Thursday, June 14, 2012

Never Give Up, Never Surrender: A Never Surrender Blogfest

By Janice Hardy

It's always fun to see what other authors do for their releases, and today I'm joining Elana Johnson to help her celebrate the release of her new book, Surrender. What's Elana's done, is chosen a week and invited folks to blog about a time they never gave up. You can get the full details on the blogfest on her blog.

The most appropriate "never surrender" story for this blog has got to be when I wrote my second novel, Blue Fire. Second books are notorious for being hard (you have deadlines, expectations, a shorter time to write them, etc) and middle books in a trilogy are harder still. My agent and editor told me this, but the first book was so easy I just assumed the second would be too.

I was so wrong.

Fifteen months. Five total start-over rewrites. And that was just to get it to the point where I didn't think it sucked. There was still plenty of work after that. The drop dead deadline got closer and closer, and if I couldn't get the book done on time, I had to push off my release date.

That was a year or torture for me. Not only was I struggling with this blasted book, but I had the added pressures of a debut novel release. The emotional highs and lows were rough enough with the writing pressures.

I admit, there were times I wanted to give up. Terrified I was a failure. But this was my dream, and I knew if I gave up now, I was probably done for. I wanted to prove to myself I could do this. Some days, the only thing that kept me going was not wanting to disappoint the folks who'd supported me this far.

As frustrating and hair pulling as it was, it was an experience that taught me that no matter how hard it got, I could do this "writer thang" (as my husband calls it). No book is ever going to be as hard as Blue Fire was. And if it is, then I know I can get through it.

Since this blog is dedicated to helping writers, let's add some tips on how to push through a novel that makes you want to surrender.

1. Take a step back and reevaluate what you want from it
It all comes down to story here. Take some time and think about what you want the story to accomplish. The themes, the idea, the one thing you want readers to take away when they read it.

2. Check your premise
Some ideas are flawed and won't work no matter what you do. Take a hard look at your premise. It is plausible and something others might find interesting? If the core idea needs work, nothing you put on top of it is going to work.

3. Look at the plot
If something isn't working, and the premise is sound, odds are it's in here. Goals aren't solid, the protagonist's motivations are flimsy. You might have all the right pieces of the plot, but it's not clear enough or the characters aren't doing it for their own personal reasons. You have to get the drive back in there and show why this matters and why there protagonist is doing these things.

4. Look at the stakes
If there are no consequences, why should the reader care if your hero succeeds? This is where that sense of "Why should I care?" comes into play. If failing doesn't comes with dire enough consequences, readers won't feel compelled to care. Make them care again. Make failing matter in a personal way.

5. Look for the little things
Sometimes all a scene needs is a deeper layer of what you already have. My current WIP is a great example. The first several chapters just didn't feel compelling enough, though I knew that what I had was right. So I concentrated on making sure the goals were solid, clear, and consistent. Suddenly the chapters had drive again. Just because something isn't working doesn't mean you have to re-do the entire book. Try bringing out or adding what's missing.

What did you refuse to give up on?

About Surrender

The thrilling and seductive sequel to Possession puts love on the line in a dystopian struggle for independent thought.

Forbidden love, intoxicating power, and the terror of control…

Raine has always been a good girl. She lives by the rules in Freedom. After all, they are her father’s rules: He’s the Director. It’s because of him that Raine is willing to use her talent—a power so dangerous, no one else is allowed to know about it. Not even her roommate, Vi.

All of that changes when Raine falls for Gunner. Raine’s got every reason in the world to stay away from Gunn, but she just can’t. Especially when she discovers his connection to Vi’s boyfriend, Zenn.

Raine has never known anyone as heavily brainwashed as Vi. Raine’s father expects her to spy on Vi and report back to him. But Raine is beginning to wonder what Vi knows that her father is so anxious to keep hidden, and what might happen if she helps Vi remember it. She’s even starting to suspect Vi’s secrets might involve Freedom’s newest prisoner, the rebel Jag Barque….


  1. Now I have to add Surrender and Possession to my burgeoning list of must-reads...

    Janice, your story behind Blue Fire makes it sound as if you're an expert on darling mass-murder. Darling genocide, in fact. Five total start over rewrites? Holy cow. Well done for the never say die attitude. (Well, never say die unless you happen to be a darling on death row, that is).

    I really didn't want to know trilogy-middles were the hardest, coz yanno what? First novels are damn hard slog, too. I really thought once you had one pub'd novel under your belt, the rest would be ...ummm... not easy, but maybe less gut wrenching?

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Jo-Ann, they're on my to-read list now too :) I've no fear of the delete key, that's for sure. Sometimes it kills me to kill them, but if it's what's best for the story I have no choice.

    Being published does take some of the pressure off (you lose that "Am I good enough?" fear), but it adds other pressures. Second books have deadlines, so you usually have a LOT less time to write them than you did the first. And then there's that "I have to make it better than the first" fear. My agent says pretty much everyone falls on their face their second novel.

    It does get easier in a lot of ways, but harder in others.

  3. If I am fortunate enough to get to the second-published-novel stage, I'm absolutely certain the fear of disappointing others will pull me through, too. It's similar to what I do now in that I make sure I tell people periodically that I'm a writer. I won't disappoint them if I just quit, but I don't want to make a liar out of myself!

  4. The second book in a series on a deadline scares the crap out of me. If I'm ever there I know I'll be wondering like you if I can do it. Not surprised in your sharing of your experience that you give us the tools to solve the problem.

    Love the Galaxy Quest picture too. My post goes up tomorrow about when I didn't surrender.

  5. This is a wonderful post (and, weird but true? I totally quoted Galaxy Quest in mine as well - apparently it's an irresistible association) and not just for those lucky enough to be working on Book 2! Your five tips are excellent considerations for those of us still hard at work on Book 1.

    So glad I came across this blog via the Surrender Blogfest - I've already clicked five articles, and I plan to read through many more. Hurray for excellent resources!

  6. Khanada, what a great way to motivate yourself!

    Natalie, looking forward to reading it. It does help knowing that almost every writer has the same issue :) If they made, so can we.

    Jericha, I know, how can you not think of Galaxy Quest when you hear those words? LOL The blog fest is a great idea. I'm totally doing one next book release.

  7. I enjoyed posting my Never Surrender story on Tuesday. It was great reading yours. So many things people encounter where dreams could falter and end if we surrender. Glad you chose to press forward.

  8. This is encouraging to me, but the book that drives me nuts is the first in the series. There I am ready to publish, I've had it professionally edited, I've had readers give positive comments, and I get one reader who tells me it "needs much work." It threw me into a slide. Why did they think this when everyone else was positive? And who was lying? In any case, I had to step back, reevaluate, and push forward anyhow.

  9. Thanks for your honesty about your struggle. Sometimes the hardest thing about being creative is looking at your work in progress (writing/art/etc) and comparing it to finished projects/products and wondering if yours will ever get there. It's good to get a peek into your "studio-life" and know there was a mess there at some time, before you worked your magic and created such awesome books.
    Thanks, Janice!

  10. I checked out Elana's blog, joined the challenge, and wrote about not surrendering on my own blog.

    Thanks for the push, Janice, as well as the advice. :)

  11. I admire you immensely for not giving up! And to think I'm scared of (and struggling with, at present) a FIRST rewrite! ;)

  12. I just wanted to say that I LOVE your post title. That movie is such a riot. I've been following your blog for a while (get updates in my email) and find your posts to be helpful and oftentimes inspirational.

    I am currently on my 4th complete rewrite of the first book in a triology (parts 2 & 3 have a second-round rough done already too). Sometimes, it's really hard to cut a scene, but I have found that works well for me. That way, if I decide later to put it back in or use it somewhere else, or just keep it as background that I and my characters know but isn't essential for the reader, I still have it and don't have to think too hard. :)

    Glad you never gave up and never surrendered! Thanks for the encouraging post.

  13. Ack! It deleted my method. Shouldn't have put it inside the angle brackets... >:<

    I copy - paste in a new file - delete.

  14. I love that you took your own "didn't give up" story and turned it into a checklist for those on the brink of giving up.

    I'm in pounding-my-head-against-the-wall mode with my WIP. Not surrendering, just pounding.

  15. Oh, how I've felt this pain. I so understand the maze you must've gone through to get your sophomore book out there. I'm glad you didn't give up. Thanks for participating in the blogfest!

  16. Angela, thanks, me too. Perseverance is a good trait for any career, but a must for us writers :)

    Suzanne, ouch. It helps to remember that not every reader likes every book. If it's not to their taste the best written book n the world won't wow them and it's not the book's fault. Don't revise based on one reader's feedback (unless you think they're right of course).

    Amelia, all my creative projects go through an ugly stage, even if they're going well. Mess is a good description of them :) There's usually a huge difference between my early drafts and the final work.

    Thanks for you link! What a touching post. I hope things are better now!

    Trisha, you'll get through it :) Firsts can be a lot scarier because you don't know what to expect. The unknown is the rough part.

    Samantha, thanks! I couldn't help myself. Saving cut scenes is so helpful. I have a whole file called "stuff I cut I might use later."

    LD, thanks, it just felt right to offer advice :) I've got a head-pounder right now, too. Book's driving me nuts. but I just hacked out a pretty major plot point (a chunk of the original core conflict) and it finally seems to be on track. You'll get there too!

    Elana, thanks for the great blog fest idea. I'm seeing great stories all over.

  17. Frankly, even though its nice to know the possible landmines that lie ahead, most of us who aspire for publication would welcome 2nd book problems...because that means our first one was picked up. :)

    Thanks for sharing.

  18. DL, so true, and that's actually a great attitude to have.