOT Going with This

Earlier this year, I mentioned taking a dive into the nonfiction world. I’d outlined and drafted a book called THROUGH THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS that chronicled my “grief” journey.

I’ve invested time on this idea this year, too. You can hear about my attempt at writing a proposal that would sell it to agents here.

I attended some online conferences especially to drop into sessions about writing nonfiction and memoir. During one of these, I signed up for a free 15-minute consultation with an author coach. She graciously agreed to look over my proposal and give me an idea of what she thought I’d need to write this book.

Needless to say, the book needs an overhaul. Mostly because I wrote it for me without a clue about structuring a nonfiction book.

Do I want to spend a $1000 and several months turning it into a finished product?

I know I won’t be able to sell it to an agent. I learned that from the Book Proposal Workshop I took this spring, and I don’t foresee anything changing that reality.

The answer here is pretty obvious.

Which brings me back to the original question: What do I want to write next?

What Do You Want to Read?

Thanks for stopping in to read my blog. Not many people do. That’s why I’ve trimmed back to posting once per week and often recycling older posts or content from some of my published works.

If you read my books, this is where I need your input.

I’ve been kicking around the idea of pursuing my “dream” of writing fantasy (possibly young adult fantasy). Would you buy and read it?

I’m also considering delving into women’s fiction since many of my romances are more about issues than finding love. Would you buy and read those?

Better yet, what do you LOVE to read? What do you WISH someone would write because you can’t find it anywhere?

What To Do With This Blog

Time for some honest reflection about this blog.

I started it for a college class. I moved it to my website to help my ranking in search engines.  But it has never gotten the following or engagement I hoped to find.

I won’t remove it because…there’s a TON of content here.

But, I’ve gone to posting once each week (and scheduling these posts as much as two months in advance), and I’m still not getting engagement. There’s not a niche this fits.

So, I’m going to change what I do with this blog. I’m also going to remove it from the “main page” of my website. It will return to a “blog” page (that is currently blank).

This Month

This month, I’ve re-purposed content from a Bible study book I published a couple of years ago into a “class” of sorts.
What do you think about that for the future of this blog?

I would start the month with a video (this month’s was first featured in my Facebook group). Then I’d follow that up with other sections from the book (possibly including comments from “real” students who participated in my online class).

Even though I’ve pretty much decided that I won’t do an online course again (because it’s taking a lot of time I don’t have away from writing), I’d still like the experience.

After all, teaching is one of my gifts from God, and I’ve learned to enjoy doing it via video (and I think I’m finally getting better at that).

After That

Do you remember me talking about a nonfiction book on grief? I did it here.

Well, I’m considering posting some of the content from the book in my blog and sharing it widely in circles where people who might want to read it could find it.

Mostly, this is another test. I want to know if people are interested in my content. If they think it’s valuable.

Also, the class I took on writing nonfiction book proposals discouraged me for completing this project. According to that agent, if I can’t prove to a publisher that I have a “ready made” audience, they won’t publish my book.

Would you be interested in reading that content here?

My Dilemma

The real problem is I don’t have enough hours in a day to do all the things I’ve undertaken. In October, my first collection of Christian romances will be available in print. This is a self-published project even though my publisher owns the digital rights to the stories.

In November, I begin the push to get REFLECTIONS noticed and purchased. This series is one hundred percent self-published, and every time I work on it I’m reminded why I want a publishing contract.

In fact, I’m generating so many reasons, come back later for a post on that.

Even when I don’t go online at Fiverr, I’m getting new orders. I’ve had to mark myself “out of the office” the last two weekends because I’d been getting two to four new orders every Sunday. I don’t even WORK on Sunday!

What am I doing on Fiverr? Mostly writing, but I also go to critique my first fiction chapter in August. It was GREAT! The author left a nice review and said my critique helped her focus on what needed changing. I hope it spurs more such orders.
I also recently ghost-wrote a short ebook on cannabis. Yeah, not really a subject I know much about (or wanted to) but during the research I realized my ignorance wasn’t very attractive.

Who knew hemp was among the oldest cultivated crops? Not me. I was vaguely aware that hemp rope was the best for seaworthy tasks, but I didn’t really think much about how it was made. Or why it was so amazing.

If you’re wondering about my Fiverr business, I wrote more about it in earlier posts.

The bottom line is that I don’t have time to take a day off. I don’t know why I’ve given myself busy mornings when that can be my most productive writing time.

And most of all, I wonder “What am I doing writing blogs? No one reads them anyway.”

But here YOU are. You’re reading this post.

What would you like to see on this blog?

The “Choices” I’d Like to Make

In October, I made a huge mistake. It involved my iPad and game applications.

Once upon a time, I played Candy Crush. Then I rammed against a level I couldn’t conquer. But I still opened the application and spent my lives every day. Then friends sent me lives.

It became a time suck.

So I deleted the application.

But recently, I wanted a little “down time” for my brain. So I downloaded Matchington Mansion.

This was a BAD idea.

I want to get through all the tasks. Which means I have to play the levels to earn stars (because you KNOW I’m not spending money on those things).

Don’t download this time sucking game if you have a competitive streak.

Stupid Ads

Most games have an option to watch video advertisements so you can earn coins or stars or diamonds.

I don’t want to watch ads.

But sometimes I needed the coins. Truly. Because I was this *holds fingers an inch apart* close to beating a tough level.
Now I’m stuck on level 204.


Thankfully, there was an ad for a “free” story game. Choices is the name of the application.

Of course, I downloaded it because I wasn’t beating that level on MM. And when I tried, it stressed me out, so I needed another game to help me relax.

Who Writes These Stories

I’m a storyteller, so the idea of choosing the story line makes me happy. Most of the “books” were romances. Many geared to teenagers, but who doesn’t want to go back and make high school a happy memory.

I should have known.

If the story possibilities aren’t ridiculous, the good choices are going to cost me.

In this game, it’s all about diamonds. A dozen here will give you time to build your friendship with someone. Fifteen here will make you the hero of the day. Not to mention the 18 needed for the perfect homecoming dress.

At a mere $1.99 for 20, why not?


Why?

Why did I ever start playing these games?

Now there’s a new one called The Elementalists with magic and a college where they’ll train me to use magic I didn’t even know I had.
It only costs 15 diamonds for those cool magical orbs. And a mere 17 diamonds will give me private tutoring sessions with the smart kid.
Yeah, I’m done for. Today I actually looked at buying 60 diamonds because it worked out to TEN for FREE. Because since starting the Choices adventure, I’ve purchased at least 60 diamonds (more like 120, but don’t tell anyone).
May as well get a deal.

Help!

Send iTunes gift cards. For $19.99, I could purchase 250 diamonds! That should keep me in the coolest of Choices for a week or two.
What about you? Have you made some unhealthy choices recently?

Not Seventh Grade Again!

I have repeated seventh grade nearly a dozen times. So when I got a text while substituting in a seven grade life science class to work in a seventh grade math/engineering classroom the next day, this was my first thought.

Two days of seventh grade?!?

If you follow my posts, you know I prefer teaching in high school English or literature classes. My truest nightmare was an advanced math class at high school with non-existent lesson plans.

As far as middle school goes, the only job I won’t take is PE. Well, I turned it down at my favorite high school when they asked me to take a PE/health position for two days.

The truth is, I completed the seventh and eighth grade curricula every year I worked at St. Helens Middle School as a special education instructional assistant. Well, I may as well have. I was expected to be able to tutor or teach my SPED students in any class they struggled.

But science and math on back-to-back days? Was someone trying to kill me?

Or maybe change my short hair to baldness?

Welcome to Life Science

I’m minding my own business on a quiet Monday night. Reading a book and trying to recover my equilibrium after wrestling with two uncooperative romance manuscripts all day.

I need to pick up two subbing jobs each week. I really need to do this now that I’ve purchased a $600 airplane ticket to New York City and my brother is telling me I’ll need $1000 in spending money for the four days I’m there.
A click on the Safari app on my iPad takes me to the Frontline employee absence website. The last three times I checked, there was nothing. This time:

Full Day Science at Scappoose Middle School.

I decide to let it ride. Because…science.

A minute later the phone rings. Yep. The absence system offers me the job.

I feared a movie. Instead, it was six 50-minute sessions reading the same two articles to seventh-grade students.
These are the same ones who played hide-and-seek under the lab counters.

I wish I was kidding.

Everyone Needs Math in Their Life

I’m slightly more than half-way through this science fest when my phone rumbles with an incoming text.
A teacher I worked with at St. Helens Middle School is sick. Could I cover his classes the next day?

Ugh. Math?

But I see getting my second day of work outside the house done in short order. Won’t that help me focus on those stories better?

They’ve just started a unit on finding area in one-dimensional shapes. I could do this in my sleep.

Except trying to get them to sit still and listen to the instructions is like herding cats…across a flooding river…in a blizzard.

Don’t Forget to Engineer It

It boggles my mind that there is even time for an elective in a five period school day. They have to take math, science, PE and health, and humanities (a combination of language arts and social studies). I guess that does leave ONE class period open. Most students have band, choir or art. I guess there has to be a place for everyone else.
So engineering.

Enter thirty seven graders who would rather be bending pipe cleaners and straws into some sort of structure. Sit them at a desk.

Here’s the plan for the day: Watch a video about the Mayan engineering feats and write down twenty-five facts. Turn them in at the end of class.

Or if you get them done beforehand, get up and turn them in. Or ignore the film and chat with your friends. If the sub calls out a fact (to help you out because I’m nice that way) be sure to ask “What?”

It was the longest 43-minute class period of my day.

My Saving Grace

You heard me right. Each class lasted 43 minutes.

That was the saving grace for the day. Sure those seventh grade bottles of hormones squirreled around and talked when they should have listened. Yes, they asked me a dozen questions I had already answered during their unauthorized chatting time.

But, the final bell sounded at 1:30, a full two hours earlier than normal.

Which means, after standing outside with the same squirrels until they boarded their buses, I was free to leave two full hours before the end of the normal school day.


AND…wait for it…

I still got paid for eight hours. Because in the sub teaching world, there are half-day jobs and full-day jobs. Anything more than four hours is considered a full day.

Score!

In reality, I don’t mind a little seventh-grade math and science. At least I can speak intelligently about the lessons. You know, since I’m a repeat attender.

What was your favorite subject in school? What grade in school horrifies you the most?

How is that Year of Gratitude Coming Along?

If you follow my on social media, you know that I’ve been posting and tweeting everyday about gratitude. Some of those memes have gotten a little more toward the “refecting on life” side of things.

And since my brain is just as fried this week as it was last week, I thought I’d share some of this months memes. You know, for those of you who don’t follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

(The truth is, I’m so busy working on several writing projects at once that I don’t want to spend the time previewing videos I think you might enjoy. I just want to get this post written so I can get back to work on the novel, short story or nonfiction project).

Gift I’m Grateful for this Month

Day 275: Drinking coffee like a superhero.
Day 275: Drinking coffee like a superhero.

Something Small to Make me Smile

Day 275: Feeling super thrilled to have another fantasy story debuting this month.
Day 275: Feeling super thrilled to have another fantasy story debuting this month.

Words of Wisdom

Day 282: One of the motivating saying from my video trainer. What excuse is holding you back?
Day 282: One of the motivating saying from my video trainer. What excuse is holding you back?

Kit-Spiration

Day 286: Rain pattering on the glass makes me so so sleepy. No driving in the rain for this girl.
Day 286: Rain pattering on the glass makes me so so sleepy. No driving in the rain for this girl.

A Little Sunshine

Day 288: I am not ready to say goodbye to the sunshine.
Day 288: I am not ready to say goodbye to the sunshine.

Truth to Seize

Day 291: Everyone needs a hand up at some time or another.  Remember to pay the kindness forward.
Day 291: Everyone needs a hand up at some time or another. Remember to pay the kindness forward.

What are you feeling especially grateful for this month?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.

Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

Already read one of more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

A New Library In Town: One Stop For Writers

If there’s one thing all writers agree on, it’s that writing is TOUGH. The road to publication twists and dips as we learn the craft, hone our abilities, create stories we’re passionate about, fight discouragement, educate ourselves about the industry…and then start the process all over again as we realize there’s room to improve. But you know what? If you are like me, you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Yet, sometimes it’s nice to get a helping hand.

Finding a good writing book, a helpful blog, a mentor or critique partner to share the journey with…these things are gems along the writing path.

And guess what? Maybe there’s another resource waiting just up the road called One Stop For Writers.


One Stop For Writers is not writing software, but rather a powerful online library that contains tools, unique description collections, helpful tutorials and much more, brought to you by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, the authors of The Emotion Thesaurus and Lee Powell, the creator of Scrivener for Windows.

Could One Stop For Writers be the writing partner you’ve been searching for? Visit Writers Helping Writers this week and see, where Angela, Lee and Becca are celebrating their venture with prizes and some pay-it-forward fun.

 

This is Me … Begging

Logo GradientI am amazed and thrilled that nearly 300 people in a world of seven billion subscribe to my blog. And yet, I’m going to beg all of you for a small favor.

Before you delete this email, I promise to make my plead short and sweet.

I would love for you to subscribe to my infrequent update mailing list. At the moment, less than seven percent (7%) of the incredible readers of this blog do.

All you have to do is click here and fill in three short blanks and hit the “submit” button. Easy – peasy.

Why I ask

Being able to contact people interested in reading what I write is essential to building a writing career. The number one way marketing gurus everywhere agree to do this is to have a list of email addresses of people who WANT to read your stuff.

Is that you? If so, I promise not to fill your email inbox with junk. In six months, I have sent exactly THREE newsletters.

Think you might be interested? Sign up here.

What You’re Signing up For

newsletterIf you complete this form, you’re telling me it’s OK with you if I send you information about upcoming book releases. I also might send information about personal appearances (but I don’t have any of these on my immediate horizon).

This isn’t a weekly newsletter. It probably won’t even wing its way to you on a monthly basis.

I will give you a hint, though. This fall, I have two exciting new releases on the schedule. Once I have specific details, people signed up for my newsletter will get all the details.

I’m also offering access to a subscriber-only short story. When you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll get access to the story.

The newsletters will offer special promotional prices and easy links for purchasing from your favorite retailer.

I appreciate you reading to the end of this post.

I love you if you sign up for the newsletter. Click. Complete. Submit.

You make my world a better place.

End of this begging session. Now back to your regularly scheduled blog reading.

Road to Published – Polishing your Manuscript

Write. Rewrite. Edit. Revise. Edit. Polish. Repeat.

Any writer worth reading after will tell you the creative process of writing is more often about the concerted effort of perfecting previously written words.

To that end, I have a library of books on the subject. I follow blogs of respected authors who address pitfalls. If you’re a writer, you should do the same thing.

If you’re just a reader, wanting to ogle a writer in their native surroundings, you don’t care about that stuff. You want to know about my process.

One of Many

PlotA gaggle of books have been written on this topic. (Did I mention I own an entire book case of tomes on writing craft?) My process isn’t the only way to take a manuscript from first draft to saleable pages.

My method is derived from the process James Scott Bell describes in his book Plot & Structure. I’ve detailed that in an earlier post.

I use several books to help me make each pass through my manuscript count. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and Mastering Showing and Telling are two of these books.

Self-Editing devotes a chapter to the most common problems found in fiction manuscripts. There are exercises at the end of each to help you hone your editing skills.

Marcy Kennedy’s book gives a list of search terms to use in MS Word during the revision phase. When they show up in your manuscript, it’s a good indicator you’ve entered the realm of telling.  And we all know readers want us to show them what happens.

Start at the Beginning

Regardless of the process you choose, you’ll need to start at the beginning. You’ll need to face the fact that this revision, editing and polishing process is going to take longer than the actual writing.

Top three pages - the other 18 look just as lovely
Top three pages – the other 18 look just as lovely

That shouldn’t discourage you. In fact, experience writers tend to have a different view. After they’ve learned to effectively polish their manuscript, it helps them write a cleaner first draft.

Someday, you might write a cleaner draft, too. I know I haven’t reached that place with my novels, but when I wrote three short stories back-to-back, the third one had the cleanest of all first drafts.

I begin by printing out the entire manuscript. I read through it, line by line – aloud. I replace weak words using my thesaurus. Sentences that are clunky on my tongue get rewritten.

Those pages look like a mass of lines and scribbles. At the end of a chapter (or three), I take the cluttered pages back to my computer and enter the revisions while they are fresh in my mind. Sometimes, I revise these as I’m typing along.

Once I finish this, a minimum of three full days of work, I compile from Scrivener into a Word document. And let the searches begin.

I’m looking for all “to be” verbs and exchanging them for strong action verbs when possible. I’m eliminating adverbs and tightening all sentences to their barest.

After this stage, I usually walk away from the manuscript for at least a week. When I return, I can use the search function to eliminate repeated words. One of my published author idols tells how to do this in one of her posts. I recommend reading her whole “Gold Mine Manuscript” series.

When you’re finished – you’re NOT

Whew! All done.

Wrong.

Now, it’s time to reprint the manuscript. Read it aloud. Line by line.

Some people recommend starting from the end. I haven’t tried that yet, but if you’re already sick of your story, this might be a way to see it from a fresh perspective.

More scribbles appear on your crisp pages. Each day of grueling editing work is followed by the data entry aspect.

Eyes burn. Words swim across your vision. A woodpecker takes up residence inside your skull – rapping out a message in the middle of your forehead.

If you can convince someone else to proofread the manuscript once you finish this “polishing run,” your manuscript will be better for it.

Otherwise, plan to take at least a week away from it between the final red-pen pass and the proofing stage.

Write. Rewrite. Edit. Polish. This mantra repeats over and over for every story, article, and book I breathe into existence.

Publishing isn’t just vomiting a story onto the page and sending it out to be loved. Writing takes work.

Before your story is ready to step onto the stage of being marketed to agents or editors, or be independently published, you will never want to read it again.

I’m serious.

What is your favorite step in this process? Least favorite? Does anything in my process surprise you?

Stir the Pot to Gain Comments

I confess that I follow at least two blogs that are known to tackle controversial topics on a regular basis. I enjoy listening to those writers build their case and I’m intrigued by some of the intelligent responses they garner.

I don’t share these posts. Most of the time, I don’t even press the “Like” button. Even if I like them.

According to social media Jedi Master Kristen Lamb, tackling controversy is a sure way to ruin your platform.  Unless you write controversial non-fiction. When you’re trying to convince mothers everywhere that they should buy your young adult fantasy book for their teenagers and their nieces and nephews? Best to avoid the debatable topics.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to bring people to my blog. If they visit, they rarely comment. How can I increase participation without resorting to the platform-destroying tactic of blogging about hot news items and inciting an argument?

I’ve done my best to avoid filling this blog with samples of my fiction writing. I try to honestly share things – from my family, my insights and my heart – with my readers.

Sometimes, I can even pull off humor. Mostly, it’s just sarcasm, but people who know me well say most of my posts sound like me. My authentic voice is coming through. Shouldn’t that draw people in?

This is the part where I open it up to those of you who took the time to visit my blog. Please help me out. I sincerely desire your input to make my blog more entertaining and interactive. Choose one or more of these questions to respond to in the comments section:

How can I increase participation on my blog?
Does my voice seem authentic to you?
What sort of topics would you be interested in reading about here?