The Doubt Monster

So, the Doubt Monster (as my Soul Mate sister Casey Wyatt has named it), is rearing her ugly head.

The DM is that voice in your head that tells you you can’t do anything right. She tells you that your last chapter stinks, that your pacing is slow, that you can’t write and you might as well give up.

That’s what she tells me, anyway.

Now, I happen to be one of those people who thinks the DM serves a purpose. The DM reminds me that my work is not perfect on the first pass, which, honestly, is not something I heard often in college. I was always a one draft and done kind of girl. More than once, it was a “one draft after a  long night down the pub” and done. I could do it in German, even. (I had this theory that my German was always better a few beers in.) I’d turn that stuff in, knowing I could do better, and still get high marks.

That means I’m a great writer, right? One draft and then I can ship my masterpiece off?

But that’s not how it works with a novel. A single draft is never going to get me noticed, because there’s always something I can improve. This is where the DM is helpful for someone like me. I want my “baby” to be perfect, so I polish and I polish and I polish until I think it’s beautiful.

Then I sit on it for  a few days, and the DM starts nagging at me.

“Chapter Two is too slow,” she says in a brittle, angry voice that reminds me of someone else (no, I’m not sharing who.)

“You use the word darkness too many times.” (It’s true, I do. I love that word. There’s something eery and wonderful about the dark. I usually listen to her when she tells me this one.)

“For the love of God, woman, could your middle be any more boring?”

So the DM drives me to fix those things that I see as problematic.

But the DM is occasionally cruel, because then we have conversations like this:

“This is awful. Put it under the bed and forget it exists. Because seriously, you’re better at macrame.”

“But I can’t do macrame,” I complain.

“Don’t we both know it.”

The DM can be such a bitch.

So when the DM starts nagging at me, unless she has something constructive to say, I have to figure out a way to get her to shut up.

Here are the top five things I do:

1. I write. And while I write, I say to myself, “I don’t suck. I don’t suck. I don’t suck.” I remind myself it’s a draft and I can always fix it.

2. I edit something else, maybe something the DM isn’t attacking at that moment.

3. I listen to music while I write… That way, I can’t hear the DM when she starts in on her rants.

4. Sometimes, just to spite her, I’ll hit send on a query. Take that! After all, it’s best to strike the first blow. Maybe, if I hit her hard enough, she won’t get up again (she always does. Bitch is like Rocky Balboa.)

5. I remind myself that there are a great many things I am good at. For instance, I can drop the term derhotacization in casual conversation. I know other big words, too. Like mountain and reindeer. I’m smart like that.

So, what do you do to combat the great and powerful DM?


The Ultimate Couple

As a romance writer, I spend a lot of time–and I mean a lot of time–thinking about couples, that magical pairing that works. What makes these couples click? What makes their love timeless? How do they deal with one another’s flaws, and how do they stay together for so long?

So today, I’m blogging about the Ultimate Couple, the pairing that will last a lifetime.

That’s right. Bert and Ernie.

These two have the ultimate bond. Easy going Ernie and his high strung, more type A parnter, Bert. These two do everything together. They cook together, they eat together, they live together. Heck, there’s even the romantic bubble bath together. After all, who doesn’t remember Ernie’s ode to his rubber duckie? Do you all really think that song was just about a rubber duck?

I think not, my friends. That was a metaphor for the bond Ernie shares with Bert.

So, the next time you’re trying to develop characters who share a timeless love, the ultimate in opposites attracting, look no further than your own childhood.

Look to Bert and Ernie

Missing Persons

Sorry I’ve been so quiet lately.

I was kidnapped by pirates.

Yes, that’s an artist’s rendition of me.

Uh, what do you mean, what do you mean, you don’t believe me? Of course it happened. Really. How could you not believe me? How do I not come across as a lusty pirate wench?

Oh, yeah, the nerdiness. Right.

Well, actually, I was abducted aliens. I bet you totally buy that, right? Took me up into their spaceship, too. The weather on Alderran was awesome, right up until the planet exploded.

Oh, you saw that, too?

Uh, sorry.

Anyway, I’ve barely blogged on my own site, and I promise to do better.

Unless I get kidnapped by aliens again.

Or pirates.

TO REVIEW OR NOT TO REVIEW? A Guest Post by Author Shelly Bell

Shelly Bell's debut novel

With my debut book, A YEAR TO REMEMBER, on the metaphorical “shelves,” I need to prepare for the inevitable reviews. These days, reviews are imperative to selling books. I don’t know about you, but the idea of it terrifies me. So terrified, I considered not sending out copies to reviewers.

Then I learned it’s not the professional reviewers I should worry about, but the private reviewers.

Reviews are subjective. I know not everyone will like my book. I just read a review of a book I loved that received a D rating from an online review site. It’s only one person’s opinion.

Authors need to accept bad reviews with dignity and grace. Unfortunately, not all of them do. Time and time again, I’ve read about authors responding to a bad review by leaving a comment on the website. It’s highly unprofessional and can result in a barrage of negative publicity.  Even if it helps increase book sales, it will be more difficult for the publishing industry to take you seriously. Any hope of a sale to a publisher or gaining the attention of a reputable agent could be lost within minutes, simply because you didn’t act professionally.

In 2004, Anne Rice responded to negative online Amazon reviews stating they were “interrogating this text from the wrong perspective.” Additionally, she stated, “Your stupid, arrogant assumptions about me and what I am doing are slander.”

Personally, I would not respond at all. But if after time and careful consideration you feel it imperative to respond to the review, I would do it in a private e-mail to the reviewer. Then let it go!

Did it negatively impact Anne Rice’s sales? Probably not. I agree with author Shiloh Walker, who stated in her blog that if someone is interested in reading your book, negative reviews won’t matter. She believes that the “negative review may be the very thing that entices another reader to buy your book.”

I wasn’t the only one to agree with Shiloh. Inspired by her blog, GalleyCat posted a list of bestselling books with one-star reviews (See ).

One-Star Reviews for Bestselling Books

1. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (669 one-star reviews)

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (396 one-star reviews)

3. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin (344 one-star reviews)

4. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (169 one-star reviews)

5. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (157 one-star reviews)

6. Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich (119 one-star reviews)

7. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini (118 one-star reviews)

8. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (191 one-star reviews)

9. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (96 one-star reviews)

10. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (81 one-star reviews)

Feel better now? If you have negative reviews, you’re in good company.

There’s another issue involving reviews by private citizens- manipulation of book ratings. Last month, Publishers Weekly wrote an article about reviews by agents and authors commenting on citizen reviews.

Apparently, an agent worked with an author to boost the book ratings on Goodreads.  The worst part? They got caught because they messaged about it on Twitter. It’s one thing to have your friends write reviews. It’s another to control your book’s ratings.

When you receive a negative review, shake it off. Use it as a learning experience. Writers are artists with sensitive souls who bare their souls on the page. But when that writer publishes her book, she’s entered an industry. The book changes from art to business.  In every business, there are rules. If you want to succeed, you need to play by those rules.

In the meantime, use the hurt and anger you feel from the negative review and write it in your next book. Success is the best revenge!

Author Shelly Bell