The Writer’s Journey…Part 1…

Sitting here with less than a month before the official release of Awoken  (oh my goodness how time flies!) I can’t help but remember those dark days when I nearly gave up on writing. If it hadn’t been for the utter compulsion to write I felt the first time I saw Riley fully-formed in my mind, and my own desire to do my beloved family and friends proud, I never would have found myself here today—a nearly published author of a completed book. No matter what happens, I did it! All the nights my poor family had to eat TV dinners and leftovers because mommy was working on her novel, or the times I would take my notebook to my sons’ games, trying not to feel like a terrible mother for stealing a few minute’s writing while they were on the bench—I did it for them! And yes, I also did to for myself—to remind myself that I am a writer, that no one can take that away from me. And I had almost lost that.

I doubt anyone would realize it now, and it is a chapter of my life I consider closed, but once upon a time when I was at home raising my young children, I was a bit of a “BNF” in various fandom communities. I would get dozens of comments thanking me for what I thought were silly little stories written during the kids’ nap times and when there wasn’t anything good on the TV. I realized then that my little writing hobby was so much more than that. My words were bringing people I’d never met happiness!  Around 2007 I starting blogging in earnest on livejournal, sending out into the ether details about my happy but simple little life as well as the imaginings of my mind, and the feedback from my fans was a truly joyous experience. At night I would read the comments aloud to my husband in wonderment. We both found it a little bewildering, but for me it was a sign from God that I had a purpose in this world outside of my little homestead.

As I became more popular, though, the comments began to change. I mean, I was always happy to accept a comment or two helpfully pointing out a misspelled word here or there. But there’s nothing like “fame” to bring out the folks that just want to bring you down, and tear apart your soul’s work. People would keep “helpfully” pointing out that my characters were one dimensional, that my stories were just the same fan fiction over and over again, that there was nothing original about “X only with Y” stories (whatever THAT means!). And never mind the comments about how I should probably get a beta reader to help with my “clunky” grammar and “adverb abuse.” Adverb abuse! You know, those words that are so crucial to really bringing a scene or character to life? Unbelievable!

I went to school and got a B.A. in English from The University of Dayton! My style might not be as cookie cutter as others, and I may be no Hemingway (thank goodness for that) but I know my way around the English language, thanks!

But still the “constructive” criticism continued. If I want criticism, I take my work to my writers’ group. And besides, once I finally found a writers’ group that really understood me, THEY never have any complaints! My writers’ group now-a-days can’t wait for when I have new material to share, so obviously for some people I must be doing something really good! But that’s regardless, because once a book is out there, either read it or don’t, but don’t tell me how to use my own creative talents. That’s just common human gosh darn decency.

Harsh words, I know, but back then I didn’t think like that. Each critique and less-than-stellar comment was like a stab in the heart. Now I have the confidence to think that if you don’t like my writing, then maybe the problem is with you, not me—and if anything, that is what the back button is for. But back then, I wasn’t as confident or worldly.

I had fans, beautiful fans, who rushed to my defense, and as ever always begged for the next update. To them I am eternally grateful. But when there is poison like that in your comments, when you start receiving buckets full of it on your blog, the knowledge of just how much people enjoyed your stories isn’t enough to fight the feeling of helplessness and worthlessness that grows. I started to believe what these awful people were saying, that I was just a hack, even after I won “Western Ohio Writer’s Association Award for Best New Blogger 2011.”

And after a year of that kind of attention and mockery, I gave up. I hated the Internet, I hated myself, I hated everything I had ever written. And so I deleted it all. The livejournal, the fanfiction.net account, my facebook, EVERYTHING. I can’t even find my old writings online anymore. It is like a fire ripped through my internet home and destroyed it all.

All I kept were my old writing journals. I couldn’t bear to lose those. And thank goodness I didn’t, because everything changed in 2012…

TBC

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26 thoughts on “The Writer’s Journey…Part 1…

  1. Haters gonna hate. Sadly, ther’s not much you can do about it. Well, maybe if you completely changed your writing style they would stop, but that would be like selling out, wouldn’t it?

    I was really sad when you deleted your accounts. It’s a shame all your previous works are gone,but I’m glad your back and with a book to boot! Can’t wait to read it.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Don’t give up, Serra. I’m looking forward to the first print run and plan to order four copies – one for my old friend Rick (who recently got a book deal for his ‘Bill the Vampire’ series), one for Chris and Chad at the ‘HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast’, and one for the guys over at Roleplaying Public Radio (RPPR)… and of course one for myself. As to losing your stuff on Fanfiction.net, I seem to remember seeing your name there years ago, maybe someone out there still has a copy! The Internet never forgets.

  3. I have recently read many cruel and unfair criticism towards you, Ms Elinsen, and towards paranormal romance novels in general, and I’d like to ask you not to listen to them, and to never give up on your writing.
    Is it not a fact that novelists generally succeed thanks to their irritation and indignation? Hawthorne triumphed among the dust and wind of Salem. Flaubert, Stendhal, Sinclair Lewis and Stephenie Meyer are also examples. Aren’t the first Henry James novels also examples of this? As long as he lived in America, where he was always uncomfortable, everything went well for him. England he liked to much and that was the cause for his later downfall… People that claim to be either very good or very cultured lull you into that very same creative downfall. You dive right into a fool’s paradise. Except in very small doses, “Literary Criticism” is not auspicious for writers. Since artists must be misunderstood, they requiere something harsh in the atmosphere surrounding them. Children and teenagers have as much right to misunderstanding as they do to understanding. The same goes for writers and artists, and this is one of the reasons why the paranormal romance novel has been so fertile in genius.

  4. Not everyone can be as brilliant or insightful as you are Serra. All the haters are clearly just jealous of those blessed with a talent and only seek to share their gifts of writing to the world. It is so sad that such bitter people exist and I can only hope that one day they will see the errors of their ways and learn to appreciate the beauty of the works they observe.

    Nevertheless you must never allow the spiteful people to drag you down. Do not let a few sourpusses stop you from sharing your talent with the world. “Haters” while few in numbers tend to be the most vocal and their harsh words tend to stick in our memories the most. At the end of the day we must remember that the majority of mankind is kindhearted and that the omnipresence of the “haters” is largely an illusion.

    … Anyways, I eagerly await your book Serra 😀 Only one more month to go!

    May the bridge of the lamb fall upon you!

    -T.L. Rosa

    • You don’t know anything about her life! Why even leave a comment if you don’t have anything nice to say? Maybe YOU are everything that is wrong with the internet!

    • Ugh! everyone keeps throwing that word around so much it’s become meaningless. Maybe YOU are the ENTITLED one. Not everything you read on the internet has to be to your liking or agree with YOU!

      It’s not like Serra is forcing you to read her work or her blog. geez

  5. Ouch! As a fanfic writer who also aspires to write my own original stories, I feel your sympathy. It can get tough when it seems like the world’s out to get you.

    I hope you find some of the stories you wrote and share them here, because I’d love to read them. After that sample chapter of Awoken, I want to read more of your work.

  6. OMG!!!!! Youre early struggles totally remind me of my all time favorite movie “Straight Talk” starring Dolly Parton!!!!! You are totally like Dr. Shirley right after WNDY hired her!!!! You’ve taken your lumps from Michael Madsen, scratched and struggled through poverty in a strange city, and now your ready to SHINE!!!!! (Just watch out for James Woods!!!! LOL!!!!) There’s an abandoned children’s hospital down the road from my house, and sometimes I go there to think. Anyway, SERRA FOREVERRA!!!!

  7. Don’t let the critics get to you, Serra. It’s clear to anyone with good taste that your writing is fantastic, and they’re the ones in the wrong. They’ve most likely let their jealousy get the best of them as they are consumed by hatred and say such harsh words to you in spite of your success.

    Never give up on your dreams. I truly believe “Awoken” will become the next Twilight!

  8. dont give up serra! and beleve me win i say the fanfic sit is a hate filled sit e so nvr giv up! we luv ya serra! they jus dont get a tru arits like u!

  9. Hi, um, so congrats on getting Awoken published but that doesn’t mean that as a writer, whether of fiction or fanfiction, degree or no degree, you are infallible. If people think your characters are one dimensional then there’s a good reason for that. Hopefully they give good explanation for why they think so but you can’t dismiss comments on your works that hurt your feelings or hard work because there will be truth behind them. Obviously trolls are to be ignored but if someone takes the time to thoughtfully tell you what they think is wrong with an element of your writing you shouldn’t start calling them a hater. I don’t see what’s bad at all about taking all the advice you can get and bettering yourself from it really (whaddaya know, free editing and audience responses). Also this blog post especially sounds childish and self-victimizing, so I’d suggest that you find a way to not do that anymore….

    • Yeah, but now she’s a published author. Honestly the only people who have any right to critique her are her editors and her peers (other published authors), not an anonymous mass of people on the internet.

  10. Well admittedly, some of the comments probably were meant to be constructive. It’s just that when you’ve been online for such a long time, you forget how harsh things can sound. I completely understand feeling defensive about something you hold so dear, though. (But at the same time, if you meet someone who truly wants to offer constructive criticism and help you get better, you should listen to them! Nobody’s perfect, after all, and I think one of the best things about the Internet is collaboration between people who wouldn’t ever get to work together otherwise!)

    That said, I’m SO glad you kept writing! I can’t wait for Awoken to come out; I personally love your style (here here to not being a Hemmingway! :p), and I can’t wait to read more of your work! ❤

    And if you do find any of those old stories of yours, I'd be infinitely grateful if you'd post them somewhere I could read them!

    • I dunno, by NOT listening to that “constructive” crit she’s getting super creative and now is even getting published, so she must be doing something right? 😄 Even if the CC is well intentioned it doesn’t mean its any good. Most people read fanfic and stuff for themselves, and make demands of the author that have more to do with what they personally want than any genuine desire to see that author improve or succeed.

  11. I think those people are just trying to help you, and don’t know how to critique properly. I don’t think it’s very responsible, however, to put your work out there if you aren’t willing to accept inevitable hate (there is NO book that is universally loved). Even God gets His work critiqued once in a while.

  12. So that’s why I can’t find any of your old fics online anymore! I can’t believe the haters really got to you so bad! I was really crushed when your ff.net account was deleted. Your story “Forbidden Love” is probably my fave fanfic EVER and I was absolutely crushed to see it gone. Any chance you might be re-uploading that fic and some of your other classic stories (like “Eternal Love”, “Unrequited Love”, or “How It All Began” – I really loved them all!) now that your back in biz? Anyway, I’m super excited for the book!!! If it’s half as good as your fanfics, it’s probably going to be my next favourite book!!!

  13. They just don’t know what they’re doing Sierra. You have to be the bigger person and forgive them for their words and actions honey.

  14. Although I’ve never written like you have, this really speaks to me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people tell me that what I did wasn’t “right” or whatever both offline and online. So what that my work dose matter to what those people say? There are people out there who will appreciate me like I appreciate you Serra. Truly an inspiration.

  15. If you can’t handle constructive criticism, perhaps you shouldn’t be sharing your work with the public. Instead of blogging about how the critics have hurt your feelings, you ought to look into their comments to see if there’s any substance to them and use what you find to improve your work. Writing is a never-ending journey and there are always new things to learn, new techniques to try. You will never hit a point where your writing skills are beyond improvement.
    I understand that putting your work out in the open for public consumption is a harrowing experience, but as a soon-to-be-published author it’s expected that you cope with criticism in a more mature manner than exhibited here.

  16. Omg omg omg SQUEEEEEEEEE :DDDDD

    I cant believe I only just found this website and I cant believe I found you again!!! The Forbidden Love saga was like my favoutire thign on the internet EVER. I would check your FFnet page for updates every day and I was so sad when it stopped working like NOOOOOOOO. But now here you are and you have a book coming out and I AM SO HAPPY LIKE YOU WOULDNT BELIEVE RITE NOW

    So as a long time fan there are just a few things that I really really want to say, cuz I wished so hard I had said them before when you disappeared off the internet and I thought I would never see any of your writing ever again:

    1) Finnigan was my first love. I know that sounds weird and all because he’s not real, but you made him so real!! and he was real to me (and yeah I was young and all, it was like a couple of years ago now so I was still in school) and anyway, after i couldnt read forbidden love etc anymore I got a Finn plushie custom made on etsy and he still sits on the end of my bed, I am looking at him right now in fact!!!

    2) Your forbidden love fanfics made me feel like I wasnt alone in the universe. I know that sounds corny but Serrina was so much like me it was like i could just walk into the story and you have such a gift for being able to do that. She is so much like me because I didn’t have any friends in school either – well I had two or three good ones that stuck by me but nobody else liked me and I was really unpopular, i’m not whining or anything its just a fact. So I really got where Serrina was coming from and why she did the things she did (but I totally get why Finn didn’t understand too, it was so dramatic like that and you made them both really real, i would love so much to be able to read it again.) And I cant blieve your real name is Serra!!!! Thats so much like serrina so i have to ask, did you base her off of your own personality? Because that would mean that you and me are a lot alike!! I mean I’m not a mom or anything, but i want to be one day, i think its the most fulfilling thing a girl can do and you are boviosuly so happy. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    3) CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I should have said this first I guess i was just so excited, your getting a real book published and thats amazing. You should publish the forbidden love stories too! I mean, you wouldnt even have to change the main character names because they were OCs, you’d just have to change the setting and the other characters a bit? IT WOULD BE AMAZING.

    4) You are so pretty. You are beautoful inside and out. Please dont listen to the haters they re just jealous and being spiteful. I bet you survived stuff like that in school just like me, you can survive it again dont give up your amazing!!!

    5) Is your book going to come out in the UK? Will you do a promotionery tour or anything? I am so jealous to see that people in america can just pop over to canada to get copies of your book at that con! I wish i could do that but planes are so expensive! I really really want to read Awaken because if its anything like your fanfics it will be so so good, and Riley seems so mysterious and I want to find out whats up with him!! And if I can’t becuse its not out over here then i will probably go CRAZY. You hear me CRAZY.

    6) Okay this is the BIG BIG BIG one. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE tell me you still have a copy of Forbidden Love somewhere? PLEEEEEEEEASE? I would give anyting in the world to be able to read it again. I’m sure your new book is briliant and I like Riley so far like I said but Finn was my first love and it would be so amazing to be reunited with him!

    I am so blessed to have found you again and your work. I’m not religious myself but I totally respect your beliefs so god bless you Serra Elinsen, and please please please reply to my message, your my hero and it would mean so much to me.

    Your No1 UK fan (maybe even No1 in the world!!!)
    Elizabeth Ridley-Coles

    PS thank you for everything!!!!

  17. Lol, i read the prologue to ur book on amazon and I was like “is this really getting published?!?!????!?” Sorry Serra, but this sucks even more than ur fics!! Ever heard of, idk, kill ur darlings? or that purple prose is bad? Cuz it’s bad, like real bad. U guys here who love it, what planet are u from? serras this bitch who can’t write for shit!

    • If serra cant write then why she get published hmmm???? Sad haters. UR the ones who SUCK. Ur just mad cuz you wish u wer as originul + smart as her.

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