Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Write Confidently, Even if that Scares You


What does it mean to write confidently? Does it mean to write without worrying if your story is too controversial? Does it mean to write a story that you know will be hard to pull off, but if you can pull it off, it’s going to be amazing? Does it mean to write without worrying that it might not be your best seller? Does it mean to write what God has put on your heart even though it’s not a popular genre?

Yes. Yes to all of the above. Not to say that you should always write whatever strikes your fancy. I once decided it would be a good idea to write a YA series about teens who had to save their town by killing zombies. While I still think it’s not a terrible idea—Buffy the Vampire Slayer was pretty popular, after all—it wasn’t the best idea for me. At all. So you should definitely pray about it if you’re not sure.

"I'd rather regret the risks that didn't work out than the chances I didn't take at all."

- Simone Biles

Writers are gymnasts who take risks with our words, with our imaginations and our characters and our stories. Not just for the sake of taking a risk. But just like an Olympic gymnast, we do it to win the gold. And winning the gold for us means to write something that will touch a hurting heart. Make a reader not feel so alone. Make our readers catch their breath at how beautiful and true our words are. We take risks for the sake of truth in our stories. The truth of love and hope and dreams coming true, as well as the truth of pain and disappointment and that bad decisions have consequences. But always the ultimate truth, that Jesus is the Way, and He loves us.

"I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

- Maya Angelou

We take risks and write confidently because we have to make our readers feel it. We study and learn and revise because we want to choose the very best way to say something to make the reader feel all the feels. But first we have to be confident, almost reckless, as we write that story, that dialogue, that action. We pour it out, drawing on our own pain and experiences, the truth inside us, the things God has taught us in the crises and difficult times we’ve walked through. And we do our best to make them feel.

“Accept who you are; and revel in it.”  -- Mitch Albom

 

What do you love? Write about it. What makes you unique? Write that. What makes your heart race and your breath shallow? Write about that. Don’t write what you know; write what you LOVE.

 

“To write something you have to risk making a fool of yourself.”

-       Anne Rice

Be yourself when you write. That’s how you write with confidence. Be completely and fully you. Don’t be afraid of making a fool of yourself. Go ahead and risk it for the sake of your story, the sake of being fully, completely real.

"I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn."

-       Anne Frank

What do we love about Anne Frank? She was real. She told it like it was, without holding back. Her emotions were real. Her struggles were real. Our characters have to be the same way. They must show real feeling, real struggles. After all, that’s how we learn, and that’s how our characters learn, by struggling with real problems.

So let your courage be reborn as you write, as your sorrows disappear from the joy of writing, of creating characters and a story that’s never existed before in this exact form. God created us in his image, and since he’s the ultimate Creator, we were made to feel the joy of creating, just as he did.

"Courage doesn't mean you don't get afraid. Courage means you don't let fear stop you."

-       Bethany Hamilton

When you’re afraid, you dig deep for your courage and write anyway. Don’t let anything stop you from writing confidently.

 

“You don't start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it's good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That's why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”

-       Octavia E. Butler

 

When you get back those revisions or those critiques from your critique partners, don’t let yourself stay discouraged. Get back in there. Figure out why they said what they said. If you agree that what they’re suggesting will help your story, then change it. If you don’t agree that their suggestions will improve your story, then don’t change it. But most likely there’s a reason, something you can do to change the story and make it better, to make it as flawless as possible, so your reader doesn’t get hung up on something that distracts them from the meaning and emotion of the story. And that might be the ultimate test of your courage and confidence. Being confident enough to make changes.



So, what is your greatest struggle in writing? What keeps you from writing confidently? Or are you writing so confidently, you struggle with the practical side of things? Let us know, and I’ll give away a copy of my recent release, The Orphan’s Wish, to one commenter.
And now for the "surprise news" I've been posting on my social media. I am self-publishing a new book in a month and a half. It's a book I wrote over 10 years ago, a book I always hoped would be the first in a series of books set in my neck of the woods, the place I've lived nearly my whole life--the Deep South. So instead of "playing it safe" and sticking with Medieval fairy tale retellings, traditional publishers, and another Regency romance series, I'm branching out to write what's been on my heart for a while, my Southern series.
Truett Beverly’s hometown needed a doctor, so after finishing medical school, he returned to Bethel Springs, Alabama. Fighting a secret war with a corrupt lawman wasn’t in his plans, but Sheriff Suggs thinks he’s above the law and can lynch anyone who crosses him. When Suggs threatens his childhood friend, Truett dons a cape and hood and rescues him—placing “the Hooded Horseman” in Sheriff Suggs’s crosshairs. 

Celia Wilcox arrives in Bethel Springs in June of 1880. She’s come from Nashville to help her sister care for their younger siblings. She hopes only to be on the small farm for the summer, just until her mother recovers from the shock of Celia’s father’s death. She must return to Nashville to fulfill her dream of opening her own dress shop. 

The lovely Celia catches Truett’s eye, and he finds himself wanting to impress her. But she flatly refuses to flirt with him or to fall for his—if he does say so himself—considerable charm.

Celia’s overwhelming attraction to Truett terrifies her. What will happen when Sheriff Suggs discovers Truett is the Hooded Horseman? Will Celia be able to prevent the sheriff from carrying out one last lynching? Or will her worst fears come true?
You can pre-order it on Amazon! 

41 comments:

  1. Great post, Melanie. Especially love this: "Courage doesn't mean you don't get afraid. Courage means you don't let fear stop you." Thanks for the encouragement today. Congratulations on your self-published book! Magnolia Summer sounds like a great read!

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    1. Thanks, Laura!!! I encouraged myself when I wrote it! Haha! It's funny how even an under-confident person like me can write with confidence when I'm motivated to do so. :-)

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  2. Melanie, I love that name, "Truett Beverly." Can anything BE more Southern?
    Congratulations on branching out. We never stop learning and growing in this business.
    I have never been tempted to write YA zombies, but I'm leaning strongly toward mystery and/or suspense, once I'm established.
    I'm glad to learn that established writers need courage too.
    Kathy Bailey

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    1. Thanks, Kathy! Yes, I was quite happy with that name when I came up with it! It was years later when I realized how similar it was to the name of the founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy. Ha. It must have gotten stuck in my subconscious. But no matter. It's his name and I don't want to change it. ;-)
      Oh, I definitely needed this reminder, Kathy! I need to remember how passionate writing needs to be in order to be powerful for the reader. Thanks for commenting!

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    2. Thank you Melanie. Have to get back to work now, working on a kissing scene for the sequel to my Genesis final. Kissing scenes. This job is SO tough (not).

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    3. Ha! I hear you, Kathy! I love writing the kissing scenes too! :-)

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  3. Melanie, what an inspirational post! This is my favorite quote:

    "We pour it out, drawing on our own pain and experiences, the truth inside us, the things God has taught us in the crises and difficult times we’ve walked through. And we do our best to make them feel."

    I love that!

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    1. Aw, thanks, Missy! It really is true. We have to be passionate, and we have to be real.

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  4. I have an appointment this morning, but I'll be back later!

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  5. I love this post, Melanie!

    It does take courage to write stories that other people will read. Where do we get our characters' emotions and insecurities? From our own experiences. And even though we alter those inner feelings to fit our characters, we have to dig deep into our past sometimes to understand what our characters are going through.

    It's like facing your inner demons and then inviting the world to share the experience with us.

    But that isn't such a bad thing if it helps our readers face those same demons.

    Thanks for the great post!

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    1. You're so right, Jan! And not only does it help our readers face the same demons, but it is like free therapy for us. Ha! And I need lots of therapy. :-)

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  6. Hi Melanie:

    Confidence is self-belief. Its importance is hard to over stress. You have a valuable post here today even for non-writers. Thanks.

    Now for a story:

    When I was starting out as a professional corporate photographer, I knew my equipment was far better than my expertise to use it. But I was as confident as an old pro, ("You want me to hang out of a helicopter and take aerial views of the grand opening? No problem"), because I knew from my years as an amateur, doing all my own film processing, that I could fix anything in the darkroom.

    In writing I think the best confidence to develop is knowing that you can fix anything on the edits.

    Learn how to edit!!!

    BTW: I think it is great that you've come out with a Indie book in a new genre!

    I have two requests if there is still time.

    One: Could you get the editor to change the name of the hero! "Truett Beverly," to me, is two girl's names. It's going to send off warning bells in my head each time I see it!

    How about a name like "Trent Bentley".

    Two: the cover art looks antebellum. I'd liked to see a heroine in a corset and bustle. Yes, it can look very good. Make me feel 1880. We're talking about the "Gilded Age" here. It's one of the most exciting periods in human history! Powerful.

    I hope you don't mind. I can't stop being a marketing person. :)

    Vince

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    1. Oops, adding this here, since I put it below by mistake.
      Haha! Thanks, Vince! I don't mind. I have second-guessed my hero's name too--It's a bit of a risk, I realize, to give him a "girly" name as his last name, but hey. You can't pick your last name, and there were some Beverlys who lived near my hometown in South Alabama, and I kind of liked the thought of a hero with a traditionally feminine last name. It's kind of like a guy singer who sings sometimes with a falsetto, like Maroon 5's Adam Levine. Women find that attractive, frankly. Besides that, my beloved English professor in college was named Beverley Smith, and so I have an emotional connection to that name. And as for Truett, we'll just have to agree to disagree, because I think that is a very masculine name, the perfect hero's name! Besides that, I can shorten it to "Tru" for his closest friends, and that's just awesome, if you don't mind me saying so. LOL!
      You're right, though, about the dress. It's not accurate to 1880. But alas, it is so difficult to find just the right photo for a cover, especially this time period. And in the South? There just aren't any. And since you I imagine there is a bustle on the back, I just went with it anyway. ;-) And you're right. It is a powerful time in human history, lots of inventions, changes, etc.
      Thanks, Vince! It's good to see you!

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    2. And in case I didn't make it clear, my professor, Beverley Smith, was a man. He went by "Bev." He explained that if you made it "ey" instead of "y" it was masculine, but it wasn't the easiest name to claim, I'm sure! But he was awesome, an amazing poet. And he became legally blind as an adult and had to have someone else read his students' papers to him. Just a little rambling as I procrastinate what I should be doing. Ha

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    3. Vince, you said: In writing I think the best confidence to develop is knowing that you can fix anything on the edits.

      Learn how to edit!!!

      This is so true, Vince! You are onto something with this. We can have the confidence to write the first draft as long as we know we'll be able to revise and edit when we're done. I feel so much better knowing I have editors who will help me make the changes I need to in order to make the story the best it can be. Hard to overstate the importance of confidence, as well as editing! :-)

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    4. Hi Melanie:

      I can agree with all the reasons why you like your hero's names. My experience is with my wife who for years would always say she wanted to hear Beverly sing at the Billy Graham TV crusades. I'd say, "When is she going to sing" and my wife would say, "He already has." More misdirection!

      Another story about marketing and having good reasons for what we like:

      Will Rogers used to say this: "When you go fishing do you use bait you like to eat or bait the fish likes to eat?"

      That's pretty good for a cowboy philosopher.

      BTW: I really love the girls on the covers of Cara Lynn James' books. See, "Love on a Dime" and "Love by the Book" and note that the model on "Love by the Book" is really Charity O'Connor from "A Passion Redeemed". One look and I think you can also see what Charity could always get away with everything! I know, TMI. (I don't even think Julie knows this!) ;)

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    5. Vince, I'm laughing, but I'm not sure why! :D

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    6. Stealth humor. Very dry and no olive.

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  7. Melanie, I loved this post. :) Confidence has never been my strong suit. I so appreciate your words of encouragement and suggestions to build confidence in my writing life.

    And I loved all the writerly quotes!

    I'll be coming back to this post to re-read.

    Congratulations on beginning your indie journey! Your new series sounds like fun!

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    1. Thanks, Jeanne!!! These quotes were so good, I knew I had to make a second blog posts and use some more of them. :-)

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  8. Haha! Thanks, Vince! I don't mind. I have second-guessed my hero's name too--It's a bit of a risk, I realize, to give him a "girly" name as his last name, but hey. You can't pick your last name, and there were some Beverlys who lived near my hometown in South Alabama, and I kind of liked the thought of a hero with a traditionally feminine last name. It's kind of like a guy singer who sings sometimes with a falsetto, like Maroon 5's Adam Levine. Women find that attractive, frankly. Besides that, my beloved English professor in college was named Beverley Smith, and so I have an emotional connection to that name. And as for Truett, we'll just have to agree to disagree, because I think that is a very masculine name, the perfect hero's name! Besides that, I can shorten it to "Tru" for his closest friends, and that's just awesome, if you don't mind me saying so. LOL!
    You're right, though, about the dress. It's not accurate to 1880. But alas, it is so difficult to find just the right photo for a cover, especially this time period. And in the South? There just aren't any. And since you I imagine there is a bustle on the back, I just went with it anyway. ;-) And you're right. It is a powerful time in human history, lots of inventions, changes, etc.
    Thanks, Vince! It's good to see you!

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    1. And in case I didn't make it clear, my professor, Beverley Smith, was a man. He went by "Bev." He explained that if you made it "ey" instead of "y" it was masculine, but it wasn't the easiest name to claim, I'm sure! But he was awesome, an amazing poet. And he became legally blind as an adult and had to have someone else read his students' papers to him. Just a little rambling as I procrastinate what I should be doing. Ha.

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  9. Hey Melanie!

    What a great post! Though I don't write stories, I have a job writing newsletters and social posts for my clients in the music industry. The biggest fear I have in writing is sounding too commercial and not expressing my clients heart in their updates and campaigns. I loved it when you said, "Don’t write what you know; write what you LOVE." I'm going to write that on a post-it and keep it on my desk! (Because I do love my job!) :-) So encouraging! Thanks for sharing!

    Blessings,
    Lynn

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    1. Aw, thanks, Lynn! And that does sound like a fun and cool job!!! Isn't it so great when you love your job? A big part of life.

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  10. Excellent post! So many times authors feel they have to conform to make their voice sound a certain way or only write what is popular. The world doesn't need more of the same, it needs more of people who themselves.

    Congratulations on the new book! I look forward to reading it!

    Blessings,
    Abigail Catherine

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  11. Hi Melanie!!

    My greatest struggle in writing with confidence is my personal struggle with self-esteem. When I worry about what other people will think, it holds me back. I never let anyone read my stories until they are complete and perfect, not even my closest friends and family. And when I finish the novel that I am working on, I am not sure that I will want to share it beyond my friends and family and/or publish it, even though one of my dreams is to publish a work of fiction. What if people think it's silly? However, I shouldn't let that keep me from writing what God has placed in my heart. Besides,
    the biggest critic is myself. It is definitely a battle of the mind to believe in my gifts and take risks. Thank you for this inspiring post!

    Melody

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    1. You're welcome, Melody!
      I have always struggled a lot with self-esteem too, but for whatever reason, when I write I can be bold as a lion! It's like I become someone else, someone who's not afraid to say exactly what she wants to say! I hope you are tapping into that inner you. I think maybe you are and that's why it scares you to think about other people reading it! You're saying just what you want to say! Maybe. :-)

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  12. We should be courageous write anything in our rough draft. Our rough draft is for us alone. But then in revisions, we have to put aside our feelings and make decisions that are based on the reaction we want our readers to get. Courage is definitely needed in ideas and drafting. But I'm not sure it belongs in the revision process, except that I guess it does take courage to delete our darlings.

    I've been wanting to read the Orphan's Wish! Thanks for the giveaway opportunity. :)

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  13. Thanks for sharing with writers and readers. I'm a reader but I am always fascinated with the advice given here.
    Blessings and I would love to be entered!

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  14. Melanie, thank you for the encouraging quotes and your insight into our writing fears. Like your YA zombie idea, I gave up on a story idea I thought was great but struggled with. I had invested time and and several thousand words before I had the courage to finally admit it wasn’t the right time for this story. What a weight lifted!

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    1. Glad you listened to your gut, a.k.a. the Holy Spirit, Karen! :-) Often it is a matter of timing. I try to pray, "God, what do you want me to write next?" and I think he does lead me.

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  15. I’ve been struggling with this a lot lately, so this came at the best time. THANK YOU!

    For me and my writing, my biggest struggle is finding a tale I’m truly passionate about. I’ve completed 2 novels and ABSOLUTELY loved them... but now I’m trying to figure out what I want to work on next and that’s so hard!

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    1. Make sure you pray about it, KayleighAnne! Ask God to lead you to just the right story. And when you find an idea you are passionate about, go for it!

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  16. Thank you Melanie. I love this whole post. It is very inspiring and encouraging to this would-be writer. Would-be if she ever got started. Haha. I've been feeling a niggling...I think a prompting from God for quite awhile now. I keep putting it off because life gets in the way and truly, I just don't know where on earth to start! Haha! Your post has encouraged me to have courage and step out and start somewhere. And as you recommended to KayleighAnne above, I'm going to start with praying specifically about it and making time in my schedule to sit, either with pen and paper or my computer and put something down in writing.

    And...I'm really looking forward to your new book!! :) Congrats!! :)

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  17. Wonderful post, Melanie!! And a great reminder that God put this story on my heart for a reason. I just need to write it, not worry about the next steps. Just write, the rest will come in His time!
    I’m excited for your new southern series!! ❤️

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