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Novel Magic: Defeating Writers Block with Author Candace Hardy

Writing and Publishing My Debut Novel—with Writer’s Block

By Candace Hardy

My debut novel was born in November 2019—at NaNoWriMo, of course. It’s no surprise that I didn’t write 50,000 words during that first NaNo. At that time, I didn’t have a method for managing my writer’s block. All the years I worked full-time, I fit writing in as I was able, with no drama. Just as soon as I had time to write, I couldn’t do it. For one thing, I was hyper-critical: This is garbage, I’d tell myself. I had forgotten my first rule of writing, set down by Anne Lamott: Write a really sh**ty first draft.

In NaNoWriMo terms: get the draft on paper; fix it later. I imagine the first draft took a year or so. I spent a month in a hotel at the beach re-arranging the thing. Does anyone else have this problem? —the novel is day-by-day, and I run into a weekend and what I had planned won’t work; or conversely, I need a weekend for what happens next and I have a Thursday. Of course, it’s not necessary to organize a novel day-by-day, but it works well for mysteries, I think.

In any case, the process of editing began there, and the chaos this reorganization caused got resolved over the next—oh, two or three years. You see, I not only had trouble putting words on the page; I also had trouble facing the needed changes and making them. One thing I did right was to hire three good editors: a development editor, a line editor, and a proofreader. They were all with the same company, Enchanted Ink Publishing; I always accepted the first person available because the lead time was so long.  I needed all three of these professionals, and as much as I’d like to save money, I will hire all three for my second novel as well. I have read enough poorly edited novels not to want to join that club. I’m a professional, not a hack.

How did I finally get the novel written, edited, published, and now promoted?

The process was custom-made for my issues. I love being and working alone, except when writing. Because of my fear of being alone with a blank page, I started writing with people, in a face-to-face group before Covid, and in online groups during and after. I still do this to manage my fear of facing a blank page, a red-lined manuscript, or a social media page.

Another pair of good decisions was outsourcing cover design and book formatting. I am much too technically challenged and, yes, fearful to do these things myself. I wanted a professional look, not an amateur look. I think we achieved that.

Why, one might ask, if I have so much trouble writing, do I even try? The answer is not profound—I do it because I want to. Who said we shouldn’t do difficult things, even when we’re able to pursue whatever we want—or nothing at all? This is what I want to do.

Now that I have a book on Amazon, one may wonder if I’ve outgrown my writer’s block. No, I haven’t; I simply have tools for managing it. One is writing in online sprints as much as I can. Another is managing my productivity expectations. I don’t try to write a book every three months. What I aim to do is just keep plugging away.

I also did away with negative self-talk—not all self-criticism that might lead to a better sentence or character or ending—but that destructive dialogue that repeats, “Not enough; not good enough; I can’t do it.” No more engagement with that negative person, whoever she is. I do my best and it’s enough, according to my harshest critic, me.

If writing frightened me; publishing terrified me, and marketing paralyzed me. Finally, I hired a consultant for a one-time appointment, expecting another long list of things I was not going to do. Instead, he made suggestions such as, “Your website says coming soon. Why don’t you change it to ‘Available on Amazon.’” Oh. Yeah.

“And your Facebook page. Write something every few days. Grab your title on Goodreads.”

“Update your LinkedIn profile.”

Simple things like that. Doable things. Even by someone like me.

“Where’s your newsletter?”

“It’s on Substack. I have four followers.”

He rolled his eyes. It’s not important. I’m doing what I can when I can, and only I get to judge if it’s enough.

Thank you for joining me on this journey; I hope to meet you along the way.

Candace’s advice works for more than writing. How do you eliminate negative self talk and improve your motivation? Comment to tell us how you cope with procrastination.

Meet Candace Hardy

Candace Hardy is a former electronics buyer / planner, high school English teacher / tutor, dog trainer, and long slow distance runner. Her hobbies include people watching and eavesdropping at coffee houses and fast-food restaurants. A native Californian, Candace now enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, writing mysteries, and blogging in beautiful Lake Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico.

Warning: Adult language and sexual behavior.

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