Surviving Bad Reviews

In October 2014, I published my first two books, YA fantasy: The Seeker Must Awaken and Book of Shadows. These two novels are the first two books in The Lux Seekers series. I’ve been writing for years, and trying to perfect my craft, daily. It is a struggle and there is always something new to learn. I revised and revised and revised some more. When I thought the books were ready, I decided to self-publish.

I had put so much time and effort into the books, I became attached to the novels and thought of them as my “babies,” an extension of myself. So, when I got two negative reviews, I took it very personal. It felt like an attack. I took it very hard.

I reached out to one of my Goodreads groups with the post: “Bad Reviews and the Star Rating System.” I’m glad that I reached out. I’ve received so many helpful replies to that post. To this date, there are 150+ replies and new comments are coming in daily.

At first, I wanted to give up and quit writing. Then, I was reminded that writers keep writing, no matter what. I learned that I can’t take it personally. I must look for something useful and constructive in the review. There is always room for improvement. I must take the review at face value. I must take the comments that are valuable, and use them constructively to improve my work.

After I calmed down from my initial reaction to the reviews, I decided to email both reviewers. I asked if they would like to be Beta Readers on my next project, a YA sci-fi dystopian, due in the Spring of 2015. One of them has agreed to be my Beta Reader. This reviewer is also a writer and I have agreed to be her Beta Reader on her project as well. I believe this will be mutually beneficial to the both of us. I am very grateful for this reviewer’s honesty.

What I’ve learned:

  1. Writers keep writing, no matter what.
  2. Don’t take it personally.
  3. Keep practicing your craft.
  4. Look for constructive elements in the review.
  5. Never give up.

These have been hard lessons to learn, but this is just the beginning of my writing career. Bad reviews happen. What we do with them, makes all the difference in the world. I hope this article may be of help to any writer going through the pain of a bad review. Taken in a constructive manner, it can be a learning, growing experience.

Willow A Renner, YA Author


Writer’s Block


Types of Writer’s Block

Fear of the Blank Page

Lack of Ideas

Too Many Ideas

Paralyzed By the Inner Critic

Keep Going Back to the Beginning


Fear of the Blank Page

That endless sea of white is staring you down. Taunting you. Intimidating you. What to do? Relax. The more you fear writing, the worse it is going to get. Losen up. This isn’t rocket science. Start Free Writing. Write what’s on your mind, write about what’s bothering you. Write about what makes you angry. Write about what makes you sad or happy. Don’t worry about what you think you have to write, just get something down on the page. These writing exercises help loosen you up and release stress. You’ll soon be on topic again.


Lack of Ideas

What if you feel you have nothing to write about? Look back to exercise one. What makes you angry, happy or sad? Write about it. Look for articles in the news or social media. Take a situation and play the “What If?” game. Choose a news article. Ask how can this event be made more exciting? What genre would you set it in? What characters would best tell the story? Can you add an sense of urgency? Example: ticking clock. Write down a list of intriguing articles or ideas for future articles, scenes or a book. Keep these ideas on file for future reference.


Too Many Ideas

With too many ideas, you can have sensory overload and feel overwhelmed. What to choose? How to choose? Well, you could throw darts at a board or flip a coin. But you could pick your top three ideas and evaluate the merits of three only so you are not awash in a sea of choices. Which one has the most potential for an article, blog post or a novel? Do a light outline for each idea to determine the strongest idea. Which idea has the best potential to be fleshed out? Which one is the strongest contender? Pick the strongest of the three and develop the idea further. That is not to say that your other ideas are no good. This exercise is just to narrow your focus to one idea at a time. You can only write one idea at a time, so focus.


Paralyzed By the Inner Critic

Perhaps you are staring at a blank page wondering if you have anything good to say? Is it going to be boring? A waste of time? You will never know until you get it down on the page. Writing is the creative stage. The idea and generative stage. Now is not the time to go into editing mode. You can’t edit a blank page. Do whatever is necessary to shut the critic up. Put your ideas on the page, even if you think it’s lame. Decide later. Create now. So, you have your ideas down on the page. Still don’t like them? Go back to your outline. Have you veered off topic? Gone off on a tangent? Fix it with your outline. Get back on track. This is now the revision stage where you REVISION your project. Look at it from different angles. As in a novel, is this story told by the character that has the most to lose or that will be the most changed at story’s end?


Keep Going Back to the Beginning

You’ve gotten at least halfway with your article, post or novel, but now you’ve hit a brick wall. What happens next? Don’t go back to the beginning and keep polishing. Get your whole draft down on the page first. Write now. Polish later. If you’re at a loss, go back to your outline. Outlines aren’t written in stone. They are meant to be flexible, a guidepost. If you come up with a new plot twist, great! Add it to the outline and rework from there. Outlines are a guide, a road map to get you to a destination. You wouldn’t go on a trip without an itinerary or a plan would you?



There are many forms of writer’s block. But basically it boils down to fear. Fear of failure. Am I good enough? Has it been done before? Don’t let fear paralyse you. Write to the best of your ability. Strive to learn more about your craft everyday. Don’t worry about being the greatest or the best. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Just be the best writer you can be, for you. Talke satisfaction and pleasure in your writing.


Blast From the Past


A lot of us remember a simpler time: before the internet, cell phones, video games, and computers. When we were young, we played outside instead of spending time shut in our rooms. We knew our neighbors and kept our doors unlocked at night.


As kids, the biggest thing we looked forward to was summer vacation. It was golden. Months stretched before us with endless possibilities. We didn’t dare utter the words, “I’m bored,” because our parent’s could find plenty of chores to occupy our time.

My dad built my brother and I a tree house in an old cherry tree in the back yard. We would play for hours, then lay on the roof of the tree house, while the mourning doves called and gaze at the stars as they winked on one by one. We could see the stars better then, less lights from the city and pollution, I guess. At the first star, we would say the rhyme, ‘Star Light, Star Bright,’ then we would make our wish. Of course, we couldn’t tell the wish or it wouldn’t come true.

I remember watching the sun set as shadows grew longer then merged together. A blue sky turning red, then blooming into indigo. Then the fireflies would flash on, lighting up the night sky. We would catch, “Lightning Bugs” in mason jars to use as lanterns. My hands smelled of weeds and loamy soil. We had competitions with the neighbors to see who could catch the most. Before we would go inside for the night, we would open our jars at the same time and watch the fireflies burst out of the jars like fireworks.

During the days of summer, I would be outside all day. We would play at the neighbor’s house or at the canal or the cornfield. I never went inside, except for bathroom breaks, because inside meant chores. If I got hungry during the day, I could choose between grapes, apples, cherries or the garden produce. If I got thirsty, there was always the garden hose. Best water ever. We stayed outside until the sun went down and my dad stood on the back porch and whistled for us to come home. If he had to whistle twice, we were in trouble.


Saturdays were always the best day of the week, because it meant Saturday morning cartoons. Looking back, I realize just how violent some of those cartoons were. They were filled with sexual innuendo or inside jokes that only adults understood. But no matter, the TV would be cranked up as we stared wide-eyed at the colorful, frenetic, jangle of morning bliss.


Halloween is, hands down, the biggest kid holiday. We looked forward to it all year. Some of us had money to get the coveted store bought costumes. I remember sweltering under a rigid plastic mask, hair tangled in the rubber band and visibility at nil. I still remember the smell of those plastic masks as the sweat ran down my face and into my eyes. Other kids made due with homemade costumes consisting of a sheets, cardboard boxes or garbage bags. Oh, the possibilities of garbage bags.

We all competed to see who go to the most houses and get the biggest haul of candy. We knew what houses gave out the best treats, and the houses to avoid who gave out ribbon candy and black licorice. The home made treats were the best. I looked forward to the popcorn balls and the rice crispy treats. I never traded those. My brother and I would go into strangers houses, waiting for candy, and nothing bad would happen.


In the winter, we looked forward to sled riding. We always had races, wooden metal runner sleds against the newer models of plastic disk sleds. For pure speed, the runner sleds usually won. Sometimes we would build ramps at the bottom of the hill to see which sled got the most air before crashing to the ground. The lighter weight disc sleds won hands down.

We would pile on a toboggan, clutching the person in front of us, screaming the whole way down as the wind reddened our cheeks and stole the breath from our lungs. As I trudged up the hill, dragging my sled behind me, I swear the hill was much bigger going up. We would slide down that hill all day until it got dark. It felt like the longest trek dragging that sled home as I finally noticed how numbness in my fingers, toes and nose. When I finally got home, I couldn’t take off my snow suit because the zipper was frozen shut.


I remember walking to school in the snow. Snow days were rare for us in Ohio. As long as the plows could clear the roads, we went to school. My mom would bundle us in so many layers, I could barely put my arms down. When we got to school, the teacher had to help us out of our layers because our mom’s had bundled us so tightly. I remember sitting in class doing school work as our outside layers dried on hooks at the back of the classroom and hearing the tap, tap, tap of water hitting the hardwood floor as the snow melted and the scent of wet wool permeated the air.

In the cafeteria, I remember the hard, plastic, partitioned lunch trays. Every square filled filled with food. We were so careful with that tray on our way to sit at the table with our friends, because a dropped tray meant humiliation. We had to eat everything on our tray. regardless if we liked it or not. We used to hide food in our milk container, but the teachers soon caught on to that.


Looking back, I find myself thinking back to a simpler time, when people took the time to notice the little things. Today, life seems busier, faster-paced and more frenzied. Everyone is in such a hurry. My children don’t know what it’s like to lay in the grass and look for shapes in the clouds, go snipe hunting, look for earthworms to go fishing or lay on the roof of a tree house watching the stars wink on one by one.

Camp NaNoWriMo



Camp NaNoWriMo takes place in April and July.

My bags are packed. Got the bug spray and my sleeping bag. I’m ready for camp! Well, virtual camp, anyway.

Many of you might be thinking… Ack! NaNoWriMo!

But wait. this is Camp NaNo. A kinder gentler writing experience. It’s like NaNo Lite.

  1. Set your own word count goal for the month.
  2. Start a new novel.
  3. Finish your NaNo from the fall.
  4. Edit/revise a finished novel.

Take your pick. It’s your choice.

So, if you’ve been intimidated by NaNoWriMo in November, try out the gentle camp experience.


Camp starts tomorrow, April 1st. So go to the website and sign in and get assigned a cabin.


Hope to see you there. I’ll save you a spot by the campfire and some s’mores.



Blog It: Setting Realistic Writing Goals



You only have so many hours in a day. If you have a day job, your time is even more restricted.  Your job is non-negotiable. Your sleep time is non-negotiable. That leaves your leisure time.

How do you spend it?





Something in your leisure time has to go to make room for your writing.  What is more important to you, the internet, or your writing time? If it is your writing, you will make time for it.


Carve out block of writing time throughout the day. Small writing block are easier to manage than one large block of time.

When to Post

Do you want to post on Monday or Friday? Pick a day that works for you. If you don’t work over the weekend, then pick Friday. If the weekend is prime writing time for you, then pick Monday.

Blog Topics

Not sure what to blog about? Do a Google search of blog topics. Keep a list of blog topics on file so you will always have ideas at hand.

15 Popular Blog Topics

1. The inspiration for your current WIP.

2. An author who inspires you.

3. The moment you decided to be a writer.

4. How to deal with stress.

5. When is the best/worst time to write?

6. Review a book that you have read.

7. Fiction: Share your character’s back-story.

8. What do you struggle with as a writer?

9. Write a movie review.

10. Your favorite book growing up.

11. The most valuable writing tips that you have gathered.

12. Who is your writing hero?

13. Fiction: What struggles does your character face?

14. What is your writing ritual?

15. A list of blogger that you follow.

Set a Blogging schedule

You’ve set your priorities

You have a list of blog topics

You’ve carved out writing time

Set your post day and stick to it. Be consistent, your followers will expect it. You can type your blog posts ahead of time, and save them as a drafts. Then, you can publish as needed. You can avoid writers block with your pre-made list of topics. You will never be at a loss for words.


You’ve done all the pre-planning, now write! Be consistent with your schedule. Write daily to get in the habit. Actual writing is the only way to get better at writing. Now go, write, and may the words fly from your fingertips.

The Rain Maker


Only the Great Ama could wield the Rain Maker mask. Only she could summon the rains giving life to a parched earth. Nera’s Great Ama had the power. Now, Nera’s Ama wielded the power of the mask. Someday, the power would be passed to Nera, as was custom, mother to daughter, down through the ages.

Nera stood by the window of her thatch and mud dwelling. She watched the steady fall of rain as the drops hit the clay, making patterns in the earth, where the water ran in rivulets.

Last season, Nera’s Great Ama, the village Spiritual Leader, died, just before the rains were due. After her death, not a drop of water fell. Nera’s Ama, had taken over as Spiritual leader. But, her inexperience led the villagers to blame her as the cause of the drought.

This season, before the planting time, Nera’s Ama, donned the Rain Maker mask,waiting for the waxing moon cycle, offering the gifts from the villagers and fragrant incense to the gods to save the village from the drought. Last moon cycle, the gods answered her prayers. The rain fell, soaking the parched earth, bringing it to life. But now, the rain continued to fall, with no sign of stopping.

Nera shifted, uncomfortable, as a chill wind blew through the thatch and mud walls. Everything was wet, including her clothes. She pulled at her collar as the fabric clung to her body in a damp embrace. Her teeth chattered as she walked to the stone fire pit hearth.

She knelt by the fire and extended her hands near the crackling flames. Nera felt the warmth slowly work its way from her fingertips into her hands. She listened to the sounds of the pater of rain as it hit the roof and the hiss of the fire as some drops made it past the thatched roof.

She edged closer to the fire, hoping the heat would dry the moisture that clung to her like a second skin. Nera still felt a sense of relief. At least she had not come down with the sickness that was ravaging her village. The children and the elders caught it first, but it was quickly spreading.

She moved back to the window. The gray sky continued to release the rain in torrents. Nera shook her head as she observed the crops in the field; stalks bent and broken, as the rain continued its endless assault. Ruined. The harvest for the second year in a row was not to be.

Tonight, during the waning moon phase, the Great Ama, would petition the gods for an end to the rains. Nera hoped it would work before the sickness claimed the whole village. Nera prayed that the gods would be merciful.

In her heart, she was terrified, for one day she, too, would become the Great Ama  and wield the power of the Rain Maker mask.

Dreaming Up Writing Zen: Planning Your Writer’s Work Space

What does your writing desk look like?

Is it neat and organized, with everything in its place?

Or is it a hot mess of chaos, with no discernible filing system known to man?


You will be at your most productive with a neat desk. Every time, you have to search for files, papers or that bit of research, it is eating into your writing time.

Dedicated Writing Room

You will get the most out of your writing time if your desk is in a room designated as your work space. This room should have a door to close, away from noise and distractions. When the door is closed, no one should disturb your writing time.

If you have a spare room you can claim, great! If not, claim the wall of a room as your writing space.

Get serious about your craft. If you want your family to take your writing seriously, treat it as a profession, not a hobby.

Tools of the Trade

You need a desk. No, the corner of the dining room table will not do. Remember, this is your profession, not your hobby.

A good table or floor lamp, that simulates natural daylight, to prevent eyestrain.

Laptop, printer, software, etc.

If you write everything long-hand, first, as I do, you will need:

Paper, pens, pencils, highlighters, post-its, post-it flags, index cards, binders/notebooks, etc.

Basically, Staples will love you.

On your writing wall:

Bookshelves: for your writing craft books, reference book, dictionary, binders, etc.

White Board: To Story Board and plot scenes.

Cork Board: to outline and to plot scenes on index cards.

Filing Cabinet: Keep track of your submissions to editors, agents, contests, etc. Keep important names and websites on file. Yes, you can do all of this on a computer. But when my laptop crashed, I was glad I had hard copy records.

Flash drive: back up your files daily!

Final Thoughts

In this room you will dream * write * create. This is your creative sanctuary. Guard it well.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Anything I forgot? Something else you would add? Please leave your comments below.

Beauty Standards Are Bullshit

Ladies, please stop comparing yourselves to models!

The Belle Jar

You’ve probably heard that Marilyn Monroe was a size 14.

Or a size 16, or a size 12, or a size 10, depending on who you ask.

Whatever number someone quotes you, the message is always the same: our standards of beauty have changed, and not for the better. The women whose bodies we worship now are thin and sickly, all of them suffering from eating disorders. Things aren’t how they were before, when we appreciated “real,” “normal,” “average” bodies. Our current standards of beauty should serve as evidence of how deeply fucked up our society is; we ought to return to our parents’ and grandparents’ ideals.

This whole concept is so popular that there have been a string of memes made about it:




You know what makes me say fuck society? The fact that we think it’s totally cool to compare two women and declare one of them the…

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It’s Only Fireworks…


Fireworks burst overhead, showering a cascade of glittering green embers. Dev cringed at the sharp report, so like a shotgun blast. Turning from the display, hand shaking, he raked fingers through spiky raven hair.  Sparks faded, leaving behind a plume of smoke and the acrid odor of sulfur. Dev tried to push the thought of his father away, but the memory clawed at his mind and pulled him a year into the past. Back to the last day he saw his father. To the morning of the hunting trip and the evening he stood in the driveway watching his father drive away.

In the driveway, Dev waited, muscles stiff with fatigue and clothes damp with evening dew. He stood there as the scarlet hue bled from the sky and indigo bloomed in its place. His ears roared with the buzzing drone of cicadas, drowning out his mother’s pleas to come inside. Dev continued his vigil as the stars winked on, one by one. He blinked back moisture that threatened to spill over his lashes. Staring intently down the pock-marked street, straining to see that weathered red pick-up truck in the gloom, Dev waited for headlights that would never come.


“Did you see that, boy? Right through the heart!”

Dev closed his eyes, trying to block the image of the deer bleeding out in the verdant forest clearing. His eyes flew open as he watched red flow into green.

Like Christmas, he thought.

He swallowed the sour bile that burned his throat as he watched the deer sigh a last shuddering breath. Dev felt his chest tighten as he stood witness in the silent clearing, watching the light fade from the deer’s soft, brown eyes. He turned away as his father stalked toward the deer, meaty fists gripping the pearl-handled hunting knife as the blade flashed signals in the sunlight.


Dev hissed in a breath as he stared wide-eyed at the fireworks shooting a sphere of red sparks. He closed his eyes and slowly recited the mathematical constant of Pi. As he neared the hundredth decimal place, his heart calmed and he glanced around the fairground. Resolute, he was determined to face the ghosts of his past.

I can do this.

He straightened his shoulders, shook his head, and returned his gaze to the sky.

It’s only fireworks…

Time Management: Don’t Let Time Make You Her Bitch


We all need more time.
We can’t fit every activity we want into our day.
But how do we get more time?

We need more hours in a day to write. But Willow, you say, Albert Einstein had the same 24 hours in his day and look what he accomplished. To that I say BS! He was using wormhole tech. Well, that’s my theory anyway.

Seriously, he set his priorities. He had a goal. Let’s say it was writing because I’m not getting into physics here. He decided he wanted to get published in one years time. He did the research of everything he needed to accomplish in one year to reach his goal. He broke that down into 12 month blocks/goals. Then weekly blocks. Then further still into daily goals. By breaking a large goal down into smaller more manageable blocks, the goal does not seem impossible.

Now, I picked one years time as an example. Your timeline may be different, put you must set a date. To say that “one day” I will be published, is not enough. Because, “one day” never gets here. It is always in the future and you can never get any closer to it.

So, what is the first step to reaching a goal?


Figuring out priorities is key to fitting in time to write. But you must schedule time for other activities or run the risk of writer burnout. Here is the schedule I came up with for me. Now, this is what works for me. You will come up with activities to fit your own life. But I had to schedule the whole day, even mundane activities or they would be forgotten and not get done. Also, I get up at 5am so that is when my day starts. Your’s will, of course, start at a different time.
Write Your Schedule
If you work a 9 to 5, your schedule will be much different and you must get creative. Keep a notebook with you at all times to jot down notes or scenes as they come to you. Get up an hour early to write before work, on your lunch hour and after work. Take full advantage of your weekends to get more time in.

Since your day will look different than mine, you must write down your complete schedule first. NOT the schedule you wish you had, but the schedule you actually have!

Write down each item as it occurs in your day. Record the time and how much time you devoted to that activity.

At the end of the day, tally the numbers. 

What activity is taking up most of your day?
Are you happy with the way your schedule looks?
Are you spending enough time writing?


First, decide you many hours you can PRODUCTIVELY work in a day. 3 to 6 Hours a day is a good number to shoot for. No more than 6. You don’t want your mind to associate writing with work or punching in a time clock. Plus, you don’t want to suffer burnout.

Try to break up that writing time to small blocks throughout the day or night depending on your schedule. No writing in huge long stretches.

Avoid burnout.
Schedule in regular activities: eating, hygiene, fun, internet. It may seem silly, but if you don’t schedule it, it might not get done.

Now write up this ideal schedule and tally all the numbers.

If you’re like my first attempt: I had too many activities/hours and not enough day! I had to prioritize. I looked at my first/actual schedule to see where all my hours were going:

I spent a staggering 6 HOURS ON THE INTERNET!!!

How had this happened?
What was I thinking?
Where were my priorities?

I wasn’t spending enough time writing and too much time on the internet. So, I cut my internet time in half and took those three hours and added them to my writing time.

See where your time is going.

Could be Internet, Gaming, TV, Social sites, etc. Whatever it is, you must decide:
Is this activity more important to me than writing?

Schedule time for work and play
If you don’t schedule it, it will not get done
No more than 8 hours of writing in a day
Break up your 8 hours into smaller writing blocks
throughout the day
If you work a 9 to 5, be reasonable about your time
My Ideal Schedule

Write down your ideal schedule and work toward it everyday. Don’t expect to nail it on the first day or week. Keep working everyday and you will reach your goal.

And remember the wisdom of this writer advice:

All work, and no play, makes Jack…
Lose his mind and go after family with an ax!
Thank you to Steven King for that writing wisdom.

So, until next time…
Good luck, stay safe and may the words fly from your fingertips!

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