Posted in Blog, Life as I know it, Writing

The one where I reveal too much about my failure as an author

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I started writing the 3rd novel in my Hope series (still haven’t decided on a name, so this is what I’m going to call it for now) on Dec. 1. I came into the month with a clear idea on what I wanted to happen to Maddie, and what I wanted wrapped up by the time I reached the conclusion. But all the in between stuff, like the layout of each chapter and the steps it would take to get from the beginning to end, I left that to figure out later. I was just too eager to get started on writing, and I didn’t want to lose my train of thought to create the beginning.

And so I started writing. I created my epic beginning, and it was everything I envisioned it would be. Then I came to the next chapter, and I wrote the rest of what I knew about the setup of this novel. Now I’m on Day 3 of writing, and I’ve managed to do anything but write. I’m easily distracted, and I’ve found so many things to do during this writing time, the only time I have today to work on my novel.

The reason I can’t write is because I don’t have a plan. I know where I am, and I know where I’m going. But I don’t know the in-between parts on how I want to get there.

It occurred to me today that this is exactly what’s going on with my author business. This can’t be the first time I’ve realized this, can it? I’m sure I’ve realized this before. However, this epiphany struck me today, and I suddenly feel stupid.

I’m about to be more honest than I should be in this blog, so bear with me.

Four years ago, I was polishing the manuscript that would become my very first published novel. I had this huge vision for the future, my success as an author at the very core. I was smart enough to know that my first novel wouldn’t make me millions. I’d probably only sell a few hundred copies or so. I’d heard that the third novel was the magic number, and I was banking on that one getting me out of my full-time job and onto a glittery path of being a literary celebrity. I was humble in this dream. I wouldn’t quite be J.K. Rowling. But maybe I could be as big as Liz Gilbert or Anne Lamott, or in the biggest of hopes, the next Ernest Hemingway.

That first book sold well in the first month. Of course, I had to lower my standards to see that it sold well. Amazed by my achievement of writing a book, many of my friends bought and read this novel. A portion of these friends even left reviews, prompted by my regular requests to help populate the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Over the next few months, I gave copies away and gained a few more reviews. To help speed along my plan toward success, I published two other books from writing I’d done over the years. The first was a memoir of essays on single parenting, and the second was a book on poetry.

Now I had three books! I waited for the money to start rolling in.

As you probably have guessed, my book #3 was not the magic number. I failed to recognize that you need three books to draw in the same group of people who were attracted to the first book. By publishing a fiction book, and then a parenting memoir, and finally a poetry book, I was speaking to three different crowds. I was all over the map.

And so I wrote the sequel to my first book. The first one, A Symphony of Cicadas, told of a mother who died, and her journey through the afterlife. The second book, Forever Thirteen, told about her son, a 13-year-old boy who died in the same accident. I love both of these stories. However, they should never have been written together.

Here’s why.

The first book was full of swear words and a few sex scenes. It was appropriate for the story, and I feel that stripping those parts out would take away from the story. However, the second book was written about a 13-year-old protagonist, and was definitely geared toward young adult. So, I have one book that is aimed at adults, and its companion book aimed at young teens. If these young teens want to learn about the other half of the story, they must read through a bunch of swear words and sex scenes, and grown-up situations that probably won’t even interest them.

Do you see the problem here? Because it took me a while to get it.

My third fiction book, The Road to Hope, was the literary fiction story I always wanted to write, the one where I got to write the truth in fiction. With this one, I suddenly saw a small spike in interest through sales and borrows.

My fourth fiction book, Come Here, Cupcake, bombed (note: I should not be admitting this). It’s supposed to be the start of a magical realism series, but I still haven’t brought myself to write the rest of the books because that one took so much out of me.

My fifth fiction book, Loving the Wind: The Story of Tiger Lily & Peter Pan, is my favorite book I’ve ever written…and it still hasn’t been noticed. I still have hope that it will pick up, because I truly feel it’s a story almost anyone could enjoy. But perhaps I’m just biased because I’m such a Peter Pan fan.

In between releasing those two books was my non-fiction book, Reclaim Your Creative Soul, my answer to anyone who wondered how to fit creativity into their lives when they also held a job, raised a family, or felt like they were just too busy to do anything they were passionate about. This one had the best of intentions, and a lot of vital information I’ve learned over the years. And yet, I have not been pro-active at all in getting it into the hands of people who need to read it. It’s like I thought I could just release it, and the magic would happen on its own.

That’s eight books in all over the span of four years. Eight books, and I am still working full-time at a highly stressful job, and now going to school so that I might be able to figure out what I want to do with my life that might make me happy because writing novels is not paying the bills.

I’ve spent a lot of energy lamenting my failure as an author. Again, I shouldn’t even write this. No successful author ever admits this. They write about how much they love their fans, and cool things about their book, and post photos of how awesome they are as people because they’re writing books and killing it. Me, I’m spewing my disappointment on these pages because I have 10 or less people who read this blog every day, and it’s way too long and self-loathing for anyone’s attention span.

I’ve spent thousands of dollars on covers, editing, advertising, and everything else it takes to create a book and present it to the world. I’ve spent so much time listening to podcasts, reading articles, and trying to absorb every piece of information I can gather to bring my author business to the next level. I’ve lost sleep in favor of writing, created and posted cool images for social media marketing, sent out newsletters to my mailing list, and tried to build my platform in hopes that I could grow the audience that reads any of my books.

And my sales have flat-lined. Even The Road to Hope, the one I used to see activity on every day, has been forgotten.

I realize now that I’ve spent a lot of energy on all the wrong things. Of my eight books, I have a two-book series that takes place in the afterlife—one that’s geared toward adults, and one toward young adults. I have one literary fiction book. I have a magical realism book. I have a young adult fan-fiction book. I have a parenting memoir. I have a non-fiction guide for creators. I have a poetry book.

I have eight books aimed at eight different audiences. There’s nothing for each audience to come back for, as I keep speaking to a new audience and forgetting the old. Readers can’t figure out what to expect from me, because I haven’t been clear on what I write.

And this is why I’ve failed.

Here’s the truth. I love writing literary fiction. I also love writing magical realism and young adult. I know I can write all of these. I also know people love reading across the genres. However, I need to stick to one at a time, and really build that genre up. Right now, my focus is on The Road to Hope and building that story out into a series. I have an exciting idea for it that will create a series of at least five books, and I hope it generates the same enthusiasm I feel about it.

Back to that plan for the book I’m writing now. To make this book a success, I need to pause and really think about what steps need to happen to get from beginning to end. It takes more than a good idea to write a novel. I need to plot out the story so that I don’t lose my focus as I write.

As well, I need a plan for my author business. I keep wishing for success. I keep getting distracted by all the millions of things I should be doing to gather attention toward my books. I keep begging my family and friends for support, but I don’t know how to reach beyond the people I know and hold on to them as readers. I keep lamenting the fact that I’m still a full-time employee, and my books are costing me more than I make from them. I keep wallowing in depression that things aren’t happening the way they’re supposed to happen, and then wasting my time on things that don’t work…or worse, doing nothing at all because I’m so overwhelmed by too much information, lack of energy, and the weight of failure that remains on my shoulders.

I realize now that, just like my lack of focus in writing to an audience, I’ve also developed a lack of focus when it comes to growing my business. I’ve thrown a lot of things at the wall in hopes that they’ll stick. Goodreads giveaways. Facebook advertising. Promoted Instagram posts. Paid mailing lists. Promoting to friends and family. An occasional call-out to join my mailing list. A weekly newsletter that’s opened by only 20% of the people I send it to. It’s all well and good, but there’s no focus.

So yes, I need a plan. I don’t know what that is, but I do know it needs to be more than just a few sporadic actions with no backbone. On the writing side, my focused plan is to stick to a series, and then build from there. For growing my platform, I still need to figure that out. I’m tired of writing my soul, and then releasing it into oblivion. I’m not just writing for me. Writing is my way of communication. I wish to change people through my stories, to give a new perspective, and to offer inspiration though my characters’ journeys. But that won’t happen if no one is reading my books.

If you’ve read this far, thank you. I know this is just a lot of word vomit on the page. This post is way too long. I shouldn’t even publish this. But I will for several reasons. First, if there are other authors who come across this and are frustrated by the process, I hope to offer my own warning about how lack of focus can kill your business. Second, if I ever do become successful, I want to have something I can look back to so I can remember how hard this was. I want clear evidence of the time when I was ready to throw in the towel so I can be grateful for where I’m at. Third, if I’m ever successful, I want there to be clear evidence to other authors just starting out that it’s not unique to feel lost in this crazy world of novel writing.

If you’re in the same camp as I am—wanting something so bad, feeling like it’s just out of reach, and ready to make a change to get to the next level—please let me know in the comments. I need support today, and I want to connect with others who need the same support. I want to hear from you so that I know I’m not alone. Let’s be miserable together, and then let’s cheer each other on as we move forward in building our businesses.

Posted in Blog, Writing

10 gift ideas for book lovers (plus, some exciting news!)

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What I look like when I wake up at 5 a.m. every morning to write. Zzzz…

After 30 days of writing furiously during National Novel Writing Month, I’ve done it. I’ve finished the rough draft of my next novel! Rough, of course, is the operative word. Unlike last year’s novel that just sort of flowed onto the page, this year’s novel has a few rough edges I plan to smooth out in the editing process. But that’s the beauty of writing a rough draft. It’s not about making something beautiful. It’s about creating the bones of a story, and then chipping away at it until the magnificence of the story is revealed.

One thing became clear as I neared the end of writing of this first draft: this story cannot be told in one book. Around day 25, I realized that there was a bigger issue my characters hadn’t realized, and it needed to be addressed. So when I wrote my last word to the first novel on Nov. 29, I took the next day off to plot my course. Then, on Dec. 1, I began writing the sequel.

This means there is some exciting developments for those of you who are fans of The Road to Hope (or are gearing up to read this novel). There will be not one, but TWO books to look forward to reading in the next year that continues Maddie’s story! I plan to release the books close together to ensure there’s no long wait between stories. My goal is to publish by summer of 2017, but really, there’s no set date yet. As soon as I have a date locked in, I will let you know.

In other news, with Christmas coming around, I encourage all of you to put a few books under the tree. Here are 10 gift ideas for book lovers:

Happy start to the holiday season! And happy reading!
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Posted in Blog, Life as I know it, Writing

Life stops during NaNoWriMo

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In the past 17 days, I have discovered that I am not very good at keeping up with the regular parts of my life during NaNoWriMo. It’s been over 2 weeks since I’ve blogged here. My Facebook and Instagram pages are a bit neglected. My house could use a little sprucing. I ran out of towels two days ago because I desperately need to do laundry. My dog keeps looking from me to the door, wondering when I’m going to take him for a walk.The dinners I make my family are of the quick kind (what? leftovers again???). My gym membership is laughing at me….

But, I am almost 30,000 words into my novel, and I love how it’s turning out.

So, I’m giving myself permission to suck at every other part of my life while I wrap this novel up. In December, I can rejoin society. But here in November, I’m lost in my fictional world as I write my characters into a hole and watch them try to get out.

Talk with you soon!

Posted in Blog

11 tips to “winning” NaNoWriMo

This is an oldie but goodie I posted last year, based on a talk I gave to a bunch of writers at a Redwood Writers meeting. For those of you taking part in NaNoWriMo this year, you might find this post helpful. Good luck this year!

Crissi Langwell ~ Author

1-NaNoWriMoNaNoWriMo is coming up! All right, it’s technically coming up in November. However, it’s never too early to start thinking about NaNoWriMo, it’s only too early to start writing for NaNoWriMo.

What is NaNoWriMo?

From the website: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.

Here’s a little history on how National Novel Writing Month began.

NaNoWriMo was founded by Chris Baty in July 1999 in the San Francisco Bay Area, with only 21 participants. The goal of 50,000 words was set after Baty grabbed the shortest novel on his bookshelf (Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley) and did a rough word count. Only…

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Posted in Blog, Life as I know it

Greetings from Kauai!

I thought I would write a couple of posts while I was here, but honestly, I’m having too much fun to be on the computer (besides cramming in a bit of homework in the early mornings. We’re still on mainland time, which means we’re waking up between 2:30 and 3:30 a.m. in the mornings, lol).

Before I share pictures and details from our trip (so far), I wanted to alert you to a special sale on Loving the Wind that starts tomorrow. DO NOT MISS THIS SALE! Sign up for my newsletter HERE and I’ll email you tomorrow so that you can read the story of Tiger Lily and Peter Pan at a discounted price (plus, you get a different free book!).

Here’s a quick recap of our trip so far. We traveled all day on Tuesday to get here. All. Day. Seriously. We left the house at 5:30 a.m. California time, and arrived at our condo around 6 p.m. Hawaii time. Added up, that’s about 15 hours of traveling (and a lot of sitting). We were spent! But we arrived just in time to see the sunset from our lanai. It was well worth the wait. Because we couldn’t wait, we hiked down to the beach and took an evening swim in the ocean. The water was warm and refreshing, nothing like the freezing ocean in Northern California!

Wednesday, we woke up at 2:30 a.m., and after an hour, it was clear there would be no going back to sleep. So we got up early and got our busy work out of the way, had breakfast out on the lanai, and enjoyed the early morning before anyone was awake. Then we took a drive out to Hanakapi’ai for a 4 hour hike. This hike was 2 miles to a beach, with lots of steep hills, slick mud, and rocky trails, surrounded by stunning views, greenery, and tropical smells. I seriously used up half my breath just smelling the air. It was heavenly. It was also a really tough hike. It wasn’t so much the uphill climbs (though some of those were brutal), it was the downhill slippery slopes that did me in. I managed to stay upright the whole time, but took everything I had.

We reached the beach and chilled for a little while, enjoying the surf (which was intense) and the sun. Then we hiked the 2 miles back. At the last 1/2 mile, Shawn (my husband) stepped down wrong and twisted his ankle. We had already passed one woman who had hurt herself and was being helped by her family to make the trek back. Without help, they’d probably reach the bottom of the hill in about 8 hours. Luckily, we found out she was getting heli-vacced (sp?) out of there. When I saw Shawn go down, I was worried it would be the same for him. afraid he had broken his ankle. Luckily, that wasn’t the case, just twisted or sprained. A Good Samaritan happened to be near us at the same time with a First-Aid kit that had an ice pack. We found out they were from San Jose, California, just south of us, and were transitioning into retirement on Kauai. What a good life….

We made it to the bottom with hands up in the air, our muscles reminding us we weren’t the 20-year-olds who practically sprinted the slick trail. Nope, we’re seasoned human beings who tackled a difficult hike with battle wounds as our bragging rights. We made it!

On the drive back, I told Shawn to stop at a place called Sushi Girl, which I had learned about through a cool Instagrammer that shares Kauai food posts. There, we had some of the best ahi poke bowls the island has to offer, plus a shared bowl of miso soup. We had used up so many calories, this food was SOUL food. I swear, nothing has ever tasted better.

The rain started as we got closer to our condo. It had been sunny the whole morning, and we realized just how fortunate our timing had been. By the time we got to our condo, it was pouring. We chilled at the condo, reading and resting as the rain served as our soundtrack. For dinner, we had grilled ahi and steak, our own surf and turf made by my talented chef husband. Then we went to the resort’s hot tub and soaked in the hot water in the rain. It was a perfect end to the evening.

This morning we slept in until 3:30 a.m. Lol. Both of are feeling our old, tired muscles. I have no idea what’s in store for today. We had an itinerary, but the plans we had kind of fell through. We see this as a blessing in disguise, as we can now create our own adventure depending on our mood. I can still hear the rain outside, so today might be a shopping and sightseeing day.

I don’t think I’m ever going to leave.🙂

Here are a few pictures from our trip so far.

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The first sunset seen from our lanai.

Watch out for falling rocks! This cave was pretty cool.

Seriously, that view.

The hike was brutal, but how can anyone complain when it was this gorgeous? I couldn’t get over the sheer beauty of our surroundings.

Preparing for the next uphill battle.

If you are ever in Kauai, check out Sushi Girl. Food to die for!

My new favorite food is ahi poke bowls. Seriously, this is all I’m going to eat from here on out.

Two very tired hikers and our healing miso soup.

 

Posted in Blog, Life as I know it, News & Events

Aloha ʻoe!

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The pool where we’re staying

Life has been a bit busy this week, which is why I’ve been a bit quiet for the past few days. I’ve been working on a research paper that took up most of my time, giving me a glimpse of what it will be like to write for NaNoWriMo and do well in school at the same time. As NaNo gets closer, I am working on building up grace for myself. I hate to project a loss this year, but I am. This will be my first year since I started that I won’t write 50,000 words in a month. However, I will start my novel in November, so that’s exciting!

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The view from our room!

At any rate, my research paper isn’t actually due until Nov. 2. However, tomorrow we leave for Kauai!!!! I did not want to stress over this paper while on vacation, so I put my nose to the grindstone and worked it out here. There may still be a few tweaks needed for the intro, but other than that, it’s DONE. This is somewhat of a miracle since I have Kauai on the brain. Even now, I keep interrupting my blog writing to check out things near where I’m staying (Princeville, btw, if you have any suggestions!).

A few things I want you all to know:

  1. My husband wrote a book! After 3 years of hard work and digging deep, he has finally finished his memoir, Beyond Recovery. The book tells about life before and after his father left his family, his struggle with alcohol addiction, his journey into recovery, and what life looks like after giving up alcohol. I loved being one of his first readers as his editor, book formatter, and cover designer. The book will be available Nov. 11. Follow him at shawnlangwell.com.
  2. One of my friends just got back from Mexico, and he took Loving the Wind: The Story of Tiger Lily & Peter Pan with him so he could finish it. He told me he couldn’t put it down, which is music to an author’s ears! I’m telling you this because I will be having a special sale on the Kindle version at the end of this week, and I don’t want any of you to miss it! Please sign up for my newsletter so you don’t miss out. If you have read it, I’d be so appreciative if you’d leave a review!
  3. While I’m in Kauai, I’ll be working on the outline for the next book after The Road to Hope. I am itching to work on this novel! It’s been a whole year since I’ve written any kind of book. I really needed the break to just recollect myself (and to also recover from the awesome experience of writing Loving the Wind). But now I’m ready to get back into the game.

That is all! The next time we talk, I’ll be in Hawaii! Aloha!