Tag Archives: writing fiction

Overcoming Writer’s Block

 

 

We all love being in the throes of that mystical thing we writers call “flow.” Those moments where hours slip away as we pour out our vividly imagined scenes onto paper (or computer documents).

We revel in these moments somewhat frantically, knowing that they won’t last. Knowing that as beautiful as these moments are, there is another, more sinister side to the coin.

Writer’s block.

It seems to come out of no where. One day you are writing happily along, the next you leave your writing session with nothing to show for your time. Or you can’t even find the motivation to sit at your desk at all.

We ask ourselves the question all writers have or eventually will: How can I keep writing when my writing muse has left?

Sadly, my muse has been cruel enough to leave me as well, so I’ve come up with some ways to get it back.  I’ve also learned that there are at least three reasons why writer’s block has suddenly reared its ugly head.

 

 

There is a problem that needs fixing in your story

Sometimes that feeling of not wanting to write is your subconscious trying to warn you that something isn’t working in your story so you can fix it now instead of plowing through and making a mess that will be difficult to unravel later.

If this is the case, then all we have to do to get our writing muse back is to fix the thing that isn’t working.

Easier said than done, huh? If you knew what wasn’t working, you would have fixed it already and went on happily writing.

If you ask yourself why you don’t feel like writing and you feel that something isn’t working in your story, but you aren’t sure what, don’t panic. All you need to do is ask yourself more questions.

Consulting Detective [MB/S] - GIF Starters - Wattpad

How do I feel about my main character? If she is boring or I just can’t connect with him is the answer then go back to the character-creation drawing board and discover some things about your MC that will make them interesting and help you connect.

If your main character isn’t the issue, then move on to the other characters. If they aren’t the problem, then ask yourself about the plot, the dialogue, the tension (or lack of tension) in the scene you are working on.

There are so many more questions to ask yourself why you feel something is “off” with your story but can’t quite put your finger on what it is. There are so many, that I could write a whole blog post on that alone (and will 🙂 ).

Chances are, there is a good reason your brain seems to have checked out and refuses to write more words. Something is niggling at it, whispering that writing more words at this point is a waste until you fix the problem.

But what if you fix the broken piece of your novel (or find nothing is broken) and you still can’t find the will to write?

 

There is an emotional reason for your writing-related apathy. 

Early this year, I went through months of writer’s block because the project I’d spent a whole year on didn’t turn out as expected. Well, that’s putting it nicely. It turned out to be a disaster. Were there things I could pull from the wreckage to use in creating a new and improved version of the story? Definitely. Did I learn a lot from the process even it the end result wasn’t something publishable? Absolutely.

Was I enthusiastic about starting my next project with all my hard-won wisdom? Absolutely not.

Even though my logical side could see that the experience wasn’t a total loss, that didn’t stop my emotions from reminding me how much time was “wasted” on the project and sending a wave of doom over my next project.

If you find that your writer’s block is because of some less-than-stellar work you did previously or a case of imposter syndrome (where you have crippling self doubt that you can’t produce another book as good as your first), then there isn’t an easy fix. At least I haven’t found one (if you know of one, please share!).

But there are some steps you can take to overcome these emotions.

First, acknowledge that they are there and figure out what thought or belief they are coming from. Then, ask yourself if these thoughts or beliefs are actually true.

If you are afraid that your first novel’s success was a fluke and you won’t be able to writing something like that again, then ask yourself if this is absolutely true. Do you really know that you won’t be able to write another great novel? Is it an absolute truth that the project you are working on will turn out a mess like your last one?

NO. (If you are wondering what the answer is 😉 )

You can’t look into the future and see that this project is doomed for failure (unless you have some powers I don’t know about…in which case, share them with me!). You can, however, ruin your chances at writing a beautiful new story by allowing those thoughts and emotions to control your actions.

Sure, your WIP might end up being one that you shelve at the end, but it also might be one of the best books you’ve written. You will never know if you don’t keep writing it.

But, I get it. NOT feeling like writing is why you are here, so simply telling you to keep writing isn’t that helpful. I have no magic answer for banishing these gloomy emotions, but I do have some ways to get through them.

1.Stop writing. I took a break from writing for a month. Took some time to go back to the basics and read some great books and listen to podcasts on writing. Getting some new information in your head does wonders for those pesky, negative feelings. You might learn the reason your last novel didn’t turn out or learn a new technique that excites you so much, it pushes all those haunting emotions away.

If you are in the middle of NaNoWriMo and don’t want to stop writing, continue to number three. Or, heck, stop writing in the middle of NaNo. Quit NaNo if you need to. It is a means to an end, a tool in your hand. Winning NaNo isn’t the goal itself–finishing your story is–and if you need to take a break to do that, then do it.

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2. Write something new. Maybe you don’t want to take a break from writing altogether, but your current WIP has too many feelings of guilt or trepidation attached to it for you to look at it with fresh eyes. So, take a small break and work on something else. You could do some worldbuilding or create new characters for another project, or you could write a short story. When I am needing a break from my WIP, but I don’t want to start anything new and lengthy, I love to look up writing prompts on Pinterest and free write whatever comes to mind. It is a great exercise that gets your writing muscles moving again.

3. Add something new in your story to get you excited about writing it. A great way to get rid of unwanted emotions is to replace them. Brainstorm some ideas of things you can add to the scene or chapter that you are working on that makes you want to write it. The twist? This doesn’t have to be something you actually want to keep. Make it something completely unexpected and wacky. The crazier, the better. Does a storm come out of no where and blow your character’s ship off course? How would it change your story if the MC’s best friend suddenly died? What if a complete stranger barged their way into the conversation you are writing?

Don’t worry about how a sudden twist might change the plot or derails your story from the outline. You are only adding it to trick your stubborn brain into writing again. You can take whatever happens out in the next draft. Or you may like it and decide to keep it.

I added a new character in act three of my first draft of The Hashna Stone, simply because I didn’t know what to write and needed some spice to keep me going because I was in the middle of NaNoWriMo. I ended keeping her, and she is one of my favorite characters in the book.

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You’ve fallen out of infatuation with your story

What if you’ve given your novel a critical look over and done some soul searching and determined that it isn’t a problem in the novel or some deeper emotional reason for your writer’s block?

It may simply be that you are feeling the magical spark of new-story-infatuation fade away. You know the feeling I’m talking about. It’s that obsession you have when you first get an idea, the bubbling excitement as you write your first chapter, the blinding adoration for your main character, and the absolute assurance that this story is going to be the one that gets you the agent of your dreams/lands you a book deal/sells a million copies.

We all go through an infatuation stage with our story. It might last a few weeks, it might last a few months, but however long it lasts it won’t be for the entire duration of your novel.

If your lack of interest is because your story isn’t new and shiny anymore, know that this is perfectly normal. This is the easiest of the reasons fix, because there really isn’t anything to fix.

You just have to keep writing. There will be a moment in your story where you find that spark again. It may be as you write the ending or it might be in draft three when you discovers something that adds that special touch to a character’s arc that you were looking for.

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Whatever the reason for you writing apathy–a problem in the novel that needs fixing, hindering beliefs and emotions, or a fading away of new-story infatuation–know that it is temporary.

You are still a writer, even it you don’t feel like writing. Your story is still a work of art, even if you don’t feel it is. Writing is a process that is filled with ups and downs, mistakes and triumphs. No one writes a novel and has nothing but happy, rainbow feelings throughout the process.

Not feeling like writing is normal. Having a muse that leaves you at the most inconvenient times is normal.  Not all writing sessions are moments of “flow” and that is okay.

Figure out why you’ve lost the will to write, try different methods to get over that writer’s block, but whatever you do, don’t give up on your writing because of a season of “dryness” in your writing.

Keep learning. Keep writing. Your muse will be so impressed with your resilience, that they will have no choice but to come back.

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Three Best Ways to Outline Your Novel

Outlining a novel is a daunting task. When we sit down to write an outline, there are so many questions running through our head. Is it enough to write a sentence for each scene or should I get detailed and write a paragraph? What if I don’t know every scene that is going to happen? Should go back to brainstorming if I don’t know enough to make a detailed outline of every single thing that is going to happen in my novel?

It’s enough to make us freeze up and decide not to write an outline at all.

I wrote my debut novel, The Hashna Stone, without ever creating a formal outline, so for my next writing project, I had to go back to the basics and figure it out.

An outline can be as simple as writing a sentence for each of the major plot points or as detailed as writing a rundown of each scene. With such varied methods, it leaves us wondering which is the “right” way to outline?

The answer: there isn’t a right way to outline.

There are many methods out there and they might all be “right” as long as they work for the individual using them. Outlining is just like novel writing. Each writer has to find the process that works for them by trail and error.

That being said, there are some methods that are tried and true and will get you “the best bang for you buck.” To save you some time so your aren’t stuck trying all the methods out there, I’m sharing the three that I’ve had the most success with.

The Seven Point Story Structure

This method will probably be best for the pantsers out there (writers who don’t like detailed outlines and prefer to fly by the seat of their pants). It can be done relatively quickly and there is no need to come up with every little detail of your story.

For all the plotters out there, it may not be detailed enough for you to use as an outline, but is a useful tool for shaping ideas into a story.

Here’s how it works.

  • The Hook–Answer the question, “What keeps my reader reading after the first few pages?” Write down what it is that will make your reader wonder what happens next.
  • First Plot Point–This is the point of no return for your character (think when Harry finds out that he is a wizard and leaves with Hagrid or when Frodo leaves the Shire).
  • Pinch Point One–This is where something happens to make your character take action.
  • Midpoint–Your character makes the decision to start going after his problem instead of running from it. It dramatically changes the direction your character was going.
  • Pinch Point Two–Whatever is going wrong at this point in the story, make it get even worse. Make it so bad that it seems like the bad guy will actually win.
  • Second Plot Point–This is where your character gets the last bit of information he needed to defeat the villain.
  • Resolution–Defeat the bad guy, resolve the conflicts, and answer all the questions.

I learned about this method from Dan Wells in a podcast by Writing Excuses (give it a listen). It’s really fun and simple to use, making it a wonderful tool for developing ideas into stories early on, but it didn’t quite give me enough information to start writing my first draft.

Enter the 3 act-9 block-27 chapter method… (Yes, it is a mouthful)

3 act – 9 Block – 27 Chapter Method

This method doesn’t just have you come up with major plot points, but  gives you three “blocks” within each act and has you break down each chapter within those blocks.

I was looking for more detail. This method’s middle name is “detail.” In fact, it was a little too detailed for me. I got really excited by the thought that I could have my whole novel so neatly set up before  writing a single word of draft one but, for whatever reason, this method only worked partially for me.

I ended up with a lot of good plot points and a lot more information than if I hadn’t filled out this sheet, but I still didn’t feel ready to write the first draft after this. What I had under a lot of the chapters  were single lines like “they come up with a plan to escape” or “plan successful.” It wasn’t enough to tell me what exactly happened in each chapter. When I tried to figure it out, my mind went blank and I lost interest.

For the most part, I really liked this method, but I still felt like something was missing.

(This article explains this method in much more detail)

The 15 Beat Story Structure 

I didn’t stumble on this method until early this year, but I fell in love with it the moment I discovered it in a screenwriting book, Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder. He suggests using notecards to come up with each beat, and even thought I’d used notecards before, the combination between them and this method worked like magic for me.

Act 1 / The Beginning

  1. Opening Image (0% to 1%) – A single scene beat that shows a “before” snapshot of the protagonist and the flawed world that he or she lives in.
  2. Theme Stated (5%) – A single scene beat in which a statement is made by someone (other than the protagonist) that hints at what the protagonist will learn before the end of the story.
  3. Setup (1% to 10%) – A multi-scene beat in which the reader gets to see what the protagonist’s life and the world are like–flaws and all.
  4. Catalyst (10%) – Inciting incident
  5. Debate (10% to 20%) – A multi-scene beat where the protagonist debates what he or she will do next.
  6. Break Into Two (20%) – Something big happens to make hero DECIDE to go to act 2.

 Act 2A / The Middle (Part 1)

  1. B Story (22%) – A single scene beat that introduces a new character or characters who will ultimately serve to help the hero learn the theme.
  1. Fun and Games (20% to 50%) – A multi-scene beat where the reader gets to see the protagonist either shinning or floundering in their new world.
  1. Midpoint (50%) –a “false victory” or “false fail.”

Act 2B / The Middle (Part 2)

  1. Bad Guys Close In (50% to 75%) – 
  1. All is Lost (75%) – Seems like total defeat (usually death happens)
  1. Dark Night of the Soul (75% to 80%) – A multi-scene beat in which the protagonist takes time to process everything that’s happened so far. 
  1. Break Into Three (80%) – Hero realizes what they must do to overcome

 Act 3 / The End

  1. Finale (80% to 99%)– A multi-scene beat where the protagonist proves they have learned the story’s theme.
  1. Final Image (99% to 100%) (Should be the opposite of what the opening scene shows)

When using other methods, trying to come up with more than the most important plot points before having the first draft written left me feeling like I was hopeless at plotting or outlining (at one point, I was convinced that I was a pantser).

Suddenly plotting an outline went from something I mostly dreaded and struggled with to something I was excited to do.

This doesn’t mean that it is the best way to outline. It is just the one that clicked with me. I will probably continue using all three at some stage in the brainstorming/plotting process, but this is the one I use to get a more complete understanding of my story before I start drafting.

(Check out this blog post for a deeper explanation on how to use these plot points. I must have visited 50 times while plotting my novel.  😀 )

So while there may not be one “right” way to outline, there is a “right” way out there for you. You just have to find it.

I hope one of these methods will be yours. Try them all out with an old story you tossed aside or with your current work in progress and see what works for you. Who knows, maybe you will create your own hybrid outlining method. 🙂

Have you heard or tried of any of these methods before? What is your favorite way to plot/outline?

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The Most Important Thing You are Missing as an Author

Hey Epic Dreamers!

Do you ever feel like you are missing something in your writing journey? You have great ideas, you’ve studied the craft, you’ve put in the writing time, or maybe you’ve even published a book. But for some reason you still don’t feel like a real writer.

I saw an interview with Rachel Hollis the other day that made me realize there was a part of this being an author thing that I was missing that wasn’t the prose, the plot, or the characters. While studying the craft and knowing how to flawlessly weave these elements into a story is important, there is another element that is crucial to whether we will achieve our writing goals.

The Stages of Making ADRs, As Told By Disney Princess Gifs – Fairy God  Bloggers

That element is the mindset of the author.  Whether our dream is to be a best-selling author or to indie publish a collection of short stories, our success in achieving those goals is determined by our mindset. Our mindset is also what can hold us back from success, even if it is our most sought after goal.

Authors (or maybe just creative types in general) have a tendency to downplay their achievements and dreams. I know I do!

We may downplay our actual goals for our writing, telling family members or friends that it is “just something I play around with” because, we are afraid that they will judge us. We are afraid they will think we are arrogant for thinking that our writing is, or could ever be, that good or that they will laugh at us for taking a career in writing seriously.

As Rachel Hollis said, “None of us can step forward into who we are called to be because we are too worried about what [others] think of us.” 

 

What she said in her interview made me realize that there was no shame in having a dream, no matter how big it is. 

Believe you are ready to shine disney tiana

If you’ve struggled with taking your writing goals seriously or struggled with sharing you dreams of being an author with others, then take a moment to give yourself permission to dream. If you are feeling stuck with your writing it may not be because you haven’t read enough books on writing or because your plot isn’t exciting enough. It may simply be because you’ve hidden away the author side of you so much that it doesn’t dare to come out, even for you.

If you have a dream, don’t waste time being ashamed of it.  🙂

“I do not care what other people think of me for having dreams and goals for myself.” –Rachel Hollis

***I’ve started a monthly newsletter where I share videos that inspire me as a writer (ones like the interview with Rachel Hollis). They are short and to the point and only once a month, so I’m not spamming you to death. 😛

Saving the Cat Saved My Story

Hey Epic Dreamers!

Has it really been two months since I’ve posted? Yikes! I should be fired.

I’ve been in a bit of a writing rut for the last month or so. Maybe it’s the cold weather or the COVID craziness or simply because I’ve been working on the same story for roughly a year and not feeling like I’ve gotten anywhere with it, but I just can’t drudge up the energy to write (on the story or here).

Then I really had an “all is lost” moment when I received feedback on my WIP from my alpha reader and was attempting to use her suggestions to fix my story when began to notice even more in the story that needed fixing. I realized that it was such a mess that I wasn’t even sure it was worth salvaging and was seriously considering tossing it aside and moving on to something else.

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At the same time I had this dark revelation, a book I had ordered from the library, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, happened to arrive. I decided to push thoughts of my broken story out of my head and spend some time learning about the craft.

When I got to the section on the 15 beat story structure, everything began to click into place. I suddenly understood why things weren’t working in my story and, most importantly, how to fix them.

It wasn’t that the overall idea of the story was bad. It was simply that I didn’t have the right tool to transform the story into what it needed to be.  I felt like a builder hopelessly staring at a bunch of  scattered boards and nails, unsure of what to do until someone placed a hammer in my hand.

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After learning this way of plotting, I have made the painful decision to scrap my manuscript and completely  rewrite it.  I am going back to “ground zero” and going through the brainstorming/plotting stage with it and looking at it as if it were a completely new story that just happens to have the same characters and overall idea.

It was emotionally draining to realize that three drafts and months of work had to be scrapped, but it was also energizing to have found a way of plotting that finally clicked, jelled with me, synergized with my way of thinking about a story.

I bought a huge cork board and am covering it with index cards that represent each scene just as Snyder suggested. It’s been a lot of fun and I am actually excited about my story again and can see how the choices I’m making with the plot now will make it a much better story.

So, I guess I said all that to say, that’s my excuse for not posting in a while. 😉

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I hope you all have been doing well, and I’d love to know how your writing projects are going (hopefully better than mine).

Also, I am starting a monthly newsletter where I will share fun, inciteful writing videos. Join us to get this month’s letter which will have a breakdown of the 15 beat story structure using Interstellar as an example. 

I’ll be sending it tomorrow!

 

How I Got Over my Month-Long Writer’s Block

After reading the print out of my first draft, I sat down to start on the second draft…and immediately became overwhelmed.

There was so much I wanted to add: relationships between characters needed strengthening, story threads needed to be woven tighter together, new scenes added, old scenes revised. The list seemed never-ending.

Because I had pantsed my way through the first draft, I knew that I would have to rewrite every chapter to get it the way that I wanted it. At first, this idea was exciting because I was looking forward to adding in all the fun ideas I’d had while reading through the first draft, but as I began writing chapter one again I got these overwhelming feelings of lethargy. I felt like I was walking in circles—like I’d beaten a game only to have it crash and make me start back at square one.

I realized that I would have to do more than just add in some things and rewrite some paragraphs here and there. I would have to completely rewrite ever single chapter.

Chapter one suddenly seemed more daunting than when I was starting from scratch.

It didn’t help that I had this huge list of things that I wanted to accomplish in the first chapter. There were so many world-building elements I wanted to add, characters I wanted introduced, back stories and tension between characters that I wanted to hint at. Making the list was helpful, but having it loom above me while trying to write the first chapter made me feel more like I was writing a college essay than a story.

So there I was, barley a chapter into my second draft, and the only feelings I had were a sense of starting at ground zero after months of work, and the nagging feeling to make it perfect this time through so there wouldn’t be so much to add in the next draft.

Working on the story left me feeling frustrated and frustration dried up any creativity which might have helped me out…which left me more discouraged and frustrated.

I kept thinking that it was just a faze and I’d snap out of it, but my writing sessions were pitifully unproductive and I started wanting to write less and less.

Finally, I got tired of waiting for my writer’s block to leave me and sat down at my lap top determined to figure out WHY I had writer’s block in the first place.  Everyone goes through times where their writing sessions are sluggish or they are a little lethargic…but a month of no writing? Yikes!

First I figured out everything I wrote above. I realized that I was putting too much pressure on myself to be mostly finished with this story when the second draft (at least for a pantser) is basically just the first draft since the first draft was simply me figuring the story out and serves as more of an outline than a first draft. (Why do I have to be a pantser? Seems like a curse.)

Instead of focusing on all the little details that needed to be added in and trying to fit them in at just the right place with just the right wording, I needed to continue focusing on the big picture and overall flow of the story just as I did in the first draft.

I was feeling bored and frustrated with it because I was trying to get everything set in place and nailed down too soon.

I was allowing myself to get bogged down with the dos and don’ts of story writing—looking at it like a list of boxes I had to check— instead of simply continuing to let the story tell itself, which for me still means keeping those concepts in mind but still letting the characters and theme drive the story.

One of the reasons I love writing the first draft so much is because of the dream-like quality it has for me, the sense that anything can happen, and the excitement of getting to know the characters and world. Writing those first drafts are a lot like smearing paint in colorful blobs on a canvas: anyone watching will see meaningless shapes, but the artist sees the overall picture, including the details he will add later.

I was trying to make my second draft like a math equation: Perfectly formulated character arc + perfect place for back story + every detail given in the “right spot” = a perfect story.

While there are times to evaluate a story like an equation to find what’s going wrong or what aspect could be strengthened, that approach simply wasn’t working for me at that stage. I needed to let surprises happen, start writing without knowing exactly where the scene was going, and begin a chapter without looking too closely at how the first draft of that chapter was written.

In short, I had to pretend that this was the first draft and—to keep from feeling like the first draft was a complete waste of time—pretend that the actual first draft was a messy, overly-detailed outline.

If you are reading this because you a struggling with a case of writer’s block and are hoping for a magic “trick” to help you out of it, I’m sorry to say that I don’t have one. There are so many reasons for writer’s block and what works once to get you out of writer’s block three months ago may not work for you in your current state of writer’s block.

But what helped me get out of this particularly long slump is something that can get you started on writer’s-block recovery even if it doesn’t cure it outright. I had to let go of how far along I thought my story should be—stop looking at it like a puzzle with a thousand frustrating pieces—and look at it as an adventure I get to go on every day. Some days are tough, but some days bring me the most beautiful scenery.

The only magic trick that can cure writer’s block is rediscovering that magic that drew you to the story in the first place. Find that spark that ignited the idea—a character, a scene, an aspect of the world—and focus on refining or expanding that character or idea until whatever is blocking your flow is forced to melt away.

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I’m excited to announce that The Hashna Stone has been selected for the book cover contest on allauthor.com!

The winning book gets some pretty sweet prizes, including free advertising.

It would help me out so much if you clicked the link below and voted! My book needs to stay in the top 100 covers in order to go to the next round.

Thanks friends!!! 🙂

VOTE FOR THE HASHNA STONE

New Year’s (Writing) Goals

The new year is a time to reflect on what happened in the previous year and dream about what may happen this year, but I haven’t spent that much time on either of those things until today.

It’s been a rainy, gloomy, sleepy day that hasn’t been good for productivity, but it did make for the perfect opportunity for some refection.

A lot of wonderful things happened in 2019. I moved into a new apartment, published my first book, and married my best friend. One might think that with so many amazing things that happened in 2019 that 2020 couldn’t possibly be any better. But I have a really good feeling about 2020 and am convinced that it will be even better than last year.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because people don’t tend to stick to those, but I’ve found that what works for me is to regularly evaluate where I’m at and where I want to be and list what steps I need to take in order to get there.

So I may not have some big resolution, but I do have goals I want to achieve in the next few months (which, to me, is much more doable than a vague or overwhelming New Year’s resolution).

One of these goals has to do with writing of course, because what would life be without constant writing goals. 😉

I’ve planned out the next steps I need to take with my manuscript and jotted down tentative dates for when I will start and finish each step. This includes reading through a printed version of the first draft (Which I’m working on now!), writing the second draft, sending it to beta readers, writing the third draft, sending it to more beta readers, then writing a forth draft, then (hopeful) it will be finished and I can start phase two and get an editor to look over the first few chapters.

Why only the first few and not the entire book?

That’s another goal for 2020. I’ve decided to give traditional publishing a shot with this new novel.

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I’ve given the indie author life a try, why not try traditional as well? 🙂

Since agents are likely to request a sample of the first pages or chapters in a book along with the query letter, I think it would be a good idea to have an editor look over it before sending (something I wish I would have done with The Hashna Stone).

These steps span out until April, so when April comes, I’ll reevaluate again and set new writing goals. That might mean a new story or yet another draft of my current WIP, depending where I’m at with it.

But whether I get an agent or self publish again, 2020 will hold yet another published book and all the work and thrill that comes from it.

And that, to me, will make 2020 a smashing success.

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I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s celebration! Any favorite memories about the holidays that you care to share? What about New Year’s resolutions? Any big plans/goals for 2020?

***Also, I haven’t forgotten about sharing some tidbits on this novel I’ve been keeping a secret. I’ll be sharing next week! But if you don’t want to wait that long, head over to my Patreon page for all the details.

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More than a Coffee Cup


There is such a cool story behind this adorable mug, and I just have to share it even though this is a bit different from the usually type of blog posts I have here.

It started when I saw a friend’s  (Barb) post on Instagram of her own adorable little coffee cup and I commented, “So cute. I want one,” not really expecting to get one of course, but Barb unexpectedly offered to send me a mug.

See, the mug in her post was sent to her by someone in Canada after Barb had commented on how much she wanted a mug like that. (It has it’s own little story you can read in Barb’s post @barb_ready_writes)

Barb told me that she would find the perfect cup for me and she did!

The cup talks about being courageous and not giving up when you’re being tossed by a storm, and that was exactly what I needed to hear.

For the last two week of so, I’ve been wondering if wondering if I should set this whole writing thing on the side…not give it up completely…just not devote so much time to it.

I’m thrilled with the accomplishment of actually writing and publishing a book and don’t regret the time and money I put into it at all, but I did wonder if that season in my life had come to a close and if I needed to back off on the writing/marketing/Patreon/blog posting (you know…all that stuff that comes with being an indie author).

It can get exhausting and, frankly, I was getting discouraged with it all. I knew that a book isn’t going to be an overnight success just because you put it out there and tell your blogging and Instagram friends about it, but I had hoped that sales would be a little better than they are.

I believe that God can speak through a stranger and his voice whispers through acts of kindness. Barb and the coffee cup she sent reminded me that I shouldn’t give up just because the waters are rough.

I believe that God has a purpose for everyone and I know that writing stories is mine.

Every time I look at this coffee cup, I’ll remember that I have the strength inside to keep going no matter what.

 

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The Hashna Stone’s Publication Journey and What it Taught Me

I can’t believe it! The little story I wrote for this blog three years ago has grown into a 400-page novel with a beautiful cover. I am beyond excited that it’s turned out so well and that I finally get to share it with the world.

Who knew that the choose-your-own-adventure story we played around with would plant the seeds for my debut novel? Looking back on those first few chapters I wrote, I would have never thought they’d turn into a book.

You see, the idea I had for The Hashna Stone wasn’t one of my “real” book ideas. I had quite a few ideas tucked away in my head or in some word documents on my laptop, and they were my real story ideas–the ones I would one day turn into those books I’d always dreamed of writing.

But The Hashna Stone? I was just playing around with it. I didn’t feel it was “good enough” to be a full-length novel, but it was the perfect little story to post on my blog. It was fun, but not complicated. The characters were engaging without being too complex.

But once I was finished posting those small chapters here on my blog, I realized there was more to the story than what I first thought.  I realized that if I dug into the characters a little deeper, thickened the plot, and expanded the story, it would be what I thought all those other story ideas were: book worthy.

It still wasn’t going to be one of my “real” books though. It was just going to be a little something I wrote for the fans that played the choose-your-own-adventure on my blog. I wasn’t going to pay for editing, formatting, or a cover because it was just a fun little project that I had going. I looked at it as more of preparation for when I wrote my “real” book.

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BUT…after working on it for about 6-8 months and realizing just how much there really was to the story, I didn’t want to put it out there without giving it a fair chance. To have any chance at success, my book would need an editor and professional cover at the very least. The problem was that these things can get extremely expensive. We’re talking $1,000-$3,000 for editing and $300-$500 for a cover.

And that was just the bare minimum. If I wanted it to look good on the inside, I would need to hire someone to format both the paperback version and the ebook. It was also highly recommended that a book goes through more than just an editor, so I would need to hire a proofreader as well (another $1,000 or so). And I didn’t even want to think about marketing. It would be a waste to spend so much on the book and not have anyone see it, but marketing costs would really put me way in over my head with expenses.

I had a problem.

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I’d put way too much work into The Hashna Stone to make it a free eBook that I put out there with a cover I made myself and no one to check for errors but a few beta readers (which really isn’t even a beta reader’s job). But I couldn’t afford all the bells and whistle I needed to give my book the makeover it deserved.

With those facts in mind, there was only one way for me to do this: start querying agents.

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If the self-publishing route was too experiencing, than I would have to throw my book on the all-too-slim mercy of agents and publishing houses.

I knew I’d chosen a tough path that not many authors have had success with, but it was better than letting my book languish away in a metaphorically dusty folder on my laptop.

Fast forward 30 queries later and I still didn’t have an agent.

My lack of an agent didn’t make me doubt the quality of the book. I’d read plenty of authors’ stories and knew that even good books take time to get an agent and it could take me sixty queries to get an agent.

But I wondered if my lack of success was because I was going in the wrong direction. Maybe The Hashna Stone wasn’t meant to have a publishing house dictate its final outcome.

I decided to go back to my original plan to self publish. By this time, a year had passed (full of a lot of events that were unrelated to the book but that forced me to have to put it on hold) and I found myself in the perfect spot for self publishing. I had some extra time on my hands as well as some unexpected funds that would just be enough to pay for an editor, proofreader, cover artist, and some one to format the book.

I have never felt more alive in my life than in those early months after I decided to join the ranks of indie authors. It was a whirlwind of searching for the right people, hours and hours of editing, tons of internet research on self publishing and (surprisingly) having a blast at marketing.

There were a few setbacks along the way but (you know about the cover trouble), for the most part, the self-publishing journey has been smooth–a fact for which I am so thankful. This being my debut novel, there are a ton of things that could have gone wrong.

But The Hashna Stone is a stubborn little thing that wouldn’t let anything get in its way. Not being categorized as a “little story for my blog” by me. Not agent rejections. Not being sat aside and neglected for months because other things in life needed attention.

It knew what it was and wouldn’t let anyone or any circumstance tell it any differently.  It knew it was just as great as any of the other story ideas floating in my head, and it wasn’t going to let me rest until it proved that it was a real story.

The Hashna Stone taught me a valuable lesson: just because others can’t see who you are, doesn’t mean you aren’t that person.

For so long, I couldn’t see the true value in the story, and it wasn’t until two years later, after a lot of hard work and learning, that I’ve sifted though the dirt and found the “gold.”

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Which is another valuable lesson The Hashna Stone taught me. Some things take time to mature to the level of excellence that they were meant to be and as much as you may be tempted to rush the process (publishing it myself without the prep work) or to throw it away and start on something else more “worthy” of you time, you’ll never see the true value of that thing if you don’t stick with it until its process is finished.

If you find yourself in a place where you don’t feel valued, don’t feel talented, don’t think that your goals and dreams could ever be achieved, remember The Hashna Stone and how, even when its own author didn’t see its true value, it refused to give up.

Just because things aren’t working out now, doesn’t mean that you should give up, and just because people can’t see your real value doesn’t mean you aren’t valuable.

The Hashna Stone’s own author didn’t think it was a “real” story, but its joined the ranks of millions of published books out there and proving to me and everyone who didn’t believe in it that it is indeed a real story.

*For those of you who have read about the cover trouble I’d been having with the paperback…Yes, this post means it’s over! I’m so pleased to announce that The Hashna Stone is available as a paperback as well as an e-book.

Want to stay in the loop with real-time updates? Follow me on Instagram! That’s where I did the cover reveal for my book. I share my progress on whatever I’m working on at the time, and Instagram followers will be the first to know about my new book projects. 😉

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