As some of you may know (and may be sick of hearing by now) my fifth novel, WHEN NEVER COMES, is due out on May 1st, and the last two days have been an absolute joy. And yesterday, the UPS man (aka: the book stork) brought me a big beautiful box of… you guessed it… author copies! Toss in the fact that it’s my first hardcover release… AND my first audio release, and you can probably guess that I’m a pretty happy girl!
Ask any proud mama and she’ll tell you the moment she held her baby for the first time made was one she’ll never forget. But I’m here to tell you, for authors, holding our book babies for the first time isn’t so very different. And when you think about it there are some pretty striking similarities. There’s the moment of conception, the giddy quickening of new life, followed by months and months (and… months) of awkward and uncomfortable stuff, like insomnia, exhaustion, second thoughts, not to mention the absolute certainty that you’ll never survive the process. And then, at long last, after much angst and weight gain (starting to sound familiar?) comes that final agonizing push, and viola! our creation enters the world in all its new and squalling glory.
And here’s something else–the best part, really. Most mothers will tell you those feelings don’t disappear with the second or third child. Or the fifth. Maybe you know what to expect (or think you do) but each birth is unique, fraught with its own hopes and fears and dreams. This holds true for authors as well, which is why, when that 40 lb. bundle of joy appears on the doorstep, courtesy of the UPS man, be it the first, the fifth, or the fifteenth, it can be a bit of a weepy moment. Because until we can finally hold it in our arms, call it by its name, and yes, even cuddle with it in bed, it’s never quite real. So excuse me while I coo just a little over my newest addition. I’m a new (ish) mama, and absolutely over the moon that I get to do this wonderful thing for a living!
This week I’ve been working on the first chapter of my brand new novel, and I don’t mind telling you, it’s been going spectacularly. And by spectacularly, I mean it’s been a bit of a disaster. You see, I’m a perfectionist. Now I know that sounds like a good thing, perhaps even a bit of a brag. But I assure it’s not. Because as a writer, there are times when perfection is the absolute last thing you want to strive for.
Confused yet? Okay, let me try to make sense of that. Writing a novel—or anything, for that matter—is a process that requires two distinctly different states of mind. (if we’re not counting mania, confusion, or total unworthiness as states of mind) The first is the “just get it all out” state of mind, required to get a fledging novel off the ground. It’s the starting point: messy, undefined, a brain dump of all the ideas swimming around in your noodle. The second state of mind is the “laser-focused” state of mind required to bring a novel to market. It’s the end point: the pretty, the polish, the song, the art. It’s also the dotting of Is and crossing of Ts, the refining of theme and voice and absolute clarity. “Laser-focused” is how you finish every writing project of your life.
And therein lies the rub.
“Laser-focused” is NOT how we should start a new project. The truth is, there’s nothing I find quite so torturous as making the shift between editing mode and first draft mode. In editing mode I’m focused on details, on the rules of grammar and punctuation, slashing wayward commas, polishing my words like carefully-mined diamonds. Editing mode is my wheelhouse, my holy grail, my mother’s milk! In editing mode there are rules. Clear do and don’ts. Best practices and never-evers. But then I’m done with that bit of art, ready to begin the next one, and I’m just supposed to… wing it???
Yes. I am.
And so is everyone else who wants to write. Because that’s what the process looks like when you don’t know what you’re doing, or where your story’s going. You have to be okay with being OUT OF CONTOL (not my favorite thing AT all) to be willing to just throw up on paper, knowing some of it (okay, most of it) is never going to see the light of day. You also have to understand what a first draft is—and more importantly, what it’s not. It’s NOT a book. It’s NOT art. It’s NOT sacred. It’s a therapy session, an excavation, an exploration of previously uncharted territory. And it’s supposed to be a mess.
5 Quick & Dirty Tips for Writing a “Throw-Uppy” First Draft:
- Know going in that it’s going to suck (yes, suck) and be okay with that. Stop agonizing over word choice, comma placement, to adverb or not to adverb. This is not time time or the place. Keep your hand and your brain moving. Think throwing up on paper.
- Keep the words flowing. (even the bad ones) You can’t edit what you haven’t written. But you can spend a ton of time editing words that are never going to make it into the final draft. Get the story out, build the ideas, explore scene options and character traits. That’s what this stage is about; feeling your way to your story with both hands and a flashlight.
- A first draft is for your eyes only. Seriously, this draft is about you. Your process, your discovery, your epiphanies. Critique partners and beta readers can provide invaluable insight later in the process, but right now, you don’t need anyone else in your head.
- Stop trying to put lipstick on a skeleton. First drafts are about laying down the bones, building a structure for your ideas, a foundation for all the details that will come later. In other words: it’s everything. The pretty will come later. (I promise)
- Muzzle your inner critic and keep writing. This where the rubber meets the road, where you have to ignore everything your 9th grade English teacher or last copy editor has ever told you… and just write. Forget the spelling, the punctuation, the endless searching for the perfect word, and just make a mess. Messy is okay. Messy is part of the process. Messy is GOLD.
As some of you know, I’m a southern girl living in New Hampshire, which means dealing with months and months of… you guessed it, snow. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love snow, but by the third week of February this southern girl is coming down with one nasty case of cabin fever. It hardly helps matters that it was a glorious and sunny 72 degrees yesterday, and that today we’re getting… you guessed it, more snow. (I SWEAR I’m not making that up!) So can you really blame me for pining for my flip flops, and musing about what to pack in my beach bag? I mean, where’s a girl to turn when she’s stuck inside, if not to books? And so, I thought I’d share my three top beach read picks, all due out in April or May, and all written by authors who never EVER disappoint. Just give me a minute to swap out my steamy mug of cocoa for a frosty pina colada. Okay, ready… here goes!
THE SECRET TO SOUTHERN CHARM by Kristy Woodson Harvey (April 3, 2018)
After finding out her military husband is missing in action, middle sister Sloane’s world crumbles as her worst nightmare comes true. She can barely climb out of bed, much less summon the strength to be the parent her children deserve.
Her mother, Ansley, provides a much-needed respite as she puts her personal life on hold to help Sloane and her grandchildren wade through their new grief-stricken lives. But between caring for her own aging mother, her daughters, and her grandchildren, Ansley’s private worry is that secrets from her past will come to light.
But when Sloane’s sisters, Caroline and Emerson, remind Sloane that no matter what, she promised her husband she would carry on for their young sons, Sloane finds the support and courage she needs to chase her biggest dreams—and face her deepest fears. Taking a cue from her middle daughter, Ansley takes her own leap of faith and realizes that, after all this time, she might finally be able to have it all.
BEST BEACH EVER (Ten Beach Road Series) by Wendy Wax (May 22, 2018)
Forced to rent out or lose their beloved Bella Flora after the loss of their renovation-turned-reality-TV show Do Over, Maddie, Nikki, Avery, Kyra, and Bitsy move into cottages at the Sunshine Hotel and Beach Club believing the worst is over. Only to discover just how uncertain their futures really are.
Maddie struggles with the challenges of dating a rock star whose career has come roaring back to life while Nikki faces the daunting realities of mothering twins at forty-seven. Avery buries herself in a tiny home build in an attempt to dodge commitment issues, and Kyra battles to protect her son from the Hollywood world she once dreamed of joining. And Bitsy is about to find out whether the rewards of seeking revenge will outweigh the risks.
Luckily, when the going gets tough, the ladies of Ten Beach Road know that their friendship–tried and tested–can chase away the darkest clouds and let the sun shine in.
THE HIGH TIDE CLUB by Mary Kay Andrews (May 8, 2018)
When ninety-nine-year-old heiress Josephine Bettendorf Warrick summons Brooke Trappnell to Talisa Island, her 20,000 acre remote barrier island home, Brooke is puzzled. Everybody in the South has heard about the eccentric millionaire mistress of Talisa, but Brooke has never met her. Josephine’s cryptic note says she wants to discuss an important legal matter with Brooke, who is an attorney, but Brooke knows that Mrs. Warrick has long been a client of a prestigious Atlanta law firm.
Over a few meetings, the ailing Josephine spins a tale of old friendships, secrets, betrayal and a long-unsolved murder. She tells Brooke she is hiring her for two reasons: to protect her island and legacy from those who would despoil her land, and secondly, to help her make amends with the heirs of the long dead women who were her closest friends, the girls of The High Tide Club—so named because of their youthful skinny dipping escapades—Millie, Ruth and Varina. When Josephine dies with her secrets intact, Brooke is charged with contacting Josephine’s friends’ descendants and bringing them together on Talisa for a reunion of women who’ve actually never met.
So there you have it peeps, a sneak peek at what the well-stocked beach bag will hold this Spring and Summer. All three titles are available now for preorder, (which I have already done myself!) and I’ve linked the titles to their Amazon pages to make it easy for you! Also, make sure to add them to your Goodreads “To Be Read” Shelf! Happy reading, y’all. And don’t forget your sunscreen!
Two years ago, while cleaning the toilet, (swear to God) I was given a gift—a shiny new idea for a book. It came as many of my ideas seem to, out of nowhere and nearly fully formed. Thrilled, I dropped what I was doing, (the toilet, remember?) and rushed to find a pen and legal pad. For the next three hours I wrote furiously, thrilled with the idea of a woman whose life is turned upside down with a single phone call, and is then faced with a seemingly impossible choice—to do the thing she has sworn all her life never to do. Sounds exciting, right? Except, the thought made me so squeamish I wasn’t sure I wanted to write it.
You see, I have a lot of “nevers” in my own life, things I’ve sworn I’ll never do. I decided a long time ago that there were things I simply wasn’t cut out for, like jumping out of an airplane, scaling Everest, or snorkeling in shark infested waters. Nope. No way. No how. But there were other things too, things like getting Twitter savvy, taking charge of my investments, and getting my arms around the whole blogging thing.
Not exactly life and death stuff, right? But for me they felt like it, because admitting I don’t know how to do something everyone on the planet already knows how to do is scary, and being scared is, well… scary. I was scared of being scared, if you can believe that. Scared of looking inept, of getting it wrong, of having to ask for help. And so, I simply decided to slide all those I-don’t-know-how items over into the “Never Column.” If I didn’t look at them I wouldn’t have to feel scared, or inept, or imperfect. Problem solved, right? Umm… not exactly.
Because something happened when I finally finished writing When Never Comes. (the toilet book, in case you lost track) I had to come up with a tagline for the book, which amounts to boiling four hundred pages into a single pithy line, and what I came up with was: “Sometimes it’s the thing that scares us most that ultimately saves us.” I loved that line. I loved the kickass truth behind it, the sense of power that comes with taking an enormous leap of faith. And all the while I was ducking the small stuff, so uncomfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable that I was stunting both my personal and professional growth. So where did I get off championing a character who must find the courage to face her biggest fear?
It was time for some serious introspection, and a deep dive into the subject of fear. And what I learned in that deep dive is that I’m not even close to being the only one who’s scared of being scared. (even of the little stuff) We all hate it, right? That icky sensation that comes with feeling out of our depth, out of control, out of courage. Of venturing into unknown territory armed with nothing but fear and our wits. But what I also learned is that being scared isn’t just normal, it’s actually a HUGE blessing.
It’s like the Divine waving us in, or a giant arrow pointing the way to the yellow brick road. Fear is the sweet spot, my lovelies, a cue from the Universe that just maybe we’re on to something. The scary doesn’t go away, but it does serve a purpose. If we want to be someone we’ve never been before, it stands to reason that we’re going to have to do things we’ve never done. It also stands to reason that if we’ve never done a thing, it’s going to scare us a little. Or a LOT.
Are you seeing how the dots are connecting? Where we’ve previously seen danger, we start to see that being scared may actually be a sign that we’re headed for something big. Or at least something shiny and new. In our comfort zone, sameness reigns and the scenery never changes, but we’re cozy where we are, so why rock the boat? As long as we stay on familiar ground nothing bad can happen, right? That was my theory, anyway. What I didn’t realize was that I was standing in quicksand, sinking deeper and deeper into a place I didn’t actually want to be, let alone stay.
I call it the comfort trap now, because that’s exactly what it is—a big fat trap—and because I still need to be reminded that scary shouldn’t always stop me in my tracks. Looking back, I now see that every good thing that’s ever happened to me happened because I took some action that scared the living poo out of me. Proof that sometimes it really IS the thing that scares us most that ultimately saves us.
So… that’s my dirty little secret: being scared scares me. But you can’t be brave if you’re not at least a little scared, right? And I do so love the idea of being brave. So… truth time. Have there been times when you let fear hold you back from things you needed or wanted to do? And if so, how did you manage to get past it? Looking back, can you see how your life changed when you started facing your fears?
Howdy y’all, from frosty New Hampshire, and welcome to my first ever blog post! I really did mean to get around to this before now, but you know… life. So, here I am, finally getting around to it, and since the experts tell me I’m suppose to use this inaugural post to tell my story, here goes…
I’m a Jersey girl raised in the deep-south, now blessed to be living and writing in New England. Before my “big break” (more about that later) I spent fifteen years wearing heels and schlepping a briefcase as an executive in the jewelry industry. Then, at the height of the Great Recession, I suddenly found myself the recipient of a big fat pink slip and a serious case of burnout. I was officially being downsized. Thank… heavens.
Little did I know, what felt like the end of the world was actually the beginning of a dream. You see, for four years I’d had a novel bouncing around in my head, a dead women with a secret to tell, if only I was brave enough to tell it. But brave is easier said than done when you have a mortgage to make every month. The thought of trying to make a living with no formal writing education scared me to death. Lucky for me, it didn’t scare my hubby, who convinced me not to go back to work, and instead, take my shot.
So that’s what I did. And then about halfway in I got cold feet. What if I was no good? What if my story concept didn’t fly? The time had come to put myself out there and find out if I was really onto something, or if it was time to head to my local Taco Bell and pick up an application. I found a local writer’s group and joined, agreeing to submit a sample of my work for critique the following week. That’s when the magic started.
I was a wreck on my way to the meeting, terrified I’d return home with my dreams around my ankles. In fact, if it wasn’t for my husband, I probably would have chickened out entirely. But I went. And because I went, because I did the thing I was terrified to do, (yes, terrified) I wound up meeting my agent that night. She had popped into the meeting to scout local talent, and would I be interested in letting her read the rest of my chapters. I mean… what are the odds?????
Two weeks later, I had an honest-to-goodness literary agent. A few months after that, I signed a two-book deal with a Big Five publisher. My dream had come true, and in a way I could never have mapped out for myself. Five books later, I’m still pinching myself, and still as much in love with writing as I was the day I began this journey. But here’s the real reason I love telling my story… if it can happen for me it can happen for anyone. I also learned a few things. I learned that even when everything seems to be falling apart, the Universe has your back, that it rewards action, especially when that action feels scary, and that there’s no such thing as a dream that’s too big. And that, my friends, is why I traffic in happily-ever-afters. Because they’re real!
As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m a big old cheerleader, and as I continue to grow this blog I hope to create a forum that’s not just about books, but also about what’s possible when we honor our dreams and live a life that truly feeds the soul. Yes, I’ll be talking about my books, sometimes shamelessly, (did I mention I have a new novel releasing May 1st, called When Never Comes?) but I’ll also be talking about the writing process, posting reviews, hosting fabulous authors, sharing bits of my world, and maybe even a recipe or two. I’d love to have you join me, to swap ideas and maybe share the stuff that speaks to you. I’d also love to hear what else you’d like to talk about, so drop me a comment. Love and Light, peeps, until next time!
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