Because who has the time?


@GailSimone just went on a twitter rant I can get behind. Who has the time to write?

That’s the question we often face for those of us who make the time, and talk about our craft. Inevitably there is someone out there who is looking at their life, and doesn’t see all of the time they actually have.

Here is a myth I bought into, if I could just get everything sorted out I would have more time. If everything in my life where on track, it would be easy.

Except this year, my life imploded. You can haunt back through the archives of the blog and read the posts, and you can see it and feel it, where the spikes and lows are.

Here is another myth I bought into, that in grief I would find solace in writing. I would turn into a mad writer, who created brilliant work.

This too is not true.   Both of those myths are a fallacy. Neither of them make writing easier or a thing that is more obtainable.  I’ve had things far easier, and wrote, and I’ve had things be tough, and wrote.

This year felt very much like my life imploding. I threw myself at my writing like it was a life preserver on a stormy sea.  Every time things got hard, I looked for solace in the one area that was still mine and belonged to me. I focused on my long term goals.

That doesn’t mean that it was easy.  It was fucking hard.

Writing when life is hard, is fucking tough. They romanticize what J.K. Rowling went through, in a few lines, a summary.  But the truth, sitting in those trenches, and those emotions tearing down around you like bullets you have no control over, and all you want to do is get to the other side.  But what you need to do is tune the sound of gunfire out, lower your head, and focus, and tunnel your way out, one word at a time.

Eventually I learned how to channel that gunfire. Those feelings of hopelessness, I wrote them into my novel. I gifted them to my character.  Sounds romantic, sounds easy.  It wasn’t.  It was anything but.  But I did it.

I threw myself at my novel, teeth bared, and got through it with stubborn determination.

This year, has been hard. But at the end of it, I have my novel.  I have this thing, I did all for myself.  And I am so fucking proud of myself.

So when someone uses how hard there life is, or that they don’t have the time as the reason they don’t write, I know, that it is partly those things. That they can’t see their way through them.   But I also know that underneath all of that, they don’t want it the same way.  They don’t have that desperate yearning for change, and control in their life.

Time is precious, and we get caught in the loop of spending it halfheartedly. We watch TV we don’t need to, scroll through endless amounts of Facebook, or whatever internet distraction.  We fill our lives with distractions.  I know, I’ve done it.  I still do it.  But when you’re really focused, you put all of those things aside, and your writing comes first.  That’s how you do it.  You put aside the meaningless, you make sacrifices, you rearrange.  You find the time.

I went to an author event, and it turned out that most of them where sorted into Slytherin. Maggie Stiefvater who I adore is a proud declarant of house Slytherin. I’ve always had a sort of aversion to house Slytherin because of the bad rep they received in the books/movies.  But then when I took my sorting had quiz the second time around, and every other quiz since then, I am house Slytherin.

Per the sorting hat:

“Those cunning folk use any means, to achieve their ends”

And that right there is what you need to be a writer. You have to have a lot of stubborn determination, and some Slytherin in you, to make it across that finish line.

It’s not about having the time, it’s about having the want.

And now for a time of healing….


I have read hundreds of blog posts by authors and agents.  So I know the logical mechanics of what comes next after you write a book.

  • You make edits.
  • You get feedback.
  • You make more edits.
  • You get more feedback.
  • You make even more edits.
  • Eventually you decide that if is as shiny as can be.

Once it’s as shiny as it can be you then start querying agents. And this step isn’t as easy as you think.

  • You have to find the agents you want to query.
  • You have to follow their guidelines.
  • And you have to keep doing this until someone likes your stuff.
  • And it might not be the right time for this project, so even though it’s as shiny as it can be, it might just not make it to landing you an agent.

And in the mean time you keep writing.  You keep writing.  You keep creating.  You keep pushing yourself. Because you are going to keep going until you land an agent. And you keep going after that until your career looks like what you have imagined, because you are not a quitter, and you have poured too much handwork and determination into this.  Those words, handwork and determination, feel so small compared to what you have done.  You have bled, and chipped off pieces of your soul.  You have sacrificed in the face of fear.  You are a warrior, who wields a pen instead of a sword.

But what no one talks about in depth, are the feelings you are going to have along the way.

Going into this past weekend I was excited.  I KNEW I could finish the project this weekend, and I was very excited about that possibility.  And yet, on Sunday night, when I did finish it, what I felt was ragged.  I felt emotionally flayed.

I proceeded to sit there in shock.  I sent out a tweet.  My husband came home, and I looked up at him and told him I finished the book.  He said something, I don’t know what, and I told him I was just sitting there having all of the feels.  A sentence I am thankful for having taught him, because he promptly new exactly what I needed. He folded me in his arms and held me, and our dogs pilled on top to snuggle.  I really, really, really needed to be held.

The next day I told more people still, waiting for the shock to wear off, and yet, I was still in this state of I did the thing.  Of incredulity.

The journey to finishing this book has been a hard one considering the turns that life has taken this past year.  It has not been easy, and yet I’ve learned to get through.  And what got me through was my writing.  I would shore myself up, and push myself at my writing, because it was the only thing I could control.

But now that I have finished it, I am bereft.  I feel like I am a ship without moor.

Logically I know the next steps.  I know them.  And yet I sit here empty.

How do I start over again at the beginning of this journey?  How do I start from nothing and work my way back… or is it forward??? to this point again.  Especially, knowing what I went through to get here.

We don’t always talk about feelings because they are messy things.  We write about them in our books yes, but our own, we keep in a fortress of solitude.  Lest we be hurt.  Lest we be judged.  It’s easier if we all put on the armour and pretend like everything is okay, even when it’s not, because that is what the inspirational posters tell us to do.  Tell us who we should be.  Those posters, say keep on climbing.  You can’t get to the top if you don’t keep on keeping on. And smile for the privilege of this challenge.  So we pretend untruths.

I’m going to tell you that’s it’s okay if you don’t feel how you think you should feel.  It’s okay if you aren’t jump up and down and happy.  It’s okay to come crashing to a halt, and need some time to get your feet back on the ground and come to terms with that incredible mountain you just climbed. It’s okay to look upon that mountain in shock and awe, and wonder what is next, and feel this gaping void inside of you.  It’s okay to fill that void with mindless distractions because you can’t stand to stare at the bigger questions right now, your still too fresh, too raw.

A lot of people will ask what’s next, and they mean the best buy it.  They will say congratulations and be jubilant, and you want to be jubilant too, but you’re not.  You’ll look at those next steps, and you will know them logically, much the same way you know how to walk, one foot in front of the other.  Knowing the mechanics, doesn’t mean you have to race out right now and perform those mechanics.

No one said it. Or if they did I don’t remember it.  Maybe it is an unspoken truth.  But I’m here to speak it.  This process of grief is normal.  You have poured so much of yourself into the thing, it is okay to feel loss.  It’s okay to be devastated.  Give yourself time, you will heal.

You’ll find the things that pull you through. It might be a good book, or a conversation with a close friend, and little by little you will come out of that shell shocked state.

But I want you to know, that your feelings are valid.  It’s okay to take time to feel them.

All the feels…


You know how you can have moments in your life where you want to hold onto them and keep them inside of you like a special secret that belongs only to you, and at the same time you want to shout it from the rooftops. That’s me.  Right now.

I did it.

I finished a novel.

Draft zero was a hot mess of disorganization, and overwriting, and underwriting, and large plot holes you could lose yourself in. Editing that into the first draft, into a coherent whole, that someone else could look at.  That’s where it took the most time, the most determination.  I’m good at making draft zeros.  I have lots of those skeletons in my closet.  Hot messes who deserve more, but that I can’t give more to at this time.

But this is the first draft one. The first draft one where I have cut out the bits that don’t work.  Where I have filled in the blanks.  Where I have a cohesive storyline from start to finish.   All of those words sound so mechanical, for the heavy lifting that was done.

This draft was like solving a complex math problem, with logic and poetry.

Guys, I did the thing.

I fucking did it.

More thoughts later….

I’m still in shock.

The Lies We Tell Ourselves


Did I ever tell you how much I love romance? I’m sure I have….

Anyways, I decided a while back to write this easy little ditty of a love story.  It was just pouring out of me at the time, and who am I to ignore a fountain of creativity.

And then I decided somehow that because this project was just for me, and because this project didn’t matter, of course this was going to be the project I was going to finish. Oh the lies we tell ourselves.  The lies in that statement, are YES this project does matter.  And once this is finished, maybe it won’t just be for you.  Maybe this is the one you have poured so much of yourself into without realizing, you can’t help but wonder what if I gave this a shot out in the real world?

I thought I was writing something easy. But I’m not.

The notes I give myself are make sure this is emotionally poignant. It’s a romance novel dealing with grief and abandonment.  I need to make you feel those things, and heal from them too.  So I have notes to myself that am I making you feel enough?

I didn’t think about feelings when I first started writing the book. When I first started writing this, it was all how do I torture these characters enough, but still get them to like each other by the end.

But oh this editing thing. She’s a different mistress.  She pays attention to the details.  Like is this a Wednesday or a Tuesday?  And she pays attention to the emotional undertow of the book.  She wants you to feel that lump in your throat, and that roiling in your gut.

Look this may be a small novel, but I aim to do big things with it. And I aim to do it in such a way that it feels seamless.  That’s a hard act.

Ally Carter writes these seamlessly fun novels about spies, and espionage, and heists. And you would think because her books are so EASY to read, they must also be easy to write.  But that seamlessness means she put a lot of effort into you not stumbling around in there as the reader.  She put a lot of effort into the page turns, and the transitions, and the OMG what happens next.

Seamless, is not easy. It is easy to read, but it is not easy to create.  And I’m sitting on the creator side of the fence, going holly shit this is harder than I thought.  I thought this would be the easy novel.  Why has it taken so long?  And why has it sucker punched me in the emotional feels?  Oh yeah, you gave these characters back story and made them real.  Of course you are going to hurt when they hurt.

Look we tell ourselves a lot of lies on the road of writing. And you need the lies to get you through to keep on writing.  To keep on editing. But at some point you are going to see the truth, and you are going to be damned proud of yourself for that perseverance against all of those pesky roadblocks you have overcome.  I’m 10K away from the end, and the lie I’m telling myself now, is that I can do this this weekend.  I can get it done, and get it into crit partner’s hands sooner than later.

I’ll tell you at the end of the weekend what the truths really are.

What is Excellence, baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more.


On a recent interview they asked what is your personal definition of Excellence and provide an example to support that statement. 

Okay so maybe I’m paraphrasing, but that was the just of the question (I know it’s not exact because they don’t let the questions leave the room, because they are a state secret, or a provincial secret?).

My first thought was to my writing, but instead I blithered on about something more day job appropriate.  I was on the spot, and I hadn’t thought about that type of question, and the last time I had opened up and gave incredible insight into my soul, and how I felt about something personally, I was obliterated by it, when they offered feedback as per why I didn’t get the job.  They took personal philosophy that has gotten me through really hard times, and said it was not what they were looking for, and I wasn’t taking them seriously enough. All I could do was stare at them and wonder how they missed the point, and how they could not see the beauty in the point.  But that was them, and not me, so the fault I think lies in their perception not mine.  Still, it hurt. 

But since I did not get this recent position, I have taken some time to think about the question of Excellence. It kept ticking about my head, demanding that I be truthful about it, that I explore that first instinct.

So here goes.


Excellence is when you read a book by an author, and you think WOW, that is what I want to write.  They are now on the list of all-time favorites.  Let’s go back and read their earlier stuff.  And you read it, and you think this is not the same quality, but as you go through an earlier series with them you see them improve from book to book.  Their skill and style growing.  And then you hunt down their twitter feed and their tumblr or blog and you get a taste of their writing philosophy, to push themselves to do better from each book.   They can’t change what’s already published, but they can listen to the corners of the internet and figure out how to use that feedback to be better, do more.  

Excellence is that blogger you follow who writes knitting humour but is so much more than that.  Her blog becomes the thing that makes you laugh, and the personal insight that you wish someone had said sooner, because you too have been dancing around that same conclusion.  The blogger, who believes that one stitch at a time, turns into a row, turns into multiple rows, turns into a finished object.  Who knows the value of one small act piled on top of each other to reach a greater whole. 

Excellence is deciding in a time of darkness that you need your own night light, and you figure out what that is and you hold onto that.  You learn how to play the long term game, when you are short term unhappy. 

Excellence is finding your people, and your writing community, and learning how they will help push you beyond chapter three, and root for you, and tell you that your writing is worth it, but here is how to make it better.  It is driving in a car on a road trip and brainstorming plot points.  It is cheers on twitter when you reach word count goals.  It is the support you need, from your people, who know the struggle.

Excellence is reading author after author, of blogs to find out how they broke in, and if that is the path for you.  It is learning that there are multiple paths to writing, and you may still discover a new one.  It is knowing that one person’s advice on how to write a novel, may not be applicable to all.  It is learning how to pick through what works for you and what doesn’t. 

Excellence is reading great works, and crappy works, and mediocre works, and finding what you love in writing, but also learning how to develop your own voice in the face of so many already out there. 

Excellence is years and years of commitment to a thing (writing), a passion, in hopes that you are going to create something worthy.  It is 18 drafts that you know aren’t worthy, and that 19th that you are pushing through.  It is looking back in awe at those 18 drafts and seeing how you have grown as a writer.  How you have learnt how to write a beginning, and a middle, and loosely an end, on many different attempts.  It’s knowing that those 18 drafts are not failures, but grounds for learning. 

Excellence to me is my writing.  It is all of the lessons I have learnt in pursuit of it, and all of the lessons I will still learn in pursuit of it. 

I might not give them this answer ever, but this is my answer for those I trust with bits of my soul, because you fellow writers, I’m sure will get it.  I trust you to see the beauty in this answer and not look for flaws to exploit.  I trust you to know the struggle, and the desire and the passion.  I trust you to understand the context. 

In short, I trust you.



You Can’t Take the Sky From Me


Okay world. I feel like both I and you need a little pep talk.  Mostly because I’m having a moment like this from Sarah’s Scribles:



Here goes.

If you are one of those people that believe that everything happens for a reason, the reason may be that the universe enjoys kicking you in the gut when you are down, to see how much shit you can take. Rally.  Instead of looking at your life as a failure (or the event as a failure), change perspective, and look at it as a learning opportunity.  Learn how to be stronger.  Learn how to deal with the situation that you don’t like, but need to get through, because if like me you are an eternally hopeful Mother Fucker, then you too will need to say fuck it and move on from it.  Find out how to move on.

That is not to say you are not allowed to feel any of the emotions you are feeling. Sad, angry, distrustful, disappointed, envious of others.  Rallying forth, does not mean you don’t get to feel.  You are human, and you are allowed to be hurt by this.  But after you are done feeling that hurt, know that you are stronger that the situation.  I’m not going to lie to you about how sucky it’s going to be trying to get yourself out of the muck.  It’s going to suck.  But you’re going to do it, because you know you deserve better.  Figure out how to turn your feelings into fuel for moving forward, but don’t let it ruin you and those you love around you either.  It’s a hard balance, and it’s worse for the disappointment of what you are going through.

Know that this is just transient. When I was younger a coworker gave me a plaque that said: this too shall pass.  Knowing that eventually you will be on the other side of this, helps me in rallying forth and getting through.  Sometimes that means you go into survival mode, where you can’t effect change right now, but you know given time, there will be change.  You have to look at the long term goal, and forgive that the short term is not working in your favor.  Figure out how to survive, and get on the other side of this.

Sometimes getting to the other side means reevaluating your situation and your goals. It means looking at the situation and figuring out if this is a long term thing, or a short term thing.  If it’s short term, you move on and find something long term to focus on.  If this is your long term goal and it’s not working, then regroup and find another road.  Not all roads are easy.  Sometimes you have to turn around and go back. This is not a retreat, this a strategic regrouping.  Go back a few steps to see if you can move forward from a different point, a different avenue, a different option.  If the wall is immovable, find a way to go around the wall.  Dig a tunnel, climb over it, blast a fucking crater through it.  Find ANOTHER route.

And lastly, figure out what your Sky is. What is the thing that belongs to you in your heart of hearts? Know this at the very core of you.  Hold onto to this thing.  This will be your life line through all of it. This will be your long term plan. Figure out how to always be working on your long term plan.  This is what gets me through.  Even when it’s my long term plan that is taking me longer than wanted.  I know that eventually, I will make this happen, because I have gone through too much for it not to.  It doesn’t mean it will be easy, but it does mean I will persevere.

Why you need to cut that scene


The current WIP has been the WIP for years now. It started as a quick easy distraction, and somehow I had convinced myself that this was the project to finish.  It would be quick and easy because the story was just pouring out of me, and I wasn’t dealing with any magic or building a universe, just playing in the mundane world with other people’s hearts and emotions.  Pretty much I had taken my underlying love of romance, and decided to focus on just that, and the basic formula for a romance novel is pretty simple, you give them a happily ever after, so the plotting was easy enough.  But the devil is in the details and the more I worked on it, the more complex the thought of finishing it became.  Draft 0 was a hot mess, and slogging through that and fixing that has taken the majority of the time.

I have written scenes multiple times. The same scene told 2 or 3 different ways from the same two narrators.  I wrote it like this with these consequences hanging in the air.  Or a little different, if I place the event over here, because over here they aren’t getting along, but if I move it to later in the story, all of the tension dissipates because they are getting along, and I can’t have them sniping at each other, when they are GETTING along.

There was a scene I had worked over multiple times. I really really really loved this scene.  But the further I got into the novel the more it looked like it wouldn’t fit.  See it was an early attempt to get the two characters who were going to fall in love to um fall in love.  It was filled with sexual tension, and vitriol and an awareness of each other that can only be described as magnetic.  It was a gorgeous scene.  I LOVED this scene.  So I moved it to the trash can.

But then I was like, oh I loved that scene so, maybe I can resurrect it and put it over there. Forgetting all the reasons for the tension, and only remembering that I loved it and the kissy bits.  I re-read it yesterday.  Thinking with a little bit of editing I could make it work again.  Conclusion, no amount of editing will make that work.  If I start cutting out all the reasons they where snippy with each other, then I get rid of all of that tension, and that sense of collision.  It just becomes boring.

On top of that the characters don’t make sense with the novel. I had the girl in the scene doing things that are now completely out of character.  I’m reading this and going, while I like this, it is not you any longer.  This is not who you are at your soul.  Yes you are fierce, but you are not confident in that fierceness.  And this scene had way too much confidence in it.

What I am doing is rewriting it. I’m taking the setting.  I’m taking the events.  But I’m rewriting the motivation to get them to a point where it works.  That means dialogue and body language, and internal monologue has to be redone.  It means that of a scene of 3k works, I might have salvaged 500 in setting and even that had to be reworked, because setting is a reflection of atmosphere, and I’m tweaking the atmosphere, for anticipation, rather than animosity.

I used to bemoan all of the words I was cutting from my novel. Especially the brilliant bits, that where amazing writing that just didn’t fit any longer. But that’s the thing as a writer.  It’s kind of like trying on clothes, you think you like that sweater hanging on the hanger, but once you put it on, it doesn’t look flattering on you any longer.  I liked the scene by itself, but in context with the rest of the novel, it wasn’t working. It doesn’t make it a bad scene, it just means I have to accept the fact that it doesn’t belong.

Cutting now though, doesn’t bother so much. I like seeing the brilliant bits I’m not keeping, only to know that you can be brilliant in multiple ways, and not all ideas work. It’s kind of like doing spring cleaning, and clearing away extraneous clutter.  When you’re done, you have this complete project that works cohesively, instead of a contrast of characters arcs that no longer fit.

Editing for me right now is a combination of cutting, rearranging, and drafting new bits to fit the gaps. It’s a lot tougher than drafting, and takes a lot more attention to detail, because this is where you take all of those disparaging parts, and turn them into once collective.  It’s a craft of its own.  It’s challenging, and I never thought it would take me this long to get through it.  At the beginning I thought of this as an easy distraction, the project I would finally make to the end.  It will definitely be that project, the one I make to the end, but it has turned out to be not as easy as I thought.  Still though, worth it.