Hello, and welcome to my blog. I do hope you find the content I’m going to be sharing here insightful and entertaining. I want this to be a place where y’all can get to know me and my process a little better. I have grand ideas of sharing behind the scenes in what it takes for me to put together a story, how I get ideas, and just random tidbits that come to mind. To kick things off, I thought I’d start with how I ended up doing the author thing.
A popular question authors get from time to time is “how/why did you start writing?” A common theme among the answers usually is writing has always been in them, or some variation of that. And for me, that is also partially true. Back during my school age years I used to love to make up stories and be creative, then life hit, and I wasn’t really compelled to write so I didn’t for many years.
Then in 2010 I began playing a PC game called The Sims 3. It was fun to have control over the pixelated people I’d created. As I played, little stories about their lives would roll through my head. I mean the tag line for the game is “play with life” and as writers isn’t that what we do with the stories we tell? We create characters from scratch, and give them life.
About a year in I discovered Sim Lit, blog stories that were illustrated with game shots to enhance the reading experience. It was an eye-opener for me. The stories that played out in my head with the game could be put into words, and people would want to read it. Let the fun begin right?
I enjoyed writing the stories and being creative again. I found a community of people who helped bring that creativity out of me and I was having a blast and never expected it to go beyond my blog. And then I started writing Fiendish (yes, my debut novel started as a sim story) and well, one particular reader became a big cheerleader for me and that story and she encouraged me to do more with it.
So, why am I giving you this backstory to how I got here? I promise I’ll have a point. Whenever I’m struggling with direction and the stress of writing, I’ve gone back to re-reading my own sims stories as well as ones written by writers that I follow. That prompted the idea for this post. What “playing with life” aka writing sims stories has taught me about writing in general.
When I was getting started, this was one of the first things I heard. Not sure why, but I did. And it was one of the first things that messed with my head. When I heard that statement, I was thinking at least 50% of what I’d originally written would be scrapped in the editing process. Which was different from how I’d been writing. And for me, that was a terrifying thought.
Most sim stories are done in a serial format meaning you get the story spoon-fed to you chapter by chapter on what could be an erratic schedule. Most of those stories are usually the first-ish draft of that chapter/installment. The time to overthink and second guess is taken out of the equation because for most of the Sim lit writers I know, they are wanting to get the next update out to their readers. The writer goes with their gut on the direction of the story and the plot and that’s it.
Having the mindset that the story at its core is solid the first time out aids in taking one less worry off the table. While I’m not advocating for people to run out and publish the first drafts of their books, I do want to recognize that not all first drafts require major work before they are ready for the world. And I’ll say again. Edits are made, tweaks to the plot adjusted, but the first draft isn’t always a complete dumpster fire.
And I needed to remember that because often I get stuck in a cycle of second guessing myself. If I let myself get too caught up on what could be wrong in the story, and how much editing it's going to need, I have a harder time moving forward to finish writing the damn thing.
As writers we have to trust our intuition and over the years I’ve realized that the “outside noise” can really mess with mine. Remembering that my first draft is the core/foundation of how I wanted the story to go helps to combat that.
This also goes with trusting your intuition and believing in yourself and the story. When you write a Sim story you aren’t getting paid. You write because you’re moved to tell a tale and you post it because you want to share it with others. Sometimes in all the hustle and bustle that is the writing world, writing for the sake of writing can get lost. We’re trying to make deadline, or write to trends. We have to take time away from writing to market our books, because people won’t know about them if we don’t.
A lot can get in the way of why we started doing this job in the first place. Because we start looking at it as a job. We have to do all the things so we can get a return on our time and investment into ourselves. Reading my sim stories reminds me of the joy of creating without all the added worries. Yes, I cared about what I put out, but to me, those stories were in the purest form of simply being creative. Letting the story flow, the characters take shape and do what they please. Just to enjoy the journey. So, when I’m struggling and super frustrated, I try to get back to that mindset: I’m here because I want to be, and I love what I do.
Because I’m a slow-ish writer, I would fail at attempting to write to the latest trend because by the time I got the book finished the trend would probably be over. But what I do focus on is writing stories that interest me. I’m my first audience, I have to be invested in the story because if I’m not, then how can I expect readers to be? I tend to think all my books are hard to write, but that’s mostly due to me being way dramatic, however, the ones that really, truly gave me a hard time are the ones I attempted to write when my heart wasn’t in it. I have many abandoned files. So many!!!
In the writing world we are told to not respond to reviewers. And we shouldn’t. Reviews are for readers. Once you put the story out into the world, it’s no longer ‘yours’ and you can’t control how people will perceive the book. That is what it is, no argument there. On the flip side, reviewers shouldn’t go tagging authors in their negative reviews on social media. Just want to be clear on that.
However, that doesn’t mean there has to be an invisible wall between the author and their audience. One of the joys of writing a sim story was the direct access you had with your readers. They left comments on your blog, you answered it, you knew they were invested. And in some ways, those comments could help shape the story. It was a good thing to get that insight to have that interaction. I miss it. I mean we write to entertain our readers.
I know that not all authors want that, and that is 100% their right. I, however, love that shit. I want you to tell me if you really connected with one of my characters. If the story I crafted moved you in some way. One of the best interactions happened to me last year. I was at a book launch event for Tati Richardson and a reader who attended came up to me to let me know how much Renovation of Love meant to them. That really touched me because parts of that book are really personal to me as I worked through the grief of losing my aunt. To have someone else connect to that book in such a way made me teary eyed, and it’s an interaction that will stay with me.
When battling the self-doubt monster, moments like the interaction I had help. They give that validation and reassurance that my stories, that the processes, the ups and downs I go through while creating are all worth it at the end of the day.
So that’s it. The three lessons doing sim stories have taught me in my authorly journey. And it’s what launched my career. My first book began as a sim story. Jill, who the book is dedicated to in memoriam, was my biggest fan of the story in that format and convinced me to make it ‘real world’ so it could be a book. Without her, I don’t know if I’d be on this path, but I’m forever grateful.
I’ve learned and have grown as a writer since that book was released into the world, and I will continue to learn and grow so that I can give those who enjoy my stories the best of me every time.
Until next time,