A Writer Needs Wisdom More Than Confidence

I’m a member of a number of online writing communities where writers from various genres and backgrounds gather to share successes, talk shop, and sometimes commiserate together about the difficulties that come with our chosen profession. Recently, I saw a post that was a perfect illustration of the last of these topics. A developing writer told the group that she had realized that not only was her first novel not as good as she thought it was, but she now felt trapped in a series that she didn’t have the skill to write. She felt like the bottom had fallen out of her confidence as a writer, and was seriously considering giving it all up.

This writer’s situation was not unique. Over the years, I’ve heard from many of my peers who have also experienced a “crisis of faith” about the quality of their work and whether they should continue writing or not. Of course, my first instinct as a friend was to give encouragement, and that’s certainly what happened to this writer. Within hours of her original post, she’d had more than a dozen replies of sympathy and encouragement from other writers. I hope that she got the emotional boost that she needed to return to her craft, but her situation also got me thinking.

As an independent author, I meet a lot of other self-published writers. Some of them are exceptionally skilled, while others are hard at work on improving their craft. But unfortunately, there are also those who have a distorted self-image about their skills and their work. These are the authors that think their work is better than it really is, and will publish their stories long before they are ready to be seen by the public. These writers don’t have a problem with confidence, they have a problem with overconfidence. They’ve worked so hard to convince themselves that they really do have talent that they have completely silenced their inner critics and convinced themselves that their early drafts are much better than they actually are.

Does this description seem particularly harsh? Of course it does. Writers have a reputation for possessing thin skins, and industry professionals rarely risk making any statement other than “you are special” at workshops and conferences. But the truth is, if the writing isn’t good, then someone will eventually let the writer know. If it isn’t friends and family, then it’s the editor/agent/beta readers. And if it isn’t them, then it’s the readers, who either don’t buy the book or give it one-star reviews. Even if the book becomes wildly successful, public opinion will eventually wear down the hype and show the flawed product for what it really is.

Unfortunately, just as the problem is difficult to address, the solution is not easy. An author must do more than simply educate themselves on the craft of writing. I’ve known longtime conference goers and workshop attendees that have been writing for years and yet still don’t apply the principles that they have learned. Does this mean that they should quit? Of course not. While blind confidence in a writer is a mistake, a wise author knows how to be both confident and objective about their writing.

The key to developing objectivity is to seek out informed, non-invested critiques and feedback. This can be harder than it sounds. While most writers know that their family and close friends will likely be too nice to be useful, the truth is that a lot of writing groups are equally biased, and not always in the author’s favor. In fact, there are some group members that seem to get a perverse pleasure out of tearing down their peers and finding fault where there is none. Neither of these extremes will help the author gain objectivity towards their own work.

As an alternative, an author should consider choosing readers that are fans of the author’s genre and work as opposed to being a fan of the author as a person. These kind of readers will have a working knowledge of what the story should sound like as well as a passion for making the story better. It’s also necessary for the author to find readers that are both honest and comfortable with expressing their views.

One way to get this sort of feedback is by organizing a beta read. Street teams and book clubs are also a great place to find beta readers. I’ve also had success during my test reads by putting some space between my readers and myself, giving them the security to speak their minds without hurting my feelings. This can include getting a third party to moderate the beta read, providing critique forms with specific questions for the reader to answer, and even giving the option to give feedback anonymously.

Another option for quality readers is to seek out the services of a professional editor or writing coach. In this case, it’s best to choose a writing professional that is both familiar with the work’s genre and who is willing to have an open dialogue about the piece, rather than simply correcting what they perceive as being wrong with it. This kind of open discussion is invaluable to an author who wants to really improve their craft, rather than fixate on problems in a single manuscript.

Whatever source an author uses to receive feedback, the most important part of the process will be the authors plan of action based on the feedback that she’s received. The wise author will identify her weaknesses with two purposes in mind. First, to focus on and improve that aspect of her writing. Second, to reduce that element’s frequency in her writing, such as focusing on the action or dialogue in the narrative rather than setting description, or writing in a genre that emphasizes flights of fancy more than relying heavily on historical research.

Put simply, all authors, no matter their level of achievement, should continue to grow and develop in their craft. No author is either too gifted or too challenged to become better.

The Perfect Time to Meet Keltin Moore

There are some great new opportunities for anyone that has been meaning to check out my Keltin Moore series but hasn’t gotten around to it yet.

The first new development is ongoing. Now, anyone who subscribes to my mailing list will receive a free sample from Keltin’s first adventure, The Beast Hunter. After that, subscribers will receive a monthly e-mail with the latest news on upcoming books, updates on my creative writing courses, and my planned author appearances.

Click Here to Subscribe to My Mailing List

The other opportunity is for a limited time only. From March 5 to March 12, The Beast Hunter will be just 99 cents as an ebook from Amazon. Quite the deal, if I do say so myself.

If you’re already a fan of Keltin Moore, this is an excellent time to encourage others to check it out, either by getting the free sample or purchasing the ebook. Or both. Both is good too. 🙂

Writing Update February 16, 2018

It’s about that time again to announce how things are going with my various writing projects. Those of you who subscribe to my newsletter already know that I’ve been shifting my focus more and more towards book 3 of the Adventures of Keltin Moore. Well, I’m officially announcing that all other writing projects are going to be placed on temporary hold as I focus all of my writing time on finishing Keltin’s next adventure.

The reason for this change in emphasis is that plans for my next book tour are well underway, and I kinda need a book to promote for it. 🙂 The dates and locations of the tour are still being determined, but right now I can say that it will happen in late September/early October and will take place across Washington, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. One exciting addition to the tour this year is a likely stop at the Snake River Fandom Con in Pocatello Idaho, which will be a new event for me. If there are any other places you’d like for me to visit while on this tour, be sure to let me know.

I did also want to quickly mention at least one event I’ll be doing a little sooner and closer to home. I’m planning on having a vendor table for my books at the Brass Screw Confederacy in Port Townsend Washington on June 8-10. Mark your calendars now for this fun and friendly festival celebrating all things steampunk and be sure to stop by to say hello!

Should Writers Be Writing Everyday?

This month I’m participating in a daily questionnaire for writers about their craft and work habits. It’s been a lot of fun thus far and I’m making some new friends along the way, but there was one question I wanted to explore a little more deeply.

Recently, we were asked to share the worst advice that we’d received as writers. Many authors immediately said that they hated it when people told them that they should write everyday. They said that this was an unrealistic expectation that just ended up making them feel bad about themselves. I was intrigued by that, especially since I’ve been encouraging my writing students to write everyday for years now.

I understand the feelings of those who are opposed to the idea of daily writing sessions. Life happens, and we shouldn’t punish ourselves for focusing on more important things when they come up. I also understand that some people have writing rituals that require a certain amount of time or preparation that make them impossible to do at the drop of a hat. Still, I’d like a chance to clarify my position on the subject.

I don’t encourage my students to do a full writing session every day. My advice is to get a minimum of 100 words written every day, which usually takes 5 minutes or less for the average writer. Even doing this minimal amount of work will help establish your writing habit, and make it that much easier to take the time for a serious writing session when you have the time. Of course, life can still happen and you could miss the occasional 100 word minimum. That’s fine. But it’s important to make that effort and at least stretch those creative muscles, even if you don’t have time for a full workout.

I’ll end this by acknowledging that writing advice is subjective, and if you’ve found that you’re able to write better by not holding yourself to a daily standard, please keep doing what you’re doing. My hope is to speak to those writers that are still trying to find their own writing process, and to encourage them to lean towards goals and personal accountability, rather than the slippery slope of justification and excuses.

A Favorite Fantasy Monster: Jane Yolen’s Dragons

Today I’m answering a challenge from fellow fantasy author Aaron Volner to write about a favorite creature from the world of fantasy fiction. After giving it some thought, I decided that I would write about the dragons from the YA fantasy series The Pit Dragon Chronicles, by Jane Yolen. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Dragons, Lindsay? What a cop-out. But hear me out.

What They Are
The dragons of Austar IV are the center of that world’s ecosystems, economy, and culture. Originally a prison planet, the descendants of the original guards and convicts have carved out a unique life for themselves by domesticating, breeding, and training dragons. From the stewpots to the fighting arenas, dragons are the lifeblood of this hot, desert world.

A full-grown dragon is roughly the size of an elephant not counting its impressive wings and tail. It Their scales come in a variety of hues ranging from mud brown and mottled yellow to vibrant blood red. While most of these creatures demonstrate bestial levels of intellect, it is said that a trainer can develop an empathetic bond with his dragon. I won’t give any spoilers beyond that, as the exploration of dragons and their unique qualities is one of the central themes of the series.

Why I Love Them
I’ve read plenty of stories about dragons, but for me, Yolen’s dragons are the ones that feel the most real. The series is told from the point of view of Jakkin, a bond-boy whose life up to now has been nothing but sweeping up dusty dragons fewmets and mucking out their massive stalls. This perspective -inspired by familiar domesticated animals including horses, dogs, cats- creates a sense of realism in the mundane habits of these fanciful creatures.

As our understanding of these creatures evolves and changes through the story, we realize that these are more than stock fantasy monsters. In this series, they fill up every page and scene with their powerful scent and heart-stopping roars. If you want to lose yourself in a world of dragons, I highly recommend this series, particularly the first book.

Be sure to check out Aaron’s original post about the Darkhound from the Wheel of Time series, and be sure to check out the next installment from author Connie J. Jasperson.

Rules for the Blog Chain:

1. You must write a blog post about the subject of a favorite fantasy creature of yours and why it’s a favorite.
2. The creature may not be from one of your own books.
3. You must challenge one other author to do the same.
4. You may not pick the same creature as the person who challenged you.
5. You must provide a link back to the post of the person who challenged you, and a link forward to the person you challenged once they publish their post, so people can follow the chain if they want.

Ten Ways to Handle Writer’s Block

It doesn’t matter if you’re a best-selling author or a first-time writer. Sooner or later, every storyteller will find themselves staring at their computer screen (or notebook) without a single story idea. Here are some ways to break down those mental barriers and get back to the craft of creation that you love.

  1. Change your Mindset

We’re often our own harshest critics. We feed ourselves all sorts of negative self-talk. “Your ideas aren’t any good.” “You are wasting your time.” Make a conscious effort to remove these bad messages and replace them with positive affirmations. “This is just a first draft. I’ll revise it later.” “I set aside this time to write, so that’s what I’ll do.” You might even try saying these affirmations out loud before you write to help train your brain for positivity.

  1. Work on Multiple Projects

When something is hard, it’s natural to want to take a break from it for a while. But rather than walking away from your writing to check out what’s on Netflix, try writing on a different project. It could be another novel, a short story or even a poem. This allows you to continue to exercise your creativity muscles while giving your brain a break from that project that is bothering you. Who knows? You may even find that your secondary project becomes your primary one!

  1. Create a Writing Playlist

Music helps with so many tasks that we do each day, it only makes sense to listen to tunes while writing. Just keep in mind that the wrong music can be a distraction and actually make it harder to get your work done. Try to pick songs that will inspire you without pulling your attention away from what you’re doing. Movie soundtracks work well for this, as do playlists based on songs that make you think of the scene you’re currently working on.

  1. Brainstorm Your Way Through

Sometimes, when it’s hard to decide where to take your story next, it helps to brainstorm all of the potential directions it could go in, however improbable or out-of-character they may be. Take some time to list anything that comes to mind without worrying if it makes any sense. “His hairbrush comes alive and tells him what to do next” could be one idea. “They all turn into weasels” would be another. Give yourself permission to be silly. By relaxing a little and having fun with the problem, it becomes less intimidating and stressful. Eventually, you’ll get the wiggles out of your system and will be able to start brainstorming some real options for what to do next in your story.

  1. Change your Method of Writing

Sometimes a change of surroundings can reset the creativity batteries and bring fresh new ideas. If that’s not possible, try changing the tools you’re using. Whether it’s switching out a laptop for a pencil and paper or a tablet for a typewriter, many writers have found solid results by changing their preferred method of writing, even if it’s only temporary.

  1. Introduce a Recurring Scent

The human mind can be conditioned through stimulating a variety of senses, and one of the strongest is our sense of smell. After all, when was the last time you walked past an aromatic restaurant and suddenly realized you were hungry? Similarly, if you regularly introduce a particular scent into your writing space (stepping into a coffee shop, lighting a scented candle, etc.) you’ll eventually notice that you feel like writing just because there’s a certain fragrance in the air.

  1. Research

If you’re struggling to come up with ideas for your story, you may be suffering from a lack of background information. Ask yourself if learning more about some aspect of your story would help give you more material to work with. If nothing comes immediately to mind, pick something minor out of the scene that you’re currently stuck on, and research that. You may not get anything useful for that specific scene, but there’s a good chance that you’ll learn something new that could give you that creative spark to get things going again.

  1. Dress to Write

Some writers take pride in the fact that they can exercise their craft while still wearing the clothes they slept in the night before. But other artists feel the need to dress for success before the ideas start flowing. You may even consider having a “writing hat” or similar article of clothing that you always wear while working. This has the double benefit of establishing another level of conditioning to train your brain on when it’s time to write, while also sending a visible signal to those around you that you are busy and not to be disturbed.

  1. Short Outlines

If you’re a plotter (a writer that plans a story before writing it) then you already know the benefits of having a roadmap to follow as you work. But even if you prefer to just jump in and see where the story takes you, there is an advantage to sometimes doing partial outlines of your current project. If you’re stuck, try creating an outline of what will immediately follow the current scene. By planning out the next few chapters or scenes, you’ll have a better idea of where you need to get to, and may get an idea of how to connect those dots.

  1. Set Modest Goals

Too often, we choose to measure ourselves against some other person’s yardstick. We hear that a successful author writes 2000 words a day, so we figure that that’s what we have to do. Or we become impatient with ourselves and set an unrealistic deadline that temporarily feels good but inevitably becomes a source of guilt and private shame as we realize that we’ll never achieve it. Instead of filling your mind with negativity, try setting smaller, more conservative goals. This will build your confidence as a generative artist, and give you a better idea of what sort of long-term goals are truly within your reach.


Do you have any other techniques that have helped you with writer’s block in the past? Feel free to share them in the comments below!

Looking Forward to My 2018 Book Tour

With at least one book coming out this year, I’m starting the process of planning my 2018 book tour. Last year was my first time touring outside of Washington state to promote my books, and it was a definite success. Hoping to build on that success, I’m looking for book stores, libraries, Cons, and local writer groups that may be interested in hosting an author reading, creative writing workshop, or book signing.

If you’re somewhere in the United States and would like for me to visit your town, please let me know, especially if you have any connection to a venue where I could market my books or give one or more of my creative writing classes. Then again, a venue may be more willing to host something if they know there’s a lot of local interest, so make your voice heard if you’d like to have me and my books come to your town!

Christmas-Themed Fake Quotes from My Stories

“Keltin, is there such a thing as a snow mirage?”
“What are you talking about, Jaylocke?”
“I’ve heard that in the desert, you can get so hot and thirty that you begin to see things that aren’t really there. Do you think you can get the same thing out here?”
“I doubt it. Why?”
Keltin turned to look where his apprentice was pointing and saw that one of the evergreen trees on the far bank of the Wylow river had been festooned with decorations. Delicate glass ornaments hung from every bough as small woodland creatures scattered silvery strands of tinsel along the green needles. Keltin turned back to Jaylocke as the squirrels and rabbits began laying brightly wrapped packages around the tree trunk.
“I think we’ve been out in the cold too long,” he said.
– (not from) Into the North

“No! I don’t want to!” shouted Vin, the talking sword. “You can’t make me!”
“I can, and I will!” said the knight holding Vin. “Now get in there!”
“No!” screamed Vin as he was plunged into the still body before him. “You monster!”
“Oh hush and carve the turkey,” said the knight.
– (not from) Magic, Mystery and Mirth

“Huh,” said Keltin.
“What is it?” asked Bor’ve’tai.
“Nothing,” said Keltin, looking at the still beast he’d just brought down. “I’ve just never seen a serpent stag with a glowing red nose before.”
– (not from) The Beast Hunter

Well, Journal, there’s good news and bad news. It’s Christmas Day, and against all odds, Santa did come! Unfortunately, instead of six months of food and a shotgun, he brought me dress socks and a sweater with a bird on it.
– (not from) Lost Under Two Moons

A New Home for my Online Courses

I’ve got some very exciting news for anyone interested in taking my creative writing classes! In the past, you’ve either had to hope that I would come to a town near you for a workshop or else you would have to sift through my occasional online workshops for a subject that applies to you. Well no more!

Savvyauthors.com is a website dedicated to helping writers at all stages of their craft, and they have generously offering me a place in their spring catalog of online offerings. From April to June of 2018, I’ll be teaching five different creative writing courses via live webinar as well as recorded videos. The courses that are currently on the schedule include:

The Basics of Creative Writing
Finding Your Writing Process
A Novel in Four Drafts
Crafting a Complete Story
Four Types of Scenes

These courses can be taken individually or as a complete series. You can even take a single workshop or several workshops across different courses.

Follow the link below to see the complete series as well as the individual courses available from savvyauthors.com.

Classes & Events from Instructor Lindsay Schopfer

Note: My in-person, creative writing courses through South Puget Sound Community College’s continuing education program are growing in popularity all the time and will continue into 2018. In fact, there will be some exciting new developments there as well, but that’s for another blog post… 🙂

SPSCC Winter Writing Course Schedule

My Birthday Wish

Today is my birthday, and for the last few weeks I’ve had people asking me what I want. Honestly, I want what I have. I’m finally a father (twice!), I have a loving family, more good friends than I can count, and I get to work in a field that I love. My life is blessed, and I am so grateful for it.

I suppose if I did want to ask for something more, it would be success as an author. My fan base continues to be loyal but small, and I often wish I could share my stories with more people. With that in mind, this is what I’d like for my birthday.

If you’re still doing your Christmas shopping, please consider giving the gift of one (or more) of my books to a friend or family member. Not only would this be a kind gesture to me, but you’d be sharing great stories with the people that you care about.

If you decide to buy a book of mine for someone this Christmas, please leave a comment below so I can thank you for your wonderful birthday present to me.

Love you all!

Link to all of my books on Amazon