Challenges Authors Face, and How to Overcome Them
You’ve gotten the idea for your book. You know what characters you want to include, where it’s going to be set, you’ve done the research. The hardest parts of planning are over so now writing should be easy, right?
Hopefully, you were lucky this time around, and the story came to you fairly easily. And you’re excited about it, which you definitely should be! Your research was intriguing and gave you even more inspiration. You can’t wait to dive in and get this ball rolling!
And if it was a struggle, at least that hard part is over. The next is all downhill, isn’t it?
If you’re like me, and you have a day job and family to look after, the best and worst of the writing journey is yet to come.
Authors face more challenges than simply finding the story and building the characters. We deal with the very real issue of making time for the writing itself, keeping the fictional world separate from the mundane, and getting the word out about the piece.
1) Challenge: Time
The clock and the calendar are evil beings, sometimes, sneering at our efforts to stay ahead of the game. When the story has us, and the real world disappears as we sink into the dealings of our imagination, the minutes can tick by unnoticed until suddenly the sun has gone (or is coming up), children are demanding food, spouses are complaining that they need attention, and the body is craving sleep. Also, if your day job requires you to bring tasks home to finish, you face a very intense battle of priorities. After all, your primary occupation is your bread and butter, but your writing is your passion. And behind all of those, you have to promote your work or else no-one will even know it’s there for enjoyment.
So how do you tilt at the windmill of time, and win?
Scheduling and prioritizing can help. Try assigning specific days each week to each task that needs to be accomplished — a day for those primary job assignments, a day for promotion, and a day for writing. Leave gaps for family activities, rest and relaxation for yourself, and a day for cleaning. There might be overlap, and there might be delays. Roll with the punches. You don’t have to do what makes you uncomfortable, and achieving some sort of balance can go a long way toward helping you achieve your goal of finishing the book.
2) Challenge: Keeping It Real
Even with the most careful of schedules, some authors find their worlds colliding when they least expect or need them to. I’m speaking of those moments when you have a sudden wave of inspiration, when you spend a morning mulling over your character’s latest adventure or next options when you should be focused on your staff meeting or work inspection, or when your mind drifts and you call your child by a character’s name by mistake. Yes, it happens. We live in two or more worlds at once, and our characters are so real to us they might as well be real people. And it’s a challenge because it can take away from our abilities to get things done, listen to others, and be responsible.
Tackling this challenge is difficult because for so many of us, the fictional worlds we are creating are so much more vital, interesting, and vibrant than our mundane existence. We’re like those gamers who lose themselves in Sims for hours at a time, or Call of Duty, or any game requiring strategy and wit — authors are attracted to the dream existence because it can be easier to live that way, with a greater sense of control and momentum, than is given to us in real life. Our books are our escape. But the real world doesn’t go away, so we have to learn to limit how long we give ourselves over to our writing, prioritizing and recognizing that the tactile needs us, too. Again, scheduling can help, as can having an understanding friend or partner who is brave enough to metaphorically slap our faces with wet herrings to bring us back to earth. Give yourself the space to walk, get fresh air, refresh your synapses with a glass of water, and have a real conversation. After all, we can’t write effectively about life if we’re not living it.
3) Challenge: Talking It Up
Finally, perhaps the most daunting of all these challenges — promotion. It can be a frightening experience that makes us want to back away and let fortune have its way with our words as it sees fit. The book is done, or about to be, so why not simply see what happens? What if we promote, and it’s not as good as we want to believe it is? What if we spend the time and the money on getting the word out, and nothing happens?
To overcome the fear of failure in promotion — the fear of promoting at all, that putting ourselves out there will lead to ridicule and nasty critique — we have to remember that old adage, nothing ventured is nothing gained. We write to express something in ourselves that refuses to be repressed, and we read to learn, experience, and escape. There is no reason to believe that your book will not be read and enjoyed by someone, somewhere, but if they don’t know about it, the miracle won’t happen. It takes courage, but sometimes we also need a coach to give us that final push over the edge when courage is failing. Hire a publicist. Engage a blog tour specialist. Get a professional to help you move forward when fear is paralyzing your next move.
Of course, not all of these challenges are faced by all writers, everywhere. But they’re common enough that they do come up in conversation. Having friends and colleagues with whom to commiserate and find other solutions is key to facing these issues as well. Don’t write in a vacuum — and don’t ever feel like you’re in this alone. Writer friends can be some of the best friends you’ll ever have, an irreplaceable support network with endless ideas and suggestions to get you through the hardest days. And above all, remember that you — and your work — is worth it all.
Thank you for having me on Mother / Gamer / Writer!
Excerpt from Wind and Shadow: Book One of the Talbot Trilogy, by Tori L. Ridgewood
The pain in her eyes was tearing him apart. “You want to make amends?” She laughed, and looked away.
“You could put it that way . . . Rayvin. Look at me. We connected once, remember? When we were kids? I’ve missed that in my life. I didn’t realize, before you were gone, how much I needed you in my world.” He leaned forward and reached for her. “How can I make you believe me?”
“Why?” She jumped up, staring down at him. “What’s changed since yesterday that could possibly have reversed an opinion you’ve had of me for years? I don’t understand! You’re not making any sense.”
Grant’s face burned. “You don’t know what I think of you. You’re not a mind-reader, Rayvin.”
“I don’t have to be. I’ve seen how you look at me. Yesterday, you wanted to run me out of town, and now look around you.” She gestured wildly. “Candles, blankets. You don’t want to ‘start fresh’, you just want to get laid.”
Grant got to his feet. “Really? Is that what you think?”
“What else have men ever wanted from me?” she responded, wearily. “You know what, it was a noble gesture for you to drive me home, and help me with Andrea. But now I’d really like you to leave.”
“No. We need to talk; we have to figure this out.” Grant moved closer to her. Rayvin’s teeth were bared, but she held her ground as he approached. She infuriated him, she insulted him, but she didn’t back down, and by God he admired her for it. “I know you’ve been hurt, but I’m not him. Not all men are like that. I’m not like that.”
“I’ve felt your desire, Michaels. I know that you want me. Maybe we should just get it out of the way, so we can move on with our lives.” Her eyes glittering, she closed the distance between them and ran one finger down his chest. Behind her, in the fireplace, the flames on the candles flared and elongated. Grant’s body responded immediately to her touch; his breath quickened as his manhood swelled. Her laugh sounded like a sob. “But I have better things, more important things to do with my time. I’d rather not fulfill your adolescent fantasies tonight. I’m telling you again to please leave.”
Looking into her eyes, a breath apart, dozens of possibilities flashed through his mind, most of them involving the shedding of clothing and the quilt on the floor. Maybe they should fulfill their physical needs, and move on. But that wouldn’t leave him satisfied. Grant needed more from her, and he strongly suspected that she needed him, no matter how much she denied it. He saw the plea in her gaze, the sorrow and the anger. Taking a deep breath, he raised his chin and stepped back.
“Point taken. But there are a few things you should know.” He picked up his jacket from the edge of the couch. “Yes, I want you. I’ve fantasized about you for years, ever since we were in the tenth grade and you walked past me in your parka. It wasn’t your body that really caught me, though, Rayvin. It was the way you smiled when you pulled the furry hood up around your face. God, I wanted you to smile at me like that. I wanted to give you pleasure like that. So I guess the past does matter, in a way. I can’t let go of how I felt about you, and how I still feel. I don’t want to, because I have never felt for anyone the way I do for you.”
Grant put on his jacket. “That was the first thing. The second is this: I believe there is a reason for everything. You chose to come back here, no matter what you decide to tell people. You weren’t driven here, you could have gone anywhere. I think you might be punishing yourself for some reason. You want people to hate you, because that will justify rejecting them. So don’t blame the citizens of this town for making your life miserable. That’s all on you.”
He walked to the front door.
“Is that it, Michaels?” Rayvin called out. He turned around, his hand on the doorknob. She hadn’t moved, but the candles in the fireplace had almost completely burned to their stands. Her face was cast into shadow by their brilliance.
“No, there’s one more.”
Grant strode forward, crossing the room in three long steps to take her in his arms. Rayvin’s eyes burned into his for a moment, before he leaned down and tucked her into his chest. He held her close, feeling the beats of their hearts together, inhaling the scent of her hair, just breathing. Slowly, her hands moved to his back. They pressed gently. He sighed, moving a ticklish lock away from his face.
Behind them, the flames dwindled into tiny points of light, before they extinguished themselves.
“Whatever else you tell yourself, Rayvin Woods,” he whispered, kissing just above her ear. “You have to believe that everything will be okay.”
“I tell myself that all the time.” Her voice was muffled by his shoulder. “I’m just so tired of being alone. And now . . . there’s no other way. There just isn’t.”
He released her, letting his hands move down to clasp her fingers. “You’re wrong, Ray. There’s always a choice.”
Grant pressed his lips to her forehead, and went back to the front door.
He opened it, not expecting to step into madness.
Hands with sharp claws grabbed him by the neck and shoulder, hauling him forward and up; it was so sudden he couldn’t react. By chance, his right hand caught the doorframe as he was being pulled out. Impossibly, his assailant was on the roof. He gagged on a stench that invaded his nose and mouth, taking his breath away. Whoever had grabbed him had impressive gymnastic skill: he jumped down, flipping in the air, double-jointed arms maintaining their hold on him, and dug his heels into the lawn to gain purchase. Grant tried to call out, but his shirt collar was tightening around his throat, cutting off his air supply.
Rayvin’s mouth had opened in warning, too late. She watched, horrified, as filthy claw-like hands reached down and yanked Michaels nearly off his feet. A rage she did not know she possessed boiled up in her blood. She flew across the room in a heartbeat, grabbing Grant and holding on with all of her strength. She pressed the hand he’d wrapped around the jamb so hard that her nails scraped against the painted wall, and winced against the pain of ragged paint chips digging into the quick.
From her vantage point at the doorframe, the vampire’s bared fangs seemed only a few inches from Michaels’ face. He grunted, straining his neck to keep away from the snapping jaws. The creature had both arms around the policeman’s upper body in a tight grip. Rayvin reached out with her other hand and hauled back on Michaels’ shoulder, heaving with as much power as she could muster. The thing hissed at her, digging in with his heels. Michaels’ hand slipped under hers.
“Hold on!” she cried, bracing herself against the wall.
Time seemed to stop in her desperate tug of war. Sweat broke out on her body with the effort it took, helping Michaels resist the unnatural strength of the bloodsucker. Anger fuelled her reserves as it occurred to her that he was toying with them. Amid the grunts, Rayvin heard the distinctive rip of clothing being torn. Michaels’ hand slipped a little more; now, she was only anchoring his fingers. She’d lost hold of his shoulder when his jacket gave way under the vampire’s claws. She lunged forward to get another grip and felt her own sweater tear under an elongated canine as she found a handful of shirt. Michaels’ feet were leaving marks on the concrete step as he was dragged forward. The monster laughed at them, sneering, his black eyes narrowed and dirty, demonic face twisted in a maniacal grin.
Rayvin felt the fabric of Michaels’ shirt starting to give. In another moment, his fingers would slip out, lubricated by their combined sweat. Her heart broke as he ground out a command to her, between his teeth. “Let go, Rayvin! It’s okay, just get inside!”
“Yes, let go, Rayvin,” the creature mocked, using Michaels’ body to creep closer to her. He leaned over the big man’s back like a sinister gargoyle. She smelled his disgusting breath, the odours of dead things and rotting flesh making her gag. Michaels fell to one knee under the weight, which the vampire used to his advantage, moving towards Rayvin until only inches separated her panting lips from his malevolent grin. She couldn’t look away from the fathomless black eyes. In the back of her mind, she heard Michaels crying out for her again, ordering her to save herself, but she was losing herself in the chasm of the vampire’s gaze. She blinked, and the reality of the present disappeared . . .