Seven Things You Must Avoid If You Want to Write

These three books are on sale right now. THE MARK OF THE TALA, the book that started it all, first in The Twelve Kingdoms series. Also THE PAGES OF THE MIND, my RITA® Award-winning novel, which kicks off a new phase in the overall series, and PRISONER OF THE CROWN, first in a stand-alone spin off trilogy, The Chronicles of Dasnaria. If you’ve been thinking about reading my books or this series, it’s a great time to start!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week regards the writer’s Seven Deadly Sins: the list of things you MUST avoid if you want to finish a project on time. Of course, if you’re supposed to be writing, and you’re reading this, you’ve already broken three of mine. Oops. But never fear! There is still hope for you. Read on.

Is Fear Holding You Back in Your Writing?

Today is the very last day to catch the AMID THE WINTER SNOW anthology. After today it goes off sale and the stories will only be available as stand-alones.

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Our Favorite Motivational/Inspirational Quote. Come on over to find out what mine is – and why!

Writing Bestsellers and Winning Awards!

TalonOkay, I haven’t written a bestseller (yet!), but I’m over at the RMFW blog talking about the desire to write one and how wanting everyone to love our books can get in the way of writing the stories we need to.

And I haven’t won an award (yet!), but THE TALON OF THE HAWK has been nominated for Best Fantasy Romance of 2015 in RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Awards. I’m in there with good friend Grace Draven, which is wonderful. She came up with a solid plan: if she wins, we’ll drink wine; if I win, we’ll drink wine; if we both lose, we’ll drink wine!! Love her to death. I have to tell you folks, seeing my name listed with all of these other writers is a thrill right there. Really doesn’t get better than that!

What Would You Write If You Weren’t Afraid?

CDSdpCIUsAEKz9EI saw this question go by on Twitter a bit ago and, as things seem to do at certain times, it really struck me. I can’t recall who posted it – if it was you, please say so and I’ll give you credit!

Some of you out there will be shaking your heads at me and joyfully proclaiming that you are not afraid. I know you are because some people said that back to me on Twitter. You write exactly what you want to write and screw the rules! Screw the critics, the gatekeepers and reader feedback!

Good on you!

I mean that seriously. It’s a great place to be. I used to be there and I miss it.

And probably “afraid” isn’t exactly the right word for what I feel at this point in my career. It’s more an umbrella sense of caution, of all the voices in my head, whispering as I write. With newbie authors I’ve often given the advice to throw people out of the room who are metaphorically looking over their shoulders. I think pretty much every one of us has to figure out how to overcome that in the early days – writing sex scenes that would shock your grandmother, expressing opinions your dad would have a fit about, starting a sentence with a conjunction which would have been points off in AP English. That’s a big challenge and not easy to do.

Then you get past that – you have to, if you’re going to free up your writing voice – and you write books and everything goes swimmingly for a while.

Until you find yourself writing book four of a popular series that straddles genres in a way that’s generating a lot of interest and discussion and suddenly new, different and LOUDER people are in the room with you. I’m hearing voices I never heard before about the marketplace, what my agent thinks, what my editor expects, what my author friends are saying, what reviewers identify as ways I need to grow as a writer or how I do or don’t fit within the genre. These voices are in many ways much more difficult to shut up because I have respect for their opinions. This isn’t my grandmother reiterating an uneducated attitude. These are smart people with intelligent things to say.

Things that can get in the way.

I heard this before, when I was a newbie writer, and professional writer friends advised me to enjoy that time. They said there’s a freedom to writing then that you lose later, when you have expectations laid on you from people like editors, agents and so forth. Naturally, I barely listened, caught up in my envy for their book contracts and success. But they were spot on correct.

I think it comes down to this – that I’m not always writing what I would if I didn’t have those expectations. Or rather, more accurately, writing what I would if I didn’t have those voices is more of a battle.

I want to write what I’d write if I wasn’t afraid, if I didn’t anticipate the reactions to the book it will become. So I’m focusing on this question. As I’m spinning the story, when I hit a decision point and the voices rise up, chattering about how other authors did it, what the market wants, what the award-givers will value, I ask myself how I’d do it if I weren’t afraid of their censure.

And I do that.

It’s an ongoing process. A lesson I feel like I’m learning anew every day, with every writing session. Maybe this is part of growing as a writer in this stage of my career – finding ways to stay true to my own storytelling in the face of more and more people having an investment in what I do.

Anyone else out there dealing with this? Any advice on banishing those voices? I’m open to advice!

 

Wolves

This is from our bedroom window, just a few minutes ago – at 9 in the morning.

I used to put up decorative flags. Oh, I still have them all, but since we moved to Santa Fe, I haven’t put them up. Decorative flags somehow just look wrong on an adobe-style house. But on our old house in Wyoming, I’d change the flags every two weeks or so. I don’t know that anyone cared but me. Still, it was a way to celebrate the changing of the seasons, the passing of holidays. This weekend I would have taken down the flag with the New Year’s sparkly champagne glasses and put up the silkscreen one with the wolves.

Something about early January makes me think of the scavenging wolves, their distant howls on the long, cold nights. Now there are coyotes out my window. One had a rabbit. The long-ago peasant in me wants to stoke the fire and bar the door.

It’s easy to let fears hold us back, reasonable or not. Every time we set foot outside our safe homes, we risk the wolves. Or, so our atavistic selves tell us. The adrenal system doesn’t know wolves from business meetings – it just hears that we’re stressed and fires up.

Some friends and I started up a new venture on January 1 – the Word Whores – and I put up my first post yesterday, explaining why I’d identify myself as a whore in front of all the world. It felt scary and uncertain. Was that a wolf calling in the distance? The last line was maybe too much, too over the edge. I may be bold, but rarely brash. My grandmother’s voice reminded me to be a lady. Being tacky was her greatest sin.

Worse, none of my usual writing buddies were around to consult with me. I wanted someone to tell me it wasn’t too much. I needed to get the post up.

I actually dithered and I really hate dithering.

So I hit the button. PUBLISH POST. There it went, into the immortality of nothing-ever-truly-dies-on-the-internet. Scary, but also liberating. Something like ten minutes later, one of my friends came back from making breakfast, read it and gave me the thumbs up. By then I didn’t need it. I’d made my choice. There’s always strength in a decision made, I think.

I might get criticized yet. The scavengers are always hungry. But I won’t hide in my house.

The world belongs to me, too.