Wednesday, February 27, 2013

3 Tips on Handling Writing Pressures

By Charity Bradford, @charitybradford

Part of The Writer's Life Series

JH: I've delighted to welcome Charity Bradford to the blog today to talk about writing pressures and the stress writers often put themselves under. It's extra-special hosting her today, because she's been a long-time follower of the blog, has hosted me on her blog, and  drove hours to come to one of my book release parties. I even had the pleasure of reading one of her early draft openings of The Magic Wakes. I'm thrilled to help her launch her debut novel.

Charity has been a voracious reader ever since her 5th grade teacher introduced her to the world of books with Where the Red Fern Grows and Summer of the Monkeys. She’s the mother of four kids that keep her on her toes, constantly reminding her that imagination still makes the world go round. The Magic Wakes (WiDo Publishing, 2013) is her first novel.

Take it away Charity...

Becoming a writer is a long and often complicated journey. It’s filled with contradictions that can drive you crazy. For instance, a writer must learn to accept critiques in order to improve their story, and yet they cannot change the story to satisfy every comment from every person who reads their work. Writing is also a solitary activity (unless you are part of a team), but if you don’t participate in some form of social networking it’s really hard to sell books. We are supposed to write what we know best, what’s in our hearts, but trends make certain types of stories more marketable and agents are looking for marketability.

How do we find the right balance? Where do we draw our lines in the proverbial sand?

Sometimes it feels like we're fighting a losing battle before we even start. And yet...that desire, that NEED is still there. So we write.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot the last few months as I’ve prepared for my book release. My friends and family see this first book as a culmination of my dream to become an author. I see it as the beginning of a new challenge in my life.

Some might say, “You’re there! You’ve been published.” But I know there is room for improvement.

Perhaps my anxiety and unease of mind comes from the pressure of the expectations I’ve set for myself, as well as those of my family and friends. We all deal with expectations to varying degrees throughout our writing careers. How do we handle it?

I guess it depends.

Let's look at two forms of writer stress and some of the options we have to choose from.

1. Personal Expectation of Perfection

I know I want my story and the writing to be perfect. I just do. However, I also know that I'm not at that point and never will be. It shouldn't bother me, but it does.

Option A: Keep rewriting the same story until I die and never get it published.

Option B: Make it the best I can, reach a point where it's acceptable to me and start the publication process. At some point we have to let it go and move on.

My first novel was released into the world last week. To celebrate I read it again and almost died. Many have tried to reassure me that the story is great, but I can see the spots that still say "novice". I've decided to see the things I've noticed as a sign that I've already grown as an writer since my last session with my editor. I have to let that first book go since I can't change it now, but I can promise myself to make the next book better.

2. Get the Next Book Out Fast

It's been a week and I'm already getting texts, emails and Facebook messages from my friends and family asking when the 2nd book will be ready. You know how demanding the people you love can be? It's great! However, it's causing a bit of anxiety on my part.

What if they don't like the second book as much? What if they get tired of waiting?

Option A: Let my fears paralyze me to the point that I never finish another book. 

Option B: Write something, finish it and then try to publish it without adequate revising and polishing because I skip some revising and critiquing steps to save time.

Option C: Learn how to focus my energy more efficiently during writing time to finish the draft. Constantly remind myself that readers would rather wait longer for a well written story as opposed to getting a half developed one quickly.

How do you find the balance between steady progress and cutting corners? Do you ever catch yourself rushing toward "finished" at the expense of your story?

These are the two things I'm facing right now. I had hoped to solve these problems and present that solution to you today. However, life is never as easy as we want it to be. Here's what I do know.

1. We really are NOT alone on this journey. We may be on different paths, but there is always help out there when we need it. The hard part is being able to see and then accept that we need to learn more about the writing craft. Once we reach that point we can continue to progress.

2. It's worth the struggle. If you are feeling pressure and searching for answers then there is hope you will find what works best for you. The very process of going through the emotions and experience will help you become a better writer because you will gain understanding. Isn't that why we write? A need to find understanding for how and why things happen in the world?

3. Balance can change. There was a time in my life when more energy needed to be focused on my children. Now that they are older and all in school, I have more time in my day to focus on my writing. This will help the process move faster. Hopefully, with more invested time my writing will continue to improve.

These are the three things that help me survive the stress of expectations.

What helps you?

About The Magic Wakes

Scientist Talia Zaryn has always had visions of an alien invasion and of her own death. She’s kept them a secret, hoping they were nothing more than childish nightmares. But when the face in the mirror matches that of her dreams, she knows her death is imminent. If she can prove life exists beyond her planet, perhaps people will prepare to fight.

Her work at the Space Exploration Foundation leaves no time for personal relationships, but Major Landry Sutton isn’t looking for a friend. He’s looking for a traitor. His ability to sense emotions convinces him Talia is that traitor until a touch sizzles between them. In an instant their minds are connected and they can communicate telepathically. Just as the two begin to trust each other, the invading force arrives.

Talia and Landry must uncover the secrets of Sendek’s past if they hope to defeat these terrifying creatures. Talia is the key–if she can learn to trust the magic coursing through her veins.

You can watch the book trailer HERE and Read Chapter 1.


  1. It's not the end, it's the beginning, and it changes your life forever.
    I have never reread either of my books after that final proof. It would be torture to see the things I can't change now.
    Yes, dive into the next book soon. Don't wait. Trust me!

  2. I have such epic, EPIC love for this post!!! Thank you so much for sharing. The perfect representation of what I'm going through right now (agent hunting, at the 'almost there rejection' stage of things) and I really needed to hear that I'm not going insane :)

  3. It's hard to live with a desire to do truly excellent work (and the ability to recognize everything that falls short), but man does that help in producing good stuff! :-) Thanks for this post.

  4. Janice, thank you SO much for hosting me today. I've enjoyed our friendship immensely. As grateful as I am for your help with getting me headed in the right direction, I'm even more grateful to you for turning my 13 year old into a reader.

    @Alex, maybe I should stop reading mine too. ;) And I'm digging in!

    @Artemis, thank you so much. It's so hard to put all of this into words, but I know we're not alone in feeling these pressures.

    @Anna that's so true! You know what they say, without pressure we wouldn't have diamonds. I guess we just need to learn how to keep things in perspective.

  5. Every moment on the road to publication is a milestone. It's less a journey of a 1000 steps and more a never-ending marathon until you're reached the point where writing and publishing have met their fulfillment quota...or you die in the middle of book 10 in an anticipated 20 book series lol!

    But the point is that writing is a series of milestones. Each accomplishment is both an end and a beginning that continues throughout your writing career. Hopefully a long lasting happy one.

    Congrats, Charity, for your publication. Wishing you the best of success :-)

  6. I like that view of it Angela. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. Really good post, and so very honest about what it's like to get published. I know I felt the same way when reading the galleys for my book. I was pleasantly surprised when others actually turned out to like it. You just never know. We shouldn't be so hard on ourselves!

  8. Maybe we experience these feelings because publishing moves so slow. By the time our book is out there we've grown. It's natural to see the flaws that now glare with the added pressure of "people are going to see" looming over us.

    And your're right Amy, we need to learn how to give ourselves a break. There's always the next book, right?

  9. Charity, same here. :) I didn't know that about your 13 year old. That's so cool! That's one of the best parts of this job--hearing kids who don't usually read say they like your book and are now reading.

  10. Well, now you know how much I love you Janice! She's been devouring books ever since and even asked for some for Christmas!

    Since I write for adults I doubt I'll have the same affect on kids, but I have had some cool comments. There are other women and some teens who are now writing because they saw me succeed. That's kind of cool. I can live with giving someone hope that they can fight for their dreams. Even when it gets hard, confusing, and down right frustrating at time.

  11. /cheers! Inspiration is inspiration, and when you can help others it's a great feeling. Adults need encouragement, too :)