Category: Messages From Sharon Page 1 of 2

‘What the Hell Am I Doing?’ and Other Anxiety Gems

There are ten days left in November and I am sitting pretty at just over 45,000 words on my current project. I feel fairly confident that I’ll tip over 50k this weekend and win my 4th NaNoWriMo.

Yay!

But I had a bit of a ‘day’ earlier this week. I woke up Sunday wondering what gave me the audacity to think I could be an author? There are millions of writers out there that are way more talented than I, have degrees in creative writing and literature, and have meaningful stories to tell. Who did I think I was?

Imposter syndrome, am I right?

I have struggled with this NaNo for a few reasons, I think. First, and foremost, 2020. There is so much going on, so much to worry about, that I get overwhelmed. It’s so chaotic and hopeless sometimes, that writing feels frivolous. Second, I signed with an agent, and even without having a publisher, I feel tremendous pressure to write something GOOD. It’s all imagined pressure, of course, but it makes me second-guess every line of dialogue and every plot point. Thanks to these mounting stressors, my scenes stalled, the action wasn’t moving forward, the dialogue was stilted and unnatural and pointless.

Then I remembered why I write.

I don’t yearn to author the Next Great American Novel. I don’t even write to be published – although that would be pretty sweet. Writing is something I love, something that’s a part of who I am. I can’t envision my life without it anymore. If I write with love of the craft and continue to learn and improve as an author, what more do I need?

So, I retraced my steps. I wrote an outline, fleshed out the characters, started and restarted this story multiple times before finding the right path. After removing my self-imposed and outlandish expectations, it’s flowing better and I feel good about what I’m creating.

In the end, isn’t that what matters?

Why do you write? What are your goals as an author? Leave me a message, send an email: Let’s talk!

NaNoWriMo 2020 in the Face of Unfamiliar Territory

We’re heading into the last week of October of an insane year. Let’s take a look at just a few things we’re all dealing with: January tornadoes, earthquakes, civil unrest, a derecho, wildfires, hurricanes, 9 inches of October snow, COVID-19, and murder hornets.

It’s kind of a lot.

Everyone is having to learn a new reality and make adjustments. From finding creative ways to work, to teaching kids safely, to trying to salvage any form of live entertainment, we’ve had to spitball new procedures and change the way things are done – sometimes at the drop of a hat. It’s slow and tedious because not everyone is on the same page quite yet, but we will get there.

Growing pains, am I right?

October is one of my favorite months because of fall colors and cooler temperatures, Halloween, and my birthday. But this last week is leading into another favorite of mine:

National Novel Writing Month.

If you’re new to my website, you may not know that NaNoWriMo has changed my life and I will sing its virtues any chance I get. For the 30 days of November each year, anyone and everyone is challenged to write an original 50,000-word novel. It doesn’t have to be complete, beginning to end. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be good, as evidenced by a couple of my previous projects.

But we’re facing an unfamiliar landscape this year.

My NaNo experience has been colored by the wonderful people of the Central Iowa Authors group who welcomed me and encouraged me from day one. This year, due to COVID, we aren’t able to meet at our favorite restaurants and coffee shops to share our love of writing and – let’s be honest – brunch. I’m tearing up just writing this, thinking of all the things I’ll miss.

Then I take a deep breath and I get excited all over again.

No, NaNoWriMo 2020 isn’t going to look like anything we’ve seen before. But it’s still NaNo. And we live in a world where we can interact, face to face, in real time, from the safety and comfort of our own homes. Virtual hugs will have to do. We can still chat and share words of encouragement without having to brave frigid temps and slick roads. And I get to write, something that brings me so much joy.

So, what’s stopping you?

This whack-a-doo year is the perfect time to dip your toe in the NaNoWriMo pool! It’s a year of firsts – I mean, who the heck ever heard of a derecho?! – so why not write your first novel? Whether you hope to publish or just want to explore some wild ideas and see where they take you, NaNoWriMo is the perfect jumping-off point.

Drop a comment and ask anything you want to know about National Novel Writing Month! Check out the Website, take a look at the Virtual Write-in Calendar, visit Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, then come join me!

And if you like what you see, don’t forget to hit that subscribe button!

Ohhh…So THIS is Where Dystopian Novels Come From

What a wild time to be alive.

The past three months have been, in a word, tumultuous. It seems that a year’s worth of joy, fear, anger, sadness, and love has been crammed into just a few months.

Over one weekend in the middle of March, my son’s senior year ended abruptly, my daughter got engaged, I signed with a fantastic agent, and COVID-19 shut down most of the country. Life as we know it changed, I believe, irrevocably and overnight. Then recent events brought the ugly truth of racial disparity and police brutality into the spotlight, adding to an already volatile situation.

With everything that’s happened, I should have written a library of dystopian novels by now!

To be honest—and I know I’m not alone in this—being isolated at home, uncertain of what the future holds, has made it hard to focus. I find myself avoiding the computer, unable to write anything new as it all seems so trivial. Some days I sleep too much, other days I can’t make myself go to bed. I should be preparing my youngest for his first year of school in another state, planning a wedding with my daughter, talking with my middle child about his final year of college and his future. But it’s hard to make plans when everything can change in the blink of an eye. So what can I do?

I can keep moving forward. I can embrace hope and I can share love.

With the help of my agent, Katie, I am working on chapter-by-chapter revisions of my novel. I have been given the opportunity to spend quality time with my youngest before he flies the nest to start his real life. My middle child has demonstrated strength and compassion by using his voice to try to make a difference in the world. Wedding plans are progressing with my daughter, despite the darkness in our world, and even if it doesn’t look exactly as she’d initially dreamed.

And we all have contingency plans for our contingency plans.

I’ve found that now, more than ever, it’s imperative to stretch your creativity and leave your comfort zone. We must adapt or we die, and right now we are being forced to challenge the status quo and find better solutions—what better way than through creating, writing, and thinking outside the box?

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”

-Frank Zappa

How are you keeping your head above water these days? Are you pushing yourself, using new creative outlets, or brushing up on ones you’d forgotten? Drop me a comment or send me an email!

Patience Is NOT My Virtue

Earlier this week, I decided to take a chance and submitted the romantic suspense novel I’ve been tweaking since 2017 to a handful of agents.

Finding a literary agent is terrifying and can make you question your talent as a writer and your value as a human. If you aren’t familiar with the process, querying involves an author boiling down their 74,000-word novel into a few sentences and wooing an agent to fall in love with their work. It’s an exhilarating and nerve-wracking experience and one that bears paraphrasing an acclaimed movie line:

I’m just an author, standing in front of an agent, asking them to love my story – and, by extension, me.

In theory, I know how this works. Agency websites explain up front that the process can take 6-8 weeks before the author should expect a response. Does that calm my nerves? Not in the slightest. I am an over-thinker. As my mom says, I “borrow trouble” and can’t help ruminating on the possibilities: What if they all say no? What if they all say yes?! Do I have any idea what I’m doing?

The number of times I’ve hit refresh on my email and checked my spam folder since querying is embarrassing.

When you submit your work for approval, it stirs up a crazy combination of emotions. On one hand, I’m exceptionally proud of myself for finishing this novel and working through several rounds of edits to get it where it is. Most days, I love the story and want everyone to read it immediately.

There are other days, though, where I can’t believe that I’d be so bold as to think I have any chance of getting published. I’m trying to detach myself from the querying process and not take criticism and rejection personally, but my brain just doesn’t work that way.

So here are some things I’ve done to distract myself:

  • Take the dogs to the park
  • Laundry
  • Clean the junk drawer
  • Taxes (someone put me out of my misery)

Of course, writing this post has been an exercise in pseudo-distraction. I’m not obsessively checking my email, but I am writing about obsessively checking my email. Doesn’t exactly work.

Have any of you gone through this stage? What advice do you have? Please feel free to distract me with funny stories, questions, or other comments – I’d love to hear from you!

The End Is In Sight! Maybe. Probably Not…

I haven’t given an editing update on my novel for nearly a year and boy, has a lot happened since then! The last time I checked in, I was still trying to cut thousands of words and put together a sample query letter for a writers’ conference I was attending in March.

That’s a story for another time. Let’s fast forward.

To July. Yep, it took me that much longer to get my novel to a point that made me comfortable. I whittled my story down to roughly 94,000 words and had decided to go a step further and hire an editor. She was suggested to me by someone I admire and was an excellent fit for me. In my naive, sometimes conceited mind, I expected to be told that my manuscript was ready and I should compile my list of agents to query. (Think Ralphie’s daydream about his Red Rider theme paper.) Seriously, I thought I could send the story to the editor in early July and be querying agents by the end of August.

Ha.

Every developmental suggestion from the editor made sense to the point that I was embarrassed I hadn’t seen the need for the changes myself. Her suggestions made the story stronger and more believable, but it took me another several months to get through the changes and rewrites. After shaving an additional 20,000 words, my novel is back in the same editor’s hands for another round of suggestions and probable rewrites.

And I’m perfectly all right with that.

This process is tedious and sometimes disheartening, but I know the end product will be the best version possible. Not only that, but I’m learning so much about my writing and how to improve on it that my next novel(s) can only benefit from the mistakes I’ve made. I love my adverbs and weak, passive verbs, but that’s what editing is for and I’m not afraid of it anymore.

Two more novels are waiting patiently for me to complete them so they can be edited with the same love. I also have a file of story ideas trying to woo me with their shiny new plots and characters. Acting as a critical beta reader for friends, challenging myself with writing prompts, attempting to make a dent in my massive To Be Read pile; all of these things add to my toolbox that will build me up as a writer and I love it.

What surprises you about the process of writing a book? Feel free to ask about anything I’ve shared here by commenting below or reaching out through my email – I’d love to chat with you!

 

Join the ‘Christmas Book Flood’ with Indie Authors

In Iceland, there is a holiday tradition called Jolabokaflod (Christmas Book Flood) in which books are given as gifts on Christmas Eve and the family spends the evening reading and drinking hot chocolate or a non-alcoholic Christmas ale.

I love this idea!

Not only does it expand the reader’s horizons and support authors, but it also gives everyone a moment to just relax. The holiday season is so fast and wild, filled with shopping and parties and traveling that you need to allow your family – and yourself – time to just slow down and enjoy the moment.

In encouraging all of you to try this tradition on for size, I’d also like to make a few suggestions on books to gift. Through the local and online writing community, I have met some talented authors from all over the world: Australia, Central Iowa, Chicago, England, California, Florida, Pennsylvania. Their genres span everything from saucy romance to horror to dystopian sci-fi to women’s fiction to inspiration and more. And I’d love to share them with you.

Here is a list of some of my favorite indie authors:

Taylor Hohulin: “Your Best Apocalypse Now”

Sarah Latchaw: “Hydraulic Level 5”

Laura A. Barnes: “Rescued By The Captain”

Michael Stoneburner: “He Was A Boy Who Smiled, Book One: Phoenix Rising”

Jeanine Lunsford: “Remembering First Love”

Kelly Fumiko Weiss: “The Cube”

Rev. Rebecca Holland: “Through My Good Eye”

Jethro Weyman: “Two Halves of the Candle: Volume One”

Ben Monroe: “Dying of the Light: A Short Story of Survival Horror”

Adam Wing: “Matriarch”

Some of these authors have series, some write poetry and novels, some write more than one genre, so be sure to check out each author to see their other work. Keep in mind that by purchasing one or more of these books, you’re giving two gifts: one to the recipient and one to the independent author through supporting their dream.

What is a favorite book you received or gave as a gift? Leave a comment below or send me an email!

Decisions, Decisions

Hello again, friends and followers! I know it’s been a while but I’m hoping to jump back in with a variety of posts coming to you weekly. If you have questions or blog post suggestions, I would love to hear them! Leave a comment or send me an email at [email protected]

My birthday is this month which is pretty anticlimactic anymore – except I get cake! I am not even remotely joking when I tell you I have to do minor math to figure out my age at any time. This year, the day itself is full of activities with my writing group, After Prom planning, and SPOKE business. And that’s okay. As long as I get some kind of cake and I don’t have to make dinner, it’s all good.

But the best thing about October is that it’s almost NaNoWriMo time!

Working under a deadline seems to be a great motivator for me. Knowing I have a goal to reach in a specified period of time lights a fire under me. Turns out I’m a little competitive. The trouble arises this year in the form of an inability to choose a project for the 50,000-word challenge. I’m leaning one way, but haven’t committed to anything. Yet.

My choices are as follows:

  • Finish What I’ve Started: My NaNo project from last year is very close to finished but is, in fact, NOT. It’s a light fantasy novel and a huge departure from what I normally write so my confidence in it is a bit low. I also have a ghost love story that I worked on over the summer that has a lot yet to say. There’s subterfuge, romance, and impossible odds. I’m fairly certain I could surpass 50,000 words between these two projects.
  • Oooh-Shiny! During the Drake Relays, Andrew and I worked out a story line based off a creeper in a pickup truck ogling co-ed runners, even slowing down as each one passed. From that sprang the idea for a crime novel with a middle-aged, worn down female detective who stumbles upon a serial killer. A brand-new novel is almost guaranteed to get me over that finish line.

While it’s very tempting to start an exciting new story, I haven’t done any planning so far this Preptober which is not good. Sitting down to write without a clear idea of where the story should go fills me with anxiety. Perhaps that’s a good thing, though. Pushing at boundaries, stepping outside the box, stretching my skills, and expanding my comfort zone could be beneficial.

If I survive.

 

What should I focus on for NaNoWriMo: Finishing older works or starting something new? Please comment below or email me – I’d love to hear from you!

Dysfunction Takes a Holiday

For as long as I can remember, I have had a big imagination. I can’t think of a time in my life where I wasn’t playacting in some form or another. Sometimes it was Barbies with my sisters, sometimes it was movie reels in my head, sometimes it was me in front of my bedroom mirror. As an adult, it comes in the form of ‘what-if’ scenarios that play out as I clean or drive or, most often, walk the dogs.

The result of this big imagination is that I have a pile of story ideas jostling for attention.

My first story, posted on Channillo in mid-November of 2018 and in a Halloween anthology called Chills Down Your Spine, gave me the confidence to keep writing. After that, I wrote a few other slightly bizarre short stories and started three serials. One of them, The Path of Least Dysfunction, has been shared on this website weekly since it started in January 2019 and I have been so tickled by the responses I’ve received. A couple readers even picked teams, using #TeamJamie and #TeamChris on Twitter. Talk about an ego boost.

That’s why it’s bittersweet for me to say that Chapter 35, which went live on Channillo August 26 and will post here on September 11, is the last chapter of The Path of Least Dysfunction. At least for a while.

I haven’t stopped loving the story or the characters and I certainly adore the people who have been keeping up with it all along. But my attention was fractured and everything I am working on was suffering for it. At the beginning of the summer I sent my first completed novel, I’ll Call You Mine, for editing and haven’t touched it since I got notes back. There are three partial stories that I would still like to finish. November is fast approaching and I have yet another project I want to write for this year’s NaNoWriMo.

The inside of my head is a wild and crazy place and is getting a bit crowded.

For the next month I will be editing I’ll Call You Mine and working on only that. The last thing I want to happen is to leave readers hanging or give them boring stories and sub-par writing. This latest chapter gave me a place I could pause for a while without leaving a cliffhanger. I have loved writing about Alexis and Jamie and their crooked path to wedded bliss. At the beginning of the year I hope to continue their story. After all, they have a lot more story to tell.

Thank you so much for following along! I will continue to write and to post character bios, random thoughts, and story snippets.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below and stay tuned!

Summer Writing Shenanigans

There is a lot to love about the start of summer: the warmer temps, the longer days, vacations. And this year, it seems that spring is going to stretch at least to the first official day! For me, that means there are days that I can take my trusty laptop outside on the back patio to write without fear of drowning the keyboard in sweat.

Summer also brings with it Camp NaNoWriMo in July. Where NaNoWriMo takes place in November and challenges authors to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, Camp NaNo is a little more flexible. Taking place in April and July, Camp lets you build or join a ‘cabin’ of other writers to support and encourage each other. You also can set your own goal, whether that is editing pages, writing lines of poetry, or writing another novel and setting your own word count objective.

I love Camp.

After my first NaNo year, I decided I needed the camaraderie and accountability of a writing group so I’ve created my own Cabin for each Camp for the last two years. It’s so fun to annoy my friends with daily encouragement quotes, to hold virtual meetups, to gather other local authors for donuts and writing on Saturday mornings. I look forward to Camp every spring and summer and kind of can’t wait for July to roll around!

This summer is also a big step for me in my writing journey. I am in the final round of edits for my novel, I’ll Call You Mine, incorporating notes and suggestions from my beta readers. Then, in the middle of July, I will send my baby off to a professional editor to see how I can fully polish it up and get it ready to shop out to agents.

This is a thing that is going to happen and it terrifies me.

It’s one thing to sit down and write for fun, maybe sharing with a friend or two, but with no real plans beyond that. But I have found that I want more than that. I’m realistic, I know it’s not easy to get an agent and even more difficult for that agent to sell an unknown author’s novel to a publisher. Putting myself out there will probably mean hundreds of rejections and stabs at my notoriously thin skin and fragile ego.

But what if…?

My summer is jam-packed with exciting writing, editing, and reading challenges. What are you planning to do this summer to push yourself and reach for your dreams? Comment below and thanks for reading!

procrastination, distractions

Procrastination and Other Editing Tools

Editing is an important and necessary part of writing anything – an essay, a blog post, even an email. It gives the author a chance to fix typos, catch repetitive words, and streamline the flow of what they are trying to convey. These are things I know and understand.

So why can’t I just get on with it?

Now diving into week 18 of editing my novel, it feels like I have made zero progress. April’s Camp NaNoWriMo was going to be the kick in the pants I needed to power through the necessary changes. I had grand designs of finishing 3 rounds of edits and sending my work to some beta readers to catch what I’ve missed and make suggestions. Then, by the time true summer rolled around, that bad boy would be ready for querying so I could get my “big break” and become the esteemed and lauded published author I was born to be.

Who am I kidding?

Apparently, I forgot that I am an expert-level procrastinator when it comes to my own best-laid plans. I have found new and ridiculous ways to put off editing. Some examples:

  • I’ve started two more serials, besides The Path of Least Dysfunction, that are also on Channillo. Because I needed to exponentially increase the self-imposed creative pressure already hanging over my head.
  • I’ve started to flesh out a new novel idea that’s been knocking at the back of my brain, whispering, “Let me in… I’m shiny and new and full of promise instead of fluff words and superfluous story lines that need to be viciously slashed and burned…”
  • I’ve jumped into the Twitter #WritingCommunity with both feet. While I have made some delightful new friends this way, it is also a black hole teeming with unnecessary and time-sucking discussions, tagging games, and polls.
  • I’ve added about 7 books to my reading list and will tell myself, “I’ll just read a couple chapters, maybe half an hour,” and will look up three hours later wondering what century it is.

It’s not all bad, of course. I am, actually, halfway through my second full round of edits, with another two rounds of word-purge behind me as well. There is some backstory that needs to GO, but I have to fill all the holes that will leave so it’s a bit slow-going.

Week 18 starts today, and with the harassment – er, encouragement – of my writing friends, I know I can get back on track.

Drop a note below and ask me questions, share your thoughts on my posts and stories, or just say hi! And if you’re curious about my other writing, check it out with a free trial membership to Channillo HERE.

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