Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tossing Aside the Self-Doubt Tools to Write the Book!

Ruthy here! Jenna Mindel is the author of book 5 of the fun and delightful "Big Sky Centennial" continuity that I was part of this year! Jenna (also a continuity first-timer) was absolutely wonderful to work with. As we all plotted and planned and scrutinized, we became writing buddies... and friends. A great bunch of women to meet online daily! Jenna's giving away THREE copies of "His Montana Homecoming" today, so leave a comment or ask a question and I'll throw your name in the cat dish a little later!

When Ruthy asked me to join you for a blog post, I was thrilled.  Then it came time to write the blog and I was like uh-oh, these gals really know their stuff..... And you do, and I'm honored to share my journey to finally accepting the way I write as my process.

Somebody once said, “self doubt is one of the most important tools in a writer’s tool belt because it makes us grow.”   But too much can stop us cold.  

I’m tossing  aside my extra self-doubt tools.   I’ve finally learned to not only accept, but trust my writing process.   How?  I think a combination of time and experience and trust that God has brought me here has played a role in that acceptance.    I’m more like the turtle than the hare.  For me, everything takes time to really sink in.  J  

In 1991, I wrote with the goal of publication after I joined a local writing group that was part of the national Romance Writers of America®.  Ten years later, my first book, a traditional regency titled,  Blessing in Disguise was released.    In 2005, my last regency was published before the line I wrote for closed in early 2006.    It took me five years to find a home with Harlequin Love Inspired and I learned a lot along the way.

We’ve all attended writing conferences and workshops where “the writing process” was discussed, mapped, outlined and shared.  Whether a panster or a plotter, everyone must find the process that works for them, right?   Well, it seems like I tried every worksheet and gimmick that came down the pike.   Everyone’s process for plotting or making conflict pop seemed so much smarter than mine.   But in the end, I’d fall back to what  was comfortable for me.
I can’t even call myself a plotter, because developing a strong external plot that reveals the internal conflict has always been a challenge and my weakness.   I’m more of a “route planner”.   Once I’ve learned who my characters are, what they want and why, I write that exciting first chapter where the words flow easily and everything is new and fun.  That’s where my characters come to life and I know where they’re going, but how are they going to get there?  So, I write the synopsis (many times and with much prayer) as my road map to their HEA.    Then and only then, do I plan out my chapters based on that synopsis route.   Will there be stops, bumps and altered directions along the way?  You betcha!   Occasionally, there’s even been a break-down or two.

It took me a while, but  I accept this sort of herky-jerky process as mine.  It works for me.  I’ve even learned not to sweat (too much) when I panic toward the end of every first draft.  Editing is my favorite part of writing, and that first read through feels like the moment of truth, you know?   I’m afraid that everything I’ve written is horrible and the conflict is soft.   Usually I find out, hey, I can work with this.  I can edit it into something better because I followed my initial route.

So, be encouraged if you’re second guessing how you write.  Some folks just know and stay true to their inner voice from the get go.   Unfortunately, if you’re like me, it’s not easy figuring out what works.   Consider the successes you’ve reached and how you got there and then repeat those steps.  And above all else, pray for direction.    That’s key.  And in my opinion, prayer is the most important tool in a writer’s tool belt.    

"Snowbound With a Millionaire...."

Faith Shaw can’t wait for another hometown Thanksgiving with the good people of Jasper
Gulch. Turkey, mashed potatoes, apple pie—and this year’s centennial celebration. Yet
there’s one person who isn’t happy to be there: Dale Massey, the Shaw family’s reluctant
houseguest. When a winter storm strands the big-city millionaire in Montana, he is far from
pleased. But the mayor’s daughter suspects Dale’s all-business attitude is masking a deeper hurt. Faith can’t help but feel he was sent to Jasper Gulch for a reason. Can an old-fashioned
girl and some holiday tradition help bring his weary heart home?

A small town rich in history…and love



  1. A very encouraging post, Jenna. Thank you, RUTHY. And please put my name in the cat dish, later, but not so late that it doesn't have a chance at winning! Have a great hump day, everyone!

  2. Jenna - thank you! I'm such a weak plotter. Your post made me feel better the moment I read it and gave me hope. No I can sleep!

    Ruthy, put my name in the cat dish on a really big piece of paper so you'll know which one to grab. :-)

  3. As with most things it's finding what works & sticking to it.

  4. Hi Jenna,thank you for sharing your process. I love peeking into the writing routine of authors.

    I love the cover of His Montana Homecoming and Ruthy, I would love to have my name tossed into the cat dish. I love continuity books and this one, I believe is the last in the series and the last one I need. I can hardly wait to start reading the series Yes, I held off waiting this time to read them all in succession. I usually can't wait but I have been busy with other things so decided to try reading them all in a row just this once.

    I pray everyone will have an awesome blessed Wednesday!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  5. Good morning Ladies!!! Wow, early risers. :) Ruthy, thank you so much for that wonderfully warm welcome!! And thank you for inviting me to Seekerville!

    Waving a cyber hello to Marianne, Terri, Mary and Cindy.

    Terri - I'm so glad!!! Yup, we can work on plotting but lets not forget to give ourselves a pat on the back for our strengths too. :)

  6. Oh, I'm a dork, though! Jenna sent me the NICEST THANK YOU for having her here... as if it isn't our privilege!!!!

    And I forgot to add it into the blog! Going right now, Jenna, so the people who actually sleep will see it!

  7. Ruthy, no worries!!!! You're a peach for having me - self-doubt and all :) LOL.

    Oh and there's a book 6 in the Big Sky Centennial series! Arlene James has a wonderful conclusion I can't wait to buy. Her Montana Christmas.

    I've got them all and plan to read them in order. :)

  8. Hi Jenna,

    I love how you describe your process. I'm also neither SOP or plotter exactly. Next time somebody asks me, I'll use your phrase, 'herky-jerky.' You may have created a new term today.

    Thanks for sharing your process and for the encouragement.

    Beautiful cover!

  9. Thanks for sharing your way of working, Jenna. I like knowing how other writers start, and keep their story on track.:-)

    As with most things, there's more than one way...:-)

    You smart Seekerville ladies make gathering bits and pieces of valuable writing info fun.

  10. Hi Jenna,
    His Montana Homecoming looks like an excellent read and the cover is beautiful. As a reader, a cover sets the stage for what I "see" as I read and sometimes determines if I read a book or not.

    Re:self-doubt, we all deal with it in one form or another,, but only those that press through it get results, so yay! for you for pressing through!

    Please through my name in the dish Ruthy!

  11. I love to plot. I love coming up with plots. It's character development where my second guessing begins.

  12. And this is a "little" off topic, but I finally got off my keister (sp?) and pre-ordered two wonderful Christmas collections.

  13. Good morning Jenna.

    I love reading about your process. It's taken a long time to sink in for me too that everyone has their own writing process. I need to write consistently day in and day out for several weeks followed by a break. I'd go crazy if I didn't take that break. In the future, this too may change for me.

    Your story and cover sound/look great. Please toss my name into the cat dish.

  14. Ohhhh, this is a very encouraging post! I love the idea of plotting being a road map. Seems sooooo much friendlier. You have starting point and destination and a route mapped out, but hey if a detour crops up or an enticing side street is too hard to resist it's all good. This makes me happy.

    I love this continuity series. Have read His Montana Homecoming. Was not a Dale Massey fan at the beginning but you converted me and I fell in love with him right along with Faith. So, no need to enter me in the draw! Looking forward to the grand conclusion of this series in December.

  15. Hi Jenna and welcome to Seekerville. Thanks for the inspiration and reminder to keep true to yourself. I go through this constantly so appreciate the reminders and tips.

    Have fun today.

  16. Oh yes, I especially liked the part about putting prayer and God first. Works every time. Don't know why it is always so tough to apply. LOL

  17. It's such a reassurance to read of your process. It just reminds me that we each have our own way of getting a book written. And self-doubt? Oh yes. Deal with it regularly. But, as you mentioned, when I put God first, He has a way of speaking truth and inspiration and life to my thoughts.

    I appreciate your post!


    I try new plotting and writing methods all the time, but you are correct, I need to embrace the good, the bad and the ugly of what ultimately is what works for me!

  19. Gorgeous book cover. So was it fun doing a continuity?

  20. Gorgeous book cover. So was it fun doing a continuity?

  21. Jenna - thank you for sharing your process! It's so tempting to look around and think, "This is easy for everyone else, why is it so hard for me!" When the truth is a lot less black and white :)

  22. Thank you JENNA.
    I like editing too. What I really like is when a crit partner or contest judge makes suggestions and I go back and incorporate them. I like to do it the day after I receive the feedback. Making things better is fun!
    I've had to learn not to compare myself to others. My crit partner is very structured, very disciplined and very by-the-book (you know, they have to kiss on page 56 etc.). And it works for her, she's now contracted. I'm a little more free-form, though not at all a pantser. I've adapted some of her methods for me, and adapted some methods I've seen on this blog, but ultimately it's down to me and what God wants to do with me. And the plans He has for me, and the life He's given me that I have to work around.
    And we will self-doubt. Oh, how we will self-doubt. My husband is a preacher and has pastored, and an old pastor gave him some advice early on: "Hang on to your call. Sometimes it will be all you have."
    Can we afford to do less.

  23. Welcome to Seekerville, Jenna! Your book sounds awesome!

    Your post resonated with me. I'm always looking for ways to write my stories faster. I'm not where you are yet, that place of acceptance, though my process is a lot like yours. Sometimes I write the first chapter and from that learn who these people are. I've never written the synopsis before the first three chapters but I like the idea. See? I'm still latching onto the methods of others. LOL

    So how do you come up with your characters? Do you start with a conflict, a theme, or does a character just pop into your mind, asking for his story?


  24. JENNA, it's a treat to have you join us today! I completely agree that each of us must find our own way to discover our stories. When it comes to the writing process, there is no "one size fits all," and that's a good thing!

    Now. What interesting tidbits can you share with us about the experience of working with RUTHY on a continuity? (If you tell us she was nice to you the whole time, we will NOT believe you!)

  25. Tracey,
    You are so right. We can't see how far we've come unless we press through - love that term you used. Thank you for stopping by!

  26. Welcome Jenna!
    Thanks for sharing with us, as I always enjoy reading what works for different authors.
    Congratulations on your Montana book---love that cover! :)
    Blessings from Georgia, Patti Jo

  27. Hi Jenna!

    Thanks for the peek into your writing process. I'm a bit herky-jerky too. Some days one method works, other days it's something else. It usually depends on where I am in the story.

    Now, off to work in my own way on the next story!

  28. Jenna, how fun to have you here today!! I loved this post, because your method reminds me a little of the method that I've been leaning towards. I'm trying to spend less time planning and jump in to do that first chapter sooner so I can get a better feel for my characters. It's a little scary for me to dive in so soon, but I've liked doing it. :)

    Congrats on getting invited to do the continuity!!

  29. BTW, I have your book and can't wait to read it!

  30. Enjoyed your post, Jenna. I can relate. I have a lot of self doubts. I did actually sit down yesterday and work on my novel. I am still in the plotting stages, which isn't coming along as easily as I originally thought it was. But I will keep at it. Please enter me in the drawing. I would love to read your book. Not a lot of books are written with a Thanksgiving theme.

    Well, must go get ready to sub in 1st grade this afternoon. Then I go back all day tomorrow. I am suffering a bit of a cold, so I hope I can get through it. :) First graders can really wear me out.

  31. Thank you, Jenna! Thank you, Ruthy! I was going through my files looking for speed drafting tips, then I see this wonderful post here at Seekerville!!!

    I'm trying NaNoWriMo for the first time, and I'm fairly certain I'm doing it all wrong. But I'm having a great time in the process! :D I have no idea about groups or forums or buddies or anything, mostly just using the word counter widgets for motivation, but it's helping! :D

    Thanks for the extra boost today!

  32. Wow - you guys are really blessing me with your comments!!! Thank you. I'm popping in during breaks and lunch while in training for my day job. LOL - so pardon my clumping my answers together.

    Tina- I LOVED writing a continuity- I was really scared at first, but loved playing with the plot and characters given by the editorial team.

    Janet -you're funny. I still try stuff I hear, and if it works great if not... I do what I do. And as for characters - they always come to me first and with a lot of baggage. I have to wrack my brain finding an external plot to tell the story... I'm too emotionally driven I guess. LOL.

    Be back in a bit.

  33. Jenna's at work today, so she's going to stop by on and off as she gets breaks and Internet! Yes, she's one of us who works all day and writes as time allows!

    Let me say that working on this continuity was simply great fun and the beginning of wonderful friendships. These women are all professional and wanted nothing more than the best possible series we could produce, and oh my gosh, it worked. Absolutely delightful! And the sales on the books have been great so far, with the opportunity to have new readers find us.

    I'm all over that like a rug on wood!

  34. Self doubt can be a killer.

    It wrecks your confidence, it messes with your head and it undermines your productivity.

    So maybe that's where my public face/cocky attitude comes in handy, because we ALL SELF DOUBT...

    It's in kicking yourself in the pants and not letting the self-doubt rule the work that gets us going.

    I guaran-darn-tee you that you will fail to sell 100% of the stuff you don't write!!!!!

    I love seeing folks doing NANOWRIMO if it gets them back in the power seat, hands to the keyboard.

    What have you done today to make your dream come true? :)

    Go for it!

  35. RUTHY . . . surely you didn't just admit publicly that you sometimes experience self-doubt???

  36. Well, snowbound with a billionaire....I can't exactly relate to that.

    I've been snowbound with my cowboy husband and it ain't pretty. There are cows who need him to rescue them.

    It's stressful.

  37. Myra
    I think so, but then I think she smacks it down and says "durn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"

    love this post Jenna. nice to get affirmation to do things the way things flow best for oneself.

    ruthy: name in cat dish please. this continuity sounds so great.

  38. Walt I've got a REALLY troublesome secondary character right now who's giving me fits.

    I just can't quite get him to come to life.

    I've been working with him for weeks and just last night......I decided to just shoot him and have his DEATH be a plot development...thus solving everything.

  39. Oh wait...that isn't exactly news is it?

    It's a tiny twist on how I solve all my plot struggles. By shooting someone.

    But honestly this is the first one who I just shot to make him stop talking.

    I think I may have evolved as an author through this.

    Time will tell.

  40. I think I need to shoot someone in my wip. I am not liking ANY of these characters right now.


    And I even have a synopsis I'm working from, but nobody in the story seems to like it.

  41. Myra don't go overboard. Sometimes if you just shoot one person, everyone else is afraid of you and shapes up.

    I'm only talking about fiction here, you all know that right???

    Mary "Nervous" Connealy

  42. So then as for self-doubt...what if, as I am worrying right book really is AWFUL???


    Isn't self-doubt the appropriate response in this situation????

    At least for me??????????

  43. Okay, now I just have to decide which character to shoot. And who will do the shooting.

    Yikes, more decisions!

  44. MARY C,
    Your comments about shootong uncooperative characters has me laughing and reminds me of an Annie Oakley quote I saw on FB yesterday,
    "I aint afraid to love a man,
    and I ain't afraid to shoot him either".
    Your in good company :)

  45. I tend to have the characters first and then struggle over the external. I just bought the Brainstorming book Myra recommended. Can't wait to try it!

    Who else here has trouble with the external plot?

  46. Mary,

    I agree with that plot development technique, though it's best if the person you shoot was a red herring for your villain.

  47. Hi Jenna,

    Sorry I'm so late. Trying to finish a story and wanted to get pages written first. Of course, they took longer than I had hoped.

    Still remember the first time we met: RWA in Atlanta some years ago...actually at the WED FHL luncheon. That year we had a one-day conference, and Missy was our chairperson. Fun day and lovely memories of meeting you!

    I keep trying to change my production method, but I always default to my AlphaSmart and a fast draft--at least from chapter 5 or 6 on. Had a light bulb moment this afternoon about a plot point, which is good. Love when inspiration takes over.

    Thanks for being with us in Seekerville!

  48. Thanks for sharing, Jenna! I'm glad I'm not the only one who struggles with plot lines!

    Love a chance to win your book.


  49. Jenna, welcome to Seekerville and thanks for sharing your thoughts and fears. I have to laugh when you said we all know what we're doing. Ha, I do believe we have you fooled : ) The doubts you listed are engraved in my frontal lobe.

    Each time I finish a book and think about starting another, my muscles tighten and a zing of fear rips through me. In my mind, that last book was a complete fluke and I'll never be able to write another.

    Wow, what lies we listen to!

    "And above all else, pray for direction." So true, so true. Those are words to live by and I pray I never think I can go it alone!!!

    Thanks for sharing, Jenna!!

  50. I would love to read your book, Jenna...count me in! I am trying to get all the books in this continuity series and can't find this one at Walmart. W. seems to be late getting LI in stock.

  51. Herky-jerky! At last I have a name for my process! It seems to vary with where I am in the story and where I am in editing.

    One lesson I learned the very, very, very hard way (did I mention I learned it the hard way?) when I experimented with other approaches to writing was that I am a linear writer. So even though I returned to my original way of writing, I'd learned a lot.

    Thanks for such an encouraging post, Jenna!

    Nancy C

  52. I'm back :) I normally work part-time but had all day training today about 1 1/2 hrs away. But a beautiful drive - I was able to carpool too. :)

    You guys are awesome! Walt, I so envy your love of plotting!

    Mary, what a riot you shooting your characters. Loved it! I think I let my characters push me around. LOL
    :) As for snowbound - my poor Dale Massey wasn't snowbound with only Faith but her whole family... yeah, that's stress.

    As for the cover, I love it too. Harlequin did a great job with all our Big Sky Centennial covers. :)

  53. I love the term "herky-jerky". It's so laid back and country!

    Myra, I did admit it!

    I probably was telling a bold-faced lie to make youse all feel better about yourselves, but it made me seem almost human, didn't it?????

    I kind of liked myself for a minute there!

    But let's not go overboard!!! :)

  54. My heroes are not as quick with a gun as Mary's.

    They need more practice.

    I should take the whole kit and kaboodle of them, herky-jerky like off to Nebraska and have a field day of target practice.

    Do you think Myra's going to really shoot someone, like for real? Because that new haircut of hers is SASSY

    I admit to being somewhat worried.

    Remember that song "When God-fearin' Women Get the Blues"?

    That could be our Myra!!!

  55. Kaybee,
    I love that quote from the old pastor. I'm going to write that one down! Thanks.

    With all this gun talk, I must confess that it's not only my writing process that is Herky-jerky! You should see me shoot a gun!! LOL (We live in Northern Michigan after-all and have friends who target shoot)

    Ruthy and all,
    Thanks so much for having me! This was a blast :)

  56. Deb,
    I remember that luncheon. I STILL have that beach bag. I won a door prize that was yours! I love it!

    Glad you got your pages done!

    ps - Ruthy,

  57. Jenna, thanks for sharing your journey. It is good to know that my method is not wrong at all - just right for me.
    Ruthy, throw my name in the cat dish - just make sure the cat doesn't eat it!

  58. Thanks for sharing your "herky jerky" process, Jenna. It makes me feel much better. Congratulations on your success!

  59. Hi Ruthy,

    My middle name is Ruth.

    Love the idea of a snowbound millionaire, so I'm throwing my hat into the cat dish in hopes I get a copy of your book.

    All best with the book!

  60. Thank you for sharing your quest to discover your writing process. I'm currently working on my first full manuscript and found your experience helpful!


  61. Thank you for sharing your process. I used a similar process for my second book and I finished that one in four months as opposed to the 14 months it took for my first book. I highly recommend a synopsis as a tentative road map.

  62. Wonderful post, Jenna. Thanks so much for encouraging us today. :)

  63. And definitely drop my name in the cat dish! :)