Ever Onward: Moving Past Rejection to Creative Courage

These are my rejection letters. They represent a lot of closed doors, all the times my hard work and dreams were met with “no.”

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I heard “you’re not good enough” so many times that I wrote a book called Subpars. It went on to be published and re-titled Flashfall. Tomorrow, the sequel to that book releases.

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But here’s the thing-I STILL get rejected. I’m dealing with it even now.

So what do we dreamers do? Guard our hearts and stop putting ourselves out there? Or can we celebrate the fact that we are making time do what we love? That we are brave souls for sharing our art with the world.

They don’t send out letters for that.

So, from one dreamer to another: I see you there, with your heart on your sleeve. This world is fraught with those who will say we are not enough. But I celebrate you and your courage to do what you love-despite those voices.

I’m currently in the midst of Flashtide promo–and the wild hope that the world will hear about my book and care enough to show interest. That is an incredibly tricky place for me to navigate emotionally, I’ve learned. So, these past few days I’ve neglected some of those marketing “should dos” for the simple task of putting fresh words to a fresh page.

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It seems there are times, no matter how many years I’ve spent writing, where this feels particularly daunting. Scary, even. But I did it anyway, and I’ve broken through to the place where it is a joy to write again. For the first time in three years I don’t have a deadline driving me. Just the call of this new imaginary world and its inhabitants, and my curiosity to see how it all turns out.

That is the true success of overcoming rejection. My creative joy is still there, past the hurt and doubt, waiting for me to find it, and discover what new adventures lie ahead.

What I have going for me this time, is the success of having done this before. Of knowing that all the closed doors can be used as stepping stones to get where I need to be. It still aches, but there is a lightness to my steps that stems from hope.

 

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These letters were not the end of my writing journey or publishing dreams. Because I didn’t give them that power. They don’t represent missed opportunities, but rather proof that I’m bravely engaging in creative pursuit–in all its ups and downs.

We learn, we grow. We get better if we just keep going.

So I celebrate you today, my fellow dreamers. Let’s pick up our pens and start a fresh page. Let’s get excited about this adventure that is ours to take. Let’s toss discouragement aside and see with clear eyes what new discoveries await us.

Ever onward, friends.

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First Peek at FLASHFALL

Something exciting happened this past week. My publisher sent me first pass pages, and I got my first glimpse of how Flashfall will look in book form. For the first time, my book baby is looking . . . bookish. I paged through eagerly, taking in every font choice and chapter heading. All those words I’ve written and scrutinized over the past year, suddenly looked different–more real somehow.

The copyright page sort of took my breath away. This dream has been a long time in the works, and seeing my name there did something pretty fluttery to my heart.

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Surprisingly, this wasn’t the moment I teared up. Nor was it the title page or dedication. While reading the final two sentences of my manuscript, the words blurred unexpectedly, and my breath sort of stuttered. It hit me: this is it.

My debut book is done.

In just a few months, Flashfall will be out in the world. I can’t quite wrap my mind around that. SO MANY FEELS. But for now, I’m going to celebrate this moment, this first glimpse of it in book-like form.

It feels a bit like I’ve hiked a steep path, and now I’ve got my feet propped on a ledge, taking in the view. If you are striving toward your own goals and dreams, I wish you moments like this–times you realize that all your hard work has led to something special. May you be able to enjoy the vistas along the way, buoyed by the conviction that the dedication, risks, and sacrifices have been worth it.

Here’s a peek at page one.

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Stepping Into My Debut Year

2016

                                                January 1st | Aliso Beach, CA

In the past year of publishing “rookie-dom,” I’ve grown accustomed to walking blindly into new situations. And last year, from my first edit letter, to my last round of revisions—there were a lot of them.

Now my debut year is finally here, and once again, I’ll be stepping into moments that take me several strides from my comfort zone. But that’s usually where the good stuff happens–when we reach past our usual, everyday boundaries, and stretch toward something new. Something different. Maybe even something we can’t see clearly.

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I believe strongly in painting a clear picture of my dreams and aspirations. I’ve filled cork boards with pictures and words torn from magazines, and have lists of goals etched in journals. They’ve served as touchstones over the years, keeping me on course, driving me past weariness and discouragement.

Reminding me to reach.

I’m currently at work on Book Two in the FLASHFALL series. It’s daunting at times. Writing a second book comes with all kinds of challenges, new sets of concerns and doubts. Expanding worlds, giving fresh arcs to old characters. I’m not even sure how to end it because a third book is just a glimmer of possibility.

But more than that, there’s the fear of simply writing. I wrote FLASHFALL differently. It was more than two years ago—I was a different writer, a different person in many ways. What if I don’t have “it” in me in the same way?

I will have to reach for something new.

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                            A gift from my editor. Fortunately, she gave me options.

In the publishing world, there’s much rejection, disappointment, and disillusionment. I’ve felt them ALL, many times. But there’s also so much possibility if you don’t allow those things to have the final say.

I thought carefully about a word I’d choose as sort of a theme for 2016, one that captured my goals for this next season, these steps into debut territory. I stood on the beach on New Year’s Day, still not certain, not even when I picked up a bit of sea stone and bent toward the sand.

I suppose I shouldn’t  surprised. This one’s been calling to me for a long time.

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Reach . . . past failure. Learn from it. Use it to move forward.

Reach . . . for the absolute stars. How else will you get there?

Reach . . . despite other people’s doubts. Despite your own doubts.

Reach . . . inside yourself. Find the depths you didn’t know you had.

Reach . . . past fear, or you’ll never grab hold of your dreams.

As I stand on the cusp of this brand new year, I’m filled with gratitude. There’s uncertainty mixed in, but I remind myself there is freedom in embracing the unknown. Every page of this next book is a challenge, a charge into new territory, but I’m going to dive in. There will be crap writing days–times when I reach for words that won’t come, or plot lines that allude my grasp. On those days I’ll look at my little beach stone on my desk. It will remind me of what I wrote in the sand during a time when all I saw was possibility.

Maybe this will inspire your own journey. Maybe you need this word, this reminder, as much as I do. Or maybe you have your own.

Whatever you do this new year, I hope you find the courage to do it bravely.

Revision Fatigue and Battling the Doubt Monster

I’m going to be honest. I’m sick of reading my book.

That probably doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement for FLASHFALL, but that’s just where I’m at this stage of the editing process, now that I’ve read it eighteen million-billion times.

People suggest taking a break, and coming back to your manuscript with ‘fresh eyes.’ I had a four-month break while waiting for my second round revision notes. Two weeks into editing, and my brain’s pretty much ‘what even are these words?’

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Revision Fatigue has set in. So I break the edits down onto sticky notes, put them on my board beside my laptop, and tackle them a scene at a time. Between that, I take Emmy for walks and drink copious amounts of coffee. I wear my Gryffindor socks (because magic) and my t-shirt that says, I Can and I Will (because cozy encouragement t-shirts help, too.)

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Still. As much as I whittle away my edits into a mountain of sticky-notes, another voice rises up, louder than my writer’s voice.

This is crap. This plot has too many holes. That doesn’t make sense. That’s cliché.

The voice of the Doubt Monster.

If you’ve ever written a book, or undertaken a creative endeavor, you’ve probably encountered your own.

So what can we do to battle the doubt? Here are a few things that help me:

  1. Get outside your own head. Sometimes, we are too close to the story to see when a character’s motivations are unclear or a plot development doesn’t make sense. Beta readers and critique partners are essential. Open yourself up to other people’s feedback. If you’re re-working a scene, and feel like it’s not working—run it by a couple (trusted) people. They can help re-assure you or re-direct you. By the time you’ve revised your manuscript that many times, it can be hard to see it objectively.
  2. Trust the process. It’s normal to weary of reading your book. That doesn’t mean it’s bad—it just means you’ve grown numb to all the discoveries that make books interesting. Also, by the time we get to multiple rounds of edits, we’re viewing our writing through hyper-critical lenses, focusing on the ‘problems’. Reading from that place is never fun.
  3. Commiserate with other writers. The authors in my debut group (The Sweet Sixteens) have gone through similar feelings, and just reading about their experiences makes me feel better. I love connecting with other writers on Twitter, too, and being able to share the challenges of writing and editing. So many times, they have great insights and perspectives to share. It’s reassuring, therapeutic, and usually enough to squash the doubt monster.
  4. Trick your brain. There have been studies that show how our brains ‘see’ printed and computer text differently. If your words are starting to blur together, print out your manuscript and work from the hard copy for bit. This helps me enormously—especially when I’m working through any big revisions. The other thing that helps me is a change of scenery. Try writing outside, or go to a coffee shop. Sometimes we just need to shake up our routine to get our focus back.
  5. Trust yourself. This is vital, because the best writing happens when we write from a place of confidence. Something inspired you to begin this journey—and the heart of that story is still there. Don’t get so caught up in the ‘problems’ you are fixing, that you lose sight of what the story’s about.
  6. Take a moment. Take a day. On a fresh page, write something entirely new. Or, approach a scene you’re revising from a new angle. Throw off all constraints and allow yourself to exercise and re-charge the artist part of your writer self. This is what I do when I stall out in my writing, (staring at blank walls, anyone?) or if my writing becomes stale and the characters or dialogue flat. It seems counter-productive to ‘getting the revisions done’—especially when you’re on deadline, but these moments have actually led to some of my strongest scenes in FLASHFALL.
  7. Don’t be afraid to break it. Embrace the act of revision as an opportunity to re-envision a scene, character, or plot point. Sometimes we hold on so tightly to what we’ve written, that we don’t allow for the possibility of what something can be. For more about this, check out my post on Publishing Hub.

Believe that you are capable of writing and re-writing your book to its fullest potential. It’s normal for the Doubt Monster to visit from time to time. Just don’t let it stay.

Keep writing. Keep revising. You’ve got this!

If you have any suggestions of your own, please post them in the comments! (Or tweet them at me: ) How do you overcome doubt? What helps you avoid ‘zombie brain’ when you’re revising? Please share!

For more, here’s a peek at my revision process:

Navigating the Revision Cave

Sometimes, when I’m deep in the Revision Cave, I run into walls that make me lose perspective. I focus so hard on the challenges presented by an edit, that I lose sight of what revision truly is: opportunity. The push that makes us look harder at something, until we scratch away the surface and reveal a character for who they really are. The nudge that compels us to make the hard cuts so other scenes shine brighter, and the pacing of the whole book improves.

Second round revisions and line edits for FLASHFALL

Second round revisions and line edits for FLASHFALL

When I was in third grade, an author spoke to us fledgling writers at a Young Authors Conference. He said, “writing is re-writing.” I honestly had no idea what he meant at the time. Fast forward many years, and many books later, and I believed that I had gained a good understanding of that old adage.

Young Authors' Conference, 8th grade

Young Authors’ Conference, 8th grade

But if editing my debut novel has taught me anything, it’s that I had NO IDEA how deeply I’d need to explore the depths of my creative abilities to revise again and again and again.

Sometimes, your editor (or agent or critique partner) may like your writing, but they push you to develop something ‘more.’ That is when you either bang your head against the wall, or you persevere, dig deep . . . and occasionally discover moments, or scenes, or elements that you didn’t know you had in you. The more that can take your story from good to great.

A little over a year until FLASHFALL releases, and it’s really coming together during these final rounds of edits. It’s a book I will be proud to see on the shelf. But it’s not the same book my agent sold last fall. It’s been shaped and stretched into a story more richly layered, visceral, and compelling than I realized it could be from the ‘early days’. The bones were there, but now parts of it feel three-dimensional and ‘alive’ in ways it didn’t before. That is the beauty of revision.

Writing is re-writing. And re-discovering. And re-imagining.

Embrace the act of revision as an opportunity to re-envision a scene, character, or plot point. Then, once you’ve re-envisioned, have the courage to write something new. Sometimes we hold on so tightly to what we’ve written, that we don’t allow for the possibility of what something can be.

For more about this, including some of the best creative advice I ever received, check out my post on Publishing Hub, Don’t Be Afraid To Break It.

And, if you’re curious about my process, here’s a peek . . .