RSS

Category Archives: Motivation

Performance Pressure and the Diamond in the Manuscript

20130125-172029.jpgHave you ever finished writing a manuscript, and after months of blood, sweat, and tears, you realize that even after all that work, your story doesn’t look at all like you imagined it in your head? In fact, after a second glance, you’re sure a toddler temporarily overtook your brain and scribbled 400 pages of crayon doodles? Of course you have…you’re a writer. You’ve probably felt that way about everything you’ve ever written…like I have.

Up until this point in my writing “career,” that hasn’t mattered much. Mostly my readers have been friends and writing groups. I post fiction online too but even in that venue, readers are generally pretty forgiving. Not so with publishing industry professionals. There is very little room for mistakes and if you make them, they better be small. Tiny. Miniscule. Talk about pressure.

Getting in the (Publishing) Game

Over the next couple of weeks I’m preparing for my first writing contest ever. I’m talking the big deal with two rounds, multiple judges, announcement of the finalists at the next conference, and the final round judged by editors of major publishing houses. Yeah…that kind of scary.

It’s an exciting adventure to be sure, a thrill to imagine where it could lead. The final judge for my category is an editor at Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Never before has every word, every period, and every character of my manuscript been under such scrutiny. Sometimes the anxiety to get it all right leaves me panic stricken. I only get one chance to put my best work in front of this woman who could potentially be my gateway into the holy land.

Previously, I’ve never had a reason to get this far into the process of editing. I guess I always imagined entering the chaos of the publishing world as something that would happen way down the road. Like, way down. I’ve taken my time, learning more about this, fiddling with that, but after five years of writing, getting critiqued, editing, and dreaming, it’s time to dive in, sink or swim. So despite my fear, I’m going through the first 20 pages of my manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. I’ve re-understood my characters, re-worked motivations, re-invented the details, and rewritten this novel so many times that I have more loose ends than the hem of grandma’s skirt.

Upping the Ante

Before I started this final-for-now edit, I had a long brainstorming session with my writing partners and nailed down what was working and what wasn’t, for better or worse. The time for flip-flopping has come and gone. And now, with that focus in mind, I’m sifting out the dirt and looking for the gems. And you know what? They are there. Actually, never before have they shined brighter. And I don’t think anything less than the pressure to perform at my best would have gotten me here.

I’m the ultimate perfectionist at heart, especially when it comes to my writing. I think every artist is that way. But putting myself in this position has taught me that I know more than I ever realized about who I am as a writer, what I want to bring to this ever expanding sea of literature, what my writing voice sounds like, what I can accomplish when I put my mind to it, and what process works best for me. The deadline and the stakes have forced me to stopped questioning myself and realize the truths that were already there, clouded by the uncertainty an unlimited time frame allows.

Get Out There

Do it. I know you’re scared. I know you don’t think you’re ready. Guess what–just like getting married and having kids–you’re never going to be ready. You learn as you go. Underneath all those scribbles is your story, and as soon as you trust yourself enough to find it, you will. Make the decision. Raise the stakes. And watch yourself rise to the occasion.

What’s holding you back from taking the next step? Or, what deadlines are you working toward? What steps have you taken that have forced you to grow as a writer?

Photo by Steve Jurvetson

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Improvisation and the 1st draft

At the end of last year I read my very first autobiography. I don’t read these kinds of books, most specifically because I like my reading to be as fictiony as possible. It’s basically the same reason I shy away from contemp novels too. I’ll make exceptions if the back copy and buzz really catches my attention, but other than that I tend to stay away. Give me as improbable as possible and I’m sold.

Anyway. The book I read was Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants, and in it she talks about The Rules of Improvisation That Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat*. I read this section and was struck by how applicable is to writing first drafts/plotting/outlining/writing new stories.

I want to share those rules with you, with my take on it and slightly altered fWordleor the writer.

The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES.

Type improvisation into a word document, right-click on it, select Synonyms. It’ll give you things like creativeness and inventiveness. And isn’t that exactly what writing is, being creative and inventing stories and worlds and people and situations. When you decide to write, you agree to do all these things, and it’s the greatest thing in the world. You say yes to your idea. You say yes to giving it your all. Because at the end of the day, that’s all that’s expected of you: to do your best to write a good story and give it the best chance possible.

The second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but to say YES, AND.

With improv you’re supposed to agree and then ADD something extra. With writing I like to think we agree to write, and then attempt to blow it out of the water. We write. AND we aim to do it well. We aim to do our stories justice. We say yes, and while we’re at it we’ll learn. To plot better. To write better. To be better. Every time. Don’t just limit yourself to writing a story. Write a story AND tell a story.

The next rule is to make STATEMENTS.

Write your 1st draft and be confident in it. Write and make bold statements, even if you do it in a quiet, unassuming way(yes, that is possible). BE CONFIDENT in what you’ve chosen to write about, and if you’re not, make yourself so. Make statements in your story, because if you and your characters believe it, your readers will too. There will be plenty of time to worry about your writing later. When you draft, revel in it. REVEL. It’s an experience you’ll never have again. One of the reasons I like drafting, and pantsing the most of the entire writing process, is that I approach it as if I’m reading my novel for the first time. I get to make statements. I get to be surprised and discover news things. I get to revel in the newness of it.

There are NO MISTAKES, only opportunities.

Ok, sure. Your first draft will be riddled with things that need to be fixed, but not a single thing of it is/was/will be a mistake. Like the heading says, it’s an opportunity. You get to make what you have better. Be brilliant. A crappy first draft might be crappy, but you can turn it into something shiny and wonderful. LOOK AT WHAT YOU CREATED. It’s yours and it’s beautiful. You might trunk it later, but how could that ever be a mistake?

Try a little improv the next time you start something new. I’m doing it right now, and it’s exhilarating.

*Tina says improv doesn’t reduce belly fat. I am sad.

 
13 Comments

Posted by on January 23, 2013 in Drafting, Motivation, Personal Experience, Writing

 

Tags: , , ,

The End or The Beginning?

A friend of mine, April Snellings, took this in Toronto. I had no idea anyone else knew about this word I dreamed, but they did!

A friend of mine, April Snellings, took this in Toronto. I had no idea anyone else knew about this word I dreamed, but they did!

Those are beautiful words, aren’t they? I finished my story on December 30, because I didn’t want to drag it into the New Year. I was so excited and I emailed my friends, posted it on Facebook and had a little celebration. I know, seems kind of overboard, but I started this story three years ago and it’s finally done. The next morning when I woke, panic set in. Now what?

Let’s see. I’m holding steady at 80k words, which is good for a YA novel. I know for sure that I have two semi-major scenes to rewrite. Then I have to go back and clean it up and do lots of revising. Right now I’m working with one critique partner and will have to start looking for a couple more. Then, after I make additional corrections I need to send it out to beta readers and get a feel for their reaction. Oh. But I also need to write a one sentence pitch and I have to write the synopsis and query. Ugh. I’d much prefer just to write. But this has to be done. I love my story and want others to see it as I do – which does not include me telling the person what I meant to say here or was trying to get across there. My story has to be above and beyond. No story is ever perfect, I know, but I don’t want to have to make make excuses for my writing. Yes, I know not every story is liked by everyone, but I just want to be able to tell this story as best I can. And as you can probably see from this paragraph, I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to storytelling.

So, I’m going to do something that I have a hard time doing. I’m going to ask for your help. I want you to tell me what you think and how you feel about the idea for my story. This is also to get a feel for the upcoming workshops we’re going to be offering. By “exposing” myself like this, I want to show you that we not only want to help each other, we want to help all writers. I’m trusting you, my friends, to not laugh at me or tell me I’m a complete nutter. This is really hard for me to do, but I want you to know that you can trust us with your beautiful stories also. Here goes…

The working title of my story is LUMA. This is NOT my one sentence synopsis, but just an idea of what the story is about: Two seventeen year old best friends are given a gift by a down on his luck, tired superhero.

Need more? Yeah… I thought so. Deep breath. Okay. This is NOT my synopsis, but just a general idea of my story: Seventeen year old Abbey is a party girl. When she hears about an underground club being held at an abandoned amusement park, she has to go. She loves the club scene and everything to do with it. This is the world where she feels she belongs, but one kiss changes everything. A stranger hits on her and after seeing her best friend, Callie, is occupied with her jerk boyfriend, Abbey kisses the stranger. To her, it’s nothing but a hope that he finds her beautiful, but to someone watching, it’s a death warrant – for her. Callie interrupts their moment and tells Abbey they have to leave. Abbey gives the stranger her number and she and Callie leave, but instead of finding their way home, they find themselves trapped in the amusement park. After being hunted through the park, they find themselves in the basement of the old theater. There, they find a man shackled to the wall. After saving his life. he gives them a gift. A gift that only a superhero can give – strength, power, abilities and many things in between. As their abilities grow, so does the danger around them. Someone wants this gift they’ve been given and will stop at nothing to get it (cliche, I know). Abbey and Callie have to decide not only what’s worth fighting for, but who is worth fighting for.

Sucky, I know. But, that’s part of my problem. I don’t know how much to give away and when to keep my cards hidden. I know I’m not the only one with this problem, which is why I’ve posted my issue. So, tell me, is this something that would interest you? What else do you want to know? What questions do you have? I know I’m not the only person with this question, so feel free to post your story summaries in the comments and I’ll see if we can help you. Synopses are hard. They have to be perfect. I want you to see that I’m struggling with mine and though my story is finished – I’m really having a hard time.

I work on my story everyday. Right now, it’s labeled as a YA dark urban fantasy, but it sneaks into so many other genres. I have to incorporate them all somehow. What problems do you have? Let’s work it out together and make sure we help each other reach our goals. I’ve taken a huge step by trusting you, what leap of faith will you take for your story?

 
11 Comments

Posted by on January 7, 2013 in Critique, Motivation, Revision, Support, synopsis, Writing

 

Tags: , ,

My Favorite Hugs and Chocolate Posts

Sometimes, a hug is all what we need – Jesslee Cuizon

What a good year it’s been over here! I though that the best way for me to end off things would be to share a few of the post by the wonderful ladies I share this blog with. If any of the links go to places they shouldn’t, please let me know.

It’s been such a pleasure getting to know all of you this year. I’m giving all of you big virtual bear hugs. I can’t wait to see what next year will bring us.

It’s been an honor, ladies and gentlemen.

Jamie Raintree

My Romance With Writing

Who Cares About Writers?

Instruction Manual for a Full-Time Writer

Why Character Archetypes Aren’t Just About Commercialism

Why I Heart Scrivener for Outlining

How to NaNoWriMo During Thanksgiving

Tonia Marie Houston

Bring Your Shovel

St. Patrick and the Writer’s Trinity

Gift Ideas for the Writer in Your Life

33 And It Feels Divine

Give Your Characters Quirk

Synopsis Fundamentals

Heather L Reid

Learn to Love Writing Queries

Dream Big and Never Give Up: How I Landed a 2 Book Publishing Deal

The Third Perspective: Why I Love Third Person Narrative

The First Editorial Letter: Let the Revisions Begin… Again

Riding the Revision Coaster: Completing My 30 Day Deadline

Rebecca Fields

What If…

Luck of the Irish?

The Magic of Fairy Tales

A World of Ideas

Pardon Me, Social Media

Read A (Banned) Book

Courtney Koschel

Filtering Filter Words in Your Writing

Questions to ask When Hiring an Editor

I Suck Syndrome: Recognize it and Beat it

Giving and Getting the Most Out of Critiques

Common Comma Issues

Manuscript Formatting

Jani Grey

Support from the obvious places

Need a little motivation or inspiration? I have some of that for you

Personal Perspective: Why I write 1st person POV

Let me tell you why you’re a winner

The Small Things

Why the subject of your blog post is so very important

Guest Posts

Visualize Your Way to Success: Guest Post by Vaughn Roycroft

DIY Editing and Proofreading Part 1 with Karen S. Elliot

Editing, Proofreading, and a Contest with Karen S. Elliot

Pants on Fire: Guest Post by Laura Long

Guest Post by Brian Taylor: Take a Walk… On a Tightrope: One Writer’s Journey

I’ll see you next year. Have a happy and safe new year!

 

Tags: , , ,

Accepting Who YOU Are as a Writer

IMG_20121204_171949‘Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.’-Bruce Lee

I’ve been struggling with plotting and drafting the sequel to Pretty Dark Nothing. There, I’ve said it. I am wrestling with myself and my story. My confidence is through the roof one minute and in the ditch the next. There has been much gnashing of teeth and eating of chocolate as I struggle, yet again, with my drafting process. I need to write faster, push harder, and put more words on the page. I know this. I WANT this. No, what I really want is to go back to revising. I LOVE revisions. I want to LOVE drafting, but it kills me. I struggle with this every single day. I watch as others zoom past me on a caffeine high, cranking out words like there’s no tomorrow, and I envy them. I envy their ability to free themselves from their inner editor and throw words on the page and worry about it later. All I can do is worry about it now. Always. Every word, every second, every time. Worry. Obsess. And the more I look at other writers, writing, pushing, getting words on the page, the worse I feel about myself, my process. I show up every day, why don’t the words flow like that for me? Don’t the words know I have a deadline?

Last week, in the midst of another day of self-deprecation, I had a light bulb moment. I was asked to take a personality test at work to learn what my DISC style was to help me as my new management role. I’m not new to personality tests, I’ve always loved reading about different personality types and how they react to situations. In fact, I’ve even given my characters personality tests to help me get to know them better, to help them feel real to me. But I digress, that’s another post for another day.

While the test didn’t reveal anything particularly new, it did make me start thinking about writing as an extension of my personality. Writing is personal. It’s unique to each of us, like our personality. It’s more than being a plotter, panster, or plotster. Yes, we might fit into one of those categories, but it’s much more than that. Our basic traits influence how we see the world, how we react to stress, to deadlines, to each other. It’s tied to the very core of our creative process.

For example, I learned that I’m a perfectionist, detail oriented, and in the words of the analyst ‘like a dog with a bone’. Yeah, I can be a bit obsessive and it’s hard for me to let things go. That’s great for revising, but not so great for drafting. In order to get through draft zero, I have to accept this about myself and learn to manage the fear of ‘not getting it right the first time’. I have to work at a slower pace, allow my perfectionist side some room to obsess over word choice while pushing forward. It’s about time in the chair and not how many words I put on the page. I have to remind myself that this personality trait also means I always make my deadlines. It also means that I rock revisions, so I have to make ‘it’s ok, you’ll fix it later’ my mantra, and believe it.

I’m not saying you should run out and take a personality test in order to become a better writer. But I am suggesting that instead of looking at the world from the outside in, at other writers and what they’re doing, writers should always be looking from the inside out. Knowing who you are and how you work is imperative to being the best writer you can be. Don’t fear your uniqueness, your creativity, your process. Accept who YOU are as a writer, not who you think you should be or who others tell you to be.

What about you? Do you compare yourself to other writers or have you accepted who you are as a writer?

 
26 Comments

Posted by on December 5, 2012 in Deadlines, Motivation, Uncategorized, Writing

 

Chance Encounters

Pink Sherbet Photography

*A few years ago I’d been sitting at a really arty coffee shop waiting for a friend. It was the kind of coffee shop that had worn couches along the walls, bookshelves with new and second-hand books for sale, art supplies in one corner, and a real eclectic mix of patrons. It was one of those places that made people-watching a real treat.

So while I waited for my friend, I sort of spied on the middle-aged man at a table near me. He was a sketch artist, and the table he occupied was littered with pencils of various sized, crumpled pages, and eraser shavings. I think when I chose that table, he’d already been there a good half an hour, just drawing. The artistic mess in front of him might have been what made me choose that table, because my friend was notorious for being late. Most of the time very late.

But it was when I combined that mess with the business suit he wore that I chose a table that allowed me to watch him without him being aware of it. Not that he would have noticed, he was too engrossed in sketching the bus stop across the road along the lady waiting there.

In truth it was a really inspiring sight, this man in his business suit, sketching. Just by the look of him I could tell he probably worked as a manager or an accountant, something along those lines. It might have been his lunch hour, and he spent it doing something he loved. Something he was exceptionally good at, if what my spying had shown me was anything to go by. I had been an inspiring thing to see. Somebody with a day job still finding time to do something he loved. I’m sure had I asked him, he would have told me he’d much rather devote more time to his art, but he had a family to support and he loved them more than he did his art. He’d looked like he kind of guy who would have a wife who tried giving him as much time to devote to his passion as possible. Sometimes you could just tell these things about certain people.

My timing couldn’t have been more perfect if somebody had sent me there on purpose. A couple of student had walked into the coffee shop, and after they’d all placed their orders, gathered around a table and started talking about all kinds of random student things.

One of them, a guy I guessed could have been twenty or so, had leaned back on the two hind legs of his chair and looked at the man drawing. He’d complimented the man on his skill, and the man had accepted it graciously. The student then went on to tell the suited man how he used to draw until some personal issues got in the way. The man had asked the student if those personal issues were still in the way, and the student had said no, they weren’t. ‘Then why aren’t you doing it again if you love it so much?’ the suited man had asked him.

You have to understand, this conversation fascinated me. I’d once asked myself the same question, right before I’d started writing again. It had changed my life, that question. Why aren’t you doing it if you love it so much? Good question, right?

The student had replied that the man had made a good point, and the man had agreed. He’d said that there would always be things that get in the way of doing what you really wanted to. The trick was finding ways around it or making those things work for you. Bad things are only bad things until you decided to do something about or with them.

It had been a strangely wonderful thing to see, the light of comprehension in the student’s eyes as he assimilated what the man had said to him. He’d returned to chatting with his friends, but I’d seen the change in him. Good change, and maybe the change had gotten to me too. I like to think it had.

Fifteen minutes after the encounter, the artist had gathered his pencils and pages and placed them all inside his briefcase. Before he’d left, he’d touched the student’s shoulder and had pointed to the corner where all the art supplies were on sale, then left.

I have no idea if the student went to buy any of the supplies, but I like to think that he had.

* Please ignore my tense issues. I blame it on almost being the end of November and my brain not functioning properly. Any of the H&C ladies are welcome to correct anything they want. I take no responsibility 😛

 
10 Comments

Posted by on November 28, 2012 in Inspiration, Just For Fun, luck, Motivation, Uncategorized

 

No, I Don’t NaNo – Confessions Of A NaNoWriMo Rebel

Originally, I was going to post part two of What’s So Good about Goodreads: Using Goodreads As a Writer, and I will, once the NaNo madness is over. You see, I know a good portion of you are writing your butts off right now and don’t have time to make the dinner much less read blogs, so I’m going to save that post for another day. Instead, I’m here to talk to all the NaNo rebel writer’s out there. Believe it or not, we do exist. I’m one of them.

With all the NaNo hype going on in November, it’s hard to believe there are writers who choose not to participate, don’t find NaNo useful, and don’t find word counts motivating. Now, before the NaNo enthusiasts decide to hit me with rotten tomatoes, I am not saying NaNo isn’t valuable, but I am saying that it’s not for everyone. Shock! I know, right?

If you’ve chosen not to participate, and you’re feeling as if you’re the only writer in the world not buzzed on caffeine and frantic about your daily word counts, you’re not alone. I’ve found NaNo doesn’t work for me. I’ve tried. I’ve pushed, and I’ve even come 10k shy of winning, twice. In the end, I felt beat up, un-satisfied, and left with what I felt were a lot of useless words that I put on the page simply to make my daily word count. Was it a waste of time? On the one hand, I learned a lot about my process, (which is why I think all new writers should try it at least once) on the other hand, the novel, if you could call my ramblings a novel, had little in it that I wanted to salvage. After considering the mess of a first draft I created in 1 month compared to the somewhat coherent first draft I created in 4 months, I decided, for me, I would rather write slower, higher quality drafts than rush the writing. I learned that I am not a sprinter; I am a long distance writer, building momentum and pacing myself until I win. Two different styles to achieve the same goal and neither better than the other, just different. And in that moment, I asked myself, why am I doing NaNo? Why indeed.

For me, November is just another month where I do what I should be doing all year–putting words on a page, moving my story forward, and reaching my goals. Some days the words flow better than others, but I don’t stress myself with word counts, I may be slower but my first draft is cleaner. This is how I work. This is my style, my process. I make no apologies for it and neither should those of you who find you’re not sprinters either. Sometimes we forget that NaNo is a tool, a motivator to get writers where they want to go, but it’s not the only path. We each have our own journey and process. Don’t be afraid to say no to NaNo if it doesn’t work for you. It doesn’t make you less of a writer, it doesn’t mean you’re a wimp, and it doesn’t mean you’ll never finish that novel. Sometimes writers start with NaNo and find that once they’ve learned the foundations, they outgrow it, that’s ok too, but don’t use not participating as an excuse not to write. So whether you’re a NaNo sprinter or a long distance writer, stay focused and write on.

I know my fellow hugs and chocolate ladies as well as a lot of our followers thrive on the NaNo experience, and I completely support the caffeine educed frenzy as you go for it and push through words, paragraphs, and pages to complete a novel. I applaud your energy and bravery and think you are truly awesome. I’ll stand on the sidelines and cheer you on and celebrate your win, because it is hard and is an amazing achievement.

Are you a sprinter or a long distance writer? Do you NaNo or not?