IWSG: Writing it down

Have you ever noticed how many authors keep journals? More than that, they’ve written daily in their journals since they were given one by their parents or a dear aunt when they were five years old. Or they took it up as a young teenager and never looked back. Almost invariably they started before they turned 20. Was it like that with you?

This month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group question prompt is: “How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?” 

I wish I could find the proper post by that voluminous and most helpful blogger, Joanna Penn. Recently I read of how she — like so many — has kept journals since her teen years and that she can flip through them — and this is the image that stays with me: She describes how during times of great stress and upheaval (such as her divorce many years ago) that her entries were written in an unusual hand — large and loopy and full of the emotion of the moment. (I really do hope I’m remembering that correctly — that it was Penn. In any case, she’s always worth following. Find her at thecreativepenn.com and at @thecreativepenn on Twitter.)

When I read the question prompt from #IWSG my mind leapt immediately to journaling (or keeping a diary as they were called long ago. Dear Diary,…). Whatever you call  it, I do recall writing regularly in a little book during a particular period of my life. Pages upon pages were inked (never pencil!). But then the little book was found and read by one I thought a friend. And I felt small and silly and violated. So I didn’t write again for a very, very, very long time. 

Recently, a not-a-writer friend mentioned writing notes and ideas and thoughts but then, upon rereading them a few days later, destroying them as not worthy of pursuing. My mind balked at this: Wouldn’t it be a lark — if nothing else — to thumb back through earlier entries at some later date?

But maybe it’s  enough: Just the act of writing it down. The thoughts that come streaming, flowing as the pen scrawls across the page, that wouldn’t have come to consciousness without the act of writing. The catharsis. The associations. The insights. The expression of heretofore inarticulate emotion. 



Insecure Writer's Support Group #IWSGThe purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! #IWSG



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IWSG: Which path?

The fork in the road. A decision to be made. It’s an ancient construct. Weighing the relative virtues of going this way or that. This month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group question prompt is: “What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?”

The short answer: Indie / freedom

The longer answer involves visions of being vetted by a long sequence of publishing company readers/editors, always falling short, months then years of rejection, and feeling that I had neither the time nor the temperament for it. I haven’t been an overly confident writer and that quashed will and stilled my hands.

Then I came across two truly wonderful, hard-working women.

The first I “met” online: Joanna Penn

I’m sure you’ve heard of her. She’s remarkable in her free and gracious sharing of information and insights. Just perusing her website, The Creative Penn, is worth the price of several writers’ conferences. An author-entrepreneur, she sketched out the importance (for her) of remaining independent and in control of her business, her writing, her options, her future. I have (and am sporadically reading — I’m horrible with my TBRs) several of her excellent books, including Business for Authors: How to Be an Author Entrepreneur. Her point of view resonated with me. I’ve been a small business owner. I could do this.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch is a force of nature

I was fortunate in that I heard Rusch speak at a local writer’s convention. She’s written approximately 5,000 books (only a slight exaggeration) and in her beautifully unequivocal way made clear that you don’t put yourself in a box, you don’t sign away rights, you read your contracts carefully. Now, note she wasn’t saying “don’t work with a publisher”. But, my decision already having been 99.9% made, her exhortations to be cautious and smart in your business dealings firmed up my resolve.

I stand here before you today

So here I am. A self-published or “indie” writer. Happy with the decision. Now in the Hell of The Second Novel. But that’s another story.

For now…stay writing. And thanks for visiting.

Insecure Writer's Support Group #IWSGThe purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! #IWSG



Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash

IWSG: Heat, harvest, bone-tiredness, and other nonsense

A barren desert. Still. The sun is high and there’s no movement, with not the hint of a breeze. Gray and brown twiggy scrub feign life. There’s nothing else. No creatures, even in the shade. It’s devoid of any beauty or grace. Sterile and alien. Dry and hopeless.

And this misery can be yours! 

Yes! All you must do is…

But I get ahead of myself. This is my monthly post for IWSG: Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The suggested topic is: “What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?”

Oh, I have an answer.

The best answer. 

The one that’s been dogging me for the past couple of months. 

Its genesis is clear. A clever devil, it pitied how hard I was toiling at the day job and bemoaned the sudden influx of freelance work I needed to handle. But it was all for a good cause, and the freelance project would help me dial back some of those responsibilities so I’d have more time. For writing. 

Then came the month of weekends harvesting fruit. Inarguable. A tree with branches burdened, hanging low with ripe fruit, will not be put off. Cutting, plucking, cleaning, pitting, bagging with just so much syrup, toting to the freezer. I’m not sure how many times that cycle was repeated. And we weren’t even able to get it all in time, before the heat was upon us with its withering embrace. 

You can see, can’t you? My tasks were true and proper and necessary. 

But I let them lull me, coax me. I listened to the voice that said, “Look how busy you are with this. This will soon be over. You don’t have time to write now, poor thing. Just wait a while longer.”

And days joined weeks and soon a few months passed. 

Now I am in that arid, sterile desert. The place writers go when they haven’t been doing what gives them life and purpose and feeds them and is as vital and basic as water. 

The answer to the question?

The primal pitfall, the mother of all, the poisonous and tempting fruit from the most devious and cunning imp, is allowing something to shunt aside the time you devote to writing.


Insecure Writer's Support Group #IWSGThe purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! #IWSG



Photo by Sari Fayomie on Unsplash

IWSG: What’s in a name?

This is the part where I express my profound appreciation to writer J. H. Moncrieff for being so on top of things. You see, I leapt up and joined a group (the IWSG you see in the title; more in a moment) — and dutifully marked on my calendar that I needed to have a post completed for First Wednesday — and then … didn’t.

But J. H. did! She actually has a truly useful post about getting your novel into bookstores (a dream of all writers, surely). And as I’m on her newsletter list, I saw the post. At which point I muttered an expletive (directed at myself, of course). But I have a freshly poured cup of coffee (touch of milk) in front of me, and the world before me (at least until I need to leave for the day job), so here we go …

The suggested topic for this month’s post is: What’s harder to come up with, book titles or character names?

Whew. Thankfully, this is an easy one to answer: book titles are harder, of course.

Character names float in from that mysterious place where all the other first draft debris comes from, the flotsam (and occasional jetsam) that populates the emerging story like the contents of an antiques shop off the high street in some small town in East Anglia. Generally, they’re acknowledged to be entirely functional without too much tinkering, hammering out of dents, and with just a bit of polishing.

An aside: I must admit to a strong dislike (perhaps even a loathing) for cute character names. The ones that scream at you, every time you come across them in the book, that this is a fabrication. Not real. Forced. There are exceptions, of course. Mostly genre-based. Fantasy and romance (akin to each other as they are in their mysterious way) — those characters’ names don’t disturb me. But anything in the suspense/mystery/thriller range — you want me obsessing on what the hell is going on, entirely immersed in the story, and not coming to a jarring halt every time Biff or Suzie “Snap” Wilson or the like make an appearance. (Note: I made those up. No disrespect to any author who’s published books with those character names. Well, maybe the “Biff”.)

Book titles, on the other hand, are a serious business. They are agonizingly difficult. How does one summarize and yet intrigue? Those book titles will be front and center and follow you around forever. They, with the book cover, comprise the First Impression you want to wow and hook prospective readers. A HEAVY LOAD TO CARRY.

Book titles are hard. And worthy of some posts all their own. Which I will calendar to write. I promise.

Until then, keep writing! And keep reading! It’s magic.

Insecure Writer's Support Group #IWSGThe purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! #IWSG



Photo from jannesglas at @unsplash


The best place to write

den with fireplace

I wonder if you’re like me. When I was Thinking About Writing (before I actually was writing more than a few pages here and there), I’d daydream about a writing nook. It’d have a sleek laptop. Stacks of books around. (I must’ve been born in a library; physical books — beside their other merits — comfort me by their presence and easy accessibility.) There’d be a plush old couch with pillows of velvet and Turkish tapestry. And a cozy lap quilt. To one side I’d have the cast iron (yikes, it’s heavy) typewriter I picked up at a second-hand store. A cup of tea or coffee steaming on the table.


But of course…that’s the point. Perfect for a daydream (even if your particulars differ from mine). Perfect for procrastinating (“Sorry, can’t write properly and in a dedicated manner yet because I don’t have all my accoutrements.”) I wonder if these published authors ever wrestled with that same demon. From reading that post, I’m thinking…no. Like Stephen King (a fact you will have learned if you read his excellent On Writing), even a cramped laundry space in a trailer will work.

And I really love to write. Exploring characters. Weaving a story. Wondering what the hell should come next.

After wrestling for too long with insecurities and those evil bastards in your head that will question your every move when you travel into unfamiliar territory, I am writing. Mostly I write using a not-so-new iMac at a desk that works equally well standing up or sitting on a tall stool. Sometimes I take my iPad and a bluetooth keyboard to the living room or the garden.

I type, but am intrigued by those authors who dictate; I don’t know if that’s for me. And I’ve just picked up Joanna Penn’s The Healthy Writer as she’s invariably full of good advice and I want to steer my habits in a sustainable direction.

What about you?

I hope you’re not still stuck in the “everything must be perfect before I can pursue my goals” mode.

There’s a quote from years ago that applies here. “The best camera is the one you have with you.” Adapted for writing, “The best place to write is the one you use.”



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Waiting for reviews

I find myself in a nebulous world. Past Sins was published nearly a month ago and it’s not yet received any reviews. Is one supposed to talk about these things? I’m a newish author — at least in the published sense. I don’t know the protocol.

It seems this is much like that moment after you give your mother her Christmas present. She tears off the wrapping (or carefully removes it, if she’s a saver) and peels back the tissue paper. You wait for the reaction. Does she like it?

You, dear readers, are the recipients of my present and I anxiously await your thoughts. Your interpretation. Your observations. My mind, my creation — filtered through your sensibilities and experience.

My book stands on its own. For better or worse, I acknowledge this thing that I’ve made. I don’t ask for validation. I will write regardless. Lost in the minds of my characters, reveling in their worries and hatreds and confusion and passion.

But without reviews I am ever frozen in time. The tissue paper crinkles. Your face rises to mine. What does your expression say?



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