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May 04

Guest Post | Elizabeth Vaughan Gives Advice for Aspiring Writers

About the Author

Elizabeth A. Vaughan is the author of the Chronicles of the Warlands, a fantasy romance trilogy from Tor Books: Warprize (her first novel), Warsworn, and Warlord..

She’s always loved fantasy and science fiction, and has been a fantasy role-player since 1981. By day, Beth’s secret identity is that of a lawyer, practicing in the area of bankruptcy and financial matters, a role she has maintained since 1985.

Beth is owned by three cats, and lives in the Northwest Territory, on the outskirts of the Black Swamp, along Mad Anthony’s Trail on the banks of the Maumee River.

Her latest novel, WarDance, was released on April 11, 2017. Click here to buy the book.

So when aspiring authors talk to me, they will often talk about the pain and uncertainty of writing.  ‘I worry that I am not good enough, creative enough, smart enough.  Trying to find the time to write, and then trying to find the right words, the right story, the right plot, it’s so hard.’

I then say ‘welcome to my world’.

And they look at me in disbelief.  ‘But you have written books and short stories and you are published and it’s easy for you, right?’

Oh, hell no.

I am here to tell you that the niggling little voice of self-doubt goes off in my head every time I sit down to write.  I face the same blank page.  I deal with the same doubts and fears and frustrations.  The only difference is that I know, through experience, that if I force myself past those doubts, fears and frustrations, I will get there.

Eventually.

And how do you gain experience, you might ask.

By writing.  By doing the work.

I have to go through this process ever single dang time, and that in itself is a source of frustration.  You’d think I’d learn, but the creative process doesn’t work that way, at least, not for me.

So, how do I deal with it?

1.  I have really good friends.  We go to dinner and I confess the truth.  I suck as a writer.  I tell them every flaw, every fear.  I tell them my pain.  They express sympathy and give me encouragement.  Well, they did for the first few books.  Now they don’t even look up from the plate.  ‘Yeah, yeah.’  They say.  ‘That’s what you said last time.  Keep writing.’  Still supportive, mind.  But they know I need to vent and get back to work.

2.  I isolate myself.  Anton Strout, author of the Spellmason Chronicles series, once told me and a roomful of writers “Your brain hates you and it doesn’t want you to write.”  I thought he was nuts, but it is so true.  Your brain wants entertainment.  If you allow it to consume other stories it won’t work on yours.

Sometimes I have to lock myself away for a while.  No TV, no radio, no music, no fiction, no movies.  Friends call and I decline their invitations.  I force my brain to entertain itself with my characters and world.  My brain gets grumpy, and I can only do this for so long, but I get the story down on the page. [Yes, I am aware that talking about my brain like this makes me as crazy as Anton Strout.]

3.  I walk away from the writing.  It’s not working, the words aren’t coming, I need to get up and do something.  I clean closets.  I scrub litter boxes.  I work on my taxes.  But as soon as I get a glimmer of an idea, I am back at the keyboard.  Or legal pad.

4.  I journal.  Fine, I suck as a writer.  I won’t work on the book then.  I will journal, and write down all the reasons I should stop writing.  Time.  Effort.  Stress. Work. Fear.  Fear of failure.  Fear of rejection.  Fear of humiliation. Write it all down, cry and pound the arm of my chair.  Then dry my tears, open the manuscript and keep writing.

5.  I avoid critics.  I do not avoid criticism because that is important to the writing process.  No, I avoid negative people with critical comments that do not add to my efforts.  This includes friends and family members that mean well, but will attempt to discourage you in pursuit of your dreams.

So, to quote Nike, just do it.  Do it tired.  Do it scared. Do it old. Do it [insert excuse here].

Write.

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