Tag Archives: Dana Rodgers

No Room for Doubt

Do you ever spend hours, days, weeks pouring your heart and soul into your writing only to go back, read it and think, “Oh my God, what was I thinking? This is crap. I have no talent. No one will ever want to read this.”

Well, guess what? You’re not the only one!

I love to write. I love the creative process and making the story come alive on the page. For me it is not just the destination (the finished story), but also the journey getting there (developing characters, and hammering all of those twists and turns into place). But I often find, especially during my editing process that doubt creeps in. I start wondering what the heck I’m doing. Wondering why I ever thought that I could write a book.

Recently, while going through one of these moments, a friend introduced me to a new type of encouragement in the form of John Steinbeck.

John Steinbeck? Maybe, the Pulitzer Prize winning The Grapes of Wrath will ring a bell… or Of Mice and Men or East of Eden or The Winter of Our Discontent or Cannery Row

John Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1962, and even he harbored doubts concerning his ability to effectively bring the written word to the page. While working on The Grapes of Wrath, he composed letters and wrote in a journal. Some of this material was later published in Working Days: The Journals of the Grapes of Wrath 1938-1941. Throughout this journal John Steinbeck writes about his struggles, worries and self-doubt.

The following are a few quotes from Working Days: The Journals of the Grapes of Wrath 1938-1941:

June 14, 1938–“Yesterday was a bust. I could have forced the work out but I’d lost the flow of the book and it would have been a weak spot.”

June 18, 1938–“If only I could do this book properly it would be one of the really fine books and a truly American book. But I am assailed with my own ignorance and inability.”

August 1, 1938–“I didn’t work then [July 25] or all week. …Hope to lose some of the frantic quality in my mind now. It’s just like slipping behind at Stanford. Panic sets in. Can’t organize. … I’m jumpy. …Don’t know who will publish my book. Don’t know at all. No reason to let it slide though. Must keep at it. … Wish I could control the jumping jitters though.”

August 30, 1938–“I’m having a hell of a time concentrating with so many things going on. … I hope this book is some good, but I have less and less hope for it.”

September 26,1938–“This book has become a misery to me because of my inadequacy.”

So the next time you doubt yourself, remember, there are other incredibly accomplished authors out there who have also acknowledged uncertainty when it comes to submitting their work. When you start to question yourself just remember:

1. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Your voice is your own and it is unique. Why do we have so many different types of writers? So many different genres? Because there are so many different types of readers!

2. In the words of Nora Roberts, “Write the damn book!” Forget about everything else and just get your ideas down on the page because you can’t edit what doesn’t exist. You can always cast off what doesn’t work later.

3. Trust you instincts. Everyone worries about breaking the rules. Ignore the rules because they are intimidating, and that can lead to insecurity. Instead focus on telling a great story. Once the story is on the page you can obsess over comma usage and dangling participles.

4. Make time for yourself. I know it sounds difficult, and it is, because life gets in the way, but consistently setting time aside for yourself and scheduling around that time will help you to put words on the page.

5. You are not alone. Believe in yourself. Everyone has experienced moments of self-doubt or insecurity, even someone as accomplished as John Steinbeck. If he can do it, so can you… So keep writing!



Acronym Soup

It always blew my mind when my husband would come home and say something like…

“After retiring from the USMC four years ago, I went to work for the DoD as a PM with a PMP cert and have managed elements of the MTVR, HMMWV, MRAP and MATV programs, all ranging from ACAT III up to ACAT ID according to the DoD 5000 and DAWIA standards.  We work to counter IEDs, EFPs, RKG-3s with BFTs, Armor, RWS as well as the TAK-4 suspension from OTC and have expended billions in IR&D, PMC and O&M funding over the past 9 FYDB.”

Anyone understand what I just said? I didn’t either for the longest time. I had to learn to speak acronym.

Many people use acronyms, and some of them are so imbedded in our everyday lives that we don’t even realize we are using them. Things like TV, PJs, NASA, NATO, OMG, BFF, TLC, LOL, AOL, UPS, TGIF, LASER, RPG, USMC, USA… Sorry for the examples, I live with two teenage girls and a retired Marine…Yep, enough said.

Translation without the acronyms: “After retiring from the United States Marine Corps four years ago, I went to work for the Department of Defense as a Program Manager with a Project Management Professional certification and have managed elements of the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected-All Terrain Vehicle programs, all ranging from Acquisition Category 3 up to Acquisition Category 1D according to the Department of Defense 5000 Order and Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act standards.  Countering Improvised Explosive Devices, Explosively Formed Projectiles, Ruchnaya Kumulyativnaya Granata–3s with Blue Force Trackers, Armor, Remote Weapon Stations as well as the TAK-4 suspension from Oshkosh Truck Company and have expended billions in Industry Research and Development, Procurement Marine Corps and Operating and Maintenance funding over the past 9 Fiscal Year Defense Budgets.”

This may still sound like a garbled message from beyond and be just as alien if you do not work in military circles, but we do the same thing in the writing industry.

My CP thinks the heroine in my WIP will never get her HEA, or even a HFN, because she’s TSTL.

Translation: My critique partner thinks the heroine in my work in progress will never get her happily ever after, or even a happy for now, because she’s too stupid to live.

We romance writers tend to speak our own language, and that can be particularly challenging for someone new to writing. If you don’t understand what a critique partner or an agent or an editor is trying to tell you, then it is impossible to improve your writing.

I am going to leave you with a few commonly used writing acronyms and I invite you to add any that I may have overlooked.

CP (Critique Partner)—This is someone who gives you feedback on your writing, hopefully, in a constructive way. Usually this arrangement works as an exchange where you are expected to critique the other person’s writing as well. Some writers have one critique partner while others are part of a group.

GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict)—This tells you what your main characters’ goals are, their motivation for achieving these goals, and the conflict that is preventing them from achieving these goals.

POV (Point of View)—This is who is talking in the scene. You usually want to decide who is narrating the scene based on who has the most to lose, or what you might be trying to hold back from the reader or other characters in the scene.

WIP (Work in Progress)—The story you are currently working on.

MS (Manuscript)—This is a complete story you have already written.

HEA (Happily Ever After)—This is your happy ending where your hero/heroine are in love and all of the major conflicts have been resolved.

HFN (Happy for Now)—If you are not wrapping things up with the couple getting married or making a life-long kind of commitment, you at least want to make it clear they are happy and together for the long term.

TSTL (Too Stupid To Live)—This is a character that makes so many stupid decisions that the reader wants the character to die, or at least have consequences for their actions.


Who Are You Meant To Be?

You know how some things are a secret? Like the chocolate stash behind the canned vegetables at the back of the pantry. Yep, no danger of anyone finding the mini candy bars hidden there in my house.

Writing was one of those things for me.

I grew up in a less than ideal home and I used writing as my outlet. Over time the journal entries and poems of my youth evolved into short stories. Not very good ones at first, but it was still satisfying to see the story in my mind come to life on the page. And yes, for those of you wondering…I do in fact carry on conversations with my characters. In what other profession is it possible to get paid for talking to your imaginary friends? Yeah, in most places they medicate you and introduce you to a little thing called a straitjacket!

But I kept my writing a secret. No one knew. Not my friends, not my family, not even my husband, a wonderful man I have been married to for almost 18 years! I never set out for it to be a secret. It’s not like I lead a double life as a secret agent or anything. I just never felt good enough, talented enough to make my deep, dark, crazy dream of being able to walk into a bookstore and one day see my name on the shelf a reality. So, I didn’t say anything.

Then about three years ago a friend asked me to be a beta reader for her manuscript. She knew I was an avid reader and I jumped at the opportunity to give her feedback. Boy, did she get more than she bargained for! Fortunately, she was so happy to get constructive feedback that she called me again and again to ask questions and get opinions. In return, I was thrilled to be involved with a real author; after all she had an agent. We worked well together and I quickly became her critique partner.

Since that fateful day, Anita Clenney has encouraged and cajoled me into coming out of the writer’s closet and embracing the insanity that is the publishing industry. I have written my first full-length manuscript and pitched it at the WRW Retreat. Although, I have been fortunate enough to receive multiple submission requests I now realize that it doesn’t matter. The true gift that my friend has given me is confidence in my own abilities. She has opened a door to an entire community of incredibly talented nut jobs that talk to their characters too.

My friends and family have been very supportive since my coming out. The first time my husband read an excerpt of my work he said, “Holy crap! I had no idea you could write like this!” and “Oh yeah, now that I know, can you edit my master’s thesis on water management in Europe?” For the record, I would rather edit an entire manuscript than his incredibly dry academic thesis again.

And by the way, my dream of seeing my name on the bookstore shelf came true April 29, 2011. My friend and critique partner, Anita Clenney, published Awaken the Highland Warrior (the first in a trilogy) and bless her heart, she dedicated it to me.

The point is we all come from different places and have taken different journeys to get where we are today. For some of us the path has been relatively easy, tripping over wonderful opportunities at every turn. For others, the road may have been wrought with challenge and constant reminders of past failures. But the question I ask is this–Have you ever looked back at your life and thought… Wow, that was so not worth it. I really wish I hadn’t tried. Or, do you more often look back and think… That was such a great opportunity. I wish I had learned to _____________. Or, I should have _____________.

At the end of the day, no matter what your journey is, put it all out on the line and see what happens. Because you miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take and along the way you short change yourself out of being who you’re meant to be.