Tag Archives: being a writer

End of Year Writing Update

MC Escher: Paradox of being a writer

My writing year 2017 began with a successful essay for ClassicalMPR.org of an interview of one of the young composers participating in the Minnesota Orchestra’s Composer Institute and Future Classics concert. It was a great way to start the year.  I wish that momentum had continued.  Last August, I wrote a short update about my writing this year, but it’s been a year since my last full update. Rather than skip writing because of the holiday this week, I thought I’d do my annual end-of-the-year update/review today and take off next weekend for New Year’s. My next post will be in 2018!

Non-writing Employment: Working for others affected my writing this year far more than I’d anticipated or wanted. The first three months of the year, I continued to work part-time at the customer service job and receptionist position. At the same time, I continued to search for a fulltime job as my bank account dictated. In March, I accepted a fulltime position with a financial services company as their front desk receptionist. After beginning that job in April, it took me about three months to get used to the new work schedule. I wasn’t able to do any writing, but at least I did a lot of reading on my daily commutes. That position lasted until about two weeks ago, and now I’m back to searching for another fulltime job. My financial situation has now become especially precarious.  Although I’ve applied for unemployment insurance benefits, what I’ll receive barely covers rent. I’ll be working even harder, when not working on the job search, at selling my possessions as well as promoting my writing.

Perceval Novels:
If you have not yet bought your copy of Perceval’s Secret (only $2.99!), please do, and give it a read.  It’s available at Amazon and B&N.com. The reviews continue to be good to excellent!  I’d love to hear from readers through reviews at Amazon and B&N, or at Goodreads. And I could sure use the money!

I’m planning a couple promotions in the first quarter of 2018.  The first will probably be at GoodReads — a giveaway, if that’s possible for e-books. The second will be through BookBub. Please feel free to take advantage of these promotions, or encourage friends and family to take advantage of them.

As for the other novels in the series, all my files for Perceval’s Shadow, the second novel in the series, remain piled on my desk awaiting my attention. To be honest, I have not had much time to think about the Perceval series in 2017 except for handing out postcards for Perceval’s Secret to anyone interested and talking about that novel a lot.

Marketing: Marketing and promo for Perceval’s Secret this past year was catch as catch can.  It will receive more time from me in the weeks to come. I did talk more about the novel and hand out the postcards for it more often.  As I mentioned above, I plan to run a couple promotions in the first quarter of 2018. Still need to utilize the marketing tools at GoodReads, LinkedIn and Publishers Marketplace.  I continue to promote the novel on Twitter and Facebook.  I’ve been writing more posts at the Perceval Novels Facebook page, too.  Please go and like it, and visit often for updates on the novels.


New Novel Project: This project landed on the back burner this past year. I still plan to transform my original screenplay, Over the Rainbow, into a novel. While cleaning out some computer files yesterday, I opened the last draft of the script and read some random scenes, a bit surprised by how much I’d forgotten. I love the story, the main character, and the potential of it, so I hope to be able to work on it soon.

GoFundMe Project: What a crazy failure this was! I launched the GoFundMe fundraising page last March. I’d hoped to raise the money to pay off all my debt, especially the credit card debt.  I raised about $600.  I must give heartfelt thanks to all those who did contribute to the project, and I will be posting their names on my Appreciation Page on this blog soon.  During one promotion for the project, one person won the prize of having a character named after him in one of the last two Perceval series novels.  That will be fun for me too! I continue to very slowly pay off the credit card debt I’d been carrying from production, publication, and marketing expenses that I incurred to publish Perceval’s Secret as an e-book.  I won’t be able to even think about doing a paperback until the debt is paid off.

Short Stories: In July, I completed the first draft of my science fiction short story, Light the Way.  Then another interesting character, Aanora, entered my life, and I began writing her story.  It was slow going since I’ve only been able to write on weekends, but perhaps I can finish the first draft of this story in the next month or so. For 2018, I plan to continue to work more on short stories to get more of my writing out there for people to read.

Blogs: I continue to write posts at the Eyes on Life blog (as Gina Hunter) and here at Anatomy of Perceval.  My focus at the Gina Hunter blog has become a bit fluid: I continue to write “The Successful Patient” posts, but in addition I’m writing about the experience of being one of the Working Poor, so it’ll be about economics, money, working, etc. I also joined a blogfest called We are the World dedicated to spreading light in the online darkness, i.e. drawing attention to positive news about the love and compassion that human beings have for each other. Those posts appear on the last Friday (or Saturday) each month. I may also look into guest blogging, especially if they are paid gigs.

Essays/Paid Gigs: After the published interview/essay in January at ClassicalMPR.org, writing essays landed on the back burner. I plan to return to writing essays for ClassicalMPR.org (if they’ll have me) as well as research and investigate more markets for my essays.

Yager Editing Services: I closed this online business in May and took down the website.

Journal Writing: After an 18-month hiatus, I recently returned to my journal writing, although I’m taking a different approach to it than I have before.

The Successful Patient:
Nothing has changed on this project — still on the back burner.

Reading: I exceeded my 2017 Reading Challenge at GoodReads thanks to so much reading time on my daily commutes. Reading is an essential part of being a writer, and it’s been fun to read both wonderful and awful books this past year.  You can check out my reviews of them on GoodReads, and give me a holler while you’re there!

Right now, my life is one big Uncertainty.  Please keep your fingers crossed that I come through this time OK, and I don’t end up out on the street. While homelessness is an experience, it’s not one I want to have.  So, let’s hope I find that fulltime job that’s just waiting for me so I can return to my creative life.

Best wishes for a happy and healthful 2018!

Image from Pixelstalk.net



It’s all in the timing….

This morning, I stumbled across a brief interview with a young Whiting Award-winning writer, Kaitlyn Greenidge, in the September 2017 issue of The Writer. She was asked: “What is the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?” Her response:

I think that it takes a long time. There is no rushing it, and the work exists on its own timetable, outside of your own personal deadlines.

My first thought was, Oh, wow, now I know why I’m having such a hard time finishing that short story I want to finish. And reading on, the next question was “How has this helped you as a writer?” Greenidge’s response: “It is hard to be patient, but that’s what is needed.”

It certainly is hard to be patient in a world of impatience, populated with people who want instant gratification. Including me. As a writer, I know from personal experience that a story cannot be rushed. I know that characters exist in their own universe and their time is not my time. Hard as I try, the characters will do what they will, live as they will, speak as they will.

But I start to feel guilty when I don’t have the time to spend with the characters and their stories. I’ve felt this acute guilt the last 3 months as I’ve been getting used to a new fulltime job and the 5-day-a-week schedule that goes with it. I think about the various projects that await my attention. I read and read and read, which is valuable for a writer in and of itself. The actual writing I’ve been doing during the week has been focused on business writing, not creative writing. The weekend comes and suddenly I’m up to my ears in chores, catching up with e-mail, working on blog posts. I have not written in my journal for 2 years. Every day I get up and think, something’s got to change.

I can only hope that my characters won’t abandon me.  I have not abandoned them. I’d much rather be spending time with them. And I am starting to figure out ways to shift when I do chores, when I do e-mail, etc. My goal is to empty my weekend schedule so that I can spend 2 days writing fiction.

It took me years to write Perceval’s Secret. I thought I knew Evan Quinn after I finished the first draft, but as I delved deeper into researching conducting and conductors, I found I didn’t know as much as I thought. Research will do that. And Evan was slow to trust me with his real story. But once I had the uninterrupted time to spend with him, he began to talk…and talk and talk and talk. He simply would not shut up, and talked out 5 books instead of one. That’s fine. I’m certain that once I’m back in the swing on fiction again, he’ll return with more information so I can finish his story.

So, I’m learning patience with myself and my work schedule, and learning how to shift things around to accommodate my writing. It’s a slow process. But I have to think that characters also need to be patient with their writers, i.e. my characters patient with me.

Are you a patient writer?  How long does it take your stories to emerge? Have your characters been patient with you?

“What do you do?”

the-writer-february-2017This past week, I read in the February 2017 issue of The Writer an article about how to deal with that often terribly uncomfortable question. Writers who also have day jobs don’t always feel discomfort at that question because they can simply cite their day job as what they “do.” But what about the freelance writer who works fulltime at it? Or the creative writer who’s able to write fulltime because of decent book sales or a large inheritance? How do you answer this question?

The freelancer who wrote the article began with his answer and how he’d crafted it to show how successful he was at writing on a freelance basis. In other words, if you’re financially successful as a writer, flaunt it. If you’re not, talk about something else. We all know writers get no respect, not like doctors, lawyers, dentists, and just about anyone else who works for someone else. Of course, if you are employed by a magazine, newspaper, television or radio station and your job is writing, you’ve somehow managed to make it into respectability.

When someone asks me what I do, I usually say I’m a writer. The next question usually is, “What do you write?” Now, I could reply a lot of different ways here, because I write a lot of different things. But I usually take the intention behind the question is to find out if I’m a published and known writer vs. unpublished and unknown. When someone asks a doctor what he does, they usually don’t ask what do you doctor?  They don’t ask a lawyer how she does her job, although they might be interested in the type of cases she takes on. But with artists, there is this question of legitimacy, and what confers legitimacy? You got it!  Money, usually via publication.


A couple years before my father died, I made my annual Christmas visit to my parents’ house. I had quit my fulltime job with the intention of changing careers, and I’d already realized that I wanted to write. When my father asked what I planned to do, I told him. “You can’t write,” he responded. I almost laughed. As if he truly knew what I could or could not do or had some sort of control over what I did. A few days later, my older brother enlightened me. “In the family, we view writing as a form of prostitution.” Ah, so that’s it. And this from a family of book lovers and readers.

I went on to earn money as a freelance advertising copywriter while I also wrote fiction. But my family never accepted my writing or that I was actually doing it well and gaining valuable experience. What they said to me, though, prepared me for what other people would say — my family showed me the worst right away. So, when someone asks me what I do, I’m happy to tell them I’m a writer, that I’m published, that I write a lot of different things, and yes, they can read my work online. After that, I mention my other job in an office, working for someone else.

My "Office"

My “Office”

Learning and Growing as a Writer

Thanks to "No, I do NOT have too many books!" on Facebook for photo.

Thanks to “No, I do NOT have too many books!” on Facebook for photo.

“…you cannot grow in the great art form, the integration of action and contemplation, without (1) a strong tolerance for ambiguity, (2) an ability to allow, forgive, and contain a certain degree of anxiety, and (3) a willingness to not know and not even need to know. This is how you allow and encounter mystery….”           — Father Richard Rohr

Allow and encounter mystery. Collaborating with my imagination means allowing and encountering mystery. I have no idea how it works, I just know it does and that’s enough for me. I tolerate not knowing, ambiguity, and anxiety in order to participate in this collaboration because I know it works, it’s fun, and it is deeply satisfying.

Above my desk is a post-it in light green and on it I’ve written “TRUST in the PROCESS.” Let go of control. Play. Trust my imagination. As I’ve been working on Perceval’s Shadow this past week, I’ve realized that my imagination demands that I tell Evan Quinn’s story even if it takes me five novels to do it and a totally unknown amount of time. That is certainty I’ve not felt before. It rides on a sense that even though I’ve been away from Evan and his story for a while, he has not gone anywhere, but has waited patiently for me to return. I find this both reassuring and spooky.


Then today, as I was digging through my pile of notes for things to write at this blog, I found the quote above, and a list entitled “Lessons Learned from a Private Investigator” without attribution. I suspect I’d saved the latter because of the note about the website where the writer had found the list: Diligentiagroup.com.  This website is for a private investigation business in New York that also has a blog. The writer, a mystery writer, noted that he/she spent a lot of time researching websites, blogs, and books by police, agents and private investigators for her/his writing and had found this particular website’s blog. The list could be also titled “Lessons Learned from My Years as a Writer.” Here’s the list:

  1. Always be learning. Learn by doing and observing others.
  2. Know thyself. Know your strengths and where you need help, and don’t be shy about either.
  3. Differentiate yourself. Don’t be ordinary. Create a brand.
  4. Authenticity. Being genuine and authentic is very attractive these days when the world is wrought with fake and “Buy my book.”
  5. Stick to your principles. Be honest and straightforward. Protect your reputation.
  6. Be helpful. Good things happen when you lend a helping hand.
  7. Don’t be everything to everyone. Pick your genre, find your readership base, and avoid trying to write for every reader out there.
  8. Do work you are proud of. If you write slow, so be it. If you write Christian, erotica, YA, whatever the style, voice, genre, own it.
  9. You are never the smartest or dumbest person in the room. Ask questions. Learn more. Help others do the same.
  10. Don’t stop thinking of new ideas. You’re in a creative environment, and change is happening all around you. Be constantly seeking ways to be unique.
  11. Adapt. This industry changes fast. Roll with that change.
  12. Embrace technology. Yes, that means learning ways to publish, brand, and network, whether you like it or not.
  13. Follow the facts. Make decisions or form opinions based upon fact, not rumors, gossip, innuendos, or half-truths.
  14. Be inspired. Be aware of the world around you.
  15. Do great work. Don’t shortchange the quality of your writing.
  16. Be skeptical. Operate with a critical eye. Don’t fall for the latest class, how-to, software, or book that claims to teach you the perfect way to (fill in the blank).
  17. Persistence. Probably the most important of the list, persistence carries you through those times when you think you should not be writing.

And then I would add two more, two very specific things:

  • Read everything but especially read what you love because that is what you will write. I learn something from every novel, essay, poem, short story, or nonfiction book I read.
  • Write something everyday. Even if it’s only a paragraph in your journal or a letter to a friend, write, write, write.

If you haven’t already found it, here’s my job description for a creative writer.

Keep writing, learning, and growing!

Credit: Walt Disney

Credit: Walt Disney

An End

Designed by Christopher Bohnet, xt4, inc.

Designed by Christopher Bohnet, xt4, inc.

Only two chapters left in this revision of Perceval’s Secret.  One is longer than the other, both need tightening.  So far I’ve cut 37 pages and about 10,000 words.  I’d hoped to cut about 14,000 words, so I’ll return to the first half and go through it with an editor’s nit comb.  My cutting really hit its stride during the second half.  Once the revision is done, I need to complete the front pages and the back pages that include table of contents, copyright page, author’s note, acknowledgements, bio and a book club discussion guide.  But I’m quite pleased with the way this work is progressing.

I’m also experiencing a reticence toward the work, sort of like pumping the brakes or digging in the heels.  Every time I’ve done a complete revision, I’ve experienced this.  Plus a sorrow, and not wanting it to end.   Even though I know it’s not “the end,” it’s never really “the end,” it’s still an end.  I love the work of revision, love to improve the writing so that the story will shine.  But I have yet to figure out how to deal with this strange emotional funk.

In the past, my strategy for dealing with the emotions was to just power through the work, finish the draft, and tell myself that I’m proud and relieved to have it done.  Suppressing those emotions didn’t actually deal with them, and they returned even more powerfully the next time I approached the end of a writing project.  It could be anything — an essay, a personal letter, a business letter, a blog post.  I learned my lesson.  It’s better to face the emotions of an end rather than stuff them.

More recently, as I’ve approached the end of a draft, I’ve made certain that another project was waiting for my attention immediately.  Even this time, I am gearing up to work on Perceval’s Shadow, the second novel in the series, to revise the first draft.  But I think that will need to wait until I have the larger e-publication project done and the marketing campaign launched.

Writing business work triggers its own special kind of emotional response.  Usually negative.

But right now, today, I’m grappling with this crazy hodge-podge of feelings connected to being so close to the end of this draft of Perceval’s Secret.  Writing about it has only intensified the emotions.  They like attention, I see.  They make it easier for me to procrastinate, write other things — like a blog post — go to a movie, read.  It’s hard facing an end, even with all the positive aspects of it.

First of all, finishing the revisions means that I’ve completed the draft.  Done.  I have a novel.  Second, it feels good to complete something, to look back at the surprising moments, the deeply satisfying moments, and know once again that I am a writer.  Third, it means that it’s that much closer to being read by others, especially this time, as I’ve been preparing it for e-publication. Fourth, I’ve learned so much more about the characters through this revision, and grown as a writer.   And last, I know that I’ll spend more time with the characters in the second book in the series (and the third, fourth, and fifth books).

I’m not sure what else I can do with these emotions.  They are there.  I acknowledge them.  Some days, they’re painful.  But perhaps they are a measure of my commitment to the novel and my writing….