Thursday, September 26, 2013

Guest Author Sparkle Abbey on Why Writing is Hard

Help me welcome Sparkle Abbey, author (or authors!) of the Pampered Pets cozy mystery series. And who doesn't love mysteries with pets? Leave a comment and you just might win one of three books (paperback or ebook, winner's choice) that S.A. will pick at random. Sit! Stay! Read! ~ Sheila

Writing is Hard!

by Sparkle Abbey

Why It’s So Doggone Hard

We have a confession. Writing is hard. Writing for publication? Even harder.

We always smile when people just assume we crank out our light-hearted mysteries with little to no effort. If you’re paying attention, you might even catch us giving each other “the look.” The look that says, “If they only knew.”

We just turned in book five in our Pampered Pets series, Fifty Shades of Greyhound, and you’d think it would get easier. But the reality is, it hasn’t. We write light, humorous cozy mysteries. The different between writing the type of book we write and heavy, dark, intense books is, well, just the tone. It still requires the same research, attention to craft, tight plotting, etc. as any other book. In fact, you know the old adage, “Dying is easy; comedy is hard.” We concur. Writing humor is hard.

The truth of the matter is it doesn’t matter what type of book you’re writing. Writing for publication, writing something you hope others will read, is hard. Much harder than you realize at first. Sort of like owning a dog.

At first, it’s just cute and fun.

As young writing pups, the images in our imagination easily turned into words on the blank page. We filled pages and pages with stories and characters that entertained us. Mostly because we didn’t know any better. In our hearts we were storytellers, and that’s what we were doing—telling our stories. Now we know the truth. Writing is hard. So you have to love it a lot in order to get to the next step.

Training is important if this is going to work out

We’ve each studied the craft of writing for more years then we care to admit; and we’re still learning. The more we learn, the more we realize what we don’t know. We find we must: continue to learn and grow, figure out what works and what doesn’t work, and learn from the experts and others in the business. Writing is very much like owning a dog; with good training you’re going to love it even more. And, by the way, it’s an ongoing training process – sit, stay, fetch. Repeat.

Training a puppy, or training your writing muse, requires stamina.

It takes talent to tell a good story, but it takes stamina to polish a good story into a great one. It’s that polishing process that makes the story shine. Just as you must stick with it when training a puppy, you don’t always get it right the first time. It takes time. It takes practice. The more you practice, the better you get. So you continue to refine and improve. Does it get a little easier? Sure. Which means it’s time to take it to the next level.

You’ve got to love it!

What makes it possible to hang in there for your puppy or your writing is that you love it. As writers we push on. Not just because we have a deadline, although a deadline certainly helps. As writers, we continue to pull word, after word, after word from our souls because, after all, we’re storytellers. We love that we get to entertain real readers with these fictional characters and these worlds we’ve created. We love to hear that we’ve created an escape for our readers for a subway ride or an afternoon on the beach.  

Writing is hard because it makes us vulnerable. Writing is hard because as writers we push to learn more in order to become better storytellers. Writing is hard because it takes time in addition to talent. The reality is that writing a good story is hard because takes work.

Our advice?

Sit - Write a lot. Enjoy telling your story.
Fetch - Hone your craft. Get advice. Continue to learn.
Stay - Stick with it. Don’t give up.
And play - Remember to love it!

Because if writing weren’t so doggone hard, it wouldn’t be so doggone rewarding.  (Much like owning a dog.)

Wishing all you writers out there the best with your writing!

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of national best-selling mystery authors Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter. They are friends and neighbors as well as co-writers of the Pampered Pets Mystery Series set in Laguna Beach, California. The pen name was created by combining the names of their rescued pets - Sparkle (Mary Lee’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog). They reside in central Iowa, but if they could write anywhere, you would find them on the beach with their laptops and depending on the time of day either an iced tea or a margarita.

They just finished the fifth book in the Pampered Pets series, Fifty Shades of Greyhound, and continue to enjoy hearing from readers about the previous books: Desperate Housedogs, Get Fluffy, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, and Yip/Tuck.
Twitter: @sparkleabbey


Looking for more mysteries with dogs, cats, and other critters? Check out these recent posts from me and my guest authors....

And these recent posts about my own Animals in Focus series - 

Thanks for coming ~ 

don't forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a book by Sparkle Abbey!


  1. Hah! Love your very funny titles and am looking forward to checking out your books! Good advice, too. No matter how much fun writing can be some of the time, to finish a book takes hard work and discipline. And then even more hard work and discipline. And sometimes, chocolate.:)

    (Hey, if dogs get good treats, writers should too!)

    Susan Kroupa

    author of The Doodlebugged Mysteries
    Dog-Nabbed (coming Nov 2013)

    1. Susan - Absolutely! Chocolate is essential. :-) Love your titles too. We see you're owned by a labradoodle. We have one next door to us who is just a great dog.

    2. Yes, I'm afraid "owned" is probably the right word, although we work hard to gently remind Shadow, whom I call amiable/dominant (he wants his own way but won't bite us to get it), that he doesn't actually get to run the household. :) But he is by far the most entertaining dog we've ever had.

    3. LOL, Susan. Love the amiable/dominant!

  2. Great post, Sparkle Abbey, aptly written and oh, so true!

  3. Thanks, Linda! Missed seeing you at Bouchercon. It looks like it was fun!

  4. Love your post, although I haven't read any of your books, I am looking forward to reading them all! Fifty Shades of Greyhound LOL LOVE IT!!!!! Thank you for sharing your talent with us.

  5. loved your post and love your books looking forward to reading the next one

    1. Thanks, Tonja. We're so glad you're enjoying the series.

  6. Writing is hard. No doubt. But I would expand that to say writing for publication is hard. You can write, revise, edit and so on and have the best manuscript ever written. And be happy and content in that knowledge. But once you have decided to publish, you have made a decision (even those people who say it is for love of writing only). Once you have made that choice to publish you are looking for some validation, be it money or success by some other measure. I also paint. If I sell a painting I have succeeded - only one person has to like that painting and it is a success. But a book? One won't cut it. Which is why, of all the artistic mediums, writing is one of the hardest.

    1. SO agree, Kate! It's about the creative process and you can love that process, but once you've decided to write for publication it changes forever. Part of what makes it so hard!

  7. Interesting post. I definitely agree with your writing advice. I'd love to know more about your writing process and your division of labor when you're writing as a team.

    1. Nancy, we have a unique approach to co-writing our series. We actually write every other book. So while we collaborate on the plot, setting, secondary characters, etc., we each write a full book. ML writes the odd numbered books (featuring Caro, the pet therapist) and Anita writes the even numbered books (featuring Mel, the pet boutique owner).

  8. LOVE this post. Everything you say is true. And the metaphor is a treasure.

  9. Love the books and your blog post. Thanks for the advice. Look forward to reading the latest.

  10. A HUGE thanks to you all for stopping by and commenting and a big thank's to Sheila for allowing us this guest spot! We've thrown all the names in the hat (actually it was a bowl) and the winners are ::::::: drumroll:::::: Ta Da - Tammy Sparks and Susan Kroupa. Please email us with your mailing address and which book you'd like to have! And again, Sheila, thank-you so much for having us over.
    ML & Anita aka Sparkle Abbey

    1. Thank you for being here! Great post! And big congrats to the lucky winners. Woof!