I haven’t done a long, rambling blog post in a while. I don’t really have much to ramble about these days (unless it’s about horses or rabbits, and lets face it, I do enough of that on instagram), but…I’ve been thinking about this topic for a long time now, and finally decided to confess.
Confess what, you ask?
The one thing authors aren’t supposed to admit…
(And I might be totally wrong here so I’ll stop with the generalization and just say ME…what I’M not supposed to admit…but it’s totally okay if you’re a writer and feel the same way and agree with me.)
That it’s okay to admit…
I DON’T LIKE SOME OF MY BOOKS.
Phew, I said it.
What do I mean by that?
I mean that out of twenty-eight published books and untold number of unfinished manuscripts, there are a few (more than a few, actually) that I dislike. Some, I even despise.
Now, I’m not supposed to admit that.
Purely because, if I don’t like something…how, in good conscience, can I finish the story, edit, package, and sell it—if it’s not the best thing I’ve ever concocted?
Most of the times, I don’t. If I start to hate on a book, it’s very, VERY hard for me to finish. I can’t see the computer screen from my eye rolling. I procrastinate about writing. I critique it to the point of ridicule.
I’ve been asked numerous times: WHY HAVEN’T YOU FINISHED XYZ? WHAT HAPPENED TO XYZ THAT YOU WERE GOING TO RELEASE?
I tend to skirt around this question by offering up the book I’m currently writing, confident (or fairly confident—if I’m liking it) that THAT book will be SO much better than the book I’ve side-lined. But the REAL answer is…well, there are two answers.
Answer Number One: I honestly adore the plot line, have most of the story fleshed out, and know what I want to achieve with it. But…the characters haven’t fully fledged into writeable people in my mind. They’re still covered in shadow and not ‘crisp’ enough to do their tale justice—if that happens, I put the book on the back burner to wait until I am more intimate with the hero and heroine.
I sometimes admit answer number one. It makes me sound a little crazy that I can’t force out a story if I’m not ‘feeling’ it, but I’ve always been a crazy writer and swing more toward the artistic side of this amazing career that I’m so blessed with. I have to FEEL the story to do it justice; otherwise, I just can’t pen a decent tale.
Now for Answer Number Two (the one that should remain secret but I’m going to tell you anyway): If I’ve mentioned a book, even started writing said book, and I don’t finish it…it’s because I fell out of love with the plot so much that I physically can’t finish it.
This happened to one book in particular: FORBIDDEN FLAWS. The origins of this book came about because I was invited to take part in an anthology where new work was bundled up with other authors. A maximum of 20,000 words. I wrote the corridor scene and sexy time encounter, but wasn’t really connected to the characters. However, I loved the cover , could taste the potential in exploring the story deeper, and decided to announce I would make it a full length book after the anthology was no longer for sale.
I wrote an additional 110,000 words and, with each word, I grew to hate it more and more. I started cutting, deleting, rewriting—basically overwriting and overthinking until the entire thing was a total mess.
It wasn’t a good book.
Therefore, I scrapped it.
I’ve done that with a fair few titles of mine but…there are a few that I’ve battled through my own personal dislike and stuck with it (either because of promises I couldn’t break, contracts I couldn’t end, or just persistence to stop being such a silly author).
DESTROYED is one such book.
That book…ugh. The title was apt as it literally almost destroyed me writing it. The dislike started slowly but insistently until it overshadowed everything. I finished it because of beta readers I trusted said there was a decent story there, even if I couldn’t see it.
To this day, I still don’t see it.
HOWEVER…and this is the moral of this post (for new authors and just-starting-out writers). It’s okay to hate on your work. It’s inevitable, I think. It’s okay to be self-critical and quit a manuscript if you honestly feel it would be detrimental to your career to publish). BUT…always listen to an outside party too. Try to be impartial and get feedback before you ctrl-alt-delete.
The reason I give that caveat is because DESTROYED might be one of my least favourite books, but it did extremely well. It not only hit the USA Today Bestseller List but it also brought me to the attention of Hachette who I signed a two book deal with for Ruin & Rule and Sin & Suffer (Don’t get me started on those two books).
The day the Facebook message came in from the publisher asking if I’d be interested in working with them, I actually deleted it (I thought it was spam). A few hours later, I thought I’d better check it out, and sure enough…it was legit. To say I was blown away was an understatement. I felt like a fraud. Why did they notice me from DESTROYED? What on earth could they possibly like in that book to offer me a contract to work with their amazing team?
I still don’t have an answer to that question and am forever grateful that they saw something that I didn’t.
Because of DESTROYED, I was lucky enough to work with one of the biggest publishing houses in the world and have the privilege of seeing my books in bookstores and airports and major cities. If I’d jumped ship on DESTROYED (which I VERY much wanted to do), I would’ve missed out on all the amazing experiences it gave me.
So…I learned to accept my hatred for my work. I accepted that, just because I sometimes loath my books, it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily bad or that some readers somewhere won’t enjoy them. I had to work through the debilitating dislike and believe in beta readers who said there WAS value in a book that I simply wanted to toss away. I learned to work through the eye rolls and focused on feedback from impartial people I trusted. I was able to censor my internal critique and deliver a few long series that (believe me) were VERY hard to complete some days as I’d start to doubt, question, and overall fear that the story wasn’t the best that I could do.
By accepting my frustrating internal monologue of every fault and flaw, I learned that every book finds a home–no matter how good or bad. AND…this is the most important of all…sometimes the books that I like (the ones I enjoyed writing and believed in) some readers hated. Indebted series for example. I believed in that story-line but some reviewers slaughtered it. I didn’t like Destroyed, but some reviewers said it was the best story they’d ever read.
I suppose that is the true moral of this post. That there IS value in ALL things–perceived by us as good or bad will be viewed totally different by someone else. It’s something I need to be reminded of often–so I can stand by my work and be proud…even of the tales I don’t particularly like.
Another thing authors are probably not meant to admit is…I’m fully aware of my faults as a writer. I know which of my books are too waffly and need some serious editing (TWISTED TOGETHER). I know which books lacked my usual darkness (DOLLAR SERIES). I have been more brutal to every single one of my characters and plots than any one star review could ever be.
So…why am confessing this?
Well, for one…I know I’m probably not alone in this. It’s debilitating to hate on your craft. It sucks away your self-confidence, it whispers in your ear that you’ve lost whatever gift you might have had, it laughs in its little devil laugh that you might as well give up because everything you write is just drivel. I’ve had countless emails from aspiring writers and new authors who ask me how to get over writers block, how to push past the doubt and literary loathing, so I know it’s not just me struggling sometimes.
And I just want to say, YOU’RE NOT ALONE. I feel your pain. I acknowledge that sometimes that dislike will cause you to throw away a book that may or may not be the best thing ever. That self-doubt might save you from releasing a book that shouldn’t be published or it might prevent you from enjoying the rewards of a book that touches many readers.
It’s SO hard to know. SO hard to fight that doubt.
Which leads me to my next point.
For the books that you do push forward with (even though your dislike meter is through the roof) sometimes you can produce something from the rubble of your manuscript.
THE BODY PAINTER is another book I disliked.
This is why I was hesitant to write this blog post as The Body Painter and The Living Canvas just came out. Why would I sabotage my sales with honesty that I didn’t like the books? Why not promote it from the roof tops and sing its praises?
Because I’ve never been good at lying.
You can ask any one of my lovely beta readers who helped me trim and tighten these two books and each one will tell you how much I struggled to stick with this duet.
If I’m honest, I overwrote it. Over thought it. Over complicated it. That is what happens when I don’t have that ‘special’ connection.
I promised these books over two years ago while sitting on a beach in Koh Samui. As with most of my inspiration, the concept came swift and sharp, and I scribbled furiously to get the ideas on paper. I then finished whatever I was writing at the time. Got a new bunny (who distracted me a ton), and started writing a draft for The Body Painter that was frankly, terrible. The first draft was beyond awful. So bad in fact, I deleted 60,000 words and started again. Even my beta readers said it was bad, so I knew it wasn’t just my self-doubt sabotaging me.
But then…while I was trying to figure out the mess of a manuscript, Ren and Della popped into my head. Now…let’s just talk about THE RIBBON DUET for a moment. That duet is my favourite. I don’t know what it is (or if it even comes across on paper) but the SECOND Ren popped into my head, there was magic in my fingers. Every element was real. Every dialogue was crisp. Every heart ache and trial so vibrant. It was exactly what I needed to FEEL to do a story (in my mind) justice. But…just like the INDEBTED SERIES that I thoroughly enjoyed writing, some people hated that duet.
I’m going to go off on a tangent for a second and say, I’ve never have a problem with other people hating on my work. It doesn’t affect me because secretly, I’m nodding with you. Whatever a bad review states, chances are I’ve already been over those flaws countless times myself. I don’t get personally offended. I don’t cry in a corner. I value that EACH OF US has an opinion and a unique way of looking at the world that forms our own life, which in turn forms how differently we enjoy things.
Yet another confession…the reviews that sometimes affect me the most aren’t the bad ones but the good ones gushing over a book that I feel I could’ve done better. I feel like I’ve let the reader down and always have this undeniable urge to write them a note and say I’m beyond grateful they enjoyed what I thought was lacking–that they were so kind to overlook the parts (in my mind) that I could’ve done better.
Anyway, back to the ramble….I put aside The Body Painter to write The Ribbon Duet and The Son & His Hope. By that time, Sully Sinclair and GODDESS ISLES was starting to knock rather persistently in my head and I wanted to jump into that world. BUT, for the first time, I tried to honour the promise I’d made and returned to The Body Painter. I started from scratch. I hoped I’d be able to sift through the many errors and mistakes I’d made previously and create a half-decent book.
In my opinion, I over wrote it. It’s not got my usual ‘spark’. I tried and tried to improve it, but sometimes, you just have to accept that it’s not going to be a favourite. The Living Canvas was easier to write as I focused on completing the story line to the best of my ability on that particular series. I put it into Kindle Unlimited as I didn’t feel as if it was up to my usual standard and at least it could be read in the subscription service without too much financial risk.
Why am I being so honest?
Because, I want to say…I hear those who say they ‘liked it’ but didn’t love it. I want to say…I completely agree with you if you didn’t feel that ‘connection’ that I strife so, SO hard to put into my work. And…I want to say thank you to those who actually loved the book. To say to those who enjoyed Gil and Olin that you make those self-doubting moments less debilitating because it shows it’s okay that not every book of mine will be loved by me, not every book will do well, but the beauty of the human race is….we all like different things. Even though I created this duet (and I don’t feel like it’s worthy in many ways) there are others who found the story entertaining and that makes it easier to accept real and self-perceived flaws.
I also wanted to say…I know.
I know that I haven’t delivered books that are dark or kinky is a long time.
I know I ventured out into genres that may or may not be your cup of tea.
And I know that my latest work wasn’t my best.
And that’s okay to admit.
It’s a relief to admit actually.
To admit the reason why I sometimes set aside books that I’ve mentioned, halted progress on stories I have delicious covers for, and overall seem like I have a few projects that are half-finished and covered in the dust of procrastination.
And now…onto something exciting. I can be honest when I say GODDESS ISLES is something I am ALREADY proud of and I haven’t even finished the first book.
ONCE A MYTH (Book One) not only came to me in full vivid colour but I like to think it’s unique. The dark scenes, the sex scenes, the plot line is EXTREMELY exciting to me. I have no doubt, at some point in this series, I’m going to hate on it. I always do. BUT…it’s real enough in my mind not to be distracted by doubt and dismay. And that means I can stick to the bones of the tale and not get stuck rewriting, overwriting, and flailing my arms in the air in panic.
It also allows me the freedom to be shameless in promotion. I’m already looking forward to the many teasers, giveaways, and blatant posts singing this Dark Romance’s praises. I don’t know why I find it so hard to promote something I don’t believe in (even if I’m the creator of said thing). But I do know that GODDESS ISLES…it’s special.
It has that spark. That magic. That urge and drive and all-encompassing depth that allows me to jump feet first into their world and immerse myself into it.
It gives me freedom to be naughty and write things not everyone will approve of. It gives me the ability to promote it and put decent marketing behind it as it’s something I BELIEVE IN.
I need to believe in it to love it.
I loved Tess and Q.
I loved Jethro and Nila.
Even though both those series had their faults, the story–at its core–kept dragging me back, even if my eyes started to roll. Sully and Eleanor from GODDESS ISLES are like that. They’re very ‘moreish’. I write a little and want to write more and more. I’m constantly scribbling notes and concepts–not as competition to the plotline I already have but as a richer dimension. It’s when the book becomes NOT JUST A BOOK that I feel I’m ready to write and possibly, hopefully, be proud of what I publish.
In the meantime, if you haven’t read anything of mine for a while…I recommend THE RIBBON DUET. If you like a more mysterious romance with some thriller elements then perhaps THE MASTER OF TRICKERY DUET will appeal. But…if you’re waiting for something special. Something different. Something spicy and sexy and shadowy with dark lust…GODDESS ISLES is coming.
Now, before I confess other things (like riding my horse when I was meant to be writing or cuddling the rabbit instead of answering emails) I just want to say THANKS.
Thanks for reading the books that I love and hate.
Thanks for being with me through different genres and characters.
Thanks for being loyal if one of my books hasn’t been your favourite.
Thanks for teaching me that there is value in my work…even if I sometimes can’t see it.
And THANK YOU for your excitement in GODDESS ISLES.
I think you can tell that this series is special just from the way I’m gushing about it. It’s old-school dark. It’s unapologetically delicious. It’s rich and torrid and has some pretty shadowy scenes inside it’s dark, delicious pages.
I’m SO happy I’m writing a book I love.
I’m so happy to be in a world that I feel is worth publication and promotion.
Watch this space.
And, as final farewell….he is a lovely picture of Sonny and me winning our endurance race on the weekend. He’s just so handsome and I’m so proud of him!
Thanks for reading the ramble.
Have a great day.