Sometime during our writing career, we’re bound to feel stuck. Maybe our story isn’t going the way we thought (or the way we’d like it to go), or maybe our career isn’t progressing the way we want (or the way we expected).
Either way, we don’t want that feeling of being stuck, blocked, or hemmed in by a dead end lead to a decision to give up.
As I wrote about last month, giving up is the only way we truly fail. Everything else comes down to perseverance, to doing the best we can given the circumstances.
Yet just like for our characters, it’s not easy to not give up sometimes. So we want to have as many tools in our emotional toolbox as possible to help us recover when we’re feeling stuck.
To that end, I’m excited to welcome Lisa Gail Green here today. We’ve known each other on Twitter for years and have followed each other’s writing journeys. Her second-time-around debut even happened on the same day as my debut. *grin*
But as she discovered, our writing career won’t always follow the path we’d expect. So she’s here today to share her top five lessons on how to recover when we think we’ve reached a dead end.
Please welcome Lisa Gail Green! *smile*
Five Ways to Recharge Your Writing Life
by Lisa Gail Green
I’m grateful to Jami for a chance to join you today to talk a little about my journey from traditional to self-published author and some of the pitfalls and roadblocks that have caused me to change course in unexpected ways. But this isn’t really about me — it’s about helping others know how to handle unexpected situations without making the same mistakes I did.
New Project? We Dive In with Lots of Energy…
I’ve been doing this now (and by ‘this’ I mean writing as a career) for close to ten years. Of course, like many of you, I’ve been writing far longer than that and meant to commit much sooner before life got in the way.
I started off like a sprinter. I treated it like a full time job, first finishing an entire novel (which will never see the light of day if I have anything to say about it) and researching online the business side of writing.
As soon as I proved to myself that I could actually write a whole book, it was like the floodgates opened. Out poured novel after novel. I was obsessed, and I guess I was catching up on all those years of stifled creativity.
We Might Even Find Success…
On the flip side, I soaked up everything I could find, joining SCBWI since I was focused on children’s writing at the time, and taking advantage of every resource available. I connected with others, I learned all the “rules” and made plenty of silly mistakes like querying before I was ready.
When we first begin writing, we often start like a sprinter...and then what? Click To TweetI went to workshops and conferences, read a million blogs (and started my own), and basically over the first two years, got what I consider the equivalent of a self-taught Masters in publishing.
It was like a high. I not only loved the intensely creative process, but the unexpected pluses like making close friends along the way and discovering the overwhelmingly positive and supportive community that is out there for those who are serious about writing.
I had a successful blog on writing, eventually becoming part of one of the top YA blogs for writing (AYAP), had a well-respected agent, and continued to be prolific in my writing.
Then Something Happens…
Then things happened, and I dropped off the face of the Internet, which is tantamount to the Upside Down if you watch Stranger Things.
I became pregnant with my third child (nine years after my last), split with my agent, was eventually diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis after being mistakenly diagnosed and having allergic reactions to medication, and suffered from a corresponding depression. The meds I took for the RA crashed my immune system and also led to two bouts of pneumonia, cellulitis, and a several day stay in the hospital for asthma related issues.
I had to step away from the blog and had no energy to write.
The Rollercoaster Starts Again…
When I was about to quit, I got the “call” and was offered a publishing contract and signed with a new agent all at once. I was on top of the world again.
I published a trilogy with an amazing editor. My new agent was enthusiastic and understanding and though I wasn’t writing quite as quickly as before, I was doing it again.
Then the publisher did some major downsizing. They rescinded the rights to the additional manuscripts they’d bought.
No one was interested in buying paranormal anymore. I focused on a new project that my agent ended up not feeling strongly about. So I found myself repeating history, and though once again amicable, I split with my second agent.
Keep Moving Forward:
5 Tips to Recover When We Reach a Dead End
My RA continues to flare. I have three kids ages 18 to 5 and a workaholic husband and am constantly distracted. But instead of giving in this time, I have redoubled my efforts, and for the first time since the beginning, I feel that same drive to create and succeed.
What happened? You’ve made it this far, so you deserve the answer!
Here are my five biggest go to’s when I get stuck — whether from life or writer’s block:
Tip #1: Don’t Keep All Your Eggs in One Basket
I always see a nearly insane attachment to one manuscript and the characters within. It’s natural and I’ve been there too — especially in the beginning! After all, we did create this amazing world and its inhabitants.
Stuck in our story or writing career? Mix things up! Click To TweetThe trouble is, if it’s not working for whatever reason and we’ve done everything we’re supposed to do, like critiques, queries, and even submissions after a million revisions, we stay hyper-focused on it. Instead, we need to already be working on another project.
I like to have things in multiple stages at all times. For example, I published the first book in my new trilogy, and while I continue to market, I also am working hard on the second. I also have a separate manuscript that I’m querying around again.
Why not do both? What do I have to lose by exploring multiple outlets and mediums? The same goes for you. This way when one thing isn’t working, you aren’t out of commission so to speak.
Tip #2: Connect with Readers
Even without publication, we can share our work...and win readers. Click To TweetMy initial foray into Wattpad was intended as marketing for my first trilogy. I threw up a book that’s dear to my heart that was rejected by the larger publishers not for my writing or the characters, but mainly because they said it wasn’t marketable to teenage girls. I figured, why not?
Winging It became a featured story on Wattpad, and I’ve had tens of thousands of votes (which are basically likes), hundreds of thousands of views, and the best part of all IMHO, hundreds of comments from actual readers — mostly teens — that make my heart sing.
Whenever I get a rejection, I go there and read some of the comments telling me it’s a favorite book or that they laughed out loud and freaked out their parents at the dinner table, or that they have to have a sequel, or a million other great things. It reminds me why I do this and why I can’t stop even when it’s tough.
Find a place to post some of your writing. Whether it’s a social platform like Wattpad or a personal blog, it’s a place for you to put yourself out there in a relatively risk-free environment.
Tip #3: Forgive Yourself
I’m no stranger to dieting, and I haven’t figured that one out yet — so if you have advice, feel free to let me know. But one thing I have learned is that it doesn’t make sense to eat a doughnut for breakfast then say “Well I messed up the whole thing” and go on to eat an entire cake for lunch instead of a salad. You follow?
Forgive yourself so you can try again. Click To TweetIf you have a bad week and don’t get the word count in, don’t freak out. Just take a deep breath, tell yourself you needed that, and try again the next day. Any writing you do is better than doing nothing. Got it?
This is important, so let me state it yet one more way: If you give up and write nothing, then you’ll never succeed. Keep the hope alive by forgiving yourself and trying again every single time.
Tip #4: Don’t Isolate Yourself
I don’t know what I’d do without my writer friends. Seriously. They get me and they always manage to re-inspire me when I’m having a bad time.
Create supportive relationships to get through tough times. Click To TweetOn top of that, I joined RWA and am currently president of my local chapter! I love it! Not only have I met a ton of amazing writers, I’m learning again through our monthly speakers and meetings. It’s amazing, and I always leave reinvigorated and ready to work.
My advice is to keep ties to whatever support you have, whether through social media, real life critique groups, or organizations like SCBWI or RWA. There are ones out there for practically every genre, so find the one that works for you.
Tip #5: You’re Never Too Good to Start from the Beginning
I decided to try self-publishing because I know so many amazing authors that are finding success that way. Another reason I did it was because I had control.
Publishing is always changing, so we have to be willing to start over. Click To TweetIf nothing is happening with my writing, I have no one to blame but myself. I can’t say, well, I’m waiting to hear back from agent X or Publisher Y. No. If I don’t get my next book up, then it’s on me. I like that. I work well under deadlines and love the creative control.
But I didn’t fool myself either. I knew that I was no expert, and I know that my writing always has room to grow. So I did it again. I set out to treat this like a full time job and learn the business side of things.
Naturally there are a million theories out there, but I read and listened and decided to test out what sounded right to me. If it doesn’t work, I will learn some more and try again.
Things change rapidly in publishing on all ends, and we have to be open to learning and approaching everything with fresh eyes. It’s a little scary, yes. But it’s also kind of exciting!
Lisa Gail Green lives with her husband the rocket scientist and their three junior mad scientists in Southern California. She writes books so she can have an excuse to live in the fantasy world in her head. She likes to share these with readers.
She has a parrot but would most definitely get a werewolf for a pet if she weren’t allergic. You can find her Of Demons and Angels trilogy and the first book in her new Merlin’s Legacy trilogy on Amazon.
Fire follows Aedan wherever he goes. The more emotional he is, the more uncontrollable and dangerous his abilities. But keeping a low profile proves more difficult than he thought when Maya, the girl he’s been dreaming of, won’t leave him alone.
As he starts to give in to her advances, a sexy stranger blows in with powers of her own. She’s able to extinguish his flames and offers an explanation for his fire-starting ability. Unfortunately, it also comes with the knowledge that he’s destined to take part in the destruction of the world.
Maya is a member of the Circle, a group started by King Arthur to prevent the prophecy that when the Elementals join together, they will destroy the planet. Her purpose in life is to find and eliminate the Fire Elemental. So how the hell did she fall in love with him?
Maya questions everything she knows when she finds that Aedan is not the killing machine she’s been taught to expect. If she chooses with her heart, she could be responsible for the destruction of the world. If she chooses her training, she’ll have to murder the man she loves.
Thank you, Lisa! I love these tips, and you’ve given me several ideas that I’m excited to try. In fact, I’m having a hard time picking my favorite one. *grin*
I’ve talked before about some of these lessons, such as the importance of having a support structure or being willing to move on from a story that’s not working. But Tips #2 and 5 are something I want to think more deeply about and emphasize.
I have a short story/novelette that was good enough to receive an offer of publication—which I turned down because the editor’s boss inserted themselves into the process, and they wanted to change the story so much that it would no longer feel like mine. I don’t have any plans for that story, and it doesn’t fit with any of my current series, so that’s a perfect candidate for something like WattPad. *ponders*
And then with Tip #5, I agree that it’s so important to keep an attitude of learning and growing. Just because our chosen process or path might be right for one story, our next story might have different needs.
Or what used to work for us with writing, publishing, or marketing might no longer work. For example with marketing, the best outlets for advertising or the best bang-for-the-buck promotions change constantly. So we have to be willing to adapt in this ever-changing field, even if that makes us a newbie again.
Maybe that environment of change is a good thing. At least we should know that if we ever get stuck—either in our story or our career—the situation won’t stay the same forever. New opportunities are just around the corner. *smile*
Have you ever felt stuck in your story or writing career? Did you stay stuck, or did you adapt in some way? Do these tips give you ideas for how to shake things up? Which is your favorite tip here (or do you have a tip to share)? Do you have any questions for Lisa?Pin It