Colleen M. Story was one of the first people I connected with when I joined Twitter as a newbie writer many (many!) years ago. I loved her articles and found her content incredibly helpful on my learning journey. I was also honoured to write a guest post for Colleen’s fabulous site.
It was only right that I invite Colleen to stop by for a chat on my blog about her new book, Your Writing Matters, what inspires her to write, and the scientific evidence behind the pressure writers feel.
In her new release, Your Writing Matters, Colleen M. Story helps writers determine whether writing is part of their life’s purpose. Her book on author platforms, Writer Get Noticed!, was a gold-medal winner in the Reader’s Favorite Book Awards, and Overwhelmed Writer Rescue was named Book by Book Publicity’s Best Writing/Publishing Book in 2018. Her novel, Loreena’s Gift, was a Foreword Reviews’ INDIES Book of the Year Awards winner, among others.
Colleen frequently serves as a workshop leader and motivational speaker, where she helps attendees remove mental and emotional blocks and tap into their unique creative powers.
Tell us a little about yourself. (How did you get started writing? What do you do when you’re not writing?)
I’ve been a professional writer for over 20 years. I work a day job as a freelance writer specializing in health and wellness topics, and then I spend my own time blogging, vlogging, and writing both fiction and nonfiction books.
When I’m not doing any of those things, I’m walking, hiking, biking, driving (I get my best ideas then!), listening to music, catching the latest movie, reading, playing my French horn in the symphony and pit orchestra, and visiting my parents, who have a 10-acre goat farm.
Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior (if any?)
Your Writing Matters is my third nonfiction book for writers. My first was Overwhelmed Writer Rescue, written to help readers find more time to write. My second was Writer Get Noticed!, which helps writers find a unique niche and then use it to create a successful author platform.
I also have two traditionally published novels—Rise of the Sidenah and Loreena’s Gift, the latter of which was a Foreword Indies award winner—and I just signed a contract for my next novel, The Beached Ones, which is due out in the spring of 2022.
What genre is it, and what is it about?
I wrote Your Writing Matters for those writers who may be wondering just that—if their writing really matters, or if they are wasting their time.
I’ve had a lot of writers ask me whether they should keep writing. It breaks my heart to hear their stories, as in most cases they’ve worked really hard. But when they don’t receive the rewards they expected—in terms of publishing contracts or sales—they worry that it’s because they aren’t good enough.
We can all learn to improve our storytelling skills, but rarely is the writing alone to blame for a lack of sales or a lackluster platform. The truth is a lot more complicated than that. In Your Writing Matters, I help writers more carefully examine the question of whether they should keep going.
I explain the scientific evidence behind the pressure writers feel to make money with their work, and how that can lead to discouragement. I talk about the reasons why fame and notoriety are so addictive in our culture, and describe the myth that the most talented writers are the most well-known.
As the reader goes through the book, they’ll be able to understand more clearly why the writing journey can be so difficult at times. Plus I help them manage that difficulty with new tools that keep them motivated and confident.
They’ll also learn the hidden benefits writing may have for them, and discover whether writing is part of their purpose in life, or if they should leave it behind and try something else.
What or who inspired you to write this book?
I suffered my own long period of wondering whether I should keep writing. I spent years working hard at writing while being unsure whether I could succeed or not. I lived in a state of indecision, and that’s a painful place to be.
The problem is that most writers look outside themselves for validation. We seek praise from readers, editors, agents, and contest judges. We think that if we hear some positive words from folks like these, that will help us feel more secure in our identities as writers.
The reality is that outside feedback is always subjective and variable. It’s definitely not something reliable on which you can build a writing career.
What we have to do, instead, is determine for ourselves what writing will mean in our lives, and what place it will hold. That’s not an easy thing to do, as I can say from personal experience!
Your Writing Matters takes the reader by the hand and leads them through a journey of self-discovery so that they can determine much more quickly than I did how to manage the difficult challenges that come with a writing career while maintaining their confidence and motivation.
List three interesting facts about yourself
- I grew up on a ranch where we raised just about every animal you can imagine, from cows to horses to ducks to pigs to goats and turkeys! I loved every minute of it and enjoy going back to visit my folks, who still have the ranch but have narrowed their focus to goats.
- I have been a musician longer than I’ve been a writer and thought I might earn my living that way until the writing bug bit me. I still give music lessons and play the French horn regular in the community symphony and pit orchestras.
- I am the only girl in a family of four kids, and though I sometimes wished for a sister, I was grateful to my three brothers with whom I could play ball, build boats, climb trees, and geek out over Star Trek, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
Somewhere along the way, you have to decide whether you’re going to write or not, regardless of what may happen with your work on the market.
I suggest that writers take the time to reflect on this question of, “Does my writing matter?” It’s not always an easy one to answer. It took me a long time to figure it out.
Challenges in a writer’s career can be helpful, as they compel us to look ourselves in the mirror and say, “Okay, do you want to keep going or not? And if so, why?”
What do you enjoy most about writing and why?
I don’t outline my fiction before I write, though I usually have an ending in mind. So the writing process is full of discovery and magical moments—such as when a new character appears on the scene and ends up becoming important to the story.
I feel this sense of discovery in nonfiction as well. Though I do outline my nonfiction books, the same type of discovery occurs during the actual writing process as I explore a concept from a variety of different angles, eventually reaching a deeper understanding than I had when I started.
What is your least favourite part of the publishing/writing process?
Not long ago I would have said that marketing was my least favorite part of the publishing/writing process, but I don’t think that’s true anymore. I have realized that marketing isn’t really about promoting yourself or your book so much as it is about making connections with readers.
There’s nothing I love more than hearing that someone enjoyed my book, blog, or video, or got something out of it that helped them. That’s one of the “highs” of a writer’s life, and the more people I can reach, the more of those experiences I’m likely to have. Viewing marketing in that light, I have come to enjoy it more.
What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
I’m sure most readers know that the best thing they can do for a writer is to leave a book review on Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble. Reviews are extremely important to the success of a book, yet they’re really hard to get because people are busy and have to make time in their schedules to sit down and write a review.
The other thing readers can do is to share the book. If you enjoy it, tell a friend.
What is your next project?
I’m extremely excited about my next novel, The Beached Ones. It took me years to write and was my most challenging novel so far, but also my most fulfilling one My mom and I took a trip across country to research it, which felt a little self-indulgent at the time but turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.
Here’s a little teaser:
Believed by the world to be dead after a stunt-related accident, a freestyle motocross star teams up with an old girlfriend to save his younger brother from an abusive mother, only to discover it’s not his brother but himself that needs saving from the dark forces threatening to consume his soul.
Connect with Colleen