#ROW80 check-ins, creativity

Surviving a Creative Dry Spell


I have been absent from the blogosphere for a while, taking a sort of mini-sabbatical. In the past two months I’ve rekindled my love of poetry, discovered the perfect banana bread recipe, and mostly just tried to figure out my next steps.

It happened like this: I was going strong, often writing 2,500 words a day. I was churning out manuscripts like crazy. Three years ago, I left my magazine writing job, and it was like all of these stories that had been bottled up for years came pouring out. And then, one day, I woke up, and that creative deluge was gone.

At first I thought it was writer’s block, but the feeling wasn’t the same. When I have writer’s block, I desperately want to write, and can’t. This feeling was different, a sense that I no longer wanted to write.

I’m a very driven person, and I need goals to focus on. Without those goals, I started to drift, feeling like I was wandering aimlessly through life, completely disconnected from my creativity. I had, in short, entered a dry spell.

I almost gave up on it, losing faith that I would ever again pen fiction. I tried to write new stories, but my imagination couldn’t cook up plots. I read articles about authors like Ursula Le Guin, inspiring tales of the creative process. It didn’t help. I still couldn’t write.

One day, I sat down in the café of a Barnes & Noble, my laptop in front of me. “Write something,” I told myself, unable to drift any longer. “Anything.” If I couldn’t write anymore, I’d decided, I would create a new goal. I dreamt up possibilities, but nothing stuck. I longed for the days when stories flowed like spring rivers fed by melting snowpack. I longed for the days when every moment held creative possibility. My creativity had always defined me, and it seemed to have disappeared.

That day in Barnes & Noble, I wrote a poem, the lamentation of a dragon whose kind have lost a war and are on the verge of extinction. If I couldn’t write fiction, I would write something else, I decided. I came home that day with hope that I could, once again, create.

I wish I could say that that day the dam broke. But it wasn’t like that. It was more the feeling of the first fat drops of rain falling on your head. A splatter here, a splatter there, but not yet creative energy in full force.

Drop by drop, my creative energy is returning. Perhaps what I felt was creative burnout, the result of penning story after story and setting completely unrealistic expectations for myself, expectations that went against my own creative process.

My plan is to publish another short story later this year, a piece titled Silver’s Stray. I’m not going to push myself to meet a lot of deadlines. I’m not going to set crazy goals. My goals are simple:

  • To really work on my author platform
  • To finish and polish Silver’s Stray and publish it by the end of the year
  • To finish and polish Spirits of Embers, a short story, and submit to at least one magazine
  • To launch my editing business

That’s it. I took a detour, saw a glimpse of what my life would be like without the creative drive that I wake to each day. It’s a drive to write something, anything—a journal entry, a spell, a story, a poem, a blog post. It’s a drive to create, however quickly or slowly. It’s a drive to give something meaningful to the world.

Have you ever gone through a creative dry spell? How did you handle it? How were you able to begin to create again?

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#ROW80 check-ins, indie publishing, personal journeys

A Midweek Check-In—and a Request

I know I haven’t been blogging much lately. I’m on sort of a mini-sabbatical. I feel like I pushed so hard with my writing for a few months, and I’m feeling a little burned out. I’m hoping a few weeks off will help me recharge my batteries.

So there’s not much to report on the writing front. I do need to do some editing to my short story Silver’s Stray and send it to my critique partners. We’re meeting later this month, so I hope to dig into that story tomorrow and Friday and get it sent to my CPs.

As far as reading, I just finished reading Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie. It was a little darker than I remembered it being at some points, but I hadn’t read it since grad school, so it was time for a reread. My mother-in-law lent me Shadow of Night and The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness, so I think I’ll dig into those next.

I do have a request, though. I published two novelettes last week, The Beltane Kiss and The Faerie Key, and I’m offering free review copies to whoever wants them. A free e-book in exchange for an honest review. Let me know in the comments or via my contact page if you’re interested. And thanks in advance!

Click here to connect with other ROW80 participants.

What about you? How is your writing coming along? Have you ever taken the time to reread a book you haven’t read in years? Did the reread surprise you in any way? Are you interested in a free review copy of one of my stories? Let me know!

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#ROW80 check-ins, indie publishing

Oh? I need a budget?

In our house, I’m the budgeting nerd. I’m the one who knows how much things cost and how much we can save each month.

Which is why I was confused when, the past couple months, we hadn’t really been saving. I looked at the numbers and saw why: We were pouring a lot of money into launching my indie author career.

There are the normal expenses, such as editing, proofreading, cover design, web hosting, RWA dues, etc. And then there were expenses I didn’t expect, such as getting a P.O. Box because, apparently, you have to make your address public to create a newsletter through MailChimp. Lesson learned. I also found out that I need to apply for a copyright on my work, which costs about $35 per work. And I need to buy ISBNs.

It’s going to take some sacrificing, and it means slowing down a little, but really, I needed to slow down anyway and give each story time to become whatever it needs to be. Time for the characters to whisper in my ear and reveal their secrets. Time to add layers to my stories.

And, going forward, I actually have a budget for my indie author business instead of just randomly paying editors and designers. Yet another lesson learned.

A midweek ROW80 check-in…

Writing: The Faerie Key is finished! I had one scene that really wasn’t working, but I hunkered down and dug in deep, and now it’s where I want it to be. My plan for the rest of the week is to finish the second draft of Silver’s Stray. Next week I’d like to start revisions on Spellfire’s Kiss.

Reading: I’m currently reading Harvest Hunting by Yasmine Galenorn, and it’s an enjoyable, fast-paced read full of magic and adventure. I haven’t read any craft books this week, but I need to read Let’s Get Visible and finish reading The Anatomy of Story.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? What lessons have you learned on your creative journey? Any cost-saving tips for a new author?

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#ROW80 check-ins, writing process

When a List is the Solution

It’s no secret that I have a lot of WIPs. So many that at times it makes my head spin. Sometimes I’ll write a few pages of a story and realize that it’s not going anywhere, and I’m okay with setting those stories aside indefinitely. But I have a number of projects begging for revision, or stories with a lot of potential that I’m determined to finish.

That’s where the almighty list comes in. I’ve created a list with four categories: stories that are finished (only one in that column so far, soon to be two), stories to be revised, stories with uncompleted first drafts, and stories that may or may not be completed.

My goal, then, is to go from one category to another. So first, I’ll revise a story from the “stories to be revised” list, and then finish an uncompleted tale. And, of course, along the way new stories will pop up, and I’ll try to make room for those, too.

A midweek ROW80 check-in…

Writing: Honestly, there’s not much to report so far. I finished a read-through of The Faerie Key. I don’t want to make major changes to it at this stage, but there’s one scene that needs a little bit of work before it’s ready. I’ve uploaded a number of my WIPs to my Kindle for read-throughs. I’m not sure I’ll finish everything I set out to do this week, but hopefully I can at least finish a draft of Autumn Ember.

Reading: I’m currently reading Harvest Hunting by Yasmine Galenorn. She writes these wonderful, fast-paced stories featuring kick-butt heroines, and I’m enjoying the story so far.

Click here to check in with fellow ROW80 participants.

What about you? Do you work on multiple projects at once? If so, how do you balance them?

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#ROW80 check-ins

Sunday Summary

ROW80LogocopyWriting: Wrote 4,323 words in Autumn Ember, a retelling of Cinderella. Did a final read-through of The Beltane Key. It had some formatting issues, but hopefully those are resolved. I think it’s ready to be uploaded! Did some edits to Silver’s Stray, a short story, and sent it to a beta reader. I have her comments back and need to dig into those after I did a final read-through of The Faerie Key. Goals for the upcoming week:

  • Final read-through of The Faerie Key
  • Revise Silver’s Stray.
  • Finish a first draft of Autumn Ember.
  • Possibly start After the Tower, a Rapunzel retelling that’s been rattling around in my brain for ages.

Reading: Read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which was amazing (not surprisingly). Read Taming the Dragon by Kendra Leigh Castle, which wasn’t bad, although I thought the other stories I read by her were better. And I read Under a New Year’s Enchantment by Barbara Monajem, and loved it. I’m not even sure read is the right word. I devoured it.

Life: The kitchen and dining room are painted! They just needed a fresh coat of paint to brighten things up, and the rooms look so much better, fresher and more cheerful. Took a few short walks, but no real exercise this week. Lazy, I know.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? How are your writing goals coming along? What did you read this week? Have you done any home improvements this summer—or do you have any planned for the fall?

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#ROW80 check-ins, indie publishing, the writer's journey

Countdown to Publication

The Beltane Kiss fantasy romance book coverI’ve chosen September 6 as the release date for two of my short stories, The Beltane Kiss and The Faerie Key. That gives me a little more than a month before those stories are out in the world. Both stories are back from the proofreader, all edits are made, and they’re currently on my Kindle, awaiting one final read-through. I’m hoping (knock wood!) that I’ve done the formatting correctly—that’s something I’ll be checking when I do the last read-through.

Wow. This has been a long journey. I graduated with my M.F.A. in 2008, and I’ve experienced a lot of ups and downs on this journey so far. In some ways it’s still overwhelming because I don’t know what to expect. Will I even make back the money I’ve spent on editing and proofreading and cover design and all the miscellaneous expenses associated with my writing business? How badly will my first negative review sting? Will I ever receive an email from a reader who was inspired or moved by my work?

Unknowns. There are a lot of those. Ten years ago they would’ve driven me crazy. Today, although I’d like to know more, I feel like I’ve accepted that the unknown is just part of life. Being an indie author means embracing a level of uncertainty and carrying on without knowing exactly what will happen.

Overall I’m excited. I want to share my stories with readers, to get my characters out of my head and off my computer and into the hands of others so their stories can somehow be solidified, so my characters can live.

One month to go.

Lastly, an ROW80 check-in…

Writing: Did a read-through of Silver’s Stray, a short story, did some editing, and sent that piece off to a beta reader. I’m hoping to get comments on Spirits of Embers, another short story, soon and to get that piece edited and submitted to magazines this month. Entered my proofreader’s changes to The Faerie Key. The Beltane Kiss and The Faerie Key are formatted and are now on my Kindle, awaiting final read-throughs. And then begins the process of uploading files to KDP.

Reading: Read Taming the Dragon by Kendra Leigh Castle. It was a cute story. I just bought Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and am looking forward to reading that one.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? If you’re an indie author, any suggestions for a newbie? Are you reading the new Harry Potter book? Thoughts (but no spoilers!)?

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#ROW80 check-ins, writing process

The Creative vs. the Critic

If you’re a writer, this battle rages in your psyche on a regular basis. The creative, who makes these huge intuitive leaps and brings stories into this world from out of the ether. The creative, who makes something out of nothing, splashes of ink on a once blank page, seeming to spin straw into gold.

And then there’s the critic, that nagging voice who says nothing is ever good enough.

Sometimes it feels like the writing process is an ongoing battle between the creative voice that knows without knowing how it knows and the critic, who knows that something is wrong.

The hardest part is that sometimes the critic is right. Sometimes the story isn’t working, and the critic speaks up.

But if the critic’s voice becomes too strong, the creative wants to quit, pack up and walk away from the story.

This week was exactly that sort of battle for me. I just finished edits on two stories, and decided before I dug into another revision I would pen a short story, something small and fresh to break up the revision process. I found a character, Silver, working in her garden as a storm approached. The first night I wrote a couple thousand words, just getting to know my characters and their dilemma.

After I finished writing that night, the critic started tearing the story apart. But the creative? She loved those characters, and she wouldn’t quit. She wanted to finish that story.

The critic spent the next twenty-four hours debating how to fix the story. All she knew was that the current depiction of the antagonist didn’t work, wasn’t fresh enough.

She came up with no solutions.

So I sat down at the page and told the creative voice to take over. Write something, anything.

And you know what? The critic shut up, and the creative worked her magic, and by the end of the night I was staring at a 6,000-word short story titled Silver’s Stray. Was it perfect? No. But it was a completed first draft.

I don’t pretend to have the answers. All I know is that sometimes we need to tell the critic to shut up and allow the creative free rein. Because the creative voice is a creature of intuition and imagination, and she knows answers the critic can’t even dream of.

Lastly, an ROW80 check-in:

Writing: Edited The Faerie Key and sent it to my proofreader. Finished a second draft of White Wolf, Red Cloak. It’s ready to send to the editor as soon as she’s available. Wrote 6,017 words in Silver’s Stray, a short story. First draft finished!

Reading: Read Twilight Guardians by Maggie Shayne and continued reading Garden Witch’s Herbal by Ellen Dugan.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

How was your week? How do you balance your creative and critical sides?

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#ROW80 check-ins, writing process

Too. Much. Information.

Yeah, that’s how I’ve been feeling these past few weeks. I am super-excited to be launching an indie career over the next few months. I’ve been writing professionally since 2008, and my first two works of fiction will go live on September 6.

That means lots of research. Over the years I’ve read my fair share of books on writing craft and the writing biz, but for some reason I’m starting to feel overwhelmed by all the information I’m trying to process. Maybe because I feel like I finally have to make choices with that info. Information such as…

  • You can’t write a cohesive first draft if you don’t know at least the basics of your plot.
  • You can write bird by bird, scene by scene, one word at a time.
  • All first drafts are crap. Revision is your lifeline.
  • Revision is for suckers.
  • All good books have a three-act structure.
  • Three-act structure is an artificially imposed construct. Feel free to ignore it.
  • KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited are going to make you a fortune.
  • Run as far and as fast as you can from KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited.
  • If you write quickly you can make a living writing short fiction.
  • No one makes money writing short fiction.
  • If you’re going indie, you need your own imprint.
  • Starting a publishing imprint for your self-published books makes it look like you’re trying to trick readers into thinking you’re not self-published.
  • You shouldn’t…
  • You should…
  • You’re doomed if you don’t…
  • You’re doom if you do…

Head. Exploding. Too. Much. Information.

You seen what I mean, right? So here are a few things I’ve learned so far:

One: Most of what I learn as an indie author will be trial and error.

You can’t necessarily replicate someone else’s results. So much of what I’ll learn won’t be from reading someone else’s blog post but from my own experience.

Two: If someone gives you a hard and fast rule regarding process, it might not work for you.

Just because outlining has worked for another author for twenty years, that doesn’t mean you’ll get there by outlining. And just because another author has written by the seat of his/her pants for twenty years, that doesn’t mean you can. Process is highly individual, so do what works for you.

Yes, all that information is still giving me a headache. And I will probably spend the next few years sorting out what works from what doesn’t work. Or the next few decades. (Seriously, I hope not.)

Lastly, a brief ROW80 check-in…

Writing: Did one last read-through of The Faerie Key and sent it to the proofreader. Starting a second draft of White Wolf, Red Cloak, a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. My goal is to finish that draft this week and get that story to the editor soon, and then start revisions on Spellfire’s Kiss.

Reading: Finished reading Twilight Guardians. Loved the world. As always, Maggie Shayne’s writing was excellent. Love her books. Currently reading Garden Witch’s Herbal by Ellen Dugan, which is packed full of flower, plant, and tree lore and magical correspondences.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? How do you handle conflicting writing advice? What are some of the contradictory pieces of advice you’ve received over the years, and how have you sorted them out?

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#ROW80 check-ins, spirituality, sunday summary

Sunday Summary

I’ll keep this one brief. Not much happened this week, just a whole lot of editing.  I finally finished a manuscript critique for someone and sent my comments, so the next few weeks I can dig into my next writing goals: Revising my novella Spellfire’s Kiss and writing a couple more novelette-length fairy-tale retellings.

I’ve been trying to reconnect spiritually, and I had a great full moon ritual this week. And I finally started my Book of Shadows. Here’s a peek:


Long evening strolls on which I’ve made a few discoveries—a pine branch the perfect size for a wand, and a pristine bird’s feather—have helped fuel my creativity and helped me connect to the divine.

And lastly, this week’s ROW80 check-in…

Writing goals: Edited White Wolf, Red Cloak and sent to critique partners. Edited Spirits of Embers and sent to beta reader. Line edits on The Faerie Key. That one needs to go to the proofreader, but I think I need one more read-through first.

(Oh, and my author website now features a Coming Soon page, where you can learn about upcoming releases and get sneak peeks of covers.)

Reading goals: Read Heinlein’s Rules: Five Simple Business Rules for Writing by Dean Wesley Smith, which I found helpful. I’m currently reading Twilight Guardians by Maggie Shayne, which started a little slow, but has picked up and has a really fascinating world. (Basically, humans are hunting vampires instead of the other way around.)

Life goals: Some exercise—long walks, playing Frisbee, and partner yoga one evening. No work on painting the house. I had time Saturday, but painting the kitchen is going to be such a chore that I just…didn’t. Sigh.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? How do you reconnect? What are some ways you maintain your creativity outside of your writing practice?

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#ROW80 check-ins, personal journeys

Realistic Goal Setting

It’s been one of those weeks that’s been fast and slow at the same time. Fast in the sense that it’s just sort of flying by, and slow in the sense that my goal progress hasn’t been super impressive.

One thing I’ve struggled with most of my life is setting realistic goals for myself. I often think I can accomplish twice as much in a given timeframe as I can. This month is a perfect example. I planned to write a first draft of a novelette in one week; it took me two weeks. I thought I could revise a novella in one week. That, also, looks like it will take two weeks. And that novel I thought I could revise this month? Yeah, I’m not getting to that.

Part of what slows me down is that I have some health issues, and I never know when they’re going to flare up. During a normal week, I can accomplish a lot more than when my energy feels drained and I’m struggling to meet my goals. It goes back and forth. That’s just life, I suppose, and a limitation I have to learn to work around as best I can. And I need to learn to cut myself some slack during weeks when my health just isn’t where I want it to be. I still expect to make progress, but I won’t be flying through goals.

So, a midweek ROW80 check-in…

Writing Goals: Did some editing to White Wolf, Red Cloak, including rewriting the last scene from the hero’s point of view, and sent that story to critique partners. Did some line editing to my story The Faerie Key in preparation for sending that story to the proofreader.

Reading Goals: Finished reading A Little Night Muse by Jessa Slade and continued reading Twilight Guardians by Maggie Shayne.

Life Goals: Took a long walk Tuesday evening and did some partner yoga with hubby. I should probably start tracking my calorie intake using My Fitness Pal again, since I found that helpful. I also need to do some more cardio—maybe jogging again? No progress on the home improvement front, although I hope to do some painting in the kitchen and dining room this weekend.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? How do you set realistic goals for yourself? How are your goals coming along this month?

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