Author Business & Publishing, Musings & Bookish Things, Writing & Publishing Articles

Why Do You Write? (An Idea Revisited Two Years Later)

If you’re reading this, I assume you want to be or already are a writer. I also assume that there’s a decent chance you want to be a full-time author. So, if that’s you, let me ask you two difficult questions: Why do you write? And why do you want to be a full-time author, when there are hundreds of easier career options?

writing and coffeeNow, your gut instinct is probably something like, “Come on, Kate! Writing is my life. Those questions are so easy!”

But do me a favor and really think about it. I’ll give you a personal anecdote while you ponder your own situation …

After my recent move from New Haven to the Bay Area, I’ve had a difficult time getting back in my creative groove. I have a lot of perfectly valid excuses: organizing the new place, adjusting to a new work and household routine, exploring new shops and landmarks, to name a few. But, I think I finally understand the real issue.

Whenever I meet new people, I introduce myself as a writer. I include my novelist side, but I always admit, with a twinge of unnecessary shame, that my books don’t pay the bills. I’m “really” a copywriter for a wine marketing company (which has actually helped my fiction writing). It sounds super-sexy on paper, and while most of the time I just stare at a computer screen like every other office worker, it is a great job. Though I’m still the lowest rung on the company ladder, I could make copywriting/marketing a long-term career. And I think it would make me happy.

It would be SO. MUCH. EASIER. to just let go of my author ambitions and relax into the 9-to-5 life. I’m NOT saying every 9-to-5 job is easy, and I’m definitely challenged at my work, but giving up the author stuff would relieve me of several challenges. I could stop spending nights and weekends at the computer. I could stop heaping guilt on myself when I don’t meet my creative goals. I could stop spending hard-earned, harder-saved money on editing, cover designs, and marketing expenses. I could stop all the other nuisances of indie authorship and still call myself a professional writer.

Live your dreamBack to you: your situation is obviously much different from mine. Maybe you’re working a job you loathe. Maybe you have tons of extra money to shower on self-publishing. Maybe you view writing solely as a career and aren’t bothered by any of the emotional, passionate aspects.

Still, I ask again: Why do you write? And why do you want to be a full-time author?

(If you’re a fan of the Sterling & Stone trio, you can probably guess that I’m a big believer in Sean’s “Know Your Why” mantra, which this insightful article discusses more eloquently than I can.)

While contemplating this question, I remembered a blog post I wrote over two years ago. It lists the reasons why I write, along with some great additions from fellow writers in the comments. They all still hold true, but they don’t answer why I want to write fiction professionally and not just as a hobby.

After giving it some careful thought and seriously evaluating my larger personal/life goals, here are a few of my reasons:

Writing is my greatest passion.
Writing is my most employable skill.
Creative satisfaction means more to me than conventional success.
I want to be my own boss and set my own working hours.
I want the freedom to vacation when and how I choose.
I want to work be able to work from anywhere in the world.
I don’t want to regularly manage other people.
I don’t want to give up my dream to help someone else achieve theirs.
I love storytelling.
I want the opportunity to make my daily work meaningful and valuable.
I want to entertain, inform, and educate others.
I want to make a difference in the world and provide a source of escape for others.

Conclusion? Being a full-time writer both satisfies my creative passions and provides several practical benefits that “regular” jobs cannot.

If you’re in a similar situation to me (and I know at least one of my friends reading this is), do yourself a favor and ask these questions. You might realize that writing is just a hobby for you — and that is 100% awesome. Or (more likely, I bet), you’ll realize that full-time authorship is really the career you want. If that’s the case, you’ll be armed with a list of reasons to keep you motivated when the going gets tough. And trust me, it will get tough.

But, if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s also wholly, completely, utterly worth it.


Leave your reasons in the comments and cheer on your fellow authors. If you’re already living the full-time dream, I’d love to hear whether your “why” remains true now that you’ve reached your goal. 

Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things

Step Into My Office (Or, Where I Write)

where-i-writeAs a reader, I love learning more about how my favorite books were written. Fun facts like how J.K. Rowling wrote the initial idea for Harry Potter on a napkin, or how Ernest Hemingway only wrote while standing (in a pair of oversized loafers, to be precise) always intrigue me.

I’ve shared by original inspiration for the Desertera series before (you can read about it here), but I realized I rarely talk about how or where I write. Admittedly, my “office” isn’t glamorous, but it’s gotten the job done twice now (14 times if you count my nonfiction projects).

My office spaceSome writers swear by the coffee shop – the white noise, the social pressure to look busy, the caffeine! – while others can’t imagine writing in public. I used to be in the second group. In fact, when given the option, I’ll always choose to write in the solitude of my office (aka the spare bedroom my husband also works in), wearing my cozy sheep robe, with a steaming up of chai tea (made with almond milk, of course) resting on my Kansas coaster.

On the weekends, I get my way and can write in my private little haven. But you know what? Most of the time, I can barely drag myself to the keyboard. Between the adorable meows of my feline son Thomas, and the seductive “buh-uh” of Netflix (don’t look at me like that – you know the sound!), and the pathetic reality of the empty refrigerator, there are about a hundred distractions that keep me saying, “I’ll write later.”

Sometimes I do. Other times I don’t. It’s always a gamble, and the voice in my head has a fantastic poker face.

Luckily for my readers and my sanity, the weekdays arrive again. Every morning, I pack my trusty laptop in my bag. (Disclaimer: I’m obligated to mention that it was a birthday present from my husband and I love it.) Then, I head to the train station, find my favorite seat in the “quiet car,” and write for the entire ride to work – and again, on the way home.

If you ask me, I’ll tell you that I hate writing on the train. Bumpy spots in the tracks make me commit unforgivable typos, the doors let in chilly breezes, and the other passengers take up more than their fair share of seat space (Can’t they see I’m writing, here?). But remember, inner me can’t be trusted.

On the trainWhen it comes down to it, I actually love writing on the train. The quiet car provides that crucial white noise – you wouldn’t believe how easily you learn to tune out conductors and announcements. The other passengers, while not always respectful of my space, provide that awful social pressure. (After all, I can’t have my laptop out like some kind of professional and not work.) And, I have to admit, I get a burst of satisfaction whenever I catch the person next to me reading over my shoulder … especially when they have a kind smile on their face!

And yes, I have written steamy scenes on the train. And yes, making eye contact with strangers when I do is hella awkward.

But the best part of writing on the train? It alleviates my writerly guilt. Like when you curl up with a book and ignore your family or friends, writing is a solitary craft. I hate spending evenings or weekends locked away in my study when I could be spending them with my husband or our friends. As long as I can get a seat on the train, I can easily write 1,000 words during my commute. So, when I get home, it’s all about enjoying dinner and each other’s company (and yes, Netflix).

As I said, it’s not the most glamorous office, but it gets the job done. Hopefully, I’ll be able to prove that to you again in a few months!


Do you have any fun facts about the writing of your favorite books? Where do you feel most creative or productive? Any other questions for me? Share in the comments!

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Writing through Your Fear

Whether you’re a beginning writer or a seasoned veteran, writing can be scary. Fiction authors put out original imaginings that often hold deeper truths (or are falsely judged to reveal something about the writer). Nonfiction authors declare themselves an authority on a topic, who readers depend upon for knowledge or assistance.

When you think about it, that’s a lot of pressure (especially if you’re an independent author). It’s no wonder we writers get scared of our craft.

I’d like to tell you it gets better, that after the first novel the fear magically goes away. Maybe it does for some people. However, two novels and eleven nonfiction booklets in, I’m still nervous every time I sit down to write.

How Writing Fear Evolves Over Time

fear-of-failureBefore I had written my first fiction book, The Cogsmith’s Daughter, I feared I would never write a novel. I felt certain I would die with this ultimate goal, the one thing I felt meant to do, unaccomplished. Luckily, that didn’t happen. In fact, I went on to write a second book …

And I got even more scared. My fear evolved. I thought to myself, “What if that first book was a fluke?” and “What if everyone hates the sequel?” Now, as I write the third novel, the fear continues: “What if I grow to dislike this series? What if my readers don’t like the direction I take it? What if no one even reads it?”

Of course, my nagging thoughts aren’t limited to fiction. Every time I write nonfiction, I wonder who gave me the right to inspire or educate others (aka imposter syndrome). Who do you think you are, Kate?

When I try to market, specifically through paid advertising, it gets worse. “Why am I forcing my books on other people? What if I don’t earn back my investment? What if everyone who buys my books hates them?”

Don’t worry. I’m done sharing. (See? Even now I fear you’re judging me or growing bored!)

How to Overcome Your Writing Fears

conquer-fearFirst, if you’ve had similar feelings, know that you’re not alone. Second, know that, while your fear may never go away, you can write through your fear. How do you do that? Unfortunately, it’s one of those questions that you have to answer for yourself. But, here are some tips:

Know your enemy

You can’t fight an enemy that you can’t identify. Once you truly understand your fear, you can begin to move past it.

For example, I fear getting bad reviews, because they mean that people hate my books. But it’s not the reviews themselves I really fear. It’s rejection, judgment from others, and that I’m not as talented or intelligent as I want. At the very core of my fear is my own self-doubt. If I truly believed in myself and fostered more confidence, maybe I would be less scared of those inevitable bad reviews.

So, what do I do about it? I’m working on positive thinking to help me have confidence in the skills I currently have. More importantly, I’m continuing my education on writing craft to strengthen my abilities and grow confidence through experience.

What is it that you really fear, and how can you work through it?

Find a greater fear

Yes, bad reviews terrify me. But you know what’s worse? The idea of giving up on writing altogether.

Give this (morbid) exercise a try. Picture yourself about to die. Seriously, go all “writer” on it and set the scene as if it took place in your book. Now, with your death before you, answer what is worse.

Getting a rejection letter from an agent vs. hiding your manuscript on your hard drive

Encountering criticism from internet strangers vs. never meeting the people who love your books

Never drawing attention to yourself vs. never writing a single word

Are you really going to let fear stand in the way of what you want to do?

Drown out the negative thoughts

incentive-960045_640Most of my writing fear happens when I’m not actually writing. Those horrible words come to me when I first sit down at the keyboard, or when I’m trying to think through a troublesome scene while washing the dishes. A simple trick I’ve learned is to drown them out.

There’s lots of ways to do this. Start babbling aloud to yourself so you can’t hear yourself think. Scream “Stop! Stop! Stop!” inside your head. Turn on some music or a podcast. Try to recite the first page of your favorite novel.

I know it sounds silly, but anything you can do to stop the negative thoughts will help. Our brains love shortcuts. You see a growling dog, your brain says, “Run!” You see a pimple on your face, your brain says, “Ugly.” You go to write, your brain says, “You suck.” If you can retrain your brain to avoid negative thoughts (or even better, default to optimistic ones), you’ll also avoid the fear they bring.

Take inspiration from the experts

When all else fails, keep doing what you’re doing now — finding someone who understands and learning how they handle their own fear. Here are a few tried-and-true resources, available for free online or from your local library:

Making Fear Your Bitch by Jamie Davis — I almost didn’t write this article, because this podcast/transcript says it so much better. Seriously, that’s not insecurity talking; it’s just the truth. I’ve bookmarked it for future reference.

The Successful Author Mindset by Joanna Penn — A fantastic book. Penn shares her own fears (including excerpts from her journal), as well as addresses many other psychological issues that plague writers (e.g. perfectionism and the need for validation).

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield — Several writers swear by this as their go-to motivation book. Pressfield personifies fear as “Resistance” and covers all the ways you can and must defeat it.

You can put all of this into practice and start working through your fear today.

Take five minutes to identify the root of your fear, then imagine how your happiness would suffer if you continue to give into it. Then, drown out these thoughts with motivation and inspiration from others. And most importantly, write — even if it scares you.

Do it all again tomorrow. And the next day. As long as it takes.

Why? Because only you can tell your story. The world deserves your story, and you deserve the joy of writing it.


What fears plague you as a writer? How do you overcome your writing fears? Share your tips in the comments!

Kate's Nonfiction for Writers, Writing & Publishing Articles

This is the Year You Write Your Novel

notebookIf you’re reading this, chances are you want to write a novel. Whether it’s a goal you’re actively working toward, a regular New Year’s resolution, or the biggest item on your bucket list, you’re in good company. Millions of people desire to tell their stories … and yet only a small percentage of them actually do. Whatever the reason — fear, procrastination, lack of inspiration — most novels die unfinished in the minds and hard drives of aspiring authors like you.

I’ll say it again: you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.

Ever since I learned to write, I wanted to be a storyteller. In second grade, I realized that I could write books for a living when I grew up, and from that moment on, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. However, even with my career goal set, it took me years to write my first novel.

My biggest obstacle? You guessed it — me.

If I’m being honest, for a long time, I liked the idea of “being a writer” better than actually writing. The title of “writer” carries a certain mystique. Writers are creative, empathetic, and of course, beautifully tragic figures. They sit down at rickety typewriters and eloquently pour their souls onto the page. Or so I thought.

The change for me came when I learned about independent publishing. By listening to podcasts and reading blogs, I encountered a whole new breed of “writers.” These creatives approached writing with passion, but they also viewed writing as a job. They didn’t complain about their misbehaving muses; they didn’t acknowledge writer’s block; they just wrote — and with joy.

It sounds silly, but realizing that I didn’t have to be a suffering, starving artist finally gave me the kick in the ass I needed to write my novel. There were (and still are!) other obstacles. Sometimes, I don’t feel like my ideas are “worthy” of writing. Sometimes, I have social obligations or am too tired after a long day of work. And yes, sometimes, I just plain procrastinate.

What keeps you from writing?

If it’s fear or time management or (gasp!) laziness, you have to fix those problems for yourself. You can read my (and many others’) writings on the subject for encouragement, but in the end, it comes down to you. But if it’s inspiration you lack, I might be able to help …

From today (Dec. 28) until Jan. 3, 2017, I’m running a Kindle Countdown Deal on my first nonfiction book, 1,000 Genre Fiction Writing Prompts to Inspire Your Stories and Novels (Fiction Ideas Vol. 1-10). Please note, this is for the U.S. store only. The price will start at $0.99 and slowly climb back up to the regular price of $4.99 (so you better act fast!).

11-anthology1,000 Genre Fiction Writing Prompts combines all 10 volumes of the Fiction Ideas series into one convenient book (at serious discount!). It’s packed with character- and story-focused prompts to jumpstart your fiction writing. Each prompt has been carefully designed to help boost your creativity, build new writing techniques, add descriptive flair to your narration, and bring greater depth to your characters.
Inside, you’ll find prompts on the following genres:
1. General Creative Writing
2. Romance
3. Children’s, Teen, & Young Adult Fiction
4. Fantasy
5. Historical Fiction
6. Action & Adventure
7. Crime Fiction
8. Science Fiction
9. Mystery, Thriller, & Suspense
10. Horror
Each section contains 100 thought-provoking prompts. Practice them in order, or dive right into to what inspires you most. You’ll also receive a BONUS character questionnaire with 100 questions to bring your protagonist to life.
If you’re anything like me, then you’ve wasted too much time feeling uninspired. Pick up your copy of 1,000 Genre Fiction Writing Prompts today and let me help you find the inspiration you’ve been lacking.
Time is ticking (on the sale and in general), and you deserve to tell the story in your heart. Flip that: the world deserves to read your story.
No more empty pages. No more writer’s block. This is the year you write your novel.

What keeps you from writing? Where do you find inspiration for your stories or novels? Share your struggles or suggestions in the comments!

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Writers: Judge Yourself by Your Own Standards

‘Comparisonitis’ is the most infectious disease in the writer community. Can you blame us? When John’s book has 100 five-star reviews and Jane has written six books this year and Joe has landed a major publishing deal, it’s difficult not to feel jealous and shame yourself for what you are/aren’t accomplishing.

Here’s your gentle reminder to CUT. IT. OUT.

nanowrimo-badgeAs I’m writing this post, we’re halfway through NaNoWriMo 2016. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is an online challenge where writers attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Some writers meet this goal in 24 hours (seriously — here’s proof), while others struggle to write 1,000 words over the entire month. NaNoWriMo is a great way to kickstart your writing project and meet new writer friends … but it’s also a vehicle for self-doubt. As you watch your ‘Buddies’ word counts climb, it can spur you to work harder or make you feel like an utter failure.

What you have to remember is that NaNoWriMo — like all writing — is not a competition. There are an infinite number of stories to be told and billions of readers to read them. The only person you should be worried about is yourself.

Take it from my experience. During my first NaNoWriMo, I went in with a plan, rocketed through the challenge, and wrote over 80,000 words that would become my first published novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1). This year, I was utterly unprepared for NaNoWriMo. I didn’t have time to write an outline before November 1, so I went into the challenge with everything but a plot. Literally. This is my third book in the Desertera series. I have characters, a world, a list of questions to answer, and a looming series finale … but I had no idea what should actually happen in this novel.

Regardless, I powered through the first ~11,000 words. By this point in the book, I realized the key story structure issues and could already imagine a better story arc. I had a choice to make. I could continue with NaNoWriMo (which is honestly the path I recommend, especially if you’re writing your first book and just need to finish something), or I could stop writing, craft the outline I should have started with, and rewrite.

Initially, I didn’t want to stop writing. I was embarrassed to watch my friends out-write me, and I felt obligated to keep pushing because I had publicly committed to the challenge. However, I had to remember, this isn’t just me anymore.

Though writing is my passion, I’m not writing ONLY for fun. I’m writing to build a catalog of books, to make writing my full-time career, and to please a small (but wonderful!) readership. Winning NaNoWriMo, while a great accomplishment, can’t be my goal if it sacrifices the quality of my book or yields 90,000 unusable words that will delay my production schedule. So, I chose to fail in the short term to succeed in the long term.

writer-1Now, it’s your turn to look in the mirror. What are your goals for your writing? If you’re just writing for fun, do whatever you like! But if you’re writing for professional purposes, you might have to make some tough choices. Even if you’re also writing with hopes of creating a full-time career, your choices might not be the same as mine. That’s the beautiful thing about authorship: each writer, each book, each business is unique.

As you come up against roadblocks or simply notice recurring patterns in your writing or business choices, ask yourself three questions:

  1. How does this action further my writing goals?
  2. Is there a better way to work toward these goals?
  3. Do I feel satisfied and confident in this choice?

If the answers are unclear or nonexistent, it’s time to reevaluate. For me, pushing through NaNoWriMo would have yielded content, but it would have been poor content. By giving myself permission to plan and write my book properly, I will write a better rough draft, ease the publication process, and do what’s best for my business. Can you say the same about your writing choices?

*Note: this post is not an excuse to procrastinate or give up on your dreams. If you’re thinking of dropping out of NaNoWriMo or giving up on a draft just because it’s difficult work, you’re tired, etc., that’s not the same as making a small sacrifice in pursuit of a larger goal. Not sure? Let that nagging feeling in your gut be your compass.


Has comparing yourself to other writers been a challenge for you? How do you evaluate whether a writing choice is best for you or you just ‘keeping up with the Rowlings’? Share your tips in the comments!