A Part of an Author’s Life: Moving Past Fear

Jamie DeBree shared a post by Claire Farrell  titled The Courage to be Crap and Not Compete.   It discussed how fear can hold an author back, and boy, did it ever hit home for me.  It was, in fact, just what I needed to hear, especially when I am emerging with a pen name this year. 

Something hard to explain is that my heart and soul are tied exclusively with what I write under my real name.  Those are the stories that mean the most to me and probably always will.  I have moments where I feel that I haven’t measured up and wonder when my next 1 or 2 star review will come in, but I have enough readers now where I know some people do enjoy my work and their support and encouragement have given me a firm foundation to keep going no matter how much others don’t like my work.  Having a first draft blog, as Jamie DeBree mentioned in the comments on that post does combat a lot of the fears.  When you write out your first draft, you’re pretty much at your ‘worst’ and can only get better when it’s time to polish things up. 

Having my first draft blog has helped me in a lot of ways, but the most profound way was knowing that even in first draft, some people enjoy what
I’m writing, and that’s what I mean about support and encouragement.  If I didn’t have that first draft blog, I never would have met some of my readers who later became what I consider friends.  I’m not saying we’re really close or anything, but I’m comfortable with them now and feel like I’m sitting down to chat when they leave comments on the blog or on Facebook.  It makes going to the blog fun.

But anyway, what I haven’t been established in and worry that I won’t be able to establish myself in a positive way is my pen name.  Had I no experience with publishing and promoting a book, I would be as blissfully ignorant of the good and bad stuff as I was when I started out writing romances under my real name.  Back then, it was easy to write because I thought I’d be the only person who ever read my work.  Now I’m aware that when you publish, you can end up with a book that gets pretty far out there.  Ebooks have made this possible, and it’s easier today for any author to find an audience than it was before ebooks picked up in popularity.

I already published my first short story and made it free via my publisher.  My publisher also happens to be a friend.  She runs the show.  The only reason I went with her as opposed to another publisher was because I maintain full control of my work and I can remove my books at any time.  I think that’s the only way I can ever be happy going through a publisher, to be honest. 

The stigma of self-publishing stopped bugging me over a year ago when I was a part of RWA and faced a room full of anti-self-published authors who pretty much ganged up on me on the forum we had via our local chapter.  You go through something like that and you get a ‘I don’t care what you think’ attitude really fast.  I stood my ground, told them what I thought of the group (being respectful as I did so), and left.  I have heard since then that they are now more open to self-published authors so maybe something I said struck a cord.  Or maybe they have no choice now that so many authors are going this route.  Either way, I’m glad they’re growing up from the mindset that authors can’t write a good book unless a publisher is holding their hand.

Okay.  I didn’t plan to go off topic like that.  lol  Anyway, what I’m saying is that I am facing fears as my pen name is starting to emerge.  I have gotten a first draft blog for my pen name and am posting.  So far, I can say the posting itself is a tad bit scary but not as bad as when I started my first draft blog as Ruth.  I nearly peed my pants when the first comment came in because I had no idea if it was going to be good or not.  Right now, I know the people commenting on my pen name’s blog, so it’s relatively safe.  I know when I see the first person I don’t recognize, there’ll be that moment where I hold my breath, wince, and speed through it just to see if any red flags suggest a ‘You suck’ is thrown in somewhere.  The same will be true for when I get my first email.

I already got my first 2 star review, but it wasn’t so bad.  At least that person wasn’t on a rampage to attack me. It just said the story was neither good nor bad.  That was it, but it still stung.  I cried that night.  This is why I don’t like checking reviews.  It drained me for a good three days, and I couldn’t write anything in the sci-fi thriller series I was supposed to write 1200 words a day for in order to reach my goal of finishing the whole series by Feb. 1.  Let’s just say my new goal is March 1 so I can plan for other down days.

But that’s what I’m saying about fears.  Fears can be paralyzing if you let them.  I haven’t gotten rid of my old fears as Ruth, though I have learned tricks to buffer myself (and avoiding the review check and daily sales check are two buffers).  What surprised me is how much I dread publishing the first 38,000 word novella under my pen name on Feb. 1.  I do.  I dread it.  I keep thinking everyone will think it sucks.  I already know some will say the characters are immature (because someone typically complains that my characters are immature in my comedies, and this is a comedy).  Others will say the plot is too contrived or stupid.  They’ll wish the heroine had ended up with the second guy instead of the first.  Etc, etc, etc.  I’ve received 1 and 2 star reviews under Ruth with these types of comments, so I can pretty much see them coming for my pen name. 

I’m sure someone will whine that it’s ‘porn’ because it’s erotic romance, but that one actually doesn’t bother me too much.  I already receive a significant number of emails from people who claim my books under Ruth are porn and that I cheapen sex by describing it in a book.  Then I’ve gotten the ‘Please stop putting sex in your books’ request at the very end.  Being stubborn like I am, this only made me more descriptive in the sex department, so what they’ve tried to accomplish has backfired.  When I think about it, that might have driven me to pursue erotic romances under a pen name.  I don’t see why there’s such a hang up about sex.  It’s how babies come into existence, and if a birth is a blessed event, then it stands to reason sex is something to be celebrated.  But oh well.  I went off topic again.

So let’s suffice it to say there are some things I fear, and I really like what N.M. Martinez wrote in a comment over at the Self-Published Author’s Lounge.  She said that fear of being a crappy writer is what motivates us to keep improving.  That is true.  It’s what motivates me to be more authentic in my historicals.  I can’t say I always hit the mark on that one, but I’m getting better.

I also think that fears can also strengthen us if we can figure out exactly what those fears are and determine that we will rise above them.  A year ago, the whole sex thing was a huge fear I had.  I felt like I had to apologize to anyone who got offended by it.  Before I joined RWA, I was afraid of the stigma of self-publishing, but now I embrace self-publishing and am proud to admit it to everyone.  I’m getting much better over my fear of rejection (the 1 and 2 star reviews), but I still need to make progress.  I also need to get over my fear of declining sales.  Having declining sales on a periodic basis is helping with this.  My sales dropped, and the world didn’t come to an end.  lol  Fear of the rude emails is probably the tougher one since I can’t buffer myself at all from them, but I have decided I will ignore and block such people instead of apologizing for whatever grievance they felt the need to hit me over the head with.  

The fear of sucking is one that I have to put in the right perspective.  I ultimately write for me.  I write books I want to read.  I want to read books I am writing under my real name and pen name.  And I publish them because I want to.  So I have to continually remind myself that the end game is not popularity, sales, 5 star reviews, etc.  The end game is writing a book I want to read.  And that is the only thing that is helping me get past the fear of writing utter and complete crap.  If no one else ever likes my book, then it’s important that I like my book.

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out https://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.
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4 Responses to A Part of an Author’s Life: Moving Past Fear

  1. dorothypaula says:

    I can relate completely to this post. When I started writing seriously many years ago, I cried whenever rejections came, and sang and jumped for joy when acceptances came. I still do, except now that I’m self-publishing, it’s happiness when I see the e-books sell. When you are ready, let me know your pen-name. Believe it or not, there was a time I wrote rated “R”. I was a young healthy married woman with two toddlers. My husband worked long hours as a “cook”, so I had the time to write. And yes, I did write the sex scenes. The reason I stick to PG and PG-13 now is that I’m a grandma and I’m hoping that my grandchildren will someday read my work without having to wait until they are mature adults. I’ve read your books both PG13 and R, and I love the way you describe lovemaking. It is sensitive and tastefully done. And the fact that you always keep those scenes for those already married, is a gold star on your behalf. In our world where often sordid sex scenes (that’s sex without love, and/or deviant sex and violence for the sole purpose of lust and turning the reader on) your writing is refreshing and uplifting, decent and soul inspiring. From the writer’s point of view, it’s there not to pad, but to move the story along. You need have no fears. You are a good Christian with a good conscience to guide you. Keep up the good work. And thank you. 🙂

    • I think what makes me esp. hard regarding the possibility of rejection is that our culture has become so critical of what they read in books and see on TV. The notion that we all make mistakes has seemed to slip by many who expect everything they read or see to be perfect. No one can write the perfect book or make the perfect movie. All we can do is our best at the time. What’s frustrating to me is that so few people understand that, and that is why the reviewers who nitpick bother me as much as they do. Other authors keep telling me to learn from them, but I have a hard time learning from someone who belittles my work. I’m thinking authors who keep telling me to take the 1 and 2 star reviews as a learning experience haven’t received enough of them to understand how it affects the creative process. I think, as a society, we’ve grown cold toward one another, and that is showing up in the reviews. A little compassion goes a long way. People have forgotten that authors are flesh and blood beings who have feelings and use the ‘Get thicker skin’ as a justification for their harsh words.

      This is why it’s been a blessing to find people like you who can lift others up.

      As for my pen name, it’s Kate Page. I started out twice last year with Amber Blase but quit both times because I felt, deep down, I wasn’t ready. I did a lot of praying about it, and I think I still need to smooth out some of the rough edges in the erotic romances I’m writing. Some of it is too rough (meaning I’m too blunt in some of the ways I describe sex). It has to be edgier just because of the genre, but that doesn’t mean it has to sound like every other erotic romance out there. I read a couple to get an idea of how they’re done, but I want to soften it up. That’s my goal on my revisions of the first novella, Substitute Bride.

      When I started writing romances with sex in them, those were rough as well. The focus on the typical romances and erotic romances seem to be lust driven, and that is showing up in Substitute Bride. I have to remind myself that I do not have to write the same kind of erotic romances already out there, just like I don’t write the same kind of romances already out there. So I’m going through and trying to smooth out the rough edges, but it’ll probably take a good couple of books before I find my comfort level.

      The reason I decided to pursue this genre was because I got disgusted by the selection of erotic romances currently out there. The same was true for romances as well. I’m hard pressed to find romances (besides yours) that uplifts the marital relationship. I’m sick of seeing erotic romances that feature threesomes, adultery, incest, etc. So that is why I decided to start writing them. I also want to keep sex inside of marriage. Since I figure some people wonder what in the world they are supposed to do if they’re single and still have to fight their sexual urges, I am including masturbation into some of the books. (I felt it best to warn you ahead of time. That’s the only ‘iffy’ thing in my erotic romances that I think people might have a problem with.) But I think it’s important to put in because of the single people out there who might read it. The message will be wait until you’re marriage for sex. I can’t write a romance with a message the deviates from that.

      As for writing sex in books, when I was single, I prefered to read sex free books and that is all I wrote. It wasn’t until I got married and had a couple of kids that sex in books became interesting to me, but I couldn’t find romance books that had sex exclusively inside marriage so I started writing them.

      I think part of the whole writing sex thing stems from where we’re out in our lives. I was surprised you used to, and I can understand why you don’t now. It could be that when I’m a grandmother, I won’t write sex anymore either. I heard one woman say that when she was younger, she was interested in reading and writing sex, but as she got older, it became less important. I’m thinking hormones play a part in it.

      Anyway, that was a longer response than I intended. Here is Kate Page’s website http://www.katepage-eroticromanceauthor.com/ and blog http://authorkatepage.com/. Like I said, I’ll be smoothing out the rough edges on the sex scenes when I do the revisions. I’m thinking some of the language is too jarring.

  2. I still worry whenever I put something up that everyone will hate it, though it’s no longer AS terrifying as it used to be because I know there are a few people who will say they like it (whether they do or not, LOL!) so that will help cushion any nastiness.

    I yo yo on sex – it depends on what i am writing and if it fits in. I look at the stories as if they have already happened and I am just chronically them, so if they had sex then I am forced to report it 9to whatever extent the characters want) and if they didn’t…. I used to write a lot in a role play group and some of the characters wanted long, detailed sex scenes, but there were some who absolutely didn’t – it was like they felt it was private or something. That might make me sound crazy….

    • I get a queasy feeling every time I publish a new book. I always wonder, ‘When will the first bad review come in?’ LOL I’m with you on the whole ‘even if they’re just saying they like my book’, it helps a lot to cushion the blow.

      As for sex, I completely understand. Some characters want to be more explicit than others, and it really depends on letting them run the show. I have some romances where it’s lightly touched on and others that get pretty graphic. The real graphic stuff I save for erotic romances, of course, but even some of the regular romances can get steamy. Ironically, my favorite romance I wrote is one with the least graphic sex scenes.

      I think the key to any book is to let the characters run the show.

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