For The Writer Who Isn’t Ready For Another Year

The beginning of a new year is an exciting thing. 365 days filled with promise, unsullied by mistakes, unspoiled by bad attitudes or hurtful remarks. A year is a powerful thing, and it’s exciting to have a new one ahead to conquer.

Except when it’s not.

Sometimes the thought of a new year, combined with the disappointments of the year (or years) past, can be intimidating instead of exciting. As much as we would like to leave the burdens, disillusionment, and frustrations of the previous year behind us, that’s a difficult thing to do. Sometimes, it really is impossible. Maybe resolutions failed, writing goals weren’t met, or projects that we were so enchanted with at the beginning of the previous year have fallen flat and lost their magic. Writing is a tough business, and more than that, it’s a slow one. Contracts aren’t signed overnight, books take years to be written and revised, and ideas that were hatched two, even three years previously still haven’t been given the attention and love they deserve.

In short, it can be very easy to reach the beginning of a new year and, instead of resolving to put all the effort and love you can manage into your stories, decide instead to let that dream die.

After all, dreams die all the time, don’t they? Writers quit, they find new pursuits, and books molder in drawers instead of being published and passed to the world.

But it doesn’t have to end like that. Writing can be discouraging, but it doesn’t have to be. The beginning of a new year SHOULD be exciting, no matter what is behind you.

Here are five tips for entering the new year as a conqueror, instead of feeling defeated before you even start.

1) Look back at the year past—and choose to see the good in it.

As a writer, nothing you do is wasted. Pages that have been trashed, agents that have turned you down, blogs that have failed, all of them have taught you valuable lessons. Every word you write, whether it’s been deleted or not, has brought you closer to where you want to be.

2) Be comfortable with baby steps.

Writing is slow. Publishing is slow. Getting a book into the world is slow. An impatient writer is a frustrated writer and a discouraged one. Enjoy the moments, allow them to pass as slowly as they need to, and be content with the knowledge that however slow you are going, you’re still so, so far ahead of those who have never dared try.

3) Don’t base your success on someone else’s decisions.

I see so many resolutions from writers that talk about getting an agent or landing a contract. I am all for reaching for the stars, and especially for setting big goals. But landing an agent or a publishing contract is not a goal that you can reach on your own. Ultimately, it comes down to their decisions. Whether your book is right for them and their business at the moment, and whether they have room for another client.

And if you are discouraged and struggling to continue, the last thing you need is a resolution that you have no power over.

Still, we don’t want to throw those resolutions out the window, right? So, instead, consider changing the wording.

Instead of resolving to land an agent, resolve to perfect and polish your query letter and proposal. Have a certain number of agents that you want to send it to by the end of the year. Focus on your effort, your enthusiasm, and your dedication, instead of their decision.

Then, when the end of the year rolls around, whether you have a contract or not, you can be proud of yourself for doing everything possible to make your dream happen.

4) Realize that there is really only one way to fail as a writer.

A bad review is not a failure. A dead blog is not a failure. An idea that surged and died is not a failure.

The only way to fail is to quit.

Everything else is learning, everything else is a step forward, or redirection, or a bit of experience. If you continue, you will find your niche and you will find your story. So don’t quit. Don’t give up. Keep writing, even when it looks hopeless from the outside.

5) Do what you love.

Before you resolve to hit this milestone or that one, pause. Resolve to rekindle your love for the writing. The stories. The characters that once caught your attention and persuaded you to take on their journeys and their passions.

The only way to write well is to write with passion. Readers know when you’re only going through the motions of being an author. You loved this craft once, and maybe you still love it now.

So pause.

Take a moment.

Remember what it is about writing that you love. Journal with your characters. Renew your friendships with them. Explore the cities, the forests, the places that you write about, and linger in them. Smell the deep mould beneath the trees, the fresh brewed coffee at the coffee bar, or the wet pavement in the rainy streets.

Forget the logistics of followers, agents, queries, platforms, and contracts. Forget how many likes that last post received. Pause all of that.

Enjoy the journey. Love the writing. When your passion returns, then return to the rest.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

2019, Goals, and Celebrations

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I have an announcement to make.

Ehem.

It is now . . .

2019!!!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

I’m guessing some of you are still asleep after a very long night and some wild parties, but you’ll wake up sometime this afternoon, and I’ll shout at you then. Or possibly just make you a pot of very strong coffee and leave you to recover in peace.

That might be kinder.

We’re one day into 2019, and already the year is in full swing and jam-packed with new adventures.  For Christmas, my sister gave me a pass to Gordon Ramsay’s masterclass, and I’m seriously excited to spend some time learning proper cooking techniques and recipes from a chef who has so much knowledge. Besides that, I will be stepping into coaching for the first time, welcoming a new child into our house, starting a new job, and preparing for the Fall release of my new book, Of Bullfrogs and Snapdragons.

Besides that, I am also planning on expanding this blog, continuing to post my stories and blogging more about mental health for writers and my own journey as an author. My full-length book series is still with agents and publishers who are considering it, and I will continue to send it out until I have a contract under my belt. 2019 promises to be a year of expanding my boundaries and experiencing new things, and I am EXCITED!

So tell me! What are you excited for in 2019? What are some of your goals and resolutions for the coming year? Any changes coming up that you would like to share?

Reading on a Budget

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Books are expensive.

Let’s just all admit that right now. Books are a good way to go broke as quickly as possible, especially if you are like me and love the beautiful, hardback special editions of your favorite novels.

Someday, I will have bookshelves worth millions.

And I will still be broke.

Seriously, though, how do readers like us, who have budgets and rent and bills to pay, buy the books we’d love to own and still stay within a reasonable price range for the books we buy? (Without stealing pirated copies off the internet. Authors have to eat too, guys.)

Here are some of the ways that I buy books and still manage to have enough for groceries on the side.

1) Thrift Stores (NOT Used Bookstores)

Most of my books are secondhand. I browse through thrift store shelves on a regular basis, looking for anything that catches my fancy. Sometimes you find nothing, sometimes you find gold. (I found a brand new boxed set of the Hunger Games at a thrift store. Win!) The upside to this way of shopping is that you can find books for a dollar or two a piece, and usually add some fairly nice books to your collection.

The downside is that if you need a particular book—it can take months to find it.

Sometimes, you may not find it at all.

2) Save and Splurge

I have a few authors, (only one or two, mind) that I preorder books from. Their name pops up on Amazon, and I buy it, no questions asked. Everyone else . . . I wait around for. I’ll save up, or wait for birthday money or a gift card, or just stall until I really, really can’t wait anymore. Instant gratification will never, never do your bank account any good.

3) BookDepository.com

This website is a great resource if you’re looking for a particular book and don’t want to pay Amazon shipping. The pricing isn’t much different from Amazon, (unless you happen to find a book on sale, which does happen) but shipping is free, which always helps. If you have Amazon Prime, you’ll probably get a better deal there, though.

4) Trading at Used Bookstores

Okay, can we just all agree that used bookstores are expensive? Depending on where you go, the books can either be full price or only a few dollars less than buying them online or in Barnes and Noble. At least the ones that I’ve been to recently haven’t had such great bargains, no matter how old or worn the books are. At those prices, I would rather buy them brand new on Amazon and skip the underlined pages and marked up bindings.

Maybe it’s just where I live.

But, some of the stores that I’ve been to will take your old books, ones you’ve read or decided you’ll never get around to, in exchange for store credit. If you’re looking to get rid of some old novels to make room for new books on your shelves, go ahead and ask! You never know how much you may save.

In the end, book buying is just expensive. We’re paying for worlds to wander in and the incredible hard work and dedication of the author, and that is always worth the money we spend. If you can’t afford to buy the book quite yet, go to the library and check it out! Mention to the librarian that you just love this author, make a little fuss about them. Libraries will buy more copies, and the author will get more circulation. They’ll appreciate it, I promise.

4 Reasons You Need A Bookshelf In Your House

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I live in a tiny house. I have one bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom, and two bookshelves.

I also have two cupboards filled with books that I couldn’t fit on my shelves.

So, to convince myself (and you) that I am not a hoarder and do not require an intervention, I’ve come up with four reasons why every home needs a bookshelf.

Or maybe three bookshelves.

Or six.

Ahem.

1) Decor

Empty walls are boring and paintings are expensive. Books are expensive too, but if you buy from thrift stores, used bookstores, and library sales, it will take a little longer for you to go broke.

I know this from experience.

2) Endless Entertainment

Running to the library every time you need a new book is all well and good . . . right up until you run out of new reading material in the middle of a snowstorm and can’t get to town.

I wouldn’t take the risk.

3) Conversation Starters

Books are great conversation starters, especially at awkward parties where no one knows quite what to say. (Can you tell I’m 89% introvert?) Finding a friend who likes the same books as you do is hard to do, especially now when so few people have time to read. If your books are out on display in your living room instead of stuffed in your closet, you may stumble across someone with the same taste as you the next time you have a party.

Or, if you’re as introverted as I am, you can skip the party and read instead.

4) All your friends (or books) are collected in one place

I’m not the type to read a book, finish it, and then never pick it up again.

I get attached.

I like to revisit my favorites, read the chapters I loved the best, or just have them around. In case. You never know when you might need a familiar story to help you through a sick day, or pass the time at the doctor’s office, or, if you’re very brave, loan to a friend. (I don’t have the stomach for this one very often.) Having them on hand when I need them is one of my favorite parts of having bookshelves in my bedroom, no matter how much space I sacrificed to squeeze them in there.

I could come up with a few more reasons, but I think these start off the topic well. What are your favorite excuses for having too many bookshelves? I’d love to add to my list the next time someone accuses me of hoarding!

When You Don’t Have Time

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“No one reads anymore.”

Do you know how many times I have heard that? Articles, people ranting on social media. Everywhere you look someone else is making the claim that no one reads anymore.

But I do.

I’ve read nearly forty books this year, everything from classic literature to mythology to YA and children’s books. If you jump on Goodreads you’ll find people who have doubled that score. (Or tripled it. You guys are awesome. Please teach me.)

People still read. Just not as much as we used to.

And you know what? I get it. We all have jobs. We all have responsibilities. We all have people depending on us, schedules to juggle, deadlines to meet. We all have relationships to maintain, and, yes, we all do need to socialize at some point or another. (Only not really.)

So how, in the name of all sanity, do we manage to fit reading into all of this business?

I have no idea.

Ha! I’m kidding. I read forty books this year, remember? So here are a few of my tips for making time to read.

1) Make it a priority

Okay, not your main priority. Your kids still have to get fed and your boss will probably fire you if you don’t show up to work on Monday. Even if you tell him you were reading a really good book. But do you really need to binge watch that show on Netflix? Or spend that extra half an hour on Pinterest and Facebook? It’s so easy to waste time on social media and not even notice we’re doing it. Could you be reading a few pages during your lunch break instead of refreshing Twitter for the eighth time? (I am totally guilty of this.)

2) Lower your expectations.

How many times have you heard that in a motivational post?

Hopefully not many.

But seriously, don’t put pressure on yourself to read thirty chapters every time you sit down. When I was a teenager, I used to binge read books. I would sit down with a new book and finish it in one sitting, reading for six or seven hours straight.

I was crazy.

I also can’t do that anymore, except on the occasional weekend when I should probably be socializing and letting my friends know I haven’t died out quite yet. I don’t have the time or the focus anymore. I get distracted with this task or that one, and I forget to pick up the book again until it’s too late. So now, I employ the best aid to an adult reader on a tight schedule.

The bookmark.

Instead of reading ten chapters or finishing a book in two days, read a chapter. Read three pages. Read one page. Pick your book up before you head to work in the morning, or read on the bus, or on your lunch break. (Talk to your coworkers too, though. I don’t want them mad at me for ruining your social habits.)

The point is, it is okay to take a month to read a book if that’s what it takes.

3) Read for ten minutes

Ten minutes is nothing. I take longer than ten minutes to shower. Ten minutes before you go to bed will not ruin your night’s sleep, I promise. (Unless you get sucked into the book and read until 1 AM. In which case, I am very sorry.) Set a timer if you have to, or wake up ten minutes earlier than usual and read in bed before you get up. It seems like nothing, but ten minutes of reading every day will have you plowing through books. Especially if you never picked them up otherwise. Really. Take ten minutes.

4) Keep your book where you will see it

Beside your bed. On your kitchen table. On the counter. Beside your couch. Somewhere it’s easily accessible and within your sightline. If you put it back on your bookshelf while you’re not reading it, I can guarantee you will forget. And when you have ten minutes to spare, you will reach for your phone instead.

5) Bring your book with you

I always bring a book with me. When I go to work, when I’m running errands, to the dentist, the doctor. So much of our time is spent waiting. Waiting in line, waiting for the bus, waiting for someone who is late. Why not have a book to read while you wait, instead of scrolling through Facebook and glancing at the clock every five minutes?

Well, there you are. My tips for fitting more reading into an already busy life. Anyone else have things that they do to snatch time for a couple of pages? I’d love to hear from you!