Writing Advice

Water Trough Thoughts

Before I can go into today’s post, I need to share a little background on my life. I live in the Pacific Northwest on a small farm with horses, chickens, dogs, a half acre garden and an abundance of wild birds and squirrels that live alongside us. Every one of these creatures depends on one very old trough for a fresh supply of water. Therefore, everyday I venture out as the sun begins to rise and spend ten minutes or so filling said trough. Now, I’m sure many of you are wondering why I don’t just use an automatic filler? well, I have in the past done so! Unfortunately, it lead to issues of it becoming stuck on or stuck off and us arriving home from a weekend trip to a pasture that had either become a pond (as well as a very tired well pump) or horses pawing at the bottom of a nearly empty water trough. Therefore—in an effort to ease my already anxious mind— I manually go out and fill it every day.

In so doing this chore every morning, I’m left alone with my thoughts for a good while. I view the sunrise. Talk to the hens and horses grazing peacefully on the grass wet with dew, and ponder life.

This morning I was mulling over a discussion I had with a dear writer friend. We had spent some time talking this past week about telling stories that the market seems to feel is ‘saturated’ or ‘overdone’. We even chatted nostalgically about trunked manuscripts or unfinished stories that we’d been told over and over that publishers won’t spend a second looking at.

Well, here’s the epiphany I had.

THAT’S A LOAD OF GARBAGE.

And here’s why. In my thirty-some years on this Earth, I have preferred fantasy and sci-fi books. As a child, that’s all I read. Am I going to one day wake up and say, “You know what, there’s too much fantasy right now. I’m bored of it and will never read it again.”

Umm, no. I will always love what I love. Period. AND will continue to buy it until the day I depart. (although there will probably be a few pre-orders sitting on my front porch while they’re having my funeral)

But I digress. The point is, people are like this. Readers are like this. We love what we love. And no amount of how many books with the same theme are out there will change it.

Let me give you an example. There’s a twelve year old I know that adores cats. However, she is cursed with severe allergies and will never be able to own one. She is able to pet one with a prophylactic Benadryl and an immediate hand wash. So, she does whats the next best thing to being around cats, she reads about them. ANY book with a cat on the cover, she snaps up. For her birthday or Christmas that’s her number one wish list, and she is showered in heaps of cat books. Cats who talk, cats who are secondary characters, cats in space, you get my point.

So, what if I told her publishers say there are TOO MANY cat books.

Is she going to buy any less? Is she going to change her preferences?

Nope.

She’s going to continue devouring any feline book she can get her turquoise fingernail painted hands on.

Imagine that right now, there is a 15 year old girl who’s ultra-trendy and super cool cousin from Los Angeles is visiting her. AND she brought her all her YA fairy books she’d binged last summer. That 15 year old girl is now hooked. A forever fan of any YA fae book.

And what if somewhere else, there is a 13 year old boy who’s parents are going through a nasty divorce? His school librarian recommended a dystopian thriller series and he has become obsessed. He stays up late reading them because they give him hope and courage that even under the most bleak of circumstances, a person can prevail. There will be a tomorrow.

And just yesterday, what if a 22 year old boy is struggling with his identity? But is learning to find peace in a vampire series where the main character’s life mirrors his own. 

These are just a few examples of stories that are too often said to be overdone. And yet, there are still readers seeking them out. Waiting for hours in lines to meet their authors. Stalking their Twitter or Instagram for sneak peaks or announcements. Finding solace in creating fan art for their characters that fill their hearts with so much joy.

So, I say to you fellow writers reading this: Ignore the trends. Ignore the publishers. Tune it all out and just write. YOUR story is needed.

Write what you want to write.

Or better yet, write what you want to read.

Writing Advice

Telling Impostor Syndrome to Kiss It

Ever since beginning my writing journey, I believed two things about Impostor syndrome. Both of which I now know to be untrue.

First, Impostor syndrome only effects published authors.

and Second, since I’ve been writing for so long and never experienced it, that I was somehow immune to it.

Both are completely FALSE.

For those who are unfamiliar with what Impostor syndrome is, I’ll do my best to summarize. Impostor syndrome can effect anyone in literally any endeavor. Whether its creative arts, music, or your 9-5 office job. It effects everyone in different ways, but essentially it is the feeling that whatever you’re doing, will never be good enough.

In published authors with their smash hit debut, it can feel like they just got “lucky” and will never again strike gold. With querying authors or those on submission to publishing houses, it can feel like their writing will never amount to anything. The hours of time they’ve spent outlining, drafting, editing, will be for naught. Time and energy wasted.

In my naivety, I felt somehow that my skin was “thick enough” or I had enough objectivity that I would never experience such a feeling. But, alas, Impostor syndrome is a sneaky B*tch.

I’m currently in the query trenches with what I feel is THE best novel I’ve ever written. (yes, yes authors always feel this way) but for me it is true! And being aware of how slow the query trenches are, I’ve begun outlining and even drafting scenes for my new Middle grade sci-fi. However, each time I sit down to write, I’m overcome with the sinking sensation that I’m wasting my time. I’m flooded with questions and negative thoughts like…

Will this story ever be as good as my previous one? Should this really be a middle grade, or perhaps I should switch to YA? What if this story would be better told as a graphic novel and all I am doing right now is spinning my wheels when I should be focusing changing the entire format?

So, as a writer, I did what I typically do when frustrated, I poured myself a bowl of cereal and browsed Instagram. BAD IDEA. Story after story showed my favorite authors on book tours, greeting fans, signing special editions at packed bookstores, or jetting off to overseas countries that had invited them.

None of which made me feel better.

Feeling now even more in a slump, I had the sudden realization that perhaps, THIS was what Impostor syndrome was all along and I just hadn’t realized it. So, I started googling it discovered dozens of articles, some even from big name authors, and how (surprise, surprise) THEY too experience it as well!

So no matter how YOU experience it, I can guarantee it’ll rear it’s ugly, joy-sapping-head up at least once in your life.

Through all the articles and blogs I read, the one piece of advice that was consistent was this…

NEVER, EVER take yourself too seriously.

Write for yourself, and no one else.

Write something that YOU want to read. Write something silly, write something that makes you tear up because it’s full of such flowery prose, write something that you’ve held in your heart for so long, but have been too afraid to share it. And If at any time, you find yourself dreading sitting at the keyboard, worrying that you’ll never do your story justice, you should ask yourself a single question: “Why?”

That bar you have set SO high that you’re trying to reach?

Guess what…It doesn’t exist.

I hope this article was helpful, and I’d love be sure and comment below with any other tips or experiences you’ve had!