The Faster I Run, The Faster I Fall Behind (Aka The Truth About a Writer’s Life)

There are some things going on behind the scenes, which I really don’t wish to talk about on a public blog, that impacts how much I write.  I realize I upset some people when I can’t get a book out by a promised date.  I didn’t set out to push back the dates on the pre-orders, but I had to do it.

I think there’s this idea out there that writing is easy.  And I also think the reason this idea exists is because movies (for a large part) have given us (at least in the United States) a portrayal of what a writer’s life is supposedly like, and this is a myth.

This is the myth I’m talking about:

An author is sitting in a cozy office or a secluded cabin, merrily typing away in their story.  Soothing music plays in the background.  From time to time, they sip a drink or smoke a cigarette.  It’s peaceful and serene.  There’s no real effort at all with writing the book. The story just comes to them.

Then, when they finish the book, they go back to their agent at a fancy restaurant where they laugh and discuss their next book.  Then they publish the book and there’s this big line of people waiting for the author to sign the book.  Or there are headlines in newspapers about how the author hit the New York Times Bestseller’s list or is having a movie made off their book or is winning some award.  The author is carefree and has it all together.  The money is pouring in while they live in this big house with a big yard in the country somewhere.

Not all movies portray this, but enough of them do so that when I started publishing my books, my uncles were shocked when I told them my life wasn’t like what I described above.

Here’s what it’s really like:

The other day I went to my accountant (because filing taxes on my own would be huge nightmare with all the forms I need to fill out), and after paying about 47% my income (which is my book sales), I still owe at least $1000 in taxes.  I pay federal and state taxes.  For those who don’t pay state taxes, the rate is 40%.  So that means about half of everything I make goes right back to the government.  I could not afford a home in the country or a little secluded cabin.

You see, I pay self-employment tax because I write books and publish them myself.  This is something no one told me when I started.  But yes, as a writer, you are self-employed, and you will be taxed at a higher tax rate than if you worked for someone else.

So financially, it’s not the way the myth would have you believe.  I have a husband and four kids.  I have a mortgage.  I am debt free except the house (thankfully), but we do have to watch how we spend money.  I’m not in a big house, nor do I drive expensive cars.  I also don’t eat at fancy restaurants.  My name isn’t headlined in newspapers everywhere, nor are they making movies based off my books.

When I write, it is quiet when the kids are in school, but I have to periodically stop writing to do laundry, clean the house, cook, run errands, track my expenses and income for tax purposes, or answer emails/phone/the door.  I’m not lounging back while music is softly playing.  As the wife and mother, I am expected to keep up the house and take care of the kids.  Maybe men have it different, but that is what goes down in my home.  And when the kids are home, I usually have to write over their noise (and four boys are loud and rough when they play).  I even have two kids who literally climb the hallway walls.  They argue and come to me about their grievances.  They makes messes where I just cleaned, and ask me the same question I just answered half an hour ago.

You know how I look when I write?  I’m in a t-shirt and jeans with my laptop.  I’m not wearing fancy designer clothes.  I’m not sipping from a drink either.  I go in the kitchen to sip some water or tea or (if it’s been a hectic day) ginger ale because if I have a drink where I’m writing, a kid will knock that drink over and make a mess for me to clean up or (worse) hurt my computer.  It’s not uncommon for a kid to whiz past me, knock into my chair, and spin me around.  This actually happens a lot since my house is laid out in a way where they can run in a circle, and they typically do this for a good part of the night.

In conclusion:

It’s not that I’m blowing off writing the books or that I don’t want to write them.  It’s just that a lot of things happen, and it’s not as easy to get them done as it seems it would be.  On top of that, things that are happening in the country and that happen to people I care about do impact my ability to concentrate on my work.  I’ve published eight books this year.  I usually average 6-7.  So I worked hard enough where I feel okay with holding off on publishing anything else until next year.  The important thing is I write the best book I possibly can because the worst thing I can do is rush a book so it sucks.

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A Post for New Writers: What If You Never Finish a Story

A Post For New Writers

A Post For New Writers

There are some people who never finish what they started writing. I, too, have some books that never got finished. If you have one or two such books, it’s okay. Don’t sweat it. But if you have started ten stories and haven’t finished one of them, you might be dealing with fear, boredom, or difficulty.

In the case of fear, you will need to do everything you can to eliminate the source of the fear.

1.  If it’s because you have a relative or friend (or someone else) who says you suck as a writer, you need to stay away from the person as much as possible.  If you can’t avoid the person, then don’t mention writing when you’re with him. If the person brings it up, change the topic or politely say, “I don’t wish to discuss it.” If the person has a sarcastic little retort, walk away or hang up. Seriously, some people are toxic and will destroy your dreams if you let them. Put up boundaries to protect yourself.  You have every right to stand up for yourself.  You have every right to be treated with respect and for your writing to be treated the same way, whether you are writing for pleasure or to a career going.

2.  If it’s because you think your story will totally suck, then keep writing anyway. Listen to music to help take your mind off your inner dialogue. If you can’t shut off the inner dialogue, replace it with positive dialogue like, “I will write the best book I can” or “I really love my character because _______” or “I can do this.”  I have this fear creep up while I’m writing from time to time, and I just keep telling myself, “Keep typing the scene, Ruth.  Keep going and don’t look anywhere else but at the screen where the characters are doing their thing.  You can clean up anything that sucks during the edits.”

3.  If it’s because of a review, do not read your reviews.  If you need to remove your email from public places so you don’t get negative comments in your inbox, then do it.  If you need to block someone who is being hateful on Facebook or your blog, do it.  Put a wall between you and the toxic person who is being spiteful.  (Get a good beta reader, editor, or writing friend to give you honest input on the book before you publish it, but there’s no reason to put up with a stranger’s unsolicited advice, especially when that advice is really an attack.)

4.  If it’s because of poor sales, do not check your sales.  Yes, I realize some writers are paying bills with the money they’re earning.  But this is one of those jobs that doesn’t come with a consistent income.  Sales fluctuate.  It’s an up-and-down roller coaster.  There are no guarantees.  All you can do is write the next book and make it the best it can possibly be.  Everything else (besides where you choose to sell it) is out of your control.  And please, do not read about the success of other authors.  This will only depress you more.  Stay completely offline if you need to while you’re writing your story.

You need to put as much distance between whatever is causing your fear and your writing as possible. 

In the case of boredom, you have to push through it.

It’s easy to be pumped up and excited when starting a book. The idea is fresh and new. You are learning about the characters and the world. It’s easy to have tons of energy at this stage.

But suddenly, you lose your enthusiasm for the story.

Press through it. I get bored at the 20,000-word mark in almost every story I write. But when I get to the 35,000-word mark, things get easier (and more exciting) again. You just have to do it.

There is no magic formula to it. Stay focused and keep on writing, even if you can only manage a couple hundred words that day. Sometimes you can set a goal like, “I will only write for 15 minutes in this story today” and when you’re done, do something else. When you success at the 15-minute mark, then decide to do it tomorrow for two 15-minute sessions. Then slowly work your way up.

And you can work on something more exciting when you’re done as a way to reward yourself. But make sure you write in that particular story every day or almost every day.

Finally, there’s the matter of difficulty.

You might have come to realize writing is harder than you thought it would be.  When you write, you are working.  You are creating.  You are not only creating characters who have emotional depth, but you need to put them in a believable world in a situation that will make the reader want to keep turning the page.  On top of that, you need to be able to tell this story in a way that is entertaining, and it must be polished up by a great editing team.

So there are a lot of things to do.  And what can happen when you realize writing is harder than you expected it to be?

You might realize writing isn’t a good fit for you.

If so, there is nothing wrong with that.  No matter how much I’d love to act, I wouldn’t be able to do it. To me, acting looks easy, but I was in a high school play, and even as a side character, I didn’t do a good job at all because the concept of becoming the character was harder than I thought it’d be.  And you know what?  I never acted again.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  But you don’t know if you don’t try, so I encourage you to give it your best shot.

If you feel led to write–if it is something you truly want to do–then sit down and write.  It’s not always exciting.  Inspiration doesn’t always come.  But you need to be dedicated to it in order to finish the story.

In addition to those tips, it might help to read plenty of books in the genre you’re writing in and break down common elements you see the authors using.  I suggest books that are good sellers (because those authors did something right if their books are doing well).  I also suggest reading a variety of authors.  Every author has a unique voice, and you will learn something new about what you like and don’t like from every one you read.

Never plagiarise another author’s work.  Make sure it’s your story you’re telling, and develop your own voice.

Let’s say you really love the way an author used first person point of view in their book and want to do your book in first person point of view.  By all means, go ahead.  Do first person when you tell your story.  Let’s say you hate the use of adverbs.  Then by all means, do not use them.  Take elements you like and use them.  And with elements you don’t like, toss them out.

This is your story.  Only you can write it.  Give yourself freedom to enjoy the journey of creating the story and push aside the negatives so you can focus on what you’re doing.

***

The next post on writing will finish the series of posts for new writers, and it will be about polishing the story (editing/proofreading).

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Had To Push Back Publishing Dates on My Pre-Order Books

I had to do this for a couple of reasons.  The most pressing one is the fact that I’m behind schedule in writing Love Lessons With The Duke AND I just realized I need to go back and change a couple things (in addition to adding about two or three scenes).

I could try to rush through it and get it done, but I don’t want to do that anymore.   Since I’m self-publishing these, I can do that.  I want the book to be the best it can be, and after pressing myself so hard to finish four books this summer, I’m still exhausted.  Sprinting took more out of me than I expected.  While the method paid off wonderfully, I think it might work best for authors who can plan out the book ahead of time.  (Just a guess.)  What I know is that I can’t do it unless I have a plan in place, and most of the time, like with this book, I don’t have a plan.  I’m figuring out what I need to do as I go along.

While I pushed back the publishing date for Love Lessons With The Duke, I decided to push back the dates on the other two books I have in pre-order status, too.

His Convenient Wife ebook cover

I put His Convenient Wife down for January 3 since I want a book out in January.

Love Lessons with the Duke

Love Lessons With the Duke will now be out on February 14.  This way I have plenty of time to write it as it’s supposed to be and get it edited with my team. 

royal hearts ebook cover

Then I decided to push back Royal Hearts to July 4 because (to be honest), it’s going to be one of my least popular books.

My weakest (aka least popular) books should be later in the year and my strongest books should be at the beginning of the year.  This is what I’ve noticed after self-publishing ebooks for five years.  So I’m better off not having another book out for the rest of the year.

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A Post For New Writers: If The Scene Doesn’t Add To the Plot, Throw It Out

A Post For New Writers

A Post For New Writers

This is another hard one, but this will prevent your story from getting bogged down.  Your goal is to write a compelling story, and a compelling story is one in which the reader has a hard time putting the book down.  You want to make it hard for your reader to go to bed, get up to make dinner, go to work, etc.  You want your reader to be thinking about your book when they’re not reading it or to be so engrossed in the story that they finish it in one sitting.  This is hard to do if you add scenes to your story that don’t advance the plot.

The plot is your main idea.  Everything you write should support the main idea.  All your minor ideas must move the main idea along.

Ever hear people say they skimmed a book or there was a sagging middle?  The reason for this is the extra scenes that didn’t add to the plot.  They were fillers.

Some writers use unnecessary scenes for several reasons:

  • They find the scene cute, funny, or interesting in some way so they want it in the book.
  • They honestly don’t realize they’re rambling.
  • They want to boost word count.
  • They were told to add more by a publisher so they had to put something in there.
  • They heard that to maximize sales potential, they should write X number of words in a book.  And since they want to maximize sales potential, they will write whatever they need to in order to make that word count.
  • They don’t think the reader got the idea the first time so they repeat it over and over so it “sticks”.

In the end, less is often more.  

You might have your heart set on writing a 70,000-word book, but if the story ends at 60,000 words, then let it end.  Maybe you wanted to write a full-length novel (which is 50,000 words), but your story ended up being a novella at 30,000 words.  It’s okay to have a shorter story than what you planned.  You are much better off having a tight, solid story that engages your reader every step of the way than having a longer story that drags on.  Even if the book is part of a series and the other books in the series is 70,000 words, let this particular book be 60,000 words if that’s what it’s meant to be.

You would much rather hear, “I wish there was more” than “I never thought the book would end.”

Readers will forgive you if you miss a typo or don’t get something 100% correct, but they won’t forgive a boring book.  (Disclaimer: Strive to have a book that is error free, but remember that we’re all human and humans aren’t perfect.  Yes, editing is very important, but you should edit a compelling story, not a boring one.)

While you’re writing your first draft, by all means, add in all the scenes you want.  

You don’t know until the book ends if you will need the scene or not.  Books are fluid.  They often change as we’re writing them.  You might think your book is going in one direction, but something happens to a character that throws everything off course.  Then you have to change the rest of the story.  That’s okay.  In fact, it’s common.

But when you are done with the first draft, go through and remove all unnecessary scenes, dialogues, or actions.   

On average, I cut 2,000 to 5,000 words from every story I write because I’m removing all unnecessary elements from it.  If you write a tighter first draft than I do, then this won’t be the case for you.  I tend to do a lot of repetition on my first run through a story.

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Just Good Friends is Now Available!

It looks like everything is up where it should be. :D So I’m going to post the links today.

Just Good Friends new ebook

Tiffany Clark recently had her 35th birthday, and she isn’t married, something that worries her parents to no end. To make matters worse, her sister’s wedding is quickly approaching and Tiffany has no date. When her mom threatens to pair her up with someone she doesn’t want, Tiffany takes matters into her own hands and asks her best friend, Tyler Jackson, to pose as her boyfriend.

It’ll only be for the wedding. The lie won’t go any further than that. But in a moment of frustration, Tyler blurts out that he and Tiffany are married. That’s okay, though. Because as soon as they get back to Omaha, Tiffany will tell them the truth. Only, it’s a little hard to do that when her very excited parents are coming to visit “the happy newlyweds”.

iBooks

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Smashwords

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Updates on What I’m Doing

Working on the Paperback for A Royal Engagement

a royal engagement ebook cover

I caught some errors in the proof so will have to redo it.  Sometimes I get questions on when paperbacks will be out.  On this one, it’s looking like the end of October.

Meanwhile, the paperbacks for my other books are already available.

This Sunday is the release date for Just Good Friends

Just Good Friends new ebook

This one will be out soon.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s another problem somewhere.  We’ll see how things play out.  I’ll let you know if there are any problems.

I already uploaded His Convenient Wife to Smashwords for the pre-order and have the paperback proof ready to look at.

His Convenient Wife ebook cover

I’m also going to have a release party for this book, but it won’t be until December 1.  Yes, this book comes out on November 16, but I wanted to do a Facebook Party with a couple of my author friends and had to work around everyone’s schedule.  We’re all going to offer one paperback (some might offer ebooks) and wrap them up along with a surprise gift that we’ll mail off to the winner.  I’ve already scheduled it.  I’m letting someone else handle the party details this time.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to focus on getting Love Lessons With the Duke ready.

But the authors I’ve invited to join me are personal friends who also write books featuring romance.  They are Dorothy Paula Freda, Janet Syas Nitsick, Lauralynn Elliott, Rose Gordon and Jael Friese.  I’ll give more details when it’s closer to December 1.

Unfortunately, I am behind in Love Lessons With the Duke.

Love Lessons with the Duke

But…the good news is that I really love this story.  The hero is extremely sweet and naive when it comes to “the ways of the world” (including the bedroom).  These are the type of heroes I tend to love the most.  I still like His Convenient Wife more, but this is another favorite.

I wanted this to be done and in the editing stage at this point, but as it turns out, I am only halfway into the first draft.  The release date on this one is January 3.  I wanted to have it uploaded to Smashwords on November 1.  At this rate, I’ll be uploading on December 1.  Hopefully, that will be enough time for the document to get to Barnes & Noble and Kobo.  *fingers crossed*

But I should have no trouble getting the proof for the paperback done in plenty of time for it to be available on January 3.

Most of my attention has been going to Love Lessons With the Duke, but I have started “The Shy Groom”, my novella in A Groom’s Promise (the second anthology Janet Syas Nitsick and I are doing).

a groom's promise

This is the sequel to Bride by Arrangement.   In my novella, I am writing a hero who stutters (haven’t done that one yet but have been wanting to for years).  Because he stutters, he’s usually the butt of other people’s jokes.  Well, he and his brother (whose story Janet is writing) go to Nebraska for a new start.  They agree to be farmhands for an old farmer in exchange for some land.  This old farmer (who was introduced in Bride by Arrangement) happens to have a daughter he’s eager to marry off so she has someone to take care of her after he dies.  So our reluctant hero will somehow find himself marrying this daughter.  I just haven’t figured out how yet.

Books in the first part of 2015

1.  I’m hoping A Groom’s Promise will be out in the early part of 2015, but we’ll see what happens.  

2.  Royal Hearts is already put on pre-order for March.

royal hearts ebook cover

All I have to do is rewrite it, so at least I already have the whole story fleshed out.  It’s the second book in the Enchanted Galaxy Series.

3.  Ruined by the Earl is going to be Book 3 in the Marriage by Deceit Series

COVER COMING SOON

I am thinking of working on this one when I finish Love Lessons With the Duke, in addition to working on my novella in A Groom’s Promise and Royal Hearts.  I’ve decided after Love Lessons With the Duke, I’ll go back to writing more than one book at a time since I’ll be able to write at a slower pace again.

I was originally going to make The Earl’s Stolen Bride the third book, but as I was writing Love Lessons With the Duke, I got an idea for another book that will come before it.  I’ll mention more of this one in the future.

4.  I hope to start Shane’s Deal and have it out at least by the summer of next year.

shane's deal ebook cover

This will complete the Montana Collection, so it’s high on my priority of books to do.

I still don’t know what to do with Wagon Trail Bride.

I'll have Stephannie Beman work on the cover to fit it in a series if a series does evolve from this book.

I’ll have Stephannie Beman work on the cover to fit it in a series if a series does evolve from this book.

 I’m thinking I probably should keep some of the beginning to it, but maybe what I should do is change Richard and Amanda’s relationship before they marry.  I currently have them as being good friends with him being in love with someone else.  That part is not going to work.  But they have to know each other somehow, and I need a compelling romantic plot.

 I think I put in the Nebraska Series that they had known each other for years and her parents died so they decided to go to Nebraska with his family.  I need to go back and check.  I’m sure Sally is the one who explained it to Mary in Eye of the Beholder, but until I make sure I’m right, I’m not going to plan anything out.  So I need to go back and see what I did.  From there, I’ll see if I can get something going.

Posted in A Groom's Promise, His Convenient Wife, Just Good Friends, Love Lessons With The Duke

A Post For New Writers: When You Get Stuck

A Post For New Writers

A Post For New Writers

At some point while you’re writing a story, you might get stuck.  You might know what you want to do from point A to point C, but you don’t know what to put in for point B.

For example, let’s say you just finished a really awesome scene you’re excited about.  As an example, we’ll say this is where your hero and heroine have just decided they never want to see each other ever again.  What you know is that they will end up together because it’s a romance.  But how in the world are you going to get these two very unlikely people to fall in love?

As another example, you just put your hero on another planet which is full of cities with dead aliens.  You know the answer is that there was a virus set loose which wiped out the entire planet, and the aliens responsible for this are heading for Earth to do the exact same thing.  But you need to go from point A (where the hero finds all the dead bodies) to point C (where the hero finds out Earth is next on the list).  So you need to 1) establish how the hero finds out about the virus and 2) how the hero discovers Earth is next.

Another example, you started your book and everything is great.  It’s got the perfect creepy feel to it.  The woman is being stalked by a psycho who escaped from an asylum.   But you have no idea how the book ends, much less how to fill up the next 100 pages of the book.

When you get stuck, there are a couple strategies to try to get ideas.

1.  Brainstorm.

Sit down and write out all the possible scenarios.  These are brief snippets of ideas such as…

For the romance:

  • hero and heroine forced to work on a project together
  • hero and heroine forced to a remote cabin alone
  • heroine gets sick and hero has to care for her

For the science fiction novel:

  • hero finds blood from an alien and tests it in a medical kit
  • hero finds an alien who isn’t dead who tells him what happened
  • hero finds enemy alien and forced him to talk

For the thriller:

  • woman catches stalker watching her when she’s looking into her car rearview mirror
  • stalker makes a phone call
  • stalker pretends to be a nice guy and introduces himself

Those are ways to quickly brainstorm various ideas.  When you brainstorm, don’t discard any idea right away.  Even if you don’t use the exact idea, you might modify the idea so it works.

Let’s say I modify the idea that the stalker introduce himself to the woman.  I’ll have the stalker meet up with her mom and have the mother introduce them as the “kind man who helped me fix my car today”.

2.  Take one or two brainstormed ideas that sound the most promising and expand on them.

For example, if you liked two ideas for the romance (the hero and heroine must work on a project together and the hero and heroine are forced to a remote cabin), then take both of those ideas and write (or think through) a brief scenario of how each of those ideas will work in your story.

This process can take an hour to a week to sort through, but some of the best places to allow these ideas to work is when you’re not working on the story itself.  You can work on another story or work on the book cover or maybe even write a post about the book.

3.  It is okay to work on another story during this time.

Let’s say you are truly stumped.  A week didn’t do it, and you can just see that this is going to prevent you from getting anywhere.  Go ahead and work on another story.  When you keep writing, you’re staying creative.  You can work on more than one book at a time.  When you know what to do, return to the story or wait until the time is right to get back to it.

***

As writers, we’re bound to get stuck at some point in something we write, but it is possible to press through it and finish the book.  But…what if you can’t manage to finish anything you write?  I’ll discuss that in the post I plan to publish on Friday (October 10).

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