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!

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Happy Positive Thinking Day!

The origins of this holiday seem to be a bit murky. Legend has it that an entrepreneur founded it in 2003 to encourage others to overcome negative thinking. Whatever the origin, I’m always up for an excuse to celebrate and inject some positive vibes into the world – complete with cheesy images!

glass-300558_960_720Too often, we creative types succumb to negative thoughts. When you consider our introspective natures and the sensitive subjects with which we work, it makes sense. We put so much of ourselves into our craft, it’s difficult not to take things personally.

Today, whether you’re reading this on Positive Thinking Day or not, I challenge you to take a negative thought and reframe it in a positive way. The thought you choose will be personal to you, but here are a few that I’ve dealt with in my writing life:

Why even write a novel? It’s going to suck.
My first novel may not be my best, but I can always improve. (Longer pep talk here.)

Everything I write is garbage.
I’m still learning as an author, but at least I’m practicing my craft!

That author writes faster/has better books/earns better reviews/makes more sales than me.
That author is doing really well. What can I learn from them to improve my own writing? (More on dealing with jealousy here.)

I’m never going to make it as an author.
Overnight success is a myth. I can make it if I work hard, establish industry relationships, and learn to market myself and my work.

field-328962_1920I can’t write. I have writer’s block/am unmotivated/am tired/am busy.
I am taking a mental health break from my writing. I will return on [insert date] and write [insert goal]. In the meantime, I do what I must to unblock myself and I will not guilt myself. NOTE: This is not permission to procrastinate. There is a difference between caring for your health and laziness.

I have no idea what I’m doing. Any minute my readers will call me out as a fake.
Imposter syndrome is normal, and even big-name authors feel this way. As long as I’m still learning and improving, that’s all anyone can expect of me. (Here are a few mantras to beat imposter syndrome.)

I wrote one book. It was a fluke/failure.
If I wrote one book, I can write another. It will be even better, because I have grown as a writer. Next-to-no first books are break-out successes. I can become successful over time, with a respectable back list, strong writing, and smart business practices.

Still feeling negative? Here a few resources to help you out of your funk:

The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey by Joanna Penn – I gave it 5 stars!
Why You Have to Be Your Biggest Fan – The Smarter Artist Podcast
25 Things That Will Definitely Make You Smile via Buzzfeed
40 Powerful Mantras to Help You Think Positive via Marc & Angel Hack Life

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Is it REALLY Writer’s Block? Three Writing Myths that Make You Doubt Yourself

writer's blockWriter’s block is a heated issue in the writer community. I’m not really sure why. Okay, the cynical side of me has a theory.

That theory is that those who believe in writer’s block adamantly defend it, because if it doesn’t exist … then they don’t have anything on which to blame their lack of writing progress. At the same time, those who don’t believe in writer’s block prefer the idea that it doesn’t exist … because if it’s fake, then what separates them from the non-writing ‘writers’ is a matter of character.

But again, that’s just cynical, jaded me.

For the sake of this post, I don’t give a flying hoot whether or not you believe in writer’s block. What I want to know is what you believe about the act of being a writer.

You see, if you’re struggling with your writing, you may not have writer’s block at all. Maybe, you’re just judging yourself by the wrong standards. There are a lot of romanticized (and outright ridiculous) myths about what it’s like to be an author. And if you’re holding yourself to them, it’s no wonder your creativity is suffering!

These are just three of the limiting beliefs you might harbor.

1. Writing should be easy for me.

As Hemingway famously said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” While some scholars believe he meant it sarcastically, the literal interpretation implies that writing is a simple matter of sitting down and poetically spewing your thoughts — as natural and effortless as blood flowing through your veins.

The truth? Most days writing is not easy. In fact, it’s damn hard. Sure, you may get one or two golden moments of seamless eloquence, but don’t count on it. If writing is difficult for you, that doesn’t mean you’re blocked. It means you’re like 99.9% of your fellow authors.

The treatment? Write anyway. Eventually, it will get easier. Not easy, but easier.

Just a friendly reminder...it's not the end of the world.
Just a friendly reminder…it’s not the end of the world.

2. Writing should be difficult for me.

The last word of that Hemingway quote is bleed. Because that’s what we have to do as writers, right? We have to toss and turn in restless fits, pull out our hair, rip out our guts. If you’re not slapping your soul onto the page, you’re not writing.

The truth? You can enjoy writing. You don’t have to play the struggling artist. You don’t have to bemoan your tortured creative soul. Just because you don’t feel like your writing is ‘gritty’ or ‘painful’ enough, that doesn’t mean you’re blocked. It means you’re not a cliche.

The treatment? Write anyway. Even if writing is — gasp — fun!

3. My writing should be good.

First off, this is just ridiculous. Literature is subjective. My favorite novel might be viewed as trashy dribble by another person. There is no 100% accurate and objective measure of ‘good.’ And if you’re just writing for passion or pleasure, ‘good’ doesn’t even matter so long as it is satisfying.

That being said, if you want to make a living with your writing, then yes, it needs to be ‘good’ in the eyes of several people. But you know what? You can take as long as you need to learn, rewrite, and edit your writing to ‘good’ status. Your first draft doesn’t have to be ‘good,’ and neither does your first novel, for that matter. I’m not advocating mediocrity. I’m simply saying: think long and hard about what ‘good’ means to you, then be kind to yourself and allow yourself to get there one step at a time.

The truth? Someone in the world will love your book. And someone else in the world will hate your book.

The treatment? Write anyway. Don’t worry about what others will think. Do your best, learn what you can, and always keep improving.

I won’t belabor you with more examples. More than likely, you know what myths or problems are holding you back. Often, we can identify them, but we quickly cast them under the “writer’s block” umbrella, thus making them a faceless enemy. Don’t do that. Drag your excuses into the light and look them straight in the eye. Approach them with a potent mix of logic, defiance, and humor. Most of the time, you’ll discover that it’s really just self-doubt lurking in a less personal costume.

But no matter what is dampening your creativity, there’s only one way to move past it. Prove your excuses wrong and write anyway.

What beliefs about writing or writers make you doubt yourself? What other problems keep you from doing your creative work? Share your tips for beating them or seek advice in the comments!