Where Did November Go Already? Gone!

keyboardDecember 1 how did you get here so fast? Wasn’t it just yesterday the calendar read November 1?  Last year at this time a smile crept across my lips as I’d finished the first draft of my second novel the evening before with the help of the folks at the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) website. Every November thousands of writers take up the “50,000 words in 30 days” challenge — daunting, but totally doable.

After meeting that challenge last November, I signed up for CampNaNoWriMo in July to knock out my third novel. The ideas and characters were in my mind waiting to make their way to be words and sentences on my netbook screen. Life happened and I didn’t even make it to the cabin check in. With the sun on my back and the wind in my face I focused on running and spending those summer days with my girls. I told myself I’d push my next novel to the spring instead of the fall and get that allusive draft done in November as I’d done the previous year.

November arrived and I started strong. The words flowed and the storyline progressed. Unfortunately for my characters (and the three or four readers awaiting my next book) life happened – mine that is. Interruptions (from children who should be sleeping) and distractions (like the new Nora Roberts and Barbara Freethy novels and a new season of Once Upon a Time) beckoned to me.

I tried to get back on track and then, as I often do when I know I should not, I checked the reviews of my books on Amazon. Every five-star and kind review makes me smile and feel good about my writing. I know logically, I can’t please every reader, however, those one-star reviews, have just as big of an effect on me as a writer as the five-star ones. I have a hard time blowing them off and tend to dwell on them and doubt my writing abilities. So, reading the review below in the beginning of my second week of writing, my motivation flagged and I just never got back to it… Here it is in its entirety…

If I could give it a -5 I would have.
I could not read the entire book. I’m sorry, I try to be fair but I cannot see how ANYONE in their right mind could give this book a 5, 4 or even a 3. I paid for the darn book based on reviews. These reviews have to be from family and friends of the author. I really wish I could get my money back. It was as if I were reading some teenager’s diary. Not sure how to describe the immature writing skills. The story might (big questionable might) have had a good storyline if it wasn’t for how this writer just dragged on and on on every single detail. For example, Mason taking a shower and every single detail about the towel and such…. really? It was a detailed description of EVERY SINGLE thought. I wanted to pull my hair out! The entire story was lame. This author needs a better editor if she has one at all. I’m sorry to say but don’t spend the money. I could not even finish the story.”

Sigh. Double-Sigh. I resisted responding and defending my position. The majority of the other reviews were not from my family members and personal friends. It should be enough that I know that, but it still doesn’t take the sting away from a bad review! After stewing on it and re-reading the positive reviews I’ve gotten on my first book and on this one as well, I realized that even though I failed to get that draft done in November, I shouldn’t give up. Writing is something I love and I shouldn’t let one hater take that away from me. Now, I just need to find that uninterrupted time away from distractions.  Early mornings? Late nights? I don’t know. I need to make it happen though!

Any ideas on finding the time to pursue your passions?

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Nasty Naysayers Beware

a-to-z-letters-nI’m my biggest critic. Neurotic thoughts often swirl with negativity when I think about myself -when I think about where I am now and where I want to be. The gap between my ideal “me” and the real “me” is wide. For me, writing is personal; my words are part of who I am. While my need for external validation is strong, I know that successful writers learn to tune out the naysayers and the haters.They set aside the rejections and move on.

Fear kept me from putting my words out there in the past; that fear of rejection and not being good enough. Yes, I write for myself, but the smile that comes with a positive comment or a great review of one my books is addictive. I indie-published two romance novels over that last year. I didn’t even try the traditional publishing route. For one I hate waiting and for another I didn’t want rejection to discourage me from my dreams. I did a lot of research before going the self-publishing route. I corresponded with and read the blogs of many romance authors who ditched their traditional contracts and re-published their back lists via self-publishing. These authors were succeeding and making more money than they had with their traditional contracts.  So in the end I decided in this new age of electronic books that I could reach more readers quicker as an indie author.Yet, still nagging the back of my mind  was the thought that I wouldn’t be a real “author” unless a traditional publisher published my books.

This notion led me to enter my first novel in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award – the winner of which would get a publishing contract with one of Amazon’s publishing imprints for romances, it’s Montlake. You have no idea how elated I was when I found my “pitch” made the cut and my excerpt would be read by expert Amazon reviewers. A month later I read two glowing reviews from those experts and moved on to the quarter-finals. Out of 10,000 entries only 500 remained. I started to feel like a “real” author. I knew my chances of making the semi-finals was slim. Only 25 entries moved on to the next level and only five in the romance category. What excited me though was that a Publisher’s Weekly (PW) reviewer would read my entire novel and provide feedback.

This morning Amazon announced the semi-finalists. My book did not make the grade. Don’t get me wrong. I’m fine with that fact. I’m not complaining (much). What I wasn’t prepared for though, given the fact that my first-round comments were so positive and the majority of reviews from my readers were complimentary, was the harsh, borderline-nasty review my book received. I know the PW reviewer gave what he or she thought to be an honest critique, but it felt mean. I write contemporary romance, not suspense or erotica. Yet, the reviewer bashed the book for being too “unexciting and slow-paced” and for not having enough sex in it, saying it was more “sad than sexy.”  I guess it’s a good thing I wasn’t going for sexy.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere. If anything, it made me realize I am a real author regardless of whether I have a traditional publishing contract or not. Being an indie author gives me the flexibility and control over what I write and when that I need. It also taught me that not everyone will like my books and that’s OK. Its find for someone to write a negative review so long as they aren’t nasty about it.