Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Writing Beautiful Music Again

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of making New Year’s Resolutions…

Lose weight, eat healthier, save money, blah, blah, blah…

I’m sick of the “New Year, New Me” status updates on Facebook…

Starting at 12:01 AM, January 1, 2018, things will be different. I’m making big changes, people, BIG. And they’re gonna be huge (“h” is silent). 

I’m sick of setting goals I’ll forget about by February…

Write at least 10,000 words a week, post on my blog every day, publish my book, start a business, take morning jogs, drink 2 gallons of water, lose twenty pounds, adopt a furry, four-legged child, own a home, get married, find a cure for AIDS, solve world hunger…  

For the past two years, I’ve been running around like a chicken with her cut off, worrying about career goals, life goals, accomplishments; comparing myself to former colleagues, former classmates, even kids younger than me who all seem to be doing better; questioning if I truly have support from my family and friends or if all they really care about is money; stressing over income, how to make a living, whether or not I can truly survive in this big, bad world on my own as an adult without mommy always having to hold my hand; feeling crowded because I put everyone else’s opinions and aspirations above myself.

I’m done. Stick a fork in me–I am cooked!

I miss who I was in 2015, when the memory of college was still fresh on my brain; when walking into the office on Monday mornings didn’t slowly kill my soul; when I could sit in front of that computer, or notebook, pen in hand, and the story flowed seamlessly, like I wasn’t even writing it, just listening and following along; when I was prolific in my writing; when I was submitting poetry and fiction to magazines on a daily basis; when the pressure of being “good enough” to get published occasionally arose but didn’t completely weigh me down to the point where I couldn’t write, when my dreams of being a published writer weren’t bogged down by thoughts of “How can I make a living being a published writer?”; when all I did was write instead of think, over-analyze, start on new project after new project to “get rich quick,” lose focus on my first love because I was busy doing so many other things…

In 2018, I want to go backwards, remind myself why I started this blog in the first place. It’ll be four years next Tuesday. Back then, writing was simple. I didn’t care who was reading; I didn’t even care if they liked it. The only thing I cared about was whether or not I liked it. And if it spoke to me, if it sang to me, if it soared above the clouds and made beautiful music to my ears, I hit that publish button.

That’s what the Countdown series did for me these past several weeks. That’s what Love Poetry did for me in 2015, Black Poetry Writing Month in February of 2016, and 26 Husbands–26 Unusual Deaths that April, before my meltdown and the subsequent on-again, off-again battle with writer’s block.

So for 2018, my goal is simply to relax. To go back to writing beautiful music to my ears and sharing it with the world when it’s ready. To stop putting so much pressure on myself to be better than the year before, or to be better than or just as good as the next person, which has only led to anxiety, sleepless nights, and stress-eating. To stop worrying about “plans” and to simply enjoy life; not to let the year get away from me like that last two have. To take a vacation every once in a while, treat myself, read a book, read more books. To remember to take things one step at a time; not to force something ahead of it’s time, but only when I’m ready for it. To learn to say no, I just can’t do that. To put myself first—if I lose even a minute of sleep over it, I know it’s not for me. To figure out what is most important to me, and to do that and only that.

The last time I talked about goals, I had seven of them, but one shouts to me the loudest right now…


Tune out the rest of the world. Find a happy place. Read. Journal. Write. Write some more.


This post was written for Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This month’s optional question is: What steps have you taken or plan to take to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?

What Types of Stories Do You Write?

“Oh, what types of stories do you write?”

I was recently ask this question, and would you believe– it stumped me!

For any writer, when it comes to communing together with family and friends over the holidays, it’s almost a guarantee that the subject of one’s writing career will be brought up.

When’s that book coming? Post anything new on your blog lately? And the ever-depressing, Do you get paid for it at all?

They show just enough curiosity to make it look like they care, but not enough to actually go and look up what you have out on the interwebs, share it with their friends, increase your readership– you know, a Christmas gift a writer can actually appreciate, apart from a brand new journal, of course (which was my present to myself *pats back and smiles humbly).

There are some who do, and you make sure they get the tight bear hug, while everyone else gets that “I couldn’t be bothered” side hug.

One must always be prepared for these types of questions and have an answer ready. A quick answer, three sentences, five tops. Nothing too elaborate; don’t go on babbling about your current work in progress, because they really don’t care, just making small talk to fill in that “awkward silence” lull that occurs between every seven-minute conversation. (My cousin said he read that somewhere once; it has plagued us ever since.)

So I was ready for the book question (I’ve won NaNoWriMo so many times, remember?). I was ready for the new blog post question (Hello! Twitter party all Christmas Eve long, catching you up for the final chapters of Countdown coming this week!). I even had my death stare waiting in my back pocket for any questions related to my writer income.

None of these questions came, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

But for some reason, I was not expecting the one question I did get, and it left me with my jaw dropped, my eyes looking everywhere but at the person asking, as I tried to figure it out…

What is my niche genre?

I don’t think I gave an answer. Eventually, I did mention something about dabbling a bit in thriller/suspense. I love to read these books. Last night I binge read The Girl on the Train, which I’d put down some months ago after giving in and watching the movie (totally ruined the book for me, but both were still really good, and if I hadn’t watched the movie first, I know those plot twists would have hit me hard).

I also love paranormal/ghost stories. That’s the closest to fantasy you’ll every catch me reading. Raised in a Christian home, I was not allowed to read Harry Potter, or any books about witches, warlocks, demons, etc. I was never a big fan of “creatures from other realms” stories—I’d read them, but the feeling was always… meh. I had my vampire phase when I was about 12 or 13. That’s the main reason why I couldn’t get into the Twilight books, which came out much later.

My dystopian/Young Adult phase ended in high school, but there are a few series I’d like to finish. I put them down because they took an unexpected turn that had “publisher wants more books, author doesn’t know how to end the story” written all over it. Still, I’d like to  know what happened to the characters I’d grown to love (or hate).

The ironic thing is the three genres I hate (that’s not a typo; I absolutely abhor) to read the most are the three genres I would categorize my writing in: Romance, Women’s, and Christian.

I’ve talked about my disdain for Romance before. My biggest complaint has always been that Romance Fiction has no plot. Apart from an unlikely couple getting together, nothing else happens, and I need something a little more interesting than a simple love story to make me want to read anything past the cover synopsis.

Call me cynical.

And while we’re on the topic of unlikely couples, the two lovers are so different, one has to wonder what exactly brings them together? It has to be more than just spilt coffee at the local bakery. Why does he want this train wreck? (Because the female protagonist is always a train wreck.) Is the author just forcing this? And once you read the sappy happy ending and close the book, you realize, the author did just force this.

I don’t like happy endings. Do I write them in my stories? Yes, but not always, which is why I would label my writing as Women’s Fiction so I’m not confined by the Romance restrictions (Romance Fiction must always have a “happily ever after”; there’s no getting around it. If the couple doesn’t get together, your readers will burn you at the stake in the Amazon reviews.)

Women’s Fiction and Christian Fiction have many similarities. There’s always a redemptive arc, and the plots tend to veer toward the melodramatic (just imagine any of Tyler Perry’s movies written as a novel). Everything bad that can happen to our main character does happen to our main character, and she (or in some cases, he) is left nearly broken.

And yet, somehow, they find hope in the end. How? I mean, yea, sure, that’s good… but how? Why haven’t they had a mental break yet; why aren’t they cursing their family, shooting up the work place, kicking the cat? Why doesn’t the book end with them walking out into the ocean (in a manner to hint suicide by drowning) like Kate Chopin’s Edna in The Awakening?

Not only is this “hopeful” ending unbelievable, it doesn’t make any damn sense! Real people don’t respond so (for lack of a better term) chipper to that kind of pain. There’s anger, there’s depression. Sure, the silver lining comes, but not so soon—they need time to grieve, to understand their emotions (reasons why I axed the original ending to Love Poetry, because I saw that same problem). But there’s also the possibility that the silver lining doesn’t come. It happens, and I wouldn’t fault an author for showing that; for some books, I’d even expect that.

Another problem I have with Women’s and Christian Fiction is that feeling of familiarity one gets when reading. You swear you’ve read this before, and in fact, you have. They’re ALL. THE. SAME.

This isn’t to say I haven’t enjoyed books written in these genres. I have. Unfortunately, not enough to willingly go to a Romance, Women’s, or Christian section of a bookstore to find my next read, or to read an author whose work I’m not already familiar with.

Which makes me wonder why I write in these genres. Or why I follow bloggers who also write in these genres. There must be something I like about them, right?

Because deep down, I really am a hopeless romantic?

Or maybe it’s because I think I (we) can do better.

Cocky, Nortina, very cocky. Especially since you haven’t published that book yet…

Whatever the reason, these are my niche genres, I suppose. I wet my pen in suspense, paranormal, even dystopian and young adult/coming-of-age, but I am primarily a Romance, Women’s, and Christian fiction writer. I love it and I hate it at the same time.


I’ve Won NaNoWriMo So Many Times

I have a confession to make. I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo this year. Not officially, at least.

You see, I was going to, I even spent an entire month planning for it– drafting outlines, creating character sketches, brainstorming backstory and plot points—but when November came around, I got very busy.

Story of my life, right?

If I could sum 2017 in one word, it would be “overcommitted.” I was doing too many things, and it all culminated in one month which, though not the shortest month of the year, definitely feels like it when you have to write 1,667 words a day amid 10,000 other things on your to-do list!

Although the last thing I wanted to do was procrastinate on writing yet another novel, I had to think realistically. How much stress would this add on me—to find time to write, do everything else, and still get to bed at a decent hour? Was it worth it, knowing that I likely wouldn’t finish, or even make it past the 10,000 word mark?

So I said no to NaNoWriMo, at least for this year. But one of my main goals for 2018 is to be less busy and not take on more than I can bear so that I can dedicate more time to my writing. So there’s always the possibility that I may try again . . . if I can take the pressure.

But I won’t wallow in self-pity over another NaNoWriMo project left unfinished (or in this case unstarted), because there have been so many times when I’ve won NaNoWriMo. No I haven’t quite made it to the 50,000 words written in one month feat, but I’ve come pretty darn close!

First, I deserve a pat on the back for completing the A to Z Challenge three years in a row! A lot of bloggers can’t say the same. My first A to Z Challenge in 2015 introduced you to my novella, Love Poetry, which I hope to finally complete in 2018. I have 23,914 words of planning material for Lost Boy, the novel I had hoped to write in November, and that doesn’t even include the flashbacks I wrote as part of Short Story a Day May, a challenge which in total came to 451 words shy of 25,000. And my longest project yet is 26 Husbands–26 Unusual Deaths, my 2016 A to Z Challenge novella, clocking in at over 30,000 words! How’s that for Camp NaNoWriMo!

And while I’m basking in my NaNoWriMo successes, let’s talk about what I did write in November. Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans! Yes, I know I said I had completed the story earlier this year . . . I lied. The truth is I spent a few slow days in May writing three more chapters. But the rest came this November, as I wrote one chapter a day, adding to what I had left unfinished back in 2016.

So you see, I didn’t totally abandon NaNoWriMo after all! And don’t you worry; I still plan on finishing Countdown. A recent bout with procrastination, along with Thanksgiving travel (and, you know, being with family), kept me from finishing the story in November as I had originally planned, but that’s all going to work out in the end, because I stopped at Day 24. You know what that means. The story originally meant for Christmas (last year) will finally be concluded this Christmas! Next week, I’m giving you the final seven chapters of Countdown (Monday through Sunday), so if you want to catch up on the story, read it from the beginning here!

By the way, Countdown currently sits at around 27,800 words, which means when I close this year with the final chapter on December 31, it will be my longest completed project to date! Just the boost of confidence I need going into 2018 with the hope of finishing (and possibly publishing) even more projects. Whether they are products of NaNoWriMo, or my own writing victories.

I’m just so happy to say I did it!


#WeekendRewind: 22 Things All Writers Have to Deal With At Some Point Because Writing Is Hard

Have you had to deal with any of these things while on your writing journey?

I’ve experienced EVERY.SINGLE.ONE. at least twice. (Number 1 being indefinitely!)

Well, apart from Number 10. Number 10 is the dream. Keep hope alive!

And Number 5 has happened more times than I care to admit. You know you have a problem when your story goes from, “He kissed me, and everything inside me…” to “opk dpwdkkkkkkkkkkkkkpkishdugzsuig;ght5rrrrrrrrrrrrrr”

….Yeeeea. But if you follow my #TribeTuesday posts, you know I’m working on that!

Anyway head on over to Meg’s blog at Novelty Revisions to see what other crazy things writers have to deal with. Maybe you have a few more things to add to the list!

Meg Dowell Writes

1. Writing for free.

2. Being approached to write for free. (Too often.)

3. Writing in a very uncomfortable position while on a train/bus/plane/in a car.

4. Trying to write while your fur children/tiny humans are battling for your attention.

5. Falling asleep on your keyboard because you procrastinated again why do you always do this.

6. Wanting to agree to do another writing thing but oops you can’t create more hours in the day. Sad…

7. Accepting a writing gig because you want to buy a thing but can’t justify doing so otherwise.

8. Accepting a writing gig because you need to adult, even though you don’t want another writing gig.

9. Pitching something you don’t really want to write because you know it’ll circulate well.

10. Being able to quit a job you don’t like because you found a writing thing you do like — that pays.


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