How do you know if you’re good?

You can google that questions. It will give you seven ways to know if you’re a good person, ways to be good in bed, and ways to be a good kisser. But nothing that really says “this is how you know that you’re good.”

Try “at something” and it gives you a list of questionnaires to find out your strengths and weaknesses, and tricks and tips to finding your talent.

But how do you really know that you’re good at something? For me it’s writing. I write short stories, I show them to other people, and sometimes they say they are good. Other times they read them and say nothing. Still sometimes they don’t even bother reading them. That’s nothing new though, I’m sure I’ve passed over thousands of books to choose to read the few that I have. There are TV shows I will watch, and rave about, and there are others I won’t even give a second glance. But that doesn’t necessarily speak to weather or not something is good.

Today on Reddit someone asked what the worst part of self publishing was. I said marketing because I have absolutly no idea how to do. I think sometimes it’s just that I don’t have the confidence to do it. I don’t believe in myself enough, I don’t believe that people care what I have to say enough, so I don’t want to bother them with me begging them to buy, read, or review one of my stories. This belief that my words hold no value is ingrained from childhood when I was to be seen and no heard, and a lot of the time I wasn’t even to be seen. It’s a hard thing to undo.

Another person in that forum said they hated marketing because there were tons of books that were better then hers that aren’t getting any love because their writers don’t know how to market, while her books are doing fantastic because she is good at marketing. And there is the crux of the matter. If you know how to market you’re golden. If you don’t… then you’re me. 😉

I do get fantastic comments on my books sometimes, and I read them all because it’s so encouraging. The comments, wherever they find me, have been helpful in keeping me going in between publications.

But am I good? I don’t know. Perhaps time will tell. All I know is that for right now… I’m good enough. I’ve gotten to a place in my writing that I think I’m doing pretty good. Not everything is golden, not everything is solid, but the things I put out are decent and I would read them if I hadn’t written them. Isn’t that as much as you can ask, especially when you’re first starting out?

I hope some day to know weather or not I was good at writing. Until then I plan to just keep getting better, and keep putting things out. Eventually something is bound to touch someone.


Don’t give up!

It’s nearing the end of NaNoWriMo. Just five days left, and I have 9300 words to go. That’s less then 2k a day. I got this!

But it also means that I’ve been really hard at work, and sometimes when I sit down at the computer I fumble through about three hundred words (words that I will just be throwing out) before I can actually get anything good down.

On one hand this is good. It clears my mind and gets me back into the writing motions. I’m okay with that. And the fact that I can recognize good writing from bad writing so fast, and still realize that I need to get it out before I can go back and fix it, means I’ve improved dramatically over the last few  years.

On the other… I have to throw out a bunch of words I just wrote. It sucks, however you look at it. Every once in a while you’ll see a tweet from me (if you’re following my twitter) where I say “just wrote 600 words and threw out 600 words. A day in the life of a writer.” And it’s true! Some days you have a bunch of drek to throw out before you can get to the good stuff.

But that’s okay. EVERYONE has those days. We all have a day where we don’t feel good, or we don’t feel like being creative, or efficient, or even getting out of bed. Sometimes we even give into those feelings. It’s okay, it’s normal. As long as the job still gets done.

I’m starting to think of writing as a job more and more. A job I love, but a job just the same. One in which you still have to show up and do the work every day or you don’t get paid. It’s not a hobby anymore, it’s something I need in my life, and I keep doing. Even on days when it’s tough. Even when the ‘muse’ must be tied up to the chair and force fed coffee to get her butt in gear.

So don’t give up. I know it can be tough sometimes, but don’t give up.

Aaaaand DONE!

Winner-2014-Twitter-ProfileI finished writing 50,023 words for my book, “Mermaid’s Curse” at 8:35 am the morning of Nov 30th. I am kind of shocked that I was able to finish so early. Not only that, but I only had 1300 words to write that morning.

Every year that I’ve done NaNoWriMo before I’ve been faced with the last day rush to get words. 8000 one year, 10000 another. It got to the point where I just threw words at the page hoping to see what stuck later in editing, and most of it was terrible.

First drafts are suppose to be terrible. But it isn’t always good to feel like nothing you write has any value except words on a page either. When you’re so tired you are holding your eyes open with toothpicks, and your back and neck hurt from all the typing, all you want to do is curl into bed and sleep, that’s when your writing suffers the most.

So, this year I’m going to share what made a real difference. Why did this year feel different from every other year? And why doesn’t it feel like I am so exhausted and sick of writing that I can’t pick up the keyboard this month?

Practice and Reality

dataFor the last two years I’ve been trying to write every day. That hasn’t always worked. I could give you lots of excuses as to why this hasn’t always worked, and of course there are days when things came up, or I was sick, or there was a lot going on… But the truth is most of the days I failed to write I just didn’t feel like writing. I was lazy. I didn’t take my writing seriously enough.

In October, for the first time, I actually started realizing how important writing was to me. I wrote a bit about this earlier this month, and the two things that really seemed to help. This was my reality check. I had to decide this thing, this writing, was important to me. More important than the job I go to 5 days of the week. More important than video games, or board games, or long soaks in the tub. (not that I can give up or stop doing all of those things, just that I had to decide what was more important.)

Once I got the reality check I started practicing writing every day in earnest. That meant that when NaNoWriMo came along I was willing and able to take up my own challenge and slay some writers block demons. And do so with excitement because “This was my story, and I loved it, and I wanted to see it finished!”

Be prepared for distraction

Things will get in the way. My daughter made an unexpected trip home. There was Thanksgiving, and a day where I felt sick. I had a day when I was literally so exhausted I almost feel asleep at the keyboard.

These things are going to happen. Prepare for them. I did this by always striving for 2k a day from day one. I wrote 2k a day more than half of the month. That’s what allowed me to finish NaNoWriMo that morning without stressing over it. I only had 1300 words and two hours before work. No problem because I had already been putting in 2k a day most of the month. This morning it was just the pure excitement of “OMG I’M ALMOST DONE” that got me to do it so quickly.

Listen to your body

I had a few days where I couldn’t quite reach 2k for the day because I was so tired. Being tired does not help your writing. When I was exhausted I tended to write much slower, and the words I wrote were far more likely to be deleted the next day. The next morning I still had work, and I was still exhausted. When I got home that night I would get to write and find myself doing even worse than the day before.

About a week in I decided that I wasn’t going to play that merry game of chasing my tail anymore. Nope, time to listen to my body. My body said sleep, I was going to sleep, darn it, and forget about writing that day. Each time I got to about 400-500 words and started feeling my eyes start to droop I’d close the programs, turn off the PC, and go to bed. The next day I would almost always manage to get 2.5k words out in a few hours.

Small Steps

I also talked a bit here about how I would listen when my brain started to wander and then I’d go do something else. After a bit I’d come back and write some more.

I’ve learned that I can do about 500 words in thirty minutes. Then after a short break I could come back and do it all over again. Four thirty minute sessions got me the 2k words I wanted for the day.

They are small steps, each step carving out a little more of the story, sharing it. And adding it to the already piled up masses of FINISHED chapters.

Take Joy in Small Accomplishments

About a week and a half from the end of NaNoWriMo I started to have a few new challenges. I was getting to the point where I had lots of words, but nothing finished. The chapters were in pieces, with lots of connecting sentences that read “and they did this and this until this happened” before going on to the next scene that I had been able to write. I needed to finish those connecting pieces so that I had a complete chapter.

So I got out my scrivener file and I just sat down and started on page one. Working my way down the page I filled in all those little pieces, and after half an hour I had a finished chapter. I added a little asterisk to the title of that chapter and went onto the next chapter.

After a couple of days the asterisks started adding up. I am done with the first twelve chapters of Mermaid’s Curse 3, and the rest of them are mostly finished. Each time I added that asterisk that said “this is done, it just needs and edit” I felt buoyed and wanted to keep going. It was awesome.

Take joy in the small accomplishments, because they eventually add up.

I have about 15,000 words to go to complete this novel, and then I will have a completed trilogy to send off to the editor. I think I’m incredibly excited! NaNoWriMo was a success for me!

Why NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo just started! This month also brings Thanksgiving, and the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, along with day light savings, and a slew of other things with family and friends. And yet we still decide to torture ourselves with writing 50,000 words in a month. What’s wrong with us?

I’ve done NaNoWriMo several years, and each year I learn something new about myself, and about my writing. I also get a lot from the experience in regards to social interaction and community. So this year as I start on my journey for NaNoWriMo I asked myself: why?

Deadlines help many people get to the end of projects, books, readings, videos, and many other things. Deadlines help enfource the notion that you have a set amount of time to get something done, and NaNo has a huge, vibrant, built in deadline already there for you.

Some of us do not find it that easy to make deadlines for ourselves. Therefore you can use NaNo. While you’re only really accountable to yourself, for most of us that’s enough. Lying about “winning” NaNo doesn’t hurt anyone, but if you can make that deadline it feels amazing.

There are SLEWS of people out there on every social media outlet, in coffee shops, video blogs, and everything else. All of them want to encourage you to write your book. That is so incredibly helpful.

Some people are competitive by nature. The buddy system on NaNo forums is awesome for tracking each of your buddies word counts and seeing where you stack up with them. I am rarely above, or even even with my buddies, but I still love trying to at least catch up with them.

Misery loves company, right? Well so do writers. Writing is such a lonely profession, or hobby, or whatever it is for you. Take the time to get to know a few people, make some friendships, and stay in contact with them after NaNo is over. The world of writing won’t seem quite as alone as it did before.

Similar to accountability, and deadlines. Only this has to do with word counts too. You’re goal, if you chose to accept it, is to write an entire novel. 50,000 words. That’s a lot of words. But goals help people. They keep them focused. Knowing exactly what you are trying to do will keep you going.

At the end of the day, achievement is the end all. Know you tried, and you succeeded, is an amazing feeling. Even if you don’t manage to finish, if you tried again and you got farther this time you’ve achieved something. For me, every year I learn something new about myself, and my writing style. THAT is an achievement in itself. If I can learn something that will help me keep writing in the years to come then I am all for NaNoWriMo.

Prizes are the last thing on the list. NaNoWriMo has a couple of great prizes, like free print copies of your book, and half price on Scrivener (the best writing program EVER). But they aren’t that big of a carrot. Really, you could easily fake winning NaNo and still get the prizes, but you