The Newbies Guide to Surviving Bad Reviews by Amy Lewis @AmyLewisAuthor #AmWriting #WriteTip

The newbies guide to surviving bad reviews

It was already a bad day when I read her review, only half paying attention to the words, because it was 6 am, and I had not slept well. I got a full three sentences in before I realized, "Wow, this lady really hated my memoir." Not only is she trashing my writing, she's trashing me, and not so subtly accusing me of lying. She suggested not everything in my memoir really happened to me. Despite the good reviews that had been rolling in, as a first time indie author, I could not stop thinking about this lady who hated my book. I knew I shouldn't care. I knew as an artist I put my work out there and welcome good and bad feedback. Art is subjective. I know that. But still my mind obsessed. If my book had been fiction maybe her review would be easier to take. She thinks my heroine sucks - no problem. But this was a memoir. She was basically saying "you're worthless, your story is worthless and you should have written it in a diary and kept it to yourself." Ouch. I googled how to deal with bad reviews. I visited sites that list all the horrible reviews that famous, award winning books received. I laughed and felt in very good company ... but only slightly. I was not a famous writer. I’m guessing bad reviews don't hurt as much when you're sitting on a pile of money and holding your Pulitzer Prize.  I considered writing her back. I know this is a huge no-no. I found myself reduced to age 11 and wanted to say horrible and childish things to her. I came up with many creative insults, but I kept them to myself.

It took a few days for me to cool down and begin to see the bigger picture. I finally got my "aha" moment as people like to say. This lady's review actually could be a huge gift. Huge! I should actually be thanking her.  I have struggled all my life with people pleasing and holding my self-expression back to fit in and be liked. I learned from a young age to read people and give them what they wanted, what would make them happy. I've been aware of my accommodating tendencies for decades, but breaking out of them has been a challenge. The more I relaxed and let go of my anger, the more I smiled when I thought of this book-hating lady and her nasty review. Someone doesn't like me or my book. Big f-ing deal. My world didn't shatter. I didn’t stop breathing. In fact, nothing happened. There is nothing wrong with hating someone's memoir, and there is no crime in sharing in vivid detail your feelings in a book review. I even began to smile at how much she must dislike me to take the time to write that particular review.

The real problem here is not the review or the fact that I got upset. The real problem is when I or when any writer, artist or human chooses to stay silent, to not play the game of expressing what is inside that screams to come out, just because we are afraid we won't be liked or accepted. The world does not need any more people like that. The world needs bold artists whose desire to express and create is way bigger than their fears of how their work will be received. I am happy and proud to say I am one of those artists. And this bad review helped me to realize that.

I leave you with one tip for dealing with bad reviews. When all else fails, get a copy of the Frozen soundtrack, crank up Let It Go and belt it out along with Idina Menzel ...

Let it go, let it go
And I'll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone!

Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway!

whatFreedomSmellsLike

Diagnosed with Borderline Personality disorder, Amy struggled with depression and an addiction to sharp objects. Even hospitalization didn't help to heal her destructive tendencies. It took a tumultuous relationship with a man named Truth to bring her back from the depths of her own self-made hell.Amy's marriage to dark, intriguing Truth was both passionate and stormy. She was a fair-skinned southern girl from New Orleans. He was a charming black man with tribal tattoos, piercings, and a mysterious past. They made an unlikely pair, but something clicked. During their early marriage, they pulled themselves out of abject poverty into wealth and financial security practically overnight. Then things began to fall apart.

Passionate and protective, Truth also proved violent and abusive. Amy’s own self-destructive tendencies created a powerful symmetry. His sudden death left Amy with an intense and warring set of emotions: grief for the loss of the man she loved, relief she was no longer a target for his aggression.

Conflicted and grieving, Amy found herself at a spiritual and emotional crossroads, only to receive help from an unlikely source: Truth himself. Feeling his otherworldly presence in her dreams, Amy seeks help from a famous medium.

Her spiritual encounters change Amy forever. Through Truth, she learns her soul is eternal and indestructible, a knowledge that gives Amy the courage to pursue her own dreams and transform herself both physically and emotionally. Her supernatural encounters help Amy resolve the internal anger and self-destructive tendencies standing between her and happiness, culminating in a sense of spiritual fulfillment she never dreamed possible.

An amazing true story, What Freedom Smells Like is told with courage, honesty, and a devilishly dark sense of humor.
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Genre – Memoir
Rating – PG-13
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Kimberly Shursen on Being Stuck & Having a Secondary Plot @KimberlyShursen #WriteTip #Thriller

Help! I’m Stuck in the Middle and I Can’t Get Out
By Kimberly Shursen, Author of Itsy Bitsy Spider, Hush, and Lottery

Ever get to the middle of writing your book and didn’t have a clue what to do next? You’ve set up the story; you’ve described the characters, the scenery, the wallpaper in the kitchen, and now what? You’re excited to write that unbelievable ending you already have conjured in your head, but how in the world are you going to get there?

Answer: resolve the issue before you start staring at those intimidating blank pages on the screen.
  1.  Have a secondary plot. By this I don’t mean a separate plot, but one that weaves nicely into your story. Using my novel HUSH as an example, there is Ann and Ben’s life, and then there’s Ann’s lawyer Mac McConaughey’s story. The plot remains focused on the main characters, however, Mac and his wife Jazz’s life is a secondary heart-warming storyline readers can identify with.
  1. When you’re stuck, think of the most pivotal moments of your life; the birth of a child, a challenging life hurdle you’ve finally succeeded in overcoming, or the feeling of finally letting go and falling in love. Bring these pivotal moments to life in your characters. Set the platform in the first few chapters of your book and you will have a beginning, a middle, and an end that, although clichĂ©, will wrap up into one sweet little package. Never write a chapter that doesn’t have substance or doesn’t move the story forward. Each single word, sentence, and chapter needs to have meaning; so no cheating filling in with drawn out dissertations of the scenery.
  1. I never place my novels in one city as it’s just too much fun to travel via the net. It is important that my characters and the places they live or travel not become redundant. In HUSH, there are three cities I visited in cyberspace. How do I do this? Just as a couple of examples, I use images, descriptions of buildings and restaurants, and neighborhood overviews found in personal travel documentations, along with studying the official websites of the city. I do a ton of research so that if anyone who lives in these cities or neighborhoods happens to read my book, they would think I’d been there not just once, but several times. The bulk of HUSH was set in Minneapolis, and even though I lived in Minneapolis for many years, I still had to check out the facts. How many miles around is Lake Minnetonka where Mac’s wife Jazz lived? How far was it from Dinky Town where Ann lived to the courthouse? Where are the prestigious neighborhoods in Minneapolis? Which suburbs are the poorest? Mileage from one place to the next takes me to Mapquest.
When I took HUSH to Lake Geneva, Switzerland was when I really had to  dig deep into the bowels of the net, close my eyes and envision not only the Jet d'Eau that surges 459 feet above the lake, but the Swiss Alps, and the peaceful inlet of water that borders this quaint, wealthy city.

Don’t be afraid to reach the middle; embrace it. If you’ve done your homework, and set up your storylines, there will be nothing to fear when you proudly present your baby to the public.

hush

Soon after Ann Ferguson and Ben Grable marry, and Ben unseals his adoption papers, their perfect life together is torn apart, sending the couple to opposite sides of the courtroom.

Representing Ann, lawyer Michael J. McConaughey (Mac) feels this is the case that could have far-reaching, judicial effects -- the one he's been waiting for.

Opposing counsel knows this high profile case happens just once in a lifetime.

And when the silent protest known as HUSH sweeps the nation, making international news, the CEO of one of the top ten pharmaceutical companies in the world plots to derail the trial that could cost his company billions.

Critically acclaimed literary thriller HUSH not only questions one of the most controversial laws that has divided the nation for over four decades, but captures a story of the far-reaching ties of family that surpasses time and distance.

*** Hush does not have political or religious content. The story is built around the emotions and thoughts of two people who differ in their beliefs.
 EDITORIAL REVIEW: "Suspenseful and well-researched, this action-packed legal thriller will take readers on a journey through the trials and tribulations of one of the most controversial subjects in society today." - Katie French author of "The Breeders," "The Believer's," and "Eyes Ever To The Sky."

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Genre – Thriller
Rating – PG-13
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Craig Staufenberg on Not Over-managing the Creative Process @YouMakeArtDumb #SelfPub #MG

How to Meet Deadlines and Remain Sane

The simplest strategy is to not set deadlines. This is very easy when you’re writing the book for yourself and plan on self-publishing. It’s hard to let a deadline drive you crazy when it’s not there in the first place. Though then you may run into the creeping dread and anxiety that comes from not having a clear idea of when the project will be done. Or even if the project will be done. It’s easiest to not set deadlines when you’re sure that you’re going to finish the thing—which you can only be sure about if you have experience finishing projects in the past.

A better model— you can set a longer hard-limit deadline for the end of the project, and then avoid creating any little ones. For example, you can say you want to have your book done in a year. When one year passes after starting the project, you’re done, and you release the best version of what you have. Then you just let the year proceed without a lot of micromanaging of your schedule, or draft completion, or any other smaller deadlines and milestones. Once again, this relies on some understanding that you’re actually going to be able to finish the project, and that you’ll work on it throughout that year. Not a huge problem when you really love the project, the characters, the story, and you feel compelled to make the thing. And then, as long as you have a hard end to the project, you can float around inside that time and feel certain it’ll get done.

This is my preferred method. I don’t like rigid structures and tight deadlines. Other people do. Other people perform great by managing everything down to the week or day or hour. For me, over-managing the creative process and setting too many deadlines for myself makes me tone deaf to my natural working rhythms. I will trick myself with my set schedule, and I will complete every deadline the night before it’s due. Maybe if I didn’t have that schedule in place I would have completed that phase of the project three days earlier. But that deadline sticks in my head, so instead of following my drive to work on that phase before it’s due, I tell myself “I have until Sunday” and then I swallow my interest in working on the project then and there, and end up putting it off till right before midnight on Sunday.

All of this is a fancy way of saying I like to work on my projects when it feels right to work on them. As long as I keep the project top-of-mind and continue to daydream about it—and journal a little bit on it daily—then I’ll have an accurate feel when I’m ready to make a push and when I’m not. But if I set a firm schedule, I end up working when the schedule wants me to and not when I, and the project itself, want to put in a few hours.

This is a personal thing. A personality thing. If it sounds like mayhem to you, then you should have a more ordered way of producing your work. And if you’ve never finished a project before, then the external stressors of timelines and deadlines and milestones could be very useful for you. But if you, like me, don’t fit into that style of working, then know this—it isn’t necessary. It’s a shame that most people who write books and articles about how to “get things done” tend to be very organized, disciplined, hardline, schedule-the-process-to-the-minute sort of people. Not because they’re necessarily better at getting things done, but because they’re much more likely to write a book on the subject. This creates a bias where we think these people have all the answers for everyone.

They don’t. Plenty of people get lots of things done while putting only the lightest reins on themselves. And lots of us both prefer how that freedom feels, and work much better without external or internally imposed restraint. By accepting that about ourselves, we finish more projects, we produce better work, and we enjoy our lives more, than we would if we tried to fit a strict system. So I suppose the secret to not losing your mind over all these deadlines is simple—know yourself, know how you get things done, and honor that. More often than not that means being easier on yourself, rather than forcing yourself into a tighter cage.

And as a passing note—if you’re worried that you won’t finish your project if you don’t have a jailer on your back, then I’d suggest you might not like this project (or writing in general) as much as you think you do. The easiest way to stay sane while completing a project in a reasonable amount of time is only working on projects that you love, and working on them doesn’t feel like a burden.

The Girl Who Came Back to Life

When you die, your spirit wakes in the north, in the City of the Dead. There, you wander the cold until one of your living loved ones finds you, says "Goodbye," and Sends you to the next world. 

After her parents die, 12-year-old Sophie refuses to release their spirits. Instead, she resolves to travel to the City of the Dead to bring her mother and father’s spirits back home with her. 

Taking the long pilgrimage north with her gruff & distant grandmother—by train, by foot, by boat; over ruined mountains and plains and oceans—Sophie struggles to return what death stole from her. Yet the journey offers her many hard, unexpected lessons—what to hold on to, when to let go, and who she must truly bring back to life.

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Genre – Middle Grade
Rating – PG-13
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