Monday, April 8, 2019

Advice for Aspiring Writers

I'm not quite sure I'm qualified to give advice to aspiring writers since I've yet to be published. But then I remembered that just because I'm not an author, doesn't mean I'm not a writer. I write. Anyone that writes is a writer. So here are a few things I've picked up over the years.

-You have to actually sit in the chair and write. You can do all the research you want, read all the books, make connections on social media. But you actually need to put in the work. Write well, write badly, just write!

- Read. A LOT. One of my favorite things about trying to make a career out of writing is that I get to set aside time every day to read. I read a lot of women's fiction and military stories, since those are within the genre I'm writing. But I also pepper in romance and fan fiction because that's what I enjoy and it's just good to experience as much as possible.

- Find the way you write the best. Is it late at night or early morning? Do you need to plot it all out first, or just start writing and see what happens? Type it all out or hand write it first? For years I started and stopped novels on my computer, assuming I should type it all out first. But once I picked up a notebook, I realized my brain doesn't work best in front of a screen. When I'm handwriting it all, the words just flow. Find the place and time that works best for you and get down the words!

-At the same time, be flexible. I have a hashtag on my instagram of #whereAmandawrites. While I prefer to write either early morning or late at night up in my office, I'm also a mom to two kids with a husband whose work schedule changes daily. So if I want to actually finish anything, I need to be more flexible with my writing time. That's where handwriting it all first comes in handy. In the car picking up the kids, at the pool while they play in the summer, standing in the kitchen while making dinner, I make sure to get in my writing time wherever I can.

-Set word count goals. Now I don't know if anyone else struggles with this, but I have trouble with feeling accomplished when I spend the day writing. You're not going to finish a book in a day, and publishing takes months, or if you're me, years. I often get in bed at the end of the day and wonder if I've done enough to further my career. That's where word counts come in. As long as I hit my word count, I feel accomplished. Also, if I hit it early, I'll treat myself to an extra long run or more TV time, and I don't feel guilty for stepping away from my writing. You need to choose a number that works for you, but most of the time 1500 words is what is best for me {That's handwritten, and then I need to take the time to type it up as well}

- Find some writing buddies. This is still something I'm working on, but I do have a few close writing friends I've discovered along this process. Being a writer is hard and lonely, and most of your friends and family will not fully understand the process. So find people slogging through this life like you. Send each other pages and queries to read and bounce ideas off. Find someone to text when you just want to scream and rail. Find someone to tell you to keep going. Find your people.

- Nothing is going to turn out how you think it will. TRUST ME. This writing journey has taken so many twists and turns, I barely know which way is up anymore. And write from the beginning too. My first book turn a wildly different turn at the end even I didn't see coming. So I've learned to stop fighting what I think should happen, and focus my time and energy on dealing with each twist that comes my way.

- Take time for yourself. Writers are highly emotional people. It's what makes our work so good. But in a business as cutthroat as this, we're more prone to taking things personally. My life hasn't felt this much like a roller coaster of emotions since I was dating. Some days I need to step back from social media and writing in general and take care of myself. Long runs, time with my family, catching up on my favorite tv shows, crying into a bowl of brownies. Do what makes you feel better, get some sleep, and try again tomorrow.

- Just keep writing. I have to believe we'll all make it if we just keep at it long enough! And if you need a writing buddy to keep pushing you, please reach out to me!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

How I Organize My Ideas

As a writer, I get ideas for stories all the time. Characters, bits of dialogue, a flash of a setting. Obviously I can't keep them all straight in my head or remember them all, so I need to keep them organized.

A lot of my inspiration comes late at night when I'm trying to fall asleep or while I'm out running. In these moments, I reach for my phone and open my notes app. It's filled with little bits and pieces to use in future stories.

Once I'm ready to sit down and actually write a book, I grab one of my trusty notebooks...spiral of course. I'm very particular. I have one notebook per book that is just ideas. I flesh out plot, character sketches, and bits of dialogue. I refer back to it while writing, and double check during editing that I've included everything I want. It's often fun to look back and see where I originally intended the story to go, and where it ended up. It's often very different!

So that's how I organize my ideas for stories. What about you?

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Truly inspired

I love going to book signings and author readings. Always have, long before I even embarked on this path to try and get published. I've waited for hours for celebrities, and been one of just a few listening to a combat veteran share his story. And each is special in its own way.

But the other night, I had the experience of a lifetime at a book signing/reading of my oldest friend. Not many people can say they still keep in touch with someone from kindergarten. Even fewer can say they are inspired daily by this person. But Christophe is beacon of light in this often dark world and we're all better for knowing him.

I brought my whole family, little ones included, into the packed library to hear him share his story. Heart transplants {yes, that is plural} kidney transplant, diabetes, myofibrillar myopathy, and more emotional struggles than a person should have to deal with, Christophe has confronted it all. He doesn't sugar coat the hard days and never discounts the struggles others go through every day. But he fights, every single day, for the life he wants, never letting anything limit the dreams and fun he wants to have. He reminds us all that the most important thing you can do in this life is love hard, and always tell the people you care about how much they mean to you.

So go check out his book, {1 Man, 3 Hearts, 9 Lives} be inspired, tell someone you love them today. Purchase it here on Amazon . And don't just take my word for it. The book has all 5 star reviews!!

Monday, March 25, 2019

Giving myself a win

A year ago today, I ran the West Point Fallen Comrades half-marathon. It was the first I'd ever done, and the experience was truly unforgettable. Despite the freezing temperatures, I knew it was something I'd want to do every year if I could, never wanting to forget our fallen soldiers from the Long Grey Line.

But I swear 2019 is trying to knock down everyone I know, throwing problems at us all left and right. As the date inched closer to this year's race, my husband and I agreed it was too much to fit in. We hadn't trained, and time was against our side with different events and obligations we had before and after.

But while in the middle of the query trenches, very little feels in your control. You revise and tweak your query, research the best agents, and follow every submission requirement.  But then you send out your query, and it's all out of your hands. There's nothing to do but wait. Something I'm not always that good at, haha.  And with so many other things in life feeling out of my control, I needed to take charge of one thing and give myself a win, and run this one all by myself.

That's why I love running so much. Because it's all up to me. It's hard, challenging me physically and mentally. But every success and failure is in my control.  So asking help from my husband and girls, I decided a week out to move heaven and earth and signed up to run this year's half-marathon.

With little training, a pinched nerve in my back, and some hopes and prayers, we headed up to West Point yesterday. It's one of my favorite spots in the country, so filled with history, incredible views, and some precious memories I hold dear.  While we woke up to 24 degree weather, the sun came out and warmed up to a perfect running temperature.

This isn't an easy race by any means. If you've ever spent time up there, you know how hilly it can be. And that is an understatement. From sea level to inclines of 1200 feet, even the most seasoned runners struggle up and down those hills. Especially since the most brutal one comes right at mile 12 when all you want to do is quit.

But one foot after another, the miles flew by. I pushed harder than I thought I could, ignoring pain and exhaustion, and crossed the finish line five minutes faster than last year. But honestly, the PR doesn't matter as much to me as the simple fact that I finished. I wanted something, worked hard at it, and succeeded.  That's not always the case in life. You can check all the boxes, work harder than you ever thought possible, and for reasons out of your control, you still might not achieve your goal.  But this one I did. One step at a time, over and over again, I left it all on the course and crossed the finish line with a smile on my face.

So as life continues to fight against me in other areas of life, I'll look at my medal and remember the win I sorely needed.

What are things you do when you need to take back control and give yourself a win.

Friday, March 22, 2019

My Writing Mission

I don't know what it's like for other writers, but when I started this whole thing, I wanted to do more than just tell an entertaining story. I want to share real stories, ones that will make you think, change the way you see certain groups of people. And while only two of the books I've written so far deal with military, those are the stories I want to tell the most.

More than just a rugged hero who falls in love with the pretty girl. I want to tell the dark side, the demons, the shadows. I want to talk about the grief, the survivors guilt, the way no one comes back from combat unscathed.

I also want to show the silly side to America's heroes. The insight they gain from having to grow up fast than their peers. They way they love with abandon, knowing every day is a gift.

I want to show the women behind the men {or the men behind the women} and that not only the military can suffer from PTSD. And holding down the homefront with a yellow ribbon around the tree doesn't always feel as honorable as it looks.

And in my non-military stories, I want to continue that realness. Showing the true aspects of life. Love, death, every day struggles. Not every story has a happy ending, but they all don't shy away from how it truly is.

I've been inspired by shows like This Is Us and A Million Little Things. The ones that make you cry and cheer every week, knowing you've experienced things just like they show in real life.

So that is my writing mission. One I hope to continue throughout my career, and hopefully one I'll be able to share with all of you once I'm published.

What is your writing mission?

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Writing this one for me

I'm writing a sequel to a book that isn't published yet. Totally normal, right? And no, it's not part of a series. The first is a stand alone. That's all I ever intended it to be. It's probably all it ever will be.

But one day my husband and I were talking about my first book {which I recently rewrote and will be querying soon} and where we thought my main character was now. We talked and talked, coming up with all these great ideas. And this a sequel was born.

Again, I haven't published anything yet, and I wouldn't sell my first book as anything other than a stand alone, so it seems silly to write this. But I've decided, I'm writing this one for me. Trying to get published has kicked me around quite a bit the past few years. I'm constantly trying to improve, rewriting a query, rewriting a book, researching new agents, crossing fingers, throwing fairy dust, and wishing on every eyelash I find. To say this business is disheartening is the understatement of the year. I absolutely know every tear shed will be worth it when I'm holding a published book I wrote in my own hands, but I've still got to get through the process first.

While trying to focus on the business side of things, it's easy to fall out of love with writing. To think you're not good enough. That no one wants your stories. That you don't have what it takes. That you need to squeeze your story into this tightly wrapped box of what sells and what's popular. {this is a bad idea. Don't do this. Always write YOUR story....or that's what I keep telling myself} And I started to hate the way I was thinking of this process. Yet at the same time, I can't pull myself away. Writing everyday has become like brushing my teeth. I just don't feel normal until I do it.

So I started writing a sequel. And I love it. My first book has always been my favorite, and I LOVE going back to those characters. I was pretty mean to my main character at the end of my first book, so I'm excited to give her a little happiness again and see where the world takes her this time.

There's a freedom to what I'm doing. This isn't a book I'll query. It's not one I need to wonder how it fits into today's market. I'm writing it for me. {And my husband and best friend who have been begging me to write this} And at the end of the day, that's what I need to remember. I started this journey for me. To see if I can write a book. Five books later, I have other goals now obviously, but it's nice to go back to the beginning and write, simply for the love of creating words and worlds and characters.