Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Writing: Part II


See Part I of this series, here.

6. It’s hard work and fun at the same time.

Whether you’re writing a novel or a haiku, writing can be a challenging pursuit. It involves daily practice and often hours of unflinching focus. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me as I love hanging out in my imagination bubble, but there are days where lifting the pen or punching those keys can be an enormous challenge. Sometimes the muse just won’t cooperate or the day job leaves me so exhausted, the words are hiding beneath layers of stress.

While the work is hard and never truly ends, it is worth every bit of the effort. Every word written brings you that much closer to finished draft. Every word makes you a better writer. And here’s the best part, writers usually love what they do, so that means all of that hard work is actually fun. Even on the days when the words are playing hide and seek. The bigger the challenge, the more delightful the reward.

7. Edit with an open mind.

For some writers, editing is the best part of the process. They can slash and rearrange without any hesitation. At first I struggled with editing because I liked to hang onto every single word. I swear my first novel was akin to a hoarder’s closet – cluttered with stuff that should’ve gone in the trash bin.

The simple fact is you have to be wiling to let things go in order to let things in. Writing is a fluid process with constant changes from start to finish. The more open-minded you are, the more your story finds it’s footing or the more your poem finds it’s rhythm.

Editing is about making a draft as good as it can possibly be. Sometimes that means simply polishing language and sometimes that means rewriting entire sections or reconsidering an entire storyline. Either way, let your muse be as much a part of the process as it was at the very start.

8. Do your homework.

If you’re writing a YA novel, read YA novels. If you’re writing haikus, read haikus. It’s a simple rule and one worth following. Even if you’re looking to reinvent a genre, it helps to know where it began, current trends, and techniques used by other authors. After all, how can you add tracks to a road if you don’t where it’s located?

When I started writing poetry again a few years back (after a loooooong hiatus), I just did my own thing and didn’t really think to read poetry. I like what I wrote just fine, but soon I realized I was missing out on a well of inspiration by failing to explore other poets. After immersing myself in anthologies of multiple poets and exploring poet blogs, I watched my poetry go from mediocre to something better.

The same is true for my novel writing attempts. For the first novel, I read plenty of fiction, but not in the genre for which I was writing. The result was a halfway decent attempt, but nothing too exciting (yet). For my second attempt, I read every YA novel I could get my hands on in order to get a strong sense of how to structure a YA novel and to learn techniques to make writing appealing to young adults. The result is a novel I’m pretty darn proud of.

The big take away here is to let other writers guide you through their work and inspire you to blaze your own trail.

9. Join a writer’s group

Writing can be a lonely pursuit. While most writers are introverts and prefer the solitude, it’s still important to leave that lonely bubble and socialize with other writers. A writer’s group can be a place for inspiration, camaraderie, advice, and networking. Writers’ groups range from groups that just write, critique groups, or groups that work on a single project. There are, of course, many more options and they are all worth considering.

Much like editing, writer’s groups offer that open door that all writers need. Sometimes we get so stuck inside our own little world, we don’t realize how stuffy it gets. Let some fresh air in by letting other writers into your world. They bring fresh perspective and insight. They lift you up when your inner critic is weighing you down. They never let you give up.

10. Trust your muse.

When in doubt, listen to your muse. That gut feeling is usually right and always knows best. No amount of book smarts, advice, or technique can outmatch the creativity that lives inside of a writer. Trust your vision and stay true to what your imagination sees. No matter what.

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Did I miss anything? What do you wish you had known before you started writing?

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c.b.w. 2015

Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Started Writing: Part I


1. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

This is especially true for the first draft. So many poems, novels, and short stories go unfinished because of backtracking to “fix” problems. My first novel took 5 years to complete due to my constant adjustments. My second novel taught me to just punch out that first draft and then go back in and revise/edit. Rationale: Having the big picture in place makes easier to find and fix mistakes.

2. Too much advice does more harm than good.

That old adage, “too many cooks in the kitchen” comes to mind. Knowledge about anything is powerful, but ultimately it comes down to action. You can attend a million workshops or read every how-to manual on the market, but the best teacher is experience. You have to make mistakes and allow yourself to fall instead of only relying on a knowledge base to get you through the process.

This also applies to beta readers. They have their purpose, but too many opinions can easily sway or muddle your original vision. Like all good things, advice is best in moderation. There comes a point where a writer has to find balance between outside opinions and the muse’s compass.

3. The inner critic is brutal.

One of the first posts on this blog was titled, My Inner Critic Is Trying To Kill Me. Let me tell you, that voice is LOUD. And soul crushing mean. For some writers, the inner critic is so cruel the words stop coming altogether. I wish I had a magic fix for the self doubt the brews inside of every writer, but the one piece of advice I can give is to fight back. The only way to defeat the inner critic is to keep writing and pushing forward. Eventually, that loud, mean voice falls on deaf ears because you’re too busy writing something.

4. Triumphs are small, but incredibly meaningful.

Even though I’ve been writing for most of my life (I have poetry journals from when I was 8 years old), my list of accomplishments is quite small. I’ve won a small contest, been published in a tiny local journal and a local newspaper. That’s about it. Although, I do count my blog as a success as well!  While the list is small and the accomplishments smaller, I cherish every victory. They are few and far between for most writers, so grab onto them and don’t take them for granted!

5. Rejection is a good thing.

No one likes getting that email that says, “unfortunately I am not interested in your work at this time.” It sucks. But it’s also great. Most agents and publications don’t even bother responding to queries at all, so getting any sort of a response is exciting stuff.  Embrace it and give yourself a pat on the back. In many instances it means your work was good enough to spark some sort of attention.

Something else to keep in mind is the fact that the rejection letter allows the inner critic to occupy some prime real estate in your soul if you choose to take it personally. Don’t let the inner critic win. Instead, save your rejection letters as testaments to the fact that you are trying and someone noticed.

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Stay tuned for Part II next week. Meanwhile, I’m curious – What do you wish you would have known before you started writing?

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c.b.w. 2015

2013 Goals: April Status Report


Any regular follower of my blog knows that April was a busy month for my muse and I. The A to Z Challenge took over my writing schedule and pushed me to make deadlines without sacrificing my creativity. All in all, I consider April to be a very successful month in terms of my goals.

1) Complete final draft of Novel #2.

Revisions for Draft #2 are complete. I have since uploaded my revised draft onto my Kindle Fire, so I can fine-tune things a bit more. Using this format accomplishes two things:

  • It is super exciting and encouraging to see my novel as it would appear in an e-book format.
  • After reading my draft a million times as a Word document, it really helps to see sentences and paragraphs in a different way. I’m noticing little things that I just didn’t see in the original document. It’s really helping me spot little mistakes!

2) Work on converting Novel #1 into first person.

Still on the shelf (and that’s okay).

3) Submit 5 pieces of writing.

I have three writing magazines queued up, so I can start searching for competition and submission opportunities.

4) Submit three query letters for Novel #2

I got my hands on some new resources that might help me give my query a boost. If those resources turn out to be sound, I’ll pass them along. During May, I’m hoping to dig into my query and complete some much needed revisions.

5) Continue building author platform

The bulk of April was devoted to completing the  A to Z Challenge. I’m proud to report I completed the challenge on time and without missing a single letter. Yay! Thanks to all my old and new readers for stopping by throughout the challenge.

As for social media, I spent more time in the blogosphere than I did Facebooking or Tweeting. With the challenge complete, I’m hoping to jump right back into the social networking scene.

My Facebook Page has grown from  284 to 291

On Twitter, my followers went from 528 to 525

Thanks so much to all my followers. Your support and encouragement means so much!

6)  Read three books on the writing/publishing process.

April was a good month for this goal, as well. I read How I Got Published Ed. by Ray White and Duane Lindsay. A full review is on the way, but in short I found this book to be very helpful and encouraging.

One down, two to go!

7) Inspire others to keep writing.

As always, I can only hope I am a positive presence!

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How are you doing on your 2013 goals?

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c.b.w. 2013

Guest Blogger: Bonnie J. James


Today, I’m thrilled to host a blog post from Bonnie J. James. Her creativity and positive energy has inspired me on countless occasions. Recently, she completed and published her first novel, Just Breathe. I am so excited for her and I love seeing her book on my shelf.

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I’d like to say a quick Thank You to C.B. for letting me be a guest on her blog today.  C.B. has been an inspiration to me for years and I’m very honored to be here!

Hello everyone!  My name is Bonnie J. James and I am a writer.

It has taken me quite a few years to introduce myself like this.  I’ve used all sorts of other titles with ease, such as stay-at-home mom, teacher, secretary, and student.  Even last year when I was in the middle of writing a novel, I would offer a title like homemaker or volunteer.  Never, ever would I tell someone that I was a writer!

Why?  Because then I’d have to explain what I’d written!  Which was, well, a half of a manuscript.  (Plus a completed novel that was really good practice but something I knew I’d never want to show anyone).  Plus all of my blogging and journaling and… and… and.  You get it.  Many of you know exactly what I’m talking about – you feel it first-hand.

Like some of you, I’ve always loved to write.  It’s a part of who I am.  But I never felt like I had a right to give myself the title of “writer” until I had actually published something.  (This is all nonsense, I hope you know.  If you love to write, then you are a writer!) For quite a few years I wondered if I couldn’t just try to make this passion of mine into a career.  But what a scary thought!

I sat on this idea for a long time.  There were lots of excuses why I couldn’t be a writer – not enough time, I already had a job, my family was priority… the list goes on.  There were also the endless digs from my inner critic, including “you don’t write well enough, you aren’t smart enough, there are so many others way more talented than you…” Sound familiar?  But in the summer of 2011, an even stronger thought settled into my mind and heart and it wouldn’t go away.  It whispered to me over and over…   If you never try, you’ll never know.   And at the same time, I came across this quote from Kelly Rae Roberts:

“Pretend until you’re no longer pretending.”

As writers, we are very good at pretending.  When we write fiction we create entire stories and new worlds based on this.  We can sit for hours in our make-believe land, talking with our made-up characters.  It’s a happy place for us!  So couldn’t I just try to pretend I was a writer, just to see what would happen?

When I decided to give it a go, it actually became quite fun!  I dreamed up my perfect writing life.  What would my typical writing day and schedule be like?  When would I write, when would I network, when would I market my books?  How would I balance my writing life with my busy family life, where would I travel for research?  How would I feel when I saw my book in the library and bookstore?  What story would I write next, what book would I release after that?  The pretending was so fun that I would get blissfully lost in it!

And you guys, what still amazes me today is that while I was dreaming and pretending, I was steadily working toward the dreams.  I was motivated and excited, and somewhere along the way the lines of what was pretend and what was real began to blur.  Suddenly I found myself doing what I had only been dreaming of before.  I had a writing schedule.  I finished my novel.  I found an editor.  I found a publisher!  Was this really happening?  I found my books in the library, on Amazon, on bookstore shelves, and wow the feeling was even better than I’d imagined!  It truly unfolded in front of me when I had the guts to believe that dreams can come true.  I am so very grateful to the me from a few years ago, the me that decided to just pretend, just imagine, just try.

What about you?  Are you ready to pretend?  To dream?  To try?  Perhaps you’re already doing this – and isn’t it fun?!  And if you’re not, why not give it a whirl?  Let yourself dream it, feel it, believe it.  Pretend until you’re no longer pretending.   I promise you’ll be so glad that you did.

Bonnie J. James is a writer, an artist, a wife and mother.  Her debut novel, Just Breathe, was released in September and is available through your favorite bookseller.  Currently, Bonnie is “pretending” her way through a new career as an author and is working on her second book, coming in 2013.  Visit for book information and to visit her blog. 

Almost There!


Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.

– Neil Gaiman

Novel #2 is getting closer and closer to completion.  The goal is to get it done by the end of next week. I will do whatever I have to do to reach the final sentence. I hope success tastes as sweet as that strawberry!

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c.b.w. 2012