Working Through The Fog

The other day I made a comment about finally being able to write. Maybe.

I’d gone a day and a half with no scene in my head. Nothing. Not for any book I’ve been working on. See, I’m so focused on the one I’m trying to finish, the one that’s closest to being finished that I can’t clear enough headspace for the others. That’s what its like for me when the ending is near. I want to solely focus, give my individual writing attention to finishing. But every so often, though the end is right there, I can’t see it clearly enough. I can’t hear dialogue. I can’t see surroundings. And the harder I try, the foggier it gets. The more I try to force it, the farther away and harder it becomes.

I don’t want to write useless words that I’ll just have to cut later. And yes, I know the experts say write everyday. No matter if it sucks, write anyway. Well, I don’t always fall into that camp. I don’t want to spend hours on something only to have to scrap just to say, I wrote today. No, I want the right words, even if it means waiting a few days until the vision, the voices, the kick in the ass comes.

I play games with my son, I pin on Pinterest, I cook or bake or reorganize something, I clean and the whole time, I’m thinking, I’m pondering, I’m working inside my head, rearranging thoughts and ideas and then it hits…

This is what happened the other morning while I was reorganizing my cookbook shelves. The scene began to take shape and the longer I worked at the cookbooks, arranging and rearranging, the closer I came to the end of the book.

Finally, it was time to write…

If you’re a writer, how do you get through the fog?

~lissa

Author Friday

Rejection sucks. No matter the reason, it sucks. Professional rejection? Personal rejection? It all sucks.

But, it’s all in what you do with the rejection that teaches you. We’re all allowed pity parties, tantrums, crying fits, wine, chocolate, the biggest most unhealthy bacon cheeseburger with a side of fries we can handle and… Oh, is that just me? Oops… Anyway, we’re allowed to deal with it in whatever way works best for us, even if it is to go around saying ‘I suck’ for the day. In the end though, in order to move on, to prove the rejector wrong, or to prove yourself wrong, you have to get up and charge forward.

I’ve suffered through several rejections of a professional nature recently and one personal one last year. Total suckage. You see everyone around you doing awesome, getting contracts, getting requests for full manuscripts, turning in book after book, and where are you? On the sidelines reading another form rejection. Dear Awesome Author, Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately… And it’s there you stop reading. And you don’t even read it as Awesome Author, you read it as 100% UNawesome Author.

So, once you’re in your little cave and have vowed never to crawl out again, what do you? That’s where the big decision comes in. That’s where the good, the bad, and the ugly are separated.

Me, with my latest rejection, I have congratulated my good friend who wasn’t rejected, and I repeated ‘Lissa you so suck’ in my head, but have been hard at work revising, plotting, planning from my little pity corner in my cave. I haven’t made chocolate cake. Yet. I haven’t made that burger with cheese and bacon. Yet. I haven’t opened the wine. Yet. No, I’ve kept on working. I’ve been plugging along and working and moving forward.

That’s the only way I’ll get out of this corner. Working. Writing. Moving.

How do YOU deal with rejection?

“It can be depressing when no one takes interest, and a lack of response makes the writer question why they’re writing at all. To have one’s writing rejected is like you, yourself, are being rejected. ”
? Lizz Clements, Apollo Weeps

“Rejection is a challenge.”
? Veronica Purcell

“I really wish I was less of a thinking man and more of a fool not afraid of rejection.”
? Billy Joel

“Sometimes it’s helpful to remember that every writer sits down to a blank page and struggles with their writing. And even the best writers have suffered their share of rejection.”
? Jade Tyler

~lissa

Author Friday

It’s been a busy writing week here at Casa Matthews. Actually, more like a busy revising week. Melting Jane is coming along really nice and I’m enjoying revisiting Cowboy Surfer Graham and candy maker Jane. I’ve been able to clean up their story a bit (don’t worry, it is still very naughty in the smex department), but removing extra words, making the writing tighter, adding a little more to their tale.

That is, I think, one of the great advantages to self-publishing…giving older stories new life and allowing them to find a new audience.

Look for Melting Jane near the end of the month… Even the blurb has gotten an update.

And in case you MISSED the cover…

Blurb:

Graham Hall is a twenty-six year old Texan with the job of his dreams: being a freelance travel writer for a national publication. He’s just finished his latest article and has earned some personal down time. With the six month lease not yet up on the small cabin in the Colorado Rockies, he decides to stick around the area for a while and in the process, finds himself agreeing to a blind date with a feisty, down on her luck in the love department, candy maker named Jane.

After all, what could it hurt?

Jane, completely oblivious to the set up, arrives at Graham’s isolated little valley cabin to deliver a box of her handmade Chocolate Kick truffles. From the moment Graham opens the door, Jane is tongue tied and ticked off. Edward, her business partner and most certainly former best friend, has set her up. When she regains her ability to put two coherent words together, plus size, mid-thirties Jane apologizes for intruding and assures Graham that she will take care of the mistake.

What ensues is a series of encounters and confrontations between Jane and Edward, Jane and Graham, and Edward and Graham. At the heart of it all, is Jane’s happiness. Edward wants this for her more than anything. Graham finds himself caught up in her tart tongue and curvy body and isn’t about to call his all too real pursuit a failure, no matter how many times she says no.

With her inability to continue denying herself the man she affectionately refers to as Cowboy Surfer in her head, she gives in and is rewarded with scorching hot sex and a lot of follow-up phone calls after she learns the truth of Graham’s attraction. His persistence leads Jane to believe that life doesn’t have to revolve around chocolate truffles, but rather should revolve around a delicious, well traveled and well built younger man.

Even I want to read the book! Grins…

Today, however, I am not working on Melting Jane. I am instead doing a little challenge, self imposed, but a challenge nonetheless… a Book In A Day! There are little challenges like this that take place, usually it’s a Book In A Weekend, or a Book In A Week. Mine is a short story, 8-10K, so doing it in a day isn’t going to be the problem. No, the problem will come Saturday when I’m unable to string two words together and have them make any kind of sense. My wee little brain will be fried.

The title for this book is Eli’s Promise, and it’s the second book in my Bar Next Door series, which will be coming out with Samhain Publishing sometime in the near future.

So, I need to get started. Y’all have a great day!

~lissa

Author Friday – A Little Thing We’re Not Supposed To Talk About…

Actually, there are a lot of things we’re not supposed to talk about. Bad reviews. Negativity. Failure. Money. Sales. Contracts. Publishers. Each other.

We also live in a society that believes in not speaking the truth to spare everyone’s feelings, being politically correct whether it’s right or not whether we agree or not, and where we don’t have to accept personal responsibility, especially for stupidity. We like to sue and we like to lay blame. We also teach our kids that there isn’t a winner or a loser because they’re all winners. Well, no they aren’t. There’s a winning team and a losing team. Just look at the scoreboard.

So what does this have to do with writing? Everything. Because most people will tell you that the most valuable lessons they’ve learned are from either losing, failing at something, hearing the bad along with the good, or being broken and having to pick themselves back up. I can’t disagree. If all you hear is praise, how do you handle the rejection when it comes, the loss when it happens, because I’m sorry, life isn’t all roses and eventually you’re going to experience some form of disappointment. It doesn’t always do it gently either. Most of the time, it kicks you in the ass or pulls a Gibbs and smacks you upside the head…

We all have expectations in this business, whether the writer, the editor, the publisher, the blogger, the reviewer, or the reader. And you know what? No one person can please all those different people. The pressure is daunting. We all make mistakes. We all have our own opinions. We all have our ideals and thoughts of how things should go, but they don’t often go the way we dreamed.

So, how does an author pick themselves up and dust themselves off when readers are vocal about disappointment, when reviewers say they like this book a little less than the last one, when editors send out that rejection, when publishers give you more WTF moments than you know what to do with, when everyone around you is succeeding and you seem to be floundering, or when you’re having a bad day because your characters won’t fucking get to the point and do what you want them to do?

I don’t know. I don’t know how others do it. The all-knowing ‘They’ say you’re supposed to have or develop a thick skin but if we shrug everything off, what have we learned? Nothing. At least I haven’t. And if there’s something I love, whether it’s painful or not, I love to learn. I can learn from my missteps and those unkind, hurtful words. I can learn from being heartbroken and cast aside. I can learn from tears. And I can change. Is it a change to please others? No. It’s a change to a different way of thought, a little more conscious effort. I can learn to get out of my own way. And that’s not a bad thing. Growth and change and learning. Sure, I’d like praise all the time, but I’m not going to get it. I’ve learned that lesson. But I keep trying. I keep trying and doing something different and learning and growing as an author. I may lose people along the way, but I may gain others. And those I lose, are probably not who I was aiming for in the first place. (this is something I am sort of learning in the book I’m currently reading ‘The Power of Unpopular‘)

Emotions are messy. Life is messy. I don’t write fluff and I don’t want to. I write wishy-washy characters because damn, that’s life and at some point we’re all going to be scared to take that chance. I write odd and aloof characters because damn, they exist. I have several friends who are odd and aloof and I adore them for it. I don’t want to write easy. I want to write what’s pulled from my gut and what’s painful. There will be people who don’t want to read that. That’s fine. It’s part of doing what we do. We can’t please everyone. It’s how we handle it that tells our strength, or so a friend of mine told me during a recent conversation about loss.(Thank you, Fallon.)

So maybe a thick, let it roll off the back skin works for most. It doesn’t work for me. It pisses me off, it hurts, it makes me growl and grump, and it makes me really think about what I’ve done and if I’d change it knowing what I know after… If I say no, I wouldn’t change it, then I know I’ve done something right, even if others don’t agree with me.

I read craft books. I read self-help books. I read happy books and books that come from people’s deepest, darkest souls. I learn and I grow and I change. I fix what I consider mistakes and I keep going on. I read blogs about how other authors deal with these same issues. I sometimes pour over them for hours. And in the end, we all have the same opinion. We’re all different and we’re all entitled to how we think, how we feel, how we deal… Will it make us better or make us worse?

At the same time, I’m also a reader. There are authors who write the same book day in and day out and only change the names of the characters, but are given the highest praise time and again. As a reader, that bores me and I have stopped reading some of my favorite authors because of that. Then, I have loved authors who left the initial genre they started in and I didn’t like the change in either voice or genre and stopped reading them (the new stuff at least. I always give it a try, though). Authors have had medical conditions which changed them and their writing was no longer the same and it saddened me that I could no longer read the books I loved from them because they weren’t going to be writing them anymore. It happens. Not only in writing but in acting. A favorite actor will no longer do drama or comedy or act at all. It happens in music and a favorite musician will go more country or more rock or go inspirational or just stop altogether.  Change happens and it’s not always what we as readers or watchers or listeners want.

I want books that make me feel something other than ‘that was a good book, but nothing I haven’t already read from her or him or them’.

Some things force change, force learning, force growth, and force us out of our comfort zones. Maybe most don’t think about this. Maybe most don’t want to because it’s sticky and messy…and not in the fun way. I do and eventually, I think it’ll make me a better writer. It’s part of how I do what I do…

~lissa

Author Friday – Lissa Matthews

Today starts the new blog series I told y’all about a while ago. Authors talking about how they do what they do. We’re calling it Author Friday and for the first few Fridays, you’ll be stuck with me while Brandy and I fill up the calendar with more authors.

As for how I do what I do?

My answer? Structure. That’s what I’ve learned about myself. I started this year off trying new techniques of organization between writing, the business work of writing, and family life. These different techniques have each gone through revision after revision after revision. I start off thinking one way and then everything goes to Hell in a handbasket when life interrupts and I get off course and off track and end up froding. (froding = off the beaten path or when the Garmin can’t find the road you know you’re on).

My current plan is writing Monday thru Friday and handling business on Saturday and  Sunday. Business meaning revisions, edits, blog posts, website updates, contacting winners from contests, catching up on emails that require something more than just a yes or no response. I also use this time to try and connect with Brandy to plan out the work I need from her throughout the next week and how things went the week before.

This way of doing things seems to be working better for me than anything else I’ve tried. It’s easy for me to get caught up in all that needs to be done and not getting to any of it because I don’t know where to start. I’m a big believer in routine. I need it. I crave it. I need to know what is expected of me and when. I need to know what’s going on and when so I can plan around it. But, just because I need and crave it, doesn’t mean I get it. Life isn’t structured like that on a normal basis, no matter how hard I try. I am finding though that I need to try harder.

If I get done with writing by four, I can exercise and get dinner going, depending on the menu item for the night otherwise, dinner is usually started in the slow cooker. Yeah, I’ve been doing that lately, too. Menus. It helps, not only with grocery shopping but with that whole structure thing. Cookbooks, magazines, food blogs. All for different dinner ideas and they help me keep on course with this whole not eating out challenge we do in our house from time to time.

Family life takes place after dinner. Or during dinner. We’ll talk, watch a show or a movie. My son is about to start baseball for the spring and my husband will be playing softball so life will need to once again be adjusted for those things, but…they also mean I need to be done with work beforehand because I’ve found that after about 8pm at night, I’m done for and don’t want to work anymore. I get up at 6am and am going from the time I get out of bed to the time I go back to bed. I’m exhausted. We all have our different thresholds for how much we can take and I’m trying to make sure I don’t stress mine too much. I’m not getting any younger and I know I need to take better care of myself if I hope to keep going for years to come.

As for writing, many of you have heard me say it time and again, but for me it’s writing sprints or timed writing, however you want to put it. I set the timer for 20 minutes and I write, usually between 2500 and 3000 words a day. If I don’t use a timer, I flounder and I flit and I don’t get half of what I need written done. I can and have written more, like 6000-8000 a day, but those are times where afterward, I’m brain dead. I read about authors who write 10000 words a day everyday, but then end up cutting almost half of what they’ve written. I don’t understand that. I rarely ever cut more than a few hundred words and am usually adding more to what’s been written. But, that works for them. And see, that’s the whole idea behind the Author Friday series. We all work differently. We all work at a different pace. We all write books of varying length and content. What works for one isn’t going to work for someone else, but we might be able to learn something and it’s always fun to see how others do what we do or how they do what we love.

I hope you as readers enjoy the series and I hope authors will enjoy it as well. If you have an author you’d like to learn about regarding their process, leave a comment and I’ll contact them to see if they’d like to participate. It can’t hurt to ask…

For now, have a great weekend.

~lissa