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I recently read Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. It talks about the creative life and highlights 10 ways to find your audience by sharing your work and progress.
Here are some gems from the book that I thought I would share with you:
When she was young and starting out, Patti Smith got this advice from William Burroughs: “Build a good name. Keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises. Don’t worry about making a bunch of money or being successful. Be concerned with doing good work . . . and if you can build a good name, eventually that name will be its own currency.”
Don’t worry about everything you post being perfect. Science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon once said that 90 percent of everything is crap. The same is true of our own work. The trouble is, we don’t always know what’s good and what sucks. That’s why it’s important to get things in front of others and see how they react.
Just do the work that’s in front of you, and when it’s finished, ask yourself what you missed, what you could’ve done better, or what you couldn’t get to, and jump right into the next project.
Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love and you’ll attract people who love that kind of stuff. It’s that simple.
If you spend your life avoiding vulnerability, you and your work will never truly connect with other people.
Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you.
I also wrote a a blog post about the author’s other book, Steal Like An Artist.
One of my favorite books on creativity is the book Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland.
It’s a book I always go back to when I’m struggling with revisions or staying consistent with my writing.
Here are a few of the gems that I wanted to share with you from this invaluable book:
In large measure becoming an artist consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your work distinctive.
Art is a high calling — fears are coincidental. Coincidental, sneaky and disruptive, we might add, distinguishing themselves variously as laziness, resistance to deadlines, irritation with materials or surroundings, distraction over the achievements of others — indeed as anything that keeps you from giving your work your best show. What separates artists from ex-artists is that who challenge their fears, continue; those who don’t, quit.
Quitting is fundamentally different from stopping. The latter of happens all the time. Quitting happens once. Quitting means not starting again – and art is all about starting again.
Talent may get someone off the starting blocks faster, but without a sense of direction or a goal to strive for, it won’t count for much. The world is filled with people who were given great natural gifts, sometimes conspicuously flashy gifts, yet never product anything.
In the end it all comes down to this: you have a choice…between giving your work your best shot and risking that it will not make you happy, or not giving it your best shot — and thereby guaranteeing that it will not make you happy.
If you’re on Twitter, you can also finds lots of inspiration and other quotes at #ArtandFear.
NaNoWriMo is finished. I didn’t win but I did get more words down than I had in a long time. Winning was not my ultimate goal but to get back in the habit of facing the blank page and to start writing again.
Another thing that I’ve learned is that writing in the morning is where I got the best results. In the past, I wrote at night but my day job responsibilities have changed dramatically and my brain cells are low by evening.
It’s wasn’t very appealing at first but once it became a habit again, I loved the boost it gave me because it meant I was putting writing as a priority — the first thing I do in the day and word by word I found myself getting my confidence back.
It’s very hard to get back into your story after distractions or any kind of emotional trauma. And if you have a perfectionist bent like me, it can be even more discouraging because you know there is still work to do as well.
The point is, you must keep going. You can’t give up. You are not in competition with anyone else. You are unique and you also have a story to tell. You can only do this one word at a time.
With my morning sessions, I have a few things I do and I thought I would share them with you:
- Coffee Meditation: The fact for me is that I need coffee to become conscious. After I make my coffee, I sit and sip and think about what I want to write or revise or on most days I sit in silence and wait for my mind to wake up. After the caffeine has kicked in and I can go face the page.
- Reading Selection: I read a chapter from my always huge TBR leaning tower of books. It gives me the inspiration I need or if I’m reading fiction, it can give me an example of how a particular scene can be done. This week, I’m reading Imagine This by Maxine Clair.
- Writer Journal: I’ve had a writer journal for years. This is the place where I write about my progress or story ideas. It’s a hodgepodge of things related to the writing process only. This is the first writing I do. It’s almost like a warm-up in a way.
- Word quota or Revision Goal: If I’m writing draft, I usually set a 250 or a 500 word quota if I’m a drafting a scene. No editing, no correcting. Just getting words down on the page. If I’m revising, I set a goal to revise a specific chapter or a specific scene.
- Next Day Prep: I think about what I want to work on the next day. It gives me something to look forward to and gets my subconscious percolating about ideas.
My writing session usually is around 2 hours (5:30 am to 7:30 am). Usually the sun is just starting to rise when I’m done. The city starts to wake up and then I go about my day feeling like a bad ass who has worked on her novel.
Morning sessions are what work for me. Do you have a structure or specific time that you work on your writing?
The year is coming to a close.
When 2014 first opened up, there were shiny new ideas, bursts of energy, and an overall hopeful outlook of a clean slate. It was a chance to get things right, get things done, and end the year with a feeling of accomplishment.
There were the things we thought we would manage: distractions, obligations, responsibilities.
But then there were the things we never saw coming: illness, social injustices, death of loved ones.
The year may have worn us all down. It could have been small cuts. Or devastating blows. Or deep wounds that are still quite not healed.
Either way, you’re standing on the cusp of a new year and you may not feel that you’ve done what you wanted. Now at the end, you may be left with the feeling that another year has slipped by. One more chance has been wasted. The initial evaluation of the year looks like another wash-up. No real successes. Another failure.
Maybe it wasn’t at all bad. Let go of evaluating the disappointments, lost battles, and setbacks. Maybe instead concentrate on all the good things that happened to you in 2014. Focus instead on the intangible successes and give gratitude for your blessings — no matter how small. Make a list.
For me, here are some things from my list:
- Being recognized and valued for my skills at my job
- Selling my house and moving to the city
- Developing a morning writing routine
- Creating a total of 45K new words
- Keeping the promise to travel for quarterly vacations
- Making beautiful memories with my father
- Listening to my heart and giving it a voice
I’m sure you can make your own list as well. Write it out. Glow in its truth and then get ready to face 2015 not as broken and bitter but as open and optimistic.
One of my favorite writing books is Writing is My Drink by Theo Pauline Nestor. I found it last summer during a bookstore browse — and I’ve been raving about it ever since. It’s hard to define this book. It’s basically a memoir but based on the writer’s journey. I think it will speak to writers who are trying to find their way and their voice.
Let’s face it, writing can be hard. I’m working on revisions and I want to be done in the Spring so that I can move on to my next project. But I want to finish the book I’m writing now. This book has put on the back burner so many times because of obligations and life events so I want to finish it. I also feel that I must make it worthy and then I start to freak out because what if I can’t make that happen?
When I was reading Writing is My Drink, this passage made me realize that I have to just let go and trust myself. Here’s what the author had to say on this:
Writing requires trust: trust that words will find you, that the unknown will become known, that the mystery will be solved, that the story will find its arc, that you will find your story and your voice, that your voice will be heard, that you will be understood. But most of all, writing requires you to trust yourself, the source of the voice inside you that supplies the next word, the next line, the next idea. And until you can access some of this trust, you won’t be able to write the stories you want to write the way you want to write them.
So whether you’re revising or starting new draft — don’t be so hard on yourself. Trust yourself. Know that you will find the structure of your story and find the best way to write it.
Still in the revision cave. The middle is a rough place to be but there is light at the end of the tunnel of this current novel project. Still on track to be finished with this particular novel this summer.
Currently I’m reading The Writer’s Guide to Persistence by Jordan Rosenfeld. She’s also the author of one of my favorite craft books Make A Scene , which I also highly recommend.
This book is for writers who want to start and preserve a writing practice. Persistence is the key along with finding ways to balance writing with the rest of your life.
I’m really loving the book so far. When I’m finished, I’ll be sure to share any gems that may also be helpful to you in your writing practice in another post.
For those of you on Twitter, you can follow the author @Jordanrosenfeld. She has a great hashtag #WritersGuide2Persistence where she gives great motivation and advice for keeping your writer’s practice on track.
Hope everyone is writing and that life is treating you well.
First, I owe you an apology. Over the last couple of months, I know that we haven’t spent much quality time together. I’ve been so busy at work and I’m sorry if you felt that I was neglecting you.
I really appreciate your patience. I know that we’ve talked about our future and exciting plans. I haven’t forgotten. Sometimes it’s the only thing that has kept me going over these last few crazy weeks. Please know that you’ve been close in my heart all this time.
I’m excited about our upcoming vacation together. My hope for us is that we can rekindle the creativity and passion again in Hawaii. I look forward to spending quality time with you on the beach in the shade of palm trees. You will have the full attention you deserve and I will listen to you and we can move forward.
I want you to know that I haven’t given up on us and please know that you are a very important part of my life.
If you could write a letter to your novel, what would you say?
Hawaii is so gorgeous and sunny. So glad that I’m here on vacation and taking time out to relax. So needed for me.
I’m also focusing back on the novel as well. I hope to get some good stuff done down here. So far so good!
If you want to see any Hawaiian highilights and pictures, you can follow me (KarenMusings) on Twitter or Instagram.
*Enter your reaction this the word here*
I must say for me, revision is much easier than facing the blank page during the draft phase. However, it can be just as frustrating. Especially when you know what you want to convey but the words don’t want to cooperate with you.
Know that feeling?
*Nod your head*
I think sometimes when we read “finished” work — work that seems so “effortless” that we can forget the hours and energy it takes to make a novel’s world breathe life. When the words disappear into your mind and create emotions and images. It’s magic because you don’t even see the words, you see the novel’s world instead. Alive and fascinating.
News flash: This doesn’t happen the first time out the gate, honey. :)
Revision is where you create the magic.
This is why during my writing retreat, I was so happy to gather ideas and suggestions to make my novel stronger — especially the ending. I’m still torn about what to do but I’m getting closer to my final decision.
One of the craft books I took with me was The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson. This fabulous book is dog-eared with several underlined passages. I just love this book. And I’m very excited that The Plot Whisperer Workbook is coming out in August.
Last night, I was reading some of my Plot Whisperer notes and came across this gem from the author:
“Appreciate that the right words do not always come out the first time. You cannot always convey what you imagine for your story the first, second, third, or even fourth try. Writing is a process. Get the words down. Later you can go back and be brilliant.”
So for those of you who are the revision phase like me, rejoice! Your magic is happening right now. You are in the process of being brilliant. Keep revising! :)
This is the time of year when goals die.
Remember all those goals you set for yourself? What you planned on that bright and shiny January day when all things were hopeful and everything could be accomplished?
It’s now March and usually two scenarios are unfolding:
Scenario 1: You’re striving toward your goals and making great progress. You may even finish all your goals ahead of schedule. You’re officially kicking 2014′s ass.
Scenario 2: You’ve fallen off the wagon with your newly formed habits and now are having second thoughts about your goals. You’re getting behind schedule. 2014 is easily kicking your ass.
So let’s not talk about Scenario 1.
You’ve fallen off the wagon. You haven’t been consistent. You want to ditch all your goals and chill. All symptoms that your resolve and discipline are wearing off.
If you’re feeling this way, you’re right on schedule. This is usually the time of year when it happens. There are many reasons. I’ll share a few of mine:
- These goals require hard work and sacrifice — what the hell was I thinking?
- Overwhelmed with competing goals — I should take a nap and let my subconscious choose.
- These goals gotta be perfect — I want everything to be flawless and it kinda isn’t. Dammit.
- Fear of failure — if I stop trying to reach my goals I’m technically a quitter and not a loser.
- Coldest. Winter. Ever.
The good news is that it’s not too late for me and it’s not too late for you.
You can dust yourself off and get back on track. If you’ve swayed away from any new-formed habits or haven’t been working on your goals — don’t beat yourself up about it.
If your goals are falling apart, it may be time to get realistic — take a step back and reassess what you need to do.
Ask yourself this important question: Can I accomplish all my goals in 2014?
If your goals are reachable, make an effort to keep striving but realize you may fall off the wagon again. New habits are especially slippery and when you find yourself slacking off — start back up again. You may also have to dig deeper on why you’re not actually making an effort to make a goal happen. Is it fear of failure? Trying to be perfect? More than likely it’s psychological. Be honest with yourself and take it on a day by day basis.
If your goals are too over the top, scale back and break down into smaller milestones. Can you *really* write 1500 words a day? Is 500 words a better fit for you? Maybe take the word count totally out of the equation. How about writing for an hour or 30 minutes a day? You’ll be more motivated by the success of finishing manageable tasks instead of being overwhelmed and giving up.
How do you keep your goals from falling apart? Are you still on track for your 2014 goals?
My vacation starts tomorrow!
I’ll be spending some time off the grid in the Caribbean for awhile. I’m taking LOTS of books with me to-be-read (TBR). Not sure if I’ll be able to read all of them between relaxing and being fabulous. Ha.
I don’t know about you but there are SO. MANY. BOOKS. I want to read. For this trip, I have a sort of science fiction theme going but I also have some fun fiction, craft, and memoir in the mix as well.
Here’s what I plan on taking with me on my trip:
In the After by Demitria Lunetta
Cress by Marissa Meyer
Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler
The Martian by Andy Weir
Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
Conversations with Octavia Butler edited by Conseula Francis
The Awesome Girl’s Guide to Dating Extraordinary Men by Ernessa T. Carter
The Authentic Swing by Steven Pressfield
Read any good books lately? Let me know about them so when I get back I can add them to my already growing, leaning tower of TBR books!
Hope everyone’s writing is going well.
For me, I’m struggling with the logic of the ending and some other plot points of my current novel project. I’m happy with some results and not so happy with some other things.
If you follow me on Twitter, you already know that I’m struggling with Chapter 12. That stupid, stupid chapter. No, it doesn’t seem I’m bitter at all, does it? Ha.
Looking at my list of “Doing Less in 2014” one item was trying to be perfect at everything. At the end of the day, this book won’t be perfect and it’s a stress maker trying to make it so. I’m learning that sometimes you just have to do your best and move on.
Also looking at my list of “Doing More in 2014” one item is writing from the heart. Yesterday on my commute, I listened to the latest podcast of This Creative Life featuring Stephanie Kuehn. This podcast is hosted by Sara Zarr, who is the author of one of my favorite YA novels, Story of a Girl.
Stephanie talked about her road to publication and how she wrote previous novels, worked with a previous agent, and basically got a little disheartened about the whole process. She also kept hearing at writing conferences about what sold well when it came to male protagonists.
It wasn’t until she cancelled out everything she heard and began to write for herself. Not only the result was the award winning Charm & Strange, but for also a lesson of just writing from your heart and not so much writing for publication.
Another item of my “Doing Less in 2014” – thinking publication is the answer. Publication is a goal to strive for but not a desperation that overwhelms you and makes you write for an audience that others tell you will make your novel a bestseller. You must write the story you want to write. The story of your heart. The story you are meant to tell.
It won’t be easy but it will be worth it.
During my July hiatus, several things have started to click together for the benefit of my writing.
I finished the 18-month stint of a major software project, which frees up more time for me to work on the novel and I’ve decided to put the house up for sale! I have about a 2-3 hour daily commute and it’s been a drain to say the least. So now that the real estate market is in my favor, I will have an opportunity to move closer to the city. So excited!
One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is the writer journey. How as writers we go through the valleys and peaks and then maybe stumble and have to work hard to find our way again. This summer I’ve had several conversations with writer friends about envy, disappointment, and disillusionment.
I always try to steer myself back to one of the things I want to do LESS of in 2014: Compare myself to other people.
I’ve been on my writing journey for a while but started seriously 5 years ago when I started this blog. Within this timeframe, this has been the journey of some other writers:
- Has published several books and just signed another multi-book deal.
- Has struggled with getting better at writing but lacks time and money.
- Has become a mainstay on the New York Bestsellers list.
- Has made the painful decision to stop writing.
- Has worked hard and now on the verge of a major breakthrough.
I’m sure if you were to create a list, you would have the same varied experiences of writers that started within the same time frame of your journey as well. You could compare yourself to the list and be left feeling smug, indifferent, jealous or depressed.
The thing is all of those writers had different paths. Paths based on different wants, needs, priorities, opportunities, privileges, and luck.
Those paths are not your path. It’s not your writer journey.
Never forget: You are the only one in the Universe that can write the words for the story that needs to be told.
No one else.
No matter how long it’s been or how long it takes.
Never give up on your journey to be the best writer you can be.
I knew it would happen but it feels good to actually know that my characters are speaking to me and that I’ve been writing.
I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month (NanoWriMo) — I’m TrueImage if you want to buddy me. I’ve never won NaNoWriMo and I’m usually a slow writer but a lot of my writer friends are participating so I knew I would have lots of support and I also knew it would be a good way to get back into the writing habit without the pressure. Perfection is a weakness of mine and getting words down on the page without an internal editor could result in some great things to revise later. Technically, I’m not writing a novel from scratch but new scenes for my revision. I hate drafting. Ugh. Hopefully NanoWritMo will help me get them done.
On the first day of NanoWriMo when I wrote 644 words, it felt amazing. The first new words that I had written since my father passed away in August. It was as if I had never left my story. My characters, plot twist, and even that stupid chapter 34 were all waiting for me to come back to them.
I’ve also started back writing at night. I’m a night owl by nature so this is most beneficial to me. Since I’ve moved into the city, I’ve gained a good chunk of time back into my life that I can dedicate to my writing. Plus that 5:30 am wake-up call had lost all its sex appeal.
The thing I’m most proud about is that I’m still writing and still striving. Even with everything that has happened in the last few months, I know I still have the things that give me that rush — words, characters, plot, drama, and storytelling.
For those of you who are participating in NaNoWriMo — good luck! I’m usually writing between the hours of 8:30pm and 10:00pm so you can join me and share your word count and your progress with me on Twitter at @KarenMusings.
I was talking to one of my non-writer friends and he asked me about my book. I told them I was still on track to finish it this year and then of course, he asked that question most writers get:
“So, what is it about?”
I always answer the same way I usually do, “It’s a novel about fate vs. free will.”
My friend then asked, “That’s it? You’re not gonna go into detail about it? You afraid that I’m gonna steal your idea?”
This got me thinking. I rarely share the in-depth details of my novel with other writers unless they are in my critique group or a good writer friend. I wondered why is. Could it be that I am subconsciously protecting myself from idea theft?
Although I haven’t seen it personally, I have heard stories of writers taking ideas that they’ve heard from other writers. And then there is the case of multiple discovery I remember reading about in a New Yorker article written by Malcolm Gladwell.
For me, I just come from a place where I feel that until I’m finished with a project and I know fully what it’s about that I just keep it simple and general.
What about you writer friends: Do you share what your work is about? Or do you keep it close to wraps? Do you think idea theft exists or do you believe that there is room for the same story written by different authors?
Recently, I went to go see the movie The Help. I haven’t yet read the book but I had been intrigued about the author’s story and wrote a blog post about her path to publication.
Of course seeing this movie brought back memories of my own. My grandmother worked as a domestic most of her life. Growing up working-class, I often went with her to help clean houses as well the town’s post office and the Methodist church. One of the things I precisely remember about these times were that we were never acknowledged as anything more than the help. We were in many ways invisible.
Maybe this is the reason that now whenever I see “the help” in places — like hotels, malls, and even in my office building, I tend to look these people in the eye and smile. I try to acknowledge who they are and let them know that I do see them.
I’ve noticed this is also a recurring theme in my novels. I tend to write about the people who are looking from the outside, trying to fit in, trying to be seen.
I think as writers we tend to put certain aspects into our characters — either consciously or subconsciously. The things that have impacted our lives in both negative and positive ways. This is one of the reasons we write. To give a voice to things that matter to us.
Right now, I’m struggling not to freak out because of all the things that I have to do in these last 3 months of the year. As some of you already know, I work in software development and sometimes we tend to have “shades of crazy” schedules.
This may be one of the primary reasons that my current novel project has had its stalls but I try to put things in perspective. It is all about balance and reality — because I have to earn an living first.
Last night after finishing a 12-hour stint I felt a little resentful because once again my “day job” was taking valuable time away from my manuscript. But then I had to remember to put things in perspective. I may not be able to work on my writing as much as I would like but I shouldn’t throw in the towel.
I should keep writing. Even if it’s only for a few minutes in small packets of time. Or only on the weekends.
Usually when I start feeling like this, I listen to one of my favorite songs “Keep Looking” by Sade. Many times, this song has given me the “umph” to not give up.
I love this particular lyric:
It’s no use sitting down
Don’t walk ’round with a frown
Oh no, keep looking
It’s no use sitting around
With your head in your hands
Oh no, keep looking
So no matter what your struggle is — whether it be something in your novel project or in your life — always remember to keep looking and the solution and/or answer always makes itself known.
And keep writing! :)
Sometimes I wonder how things would be for us as writers if we were not so connected…
Don’t get me wrong, I love the community of writers. Some of you I have never met in person but I feel like I know you anyway. *waves* But sometimes, maybe all this networking and communicating — and yes — even supporting can have adverse side effects.
- Like when other writers frown upon the subject matter of your writing because it does not talk about the “struggles of your — insert your choice here — race, gender, sexual orientation, family origin, or class.”
- Or when you read advice on how to build an author platform or blog and realize you are “doing it all wrong.”
- Maybe even when you’re told that you shouldn’t work on your current novel because it’s too similar to what’s already out there and it’ll be “too late” when you’re done.
- Worse, when you feel that compared to others you should be so much farther in your writing — and wonder if you should try what they’re doing to see if it’ll help you move “faster.”
These are just are few of mine. Yours may be different or similar.
But at the end of the day, there is a pressing need to always ask this very important question:
“What do I want to do?”
Sit still long enough and you’ll know the answer.
Usually for me, when I get that icky feeling in my stomach, like after eating a really big burrito, I know I’m probably doing something that is *not* from a place of authenticity. Because when you’re doing what you want, it feels good all the way to your core. When you’re doing what you think you *should* want, that’s when salsa hits the fan.
So ask that question when you feel pressure or uncertainty — in writing and in life. Is this something I want to do? If the answer is no, then don’t do it.
Life is much too short.
Do what you want to do.
So this past weekend when I was bookstore browsing, I
eavesdropped overhead an interesting conversation between two teen girls.
One of the girls reminded me a lot of myself at that age. As you know from last week’s post — I was all about the scary and the creepy but also about mysterious and quirky too. When I was
stalking observing them, I noticed that the girl had Life as We Knew It, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, and Looking For Alaska cradled in her arms — definitely an interesting mix.
The girls were talking about books that they wanted to read but were not on the shelves. These were also very smart and savvy readers too — I think we can forget sometimes as writers. I loved hearing about the things that they liked and didn’t like on the shelves.
sneaked walked away with that teen girl in the back of my mind. As I worked on my novel project yesterday, I thought about her again. Now I like to think of her as my mini-audience of sorts — a reader archetype.
The truth is that our books will not be liked by everyone. But if you know your audience, you will at least find the people who may be interested in your book. The first reader is the author — I’m from the camp that you should write what you also want to read — but it doesn’t hurt to have an idea of who else may share your tastes.
What about you writer friends: Do you know your audience? Do you have an idea of the type of reader who would like your book?
First off, I would like to send good luck to all of my writer friends who are participating in this year’s National Novel Writing Month. I’m not doing it this year but I’ll cheer the rest of you on. 50K in 30 days. Whew. Makes me tired just thinking about it. :)
For the last few weeks, I’ve had a valid excuse to not work so much on my novel revision because of my day job craziness. But now that’s slowing down and I’m still finding other ways to avoid what needs to be done — scene rewrites, logic fixes, character mishaps.
It’s amazing how other tasks can seem so pressing. More pressing than sitting in front of the computer or blank page. Could there be any “pros” in procrastination? Any type of benefit?
Let’s look at some of the “pressing” tasks that I’ve completed:
- Reorganized my tupperware.
- Washed all the baseboards in the house.
- Changed my air filter and dusted out my vents.
- Cleaned and sealed my bathroom tile grout.
- Reorganized my closet and donated items to Goodwill.
This past weekend, I finished an epic procrastination task: I decided that I would redesign my blog.
The software geek in me really loved this. It was on my list for things to do in 2012, but why put off something for tomorrow when you can do it today — insert irony here — so for my RSS and email readers, take a looksy and let me know what you think.
It’s still in the tweaking stages. For those of you who need custom blog headers or other promotional material design such as bookmarks, writer friend Heather McCorkle has started CP Design that you should definitely check out.
But seriously, I need to start back work on the novel revisions. Maybe some of you NaNoWriMo writers can rub off on me. I need to regain my focus!
So how about you writer friends? Procrastinated lately? Do you get any “pros” out of it?
Okay so I’ve recovered from the Thanksgiving holiday and now gearing up for the end of the year. With the winding down, I always reflect on my goals and the progress that I made.
I officially made 2011, a year of spaciousness. Ha, much easier said than done for sure but one thing I’m proud of is that I didn’t get stressed out about my novel progress or even worse compare myself to other writers — because we all know that’s a losing battle. Considering some of the things I’ve went through this year and the day job craziness, the fact that I’m still writing is a small miracle.
We still have a last hurrah for 2011: A good month to go and as you NanNo champions already know, a lot of writing can happen in 30 days.
The good news is that I will be finished with my novel by December 31st. The not so bad news is that I know in my heart that I will probably need another revision pass and some beta readers before I can start my submission process.
Still happy about my progress though thanks in part to Operation 50/50. My plot changed significantly in the last third of my novel and I had to totally rewrite it. This is the part that needs the most revision focus. But my all of my characters have deepened and my protagonist has evolved so much since January — she is a complicated creature and I love it. As a writer, I can’t ask for more.
As for 2012, it’s going to be an exciting year. I’ve got some exciting trips to Hawaii and Italy planned and I’m looking forward to starting the agent submission process. This will be my second time around and I’ve learned so much from my past experience. We’ll see! :)
So writer friends, what about you? Are you going to make your 2011 goals for your novel projects? Have you been thinking about 2012 and what you want to accomplish?
This past weekend I was reading some of my favorite blog posts and stumbled across this gem from Seth Godin. It speaks so truthfully and it was something that I needed to read again.
“We spend a lot of time organizing and then waiting for the system to pick us, approve of us and give us permission to do our work.
Feedback is important, selling is important, getting the market to recognize your offering and make a sale — all important. But there’s a difference between achieving your goals and realizing your work matters.”
How many times can validation lift us up and then tear us down?
Great comments from critique partners. Another rejection letter. A great book deal. One-star reviews. If you leave yourself open, you can be on an emotional roller-coaster and that’s not good for a creative life.
Yes, it’s important to get that validation for your work. It’s your passion. Your dream. But remember always that no one “allows” you to write. You can write regardless. Even with no validation at all. Which at times — let’s face it kids — has to happen anyway. When we’re creating our novel world, it’s a solo effort — something that must be done with no hand-holding.
So while you continue on your writing journey or just going through the journey of life, always try to remember this very important thing:
Validation from others is overrated.
I met with some lovely writer friends this past weekend and we had a interesting conversation.
One of my friends is published and working on her second book, another just sold a book, and then there’s me — revising and getting ready for submission. We talked about our work styles, stress, and just general writing habits.
Writer Friend #1: How many books do you think you can write?
Me: Hard to say. Are you counting “drawer” books too?
Writer Friend #1: No, I mean books that you will submit. Revised and polished. I don’t think I have more than 3 or 4 more in me.
Writer Frind #2: Really? You would stop writing?
Writer Friend #1: I don’t know. I’m a slow writer so with this book out now, after the next four books, I could stop. I may want to move on to other things.
Me: I can’t say. I think I would always be working on something. Is there such a thing as a terminal number of books a writer can write?
Writer Friend #2: There is this thing called “Death.”
We all laughed but it got me thinking. Is there such a thing as a finite number of books for a writer? Do you have a number of books in your head that you plan to write and then stop? Or do you plan to keep writing until uh, the Reaper makes a visit?
This current novel project will be coming to a close this year *raises hand into a pump fist* and I’ll be thinking about how I want to tackle my next project.
When I wrote what I call my “drawer” novels, I always wrote them in secret and showed them to no one. At that time, I didn’t even tell anyone I was writing anything.
With the novel I wrote that helped secure my former agent, I was actually in a workshop format and I wrote that book chapter by chapter with the help of my writer mentor and critique partners.
This current novel project has been a mix of both. I wrote the first third (which now has been totally rewritten) in the same workshop format with the mentor and critique group but then most of this novel has been written on my own.
I must say that I find working on my own — at least until the novel is in a state of revision where I know what it’s about — has been very helpful for me. Every novel is different though.
The good points of working on a novel in a workshop or critique group is that if you’re going down the wrong path, you may be able to get back on track quicker but then working alone you can get to your story in a more organic way and really figure out what you want for your novel without any outside interference.
So writer friends, how do you work on your novel projects? Do you let people see your work in draft or revised form? Do wait until it’s ready for a beta read? Do you find that it’s helpful or harmful to show your work before you submit?
Would love to hear how other writers do this.
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Have you noticed that when you are working on different novel projects that you tend to have a recurring character type? I’ve noticed this in some of my favorite authors and their work as well.
It doesn’t mean that you’re writing the same character over and over again — it’s more of a variation — almost like voice in a way — and for me, it says a lot about the influence certain people have in the author’s life.
Something I’ve noticed as far as recurring character types in my work is the grandmother character. I was very blessed growing up because I had two grandmothers and two great-grandmothers. They were all different types. Nettie was mean and could cut you in half with her words. Florence was a romantic and introduced me to The Young and the Restless, Ruby was stylish and always “runway ready” in her appearance, and Elnora was loving and taught me how to make the perfect biscuit.
Elnora is a big influence on the grandmother character in my current novel. Here she is in Atlantic City circa 1980′s posing at the beach:
Growing up, Elnora or “Moya” — a childhood nickname that stuck when I couldn’t pronounce her name right — was a second mother to me. She taught me a lot of country/farm life things like how to season a cast iron skillet, how to shell butter beans without getting callouses, how to make pretty curtains out of bedsheets — but most of all she taught me about unconditional love. Even in college, I would go back to Moya’s house because it gave me all the safety and peace I needed.
I now can see how this seed of influence help grow the relationship between the main character and her grandmother in my current novel.
You can even use your bad experiences with certain people as foundations for great characters. For instance, my mean great-grandmother Nettie? I think a character is already brewing up in her honor in my next novel project. Ha, ha.
Do you have a character type that recurs in your novel projects? Are they based on a combination of real people who had a great affect on your life?