Sometimes You Have to Push Through It

Long intro (you might want to skip):

I haven’t had a week where it was like pulling teeth to write anything in a long time.  The problem has to do with what I’ve been eating. I haven’t felt this bad since I was about 34 or 35. I’m 43 now, and I have felt tons better since adjusting my diet. I’m 43, guys. You know what that means? I KNOW better than to eat things that are going to make me feel like crap. Basically, I feel like someone hit me in the head with a baseball bat. And it’s all because I let myself slip into eating and even drinking a lot of sugary products. As much as this sucks to feel this way, I’m actually grateful my body is sensitive to what I do with it because it forces me to behave. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. 😛

Anyway, I noticed that over the past week, I’ve been getting more and more restless and more and more anal to be around. This is what happens when I don’t write on a consistent schedule. I’ve been allowing myself days off as I’m wiping the sugar out of my system. The moment I stopped eating and drinking sugar, I actually felt worse. I expect this phase to last a few more days while my body gets rid of the junk I put into it this summer.

Today I’m making myself write. I need to. For the sake of my sanity and the sanity of those poor people living with me, I need to write today. I just got 1,013 words down, and I feel so much more relaxed. I have three more stories to tackle before I’m done.

Okay, now for the actual post:

Here are some things I’ve learned from all of this that I thought might be useful in case someone is dealing with the problem of getting into their own writing projects. 

1. Eat and drink stuff that promotes clear thinking and energy for writing.

It’s basic stuff like that this that’s easy to let fall to the side. We all know what’s good and what isn’t, so I won’t go into all of that. As a rule of thumb, if something makes you feel like crap later on, avoid it.

2. Get on a regular sleeping schedule if you can.

I need to do this for my eyes. My eyes have always done way better if I get to bed and wake up around the same time every day. I know some of you don’t have this option. Some people (or their spouses) have erratic working schedules. I don’t know what the answer is in that situation, but you have my sympathies.

3. Have a routine.

I find if I write around the same time every day, it’s much easier to get into the writing mood. Now, I do allow for 2-3 days off of writing every week so I don’t burn out. I usually use this time to do other things like book covers, emails, blog posts, formatting my books, and other tasks to keep the overall business going. This is more of the publisher side coming out to work. But even having this time helps me stay in the writing mindset because it has to do with what I do.

4. Divide responsibilities for certain days.

I find it too hectic to try to cram in the writing stuff and publisher duties in the same day. Since I write fiction, I’m using the right side of my brain on writing days. When I act as publisher, I’m using the left side of my brain. I think focusing on writing on some days and focusing on publisher duties on other days is a good way to divide up one’s attention and helps for greater productivity.

5. Do small steps for improvement.

I think aiming for small obtainable goals is way easier than trying to do big ones. Each small step is building a foundation that leads to bigger goals down the road.

People often ask how do I manage more than one book at a time. I didn’t start out this way. I started with one book where I wrote whenever I felt like it. Then I started a goal of one chapter a day. When I added two books to my list, I started the word count goal. I used to have a blog post where my goal was 500 words a day. (I got this idea from another author.) I did this in addition to my other book. I liked that method so much that I added another book to my list with the goal of 1000 words in one book and 1000 words total in two other books. From there, I bumped up the word count goal to 3,000 words in a writing day.

It took me a total of 10 years to get to this point. It was a very slow process. Only a couple of months ago did I add one more book to the list. At the moment, my word count goal is still 3,000 words (which is 750 words per book), but I would like to bump that up to 3,250 words a writing day by the end of the year. Remember, I only do this 4-5 days a week. I would never do this every day. It would burn me out.

6. Think in small word count or small time intervals.

I think in terms of small word count intervals. (Though you can think of this in terms of 15-minute intervals if you want. Usually, I get 250 words in 15 minutes.)

My current goal is at least 250 words per book every day that I sit down to write. This turns out to be a total of 1,000 words. I usually find that once I’m writing, I write more than 250 words in a story. The story starts to flow around the 250-word mark, which is why I pick that number. Plus, if I tell myself I only need to do 250 words, then I’m more likely to do it.

So I’ll sit down and write 250 words without distractions (minus kids or husband). That means NO internet and NO phone calls. Nothing. If you go to the internet or get on the phone, it’s going to be a lot harder to make the word count goals. Internet and phone can be a reward for getting the writing done.

Usually after I finish the first 250 words, I go on for another 250 words. By then, I make myself take a 5-10 minute break. During this time, I am thinking of what I want to write next. Do I continue on with Book 1 or go to Book 2? What comes next in either story? Which one am I most compelled to write at the moment?

When I return, I pick whatever book I want and go for another 250 words. If I want to keep writing in that book, I’ll go for another 250 words right away. If not, I take another break (this one about 15-30 minutes) to shift my mindset to the next book. It does take a few minutes to get into another book.

So anyway, I repeat this process until I’m done for the day.

Now, if I don’t hit all four books, that’s okay. I don’t beat myself up over it. My main goal is still 3,000 words a day. I don’t write in every book on every writing day. There are times I do, but there are times I don’t. It’s better to write 250 words in a book where the ideas are flowing than to stare at a blank screen for a half hour. I give myself 15 minutes. If I can’t get into the story in 15 minutes, I close it for the day and go on to another book.

7. Don’t play catch-up.

I used to try this, and it killed my motivation. If you are consistently trying to make up for word counts you didn’t get the day before, you are snowballing your word count for the day, and the goal starts to become overwhelming. If the goal starts to become overwhelming, you aren’t likely to meet it. I know this is a hard one for people to do. It is for me. I’m a Type A personality. I want to get stuff done. I hate not reaching goals. But starting out each day with a clean slate helps relax the mind, and a relaxed mind writes much more efficiently than a tired mind does.

8. Sometimes you have to write even when you don’t feel like it.

a. Think of writing as a job.

If we wait for the muse to show up, we’ll get a lot less done. I realize there are some who don’t want to think of writing for fun as a job, but I think of it as a job. I have to. If I don’t, I don’t take it seriously. I don’t stick to my routine. I don’t push myself to do better. You can have fun doing a job. It’s not true that thinking of writing as a job ruins the fun. I’ve had a couple of jobs in the past that were fun.

b. Set the goal lower for the day.

If you are having one of those days where you’re feeling like crap (like I am today), set the goal lower than you usually would. It is better to get 1,000 words out than 3,000. Every little bit moves you closer to the overall goal, which is a finished book.

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Updates on What I’m Doing

First of all, I’m very pleased with the changes I made to two of my fantasies that are decades old. All this time, I felt like something was missing, and now that I finally got that resolved. I feel like the romance between the main hero and heroine lead is finally complete. This is why I will always and forever be a romance writer, no matter what other genre I dip my toes into.

Second, I am halfway into my pen name’s book. This isn’t a fantasy like the others were. This one is a straight out YA thriller where a girl saw her student kill a classmate, and no one believes her. The student is now coming for her, and unless she can prove he committed the crime, her time will be up.

Part of keeping the creative process going is working on multiple genres. I don’t know what it is about dabbling with different genres that do this, but each time I do, I notice the creativity explode when I work on romance.

Speaking of which…here is what I’m doing in the romance genre…

The Perfect Wife will be out August 25

The Perfect Wife Ebook Cover3

Click here to pre-order!

I got it up on all the channels. I notice that Amazon isn’t linking my series recently, and one theory is that it’s because I’m doing pre-orders over there. The Perfect Duke (Book 4 in the Marriage by Fate Series) never linked up with its series on Amazon. When I put The Perfect Wife (Book 3 in the Misled Mail Order Brides Series), it didn’t link up to its series on Amazon, either.

So I’ll put up my next book without doing a pre-order for it on Amazon. If that book does link up to the series it’s supposed to be in, then I know it’s a pre-order issue. If it doesn’t, then I know I have another problem going on. Fortunately, I’m not having this problem at other retailers. When things don’t run smoothly, it causes a certain degree of stress. I’ll keep an eye on this situation.

One Enchanted Evening is over halfway done

One Enchanted Evening ebook cover

Click here to pre-order!

I expect to finish the first draft at the end of this month. I am almost at 50,000 words, and things are building up for the final event of the story. This one has a gothic feel to it. There is the fairy tale undertone to it. That is the foundation of the story. It’s loosely based off of Cinderella, except Cinderella isn’t so perfect and her step-sister knows it. It’s the ideal setup for a gothic historical romance, and since it takes place in the Regency world, I’m putting it under the Regencies category in my book list.

This one has been especially fun to write. I’ve explored dark areas of my writing that I haven’t done before. It’s been a challenge, to say the least, and it’s always fun to stretch the creative muscles to try something new. I had the climax of this story in mind before I even started it, and I’m so excited to get to it! I loved the climax in The Marriage Contract where the hero was forced into a sword fight then pursued on horseback toward the bridge. Honestly, that is one of my favorite endings of all time. I’m looking forward the end of this book, too, with the same kind of excitement. I don’t want to say what it is because I don’t want to spoil it.

The Imperfect Husband is at 16,000 words now

 

 

I average 60,000 words a book, so this gives you an idea of how far I am into it.  This one gave me a huge “Oh wow!” moment the last two days I’ve written in it. I had no idea part of the hero’s reason for being so insecure and shy around Annabelle stems from his relationship with his family. I thought it was weird that he didn’t run off to his parents right away at the beginning of this book. I noticed he felt easier around Annabelle’s family than his own, but I had no idea why. I just knew I had to trust the process and that there was a good reason for it. (This is the subconscious mind at work for us pansters.)

Anyway, I got to the scene where he and Annabelle go to have dinner with his parents, and all at once, so many pieces of the puzzle fell into place, and I was so excited as I started piecing them together. Now I understand him so much better. The poor guy has a younger brother who is the favorite, and he’s used to being second place in a lot of ways. Annabelle is the only one who is going to be able to help him realize his full value. That is going to be fun to work out!

I’m actually making good progress in Shane’s Deal

Shane's Deal new ebook cover

Yep, this one is Book 4 in the Montana Collection, and it’s finally getting done. Madeline Thompson (the woman the men at the beginning of Boaz’s Wager were searching for) has finally shown up in Lewistown, and the hero has signed up to protect her. It’ll be interesting to see how the story progresses, but I know the mayor is going to finally be exposed for the sneaky lowlife he is. If you remember Boaz’s Wager and Patty’s Gamble, you know the mayor isn’t that nice of a guy. I’m looking forward to giving the mayor what’s coming to him.

Kidnapping the Viscount is a lot more fun than I expected

Kidnapping the Viscount Ebook Cover

Click here to pre-order

I really love the dynamic between the hero and heroine in this book. The heroine think she’s the one calling the shots, but it’s really the hero who’s doing it.

My original idea was for this to be a brooding kind of hero who is forced to marry the heroine, and I expected him to be upset with her for half of the book. If I was writing this to market, that is how I would write this. However, since I’ve gone back to embracing the passionate side of writing again, I thought, “I’d rather have the hero be someone with a great sense of humor who really wants to be with the heroine but wants her to prove how much she wants to be with him since she rejected his proposal in the past.” And he’s going to do this in a way that will make the book a humorous read. This is not a book for people who prefer things to be serious. This is a light-hearted and fun romance where nothing is taken seriously.

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As I glance through the stuff I wrote about the romances, I realize that, even within romance, I like variety. I don’t like to stick with one type of story. I think doing different kinds of romance (gothic, sentimental, humorous, some more spicy than others) help to keep me at my most creative. I’m not the kind of author who can only write one thing, regardless of the genre I’m in. I think this might also help me write more than one book at a time. Since these books are all so different, it’s easier to keep them all separate. Now, I do slip once in a while and call a character the wrong name, but stuff like that gets found during the edits. So anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing how these stories all play out.

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Get the Book Right the First Time (A Writer’s Reflection)

You’d think by now, I would have learned this lesson. I’ve been writing since I was in high school. I did things from YA and adult romances, which never saw the light of day–it was the efforts of a 15 and 16-year-old, so be glad you were spared that horror :P. After high school, I did science fiction to fantasy to thrillers. I started writing adult romance in 2007 and quickly realized this was the genre I loved writing most. So with all of that experience under my belt, you think I would have learned that it’s important to get the story exactly the way I want it the first time.

And yet, yesterday I was adding some scenes I had always wanted to put into one of my fantasies but hadn’t because of fear. I hate fear. Fear is the thing that prevents a story from becoming the best it can be. Fear comes in to destroy the creative process. Instead of looking at what’s right, it looks at all the things that will make a story wrong. Fear is based on what other people might think. It goes against what the characters want.

Though I am not a fantasy writer, I do love the four fantasies I wrote way back in the day, and I have a soft spot for them. I don’t often go back over them, but I had the inkling to last week, so I’ve been working my way through them. As I was listening to them on my Kindle (using that text-to-speech feature), I realized I wasn’t happy with Books 2 and 3. Not totally happy. Something was missing. I knew what that something was, but did I have the courage to do something about it? And did I dare take the time from other writing projects to make them?

Sometimes it’s hard for a writer to have the courage to do what will make the story 100% what the author had envisioned. Like I said, fear creeps in, and it can be crippling to the creative side. My fantasies aren’t popular. They aren’t my main focus. My main focus is romance, and I want it to stay that way. I dabble in other genres because I get the urge to do so once in a while, and I find it actually enhances my creativity so when I go back to romance, the ideas flow better than before. This isn’t something a savvy marketer would do, but I’m not going to worry about that angle of things anymore. I’m done with it. I just want to go back to having fun, and fortunately, I’m in the position where I can do that. For the authors who need to write specifically to a market in order to make ends meet, you have my sympathies. I know that is not easy!

Anyway, I spent yesterday changing Book 2. I uploaded it to Smashwords, and then I downloaded the Smashwords version to my Kindle so I can listen to it. The changes don’t change the story. It won’t do that for Book 3, either, which is why I’m only going to upload the new version to Smashwords. Smashwords will send out the versions to the retailers like B&N, Kobo, and Apple, but I don’t download books from those sites to listen to on my Kindle. I would use a Nook, Kobo device, or my iPhone if it came with the text-to-speech feature on my books, but alas, it doesn’t.

Since I’m that tech savvy, it took me an hour to figure out how to get a mobi file from my desktop to my Kindle. It turned out, I had to download an app to make the transfer possible. This morning I have a headache because I went through this craziness right before bed, and it took some trial and error to get it right. But see, Amazon doesn’t automatically update the interior files of a book. It does update covers (after some time), but it doesn’t do interior updates, and these changes are so small that it’s not worth bugging Amazon about it (nor am I going to update the books on Amazon). Smashwords, however, is very easy to update anything, so that’s why I’m doing it over there.  I know a lot of people complain about Smashwords, but I love Smashwords for the ease it provides authors and readers. (Okay, I will admit figuring out how to get a Smashwords mobi file up to my Kindle wasn’t a piece of cake, but now that I know how to do it, it will be easy.)

So anyway….

To get back to the point….

Stories need to be told in the spirit of the creative voice. Fear (aka critical voice) will make the story less than what it should be. Now, I know there’s a balance that needs to be employed somewhere along the way, but when a writer feels like something is missing from the book, then that feeling has to trump trying to appease potential readers who won’t like it.

That’s what fear is in a nutshell: it’s worrying over what someone might think when they read the book. Sometimes the criticism is valid. I still think the changes I made at the last minute to The Perfect Wife made the story better. I’m happier with the final version. Having an editing team is good for some checks and balances. In the case of The Perfect Wife, this helped me get the book right the first time. Now it’s on pre-order, and I can walk away from it, knowing I got it the way I wanted it. The fantasy books, however, were a different matter, so I have to go back and tweak on it so that I’m happy with the final product.

In the end, writers are stuck with the books they write. Regardless of whether the books sell or not, they belong to the writers, and this is why (in my opinion), it’s important that the writers are happy with the finished product. Otherwise, the writers might find themselves in the position I’m in. They might be wishing they’d had the courage to write the story a different way in years to come. Yeah, money is nice. No one is going to argue that, but there’s something about being satisfied in the long run with something you created that supersedes financial rewards.

My goal moving forward is to get each book right the first time so that I don’t have to go back and change things later on.

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