Becoming Unstuck

cat-head-stuckWell, now you’ve done it. You went there. And now you’re stuck. Not just a little stuck. Bad stuck. Like, devastatingly stuck. Like, how the hell did I get here stuck. Like, I’m ready to walk away stuck. Don’t do it. It’s good work. It’s salvageable.  You just have to use your head to get back on track.

The first step to getting unstuck is acknowledging the fact that you are really stuck. You’ve gone off the rails and now you’re at a point where the story your writing is not the story you want to tell. It happens. Sometimes it’s a good thing. “The characters just have a mind of their own and they took me to this awesome new place full of possibilities.” But, remember, you’re not there. You’ve entered into a realm of aimless wandering and meandering plots. You’ve got problems.

Ok, so you’ve admitted the problem. Now, it’s time to assess the damage. How far into being stuck are you? A chapter? Two? Five? You’ve written the entire novel and realized none of it makes any sense after the first page? Not even the gods can help you, my friend. So, it’s time to read through what you’ve done. If you’ve outlined, it may help to see where your story and your outline starts to divert and why. Did you follow a fascinating plot bunny down a bottomless pit? Or did you stick to the outline, only to have it meander? If you can pinpoint where the train started going off the rails, you’re a step closer to resolving your stuck-ed-ness.

Now, you’ve identified the sticking point. Depending on where you discovered the problem, it may mean rewriting a few chapters or, gods forbid, tossing a few completely. Deep breath. It’s ok. This is part of the process. Trim a finger or two to save the hand. In this case, it’ll grow back. I promise. And, it’ll be so much better. Your story will thank you. If you’ve really taken the time to assess the situation, you’ll save yourself some work, but don’t be afraid to cut and start over. Remember, we’ve admitted to the problem back at step 1. It’s no use going forward, so taking a few steps back and taking a different approach is probably what your story needs.

Lastly, in order to avoid another sticking point, try and give yourself a solid path ahead. Create a detailed outline of at least the next couple of chapters. Stick to it… at least until you get over the hump of what stopped you before. That’s your new goal. Get past that sticking point. Then you could be off to the races. The floodgates will open and reams of smart, taught storytelling will flow from your fingers. Well, ok… maybe not exactly like that, but you’ll feel a lot better having been able to move on.

I hope this little method helps. I get stuck all the time and it can be frustrating. It can make a writer stop writing. But, we know that’s not the answer.

Have a way of getting unstuck? Be sure to share in the comments below! Thanks for stopping by. In the meantime, write on!


Self-publishing Isn’t…

…About Giving Up

Guess what? Despite what you’ve heard, self-published authors share the same goals and dreams as traditionally published authors. We really still all want the same things; recognition of our writing from readers and colleagues. We also still secretly want to see our books on the shelf in the bookstore. But, I get the sense that, to many, self-publishing appears to be a final decision. That is, once you self publish, there’s no going back. But that isn’t true! Self publishing is an option and a valid one at that. You can self-publish and still pursue traditional publishers with your other books. Better yet, if you establish a strong readership, you may be able to pick up a publisher more quickly. Of course, if you establish a readership, you might not need a publisher. And you can always do both! Hybrid authors publish both traditionally and through self-publishing venues. It’s not about giving up. It’s about making the right choice for each book you write.

…The Easy Way Out

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: “Don’t self-publish if you think it’s easy.” It’s not. You have to do a lot of work, or farm out a lot of the work. However, all of the rewards are yours and yours alone if you do it the right way. Professional editing, cover design, internal formatting, proofreading, and marketing will cost you money up front, but it will also allow you to deliver the same kind of content you would expect to find in a bookstore. Will a traditional publisher do all this for you? Sure, but most often you’ll have to give up all of the rights to your work, a huge chunk of your royalties, AND still do a lot of the marketing yourself (unless you’re one of those amazing top 1% authors). Self publishing isn’t the easy way out, but it can be very rewarding when it’s done well.

…Pretend Publishing

We’ve all heard it, “I don’t want to self publish because I want to be a real writer” or something like it. This one gets me. This one hits where it hurts. So, what you’re saying is that I don’t have “real” readers? That the ~90,000 folks who have a copy of my book are make believe. Hmm…I’m not sure who should be more insulted? Me or my readers? Let’s get something straight. I’m a real writer. I write novels and publish them through a worldwide distributor and readers buy them… with real money. That’s what makes a writer. Not some inflated ideal of third-party validation. Have you looked at the NY Times top 100? USA Today? Amazon? All are littered with self-published authors. I bet you might have even read one or two without even noticing. So, go ahead and keep waiting to be a “real writer.” Just don’t underestimate anything about the people doing it or the quality of work being created.

…For Everyone

Lastly, self-publishing isn’t for everyone. Do your homework. Read folks like Joe Konrath, Hugh Howey, and David Gaughran. Self-publishing’s gurus have a wealth of knowledge. If you do choose to self publish, be sure to check out sites like Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors. Great resources that will point you in the right direction for freelance help and steer you clear of the scams.

What’s your self-publishing experience been like? Share with us in the comments and thanks for stopping by! 😀

The “Should I Self-Publish?” Checklist



Let’s get something straight; self publishing is not the easy way out. It is 10x more difficult than going through a traditional publisher. However, if you’re willing to put in the effort, the rewards can be that much better. Let’s take a look at some key points of self publishing to see if it’s the path you should take.

Do you want control over every single aspect of your writing and book design?

This is one of the biggest reasons why folks self publish. By self publishing, you answer to no one but yourself. This also means that you are the one responsible for everything and some folks don’t want all that responsibility. If you’re ready to be the end-all/be-all, then feel free to jump in.

Are you prepared to do the work necessary to publish the most polished novel you possibly can?

Self publishing isn’t about cranking out 70,000 words, uploading a Word file to KDP with a slapped-together cover, and clicking “Publish.” It’s about putting out the best darn book you possibly can without having to give up a huge chunk of royalties and a lifetime of rights. This means having the book professionally edited, paying to have a cover created, wrangling beta readers, and maybe even paying to have the insides formatted. If you’re not willing to make an effort to get these services, I recommend traditionally publishing. Honestly. Otherwise, you may be wasting your time and tarnishing your potential reputation. You might not have the money to do these sorts of things and I understand that, but then you’re going to be producing a mediocre product that neither you, nor your readers, will be happy with. Your goal should be to put out a book that rivals those found in any bookstore. If you can’t come close to that, then you should reconsider traditional publishing.

Are you willing to do the marketing necessary for your book to be successful?

This holds true whether you’re self published or a traditionally published midlist author: You’re going to have to do most of your own marketing. Marketing comes in many forms. Some cost money. Some don’t. But, no one is going to hand you a prize as soon as you self publish. In fact, unless your circle of family and friends is extraordinary (and they’re all willing to buy your book), immediate success is rare. It’s often a constant struggle to keep your book in front of readers. This doesn’t mean you need to devote your life to promoting your book (you should really be working on your next book as soon as your first one is published). But, promotion can take time and energy.

Can you handle criticism from strangers and friends in a professional manner?

Self-publishing is still a 4-letter-word to some people. It’s climbing its way out in certain crowds, but there are some who hear it and automatically assume “vanity publishing” and “most likely crap that no one else would publish.” Is your skin thick enough to be on the front lines? You will get negative reviews that target you because you are self published. You will get strange looks from people when you tell them you self published. You will get haughty disdain when you explain in clear terms why you self published. You will be faced with a type of segregation that, at times, will bar you from participation because of your chosen method of publication. You need to be able to take all of the criticism and doubt with your head held high and

Can you live without “publishing industry” validation?

This is a biggie. Do you need the established gatekeepers of traditional publishing to tip their cap your way in order to be proud of your writing? If so, turn back now. The chances of having that happen after self publishing are slim to none. Yes, it’s happened. Hugh Howey got a sweet paper-only contract after his self-published novel, Wool, took off. Recently, cover artist (he did the cover for Danny Dirks!) and author Jason Gurley published his epic, Eleanor, and had it picked up several months later by Crown Publishing (and recently in the UK by HarperCollins). Congrats to him. It’s so rare though. You can pretty much guarantee being shunned by any sort of traditional press once you’ve self published, unless you happen to sell a ridiculous amount of books out of the gate. $ attracts $.

If you answered “Yes” to all of these, congratulations on thinking you’re ready to be a self-published author. 😉 I can tell you, from 3+ years of personal experience, it has its moments, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m proud of my mistakes and my successes because they are all mine.

What do you think? Anything I missed? Let us know in the comments and thanks for stopping by!