How Writing “for Publication” (Nearly) Killed My Love for The Craft

Okay, oUntitledkay—let’s take a step back for a minute.

My love for writing is certainly nowhere near dead, but for a short while there, I was worrying it might be. I haven’t been writing much at all lately (or, technically, not just “lately.” My productivity has been dropping for quite some time now, as many of my blog posts this year have shown). When I do try to muster the strength to write, I often find excuses to avoid it or discourage myself with negative thoughts about my skills, my works in progress, or the likelihood that I’ll continue my writing streak. I’ve always been hard on myself, but I do remember a time when I enjoyed writing and persevered even when it wasn’t going so smoothly—so what’s different now?

I think I’ve made a mistake this past year or two that’s seriously hindered the enjoyment I’ve always found in writing, and maybe my skills themselves, to some extent: I’ve been focusing too heavily on “getting published” and not enough on writing good stories that make me happy.

Now, for someone whose ultimate goal is to see her books on shelves, it makes sense that I’d do some research on the publishing process and apply that knowledge to my work. In fact, for a while, the things I was learning through various industry blogs and podcasts greatly helped my writing, as I started seeing my plot and characters from the point of views of readers, editors, agents, and publishers—not just from my excited god-playing eyes. I identified weaknesses in my process and my stories, themselves, and even received some excellent feedback from an editor who rejected a short story I was submitting around this time last year. I thought I was on the right track, and for a while, I was. Until I wasn’t.

Now, don’t get me wrong—if you want your work published, especially traditionally so, you need to have some insider knowledge. But I did something that the authors from one of my favorite insider sources, the podcast Writing Excuses, often warn against: I let my obsession with seeing my name on a book spine eclipse the hard work it takes to get there. I focused too heavily on the end, and often overlooked the means. As a result, I continuously found myself in this vicious cycle:

  1. Open up Fleeting, my Fantasy work in progress, which I was convinced would be my first published novel.
  2. Realize that I haven’t worked on it in some time because I’ve taken too long (3 years and counting) to work through this first draft and I’m completely disengaged from the story, and as a result, I have no idea where to begin.
  3. Get overwhelmed. Close the project and consider working on some writing prompts, or a short story I’m excited about, instead.
  4. Decide against those options. They aren’t pieces I can publish, so why waste my time when I could be working on my WIP? They say young writers should “finish everything they start,” so I shouldn’t start a new project until I’m done with this one.
  5. Open up WIP one more time. Get overwhelmed again. Close it and give up on writing for the night entirely.

Let me just emphasize this: this pattern is toxic. You’d think that after all the podcasts I’ve listened to, all the blog posts I’ve read, all the advice I’ve doled out myself, I’d have realized way before this point that it’s okay (if not necessary) to put down my WIP if it’s discouraging me from writing altogether. It’s okay to work on something that probably won’t get published, because those pieces are often the ones that shape our writing the most. And it’s okay to just have fun with your first drafts and not worry so much about what an agent or publisher will think, because forced writing is stiff. The writing you enjoy working on is the writing readers enjoy reading, and it’s the only kind that breathes that proverbial life into its world and its characters.

Of course, this may not be the case for those who are already published and have deadlines to meet for future publications—but for authors like myself, who have still yet to come close to publishing a work, I feel it’s best to enjoy the writing first and shape it for publication later. That’s what revisions are for!

So, I’m going to take some of my own advice for once and cut myself some slack. Rather than force my way through a story I’m not currently enjoying writing, I’m going to pick up Faye’s new e-book Writember and get to work on making enjoyable writing a daily habit.

What do you write for fun? Is publication a factor when working on a first draft, or is it something that doesn’t come into play until you’re in revisions? Let me know!

Co-Founder Confession: Why Do I Write? – Faye Kirwin

A while back, coWhy Do I Write? Faye Kirwin reveals the reasons she puts pen to paper every single day. | www.sprintshack.wordpress.com-founder Faye Kirwin asked a good question: Why do you write?  After seeing your awesome answers, we only thought it fair that we answer that same, very personal, question. Each month one of us from the Sprint Shack team will answer that burning question: Why do I write? The previous answers came from Taylor Eaton and Cristina R. Guarino. Now Faye is chiming in.


Why do I write?

It’s a simple question—but do you ever spare the answer much more thought than a simple ‘because I like it’? Your reasons for writing are very powerful motivators. Get to the heart of why you write and it can push you forward on the days you feel you can’t write a single word.

So, why do I write?

To Escape Reality

Because we all know reality can be a rather dull or troubling place. Just as we read to escape our lives and live someone else’s, I write for the same reason. There’s one thing writing allows me to do that reading doesn’t, however: control the lives of the characters. When control is missing from my life, I can gain a sense of it through writing. (Plus, it’s fun to put my characters through the wringer. Yeah, I’m mean like that.)

To Help Me Understand

What better way to see someone else’s side of the story than to write from their perspective? If someone’s actions have upset me, I can incorporate an element of it into a story (translation: beware people who know me—you may end up in my next novel). It helps me to think through the motivations and reasons behind their actions and tease out my own feelings on the matter. Having my characters go on to resolve the situation can also give me an idea as to how to do the same thing in real life. (Though not always. Sadly, I don’t have magical candle powers or spirit-powered automata in real life.)

To Express Who I Am

I’m free to write about what interests me, the things that really mean something to me and issues that I care deeply about. Most of what I write will never be seen by anyone else as well, which means I can freely express my thoughts and feelings on a matter and get them off my chest. It’s amazing how much clarity writing about a situation can bring.

To Craft Unique Characters

What makes people tick has always fascinated me, which makes character creation one of my absolute favourite parts of writing. As readers of my blog, Writerology, will know, I’m all about applying the knowledge gleaned from my Psychology degree to storytelling. My mission is to make my characters as life-like, interesting and in-depth as possible and I love doing that.

To Have Fun

Like, so much fun. The thrill of writing an action-packed scene, the buzz that comes from a ground-breaking plot realisation, the satisfaction that follows a really productive writing session—all of it works together with the previous points to make writing something that makes my heart do a little dance. Honestly, keeping my Write Chain writing streak going is no problem, because I look forward to writing every night. I love the words.

~

So that’s why I write, but what about you? Why do you write?

How I Rebranded: My Pen Name Story

If you’ve seen me sprinting on the Sprint Shack Twitter account lately, you may have noticed something. My name is different. Skye Fairwin is no more.

Why? Let me start with a confession. Skye is not my real name. It’s a pen name I’ve gone by for the last six years… but not anymore. Last month I made the decision to come out from behind my pen name and start going by my real name online. So allow me to introduce myself again.

I’m Faye Kirwin and it’s lovely to meet you.

Leaving behind my pen name wasn’t an easy choice for me. I swayed back and forth between sticking with my alias and switching to my real name for months, and not just for the reasons you might expect. Here’s my story—the why and the how I changed such a big part of my online presence and how you can do it smoothly and painlessly if you’re considering doing something similar.

First Things First: Why Use a Pen Name?

There are more reasons than I can list. To keep your writing and personal lives separate. To publish in a different genre. To protect your career.

For me, it was privacy. I created my online alias way back when I was 16 years old, just before I started posting my writing on the internet. My poor, fragile writer’s ego feared my friends and family reading my stories and not liking them. A pen name provided protection against that, but it also came with a price: I was hiding such a huge part of my life and myself from the people I cared about. I’d talk about how much I loved reading, but writing? Not a peep. Yet it was how I spent hours and hours of my day. As time went by, it became harder and harder to break the silence and tell people that I was a writer and so I kept hiding it. I fell into a rut.

My first turning point came when I went to university. In one of the first few weeks, as I sat with my new friends in the university bar and chatted about ourselves and our interests, I found myself talking about writing. I’d never spoken aloud about that part of myself before, and here I was, talking about it with people I’d only just met. It was… weird. But in a good way. In a very freeing way. I didn’t have to hide that part of me anymore and it felt like such a relief.

Though I’d now revealed the fact that I wrote, I continued to keep my online writing a secret. Telling people about my writing was one thing; showing it to them was another entirely. It wasn’t until late 2014 that I finally worked up the courage to tell my friends and family that I had a blog and that I wanted to make it into a business. They were supportive and interested, and now that they knew, there wasn’t as much of a reason to keep hiding behind a pen name anymore. Its original purpose—to keep the people I knew in real life from finding me—was no longer an issue. Time to get rid of it, right? Well…

The problem that faced me now lay in the practicalities of transitioning to a different name. Could I transfer all mentions of my name, across my blogs and social media, to my real one without confusing, bewildering or losing my readers and followers? That in itself was a major factor that kept me wavering for months on end. Finally, I realised that I had to make the change—but I didn’t have to make it all at once.

Here’s how I did it.

Step 1: Changing Social Media Usernames

Before, my social media usernames had involved my pen name, Skye Fairwin. If I changed that straight to Faye Kirwin, it could confuse the heck out of everyone, and followers who didn’t know about the change would have difficulty finding me. Instead, I decided to change my usernames to my blog name, Writerology, as people already knew me by it and could easily search for it.

Quick tip: If you’re switching to a new name, for whatever reason, consider using your brand name as a username across platforms.

While I was changing the usernames of my social media accounts to Writerology, I made sure my alias, Skye Fairwin, was visible in the name fields to make it clear that it was still me and thereby minimise confusion. For example, on Twitter, my name was Skye Fairwin and my handle was @Writerology; on Pinterest, my name was Skye Fairwin and my username (visible in the URL) was Writerology; and so on.

Quick tip: Make sure followers can easily search for you by making your name and username something that’s already associated with you. Don’t switch to a completely new, unknown name and username, at least immediately.

Step 2: The Reveal

A few weeks after changing my social media usernames to my blog title, I told my pen name story to my blog readers and revealed my real name. At this point, I began hunting down all references to my alias on my blog and changed the name fields of my social media accounts from Skye to Faye. For the next couple of weeks, I posted messages on the accounts recapping the reason for the name change to bring anyone who had missed the original explanation up to speed.

Quick tip: It’s unlikely all your readers and followers will know the story behind your name change. Keep recapping it at different times of day on social media and answer any questions they ask about it for some time after you change names.

Step 3: Keeping Tabs on Your Old Name

Just because you’ve switched to a new name doesn’t mean you can forget about your old one. In all likelihood, people will keep addressing you or mentioning you by the old one for a while after you change. Even now, I search for people tweeting to @SkyeFairwin, sending messages to my Skye Fairwin Google account and referring to me as Skye, so that I don’t miss messages meant for me.

Quick tip: Do regular searches for references to your old name and set up a Google alert to let you know when it’s mentioned online. You can find out how to set up a Google alert here.

It’s hard enough making the decision to change from a pen name to a real one without the fear of losing and confusing readers and followers holding you back too. Once you’re certain that switching to a different name is the best thing for you, follow the steps outlined above and make the experience as simple and painless as possible. Then go out there and rock that new name.

Good luck.

~

Have you ever written under a pen name before?

Co-Founder Confession: Why Do I Write? – Cristina R. Guarino

A while back, our coWhy Do I Write-founder Faye Kirwin asked a good question: Why do you write?  After seeing your awesome answers, we only thought it fair that we answer that same, very personal, question. Each month one of us from the Sprint Shack team will answer that burning question: Why do I write? Last month’s answer came from Taylor Eaton – look for Faye Kirwin’s answer in April! But first, Cristina R. Guarino is chiming in.

I can always count on my co-founders to ask the tough questions. When the ladies suggested we all contribute to the topic on why we write last month, I was stumped. I’ve thought about it just about every day until now, sitting at my writing desk, and I’m still scratching my head. Why do I write? How can I come up with something that’s not the embodiment of good writing’s most crippling plague—the cliché?

At the moment, a black binder sits on my desk to my right, a small spiral notebook and a set of color-coded post-its atop it. It’s the binder housing my many, many scattered notes for my current fantasy WIP—the story that’s taken me three years thus far and still hasn’t come to a conclusion. I organized and color-coded my various scraps and outlines last night in preparation for my upcoming #10KWritAThon, in which I hope to start tackling the brunt of the problem with the story. In addition, I have a short story desperately needing revisions tucked away in the dark corners of my “Writing” desktop folder, a YA novel from NaNoWriMo that needs reworking, and a bunch of half-formed ideas awaiting completion.

Why have I struggled so hard through these projects? The answer has always been a source of worry for me: simply, I’m often afraid of writing. I talk myself out of it. I run from it. And what’s a writer that doesn’t write? Many would argue: not a writer at all.

But the truth of it is, I want to write. I love writing. When I stop over-thinking it, I guess it comes down to something as simple as story. I love stories. I love reading them, listening to them, seeing them unfold. Most of all, I love creating them.

I think creation is a part of all of us; from the time we’re able to stand and walk and talk, we create stories. We embark on epic adventures with our toys. Our pudgy toddler fingers bring characters and scenery to life with our doodles, even if they just look like haphazard scribbling to the adult eye. But only a few of us go on to build off that into a hobby, a passion, a dream, a way of life. And no matter how many excuses I can find about lack of time in my day-to-day life, the fact is, I still always come back to writing in my most emotional moments: from the messy crayon “books” I punched together with a stapler and unsteady hands in elementary school, to the fanfiction that ignited my love for the craft, to the complex and sometimes mind-boggling projects I’m still trying to sort through now.

I may not have it all figured out yet, but I’m a writer, and I write because I don’t know how to live without stories. I never have. And I hope I never have to learn how.

Co-Founder Confession: Why Do I Write? – Taylor Eaton

Why Do I Write

A while back, our co-founder Faye Kirwin asked a good question: Why do you write?  After seeing your awesome answers, we only thought it fair that we answer that same, very personal, question. Each month one of us from the Sprint Shack team will answer that burning question: Why do I write? This month’s answer comes from Taylor Eaton – look for Cristina R. Guarino’s answer in February!

Why do I write?

It’s not something I think about often – I mean, I think about writing A LOT. I think about writing while I’m at work and when I’m falling asleep. And I think about how excited I am to write when I wake up in the morning. But I don’t really give much thought to why I write very often.

So why do I write? The short answer is that I love it. And that I can’t imagine not writing. I feel better about myself when I write – it’s something that makes me happy and something that makes me feel good at the end of the day. I get in what some call a “flow state” when I write. When I’m interested in the story I’m writing, time slips away and the words just come. One by one. I lose sense of my surroundings and I’m focused in on this one story that, in the moment, seems like the most important and exciting thing I’ve ever written. But that’s such an esoteric answer. Maybe the better question is: Why do I write what I write?

Why do I write fiction? I write fiction on my personal site because I think that my observations and beliefs about humanity can be more easily accessible to readers if told in a clever story.

Why do I write flash-fiction/micro-fiction? I write tiny, tiny stories in order to hold the readers attention (plus, I get bored when I write about the same thing for a long time – some sort of a writer’s version of attention deficit disorder).

Why do I write mostly dark, surreal, prose-y stories? The prose comes naturally, because if I’m going to say something, it should be said beautifully or with care. And most of my writings are dark because I think the world is a dark place. But my stories aren’t meant to depress or anger. They’re meant to shine a light on what is difficult or sad or horrible, all so that we can either change those things or accept them as they are and appreciate the things that are good. I write because I love it and my life is noticeably more boring when I don’t. I write the things I write because I want to give my readers something worth reading. Not just a jumble of words.

Happy New Year! – Our 2015 Writing Resolutions

Happy holidays, and a belated Happy New Year from all of us at The Sprint Shack! As we were last year, we’re here to share our resolutions for 2015 with you and encourage you to set (and meet!) your own. This time, we’re reflecting on the past year and the resolutions we made on this very blog twelve months ago.

Cristina’s Writing goals for 2015

  • Finish the first draft of a WIP (Fleeting OR Underground) and send to beta readers
  • Develop a more regular blogging schedule
  • Fix up short story “The Spread” and pursue publication

Cristina’s Reflection

Cristina GuarinoIt seems like 2014 was a hard year for everyone. Like we mentioned in our post on Career vs. Creativity, all three of us went through major changes this year that affected our writing habits and productivity. I won’t rehash my excuses, because even though they were legitimate disruptions, they still feel like just that–excuses. But what I do know is that if it weren’t for the fact that I achieved quite a few things this year, one of which being a 42-link Write Chain (a big deal for me!), I’d be feeling like a bit of a failure right now.

As of this time last year, my optimism was soaring. The Sprint Shack was a few months old and thriving. I had just written a short story I was proud of, gotten great feedback from my beta readers Faye and Taylor, and was on my way to eventually obtaining professional feedback from the editor of a recognized literary journal. I was contributing to several online and print publications and was thriving at my job. I had a new, albeit rough, manuscript under my belt thanks to NaNoWriMo. I was more involved in the Twitter writing community than ever.

So it seemed like no great challenge for me to achieve my three main writing goals: To get “The Spread” published, to finish the first draft of my long-time WIP Fleeting, and to wrap up and edit my new NaNo novel Underground and eventually send it off for beta reads. Unfortunately, thanks to the aforementioned disruptions,  I met none of those goals. I hope to change that this year with my goals listed above.

Taylor’s Writing Goals for 2015

  • Write at least 5 pieces per week (flash fiction or blog post)
  • Independently publish at least 2 books/projects this year
  • Make writing a priority and develop it into a career

Taylor’s Reflection

Taylor EatonI won’t lie, 2014 was a trying year for my writing. I’ve taken a peek at my resolutions for 2014, and found that I fell a bit short of my goals. That’s not to say it was all bad – I added an extra weekly story to my site, Little Write Lies, and have successfully posted 2 stories each week! I also wrote and published (with help from Cristina and Faye!) my first collection of flash fiction, The Suicide of the Moon.

Why 2014 was so difficult for me, was that partway through the year I had a career change. With my new job, I found myself with less energy and time to write. So my writing goals took a backseat as I adjusted to my new work hours and demands. If 2014 taught me anything about my writing, it’s this: writing is what I love to do and it should not take a back seat. Not even to my career (considering that I want writing to be my career, and not what I currently do from 8-5 every day). Life is short, and I want to write. 2015 is the year I get my butt in gear and start writing more.


Faye’s Writing Goals for 2015:

  • Continue my Write Chain and write at least one page of fiction every day
  • Finish editing my steampunk work-in-progress, Her Clockwork Heart, and send it to beta readers

Faye’s Reflection

Faye Kirwin2014 has been a year of ups and downs in terms of my writing. One of my proudest achievements of the year is producing a page of fiction every day without fail, which taught me that it is possible to make writing part of my daily routine. Because of that experience, I was also able to write and launch my very first e-course, the Writember Workshop: 30 Days to Make Writing a Habit, and start taking myself seriously as a writer.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have met so many inspiring people, all with a similar goal: to write and move one step closer to a finished novel each day, every day. I may not have accomplished each goal I set myself at the start of 2014, but because of their help, I’ve been able to achieve so much more than I would have done otherwise. Now my goal is to continue focusing on the daily stuff in 2015 and make this my best year yet for writing.


What are your resolutions for 2015? Did you meet your goals for 2014? What do you plan on doing differently? Let’s talk!

My Muse Hijacked My 2015 Resolutions!

How do I know I’m a writer? Because all of my New Year’s resolutions that were seemingly unrelated to writing, turned out to actually be all about writing. Only today did I realize that the goals I set for myself outside my writing, were really set by my sneaky, subconscious muse. Everything I do and aspire for seems to feed right back into my writing. Which is a good thing, I suppose. After all, when something is your passion, it should become the center-point of your life (at least I think so).

Here are my resolutions, with a quick explanation of how writing is the motivator behind all these goals. Watch out 2015, looks like this year is my writing year!

1. Exercise more regularly
On the surface, this is your standard resolution to exercise and get ready for swimsuit season. But after a couple early-year sessions at the gym, I’m already realizing the driving factor behind those 2 hour yoga classes and 5 mile jogs: I get a buzz of inspiration after working out.

Upon getting ready to go to the gym yesterday, I caught myself thinking: “Oh, I hope I come up with a good idea for that plot twist while on the treadmill today.” And a couple days before that, I got in my car after yoga and started manically scribbling the idea for a micro-fiction piece that had popped into my head during a downward facing dog.

It’s no surprise that exercise is good for you for many reasons, but it’s clear that I’m not rushing to the gym after work in order to get that flat tummy or those toned arms. It’s to get that hit of creativity and endorphins that spurs on my writing.

2. Meditate daily

When someone asks me why I have resolved to meditate daily, I respond with something like: “I want more clarity. I want to live in the moment and enjoy what’s happening in the present. I want to go about my day with a sense of calm.”

But really, what I love about my daily meditations is the clarity and focus it gives me in my writing. After a meditation session, I’m left with a clear head and can easily tease out the problems in my writing that were giving me such a headache only minutes before. And the more I meditate, the more I see myself building up a better discipline in writing each day.

I am living more presently and more contentedly as a result of my meditation, but what keeps me returning to it every day? The help it gives my writing.

3. Journaling

This one isn’t a long stretch. But when I set my resolution to journal more frequently, I thought I was doing it to help put my thoughts and frustrations down so that I could sort them out more thoroughly. But what it’s turned into has been more of a place to rant about my writings and to brainstorm new ideas.

And it’s no surprise that after a short session of journaling about my day, I’m eager to keep writing and churning out a couple more fiction pieces.

The more I observe my every day actions, the more I see a pattern: nearly everything I do serves my writing in some way. But whether I do these things in order to get that boost to my writing, or if the creativity I get is just a perk, I’m not sure. Either way, I’m writing and happy.

~

Has your muse hijacked your subconscious and your resolutions? Let me know what your goals are for this year, or any stories about the domineering desire to write.