When I think back to writing my first book, I often wonder what was going through my mind while I was writing it. Since it took me over six years to write it, there was a lot of time when I wasn’t writing and I often didn’t write in large chunks so I had a lot of time when I wasn’t thinking about it. I think the idea just came to me and I just let it all grow from there. At some point I remember thinking, “I need to get this from a word document to be an actual book” and I had no idea how to do that, but I wasn’t really worried about my writing process. Ideas would come to me whenever they came and I would write them in or I’d see where I left off and build on that. I wasn’t on any kind of deadline I just wanted to get it done “some day”. In one respect it was great because there was no pressure. I was just writing to write and it filled my creative tank. It had been my life long dream to make something of it and I’m so happy that I finally did, but I’m not gonna lie things are very different this time around.
One of the things I see in the genre of contemporary romance is how quickly authors turn out books. Some authors, particularly those who write series will release a new book every month or if they’re standalones but part of a series they release every few months which is still a lot. I knew when I released my first book which is a standalone in a series that there was no way I could take 6 years to get book two out. For a planned series of four that was a very unrealistic timeline and as an author you don’t want to release one book and then go that long span of time until you release your next…with all the books that are coming out, people are more likely to forget about you. Considering how difficult it is to get noticed in this particular genre, the last thing you want to do is give readers a reason to forget about you. I told myself that I had to make a more realistic timeline to finish the second book, but at the same time it felt like an insurmountable task. Working a full time job and having a family that tends to suck up a lot of my time doesn’t allow for a whole lot of writing time or I should say uninterrupted writing time. I had no idea how I was going to get this done.
When I came back from my writer’s conference in May, one of the things that many of the authors I spoke to said was that I needed to get myself on a schedule, do timed sprints to try and get a certain amount of words done in a certain time. I’d never done a writing sprint in my life. The thought of writing to a timer seemed absolutely insane to me. I’m someone who would stare at the page and then I just knew what would come next. There was no planning or word counts…it was just I’m gonna write. Now all of a sudden I was trying to hit word counts every night and sometimes I would just look at my blinking cursor and think, “I have NO clue what comes next”. It scared the hell out of me. All of a sudden, something that had always come easily to me felt like such a struggle. Many nights, I don’t get to my laptop until after 9pm and just the thought of opening it feels like too much effort. I’d be perfectly content just laying on my bed and watching TV until it’s time for me to go to sleep.
No one ever tells you about the struggles you’re gonna face the second time around. They almost don’t even cross your mind because you’re thinking, “I’ve written a book before, I know what to do.” Logically, yes, you do. You know the steps you have to take, you know the people you need to be in touch with to help with editing, proofreading, cover design, etc. and you’ve already got yourself set up. However, now that you’ve got a book out in the world, this fear starts to creep in, at least for most of us that this second book isn’t going to measure up to the first. Can you write characters and a storyline that people are going to love equally as much? When that doubt starts to creep in that’s when your fingers cease to move on the keyboard. It’s amazing how crippling it can be. Add on the regular life stuff and you feel like you’re trapped under a ceiling with no escape route.
I’m not gonna lie…I can’t say that feeling ever really goes away. I’ve got about 35k left to go on my first draft of my second book and there are a lot of moments when I’m gritting my teeth to get through it because I just don’t feel like it’s good enough, but at the same time I feel like it has been an incredible learning experience. Putting myself on a writing schedule was the best thing I could’ve done for myself. Making myself be accountable for words every day, forced me to get out of my comfort zone of just picking up my notebook and pen whenever and actually making my writing more of a priority. It’s not supposed to be easy. As one of the lines goes in one of my favorite movies, “A League of Their Own”, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” Sure, they were referring to baseball, but I think the same applies to writing. If I don’t make myself reach over and open my laptop at whatever time at night, no one else is going to do it for me. I have to get the words down, no one else. It is amazing having people around me now who are authors who understand what I’m going through. They offer advice and encouragement that not many other people can give, but still, I’m the one who has to do the work. When you’ve got all that doubt swirling around in your head. you’re tired and you feel like you can’t get the time you need to just BE, you start to feel like your draft is never going to get past your own screen.
So what do you do? There are days when you have to cut yourself some slack. I had a few days last week when I had NO energy. I needed to just go to bed so that’s what I did and I honestly felt better because I did that. If you have to make smaller goals so that they’re more attainable then that’s what you do. Maybe make your daily word count 250 words so that you’re making progress but you don’t feel overwhelmed.
Remind yourself and this is the hard part…you’ve done this before, you can do it again. You are a WRITER and writers always have something to say. Accept that this whole process is hard. It takes a lot to create characters, a world and a storyline that people are going to want to read. Not a lot of people are capable of that.
As my friend and successful romance author Hazel Kelly told me, “Embrace the suck.” When you feel like what you’re writing is absolute crap, you have to embrace it as much as you would something that you love. Of course that’s incredibly difficult to do because you want to reach into the screen and yank it out so it’s never to be seen again, but just because you’re not completely in love with what you’re writing, it doesn’t mean you should stop. Those are the times when you have to push through. It may just be a small bump in the road that’s leading you to a huge breakthrough. Those glimmers of light are the hardest to see, but that’s when continuing on and not giving up is the most important. It may feel like you’re alone, but you’re not. We’re all here or have been at some point. Keep GOING.
I’ve got about 35k words to go to finish up the first draft of “Make It Sweet.” I really hope that I can get it done by the end of July but that may be a bit of a stretch so if I go into August that’s okay. I’m making consistent progress and that’s what counts. If you’re working on something, don’t let the bumps in the road keep you from going forward. Sometimes you just need to pause, regroup and remind yourself of what you’re capable of.
I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend! Until next time!