Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Imperfect Action Trumps Perfect Inaction

Many of you have probably heard the Harry Truman quote, "Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction." I love this quote because it reminds us to do.

Sometimes we writers spend too much time on the sidelines, gathering information. That's great for building a strong background in writing and honing our skills, but at some point we need to stop thinking about what we should do and actually do it.

Does this sound familiar to you?

  • I'll read one more craft book before I actually start writing my book.
  • I can't move on to the next chapter of draft one until the opening fifty pages are perfect.
  • I must attend one more conference/workshop/schmooze before I'll submit my manuscript.
  • My manuscript is ready to go, but I'm waiting for the perfect time before I query.
  • I've queried 20 agents without an offer of representation, so I'm tabling this manuscript.
  • I'd like to indie publish, but I must sign up X number of people to my newsletter and X number of people to my Facebook page before I take that leap.
  • I can't write the next story until this manuscript is sold.
Sometimes we wait on the sidelines because of fear. Believe me, I get it. I'm fearful as heck. But if we wait around for the publishing/agent search/indie climate to be perfect, we'll be frozen with inaction. It's better to get out there, make mistakes, fall on our faces, and get back up. At least then we're doing something.

Let's not wait for perfect inaction. Let's take imperfect action.

Do you wait for the perfect climate before taking action? Are you sometimes frozen with fear? How do you press forward?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Series? Stand Alone Books? What Should You Write? Guest Post by Alex J. Cavanaugh

Guys! Today we have a super star in our midst! Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Ninja Captain himself, is here to help us understand the differences between a series and standalone books. Don't forget to check out his latest release, Dragon of the Stars.

Take it away, Alex!

The Differences Between a Series and a Stand Alone Book

Thank you for having me today, Julie!

What is the difference between a series and a standalone book? Which is better? Now that I have written both, I can offer some tips. (Although technically, I have written two standalone books, as I never intended to write a sequel to my first book.) There is a distinct difference and advantages to both.

Let me show you advantages and disadvantages:

Series –


Making the following stories fresh and new
Keeping the timeline and details straight
Maintaining excitement throughout the series


Characters and world are familiar
Built in fan base
Can expand on the world and characters
Less research

Standalone –


Starting from scratch with world building
New characters to develop
More difficult to pitch, including to fans


Fresh start and no boundaries
Story wraps up with one book – no cliffhangers
Can pour everything into just one book

As you can see, they both have their good and bad points. Which one we write depends on what we are trying to accomplish. Do we want an expanding universe? Do we want the freedom of exploring new ideas? It’s all up to the writer.

It’s the difference between a movie versus a television show. A movie is (usually) self-contained. The storyline wraps up at the end and the character arc is complete. With a television series, the overall story is never-ending. The writers can continue for as long as fresh ideas come to them.

With my Cassa series, while I didn’t originally intend to continue past the first book, I was able to come up with fresh new stories that would stretch the main character, Byron. Each book concludes a character arc, but I was able to throw things at Byron that continued to force growth.

Dragon of the Stars was written as one contained story. The changes in the main character, Aden, are so profound that any further growth would be subtle. I could send him on more adventures, but the key moments in his life are held within this one story. Thus, it needs to stand on its own.

Which one is best for you? Well, how far do you want to take the story?

By Alex J. Cavanaugh
Science Fiction – Space Opera/Adventure/Military
Print ISBN 9781939844064 EBook ISBN 9781939844057
What Are the Kargrandes?

The ship of legends…

The future is set for Lt. Commander Aden Pendar, son of a Hyrathian Duke. Poised to secure his own command and marriage to the queen’s daughter, he’ll stop at nothing to achieve his goals.

But when the Alliance denies Hyrath’s claim on the planet of Kavil and declares war on their world, Aden finds his plans in disarray. Entrenched in battle and told he won’t make captain, Aden’s world begins to collapse. How will he salvage his career and future during Hyrath’s darkest hour?

One chance remains–the Dragon. Lost many years prior, the legendary ship’s unique weapon is Hyrath’s only hope. Can Aden find the Dragon, save his people, and prove he’s capable of commanding his own ship?

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm. Blog * Twitter * Insecure Writers Support Group 

Awesome, right? Thanks so much, Alex! Friends, have you written a series? A stand alone book? Which do you prefer?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What do YOU want? #IWSG

Welcome, Insecure Writers! If you haven't yet joined this amazing group, clicky clicky here. You'll be glad you did.

There comes a time in our writing journeys when we must ask this question: What do I want?

Do I want to become a bestseller?

Do I want awards?

Do I want a devoted fan base?

Do I simply want to be read?

Do I want to write in solitude and relinquish publishing?

Once we've answered the "What do I want?" question, we can then ask: How do I get there?

Do I go the traditional path?

Do I sign with an agent?

Do I sign with a small publisher?

Do I go indie?

Do I write, but keep the words to myself?

Sometimes knowing what you want, and knowing how to get there, are half the battle. I struggled with the What do I want? question for a long time before leaping into indie publishing.

Our paths are twisted, bumpy, and sometimes hazardous, but they're our own.
Do you know what you want? Have you decided how you'll get there? Please share!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Our Number One Fear in Life

I read an interesting article in Oprah Magazine. Dr. Phil wrote a piece on how we humans share one of the biggest fears in life: the fear of rejection.

He wrote that we all long to be accepted, and "We are at the pinnacle of life when we feel involved in the world, whether that means being part of a couple, a family, or a group of friends or colleagues. We want to belong."

Before I took writing seriously, I never really thought about the fear of rejection. But it was there. Fear of going on that job interview, knowing there was a possibility they'd choose someone else. Fear of submitting that offer on a piece of property, knowing the seller might laugh at our numbers. Even way back in high school, I remember that fear of walking up to a group, hoping they'd include me. (Heck, I still feel that fear in social situations)

But now? As a writer? Fear of rejection is ingrained into my daily life. It would be so nice if everything we wrote was loved by everyone. But no matter where we are in our publishing journeys, we'll always feel the fear of rejection.
  • The new author fears she doesn't have what it takes. She fears her skills will never be good enough.
  • The agented author fears her agent will not be able to sell her work. She fears that all the hard work to snag the agent was for naught.
  • The indie author fears her work will disappear among the digital shelves. She fears the gatekeepers were right.
  • The debut author fears her sparkling new book will fall flat. She fears low sales will stall a budding career.
  • The experienced, bestselling author fears she was a one hit or two hit wonder. She fears she'll never unearth that magic again.
Dr. Phil pointed out that successful people around the globe still fear rejection, but they don't let it hold them back. They take baby steps forward or leap with their eyes closed, despite that fear of rejection.

That's what I struggle with every single day. Feeling that fear of rejection, yet taking that leap anyway.

How about you, writers? Do you let the fear of rejection hold you back? Or do you take giant leaps anyway? Please share!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lacking Confidence?

I'm in the final stages of prepping my manuscript to be beta read by my trusted writing buddies. My friends know the basic premise of the story, because they've helped me with the query. But the actual manuscript has not been seen by anyone but me.

Guess what I'm lacking? Confidence.

You know that feeling, right? That feeling of fear just before you send that newborn story to have it critiqued. It's a scary step in the publishing process--but absolutely necessary.

*Deep breaths*

When I'm feeling insecure, I like to search for inspiration. Here are some share-worthy quotes about confidence:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. --Eleanor Roosevelt

It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not. --Attributed to Hanoch McCarty

We have to learn to be our own best friends, because we fall too easily into the trap of being our own worst enemies. --Roderick Thorp, Rainbow Drive

It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to. --W.C. Fields

Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right. --Henry Ford

I quit being afraid when my first venture failed and the sky didn't fall down. --Allen H. Neuharth

If you hear a voice within you say "you cannot paint," then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. --Vincent Van Gogh

Don't live down to expectations. Go out there and do something remarkable. --Wendy Wasserstein

A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves obscure men whose timidity prevented them from making a first effort. --Sydney Smith

Friends, do you suffer from lack of confidence when someone else reads your work? Does fear prevent you from sending it out? Did these quotes give you the confidence to send it out anyway? Please share!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Crutch Words that Weaken Our Prose

Are there certain words that you use too much? When you Wordle, does suddenly suddenly appear huge and dead center?

We all have our crutch words. The dictionary describes a crutch as "a thing used for support or reassurance." For me, crutch words are the easiest to find in my vocabulary when I'm writing a first draft. Nothing wrong with that.

But as we progress through drafts, we should trim as many crutch words as possible. I have a running list of words that weaken my writing. It's not that these words are never okay, it's just that they sometimes add unnecessary fat, and can usually be replaced with stronger words. When I run a search for these words, I spot areas in the manuscript that need tightening or clarification.

Here's a list that I've compiled, using multiple sources:

kind of
sort of

I usually weed out crutch words after beta reads, but before the professional edit. This time around, I'm doing it before the beta reads. That way my trusted readers don't have to suffer through reading "look" three times in the same paragraph.

Tell me, writers, what are your crutch words? Any I need to add to my list? At what point in the process do you search for weak words? Please share!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Chasing Perfection #IWSG

Welcome, Insecure Writers! If you haven't yet joined this amazing group, what are you waiting for? Click here to sign up.

I recently heard a message about expecting perfection. Perhaps we strive for the perfect Christmas, with flawless family photos and a Martha-Stewart-worthy table setting. Or maybe it's the perfect garden (*sigh*-- hubby and I are unintentional tree killers), or even the perfect hair day (*snort* -- don't get me started).

As writers, we're often searching for the perfect word. And when we find it? Euphoria. It's so worth the effort.

I think chasing perfection is a good thing, as long as it doesn't stop forward movement. Searching for the perfect word is great, as long as it doesn't prevent us from writing the next word, and then the next paragraph. And when editing an entire manuscript, I think chasing perfection works in our favor, as long as the fear of imperfection doesn't paralyze us.

I recently read a brand new book. It was traditionally published by a big house, and hot off the presses. Guess what? I found two typos. No matter how many eyes scanned that book, and no matter how skilled the editors were, the book was not perfect. No book ever will be.

So here's my attitude: chase perfection, but don't be stymied by it. Realize that no matter what, it will never, ever, EVER be perfect. We can't catch something that doesn't exist.

What's your view on chasing perfection? Are you sometimes paralyzed by fear of imperfection? How do you handle it?