Writing thoughts and questions

The writer’s conference I attended last March became a catalyst to take my writing off the back burner and make it a priority. I had a list of ideas for further writing, but one topic most on my heart and the most developed so far: encouraging women to read the Bible and dealing with some of the problems (distractions, busy schedules, etc.) that keep us from God’s Word. Different sources I’ve consulted say that a non-fiction book should total somewhere between 30,000-50,000 words. I have 24,000 so far!

One of my biggest writing roadblocks was making time. Every piece of writing advice I have seen says to make a schedule to write and keep your writing time sacred. But that just doesn’t work in my situation with caring for my mother-in-law at home, having caregivers and hospice people coming in and out (never knowing quite when some of them will be here), having a son working at home and taking online classes at home, and a husband who started working some days from home just about the time I decided to focus on writing. I was distressed for a while, but I knew that if God wanted me to write now, He’d help me find or make a way. Finally the idea came to focus on my writing as much as possible when my husband is away from home and then to spend the time he is here working on my household tasks. Even though this schedule isn’t the same each week. it has helped me make more progress with less stress than the hit or miss style I was working under before.

Several weeks ago I submitted a guest post to a particular site. The site owner sent back several helpful editorial suggestions. Sometimes writing just flows, and sometimes almost every word is a struggle. This was one of the latter times. I spent more than two weeks of my available writing time revising. The end result was immensely better than what I had sent originally sent in, but I was discouraged that the process was so laborious and took so much time. If a 1,000-word blog post took that much time, how long is it going to take me to finish a book? Around that time I came across a blog post on What 20 Famous Authors Had to Say About Rewriting. A couple of samples that most spoke to me:

Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it. ~Michael Crichton

More than a half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn’t say I have a talent that’s special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina. ~John Irving

I have rewritten–often several times–every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers. ~Vladimir Nabokov

Those and other sources I read encouraged me that rewriting is just a part of the process.

I’ve had moments of thinking, “I love this! I want to do more!” and other moments of, “What was I thinking? Who am I kidding?” But, from what I have read, those roller coaster feelings are pretty normal.

I had also started following some blogs and Twitter accounts for writers. While they were helpful in many ways, I got discouraged after a while reading every single day “Here are 20 things you MUST do or you’ll never be a successful writer.” So I cut back on some of those. There is still a lot I need to learn, but I am taking it in smaller doses and working on a bit at a time. I’ve started a Pinterest board for articles and memes about writing.

I’ve also been wrestling with some of the following issues:

  • What name to use. There is already an author by my name who writes on water birth (something I know nothing about). Should I just use my name and trust that readers won’t mix us up? Or should I include my middle or maiden name or initial? I asked Facebook friends, and no one cared for the middle initial, but they were split pretty evenly between adding my middle or maiden name. I’m not crazy about using a three-word name, but it might be best.
  • Everything I read says an author needs an online presence, a platform, before submitting a manuscript for publication. Publishers want to make sure you have something of an audience already. At some point I’ll make a separate author Facebook page, and I will probably use my Twitter account as is, since I don’t use it for much now except linking blog posts. But I wonder if I should create a new blog or use this one. On one hand, though this blog isn’t viral by any means, I do have some readers. I’d hate to start over with a new blog. On the other hand, when I started blogging, blogs were more informal and neighborly. I love my little hodgepodge blog, but I wonder if a “professional” blog would work better for an author platform. I would probably still keep this as a personal blog.
  • What should I do about book reviews? I write them because I love talking about what I have read and want to share these books with others, who hopefully will love them, too. And while I am not nitpicky or hypercritical, I want to be honest if a book contain problems (mainly bad language, risque scenes, or iffy theology, but sometimes poor writing). Some of you have told me that you buy books based on my reviews, so I want to be especially careful that I am not steering anyone into problem areas without at least a heads-up. But would it seem unprofessional as a writer to criticize another author’s work? I once read a particular new book based on the recommendation of a favorite author, and the writing was some of the worst I had encountered. I felt I had been deceived and wondered if all authors recommended each other’s books unreservedly. I couldn’t honestly do that, but maybe the solution is just not to mention the books I have problems with.   If I kept this as a personal blog, I would probably continue with book reviews as I do them now. If I transformed this into a writer blog, I might create a separate book review blog.
  • For tax purposes, do writers file as self-employed, or do they form a company (an LLC, my husband suggests, but I have only a vague idea what that even is. One more thing to learn…)
  • If I “crowdsource” and ask for opinions or ideas on a blog or Facebook page, and I use one of the ideas suggested, do I owe the person who suggested it anything other than a mention in the book’s acknowledgements? For instance, the title I had always wanted to use for this book has been used by someone else recently. The editor who critiqued the few pages of my manuscript at the writer’s conference did not like the alternate title I came up with. I’ve jotted down some other ideas, but nothing really grabs me yet. I’d love to get some feedback, but if I ask for it in a public way, I’m not sure what the implications are. Perhaps if I present it as a contest, and offer the winner a free copy of the book (or something), that would be sufficient?
  • If you quote from someone’s blog, do you need to ask them first, or just attribute them properly?
  • What about those quotes all over the Internet from famous people that you can’t find a source for? They’re just recorded in lists of quotes, but further searching doesn’t reveal an original source. Can they be referred to just as “as quoted by C. H. Spurgeon” on this site?
  • I’d love to find a critique group of not just new writers in the same boat I am, but with experienced authors as well. A couple of authors who were at the writer’s conference are involved in Word Weavers, and they have a local branch. So that might be a possibility, though there is a fee. Both the critique at the writer’s conference and the editorial suggestions I mentioned in regard to my guest post have shown me how valuable it is to have a more experienced person’s eyes to take a look at my writing and provide feedback.

So those are some of the “behind the scenes” thoughts and issues I’ve been grappling with on the writer’s front. Some answers I can probably find with a little more research; others I just need to ponder a while. If you have any thoughts about anything I’ve written here, I’d love to hear them!

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday)

13 thoughts on “Writing thoughts and questions

  1. I don’t have answers to any of your questions, but I find them intriguing. I’d be interested in what others have to share. I roll around the thought of writing a book, but I don’t have enough of a topic so that’s the end of that for now. 🙂

  2. As a fellow writer, I loved this post also! I’ve learned a lot since writing my first book in 2011. The post I did about 2018 prompted such interesting comments (yours being one) that I typed a “part 2” that I’ll run this week. A lot of it deals with the online “platform.” It really seems to me that all editors/agents like to throw out there the need for a huge online presence, and yet, oftentimes when I look at the blog for a (fairly big-name) author that I read, there isn’t much to it. It’s like they probably just put it up because their publisher told them to. And, after their latest book hits, it seems that the posts dry up. I really think there are many, many ways to “do” authoring these days. Focus on what works for you. Our pastor’s daughter wrote a book which she self-pubbed about a year ago after pursuing traditional publishing for months. This has worked out great for her since, through her dad’s church, she knows so many people and has a great outlet that way for speaking gigs, book signings, etc. She put together a “launch team” of people she knew from our church who all agreed to read her book and review it on Amazon on launch day, etc. She worked the promo side well and did a great job. On the “when to write” question — for me, when I wrote my books, I dedicated 1 hour each morning solely to writing the book. It really did feel like giving birth, throughout the entire process! During those hours, I did not check email or FB, etc. I just wrote. Some days I accomplished a lot, other days (as you alluded to), very little. But over time, it really did add up. Do what works for you. You produce quite a few really meaty, excellent blog posts, so somewhere you’re finding time to do that. Maybe focus some of that time on your book writing, and put up some older “reruns” on the blog for a few months? Just thoughts. I look forward to following your journey!

    • Thanks so much, Susan! I appreciate your sharing from your experiences, and I am looking forward to that next post! It does seem like established authors don’t do as much with a blog, from what I have seen. Some are more active on Facebook or Twitter. I did find a couple of articles from some saying they don’t do all that’s advised re marketing and platform: they just experimented til they found what worked best for them. I have wondered, too, about cutting back on blogging for a bit to make more time for other writing. I might need to do that.

  3. It IS overwhelming, isn’t it? I recently signed up for a free writer’s course, and they stress platform more than the writing itself. They encourage writers’ conferences, because it’s who you know, if they like you, if they WANT to publish you. The rest comes later. Is this encouraging? Not to someone who lives abroad and can never attend one of them, let alone several a year. So, my takeaway has been this: write what God has put on your heart. Even if no one but your family and friends reads it, you will have done what you should do. The one thing that has most surprised me, though, has been needing to master POV and show, don’t tell. No one will touch a book that’s done in a different style, unless it is very unique and outstanding. I am working on it but not nearly there yet. I would advise trying to find published writers who will critique your work. They have been so patient with me and have encouraged me–while chopping my stuff up into mincemeat! 🙂 I, for one, can hardly wait to read your book.

    • Thanks so much, Lou Ann, for your kind words. What little bit of critique I have received has been so valuable (though also humbling) that I am praying about finding a critique partner – or two or three.

      I have noticed that, too, with a lot of writing sites: the emphasis on platforms and marketing even more than writing. Some acknowledge that most writers really don’t like that aspect of things, but that just seems to be the way it is now.

      Maybe God will coordinate one of your furloughs to occur when a writing conference is scheduled. I hope so. The one I attended was highly valuable, even though it was a small one. I think for my first one, and my first time traveling alone in so long, that was all I could handle. The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference (http://ridgecrestconferencecenter.org/event/blueridgemountainchristianwritersconference#.W0J-YYonYdU) is a big one that I’d like to get to some day. From what I have seen so far, spring seems to be “writer’s conference season.” I did find a good post on ways to work around not being able to attend a writer’s conference, but the site seems to be down just now – I’ll send it to you when they get it back up.

  4. I don’t really have any answers to your questions but i found this post very interesting as I’ve always written journals and then blogging came into fashion so of course i do that although not nearly like I used to when home part time. BUT i can tell you: my husband has had MANY novellas and poems rejected by magazines and publishers and FINALLY a couple of years ago a very well known science fiction magazine contacted him and published his poem!!!!! (and paid him!!!) He also started a writers blog per recommendation of some writers he is a part of and let me tell ya, hardly anyone sees it. So instead, he joined a writers group (local) and they meet a few times a year to discuss ideas, share writings, etc. He would suggest to you to find a local writers group. Good luck!! As for me….I hope to write my testimony about being a child sexual abuse survivor but everyone time I start, i get stuck even though I have HUNDREDS of pages in journals on the topic and have even taught on the topic both in the secular world and in the church. So……I write and maybe sometime….published??

  5. Hi, I am struggling too since the March conference. I know it is hard to find dedicate time to write. I am in kinda of the same boat having to take care of grands this summer. I also am having problems with my blog. I would love to critique. Maybe we can exchange manuscripts this fall? Anyway, I will pray that you have breakthroughs in your writing life this year.

  6. Pingback: Just chatting | Stray Thoughts

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