My Core Writing Principles, Going Indie and A Path to Brain Health
by Judith Ashley
The time was somewhere between 1998 and 2002. I started having lucid night and day dreams so real if I didn’t have the professional background I do, I might have thought I was psychotic. Instead of checking myself into the nearest psychiatric hospital, I started writing. Looking back I can see I had a lot to learn about the craft of writing but at the time I was mesmerized by the story unfolding almost on its own on the computer screen.
Way back then I determined the first two of my Core Writing Principles.
1. Enjoy the writing process at least 80% of the time.
2. Write the stories I see in my dreams.
Flash forward to 2006 and my first trip to Emerald City Writer’s Conference where I picked up Cherry Adair’s “Finish the Darn Book Challenge”. When I returned in 2007, I had finally completed Book One of The Sacred Women’s Circle series. I wrote the first drafts of Book Two and Book Three in successive years during November’s NaNo (National Novel Writing Month).
I entered a couple of contests and pitched the stories and series concept to editors and agents. I got “rejection gold” because every rejection had specific information about why they would not take my books and me on. The information was consistent. My stories were not financially viable as they were because they didn’t “fit”. (In the interest of transparency I will also admit that my writing needed work but that wasn’t the main reason I was being turned away).
One of my goals was to be published by the end of 2012. I wasn’t. I sat myself down and took a good hard look at where I was in relation to where I wanted to be. All of my rejections had one of two things in common
• Eliminate the Sacred Women’s Circle thread and have the heroines be friends in another setting or
• Add conflict to The Circle scenes and between the heroines in general.
I was at a crossroads in my writing.
What was I going to do? Rewrite the stories to fit what agents and editors wanted or stay true to the visions that still floated into my awareness when I wrote. The third Core Writing Principle is the result of that soul searching process.
3. Stay true to the core elements of the stories.
Because I had that third Core Writing Principle, I reached for the gold ring on the indie publishing merry-go-round and chose the Indie Publishing Route.
Little did I know how challenged I’d be on this path!
First task: to take the suggestion of April Eberhard, agent, who said a professional editor would help me strengthen my story telling abilities. I did that.
Second task: Purchase Maggie McVay Lynch’s DIY Publishing, attend the November 2013 Kobo Event to learn more and pay closer attention to what was being said at chapter meetings, on blogs, RWA forums, etc. about self-publishing. I did that.
Third task: Purchase The Book Doctor’s template and Jutoh self-publishing software. I did that.
All I had to do was copy and paste a clean copy of each manuscript into the template, scroll through the story and add back in formatting, upload to Jutoh, click a few places and voila! I’d have the mobi, epub and pdf files to upload to various e-retailers.
The number of times I sat at my computer stomach churning with fears of failure, shoulders rigid with iron bars of doubt, hands fisting with frustration were numerous. The number of times I wanted to scream, throw the computer out the window and quit matched. The number of times I left my office and took a break from it all is why I’m writing this. Chocolate, walks around the block and the voices of the women in the stories kept me going – along with a personal tutorial from Maggie; additional help from Terrel Hoffman; gifts of chocolate, hugs and commiseration from Sarah Raplee; words of encouragement from my granddaughter who kept telling me how proud she was of me because I was following my dream.
Because of all that support I persevered. Because I stayed true to my core values (write the stories I see in my dreams and my writing journey must include at least 80% joy) and because I stayed true to my stories core values I can say I’m a multi-published author. During this journey Sarah Raplee, Diana McCollum and I joined forces and published Love & Magick: Mystical Stories of Romance (02/14/14). The first three books of The Sacred Women’s Circle series are published. Book Four’s first draft is 50% written.
I was invited to join Windtree Press author cooperative, a talented group of committed career-focused writers; I’ve traveled to Desert Dreams Writer’s Conference and attended my first book signing; I’ve sold a few books and expect as I continue to write and publish and promote my work I’ll sell more.
Now for the “A Path to Brain Health” part of the title. A recent AARP article said that one out of every nine Americans sixty-five and older has Alzheimer’s. I’m in that age group. How does this relate to being an indie author? Doctors and scientists recommend these four supports for optimum brain health.
• Eat a brain healthy diet (no chocolate and Thai food alone are not what they suggest)
• Exercise (I think they mean more than fingers flying over the keyboard)
• Social interaction with others (and I can attest to the importance of the hugs and “you can do it” messages I received
• Stretch your brain by giving it something new to learn. (More than once I reminded myself that even though I was frustrated, fearful, doubtful, I was doing a good thing because my brain learned how to work in new and wondrous ways).
Without that mantra, without the support of chocolate, Thai food and friends I wouldn’t be able to show you the covers of books, give you a link to my website where you can see them again and read more about The Sacred Women’s Circle series. If I hadn’t chosen to go the Indie Publishing Route, I’d have completed manuscripts in the drawer (actually folder on the computer and thumb drive) but I wouldn’t be published.
One of the hardest parts of this process was given up the dream of being a New York traditional published author. One of the easiest parts of the process was staying true to my core values which guide me to this day.
I’m always open to new ways of viewing the world around me. I’d love to hear what your Core Writing Principles are and how you motivate yourself through the tough times and steep learning curves.
Copyright © 2014 by Judith Ashley
16 thoughts on “Author Spotlight: Judith Ashley – On Writing”
Hi, Judith! Great blog on your journey to Indie publishing. I’ve always admired your tenacity when it comes to learning how to use the template and Jutoh. Thanks for all you’ve done for “Our Book” “Love & Magick”. Stretching our brains is sometimes hard, but it always pays off!
Thanks for having me as your guest, Melia! One of the things I love most about romance writers is our willingness to share with each other. I’m looking forward to seeing who will share their Core Writing Principles.
Judith, you have hit on the most critical writing principle: “Stay true to the core elements of the stories.” I say this as “Stay true to the story.” I’ve heard from so many writers who listened to their agents and wrote a book because it was the trending field or completely revised a book to match what someone else thought would sell. In EVERY instance the writer was disappointed with the effort and final product. I’m sure someone out there is happy they made the changes, I just haven’t met them yet.
I admit I am probably prejudiced. I love that you have had a vision and stayed true to it. When authors do this and do it well, they become the trendsetters. As I watch USA Today and NYT bestselling authors indie publishing I know it’s not just me who feel they don’t fit with the “trends.”
It is a wonderful world of choices we live in–where authors can be NY or be indie or even be both. The creatives have the power now and I think it is the best time to be an author and to share your thoughts in whatever way you think best matches the needs of your story. Always stay true to the story! Thank you for reinforcing that.
Without the first two core writing principles I think it would have been harder for me to find and stick to number three. Because I’d committed to telling these stories, I couldn’t make the changes suggested. I totally agree it is a great time to be an author!
I love your post, Judith! Everything you’ve said is so true. As to the “stay true to your story,” I’ll repeat the quote from Anne Rice that I used in this very space a couple of weeks ago: “If an editor or agent rejects your book, it’s because they don’t get it. Don’t give up.” You didn’t give up and now you’ve realized your dream. Brava, Judith!
I lost my father to Alzheimer’s, so I make a point of doing everything I can to fend it off. Everytime I’m swearing about a writing-related tech problem or craft quandary, I remind myself that I’m growing new dendrites and fighting for my brain!! You’ve given your readers today some excellent advice.
Thank you for sharing, Judith!
Thanks for stopping by, Monica. I’ve friend of over 30 years I’m losing bit by bit to Alz. I’m sorry you had to lose your father that way. The only saving grace to that dreadful disease is that I challenge myself in new ways in my effort to fight for my brain! (love that phrase).
We each have some core truths about our writing and if we recognize them and stay true to them, we’ll persevere and succeed. Not everyone has the same Core Writing Principles but figuring them out can only help us when we have sticky career choices to make.
You also have stayed the course with your writing and are now published! Yeah you!!!
How awesome that learning all those new skills and challenging yourself could literally be saving your life. Or maybe it’s literary saving your life 🙂 Thanks for sharing your journey!
I love your sense of humor, Jessa. Wish I was as clever with words as you are!
Awww, Judith! Thank *YOU* for coming guesting on my blog this week (I know, I know! “Guesting” is not a word. . .. Is it?)
Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us!
Hugs and happy writing,
Thanks for stopping by, Diana. In order for “Love & Magick” to be born the three of us had to stretch our brains and tenaciously persevere – but it was worth it!
My pleasure – I had fun and as you may recall my first Core Writing Principle has to do with having fun/experiencing joy with my writing. Being here with you sure met that CWP!
Way to follow the dream, Judith! The whole process has a learning curve and one that changes every 6 months! LOL Congrats!
Every six months? Oh no!!!! Hopefully none as steep as my January/February one learning the programs to self-publish. Maybe Jessa is right and I’m “literary saving” my brain’s life.
Thanks for stopping by Paty even though I’d prefer a bit longer timeline between my learning events, I am grateful my brain is working well enough for me keep on keeping on.
Thanks for stopping by, Elena. Glad you enjoyed my post!
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