Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


Welcome back, dear readers.

I feel like I’m in a stalemate these days. I have so much that I have to accomplish in the next two months that I’m…well, frankly, terrified.

Dragonfly Summer needs a major rewrite, or at least the first one hundred and fifty pages do. The edited manuscript has to be in my editor’s hands at the end of October (in this case, my editor is one of my beta readers, not an editor at a publishing house). I’m thrilled that he agreed to look at the manuscript, and as he’s a very busy man, there’s no way I’m going to risk losing this opportunity by handing the book in late.

Another novel, Lost, has to be on its way to a contest judge by the end of November. It, too, needs a polish, but probably just a quick copy edit. Well, as “quick” as anyone can edit over 350 pages.

In other writing news, eleven freelance journalism articles need to be finished in the next three weeks.

Several projects at work are due at the end of November.

My red prajoud test for kickboxing is on December 17th, and I’m nowhere near ready. I need to work on my running speed, double kicks, push-outs, and push-ups. Argh.

I feel like a deer in the headlights right now. Part of the reason for this may be that I was sick last week, all weekend, and still not 100% today. I see all these deadlines coming at me like a freight train, and how am I feeling? Unmotivated. Definitely uninspired. I’m terrified that train is going to run me over.

Have you ever felt like this? How do you break yourself out of a rut and get moving when faced with the seemingly impossible?

My greatest fear is that not writing can quickly become a bad habit. I didn’t write anything new for years before beginning this blog and finishing Dragonfly Summer. I don’t want it to happen again, but I’ve been highly unproductive since the retreat. Not to mention that I’m still suffering from end-of-retreat hangover.

Any advice for me? Help!

Thanks for reading!
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  1. Dianiewill

    The best idea I have is the simplest: take tiny steps. Dont worry about the deadlines and the huge projects and all the looming craziness. Just take a few baby steps daily towards whatever it is you have set up for yourself. Live in the moment in all things – even when there are deadlines!

    So..how to do this? I use a big ole dry erase and a huge calendar. I break up my deadlines into manageable pieces and write my expectations out.
    1-Write all of your needs down with their actual due dates on a calendar or column to the side. (Look at it for a guide, but dont freak out!)
    2- figure out priorities of what can be done soonest, and what things can be done on the same days.
    3- get a calendar and start writing on that dry erase!

    example: this week by Friday, Rewrite the 1st 75 pages of Dragonfly, = maybe 2-3 hours on one day and another few hours on another day (or 1 hour per day for four or five days, whatever works for you)

    PLUS train for two hours per day for four days,
    Plus blog or write for fun 2 hours per day for a different four days.

    Plus regular work projects for however many hours you do that per day.

    Dont forget to schedule in some down time, or quiet time, or some significant other/friend/fun time. …and dont beat yourself up if you dont adhere rigorously. What this does is give you a guideline for expectations and helps you see its really do-able.

    Have fun with it, and dont be scared or stressed because that stuff just doesnt help you go forward. Give in to stress, and maybe give in to a little fear for a few bits during meditation or downtime only -just to address it and get past it. Then you will notice that it really is do-able and you have plenty of time to reach your goals without completely killing yourself, which would be a bad and un-fun thing.)

    Best of luck, I know you will do fine and be ready for whatever successes the universe throws your way!

  2. Travis Erwin

    Not writing can be habit forming. Write something at every point even if it’s hard.

  3. Kim

    One thing at a time….

    The “copy edits” to Lost could be done by someone else if you mean typos and grammer and formatting etc. I’d be happy to volunteer (although you have no idea if I would be a trusted reader or not so no obligation to chose me), because, really, the contest readers are probably not going to obsess over imperfections and tiny inconsistencies. Only you see those.

    The 11 articles…. eeeek…. where did those come from? Time to stop saying YES for a while eh…

    Dragonfly summer… that’s a big priority and the one that is first and foremost in your heart.

    The Kickboxing test — prep for that should be stress relief and don’t let stress be an excuse for not training. Sometimes people (myself included) illogically avoid exercise when they need it the most.

    Good luck. Get started!!

  4. Elspeth Cross

    That is a ton. Honestly, what are your priorities? Be brutal.

    What follows is only my opinion:

    The freelance projects pay. So does work. They win on the “but I like to eat under a roof” front – at least in my book 🙂

    Will any of the others cost you money?

    Can any of them wait? I know how much you want your editor to look at ‘Dragonfly Summer’ but if something has to give… Is he available in early or mid 2011? You’d have time to do rewrites at your leisure, and I don’t think you’ve had any time away from this book since you finished it. It would also give you time to start a new project.

    You held off on self-releasing “Lost” for the contest (so in a way this one did cost you money). And it sounds like a shorter project.

    I’ve been reading along on your red test but I don’t know enough to have an intelligent opinion. How much time would it take for you to be prepared? If you did work your butt off between now and then, would you be absolutely ready? Or should you put it off (realistically, not ideally)?

    Good luck, pal 🙂

  5. Elspeth Cross

    Although Kim and her “stop saying ‘yes’ to freelancing” comment sounds like good advice too 🙂

  6. Kim

    Funny how we somewhat gave her opposite advice eh “Elspeth”… We’ve perhaps confused her more about where to start when tackling that inbox. 😉

  7. Story Teller

    Wow, thanks for all your comments, everyone!

    @ Diane – that sounds like even more work! 🙂 But I can see how breaking each task into manageable chunks would make it less intimidating. I’ve accomplished more in less time, so I know I can do it – I just need to get off my butt.

    @ Travis – I totally agree with you. I’m just not always sure how to find time for it, especially when things are crazy. Any suggestions? What works for you?

    @ Kim – Chris did the copy edits for me, but I need to go through the electronic version of the manuscript and make his changes. I also need to read it over myself to make sure it’s as good as it can be. I only get one shot at this, so it’s worth making the effort.

    As for freelancing, I asked for that work. One of the main obstacles to living an extraordinary life is debt. I’m determined to get rid of mine by the end of next year, and the extra work helps a lot. It also will make Christmas shopping stress-free. I’ll definitely keep what you said about kickboxing in mind, as it’s very true.

    @ Elspeth – these are my priorities. I can honestly say that not one of them is unimportant. What may have to go by the wayside: social time, procrastinating, reading, cleaning my house, laundry, etc. What else is new? The good news is that by the time the holiday season rolls around, the tough deadlines will be a thing of the past! (For a moment…and then I’m sure more will crop up.)

    Thanks again for the advice, everyone. I really appreciate it.

  8. Mystic_Mom

    My friend the easiest way to eat an elephant this size is the same as always – one bite at a time.

    Break the work down into bites – some are bigger bites and some are smaller bites. Write it all down on a big piece of paper, break each one down into the ‘bites’ and cross ‘dem suckers off as you get them done!

    The progress you see will keep you going, and as you cross things off you’ll feel better.

    If you need help let me know I’ve done editing before and am a fact checker and researcher. You can do it…just don’t get bogged down with the enormity of it!

    Cheering for you from the farm seats!

  9. Story Teller

    Thanks so much, MM. I really appreciate it. I’ll let you know if I can use your help, but until then, it’s just nice to know you’re in my corner.


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