Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Guest Post: "Finding Balance" by Lynn Viehl

This morning, I'd like to welcome the most awesome Lynn Viehl to The Guide.  Lynn's latest book Nightbound - the third in her Lords of the Darkyn trilogy - comes out May 7th. 



Finding Balance
Lynn Viehl

Today I have to do laundry, write twenty pages of fiction and finish some promotions.  To do that I must ignore the Internet, e-mail, new story ideas, my next series in development, working on my art quilt, playing with the dogs and the other thousand distractions around me.  I'll also have to deal with the unexpected, like Mom calling about a medical issue, my daughter needing a ride to her volunteer job, improvising a meal because I forgot to defrost something and a friend who drops by without calling, which will over-excite the dogs, which usually results in a digestive accident.

That's a typical day for me.  On the upside I don't work a day job, my family helps out with the chores and sometimes the pups don't puke in front of my friends.  I also have no web site, Facebook page or Twitter account to update, or any cons or book signings to attend.  To be honest  I haven't made any public appearances since 2003.  Sounds like complete madness, doesn't it?  Everyone knows a pro writer has to do all that stuff and then some, or their career is utterly doomed.

I haven't always been this doomed.   When I turned pro I let other writers, editors, and the agent tell me what to do.  They said I could sell a lot of books if I did what all the other authors did.  What they didn't know was anything about me, my shyness, my disabilities or the fact that being in any kind of spotlight makes me blush, perspire, stammer and even occasionally throw up.  

For three very long, dreary years I forced myself to do what they said.  I didn't sell a lot of books or make any of the lists, but I did get steadily depressed, actually stopped writing and seriously considered quitting Publishing.  This after I'd spent ten years pursuing this dream job, which turned out to be a nightmare, all because I sucked at being an author.

 Okay, I didn't suck at everything.  I write a lot, and I'd begun posting free stories on the Internet for my readers, which they loved.  I also enjoy teaching writing (weird, right?  But true -- when I talk shop I forget to be shy) and the online free writing classes I hosted for two years were fun and quite popular.  So was my weblog.  For me all it was all writing, and when I write I'm a different person -- probably because I'm doing what I love.  

That realization was my personal/professional epiphany.   I decided that if I was going to fail, I'd do things my way by focusing on my strengths, not my weaknesses.  

Before we get into what happened to me let's talk about you.  Are you happy, productive, and selling your work?  If yes, you don't need my advice; you've already figured it out.  If you want you could come over and help me get this laundry done.  If you're unhappy, not writing and/or not selling, then you may be where I was.  This doesn't mean you have to give it all up to do nothing but write, but you might consider making some changes. 

Speaking of writing, how much did you get done this week?  Couple of pages?  A chapter?  Nothing?  Now think about how much time you spent updating Facebook, Twitter, promoting your latest release and whatever else you did that was not actual writing.  Compare the two figures -- are they equal?  How do you feel about everything else?  Does updating Facebook make you as happy as writing a fight scene?  Is Tweeting as big a thrill as typing the last chapter of a story?  

If your answered yes to the above, then you've probably balanced your writing equilibrium between writing and non-writing activities.  If not, you may be wasting energy on things you dislike that make you feel lousy in return -- aka creative poison.

Do you love going to writer conferences?  Plenty of people think they're fun, and there are lots of editors and agents at them, too.  Once during an online discussion I suggested that for every con any writer wanted to attend they should first write two books.  This idea scandalized everyone until I asked them for their ratio between cons attended and manuscripts finished.  Most said they attended at least three cons per year but rarely completed even one book in the same time.  Half of the others said they had yet to finish writing their first novel.  Going to a con to have fun and pitch editors is great, but you do need to have something to sell. 

Making big changes in your writing life can be scary, especially if you're convinced you have to do the must-dos.  What if you swapped out just one thing you do from something you hate to something you love?  Try it for a week and see if it makes a difference in your productivity, your creativity and how you feel about your writing life.  If it works, try it with something else.  If it doesn't, try something different.  It doesn't matter if you find your writing equilibrium via a radical epiphany like mine or through a subtle and gradual process; both roads lead to the same destination:  a more productive writing life.       

How does finding that balance pay off?  Well, after  I found my writing equilibrium I didn't quit or fail.  Seven of my novels subsequently made the NY Times bestseller list, and my fiftieth novel will be released In August.  I've taught thousands of writers how to cope with the work and the life.  I've also been ranked at various times as one of the top 100 female bloggers on the internet, the top 50 book bloggers, and the top 10 SF author bloggers on the internet.  

Success is wonderful, but what really matters is that I'm happy and I love my job.  In any kind of life, there is no better balance than that.            

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Lynn is the blogger better known as Paperback Writer.  Check her out, read her books, and bask in her awesomeness.

Oh, and even though Lynn has been more than gracious giving us a guest blog today, she's also decided to do a contest, too.  One lucky commenter will win the following gorgeous prize from Lynn:


This is what Lynn had to say about the prize: "The winner will get the tote (designed and hand-quilted by me), which will be packed with a signed set of the trilogy, a sampler of herbal teas from Celestial Seasonings, a box of Walker's shortbread rounds, a reusable insulated sports bottle, two mini garden kits (Sunflower and Herbs in a Can) and a green quilted bookmark." 

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So, get commenting.  Lynn will be stopping by throughout the day to reply and keep the conversation going.

And thanks, Lynn, for stopping by today!

78 comments:

  1. That prize makes me wish I could win a contest off my own blog. Good thing for all of you, I can't. Best of luck to you all. And thanks again, Lynn!

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    1. Thank you for hosting me here at the Guide, Beth. One of the things that keeps my writing life in balance is having the chance to talk shop with other writers and share ideas. We can all learn something from each other no matter where we are on the journey.

      (That and I'll have an excellent excuse tonight as to why the laundry isn't done, lol.)

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  2. Wow, first off, excellent give-away - thanks, Lynn (crosses fingers my name is drawn)!

    Second, what an amazingly inspiring post! I know I've been caught up lately in the publishing world's 'must-dos' and rules - so much so that my writing has taken a back seat in my car of life (hey, it's early here - metaphors will get better in relation to the number of cups of coffee consumed). It's so fresh to read about an author who chose a different path and made it work!

    Do you think writers should have word count goals? Daily or weekly? And have you noticed a change in the blogging world (huge fan of your Paperback Writer blog)? Thanks :)

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    1. I had a lot of fun putting together the giveway, Janet -- and it's part of being balanced in my own writing life, too. By incorporating things I love to do (like quilting) with my promotions it doesn't feel like all-work/no-play.

      Your metaphor sounds good to me -- the writing life is definitely not a walk in the park. :)

      I think writers should set goals for themselves that they can live with and manage without driving themselves crazy and that won't bruise them or instill doubt if for whatever reason they can't make them. I personally use a daily word count goal so I get the most out of my writing sessions and stay on schedule; it also helps me meet my deadlines without spending the last week before them writing like a maniac. That said, a word count goal might not work for another writer who is more organic and feels squashed or inhibited by a writing quota. So you really have to think about what suits you and your approach to writing.

      One disclaimer to that: I do think all writers should try to write something every day and incorporate writing as part of their daily routine. It doesn't have to be fiction; it can be a letter or blog post or even a Twitter conversation. Whatever is the most fun for the individual will make writing seem like less of a chore and more of a daily habit, which can be invaluable when you take up writing as a profession.

      There has been a significant change in the blogging world, especially since Facebook and Twitter grew so popular, but I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. There were a lot of authors blogging solely as a means of self-promotion because it was popular. Now that other things are popular they've moved on, and those of us who blog to connect with other writers and learn from each other have gotten back our online writing community. I do miss some blogs that were shut down by the en mass move to other social media outlets, but ce la vie. After nine years of blogging almost every day I know exactly how tough it can be to keep one going.

      Good luck with the giveaway!

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  3. Such an awesome post. Thank you, Lynn.

    I'm struggling to find my own balance right now and I agree that prioritizing what you love to do is the key.

    I find it interesting that someone who stitches stories together has such an obvious love of quilting. Do you find the skills required for one translate to the other?

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    1. I'm hoping the piece will be helpful for other writers. Thanks, jblynn.

      Quilting and storytelling share a lot of bonds for me; I'm always working on both, and both influence each other. Here's a pic of my current art quilt in progress:

      http://i259.photobucket.com/albums/hh289/LynnViehl/Paperback%20Writer%20III/Snow7_zps9365280f.jpg

      This project started as a character idea based loosely on Snow White from the old fairytale and a gorgeous watercolor painting by Tom Fleming of the biblical Eve. I wanted to fuse elements from both sources into a new character, so I began choosing colors and fabrics and experimenting. While I've been working on the quilting and beading I've also been working out the character and her story. Once I finish the art quilt I hope to have all the details worked out in my head so I can shift to writing and outline the story.

      Not all my quilts are quite so literal, but I often do work in colors I've chosen as a palette for a quilt and a story so I'm constantly immersed in those shades. I don't think it's always as deliberate as the Snow quilt, either, but those colors seem to work their way into my stories more naturally.

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    2. That is absolutely stunning. I'm in awe. :-)

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  4. What a great post! For me, finding a balance has more to do with prioritizing writing over the daily life/household/family obligations. It's harder to tell myself to "think of it as a paying job" when I have not yet finished a book. But, I am working on finding that balance.

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    1. You've brought up one of the almost universal burdens a writer has to manage, Kerrie -- the fact that we're not paid for our work until we receive a contract offer or independently publish our works, and because of that writing is so often viewed as little more than an interesting hobby.

      During the ten years I pursued my first publishing contract various friends and even a few family members patronized me, patted me on the head and told me I would be better off getting a day job with a weekly paycheck. It made me mad, because I knew they wouldn't have said any of that if I were in the process of becoming an architect or an engineer. It also sharpened my focus and shored up my determination, because even back then I knew achieving my goals would be the last word, and I wanted to have it.

      I can tell you it was worth every bit of struggle and all the hassle I went through when I did nail that first contract, and the first check arrived, and everyone who thought my little hobby was a waste of time promptly shut up.

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  5. Great post!

    We do need to find a balance, and not just as writers. I think you make an excellent point about our productivity vs how much time we spend on Facebook etc... However, that being said, those cons are fun and people need time to rest and relax from their busy lives. I don't go to many conferences (one a year), but I always feel rejuvenated afterwards, and my productivity skyrockets. I think it just depends on each person =)

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    1. Cons never appealed to me, but I do know they can be a lot of fun for other writers. If they're also a source of inspiration, then you should absolutely incorporate them into your writing life -- I do kind of the same thing by attending quilt shows and art or music festivals. That said, I've also seen writers who become so caught up in the con circuit that their writing suffers or they keep trying to sell the same unwanted novel and never move on or write anything new -- and that's when I think cons can seriously damage your writing life, or even end it.

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  6. Hi Lynn! Congrats on your next upcoming release - I can't wait to read it, as well as the first book in your new series as well.

    I got off to a very productive start in January while working on my first novel, but this month has been dismal. Sick kids, sick husband, sick me, and I guess just "life". I've set a goal to finish the book by the end of May though, and I think that's going to kick me into high gear.

    I always appreciate your words of wisdom and great practical advice, so thank you!

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    1. Thanks, Alli -- I hope Nightbound doesn't disappoint. The story takes place in the same setting as Evermore, so I had a terrific time writing it.

      Life doesn't give writers many breaks, especially when your family needs you to set your work aside and take care of them. When my guy was diagnosed with cancer we had to deal with scary surgery and six months of post-op treatment and recovery. At the time I was also in the middle of starting one new novel series and wrapping up another. Most days I was so worried about him or busy going back and forth to the hospital or working to take care of the kids and the house that by the time I got to writing -- usually around midnight -- I was too exhausted and depressed to get anything decent on the page.

      I had contract commitments, however, that I had to keep, and I didn't want to leave my readers hanging, so I made some radical changes in my writing schedule. I started getting up two hours earlier and writing before dawn while my guy and the kids were still asleep (something I'd never done.) When I knew I'd be stuck in a waiting room I'd take my novel notebook with me and outline chapters, jot down some ideas or map out scenes. I also took a handheld voice recorder with me in the car so when I was waiting in the parent pickup line at school I could dictate some dialogue. I also read scenes into the recorder and listened to them on earphones to make editing notes for myself.

      The changes helped me make my deadlines and also prepared me for writing during another disaster. While my guy was still recovering from cancer treatment we were hit by four consecutive hurricanes just a month before one of my deadlines came due. Because we lived in the country it took almost a month to get the power back on. We didn't have a generator at the time, either, so I had to write the final nine chapters of that book on a battery-operated PDA illuminated only by a Coleman lantern light. Now I think I could probably write anything anywhere under any conditions. :)

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  7. Great post and prize. Balance is so hard to find, especially with my day job in the mix. I do spend too much time on facebook, I admit.

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    1. I take my hat off to writers like you, Robin, who have to balance a day job, family and the writing life. It's the ultimate balancing act.

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  8. What a great post! Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the big project for work or for the Trail Writers (my local writing group) that I forget or don't have time to work on my own writing for our meetings. This post hits a real bullseye for me today-I was just complaining about this to a friend last night, but I spent time online checking FB. Coulda written my latest short piece instead!

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    1. Writing groups can be a great help to writers who want to network and improve their craft, Anne. They can also be a huge timesink that gobbles up important chunks of your writing time. I served as a chapter officer for one writer organization for a year, and served on three different conference committees. I personally (and by this I mean single-handedly) raised over ten thousand dollars in donations and goods for those cons, too. In return I didn't sell any books, but I did get stuck with a lot of work no one else wanted to do, little thanks and no help. I also had to deal with a lot of hostility and resentment because I didn't always agree with the group-think, and I didn't bother to hide it. After five years of that I quit and I can honestly say it was one of the best professional decisions I ever made.

      If your writing group is giving back as much to you as you give to them, then it's a good part of a balanced writing life. I know groups often work wonders for many writers by not only providing them with valuable professional connections and opportunities, but also by enriching their journey and giving them a community of friends, so don't go by my lousy experience. If you want to be part of a group, find one that welcomes and values you. :)


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  9. It's great that you figured what works FOR YOU, not just what the industry thinks you should be doing as an author. Good for you!
    And you write awesome books!!,

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    1. Thanks, mk. Early in my career I used to wish there was a writer job manual that came with the first contract and would help me make the right decisions for me. Sadly they never sent me one, but since then I think the Internet (and blogs like Beth's) have helped provide some very valuable guidance and resources for writers.

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  10. Great post and prize. Finding the correct balance is hard.

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    1. Thanks, Crystal (and lovely to see you here.)

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  11. Thanks, Lynn, for another great post. I've been mulling on this very thing for the entire month of April. Fitting that your post came just as I am starting fresh today, working on finding that balance and eliminating the "writing poison", however slowly it will go.

    Congratulations on your upcoming release!

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    1. I'm glad my timing was so good. :) The more toxic elements you remove from your writing life, Phili, the better it becomes, but I think it's the same for all creative people.

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  12. This post is a great reminder to find balance in everything in your life, not just your work. Thanks for sharing Lynn!

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    1. If I could only get balanced in my laundry life, Lauren. :) Thanks for stopping by.

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  13. Your post is inspiring and important in achieving what we feel is necessary in our lives. Congratulations and best wishes. Continue to thrive, write and excel.

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    1. Thank you, petite. I hope that as long as I continue to seek balance in my writing life I'll always be happy with what I'm able to accomplish -- and that to me is real success.

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  14. This is a great post. I knew that you were awesome from reading "Paperback Writer", but this is just the kick in the pants I needed at this moment to think seriously about what changes I need to make to get my first novel up and moving.

    By the way, and more relevantly, two of the writers in my writer's group are self-publishing, and neither of them really has an online presence (no blogs, no twitter, no facebook -- as far as I know). Is that going to be a barrier for them? Should they at least have some online place to promote their books/themselves through? Is that a necessity in these days of internet everything?

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    1. You're very generous, anderyn, thanks -- and I hope you have a blast writing your first novel.

      I don't self-publish for profit, so let me say in advance that I can only offer opinions from the perspective of someone who has been self-publishing for promotional purposes for twelve years (which is really not the same thing.)

      I've observed many indie authors heavily promoting their works on the internet via social media, and I've heard many claim that having a huge marketing platform and saturated online presence helps their sales. While I've not seen any concrete proof that it works, in a few cases it may be true, especially for those authors who are writing knockoffs of better books or jumping on big seller bandwagons like the current BDSM Twilight fanfic craze.

      I've always believed that if you write an amazing book it will find your readership. I still want to believe that's true. But if you simply write a book, put up on Amazon.com for sale and wait for readers to discover you, chances are you won't sell a lot of copies. There are simply too many self-published books on the market now, and more coming -- we don't have stats yet, but indications are that as 500 to 1000 new titles are being self-published every day.

      Given the highly competitive nature of the self-published end of the market, I think it's a good idea for indie authors to put up a site with information about them and their books -- and this can even be a blog hosted by a free site, like mine (I haven't have a web site in seven years now.) If they're inclined to become active in the online writing and reading community in any way that they're comfortable, that can help get their name out in front of others. Offering excerpts or a free story can give readers a way to test-drive the author's work before they invest. Free stories are really how I built my readership, and since I've created a library of them on the Internet for anyone to access they continue to bring new readers to me all the time.

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  15. I wish the computer wouldn't eat my entries!

    Anyway.... my query is this -- I have two people in my writers' group who are self-publishing. Neither one has much of an online presence (no blogs, no facebook, no twitter, etc.) -- will that be a detriment to their attempts to find readers in this day and age of internet everything? I know their books are solid and interesting, but I worry that they won't be able to find the audience they should have.

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    1. No worries -- and I answered your questions in my previous reply. :)

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  16. You know it's really refreshing to hear you say this about how you made things work your way and finding the right balance. Thank you sharing..

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    1. Thanks for stopping in, Maripat -- and I'm glad you enjoyed the post. :)

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  17. Your wisdom and insight is interesting to read about. I am glad that you have reached this point in your life and know how to live. Best of health, happiness and enjoyment.

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    1. It was a long road, traveler, with a lot of bumps and crashes along the way. The best part of getting through all that was arriving at a place where I want to be, not where I have to be.

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  18. What an excellent post and most excellent giveaway! Thanks for being so inspiring, Lynn. You make many excellent points. I really need to rethink of the 'must do's' and concentrate and prioritize the 'need to do's'. I need to write. I need to do promotion but how I promote should be geared to my personality. I say I'm going to make a plan, but I don't. I just try to be everywhere. It's exhausting. Balance for me should start with making a plan.

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    1. Don't kick yourself, Karyn, because the industry expects (and sometimes even tries to force) writers to be everywhere doing everything to promote their books and sell themselves. It's almost inevitable that the work suffers, because none of us got into this biz wanting to be salespeople.

      One thing I do constantly is experiment with different types of promotion. As I mentioned to anderyn putting free stories online built my readership from scratch. Doing guest posts and giveaways around the online writing community has also given me the chance to reach out to readers who may not have tried my work. Back in January I started a new blog for an urban fantasy series I have debuting in August, and I'm not only promoting the books but I'm getting valuable info from the visitors on how I can better promote them. You can't buy that kind of marketing information.

      I try to think outside the box, too. With one book that featured tattoos as an important story element I took all my author copies and traveled around to visit tattoo parlors, introduced myself to the artists and their customers and handed out free signed copies -- and that was really fun and different.

      A plan is always good in my opinion (I'm OCD that way) but remember to keep it fun for you. That way it's work you don't mind doing.

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  19. This blog post was exactly what I needed today thank you.

    SandyL

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    1. I'm glad to hear that, Sandy, and thanks for stopping by. :)

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  20. I'm heading out for a few hours. Keep commenting and I'll post them all when I get back.

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    1. We won't take over the blog, I promise, Beth. :)

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    2. How fun would that have been? =o)

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  21. Great post. Balance is always a struggle. That, and not comparing myself to what other writers are doing. When I do that, I always feel as though I'm not doing enough or doing it right. Then I remind myself I'm making a living doing what I love. That's enough.

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    1. When I first turned pro I tried to do most of the things the other authors did. One author gave me a list of every Borders store in the U.S. and the name of their manager and told me to send a postcard with my book cover art and release info on it or I wouldn't sell any books. She told me she did this for all her new releases. I could only afford to do that once but I did try it, not that it made any difference.

      A few years later I went to work for Borders as a bookseller and assistant store manager. While training with my manager to fill in for her while she went on vacation we went over what to do with the mail. As she sorted through it, my manager made one stack of postcards and letters that authors had mailed to her -- about thirty came in every day -- and then promptly tossed them in the trash. When I asked her why she didn't read them, she told me we had to stock the shelves and hand-sell books according to the weekly sales plan, not because some author wasted a stamp sending us a postcard.

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    2. That's certainly an eye-opener.

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  22. A great post with great points. I agree with everyone else; finding a balance is hard. If only we were like some authors and thought of an award winning novel riding the bus home. My enemy is procrastination, it puts me behind, but then I end up doing everything I needed to get done all at one time. Once I banish the thought that once I put my great ideas on paper, they won't be that great any more, I can progress. Hats off to your upcoming release and you weathering the storms. Thanks for another inspiring and uplifting post.

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    1. Self-doubt is an occupational hazard, Lanette. I've met a few writers who think every word they write is brilliant but they generally don't last too long in the biz.

      I've learned to cope with the self-doubt by compartmentalizing it. When I write, I don't let anything in my head but the story. Later, when I edit whatever I've written that day, I look at what's good, what can be salvaged, and what needs to go -- and I don't judge myself by a first draft because it's supposed to be rough. Then I try to edit with an attitude of "Is this going to wow the reader?" versus "God, I write nothing but crap." Sometimes just taking a different perspective like that can remove a lot of the negativity from the creative equation and make you more productive, because you're not kicking yourself for failing to reach impossibly high standards that no one could actually achieve -- you're working toward the best story you can write for your readers.



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  23. Lynn, B.E. is right every time she brags about you. Yes. This. Everything you said. I'm going to print it out and tattoo it somewhere. Or maybe I'll just put it on my writer's board so I see it when I'm looking for inspiration, needing someone to crack the whip, or just because!

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    1. Thank you, Silver (I love your name, too. Now must resist stealing it for novel!) I'm genuinely blessed to have online writer pals like Beth who are so generous with their support and encouragement.

      Don't tattoo this on your bod, though -- posting it to your writer board will be much less painful!

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    2. Lynn, feel free to steal it. I did. ;) (It's my pen name, LOL). Since I'm afraid of needles, yeah...no tattoo for me! ;)

      Beth is made of awesome. I've been so lucky to get to know her and now that she's down sort of in my neck of the world, I'm hoping for a road trip one of these days so we can meet and gab about writing in person.

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  24. I was making myself crazy doing all the things I was supposed to do. When I stopped (Thanks Lynn!) my writing got better and I was a lot happier. In the end you do what works for you, not what works for other writers.

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    1. What Darlene said -- and since her last release debuted at #9 on the Times bestseller list, I'd say it's working. :)

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  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  26. I'm back. Keep those comments coming.

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    1. Now listen up, once we take over the blog I think we should get into the real nitty gritty of writer survival: how to live on $6K a year, building a manuscript bunker, automatic flame war weapons--

      Oh, hey, Beth.

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  27. Still struggling for that balance, but in the past few years I have trained myself to type from my recliner. Used to be I could only type sitting up, feet tucked under my chair.
    Progress!
    Would LOVE to win the prize, what a generous offering!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Diana. Writers who have physical obstacles to overcome are probably the most inventive of creative souls. Author Anne Stuart has mentioned on her Reinventing Fabulous blog that she writes from a recliner.I'd love to do the same but my headset won't reach out to the living room. I've thought about investing in the wireless version of my VRS, but then I'd be tempted to write while I'm in the bath. Which wouldn't be horrible, actually . . .

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  28. This is my first Blog so bear with me.
    Writing has been my imaginary friend for most of my adult life. The need to write is a voice that will not go away. It haunts me through out the day with characters and conversations begging to be put to paper.
    Now that I have made a commitment to get serious and write something worthy of being published, my house is cleaner than it has been in years. I attended my first writers conference last weekend as well.
    It is comforting to know that I am not alone in the struggle to find a balance. Since I am posting this you may concluded that I am still struggling..
    Thank you for the words of wisdom. I have printed it to refer back on those days when I want to scream or just cry because I can't stay on task.

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    1. You're among friends here, Leslie. That's the thing I love most about the online writing and reading community -- there is a solid core of people just like me who love books and love to tell stories.

      Making that commitment to your craft seems scary now, I know -- I truly am terribly shy, and sending out queries and proposals was always torturous. So was pouring my heart and soul into my work only to receive a rejection. Sometimes they were so harshly worded I spent weeks trying to shake off the dread they instilled. But my love for the work was stronger than any of that, and that gave me the ability to hang on and muddle through and keep that faith in myself.

      We all struggle, and publication doesn't put an end to that. The battles stay with you. Right now I'm wrestling with a couple of writing-related problems, and I don't have any answers yet. I've learned to be a decisive person, but some things still take a lot of time to sort out. So I tell myself to be patient while I let it simmer and think it through and try to find the right solution. I talk it over with writer friends I trust most -- and if that doesn't work, sometimes I just let the universe steer me in one direction or the other.

      I'll pass along the one bit of advice I was given early on that I've never once regretted following: whatever you do, protect the work.

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    2. Lynn, I don't feel I have risen or written to the point where I feel I am among my peers but I do feel welcome, thank you. I'm thankful for the generosity of the authors and writers that I have met. I have been so fortunate as I make my way through this process.
      My need to write has outweighed the fear factor of putting my work out there. I have not suffered rejection yet but I know it will be coming as I begin to submit my work.
      The last sentence in your post you mentioned "protect the work" please explain what you mean. Thank you again for the support.

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    3. Leslie, I should mention that the advice came from author Susan Elizabeth Phillips; I was fortunate enough to spend an hour with her at a con during which she let me ask a million questions. I credit her with saving my career, too; at the time I was to the point of quitting the business and going back to a day job. She helped me focus on what was important -- the writing.

      Protecting the work is a commitment to keeping your writing safe and unharmed by outside influences. When you work in Publishing you constantly have to make compromises, but you should never sacrifice your vision of the story and/or let someone else take it over and alter it to their vision. I've walked away from contract offers because the editor wanted to make my novels into what they thought I should be writing. While I value the editorial process, and I think editors can be very valuable partners in the publishing process, I do not collaborate.

      Protecting the work also means allowing nothing to get between you and the story. As a pro writer you become a public figure, and virtually anyone can say anything about your work. That's as it should be because everyone is entitled to their opinion -- but allowing those opinions to harm you or your work is disastrous. I've seen writers whose careers ended up destroyed because they put more value in scathing comments (often left anonymously on the internet) than in their own work.

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  29. Folks, I'm going to head into the kitchen now to make dinner for my crew, but I will return once they're fed and the dishes are done to catch up with you. Until then, thank you all for the many wonderful comments so far. I'm having a terrific time. :)

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  30. No, you don't suck at everything, silly girl ;) And just remember, Victoria Holt and Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, none of them had anything more than horse and carriage mail or the US post office. Maybe VH and GH had a bit more in the way of 20th century stuff, but they didn't update anything other than their stories either.

    And I'm still stuck in that unhappy place. I get the urge to write around 1am and though I don't sleep well anyway, that gets a bit late for even me *sigh* But I'm working on it! Because I feel lost not writing. I haven't even touched my piano in over a year. sad...

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    1. You're very good for my ego, Theo. In a Jane Austen universe you would definitely be Elinor Dashwood. :)

      That you're working on the writing when you can even while you're in the unhappy place speaks of your courage and love for the work. You'll find your way out, I know you will.

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  31. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It's an inspiring story and really speaks to me. I recently took a break from school to pursue writing full-time... a break that might be leaning towards a quit, actually. It's frightening, and I've given myself a deadline for me to pursue my professional writing and publishing goals.

    However, I find myself distracted daily by everything BUT writing.

    I live with my parents, and one is sick while the other works. I have a sibling and a cousin that are also busy with work and school. So, while I'm not busy with school or work anymore, I've found that I end up being the one cleaning the house, cooking meals, and driving family members around for their errands. I LOVE taking care of my family and making sure my parents stress levels are low. But I've come to realize that when I try to cram too much in one day, my scheduled writing time gets pushed farther and farther... until it's time for bed, and I haven't written anything at all.

    Likewise, I find myself spending my free time perusing a crap-ton of blogs, looking for writing inspiration from other writers, rather than just simply writing.

    Thanks so much again, and thank you so much for the contest! Congratulations to whomever wins. :)

    I'm going to start setting realistic writing goals for myself, and do them daily no matter what!

    - Esther
    http://estherkimcotton.com

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    1. Esther, you and I have a lot in common. I decided to take a sabbatical from work for ten years to look after my kids (both in diapers at the time) and give writing a real shot. My guy and I agreed that I'd take care of the kids and the house, and in my free time I would be able to write.

      It would have been great if I'd actually gotten some free time. Because I wasn't "working" I was gradually stuck with additional responsibilities for my guy, his family, my family, our friends, the neighbors . . . it never seemed to end. I also felt guilty about not "working" and bringing in a paycheck so I felt I had to do whatever anyone asked -- at least until my writing dwindled away to nothing, and then I knew I had to do something or I'd never give my dream a real shot.

      I let everyone know that I was no longer available to do anything for them during my writing time (which back then was 7:00 - 11:00 pm.) Nor was I to be interrupted while I was writing unless there was a life-or-death emergency. At first everyone was nice and respected my wishes, but then inevitably something came up that they needed me to do that they felt was more important than my writing, and they started in on me again.

      It was tough, but I stood my ground. When they wouldn't stop calling, I unplugged the phone. When my guy kept interrupting me, I locked myself in the spare bedroom. One night things got so disruptive I packed up my chapters and went to a local cafe to edit them.

      No one liked it at all, and some of the family thought I was being utterly selfish, but my guy eventually got it and started helping me by keeping everyone else away from me during my writing time. It took another few years before my people grudgingly accepted that just because I was working from home I wasn't their gopher 24/7. To this day one famil member still forgets and calls during my writing time, and to this day I do not answer that phone. :)

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  32. It's time for me to head off to dreamland. My thanks once more to Beth for having me as a guest; this was a wonderful day. I also appreciate all of you for leaving such terrific comments for me. Good luck to everyone with the giveaway, and keep writing and reading!

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  33. I'm not published yet, and I have little qualms of standing up in front of a crowd, but I like what you had to say about finding the balance you need for writing and promotion.

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  34. Congrats on the upcoming release Lynn & thank you so much for such a great giveaway! I really enjoyed the post. I think too many people think they "have" to do something because "everyone" else does, and it makes them miserable. I am not an author but even for me FB and such are just huge time sucks. I do think that no matter what you do, you should do what you enjoy :)

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    1. Exactly, June. While I know the lure of going along with the crowd is strong (been there, did that for three years) it's not going to help you if you dislike what it requires you to do. It should also give you a solid return for your time investment, and if it doesn't, then what's the point?

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  35. What a lovely giveaway! I can't wait for the final Lords of the Darkyn book! Woo hoo!

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  36. Congratulations on the new release. Everything is all the more pleasing when you do what you love. Your blogs are always encouraging for us who are trying to find out what works best for us.

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  37. Comment left by Fran K on the PBW blog (because my restrictions wouldn't let her comment here) at 4:10am on 5/2:

    "I was very moved by your blog on B E Sanderson's site the other day and I tried very hard to leave a post, but I don't have a URL or an AIM or an anything, and it wouldn't let me. You at least have the NAME profile. Anyway, what I wanted to say was that I thought it very courageous of you to opt out of all the hype that goes along with promoting your work. I couldn't do it, just the thought of my face appearing on a book cover, or having to stand up in public and speak, breaks me out in hives. I have never wanted to be famous and thank goodness I'm not. I'm really sorry I missed out on your bag giveaway though as that bag gorgeous."

    Sorry about that Fran K. This should get you into the drawing.

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  38. I came to this post via another writer/blogger and it truly spoke to the tension I feel with my own writing and external expectations. I am a shy introvert and my blog (www.1writeway.com) has been a wonderful way for me to engage with others without them having to see me blush, sweat, and stammer. But I struggle against the external expectations of others who say that any "serious" writer should be out there, promoting herself on Facebook, on Twitter, at conferences, etc. It's too easy for me to internalize my failure to meet those expectations, and so I struggle to continue to define myself as writer when I know I don't fit everyone's (i.e., the publishing world's) definition of a writer. Lynn's post reminds me that I can be true to myself and be successful, as long as I and not others define what success is for me.

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  39. Congrats on the release. And great post, very interesting. Lots to think about.

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