Five Years In

Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of the day I first sat down at the computer and began writing my first novel. I don’t know how many writers keep track of such an anniversary, but it’s in my nature to do something like that.

And I tend to be reflective when anniversaries arise. So now that I’ve spent five years on this journey, what have I experienced? And where am I heading?

The Journey Began

There was some great fun the first couple of years. I watched the words flow onto the screen, often unaware of what was happening in the story until I read it myself. To see this creativity coming from my mind was so different from anything I’d done before. It was invigorating.

And I wanted to doWorking on WIP 001 it right. I bought books about writing. I subscribed to Writer’s Digest. I learned that the compliments and high marks I’d received in school for my writing were nice, but not enough. Still, I was confident I’d have the two manuscripts whipped into shape in no time. In early 2011, not even two years after I started Summer at the Crossroads, I queried the manuscript.

There were no bites. I knew this was a difficult story to describe, and I realized it might be unmarketable as a first book. So I switched to the other manuscript, Death Out of Time, a straightforward time-travel story. I continued to read about writing and believed I was on the right track with this second story.

Much as I dreaded social media, my research showed that if I was serious about finding an audience, I had to put myself out there. So on 31 October 2011 I bit the bullet and launched this blog. It took time to build an audience. I wasn’t one to dive into other blogs and start commenting on and “liking” every post I read. But eventually I was accepted into this amazing part of the blogosphere.

 The Journey Continued

I’ve made some wonderful friends here. And some of them have become invaluable beta readers, too. Before that time, everyone who had read Summer at the Crossroads and Death Out of Time was a friend, family member, or friend of a family member. As I finished up drafts of Death Out of Time and what I believed was a better version of Summer at the Crossroads, those betas provided tremendous insights and priceless comments.not-blank notebook

And I learned a difficult lesson. I had been overly confident about my writing skills.

Don’t get me wrong. There were things I had done right. My story ideas were interesting. I had some good descriptions of places and past events. Dialogue was realistic and moved the story forward (for the most part). The main characters had the potential to hold a reader’s interest.

But there were major problems. The stories were full of information dumps, extraneous information that also misled readers, repetitive information and details, relationships that didn’t work, vagueness/deception when I aimed for subtlety/mystery, shifting POV, too much emphasis on minor characters, too many minor characters, contrived events, scenes that didn’t advance the story or work as I hoped, too much “tell,” and characters who showed no growth. The stories also lacked tension and conflict.

That’s a lot of room for improvement. And I’ve made strides in some areas. I’m careful now not to slip into omniscient POV. I’ve slashed the number of both supporting and minor characters and the amount of time spent with them. I’m more likely to recognize “tells” and rework them into “shows.”

I still fall short on three important levels, though.

1) I haven’t demonstrated that I can turn interesting ideas into interesting stories. The reality is good ideas are everywhere. Anyone can come up with at least one. The talent and skill lie in converting those ideas into gripping stories that hold a reader’s attention and won’t let go from Page One to The End. Meghan Bode has come closest to this goal, but even her adventures wouldn’t meet the modern criteria for a story. I doubt any editor would take them on as they stand, even if I took away the serialized format.

2) I haven’t figured out how to make the characters more distinctive, believable, and flawed. I need to do this if readers are going to care about the people in the stories. Because if readers don’t care, they won’t keep reading unless they’re compiling the supporting evidence for a scathing review. Thanks to my betas, neither Summer nor Death was subjected to that particular fate.

3) I don’t know if the rebuilds have enough tension and conflict. I’ve tried to “up the ante,” but I question my ability to know if I’m succeeding or not. Even if I have the right ingredients, will my presentation do them justice?

What Will The Next Five Years Bring?

The honest answer is:

I don’t know.

Frankly, when I wrote the poll for last week’s post, my vote likely would’ve been for “Forget this book! It only works in the author’s head.” I had recently re-read the various comments on the last draft of Summer at the Crossroads, and they were sobering. It’s good that I’m not bringing over much from that earlier version because I wouldn’t improve the story or characters enough if I did.

For the foreseeable future, though, I’ll continue this rebuild as best I can. No other stories demand to be written. Madeleine O’Brien isn’t pressing me to solve that “death out of time.” Meghan Bode isn’t talking about a novel or even another blog-based adventure. No new characters have introduced themselves. If anything like that happens, I might shelve Crossroads and change gears—unless the Crossroads gang decides to let the ideas fly. Last November, I’d hoped to have a revised draft of Death Out of Time done by sometime in May. That isn’t going to happen.

Beyond that, I don’t know. I can’t rule out the possibility that I could stop writing. I miss the fun of those first days. Yes, much of it was from blissful ignorance of everything I was doing wrong. But now I worry so much about my previous mistakes and shortcomings that I’ve lost the ability to simply enjoy writing the first draft of a new story, to watch in wonder as the characters and their adventures unfold. If I can’t find that joy again, might I one day close the Scrivener files and walk away? But I’m going to keep working on the writing. I just have to find a better way to approach it.

As For The Next Five Months

Things are shaping up to be very busy from May through at least September on the home and work fronts. And I need to focus on finding that better approach to writing. So it’s time for a blogging break. I plan to visit your blogs when I can, but posting must bow to my sanity’s needs. Once or twice a month will be all I can manage. Other bloggers have done it without losing their audiences, and I hope you would all welcome me back, too.

Honestly, a break might do wonders to refresh my Muse and to help me figure out how I’d like the blog to go forward. The last thing I want is to drive you away by focusing on my self-doubt and lack of confidence issues. And yet I’ve already seen a number of long-time visitors drop away. I understand. When I started blogging, I promised not to use this outlet as a therapist’s couch, and I should keep my word. So my next post will be sometime in May. And I hope I’ll see you then.

Scrivener Screenshot

Will readers enjoy this scene? Or will betas find it contrived and unrealistic as happened with others in the previous version? Did anyone take a closer look at it to read it?

I hope your creative endeavors are finding more success as the year progresses.

79 thoughts on “Five Years In

  1. Sometimes we all need this kind of break JM. Writing is a battle of the mind and when we hit a low period it’s natural to want to withdraw. I would say take all the time you need, but please come back. It’s always a pleasure sharing the journey with you and hearing about your struggles/triumphs and success stories (which you will have many more to come) x

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    • Thanks, Gemma, for the supportive words. Meeting wonderful people like you here is why I can’t totally step away from the blog. That’s why I’ll post something at least once a month and continue to make once a week visits to your blog and others. For those bloggers who post more frequently, I’m going to select one post for the week. That will be hard, but the amount of time spent on other blogs really takes away from time with my WIPs. And those are supposed to be my focus!

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  2. I will miss you, JM, as your blog ranks among my favorites. Probably what I like best is your straightforward honesty, because I can relate to almost everything you write. I think every writer falls into a similar learning curve, or at least I have. I also started out with loads of confidence, and the longer I write, the more I realize what an uphill battle this is, that writing is a craft that’s never mastered. When you listed your current shortcomings above, I was struck by #1, because I’ve had the same thoughts lately. Great ideas are one thing, but turning them into great stories are quite another.

    Something I decided to focus my energy on when I walked away from my dismal attempt at novel-writing in 2012 was flash and short fiction. How can I run the marathon, I reasoned, if I haven’t even trained for the 5k? Working with shorter pieces has helped me learn more about story structure and character development in much smaller doses. I’m back to the novel now after an 18-month break, but I’m taking it slowly, writing a draft of a detailed outline. Maybe if I can work out the bugs in the outlining process, I’ll be able to write a better manuscript draft. And the current version looks completely different from my original premise (that’s probably a good thing). When I hit a wall with the novel outlining, I do some freewriting and go back to my flash pieces. I’ve got three pieces in the submissions stage, and this is a really slow process. But if one or two are picked up by a lit mag, it will do wonders for my confidence.

    I wish you well as you decide what’s next in your writing journey. I’m sorry you’ve gone through such a rough time lately, but I’ll bet every one of your readers here can empathize. I’ll look forward to you next post, and I’ll be here, whenever that may be.

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    • Thanks so much, Gwen, for the supportive words. It’s always good to know that we’re not alone in our doubts and misgivings, isn’t it?

      Meghan’s stories were a way for me to step away from the novels, too, and, like you, I’ve learned a lot from those endeavors. Of course, they’re also part of the reason why I now see how far the two novels had to go before they would be ready! It’s so true that writing is never fully mastered. Even the best, most gifted authors will always find ways to make the next story even better. And while I’ll never reach those heights, I would like my abilities to reach the point where some people would really enjoy my stories. Maybe someday. But blogging has really devoured my time, and the WIPs have suffered too much as a result.

      I won’t disappear entirely. I’m afraid if I stop posting all together for 5 months that I would simply not return. But once a month will hopefully be enough to keep me on my readers’ radar. And you will still see me visiting your blog, too. I’ll drop to once a week for everyone, but that’s every post for many bloggers. It’s the more frequent posters who will see the drop in my visits since I’ll limit my time to only one post per week per blogger. That’s where the biggest chunk of my blogging time goes.

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      • Blogging’s a time commitment, that’s an understatement. I think we all wrestle with it, and how to balance it with our own writing time (not to mention life). Every now and then when I consider bowing out of the whole enterprise, I think of all the great folks I’ve connected with and everything I’ve learned. I think this summer I’m going to take it down to twice monthly, rather than every Monday. Since I don’t work in the summers, it will free up some of those delicious writing hours.

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    • That is my hope, too. And I won’t disappear completely. I’ll pop up once a month over here, and I’ll still visit other blogs once a week. So you’ll see me over in your corner. ;)

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  3. Thank you for your honest insight into your process. I’ve felt stuck for a while and it’s great to hear about the challenges and passions my compatriots are experiencing. This is very helpful and appreciated. :-)

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    • I hate feeling stuck. And I don’t want to keep posting about being stuck. I want to be unstuck. And I’m hoping this step back will be the change I need to get moving again. And I hope you’ll find your way forward before long, too. :)

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  4. Of course we will still be waiting when you return, I just hope you will want to return! As you know, when some bloggers take a break they get out of the habit and don’t come back. I will certainly miss you, I look forward to your posts. Completely understandable though, you obviously need to do this and I hope it helps you find your writing spirit again. I do just want to say, please don’t imagine that the long term followers who have left is any kind of reflection of something wrong that you have done – followers drift, and come and go, cut back on, or change the types of blogs they follow, it’s the nature of the beast!

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    • The main reason I plan to post once a month is so that I do return! If I stopped completely, then I might wander away. And I don’t want to do that. I want to recenter and figure out where my writing (and my blogging) are heading. It’d be lovely if come October I piped up with a post that announced a major breakthrough, but I shouldn’t hold my breath. If that’s going to happen, I need to make it happen. After all, my Muse isn’t going to drop a fully formed story in my lap.

      Objectively, I know you’re right—that some readers simply lose interest in one topic and move to another. But I don’t want to focus my posts on my difficulties and wear people out with them. At times I suspect I’m wearing myself out with them. So better to step back for a while to regroup and find my writing passion again.

      I will still be visiting your blog and others—but it’ll be down to once a week and only one post for those bloggers who do more than one. That should free up a significant chunk of time for my creative brain to use!

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      • Sounds like you have a good plan there! I would love to offer to be a beta reader for you, but as I’m sure you understand I just don’t have the time this year with my course and everything! However if there is say one scene or an extract or something at some point that you would like another opinion on, I could certainly do that, so do feel free to email me.

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  5. As a favored character from the series, “Lost” would say…”See you in another life, brother.” ;)

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  6. You know I will be here when you come back. I paused over what you wrote regarding having lost some longtime followers. The same thing happened to me, and it can be distressing. You wonder if you did something to chase them off. But, on the flip side, I gained followers, too. I would be more concerned if I had lost but not gained. Multiple reasons abound for why bloggers walk away. At first, you think they stopped blogging altogether only to discover they found a new set of friends! Brings back those old memories from high school. :) I agree with Vanessa. Most of the time, it has nothing to do with you. Some bloggers just need a fresh community to chat with.

    Any time you have written about the trials and tribs of writing, I never considered your blog as a downer. You’re honest, and you speak to many of my concerns and worries as I trudge along this road. So, don’t start thinking people have left because of what you write, or don’t write. I think more people relate to you and your writing than you realize!

    I have mixed feelings about the impact of blogging on my projects. I think that blogging breaks are healthy, because then you are maintaining control. I think it’s too easy to let blogging take over, and that’s when it becomes a problem. The trick is to figure out how to use blogging to support our work. You’ll find your way, I know.

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    • I think you and Vanessa are right about the reasons for long-time followers disappearing. Still, I don’t want my posts to keep focusing on my difficulties and thus wear people out with them. I may even be wearing myself out with them. So I hope the step back to regroup and find my writing passion again will help. (Oh, those high school dramas—sometimes I wonder how I survived them! :) )

      I do believe that blogging has been a mixed blessing for me. On the one hand, I’ve made wonderful friends like you and learned so much about writing. On the other, the amount of time spent writing fiction has plummeted. And that is not how it should be. More time should be spent on my fiction, which was really the whole point for blogging in the first place. It will be strange at first to spend less time here. But if my inspiration picks up again and the Scrivener files grow, I’ll be a very happy camper. Maybe then I’ll stick with posting only once or twice a month because I’m just too busy writing to do anything more.

      We’ll see how this goes. After all, I won’t completely disappear. I couldn’t go cold turkey like that! ;)

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  7. I relate to your story on so many fronts. I completed the first draft of my mystery novel in 2011. It took three years and I learned a lot about the craft of writing along the way. Or so I thought. Filled with glee and confidence–completing it was a major achievement–I showed it to an agent at a conference. Poof! She pointed out several issues I’d have to revise. Back to it. Made changes. Queried a ton of agents. Nothing! Another writer’s conference where I pitched more agents only to hear my premise might be a hard sell. I think the flaw is with my pitch more than my premise but definitely worth thinking about. I’ve switched to non-fiction for now. Need to let that fictional puppy sleep in the corner for a while. Need to let those lessons and new ideas incubate.

    I did read your snippet and don’t think it feels contrived. I will miss reading your blog on a more frequent basis but I’ll be here whenever you write. It feels to me like a friend is going to go live in another place for a time but we’ll still stay in touch.

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    • I’m hoping this break will let the sleeping puppy wake up again soon. While I’ve made some wonderful friends like you through blogging and learned so much more about writing, the simple fact is that my writing time declined sharply with blogging. And really the blog was supposed to support my efforts to get my “nearly ready” manuscripts an audience. Oops.

      Luckily, I’m not writing in the hopes of making the bestseller lists or a ton of money. But I would like an audience of some sort for the books. And before that can happen, the books need to improve. And to improve, I need to work on them more steadily. Blogging needs to give up the limelight. But I’ll still be visiting once a week and posting once a month. So I won’t disappear completely. We all just won’t be hanging out together quite as much.

      So far, I think you might be the only one who has read that snippet…. ;)

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      • I’m glad you won’t disappear altogether. I do understand what you mean about how blogging can take over the time you need and want for writing. I’m in your corner and support your decision. Now go write. :-)

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  8. I don’t think stepping away from the blog and posting only a couple times a month will diminish your core followers at all. In fact, it’s easier for people to follow bloggers who post infrequently than those that post near daily. You deserve to put your focus on your creative writing, especially since you’re reassessing things as they are.

    Have you thought about stepping away from the two books and just starting something fresh? Sketching out an outline for something new? Maybe it might help you get that creative bliss back. Your other stories will always be there for you when you’re ready to go back to them. Of course, I understand how difficult that might be. I’m the type of person who likes to work on one project at a time, and starting something new could send me into palpitations. But it might be an option if you’re truly feeling stuck or uninspired.

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    • I thought after Meghan Bode’s two stories that I would switch to a novel featuring her. And while I have done some work with it, she’s not clamoring for my attention. The story would feature more elements of traditional mysteries, and I think both of us are nervous about getting that right. I’ve tried to let my Muse wander with possible ideas, but so far nothing’s coming to mind. And that’s one reason I’ve kept working on SATC, where the characters are revealing the story details, albeit at a very slow pace. But shifting my focus away from weekly blog ideas and keeping up too much with folks who post more than once per week should help. I can let my creativity focus on fiction rather than posts. At least, that’s the plan. ;)

      Some of the real-life busy-ness might help, too, by keeping my brain occupied on other matters for big chunks of time. Sometimes the creative mind works best behind the scenes….

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  9. J, I so understand your dilemma. I think blogging is a great tool to get in the habit of writing and I like you, I’ve found friends (you included) who have been supportive and encouraging. But blogging and commenting can take a lot of time and you find yourself thinking–I could be spending this time writing on the book–the thing I say I want to finish.

    I will miss you but you have to do what you have to do. I’ve stopped posting so much. I visit this blogs when I can and comment when I can. I post when I can.

    Whatever you do or decide, drop me a line whenever you can–your blog has always been a lovely place to visit, commiserate and feel good in. Take care and if there’s a story that needs to be written, if it won’t let you go, there’s your answer. You’ll figure it out.

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    • I think it would be interesting to go back and chart how much time I spent writing before I started blogging and then after. I suspect there would be a massive decline in my writing after the first few months of blogging, when I started gaining an audience and connecting with people in the comments. I love that connection! But the time spent commenting both here and on a number of other blogs really started to add up.

      Of course, those connections with wonderful people like you are why I can’t make a complete break. And that’s why I’ll continue to post once or twice a month and visit other blogs once a week. But the creative focus has to get back to the fiction!

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  10. Enjoy your break. I will definitely be here when you post something and hope the rest gives you time to destress and focus more on your story writing than wondering how to keep your blog going. We all struggle with that (well, at least I do).

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    • I definitely struggle with that, too. And the effort to come up with interesting and entertaining posts definitely decreases the creativity available for my fiction. And that’s not a good balance. So once the comments stop coming in on this post, we’ll see if my Muse and I can play with some ideas again. That might lead existing characters to get jealous and finally open up more with their stories….

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  11. JM, I think a blog break is a good idea. I’ve taken blog breaks and writing sabbaticals. Back in 2011, I was 5 years into my journey and I thought I might just walk away from writing. I decided to just write travel posts for my blog for the 8 weeks I was traveling in Asia. On week 3, I was certain I was okay with not writing. Then on week 4, I got pickpocketed and my first instinct was to write my way through it. Sometimes, life helps you find your way back to writing. :) Hugs Hugs, Kour

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    • I hope it doesn’t take something as drastic as crime to lead me to a story! :) I think the step back from the pressure of coming up with weekly blog ideas will help immensely. As will cutting back on the number of posts I read, which will really be hard for me. Even when I don’t always comment on a particular blog, I’m often still reading. But that’s a massive time suck, too. And it pulls me out of contact with my characters and stories. So, time to make some drastic changes.

      And when I am refreshed, I’ll probably keep a more limited posting and reading schedule. Hopefully that will keep me from future burnout or falling into bad habits again that distract me from the books.

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      • Me too! :) It was rather traumatic to be without my wallet in a foreign country. But sometimes we need breaks and sometimes we need to re-find the joy in things. Two years ago, I was trying to read every blog I followed and trying to keep up with posting–it’s just too much. Social media exhaustion set in and I got super cranky and miserable. It’s really hard to find that balance. I think you are 100% right to focus on your characters and your writing. Even if you only blog a couple times a month and only read a few blogs. Writing has to come first, especially since you have a dual career and are stretched thin to begin with. :)

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  12. I really like the way your able to objective analyze your writing and ask yourself the +hard questions (which I’m certain you’ll soon find answers to).
    Blogging takes up a lot of time and so I can see how taking a blog break is a sane thing to do, just to take care of other business and refresh your muse.
    Don’t worry about loisng your followers. We’ll still be here and happy to see you back. :)

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    • Thanks, Carol. :) There’s a lot of hard work that goes into blogging (if we’re trying to do it well), and part of me worries that I’ll lose my momentum with this break. But my sanity keeps reminding me that I’m failing at my initial reason for blogging—to highlight my fiction. The hardest part will be not commenting as often or intensively on other posts. I’ll miss those conversations!

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      • There is a lot of hard work…but it’s also writing and that’s what makes it extremely seductive to writers.
        I wouldn’t worry about losing your momentum…I’m sure you’ll be practicing it elsewhere…and will return with your original reason for blogging even stronger than before. :)

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  13. Time certainly seems to fly. Congratulations on your five year writerversary! It was so interesting hearing about your journey as a lot of us have been on similar ones. Enjoy your time off, J.M. we’ll be waiting for you. ;-)

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    • Thanks, Phillip! And just maybe in a few months I’ll have news of a project to share. I think I’ll keep mum about any breakthroughs that come about this spring and summer for a while, though—so I don’t jinx them. ;)

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  14. Such an honest post!

    I’m just a blogger who enjoys writing for fun, but I do understand the need and benefit of stepping back from the blogosphere for your professional growth and recharge. I’m sure others will agree with me that we’ll still be here when you get back!

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    • Thank you, Cindi! Cutting back on the interactions will be the hardest thing for me. I really enjoy the conversations that are carried out in comments. But they are time-consuming. Still, I can’t make a complete break from blogging. That’s why I’ll do one post a month and make once a week visits to other blogs. :)

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  15. JM, As evident from all the comments, you are not alone. Not by far. I am at a similar phase of my writing life and have to do some serious re-evaluation of which process works for me. At this point I tend to lean towards starting an entirely new project – even in a new genre I haven’t tried but like to read, and with new characters. No recycling of past writing at the moment. As for blogging, you made a good decision. You have such loyal followers and they will continue to look for your posts. Enjoy the time off and I look forward to your fully recharged return.

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    • Thank you, Helga, for the support! I think it’s too easy to get caught up in blogging, especially for writers, where we meet so many like-minded and interesting people. It’s fascinating to have early glimpses of someone’s work or the chance to connect with potential critique partners. But I know I’m not the only blogger who has noticed a decline in time spent with the WIPs and new projects. And I’ve gone too far in that direction. Now, maybe a new idea will develop. Or my current characters will take advantage of the time and the part of my brain that have been freed up from too much blogging. That’s where I need to focus for a while. And then when I am back on track, I need to stay there. So I’ll have to be good and continue to limit my posting and visiting of other blogs, no matter how hard that will be. But if, in the end, that means that you and others will have real books to read, then it’s all worth it.

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  16. I stand intrigued by that snippet, JM. :) I like the banter between the characters – their camaraderie shows through. There also seems to be something else burbling beneath the surface. A lost chance in the past, perhaps, or simply some professional competition.

    On the blog note, take the breaks as you need them! They can definitely work wonders on our psyche. Certainly, I’ll miss your interesting posts and thought-provoking feedback, but I totally empathize with the need to step back for a while. The good part of taking a break is that it should help you focus on what you’re really trying to do: build your story to the best it can be. Yes, the outreach aspect can help extend your audience, but if you’re like me, you’re probably more interested in the integrity and timelessness of the story itself rather than the relatively transient value of a social media audience. That comes across more bitter than my intent…but it’s true. :)

    Happy writing!

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    • You may be only the second person to read that snippet, Mayumi. ;) Dan was not supposed to appear until the sequel. But with the rebuild, he became a central character in this book, even if not a major one. And you are spot-on correct about there being something beneath the surface. As to what that is, well, I can’t give away too much, right? :)

      On one hand, blogging has been very good to me. I’ve made wonderful friends and found fantastic beta readers (which I lacked before). I learned my writing wasn’t at the level I’d thought. That’s great. On the other hand, I’ve spent far too much time reading other blogs and working on my own at the expense of my fiction. That’s bad. And it’s time to reset the balance and focus to where they should be. Fiction must come first if I’m serious about being a writer.

      Behind the scenes, I’ll probably be making some painful decisions—like no longer following some bloggers. But if I’m going to be faithful to my Muse and characters, some of that “play time” has to go. Not all, of course. But if there are blogs I really don’t read or interact with very often, shouldn’t I cut the cord so I don’t feel guilty when they show up in my reader? Other people do that without a twinge of regret or second thought. It’s my nature to feel bad about it, though. ;)

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  17. I’ve had many a visitor drop away from my blog, too. It bums me out sometimes. :-( I’ve been working on my first novel for close to five years. I just finished my third edit. First two times it was critiqued through my writer’s group. The third one went through the beta readers. It’s done. Now, I either need to shop it around, or find an editor if I decide to self-publish. Can’t decide yet, but I did make a decision … to put it aside and write one of my other story ideas for a bit. It’s funny, I’ve seen many a blogger take breaks from blogging in my two years. I haven’t taken one break yet, but still seem to lose people somehow. When I need a break, I take mine from writing, because my blog is interaction, and writing gets lonely. But who knows, my blog may get put aside one day too. We all do what needs to be done when it’s necessary.

    I hope you find what it is you’re looking for, be it your muse, or something else that will lift your spirits and enrich your life. Blessings to you.

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    • Objectively, I know Vanessa and Kate above are right about those readers who disappear. Some stop blogging. Others find new interests. And their withdrawal from our blogs doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with us. But it’s my nature to think I must have let them down or caused them to lose interest. Maybe in some cases I did. But probably not in most! In reality, some people probably hit “follow” too soon—and then realize the blog wasn’t what they thought and so drop away.

      I understand completely how writing is lonely and blog interaction helps counteract that. Especially for an introvert like me. But I’ve reached a point where I recognize that my fiction is at a standstill—and a major culprit is blogging. I can avoid the hard decisions about manuscript changes or inspiration-less days by blogging. I can justify the lack of progress on the novels by telling myself that blog posts are writing—I’m writing because I’m writing blog posts. But my Muse and wiser self have stepped up to correct me. Yes, posts are writing. But they’re not my novels. For me, blogging is not a valid writing exercise. I need to be writing fiction more than blog posts or comments on other bloggers’ posts. And there you have the background to this post.

      Every writer has to find the path that works for him or her. What works for J. K. Rowling might drive Stephen King over the edge. Stepping back from my current blogging practices should help me back to my “good” writing place. You’ll still see me once a week for visits, and I’ll post once a month. But I hope later this year to have real writing news to share.

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      • When I first started my blog, and for about a year after, I let it take me away from writing. In fact, I became obsessed with blogging. I love it! Now, I try to have a healthy balance. I’m writing my next novel right now, and am taking a few minutes to read your response and comment. I lean more toward the extrovert side, and not having contact with people for long periods of time can get unnerving for me. We each do what suits are needs best, and I support your decision to cut back. I also thank you for coming over and reading my blog. I’m almost finished with the memoir series I’m posting. Next week will be the last one.

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  18. Those breaks always help. Instead of thinking about the blog, you’ll start thinking more about the stories. Another thing that really helps is reading as much as possible, especially books that are in your genre or POV. I think reading novels helps much more than reading up on the writing rules. We can truly go crazy if we try to follow all the rules and somewhere in there, the voice, one of the most important parts, is lost. Not only that, but some of the love of writing is lost too. I can relate to everything you said and haven’t been around as much either. There’s just no time between the day job and whatever time can be squeezed into the novel. I’ll miss your posts but will look forward to reading the novel that will come out of this break!

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    • Heaven knows I need to think more about the stories! And I’m trying to fit in more reading for the very reasons you suggest. Sparking my love of stories may help spark my love of writing again.

      I didn’t want to just disappear the way some of my favorite bloggers have done. And I don’t want to cut myself off entirely from the fun I have with blogging. But just like some folks need to rein in their gaming, I need to step back from so much blogging. Some painful decisions need to be made—like unfollowing some blogs where I really don’t read or interact anymore. That’s hard for someone like me to do. But I feel so guilty when I see the posts in my notifications. The breakup might hurt more at first, but then we move on, right?

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      • That’s a tough one – I can’t bring myself to unfollow anyone and instead set it up so that I get email notifications of favorites. For the others, at least I’m still counted as a follower and I’ll see them in the reader here and there. I also feel guilty whenever I miss a post but we do have lives to live and writing to do! :) Best of luck with yours!

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  19. JM, The fourth paragraph under “The Journey Continued” felt like you were describing my WIP #1. I can totally relate to everything you’re saying here. I hope the blogging break helps and hope you won’t be away too long. I’m glad you’ll post occasionally – I’ll look forward to reading those – and I’ll definitely be here when you return to your blog at whatever frequency suits you best!!!

    I like Gwen’s idea about trying flash fiction or short stories. I’ve definitely played with a few short stories to get back into that feeling of just letting the words flow again and then tinkered with them when I got stuck (or wanted to procrastinate) with my WIP. At least I was writing something. I also love to write poems, not that I’m so great at poetry but I do enjoy it, so maybe Gwen is on to something by going with shorter works. If no ideas come to mind, you can always use a writing prompt — there are so many out there. Whatever route you take, I hope you can get those creative juices flowing again!! :)

    By the way, I definitely want to read more of the snippet … what’s this plan they overheard?

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    • After today, I’m going to give my head a few days to just “clear out.” To not think about blogging or writing unless the characters feel like piping up with their thoughts (like Kat did this morning). I need to do my blog reading for this week later this evening, but then that’s it until next week’s read. The blog’s web page can’t stay open during the day. I suspect it will be easier as we move into summer and more bloggers take a break during that time.

      Who knows, maybe Meghan will drop another story on me, and I’ll work on that for a while. I’ve already made it clear, though, that we have to write the next one all the way through before I would serialize it on the blog. After all, I’m trying to take some pressure off, not add to it. :)

      It looks like you are only the third person to read the snippet. As for the plan, well, let’s just say it’s central to the story!

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  20. Cheers and party-on for the journey so far.
    It seems like everybody hits a spot and faces some hard facts about writing. Discouraging. reality is harsh sometimes ( and writers almost always beat themselves up as much as a critic – or worse)
    It’s spring after a long cold winter..people are flying outside. Everyone is wondering where readers went. (something’s going on…)
    Summer is coming up – people will disappear.
    So fly – run – laugh – look at old things (their mysteries and stories will come later. Take pictures of things that strike you. Tape them up where you can see them. Put them in folders. Surround yourself with music. Find a herb garden to enjoy. Have fun.
    Even a natural flowing spring will suddenly vanish if bothered/tended too much. The brain/creative thought is like that, too.
    You sound exhausted. Recess is calling.
    We’ll miss the adventures – and worries – but all this will be here waiting.
    How about posting a picture once in a while? Easy, but says a lot….and gives us the chance to say hello.
    Waving! Waving! RC Cat is standing on tippy toes with encouragement…or because Molly is stepping on her tail…I’d better go check that.
    Hasta later, gator!

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  21. Recess would be so nice. It’s something I’ll have to do when I can, though, with all the work and family commitments cropping up for the next few months. After I go through my weekly blog reads this evening, I’ll be off WordPress until next week. No peeking at posts from my best buddies (like you). :( But if I’m going to write books that you can actually read, I have to write. And so after I give my brain a few day’s rest from forcing it to look at the Scrivener files, I hope it’ll reward me with some fresh ideas and enthusiasm. If not, I’ll give it some more time. I honestly think taking the blogging pressure out of the equation will help, though.

    I’ve got some ideas going for mixing up my work area—new decor, new layout. Sometimes a simple change like that can make all the difference, too.

    Please let RC and Molly know that I’ll be stopping by their, er, your blog this evening!

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