Archive | October, 2012

Motivational Monday ~ Self Doubt

29 Oct

Last night I finally, FINALLY, finished my next manuscript. However, if you’re a writer, no manuscript is ever truly done, right? But I finally did get all the scenes on paper. It will need another tweak before I send it off to my agent, but I did reach the end. Finally. Did I say that already?

The initial euphoria was quickly replaced by doubt.

Oh, the ending probably sucks

The villain’s motivation isn’t clear enough.

I’ll never sell another book.

You know, the usual doubts. Then this morning, a tweet popped up on my Twitter feed from a very prolific and multi-published author. She was breathing a sigh of relief because her editor had accepted her next proposal. Apparently, self-doubt doesn’t end. So, I did a search this morning for other blogs on self-doubt and this is what I found:

  • Writer Kelly Leiter wrote a wonderful post on “Overcoming Self-Doubt” on her blog The Beginning Writer.  This part really resonated with me: “You know why there are so many quotes out there about being your own worst enemy and blocking your own road to success? Because they are all true. Everyone doubts themselves. Everyone questions their own abilities. It’s when you indulge in those negative thoughts that the real problem starts.”
  • C.C. Hunter wrote a wonderful guest post on Writer’s Digest recently on “How to Conquer Self Doubt and Just Write.” In it, she writes, “I think self doubt is something most writers face throughout their careers. And by careers, I don’t mean from the point that you become a published author, I mean, from the point you start writing. I think the inability to fight the gremlin is one of the biggest things that prevent a writer from becoming published. And it’s probably one of the reasons published writers stop writing. That’s right, this monster doesn’t care what you’ve accomplished. All he wants is a big bite out of your confidence.” 
  • Here is a great post by New York Times Bestselling Author Cindy Gerard about self-doubt. Click here.

I’m not alone. Even the best of ’em have to shake self-doubt.  Time to get back to work!

How do you get over self-doubts?

Cheers,

Alison Stone

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Motivational Monday ~ It’s Not Too Late to Be Who You Were Meant to Be

22 Oct

Last week, I was over on SavvyAuthors (an awesome site for authors) blogging about my path to publication. I titled the blog, “What If You’re Not a Born Writer?”  Here’s the link to the original post, if you want to check out the comment section over there. (Click here.) The entire post is re-posted here. I like the new title, too: “It’s Not Too Late to Be Who You Were Meant to Be.” Never to late.

I am in awe of the writer who knew her destiny since birth. She has a gift for storytelling. Her bio is filled with stories about how she put crayon to paper when she was in pre-school and her peers gathered around with their blankets as she weaved stories about princesses and dragons and the knight in shining armor who saved the day. Or maybe it was the alien who abducted the naughty little boy who ignored his momma’s warning not to take the short-cut through the woods.

This same “born” writer relays stories about how she snuck grandma’s Harlequins from her closet and devoured them under her blanket by the light of a flashlight when she was a precocious ten-year-old. She absorbed the elements that made a wonderful romance by virtue of her voracious reading habits. When she put pen to paper, no one had to tell her what made a good story. She knew. Inherently.

But what if you didn’t share the experience of the “born” writer. Is it too late for you? Will you always be playing catch up with the writer who had a passion for it from an early age?

I was close to thirty when I first got the idea to write. The idea came in the form of an advertisement in a women’s magazine. Remember the ad about writing for children? Heck, I had a kid, maybe I could write. But from day one, doubts plagued me. In the beginning, I had an obsession with reading author bios. I’d click on author websites and sigh every time an author had a MFA in Creative Writing. I’d throw down my pen every time an author said she’d been writing stories since pre-school. How could I compete? I have a degree in engineering and up until my mid-twenties, I only read books I had to. You know, the required reading for AP English? I had spent my youth focusing on math and science. English was too subjective for my analytical brain.

However, the desire to write grew. I used my “left brain” to study the market. I learned that romance readers were a voracious bunch. I read across the different subgenres and realized romantic suspense was my favorite. I think it has something to do with putting the puzzle pieces together to solve the who-done-it?

Yet doubts continued to plague me. I couldn’t instinctively put together the pieces of a story, not like some of my peers who had been reading romance for twenty years. But I had a desire and the inclination to learn. And darn it, the desire to write wouldn’t leave me. So, I started to take concrete steps towards my goal:

  1. I joined RWA. Since I write romantic suspense, this was key. If you write a different genre, seek out a group that would best support your writing. Through RWA, I attended conferences, learned from workshops, and met other writers. Little by little, the elements of writing were no longer shrouded in mystery.
  2. On-line resources. When I first started writing, the internet was in its infancy, however it was my first means to reach out to other writers. And I did. Writers are a helpful bunch. Now, there are so many online resources including Savvy Authors which has fantastic workshops. I highly recommend them.
  3. Read. There is no way you can become a better writer if you do not read. Read all different kinds of books. You’ll start to see what works and doesn’t work. I can’t believe I didn’t discover the joy of reading for pleasure until my adulthood.
  4. Find a critique partner. Sometimes this takes trial and error. Be open to constructive criticism, but be willing to leave a group if it’s not working for you. You’ll know when you click with a critique partner. They shouldn’t praise everything you do, nor should they rip you to shreds. In the end, the right critique partner should help you become a better writer. The benefits should be mutual.
  5. Read craft books. This doesn’t work for everyone, but because I’m analytical, it helped me understand the elements of story. Some of my favorites include:
    • Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain. This book is very dense with knowledge, but if you push through it, you’ll learn a lot.
    • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King. I’ve reread this one a few times.
    • Stephen King’s On Writing. I can’t say enough about this one. It’s more inspiration than anything else. There are countless craft books. Ask other authors for their recommendations. Different books click for different people.
  6. Write. In order to be a writer, you must write. I highly recommend steps 1-5, but if you don’t do number 6, you are not a writer. Writers write. Write when you don’t feel like it. Write through the doubts. I constantly have to remind myself of step 6. It’s easy to be overwhelmed. But once I sit down and push through it, I remember how much I love to write. Heck, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

If you are a born writer, congratulations! I think it’s fantastic that you recognized a gift in your formative years. However, if you’re more like me and didn’t find your calling until you were an adult, don’t despair. I truly believe God (or the universe) wouldn’t plant the desire to do something if you didn’t have the ability somewhere deep down within you. You just have to dig deep.

Happy writing.

Today’s a new day! What steps are you taking to pursue your dreams?

Cheers,

Alison Stone

Motivational Monday ~ A Feeling of Accomplishment

15 Oct

Writing can be a tough gig. It’s a solitary profession and I don’t get a lot of immediate gratification from it. It’s all long-term. Word by word, paragraph by paragraph until I have a completed manuscript. I do get a lot of satisfaction out of hitting send (to my agent or editor), but then it’s back to waiting.

Friday afternoon I found myself very fidgety at the computer. I am one of the fortunate ones that calls writing my full-time job. (Well, between raising four kids. :)) However, I sometimes find myself stuck. That’s where I was on Friday. I realized I needed a sense of accomplishment in something….ANYTHING.  I don’t believe I’m alone in my thinking. I’ve joked with other writers that we’ve actually cleaned the bathroom just to get a visual sense of accomplishment. Hey, the fact that it needed done anyway makes it all good.

So, this weekend I took my girls shopping for much needed fall clothes. We  went through some hand-me-downs to see what fit. We picked up a pizza and spend the evening with Grammy. I did my grocery shopping for the week. Went to see a fun movie. A soup I made last night is sitting on the stove all ready for Monday’s dinner. Ah…a sense of accomplishment.

Sometimes it helps to look at the book covers from my previous books to remember that YES! I can do this.

My current work in progress isn’t any further than where I left it Friday afternoon, but I needed a little break. Recharge the batteries.

What have you done to feel a sense of accomplishment? I’m thinking of taking up a hobby to mix it up a bit. I used to do cross-stitch. Hmmm? Any suggestions? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

Happy Monday!

Cheers,

Alison Stone

Motivational Monday ~ Happiness Part 2

8 Oct

Be happy!

This is a follow up to a post I made a few weeks ago about choosing happiness. I was reading my Saturday morning paper and came across a commentary by Lisa Earle McLeod titled, “Don’t postpone happiness.” In it she writes:

Do you suffer from the “When…” syndrome? When I get a promotion, I’ll be happy. When I lose weight, I’ll start going to pool parties. When things calm down, I’ll learn to relax.

Or maybe you suffer from the “If’s…”

If we had more money I would be happier. If I were married (or single), I’d have a better social life…

We’ve all done it, putting our happiness on hold until some magical future date when the big thing that we want happens and we’ll give ourselves permission to be happy.

Oh, how I can relate to this commentary. I can’t even count the number of times I said, “I’ll be happy when…”

…I graduate from college.

…I have a better job.

…I have a nice car.

….I sell my first book.

…I sell a second book.

…I have a lot of money in the bank.

STOP! The only time we have is now. Be happy! Enjoy the journey.

Do you suffer from the “I’ll be happy when…” syndrome? You can read Lisa Earle McLeod’s full commentary here.  Give your self permission to be happy now. Everything else will come in time.

Cheers,

Alison Stone

Motivational Monday ~ Window to the Soul

1 Oct

My alma mater. Isn’t it a gorgeous building?

Yesterday I took my daughter to an open house at my alma mater. I’ve been back to the school a few times over the years for various functions. It’s a beautiful school with a long history. As we toured the building, from classroom to classroom, to the art room on the fourth floor, and the beautiful auditorium, I was drawn to the windows. The statute of the Sacred Heart outside the auditorium and the lockers lining the halls are etched in my memory, but so are the various views from my desk out the window. Don’t get me wrong, I was a good student. I took notes. I did well on tests. But I think I spent every other moment staring out the windows.

From one classroom with floor-to-ceiling windows I could see the front driveway. The heavy rain would sluice down the window and I’d hope my friend lined up a ride for us, otherwise I’d be walking the mile or so home.  Once from the top-floor art room, the snow fell fast in thick, wet snowflakes. All afternoon activities were cancelled that day. So much for bowling club. Shhh…don’t laugh.

To this day, I love a window view. For years I worked as an engineer in a manufacturing facility. It wasn’t until I emerged from the bowels of the plant floor that I’d get to see the sun shine or rain clouds. When I go on vacation, the moment I open the hotel or condo door, I run to the  window. Ocean view? Score! Before I made an offer on my current house, I sat in the family room and looked out the window. Park-like setting? I’m sold.

My senior portrait

When I sit down to write, it’s within view of a window. So I can daydream.

Today is the first day of October. I love autumn. I am determined to get a project to my agent this month. Less time staring out windows, I suppose. Do you have big plans this month? I’d love to hear about them.

Cheers,

Alison Stone