IWSG: Working Without A Net

IWSG

One of my friends from long-ago is the unrivaled King of Snark. He prefers to think of himself as the Crown Prince, but I think he’s being modest. And right now, even as I write this, I am working my way into a full-blown crisis of confidence because of him.

Okay, well it’s not really his fault. I was already in mid-crisis long before I contacted him.

I just asked him to read a chapter from my newest book and give me honest feedback, and now I’m freaking out while I wait for him to get back to me. Not because I’m afraid he’ll hate it and tear it to shreds, but because I’m afraid he’ll say he likes it and I won’t believe him.

You see, in Fat, Fifty, and Menopausal, I don’t have a lot of filters. One would think that should be fairly obvious from the title, but now I’m not so sure. It seemed funny when I thought of it; it seemed funny when I wrote the first draft. But now? Now I’m starting to have doubts. I’m scared I’ve gone too far. Even the title might be too much, I’m afraid.

 

nervous

I’m from a generation of women who don’t talk about personal things like Menopause. Women who lie about their age. Who refer to themselves as “curvy” or “voluptuous” but never ever come right out and say the “f” word. What the heck is wrong with me? Why in God’s name would I write a book about being fat, fifty and menopausal? I’m afraid this is all too personal, too much. That I’ve crossed the line into an uncomfortable level of self-disclosure.

What if no one finds it funny? What if the King of Snark comes back to me later tonight with nothing more than a patronizing comment like, “It’s cute. Thanks for sharing”?

Part of me hopes the book comes out and disappears without a trace like my other book in the “Humor” category. That no one ever reads it and we can all just politely agree to pretend that it never happened.

At the same time, I really do believe in this project. I wanted to write it because the last five years of my life have been sheer hell, and I feel as though the only thing that got me through it was my sense of humor. There were days when finding a reason to laugh became a survival technique, and that’s what I’m trying to convey with this book —  that it’s crucial to be able to laugh even when things are looking pretty dark.

My inner critic is telling me to cancel the pre-order on Amazon and stick to the relative safety of writing romance novels about people who don’t really exist outside of my  imagination. My inner critic is a bit of a jerk, to be totally honest. I’m not listening to her.

I want to be the kind of writer who takes risks. Who pushes the envelope. Who walks that really fine line between doing something brilliant or something really, incredibly stupid.

I don’t know about the other writers out there, but this — this feeling of terror mingled with anticipation, of pride mixed with panic, of hope muddled with doubt — this feeling that I have right now is why I wanted to be a writer when I was a little girl pounding out short stories on a toy typewriter.

Sometimes in life, you just have to take a risk and work without a net.

If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.  — Seth Godin

This was written as part of the Insecure Writers Support Group. To find out more about this wonderfully supportive group and find out how to join the blog hop, click here.

 

The Sound of Silence

IWSG Badge

I recently had the pleasure of spending time with a group of aspiring writers who had gathered to discuss the ins and outs of self-publishing, and the conversation really made me take a deep look inside myself. We chatted about finding story ideas, “Pantsers” vs. “Plotters,” self-publishing vs. traditional, and so much more.  But the number one topic that everyone kept coming back to was Reviews.

They talked about some of the terms that I see tossed about in different writers’ forums: spite reviews, review trolls, and one-star “bullies,” to name just a few. Listening to them, I got this crazy mental picture of new books being covered in bacon grease and tossed into a wading pool full of piranhas. These writers have allowed their fear of bad reviews to paralyze them; some of them are afraid to take the next step because they have convinced themselves that doing so will place them in the crosshairs of some maniacal Bad Review Ninja Squad out to destroy them.

Later, I sat down and really examined my own feelings and fears about feedback on my work.  I only have three books out there. So far, I’ve been very lucky that all gotten a few decent reviews, other than a one-star from a fellow who felt that the dialogue in one book was like was reading a Q&A article rather than a novel.  Ouch.  But . . . I am more careful with my dialogue now, so it was a productive experience.  Dude made a valid point.

There’s a lot of negativity out there for writers to deal with.  Rejection letters, bad reviews, sales rankings that can plummet by thousands of points after just a few days without sales.  I am slowly building up a thick skin and learning to accept that these things are part of the package deal that comes with putting my words out there for the world to see. Every day, I get a little bit better at smothering my insecurities.

But there’s one thing that still gets under my ever-thickening skin.

Silence.

Like any new author, I tend to check my statistics obsessively.  I know exactly when I sell a book, and in which market.  I know which blog posts get the most hits, which categories get the most traffic. And when I get a “like” or a comment on my blog from someone I look up to, I do an impromptu happy-dance that sometimes makes my six year-old ask if I need to use the potty.

But I start pacing the floor over . . . nothing.

Logically, I understand that most readers do not leave reviews.  I can be logical about it and accept the fact that most authors never hear a word from the majority of the people who read their books. To paraphrase one side of a common argument among self-published writers on Amazon: Reviews are for other readers, not for the writers.

Unfortunately for me, my insecurities don’t listen to logic.  My self-doubts thrive on the absence of feedback, good or bad.  It’s not that I need heaps of praise; my self-worth is not dependent on hearing strangers sing my praises.  It’s just that selling a handful of books and hearing nothing feels like a verdict of, “meh, I read it. So, what’s for lunch?”

So I’d like to hear from some of the other, more experienced writers out there. I know the first bit of advice is to start working on the next book.  I’m already half-way there, with a secret baby, an ex-soldier, and a brutal Michigan winter. But beyond that, how do you interpret the silence? How do you deal with the nagging self-doubts that come with it?

How do you deal with the worry that your book is like the proverbial tree falling in the forest with no one there to hear it?

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A Wilder Thought

I am having a major problem completing my novel.

I blame blogging and Jasinda Wilder.

Let’s tackle blogging first.  Some days, I really struggle to write anything worth posting.  It’s hard work.  It’s not fun.  And when it’s finished, I usually don’t like it.  On those days, it’s not that there’s a problem with the actual writing itself; grammatically speaking, it’s fine.

It’s just . .  . cold.  Flat.  Lifeless.  A well-written Wikipedia entry.

But then I have the days when everything flows.   I sit at the computer and zap! I’m just along for the ride.  It doesn’t feel like work at all.  It feels like play.  It’s fun.  My stories and essays write themselves, just borrowing my fingers on the keyboard to give them life.

I can feel my face flush with the exhilaration of knowing that I am creating something good.  I am writing things that I will later look at with awe and ask, “Did I really write that?”

Blogging has taught me that, while writing is a business that requires hard work and planning, it’s also something I don’t ever want to give up again.  And that some of my very best work is the stuff that comes out when I’m enjoying myself, not when I’m trying so hard.   And that lesson has made me doubt the work I have done so far on my own novel.

My novel isn’t fun.  I’ve spent two years fighting with it, and it’s still not finished. I’ve started to hate my main characters.  Part of me wants to put the whole damn thing away for a few months and take a break so I can write something fun, but the logical part of me knows I will never come back to it if I do.  I know that follow-through is not my strong suit, and that I tend to quit projects because of self-doubt and fear.

Besides, an agent wants to see it.  I can’t blow this opportunity!

Then there’s Jasinda Wilder.  She and her husband were facing foreclosure when they decided to write an erotic romance novel a la Fifty Shades of Grey. In less than thirty days, she did her market research, churned out and self-published Big Girls Do it Better, and sold more than 500 copies in the first day.   Since then, she has published several more, and according to CBS News, she now averages over $100,000 in sales per month.

I want to hate her.  I want to dismiss her as a talentless hack.   But I’ve read her books, and they’re pretty good.  Not always to my taste; I’m really not a fan of erotica, and my favorite romances tend to be the more chaste ones.  But she writes very well, and I have to say that she deserves the success she has found.

She also seems to be a very nice, down-to Earth person.

But.

If she can knock out book after book after book faster than the speed of light while I do everything but pour my blood on the page, then maybe I’m not meant to be a writer.  Should it really be this hard?

If it’s this hard, maybe it’s just not meant to be.

So I am asking my fellow writers for advice.  What do you do when self-doubt and frustration attack?  How do you keep from being jealous of writers like Jasinda Wilder, for whom it all seems to be so easy?

How do you know when it’s time to give up on a project or just keep pushing to break through the tough spots on your current one?

How do you convince yourself to finish something when it has stopped being fun?