Scribd subscribers, click here to find my romance novellas!
Scribd subscribers, click here to find my romance novellas!
Hello and welcome to a reinvigorated yet anxious edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer.
Well, the creative slump that had been dogging me all last week lasted all the way up until this very morning, when, for whatever reason, I just felt ready to shake myself back to work. It’s been the single most frustrating thing about my writing journey: trying to accomplish my goals around the unpredictable cyclone that is my mental health. No matter how much I plan and schedule and set deadlines for myself, there is simply no accounting for a hiccup in brain chemistry that derails me off course, even if only for a few days or a week or a month.
But, it is who I am and, short of finding the right doctor and the right cocktail (unlikely in my present circumstances), it’s just something I have to live with.
So, enough of that. Back to work.
Something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately (even struggling with, ha ha) is how hard I’ve found it to make connections with people in the writing community. It’s no secret as to why that is: I’m very shy and very private. But there have been moments, especially during the pandemic, where I have felt extremely isolated on this wild journey of mine. That’s not much of a revelation either. The act of writing is a solitary process. Sure, we can all commiserate before, during, and after the fact, but – unless you have a co-author (and more kudos to you if you do because, whew, I could never) – the actual penning of the words is something only you, yourself can do. Add in the pandemic, where we have all been cut off from each other in new and exciting ways, and it’s not any wonder that I’ve been feeling some loneliness creep in, despite my historic preference for mental hermitage.
(I know I’m not using that word correctly, but it feels accurate so let’s go with it.)
There’s also a measure of social anxiety baked into my predisposition for solitude. Will people unfollow me if I talk about my video game hobby or my kids or sports instead of writing? Will people like or respect me less if they learn more about my life? Will I be harassed if I share too much (it is the internet, after all). Will I say something I regret?
It’s hardly the first time I’ve wondered these things and it’s not at all the first time I’ve thought that my anxiety is crushing some of the life out of me. And while, again, that’s just part of my existence on this planet for the time being, over the last twelve months I’ve made major strides in pushing against some of my uncomfortably close boundaries and exploring what could lie beyond them. Turns out, if I want to make friends I’m going to have to be friendly. And part of that means opening myself up in ways I’ve been hesitant to before.
I’m not really sure what that means yet. But I think it’ll probably result in me talking a lot more. Maybe here on this blog, or in the comments of your own blogs (which I do read, but have been too nervous to meaningfully interact with). Or perhaps on Twitter or Instagram.
Please look forward to it.
I am trying really, really hard to get through my current read so I can review it for you all. Truly, I do like it and I do want to write a book sort of like it but… my god it is so dense. It’s like exercise trying to read it, and with everything else I’ve had going on I just haven’t had the energy. I will get through it one day, though, I swear.
Until next week my friends, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.
Hello and welcome to another rambling, existential, content-packed edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer.
Today I’m going to unveil the NEW CONTENT that you can expect to see on the blog going forward, but before I get into that I first want to talk a little bit about what I hope to achieve with these additions and why I’m making the change in the first place.
When I started this blog – yikes, almost two years ago – I had two goals: the first was to establish a place where I could scream into the void about all the parts about writing a novel that weren’t sunshine and rainbows (okay, so like 90% of it). I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on that, even if the screaming has been sporadic. The second goal was to, maybe, possibly, hopefully, form friendships or a community of fellow writers who were like me: near to the very beginning of their author journeys, and having to fight tooth and nail for every tiny success.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best at making connections. I’m shy, riddled with anxiety, and possessed of fluctuating mental health that often times means I’m a bit of a flake. So, that’s on me. With that said, I’m ready to make a change, not just to my own internal mindset and habits, but my exterior activities as well. So, while these additions to the blog were first conceived of with the goal of getting myself engaged in the writing community even when I’m between projects, the more I thought about it the more I realized that it can use this newfound desire for growth to forward along that original ambition, the one where I’m no longer just another struggling writer, but Just Another Struggling Writer.
Ultimately, I hope that one day this blog will stop being “the lamentations of yet another person struggling to write a novel” and start being a rallying point, a safe haven, a creative sounding board for those of us who just can’t do this thing alone. More than anything, I hope you join me on that journey.
So, without further ado, behold the new content schedule for Just Another Struggling Writer.
Your Mileage May Vary or Reasons I DNF This Book.
Guilty confession #1: I am not a great reader. I am slow, easily distracted, and tend to put off reading for other leisure activities, a bad habit I am desperately trying to correct.
Guilty confession #2: I am also really discerning when I read. Actually, that’s too charitable a word. I am fucking picky. I don’t even know why. All I know is most books tend to turn me off by the second act, and even the ones I end up binge-reading to the end don’t really stay with me. Doesn’t mean they’re not good, of course. Just that… well, I’m evidently really hard to please. Sorry.
So, in an effort to broaden my library (and maybe figure out whatever the hell my taste in books is), on alternating Tuesdays I will post book reviews of different persuasions.
The first, Your Mileage May Vary, will cover books that I read to the end, loved or hated. Take these reviews with a grain of salt; because I’m thinly read I honestly haven’t the faintest clue how to write a “proper” book review. Most of the time, I imagine, I’ll probably just be word vomiting my thoughts and feelings without direction or structure. Please look forward to it.
In Reasons I DNF This Book I will dive into specific moments that turned me off of a novel. Whether it’s due to my inner editor not shutting up and letting me enjoy something, or a protagonist I just don’t get along with, or a cringey awkward moment that forces me to put it aside until the second hand embarrassment subsides, these posts will explore what makes a picky reader (me) so damn picky.
Your Regular Weekly Blog Post
Thursdays you can expect to remain pretty much the same, with random topics and thoughts on the struggle that is being a writer. In the past I talked about the progress of my manuscript, and revelations I was having along the way, but now that I am (at least for the moment) project-free, the discussion might trend more toward current issues in the book world. This is the least “content” like of my three planned weekly posts, and mostly will just be a continuing chronicle of my experience in the writing community. One thing I do plan to do every week is include a one-sentence writing prompt for….
Short But Sweet Sunday, flash fiction or vignettes
Well, I couldn’t go this whole time without doing a little bit of fiction writing. Can’t let these razor sharp skills get rusty, can I? Now where did I put that sarcasm font? Anyway, at the end of my weekly Thursday posts I will include a one-sentence prompt, and on Sunday I will post my answer to that prompt. All pieces will be less than 1000 words and I intend to limit them all to the same setting and group of characters, which I am tentatively calling the Pillar-verse. The Pillar-verse was once an old fantasy novel idea of mine that was undoubtedly destined for the trunk, and though I still think it is too unfocused a concept to be drafted and revised, I would still like to share it in some way. (Hell, maybe if I dabble in it often enough I’ll get that spark I need to actually write the damn thing.) But going beyond that, I hope that others might eventually partake in Short But Sweet with their own takes on the prompt.
In addition to the extra content, I also will be doing a bit of site maintenance, including adding a page for writerly resources. Most of these will trend toward fantasy writing, since… that’s what I do and all, but hopefully writers of any persuasion will find them useful. Be on the lookout for those updates in the next day or two.
One last thing before I go. That’s right, OUR VERY FIRST SHORT BUT SWEET PROMPT. A reminder: the goal is to write some flash fiction or a vignette, less than 1000 words, and post it Sunday for all to enjoy. It can take place in a world you already created, or it can be something entirely new. If you decide to participate, please feel free to tag #shortbutsweetsunday on Twitter, or even just drop the link to your own post in a comment here. However you get it out there, the goal is just to boost your creativity with some extracurricular words. Hope to see lots of great pieces on Sunday!
This week’s prompt: It was fall, the season of knowledge, but nobody knew that.
Well, I honestly think I’ve yakked enough for one post. I’ll be back on Sunday with my answer to this week’s Short But Sweet prompt, and again on Tuesday for the first Your Mileage May Vary review, where I plan to discuss City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty. Until then, as always, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.
Okay so, for those who don’t follow along on my Twitter, this weekend I had the privilege of attending my very first writing conference. I’m not sure what I expected, and I was more than a little nervous, but the experience was absolutely invaluable. LET’S TALK ABOUT IT.
A Natural Introvert In a Room of 400+
I, like many other writers, am a natural introvert with a degree of social anxiety. I find it very difficult to start conversations in most situations. Yet, one of the most surprising things about this weekend was 1) how easy I found it to talk to people and 2) my regret on Sunday evening that I didn’t manage to talk to more people. It turned out that after my initial anxiety was surmounted, I had a thousand questions I wanted to ask everyone I came across.
Is this your first time? Where are you from? What do you write? Is it finished? Are you pitching? Who are you pitching? What else is in your back catalog? What writing program do you use? Pantser or plotter? What classes are you going to?
It got to a point where I almost wish I had a microphone and a podcast to blame my incessant interrogating on. But, I couldn’t help myself. It was the first time I had the opportunity to be around other writers. It was so nice to be able to talk about things like word count and genre nuance with people who get it, and that relief was the biggest factor in overcoming my anxiety.
Classes, Lectures, and Panels, Oh My!
I was telling people by the end of it all that my brain felt like a sponge that had absorbed as much water as it was physically capable, and all I wanted to do was get home and squeeze it out all over the page.
There was so many great classes to choose from that I was driven into a panic because I couldn’t actually pull a Hermione and go to all of them. I will say I came away just a little disappointed, not in any of the classes or presenters themselves, but in my own inability to streamline what I wanted to get out of the conference. I bounced around from topic to topic based on a whim, whereas I felt I probably would have gotten a lot more out of it if I had really considered what would be the most useful to me at this precise moment in my writing career. Oh well, lessons for next time.
This really goes without saying, but the writing community is rad. It just is. I mean, I knew that before the conference, just based on how welcoming and supportive the online space has been. But for an introvert with social anxiety, moving those interactions into the physical realm came with new bunch of questions and fears. Sitting amongst all those fellow aspiring and successful authors, I found myself often wondering if I even belonged there. I don’t have a completed manuscript (first draft notwithstanding), I don’t have a back catalog, I’ve never queried or pitched. At 31 years old, I have as much (or less!) experience as an 18 year old.
And yet, no one ever made me feel that way. Even as I admitted, somewhat shamefaced, that I only just finished my very first first draft but a short two weeks prior, I was greeted with congratulations and high fives, even from some who had 12 books under their belts. It never felt condescending or placating, but spoke to the universal truth that writing is hard and in that little conference center, we really were all in it together.
All told, I left on Sunday creatively invigorated. I couldn’t wait to get back to the page. I had a hundred thousand ideas I wanted to get to and I still found myself pushing for more. I felt even more determined to make this the year I start treating writing as a job so that one day it will be my actual job. I found myself wishing there could be a conference once a month (my wallet would never survive) just so I could soak myself in that determination any time I felt low.
Thank you so much to the DFW Writers’ Workshop for putting on such an amazing experience. I’ll definitely be back next year.
That’s all from me this week. I’ll be back next week, probably with that previously promised post (how’s that for alliteration?) about Writing For Yourself. But! If you lovelies have any ideas for some topics you’d like me to tackle, be it authors behaving badly, craft, or even how the weather affects my writing, feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me a message on Twitter.
Until then, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.
Manuscript news: I’m gonna be honest. I have been a pretty lazy writer this week. I joked after NaNo that I was gonna take a week off. At least, at the time I thought it was a joke, but it has turned out to be more prophetic than I would like.
Truthfully, I was really worried this would happen. My hobbies tend to be cyclical, and after a period of hitting one hard I usually circle around to something else for a while. Writing was a hobby for such a long time, and I’m only just now trying to transition it into more of a second job. And if it were a job, I’d have called out a lot this week and on the cusp of getting fired.
Since NaNo has ended I’ve only added about 3000 words. It’s not writer’s block. I’m in the middle of a really good scene that I’m (for once) really excited to write. It’s just… burn out, maybe? I gave myself a goal of being done with the manuscript by the end of January, with a daily word count target of 1000-1200. I’m not hitting that, not even close. I don’t know what I need to do to get myself back in the groove, but I’ve got to figure it out soon, while the story still has the capability of engaging me.
The Weekly Struggle: My latest struggle (apart from the above) has revolved around my professional name. Or lack of one, really. When I decided to go on this journey, choosing a name to write under was something pretty far down on my priorities list, somewhere between writing my query letter and writing my actual novel. I knew I would use my real first name (Kerry, in case you forgot, pleased to meet you), but I had concerns about going all in with my legal last name as well. However, I didn’t want to wait until I made a potentially long-term decision like that to get started on my blogging, my twittering, and my connecting with fellow writers.
So I opted to simply use Just Another Struggling Writer as my public façade, or Kerry for short, and went about my business.
But, lately I’ve felt a little naked as just a first name.
I know it’s still pretty early to think about. Especially considering my current difficulties getting words on the page and the non-zero possibility that I could flame out now and never finish this (or any) manuscript, picking a professional name seems like pretty small peanuts.
A lovely follower on Twitter (Miss K) pointed out that it would be prudent to pick a name, so a website domain could be registered before it’s snapped up by someone else, and I think there’s wisdom to that (although I had always intended on using the JASW — what’s the word? Brand? That feels unearned at this point but I can’t think of any other way to describe it — as my public persona, but that’s a bridge for Future Kerry to cross).
My focus needs to be writing. Finishing a book. But, I still can’t help but wonder if I should be getting my name out there in the community.
Originally, when I first planned this post, I was going to ask for advice on how to pick what professional name to use. Legal name? Maiden name? Pen name, and if a pen name how do you choose? But the more I thought about it, the more I started wondering if my name is a cart rumbling down the road miles ahead of the horse.
For the record, I feel pretty settled on a pen name. It rhymes with my real, legal, difficult to spell and therefore frequently mispronounced last name. It also shares a common first letter, and since my actual signature is a scribble in which only the initials are somewhat legible, I wouldn’t have to change anything (now that really is putting the cart in front of the horse, but sue me, I have a lot of time to mull about these things at the day job).
Which means, if I have chosen what I want to go by, then why wait? Why not just go ahead and change all my screen names, and register the domain, and make a small announcement that Just Another Struggling Writer will henceforth be known as Kerry….
Honestly, I don’t know.
I had sort of envisioned always being Just Another Struggling Writer. A person other writers in the early stages of their careers could see and relate to. Someone who is going through what they are going through right now. I sort of feel by stepping away from that I’ll be abandoning a community I dreamed of building, before it even has a chance to lay a foundation.
Is it self-centered of me to still want that?
What I’m Reading This Week: Shadow of the Raven by Millie Thom. After Outlander, I thought I might like a Viking story, but with more fantasy elements (since Outlander was lacking in that area, for my taste). My search led me to this series. I’m literally only just getting started on it, but I’m looking forward to it.