September 29, 2014

Insecure Writers' Support Group - overcoming the obstacles

(This post includes an interview and is longer than the recommended 300 words for IWSG, but it also includes 2 giveaways for a great read.)


I started writing in 2005. Since that time, I’ve met a lot of writers. I’ve heard a lot of stories about the difficulties and insecurities they’ve had to overcome to get their books published. And whether they went the traditional route or the self-publishing route, they’ve all had to fight to get their books out into the world to be read. One of these writers is Kristal Shaff. 

I’ve known Kristal since 2005 or 2006. We met because we’d both posted comments on another writer’s blog. We started chatting via AOL chat and discovered we had some common ground. She was a mom in Iowa with three young kids. I was a mom in Arizona with three young kids. We were both working on a first novel. We were both writing fantasy. At the time, I just wanted one copy of my book to hold in my hands to prove I’d written a novel. Kristal wanted her story published. 

Very soon after meeting, we agreed to help each other with our stories. Over the years, we’ve shared each other’s frustrations and tears and triumphs—not just over writing, but life. We’ve pulled each other out of our writer slumps and given each other a kick in the seat of the pants when necessary. We’ve critiqued and proofread each other’s stories, and helped each other become better writers.

After all this time of watching her overcome one obstacle after another to publish her book (a fantasy story I’ve read in all of its forms more times than I can count, and enjoyed every single time), I now have the privilege of helping her promote it. 

MG: Kristal, thank you so much for stopping by beautiful chaos as part of your blog tour.
KS: Sure. Thanks for having me here.

MG: Why did you want to write The Emissary?
KS: I’ve always been an avid reader. It wasn’t until I read the YA fantasy novel, ERAGON, that I realized I wanted to give it a go myself. Christopher Paolini, the author, inspired me to try because he was only a teen when he wrote his book. It showed me that it doesn’t matter what age you are, young or old. If you want to write a book, why not try.

MG: How long has this process taken, from the time you decided to write the novel to the release date?
KS: Oh my. Well, it’s been a really long time. I wrote the first, terrible words back in 2005, then didn’t have anything workable until 2006. My first completed draft was almost 200,000 words of complete crap. It took some time to edit it down into something workable. Finally, after about 8 drafts, I was able to find an agent. That was in 2008. After a year of trying to sell the book with my agent, it failed. I’ve pulled it out and rewritten it several times after that. So it’s been a very long process, but I’ve never given up on it.

MG: What were some of the things you did to try to get the book “out there” to be read?
KS: I went the agent route first, and that failed. I also submitted it to several publishers on my own. Some of those submissions were almost successful, such as a rewrite from Little Brown Publishing and a nice personalized note from Baen. I also entered it into some open door submission and was very close to publishing with Strange Chemistry. I also got some beta readers along the way, which was really good for me. I found a group of fellows on a slinging forum (where people like to throw rocks with slings and talk about it). I’d approached them for research on using slings for my book, and I found them to be very friendly and helpful. Several of the fellows on there were great assets for beta readers and gave me a lot of encouragement to my battered self-esteem.

MG: What were some of your fears and insecurities along the way?
KS: Rejection is the biggest fear. Even now that it is out in the word, there is a fear that someone won’t like it. And after each rejection, you doubt that you can actually do it again. Writing is such a personal thing; you open your mind up to others. So I believe it’s completely natural to have some fears. Being a writer puts you in a very vulnerable state.

MG: How did you overcome them?
KS: My fears? You don’t totally overcome them. You learn to deal with your fears, cover them up, harden the outside layer to protect you. I think writers should worry more if you feel confident all the time. Writers who think they are wonderful are most likely to be the worst at their craft, because they can’t see beyond their glory. You need discernment to improve.  I do think that all the rejections have helped me to improve, and also prepared me for bad reviews. Even the most famous writers get bad reviews. So going through the pain of the process, I believe, prepares you for the destination of publication. I’m more equipped now because it was a long, hard journey.

MG: If you had it to do over again, would you?
KS: I think so. I’ve learned a lot and gained a lot of friends. There is something to be said for that alone. I’m still very new to this “being published” thing, that I’m honestly having a hard time wrapping my brain around it. I feel the same as I did before, but there is a sense of closure to it finally.

MG: What advice would you give other insecure writers?
KS: It’s okay to feel insecure. It’s normal. Like a hero in your stories, the key is to push through and be brave even in the midst of self-doubt. The best heroes are the ones who succeed after struggling through trials and insecurity. Be a hero, like the ones in your stories, and keep going. With a little stubborn perseverance, and the willingness to see your faults and rejections as opportunities to grow and improve, you can succeed.

For more information about The Emissary, Kristal, or the blog tour, click here, or on The Emissary’s cover at the top of my sidebar. 

The blog tour host, MaryAnn at Chapter by Chapter will be giving away 5 digital copies of Kristal’s book at the end of the tour, October 25. If you want to enter, here’s a link to the rafflecopter website.

Completely separate from Chapter by Chapter, and Month9Books (Kristal’s publisher), I will be giving away 3 copies of The Emissary (out of my own pocket because I love this story so much) in a random drawing of people who comment on this post. I will choose winners October 4. They’ll get to choose from e-book or paperback.  

September 3, 2014

IWSG - coffee or chocolate?

i remembered at the last minute this was IWSG day (as in, just now, at 8:01 a.m. Wed.) sorry. for IWSG posts i've written in the past, go to the tab under my header. i'll leave you with a picture i found on facebook. (i'd replace the "drink coffee" part with "eat chocolate.")

August 14, 2014

kind of how i got started

















although, my hero was kind of a dark and stormy blacksmith with the heart of a knight. :)

August 4, 2014

IWSG - taking a break

i haven't missed posting for IWSG in a long time. this month i'm taking a break. hope to post in September.

July 2, 2014

IWSG - sometimes you just need to laugh

my son and i are writing my novel as a team. the other day, we tried and tried and tried to work on a scene, but it was like pushing my Ford Excursion uphill. painful. clunky. tiring. we finally stopped. the next day, we went at it again. it gushed out like a flash flood in the desert during monsoon season. 

the difference? we found something to laugh about before we started. we found cheesy lines to laugh at during the writing. i know it's not always that simple, but sometimes that's all you need - to find something funny. to not take your writing so seriously. to get those endorphines going to free your brain. 

so, with that in mind, here are some things we laugh at quite often...

-- Calvin and Hobbes cartoons (we have 4 books of them)

-- funny videos - here are links to a few of our favorites




and finally, a picture that amuses me so much i've put it on my computer screen. 

for more posts to encourage you, click on the IWSG picture in my sidebar. 

now, even if you're not having writer's block, go find something to laugh about. it will make you feel better. 

June 15, 2014

the journey of a thousand miles

begins with one step.

or as William Hutchison Murray (Scottish author and mountain climber) said in his book, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition ...

 “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”


June 4, 2014

IWSG - write like you

i'm cheating today.

life is a bit crazy, what with taking my son to physical therapy and other appointments and working on my novel and getting ready for a new animal around here (which i'll share when she comes). that said, i found a great post yesterday by one of my favorite authors, Robin Lee Hatcher, and it's called "No 'Right' Way to Write a Novel." i hope you'll check it out.

for other IWSG posts, click on the IWSG link in my sidebar. have a great day.

May 17, 2014

who wants perfectionism?

keeping with this serendipitous theme of fear i've been on, a quote from Anne Lamott, part of a facebook post she wrote on May 12th. 


Here’s how to break through the perfectionism: make a LOT of mistakes. Fall on your butt more often. Waste more paper, printing out your sh--- first drafts, and maybe send a check to the Sierra Club. Celebrate messes — these are where the goods are. Put something on the calendar that you know you’ll be terrible at, like dance lessons, or a meditation retreat, or boot camp. Find a writing partner, who will help you with your work, by reading it for you, and telling you the truth about it, with respect, to help you make it better and better; for whom you will do the same thing. Find someone who wants to steal his or her life back, too. Now; today. One wild and crazy thing: wears shorts out in public if it is hot, even if your legs are milky white or heavy. Go to a poetry slam. Go to open mike,and read the story you wrote about the hilariously god-awful family reunion, with a trusted friend, even though it could be better, and would hurt Uncle Ed’s feelings if he read it, which he isn’t going to.

Change his name and hair color — he won’t even recognize himself.

At work, you begin to fulfill your artistic destiny. Wow! A reviewer may hate your style, or newspapers may neglect you, or 500 people may tell you that you are bitter, delusional and boring.

Let me ask you this: in the big juicy Zorba scheme of things, who **** cares?