Inspirational Video for Writers: Follow Your Passion

I stumbled upon this video this morning, and while it’s geared toward aspiring writers, it can also fit for writers who’ve been doing this for a while. This video is under 3 minutes, but there’s a lot of wisdom in it.

When I published my first indie book in 2009, the authors around me who decided to also publish their own books were doing so for the passion of writing. We were glad to finally have an avenue to publish our stories that didn’t require a ton of money or a publisher telling us to change them.

(Now, don’t get me wrong. I think traditional publishing is wonderful. I have nothing against it. But I am grateful to indie publishing because it opened up doors most authors wouldn’t have had open to them otherwise.)

So, early on, the mindset of most authors in indie publishing was on writing for passion. I don’t know exactly when the mindset shifted in the indie community, but it seemed that most authors started entering the indie publishing world in order to make money around 2013-2014. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money if you’re writing. If you can write books you love and make money at it, that’s great. My concern is when money is THE MAIN REASON you’re writing. Writing stories for the purpose of making money will end up stifling your passion. When you stifle your passion, writing becomes more of a chore than a labor of love, and if it keeps being a chore, you’re going to probably end up bitter and resentful. Something you once loved can become something you hate.

I don’t think the “writing to market” mindset really exploded until 2015-2016. Suddenly, there were courses all over the place where authors could learn how to write to market. You couldn’t get away from it, or at least, I couldn’t. This philosophy was all over You Tube, in podcasts, in author forums, on Facebook, and in blog posts. These all led to me feeling like a failure as a writer because I couldn’t measure up to the level of success some authors were “so easily” obtaining. And, now that I think about it, it probably made a lot of other authors feel the same way.

But it seems that this phase is starting to fizzle out. I think authors are beginning to realize that writing to market doesn’t work well in the longterm. You can sustain it for a few years, but sooner or later, the chore of writing what others want (instead of what you want) starts to take its toll on you. Oftentimes, I don’t even think writers are aware of how much of a toll it’s taking until they wake up one day feeling as if all of their energy is gone, which is where I was at in March 2018.

Writing what you’re passionate about is energizing. It fills you up. Since writing for passion in October 2018, I have been averaging 3500-4500 words every writing day. (I take weekends off, and sometimes a day or two off during the week. You do NEED breaks!) At this time last year, I was struggling to reach 3000 words, and sometimes I would only manage 2000 on a good day (even with the breaks). So yes, there is a huge difference between writing to market and writing for passion. And honestly, I’m super excited about all of the books I have coming out this year. I want to go back and reread them, even though I just finished editing them. These are what passion books are like. They’re the keepers.

I think as we move forward in indie publishing, we’ll realize that “writing to market” is unsustainable. As the men in the video I posted above said, there IS room for passion books in the market. But it takes courage to pursue passion because the world is only impressed with a big sales number (aka lots of money). The world isn’t impressed with a story written out of love. The world wants to hear the success stories of how an author sold a million copies or made a six-figure income in under a year.

But at the end of the day, I believe writing stories for passion will produce books that resonate with the people who read them. I have never once regretted the time I spent on a book I wrote for passion. I’ve done quite a few books for passion that have sold very little. For example, one series didn’t even earn $50 in 2018. (Keep in mind that is an entire series, not just one book.) I have other examples just like that, too. But I’m still glad I wrote them. I go back and reread them, and I enjoy them as much today as I did when I wrote them. Most of my books don’t make much money. It’s a myth that all writers are making a lot of money off of their books, whether they indie or traditionally publish.

This is why it’s important to focus on the main thing that truly matters if you’re writing: a book’s real worth boils down to how much that book touches the person who reads it. That is why writing for passion is so powerful. Books are more than words on paper; they are an emotional experience to be savored.

So for those of you who might be feeling discouraged, I just want to say that it’s okay if your book isn’t a big seller. We shouldn’t be measuring our worth by a dollar amount. We should be measuring it by the joy we have and the joy we can pass on to others. There is a place for your book in this world. There is a story only you can tell. So I encourage you to follow the advice the two men in this video offered. That advice will sustain you for a lifetime in the writing world.

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Updates on What I’m Writing

First and foremost, I do have one book on pre-order for March 2 (that is The Imperfect Husband), and two books in the editing stages (Shane’s Deal and Kidnapping the Viscount). I haven’t forgotten about these. I’m just pretty much done with them.

What I’m going to discuss today is what I’m currently writing. 

Something that surprised me is that I didn’t get really excited about any of these four current works in progress until I hit the 15,000 word mark. That’s really strange, and I don’t remember if that is how it used to be when I started writing romances back in 2007.

To put things in perspective on how long it’ll probably take me to finish these books, my average word count for a book is between 50,000 to 70,000 words.

Anyway, here’s my progress in each book:

The Wedding Pact (Marriage by Fairytale: Book 3) is at 26,000 words!

The Wedding Pact ebook cover

This is loosely based off of Little Red Riding Hood, but I added a lot of other elements that makes this a unique story. So we have the heroine who wears red as she’s fleeing, you have a villain with the title Lord Wolfe (not very original but I wanted to do it, so I did), and the cottage in the middle of the nowhere. But that’s pretty much where the similarities between this story and the tale of Little Red Riding Hood end.

At the end of last week, I was struggling with which direction to transition it from the hero marrying the heroine to where the hero’s brothers start dying off. My original plan was to have him go to Mr. Stephen Bachman’s home since the hero is friends with him, but I realized that didn’t really excite me. So I decided instead to send the hero and heroine off to London where the hero (Vicar Julian Roskin) could face his older two brothers who hate him for something terrible he did. And that’s where things got really fun for me. I had no idea what terrible thing Julian had done in the past, but it was fun to write the scene and flesh things out so that the answer came to me. And then I got even greater ideas from there. I don’t want to spoil the book, but it’s going to be fun to weave in gothic-like elements that I’ve been itching to get at for a while now.

Nelly’s Mail Order Husband (Husbands for the Larson Sisters: Book 1) is at 27,000 words.

Nelly's Mail Order Husband for website

This is turning into such a cute romantic comedy. Nelly is Tom and Jessica Larson’s oldest daughter. Nelly is determined to run a homestead without the help of a man because she’s afraid he’ll want to take over and run it for her, thereby confining her to the kitchen all day. Nelly’s three younger sisters can’t imagine how their sister will really be happy without a husband, so they take it upon themselves to answer an ad from a man back in Boston who’s looking for a wife.

I’m at the point where Nelly’s already found out about this, and she agrees to marry him only because there’s a neighboring homesteader who won’t leave her alone.  This neighbor is a guy who’s a lot an unredeemed Neil Craftsman. So yeah, he’s definitely not the kind of person our heroine should be marrying.

Anyway, I just got through writing a couple of scenes where our hero, Val, has had to milk a cow and muck out stalls, both things that are nothing like what he imagined his life was going to be like when he came out to Omaha. He had (wrongly) assumed that a landowner had lots of money and servants, so now he’s having to adjust to doing things he never once imagined he’d ever do. I’m laughing through most of the scenes as I’m writing them. The poor guy wasn’t prepared at all for this.

I have an idea of where I’m heading with this, and if all goes as I think they will, this will be one time where the heroine is going to save the hero, which would be a nice change of pace.

Fairest of Them All (Marriage by Fairytale: Book 4) is at 27,000 words.

fairest of them all ebook cover

First off, this is not a retelling of Snow White. It’s inspiration did come from Snow White, but there are very little similarities between that fairy tale and this romance. The elements that it has in common is a step-mother, a mirror, and beauty. But that is where all similarities end. Because in this version, the step-mother is the heroine. The  hero is the step-father, and he’s alive, though he believes himself to be under a curse that kills every wife who looks at him. The heroine (Viola) and her step-daughter do have some friction because the step-daughter assumes the heroine is going to die because of the curse, but she has to let the heroine chaperone her since it’s her first Season.

This book is a lot of fun because I’m getting to work with gothic elements. It’s primarily a romance. The focus is on the main couple as they fall in love. But within that is the contrast of beauty vs darkness of the human soul. The townhouse does figure into the feeling of darkness that hovers over the hero’s life, though it’s just beneath the surface, and it’s something that must be overcome. This is not a supernatural book. All elements have a natural cause. My stories all take place in the real world, and I’ll keep them there. But I thought it’d be fun to have a townhouse that had the spooky feeling to it.

Anyway, I’m at the point where the heroine is aware of the heaviness that hangs in the air, and she’s just decided to fight against it. The hero has spent so much time in isolation from the rest of the world that he’d definitely weaker than most heroes. He longs for a meaningful human connection but has been afraid to take it because he feels like he dooms everyone around him. I haven’t gotten too far into his point of view. I had to deal with the heroine first since (at the moment) she’s more open to me than he is. We’ll get there with him, though. She’ll draw him out, and when she does, I’ll be able to dive more into who he is.

Okay, now for the fourth book…

Forever Yours (Dave and Mary’s third book) is at 15,000 words.

COVER COMING SOON

Today, I finally got my full-blown enthusiasm for this book. I’m excited about the other three, but I had an easier time getting into those than I did this one.

Something I never said (but always felt) is that Dave and Mary were meant to have a trilogy, each being a standalong novel. When I wrote Eye of the Beholder, I felt there were two more books I should write. I wrote To Have and To Hold, and then I got distracted with other books.

I want to do their third book justice. I’m happy with their other two books, and I want to be happy with this one, too. So I took longer to get into this one. I had to get back into the mindset of the characters. This is a book where the characters are already established, and I want to be true to who they are. I had to go through my timelines and figure out how old each of the children are, and that isn’t only for Dave and Mary but for all of the Larson family. I spent a couple of weeks getting re-acquainted with the entire family.

I’m finally into the groove of the story now, and I must say that it’s not turning out to be the way I expected. Dave did fall off a horse and break his leg, like I had planned. But I have to be honest. I’m chuckling through most of the scenes I’m writing. I didn’t chuckled through Eye of the Beholder or To Have and To Hold, but I’m laughing a lot in this one. So this might actually turn into a lighthearted story.

And maybe that’s what they need. Maybe after all the hard times they’ve faced, they need a lighthearted book. Maybe that’s the perfect way to tie up the three books dedicated specifically to this couple. I do think Dave will still have to face a bout of insecurity, but I don’t think it’s going to be as long or deep as I originally expected.

I’m going to let Dave and Mary take me where they want me to go. I’ve learned a long time ago to trust the characters to tell the best story possible.

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Yes, It Is Possible To Fall In Love With Writing Again

if you trying being good at everything you will never be great in anything

ID 136842390 © Rio Satriawan | Dreamstime.com

I don’t recall if I shared this, but there were a couple of times over the last year where I began to wonder if it was possible to ever fall in love with writing after I left the “writing to market” mindset. Though I enjoyed what I was working on, I didn’t fall in love with my stories like I had when I started writing romances back in late 2007.

Those initial years of getting my feet wet in indie publishing and figuring out what kind of romances I most wanted to write was like a courtship. Everything came so easy. I didn’t think about word count or money. I just sat down and wrote the story that came to mind. I joined the characters on the journey they took me on, and when each story was over, I felt this huge sense of sorrow that there was no more story to tell. I never thought that feeling would return, especially after being wrapped up in word counts, book promotion, sales, etc, etc…

I had brief periods last year where I would get a boost or two along the enthusiasm radar, but I’ll be honest, most days I had to force myself to sit in the chair and write. I enjoyed the story, but I had to make myself write it.  The reason for this is obvious now that I look back on it. I was detoxing from the “writing to market” mindset. Apparently, just making the decision to write for passion wasn’t like turning on a switch and making all of my dreams come true. It took time to re-train my brain to think the way I thought back in 2007.

Looking back, I realize this was bound to happen. No one acquires a habit overnight. It takes time and perseverance. I hadn’t adopted the writing to mindset philosophy right away, either. I’m not even sure when it slipped it, but I know it grew bigger and bigger the more I focused on podcasts, blog posts, and books aimed at selling more books. I also had conversations with other authors in forums and in emails where this was the dominant theme. Authors weren’t concerned much about the craft of storytelling. They were much more interested in maximizing the money they were making.

For example, today alone, I got an email with the headline, “How an author doubled her income on the first book in her series.” This is from a site that isn’t known for pushing the book promotion, so I was surprised to see that email. But it shows how prevalent this mindset is in the writing community. I continually have to delete and unsubscribe from this stuff because it only pulls me back in, and I don’t want to go back to that.

When I think on it, it’s sad that very few of the conversations I had over the past few years had anything to do with the love of writing. I remember starting out with publishing ebooks in 2009, and the conversations I had with most authors were focused on the love of writing. We were indie publishing because we didn’t want a publisher coming in and telling us to do with our stories. We wanted freedom to write what was in our hearts to write. Sink or swim, the focus was on creating the best book we were inspired to write. And it was so easy to write those kinds of books. Those books pretty much wrote themselves. All we did was record the movie that was playing out in our minds. And it was natural that falling in love with the story would happen. Ending the story was saying goodbye and moving on. It was hard to do.

I never felt sad when I finished a book that was written to market. I was relieved. Why? Because I could finally publish it, make money, and start the next book. And as I write that, I cringe. That shouldn’t be the driving focus of writing a book, especially not one that is fiction. I only confess this because if some other writer is struggling with trying to find their passion same way I was last year, they’ll know they’re not alone. Sometimes it’s nice to know you’re not the only person who’s struggled through something. I was relieved when I found out Dean Wesley Smith grew to hate the critical voice when writing. (That critical voice is what writing to market is all about. It’s always looking at what others want in the book instead of letting characters tell you what will be in it.) What he wrote about critical vs. creative voice in his book, Writing into the Dark, resonated with me, and it gave me hope that I could once again fall in love with writing.

Anyway, it took me almost an entire year before I finally shook off the last remnants of the writing to market philosophy. It is HARD to train the brain to think differently once an idea takes a root. But I finally did it. In December, for the first time in years, I finished three books that are 100% passion based. I was sad to see all of those books end, and I missed working in them for a full month. It was only when I got about 15,000 words into my current books that I began to fall in love with the new ones. Once you’ve had an amazing high while writing one book, it’s hard to think another book will ever be as wonderful. But it turns out that falling in love with the next book is possible. It might take some time while you get to know the characters and figure out the story they want to take you on, but it’s definitely possible.

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