You're writing along, feeling fine, everything's great and then suddenly BAM. There it is. The wall of suck. 

For me, I tend to hit this wall at around the 2/3 mark when I'm still far enough away from the beginning and the ending that I feel lost and like I don't know what I'm doing. It feels like I've been wandering through a desert with no problems for weeks then suddenly, I remember: I AM IN A DESERT AND GONNA DIE. Everything runs into a panic and I sit in paralyzed anxiety, too afraid to move forward or backwards. 

I'm a linear writer so I tend to follow my story along from beginning to end and once I'm muddling through the middle, I start slowing down and then hit the wall. Sometimes it feels like it's three miles high and made of glass shards that cut if I get too close, but it's clear enough that I can see through. I know what's on the other side but I'm afraid of breaking through to get to it. That's the wall of suck. 

What do you do when you hit it? 

The answer's easy, you push through that sharp, nasty bastard and keep going. Army crawl under it, fling yourself into it, or climb over it, but you've got to keep moving. If you stare too long, the wall only gets worse because your mind makes it worse. That wall is your fear of sucking, and the truth of the matter is your first draft probably does suck. It probably sucks a lot. And that's okay, and normal. No one (okay so a few magical writers) writes a perfect first draft and it's okay to not be perfect. Remember, the goal is to finish, not to write the most beautiful and grammatically perfect sentence the world has ever seen. 

The goal is to drag your battered, bruised, and bloody self across the finish line and scream that you did it. So, put on your helmet, buckle down and show that wall that nothing is going to stop you. 

Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy
CategoriesWriting Life

A lot of times people ask the question ‘where do you get your ideas?’ as a big question of writing. For a lot of people the ability to generate ideas seems like the most important part of writing and creating. And at the beginning, maybe it is. Learning what makes a good idea can be tough at the start but with time the ideas keep coming and the ability to focus on them becomes the most important thing.

 

So what are the most important traits for someone who wants to create? Well, in my humble opinion, these are the 5 that I’ve found most important.

 

 

1. Focus.

 

The ability to sit down and focus on one idea and see it through to the end is one of the most important traits to develop. When I first started writing I would start one story, get a new idea and abandon the story and start a new one. I ended up with a whole lot of half-finished pieces and nothing completed. Focusing on one all the way through to the end has made all the difference.

 

2. Patience.

 

Publishing and writing are slow beasts. Nothing moves super fast, even when you are self-publishing, you still need to take the time to write the project, get it edited, laid out, etc. Nothing moves as fast as you’d like it to and learning to not get so frustrated with that is a vital skill.

 

3. Love of Story.

 

You’ve got to love the art of telling stories to really get a firm understanding of how to tell one. Reading, playing games, watching movies, learning from other storytellers is so important. If you love a story you can see its good and bad side and learn from that.

 

4. Curiosity.

 

Creatives are curious about the world, about how things, about ‘what if’ questions and all the uncertainty that comes with it. We like learning about new things, wonder about why things are this way and want to be constantly learning and growing about new things. Ask why and learn as much you can.

 

5. Persistence.

 

This is one of the important traits to build up. Writing can be a tough pursuit. There are plenty of rejections and challenges along the way. It can be lonely, disheartening and down right painful at times. To keep at it requires stubbornness and a push to not give up.

 

 

Those are the five traits that I’ve felt like ave helped me the most in my writing journey. What would you add? 

Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy
CategoriesWriting Life

Who in the world is scared of success, right? Everyone wants the gold medal, wants to finish first, cross that big, audacious goal off the list and bask in the feeling of being awesome. It’s the dream, right? That’s what I always thought for me anyways. I want to make my goals, reach the finish line, be a badass boss lady.

 

But recently at JordanCon, I got the chance to spend a lot of time chatting with some great people, including John Hartness, a writer I’ve always admired and looked up to. While we were talking about what projects I’ve been working on, he asked what I’d done with all the things I’d finished. My answer: “They’re hanging out on my hard drive.”

 

And saying that out loud made me wonder what in the world I was doing. If I wanted to be a writer, to be someone who one day made a living (or at least a side income) from my writing, someone who put out stories and books all the time… why were my finished projects hanging out on my hard drive and not out in the hands of readers?

 

I thought I knew about what I wanted but the things I was doing didn’t match what I said my goals were. What in the world self? If I could take myself out for a drink and ask what the hell, I’d have given myself a real talking to. Instead, I went home and looked through my hard drive to see what all was there.

 

One novel that I still believed in, three novels that were shelved for good reasons, and close to 10 short stories that I’d sent out to one place and then never touched again. Why? Why had I just put them away and never touch them again?

 

I couldn’t find the answer at first, but then it came to me slowly then all at once. I was afraid to take the step towards my goal. Afraid of my own goals…minds are really strange places.

 

So… why am I afraid of the things that I say that I want? Well, after a lot of thought, I’ve hit on it. I’m afraid to take that first step because what if I screw it all up? I can’t screw it up if I never take the leap. If I never make the attempt, I can keep dreaming about the goal and not about the scary path that leads to the goal.

 

Basically I view my goal as the top of the mountain. While I’m on the ground, I can see the top quite clearly and I can even see the path that leads though a forest and to the top. But the second that I take the first step onto the path, I enter the forest where it’s harder to see the magical top of the mountain. Instead, I can see all the tree branches, stones and rough patches of trail. The work, the reality becomes more pronounced and I start doubting I can even do it.

 

I retreat out of the forest and back to the clearing to look at that beautiful goal and decide ‘Hm… better wait to give that a go.’ and I never make the trip.

 

I totally psych myself out before I’ve even given it a proper go.

 

So yeah, I’m afraid of it. I’m afraid that I haven’t got what it takes, that somewhere in the forest is a glen of people who will hate everything I do, that there will be the pond of people I’ve disappointed, that I will never be good enough to climb up the path.

 

So to protect myself, I never walk into the forest. I avoid trying and instead talk about this goal, dream about it in the safety of the clearing where none of the pain from going after a goal can get me.

 

Even knowing that, I am hesitant to begin. I’m still afraid of trying and failing, but now that I’m aware of what’s going on, I feel like maybe I can take that first baby step onto the path.

 

I can start the climb to the peak and I’m sure I’ll screw it up, fall down, hit the pond of disappointment and the glen of disapproval but I’m tired of hanging out in the clearing. My neck hurts from constantly looking up but never ahead.

 

So, here we go. Let’s get to climbing and wear our scraped knees and dirty clothes as a badge of honor.

 

Let’s go kick some ass. 

Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy
CategoriesPersonal

At almost every event I’ve spoken at or every time I’ve mentioned I’m a writer, someone comes up to me and says, ‘I’ve got a great idea for a book but I just don’t have the time to write.’ Well, you do have the time, you just have to make it.

 

I’ve written before about how books are written with time stolen from other people and it’s true. The truth is that you have to fight for your words. You have to fight for the time to write, it’s never just going to show up in a nice basket with a ‘free to a good home’ ribbon attached.

 

If you want to write that book that’s been floating around in your head then you need to pick up that (metaphorical please) sword and start cleaving away time for it. That might mean getting up earlier, going to bed later or maybe only going to the gym 5 days a week instead of 6. It might mean you don’t watch your usual TV/Netflix/Hulu before bed and instead you get your words down on page.

 

It might mean that you write during your lunch break at your day job or that you start taking the bus to work and write on your commute.

 

It means stepping back and taking a strategic look at your day and clearing time to write. The words won’t happen unless you make time for them to so don’t be afraid to fight for your right to write.

 

If it matters to you, find a way. 

So you’re in the trenches sending out query letters and refreshing your inbox obsessively for a response to magically appear. ME TOO! So, how do we get through this process together? Well, let’s check it out with 5 tips that are currently helping me.

 

1. Work on a new project.

I know, you want to keep working and tweaking and perfecting what you’re querying… but right now, put it down. Put it down. Really, stop it. Stop it and start on something else. You remember that shiny new idea beating down your door when you were hip deep in your previous project? Go catch up with it, see if that New Shiny Idea is ready to become a full fledged piece.

 

2. Keep good records.

Keep track of who you’ve sent queries too and when/what they responded. You can do this in your own excel sheet, or on a site like QueryTracker. Knowing what responses you’re getting keeps you on track.

 

3. Immediately get rid of rejections.

Look, rejection sucks. It just does and there’s no way around that. The second I get a rejection letter for an agent, I note the response in my tracking system then shove that rejection into another file in my inbox so it doesn’t just hang out in my inbox. Don’t dwell on it and don’t respond with hellfire to any rejection you get.

 

4. Go do something fun.

You’ve probably been working on this project you’re querying for a quite a while. Go out and do something fun. See a movie you’ve been excited about, try that new class, read a book, start a garden. Do something fun and make sure you’re refilling the creative well.

 

5. Remember it’s not personal.

I know this novel holds your heart and soul. You’ve poured yourself into this novel and when someone rejects the novel, it can feel a whole lot like they’re rejecting you as a person. They aren’t. It’s not personal and no one hates you. Take a deep breath and remember this is your novel not you.

 

Querying can be tough and it can require a lot of self-care to get through. It’s also totally okay to realize you’re not at a place where you can take the highs and lows of querying. Do what fits your needs and your health at the moment, but don’t give up. 

Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy
CategoriesWriting Life

I love conferences and conventions (yes they're different) and consider them a part of my writing life. Sometimes I can't wait to get to them and sometimes I dread every second leading up until I actually walk in the door. Knowing what to do/why you're at these events can make the difference between having a great time and being miserable the entire time you're there.

 

So get your battle gear on and let's prep for heading into the throngs of people at your next convention!

 

1. Know why you're going.

Are you there because they have awesome panels on writing and you're looking to improve your craft? Is your favorite author there and you want to fan out all over them (respectfully please)? Know why you're there so you don't show up and get totally overwhelmed at all the options. If you're there for the panels don't get sucked into the black pit that is the dealer's room.

 

2. Take notes.

If you're sitting at a panel, take notes on what is being said and who's there. I love making notes of who says something clever on a panel so I can find and follow them on twitter/instagram/the moon. It helps to know who is there and saying things that make sense to you. A lot of times you can find out those people have blogs and you have a whole slew of resources now at your fingertips. For instance, I met Delilah S. Dawson at a convention, and loved everything she had to say on a panel about writing. I followed her on social media and now I've got a hat filled with writing tips and tricks that make me ridiculously happy.

 

3. Don't be an ass.

If your dream agent is there please do not hunt them to the bathroom and try to slide your manuscript to them though the stall door. Don't argue, insult, or belittle anyone. Be a nice person. No one is here to make enemies and you shouldn't be either. This also means to please watch how much you drink at the bar and/or after party. Trust me on that one.

 

4. Make friends.

I know, I know. Talking to people is scary and weird. Most writers are introverts and talking to a stranger is scary. Find something small to start with and build from there. One of my best writing buddies in the world I met at a writer's conference. We started talking because I liked her skull accessories and she liked my skull purse. We bonded and years later we still talk on a regular basis. The other people in the audience with you are the writers of the future too. Ask about what they learned, make small talk, be brave! The people on the panels and behind the tables are human (mostly. Some of them might be robots but that's a different story) and are happy to talk to you. Just don't hover forever and stalk anyone. Remember rule 3.

 

5. Have business cards.

 

I love business cards. At every event I want to collect as many as possible. It's like a professional version of pokemon where you have to collect them all! Business cards are a great way to keep in touch after a conference. Find one another on the interwebs and keep in touch. If you meet someone in a burlesque horror writing panel then you may have just found yourself a new critique partner. After the convention take a few minutes to send out emails just saying thanks and inviting them to continue the conversation.

 

6. Enjoy the post-con buzz and crash.

After every conference or convention I feel revitalized. All the creative energy is back in buckets and I'm ready to create a whole new world. However, I also feel isolated. I've left the world where I can talk about murder in public without being judged and back to the everyday world. It can be a bit of a culture shock. Be aware of this rollercoaster. Step 5 can really help here by letting you keep in contact with those people you met who may or may not live very close to you. The internet is a great and terrible thing. Use it for good to keep that creative energy around you.

7. Have fun!

Enough said. Enjoy yourself. Laugh and be ridiculous.

Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy

Guillermo del Toro has been my favorite director since I first saw the Devils Backbone a flight to France many years ago. I fell in love instantly with the ghostly, grim beauty he built in his stories. Soon I dove into everything he'd touched and fell in love with each of them for different reasons.

When I first learned that his Bleak House, his second home filed with items of inspiration and wonder, would be available to view at museums, I waited eagerly to see where it would end up. Nowhere near me of course. As the exhibit ran its curse in California, I watched flight prices but could never find a way to get there.

When it moved to Minneapolis, I kept looking. I read article after article about it, and started looking for flights. I finally found an odd set of dates that would let me ge there. I booked the flights and found a nearby hotel. The whole trip felt surreal, I couldn't believe i was really doing this, but off and away I went with my mother accompanying me.

We arrived at our hotel, put down our suitcases and took off straight for the Minnesota Institute of Art. After about n hour of wandering to find the right bus, we finally reached the museum and headed straight into the exhibit. It was as amazing as I had hoped.

The Angel of Death greeted us as we walked in. I spent about 2 and a half hours there. I went through the entire exhibit three times. The fist time I took pictures of almost everything (seriously, I took almost 300 pictures), the second time I snapped a few pictures of things Id missed and the final time, I just basked in the exhibit.

It felt so like his films, I waited for the Faun to come to life and show me a secret. It seemed like Guillermo himself could walk through the doors at any second. It felt Ike home.

The exhibit was laid out by themes rather than by time or film. Its a fascinating exploration of childhood, loss, death, monsters, and the cross where all of that exists. If you can get to it, I highly recommend it. If you can;t then his book, At Home with Monsters, includes a lot of incredible information and pictures. So, here are some of my favorite photos from the trip: 

Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy

One of the things almost every writer will run into is rejection. The dreaded ‘thanks but no thanks’ form letter that crushes souls and dreams of writers everywhere. But that doesn’t mean they are just piles of suck.

You send your little word baby out into the world and someone kicks it back home. Now, sometimes the word baby comes back with a note attached, “pretty voice, but too long”; “great personality, but not for us” and so on. These notes are awesome. Personalized rejections are a great thing to get.

Most of the time your word baby will have a simple form letter stapled to its face. “Thank you for submitting to xyz. Our editors read your story and decided it was not appropriate for xyz. Thank you” or something of that sort.

Now, here’s what should do after you get any kind of rejection:

1. Read it, record it, and move on

Read it once. Twice at most, and then either delete it or put it in a file where you can’t easily see it. You don’t need to read it over and over again stressing about every word in that email and trying to find some hidden meaning in it. Read it, record it, and move on. (You should be keeping track of everywhere you’re sending your stories so make note of when you received the rejection and what it said.)

2. If you got feedback, add it to the story

Now right after a rejection, you might be a little too unhappy to dive immediately into the story, and that’s cool. But if you get a particular suggestion from an editor then copy and paste it into your file so you can look at it later. A lot of these suggestions will be very helpful, especially once you’re not stinging from the BURN OF REJECTION.

3. Do something else

If a rejection notice really gets under your skin, go do something physical. Run, box, dance naked around your house, take a bubble bath and play battleship with the shampoo bottle. Just go do something and get that energy out. It will help calm you down.

4. Look for other places to submit

There are tons of calls out there and you can almost always find another home for your little word baby. If you think your story is solid, then go ahead and resubmit it out to a new market. Just make sure you record it.

5. WRITE MORE

This is kind of an always sort of thing, but don’t let a rejection keep you from getting writing done. Get back to writing and putting words on paper.

 

Things you should NOT do.

1. Write an email back

DO NOT RESPOND TO THE REJECTION. Especially if your instinct is to respond by spitting acid across the internet in an attempt to dissolve said editor/agent person.

BAD WRITER. NO.

Do not send an angry email or demand to know how they could possibly deny you. Unless the rejection email specifically asks for something, for instance, “This wasn’t quite right for us but we like your voice. Do you have anything else?” or if you are asked to make revisions and resubmit. Then by all means respond, but otherwise, let it go and do not scream into the void.

2. DO NOT BLAST THE COMPANY

Professionalism is the name of the game and professionalism doesn’t go on screaming rants about that terrible dumb company that dared to reject MOI! This also applies to bad reviews. Just do not engage. Rant to friends, family, dogs, cats, lost circus bears, etc. but do not put that in writing and send it out into the universe. It’s been said a million times, but publishing is smaller than you think and a lot of people will see your meltdown.

3. DO NOT GIVE UP FIVEEVER

I know that being told no, especially being told no over and over can be disheartening. It can be enough to make you want to hang up your writing shoes (writing mittens? Writing hands? What the hell do writers wear?) and give up. DON’T. If you need to take a day or two to be devastated, that’s fine, but don’t stop. DON’T EVER STOP. (*que Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing montage here*)

 

Now from here, you can send that little word baby out to a new potential home; scrap that story and shelf it for a while; or you can pull out your seam rippers and cut ‘er open and see what’s wrong. If a story has been rejected multiple times, it’s probably time for a little bit of surgery to see what’s not ticking quite right. Take any feedback you’ve gotten and see if it fits, let a new person read it and see what they think. Play, tinker and create. THAT’S YOUR JOB.

Rejection is a part of the game. It’s a crappy part, but rejection means you’re out there doing your damnedest and that deserves some celebration. Getting a rejection means you’re out there trying, and working at it. People who never finish anything never get rejections so you’re that much further ahead. GO YOU!

So here’s to you and to all your past, present and future rejection letters!

Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy


I'm not a big believer in the idea of the muse. If I only wrote when I felt magically inspired, in the flow of writing, very little would ever happen. But that doesn't mean that I don't see the moments the muse shows her fickle butt up to the party. For me, the muse regularly shows up when I'm in the shower, or washing dishes. Something about my hands being covered in soap and water really makes the muse smack my brain with all of the great ideas. What an ass. 

I fully believe that writers need inspiration to keep going, to solve the problems that inevitably arise in stories. Maybe it's in the spark of an idea, or the sudden connection of two ideas to solve a problem.  So what can you do to coax some inspiration out? Well here are 5 little tips.

1. Stop forcing it. 

Sitting at the computer and demanding to be hit by the inspiration stick usually just leads to a lot of frustration and not a lot of production. Sit down (or stand or walk!) and get to work. Maybe inspiration shows up, maybe it doesn't but you've got work to do. 

2. Take time off

Work, work, work is a recipe for burn out and a whole lot of nope. Take time off from your work. Go outside, take a shower, wash dishes, do laundry, play a game, do something else. Give your subconscious time to stir the soup of ideas. 

3. Talk it out. 

Sometimes you've got to talk the little gremlins down. What I mean is, sometimes you need to take that plot problem out of your head and into the physical world. It doesn't matter if you're talking out the plot problem with your cat, dog, stuffed weasel, whatever. What matters is getting the words together to explain it. I'm amazed at the number of times simply speaking it out loud makes a solution suddenly click into place. 

4. Have fun. 

Go and do something you enjoy. Take a hike, a bubble bath, a nap. Do something that you enjoy, feed the muse some happiness. 

5. Remember you're more than your muse. 

So maybe your muse is MIA and you're feeling like crap. Your self worth is not tied up in your muse taking a day (or more) off. You're still amazing. Take some time to re-fill your creative well and that muse will be back. 

Magic happens in the mundane, you just have to pay attention enough to catch it.