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Today, I want to acknowledge that sometimes a novel is not like a city at all.
I think most regular readers of this blog know that my debut novel, Ivory and Bone, releases tomorrow, June 7. These last few months leading up to the on-sale date have been a very exciting, sometimes terrifying, often exhausting time. Over the past few days—and especially today, on the eve of the launch—I’ve been forced to admit that there is another apt metaphor for a novel. In many ways—at least from my personal perspective—I’d have to admit that a novel is a lot like a child you’re sending out into the world.
We’ve all heard novels referred to as “book babies.” Here are three reasons I have to agree that writers’ books are like their children.
First, like a child, a novel has a mind of its own. If it doesn’t want to conform to your expectations of it, it simply won’t. You may want it to grow up to be a fast-paced thriller, when it might instead become a quiet psychological drama. Some things are within the author’s control, of course, (you can simply start over if things aren’t going well,) but just like with children, you may find that letting them choose their own path can lead to amazing results. It can be maddening when things don’t go the way we intended them to with a manuscript, but just like kids, books tend to find the path they were meant to be on all along. (The author—like a parent—just needs to keep up!)
Second, when your book baby meets with rejection, it feels a little like someone has insulted your child. Every author receives a certain amount of rejection, but knowing that rejection is unavoidable and generally not personal doesn’t make it any easier to process. It hurts, even when you know it’s a part of publishing. When the book I wrote right before Ivory and Bone failed to find a publisher, I took it very hard. The characters in that book were incredibly real to me after I’d worked on the book for so long, and I felt like I’d let them down. Of course, the opposite holds true, too. Now that Ivory and Bone is almost here, I feel so happy and proud for my characters.
Third, when your book receives praise, it feels (at least to me,) like the praise is for this separate entity, rather than for you yourself. This is another way that a book is like a child. As a mother, I’m always proud and flattered when someone praises my child, and I feel like I can accept the praise graciously because it’s not really directed at me. In the same way, even though a good review of your book feels personal, it still feels separate and distinct from a direct compliment. You may have brought your book baby into the world, but it’s got a life of its own.
I’m extremely excited to be posting this on the eve of my book baby’s birth! Though I’ve said it here before, I can’t say it enough—thank you all so much for your support on my path to publication. I joined PubCrawl in early 2010, when it was still Let the Words Flow. This has been a long pregnancy—book babies take a long time to gestate—but it’s been amazing. Thank you all so much, and please check the acknowledgements at the back of Ivory and Bone for a special shout-out to all the readers of this blog!
What do you think? Are your books and manuscripts like your babies? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
This month began with the most amazing thing ever: a book tour for The Girl I Used to Be! The last time I had a tour was in 2002. As the economy crashed, independent bookstores folded, and newspapers cut back, tours faded right along with them.
I was determined to make the most of it. So I said yes to everything. Yes to speaking to kids from four different schools in a day. Yes to doing a bookstore event that same night. Yes to flying to a different city after that.
And I had a great time! But I did pick up some tips I’m going to pass along for the next person who wins the tour lottery.
The last time your clothes fit in your carryon is the day you pack it at home. Don’t overpack! If you’re willing to wear the same black polyester (and thus unwrinkle-able and basically indestructible) top in every city you visit, you can save some space in your suitcase. And you need to leave room, because every school will want to give you a coffee mug, T-shirt, and pen emblazoned with the school’s logo. I have also gotten a tea towel, “genuine sand,” a plaster hand missing fingernails like one of my characters, and reusable grocery bags.
And you’ll also end up with treats: chocolate in the shape of the Alamo, pralines so sweet they make your teeth ache, Kind bars, chocolate covered almonds, a package of Oreos, caramel toasted coconut chips, mini Kitkats, homemade cookies, Lindor balls, and occasionally fruit. Those who follow me on social media often give me potato chips. I actually carried a full bag of chips from Milwaukee to Chicago where I ate them at midnight when I finally checked into my hotel. My advice is to avoid the crab-flavored ones.
In fact, for your waistline, dump all the treats into the nearest garbage can as soon as you are out of eyesight. Otherwise you will end up in your hotel room eating a piece of really bad candy that tastes like chocolate-covered perfume, wincing, and then opening another wrapper.
All the candy did come in handy when Alaska ran out of meals on a flight from Chicago to Seattle. For breakfast, I ate a peanut butter cup that had been rattling around in my backpack. Loose. By the time I found it, half the chocolate was missing. But at least it didn’t have anything stuck to it. And I figured the peanut butter counted as protein.
If you’re ever wondering what to get an author, Starbucks cards are small and endlessly useful. Also those grocery bags, especially if they are emblazoned with something local, are a fun gift and pack flat.
My other tip would be figure out the shower while you are still sort of awake. Do you raise the handle, spin it, press it? Is there a separate piece you need to engage first? Otherwise you’ll end up after four hours sleep phoning the front desk and begging them to reveal the secret. And they in turn will send up a maintenance man, who will turn it on with ease, and look at you in your shortie PJs with barely concealed disgust.
And then after you take your shower you will realize you have no idea how to turn it OFF. Resist the urge to leave it running for four hours until housekeeping shows up.
I also stayed in a hotel hosting the a conference for the White Shrine of Jerusalem, a Masonic organization that seemed to be made up of white ladies over the age of 80 and wearing formal polyester gowns with corsages even for the 6 am breakfast buffet.
I visited more than a dozen schools and talked to over 3,000 kids. One girl who wanted to be a writer was shaking so badly it looked like she would fly apart. I held one of her hands with my left hand while I signed her book with my right. One teacher worried that her pizza lunch wouldn’t be “sophisticated enough” for me. I had a wonderful time, and even though I came down with a weird kind of strep normally only seen in cows, I would do it again in a heartbeat!
Crowdfunding isn’t a new idea, but we haven’t spent much time discussing it here at Pub Crawl– and I think it’s becoming increasingly relevant to writers today who have more options than ever to publish their work.
Platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been around for more than seven years, and by far have become the best known way to finance projects and products by appealing directly to the consumers who want them. In comparison to the old standby of PayPal donations, and its many limitations and hassles, if enough people are interested in your Kickstarter project, you will raise enough money to hopefully deliver on your promises. But if you don’t have enough support, your proposed project usually goes away quietly.
Many authors have successfully used Kickstarter to self-publish books, using the funding to hire editors, proofreaders and artists; distribute them in print and electronic forms, and even market them. Considering one of the largest hurdles for self-published writers is spending the money to make their books as polished and professional as traditionally published books (or perhaps even more so), this is a fascinating and exciting way to get work out to readers, as well as promote books before they’re released.
Slightly newer to the scene is Patreon, which has quickly become “the world’s largest crowdfunding site for artists and creators” since it was established in 2013. In a nutshell, Patreon allows people to provide ongoing support to an individual–not necessarily for a particular project–through a monthly commitment of as little as $1. As implied by its name, it’s evoking the old patron model of enabling creative work, while offering supporters incentives like exclusive content, early access, and sometimes even a voice in what work gets produced.
(Another site that has recently appeared is called ko-fi, basically an online tip jar that lets fans buy you a cup of coffee with the click of a button, perhaps more as a sign of appreciation than a viable, continuous income stream.)
Essentially, what all these crowdfunding services offer is a way for fans to buy time for creators to make more of the thing they enjoy, and let them know their work is valued and in demand. As a writer with a job and a toddler, a sink full of dishes and piles of dirty laundry, I often must be picky about what projects I sign up for and prioritize the paying work — contracted books and stories — over the shiny ideas I want to play with, or the unpaid blogging I might want to do. So getting “paid” by patrons to write a fun short story that I may not be able to sell (or the novel I may not be able to sell, yikes) has a certain appeal. My friend N.K. Jemisin recently launched a Patreon that will allow her to quit her day job, the dream of many a writer, so far attracting more than $3800 in less than a week as of this writing.
The simple fact is most writers can probably produce more if they only had more time, and 40+ hours a week is a lot of time.
If I ever did a Patreon or something similar, I suspect it would be to raise funds for a babysitter so I can write more and do more events.
As more writers I know create Patreons with a wide range of success, I’ve been thinking more about this phenomenon. (Interestingly, as far as I can tell, not many YA writers have embraced Patreon, but it seems to be gaining popularity in the science fiction and fantasy community, of which I am also a part.) The truth is, I personally have a difficult time separating the idea of crowdfunding from charity, even though intellectually I know that people are buying something they want or rewarding you for something only you can provide. Part of me also imagines this as creating yet another array of deadlines and expectations and obligation to your supporters, who are basically making an investment in you and your work. You have more time, but on some level you’re also more accountable, potentially to dozens if not hundreds of people. How much do you ultimately owe them for helping make it possible?
But I am also aware that one of my hangups is the fear that I won’t get much support, or that I’ll be “competing” with all the other Patreon creators out there for the same dollars. Who needs an additional metric for comparing their own success to that of others? And before you remind me that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others, and that writing and publishing isn’t really a competition, allow me to suggest that this isn’t an entirely irrational consideration. I think a solid fan base is essential to a successful Kickstarter and Patreon, so your newer writers, less published writers, and debut writers probably won’t benefit from them as much — or at all.
What do you think about crowdfunding creative efforts? Have you supported any Kickstarter or Patreon campaigns? What would get you to donate your money to support a writer beyond buying their published work?
I headed to my first writer’s residency at The Ragdale Foundation at the end of March with an imagined vision of open space, open time, and what I call “open expectations” – no finish line, no deadline, no shoulds or have tos about the challenging revision of my middle grade novel in verse or the small community of artists of which I’d be part.
I knew from experience that gentle, heartfelt, positive guidelines were my best bet for flourishing as a writer and a person. I told myself to:
Trust my needs, my rhythm, what I and my story feel each step forward needs to be, and connect with others as I need and want to, but without pressure that I have to.
Keep my brain open to surprises of all kinds and embrace, enjoy, tolerate, readjust as needed.
Let the residency change me – openness to writing and human surprises has often had this lovely effect on me.
It worked. From a writing and a community perspective, the residency was extraordinary. Among the many meaningful incidents were these:
When I’d inserted eighty new verses into my then-current draft, half-hoping for a wonderful and well-organized draft, I found instead an incoherent, fragmented story. At dinner, as we all casually talked about our first day, I said my next days would be dismantling my book, and was glad I had the floor space and time to do it. The luxury of seemingly endless hours was going to be a gift.
As I went through the days, dismantling, reassembling, and readying myself for a deep and intense revision, I realized something all of us seemed to say in our end-of-residency summary: It’s not just the number of hours I have, it’s how the hours and the lack of distracting responsibilities allow my brain to open and blossom. I discovered, with this undistracted time, the capacity to work deeply and intensely, giving my unconscious mind the freedom to feed me creative solutions.
Many days, I lost any sense of what time it was, whether or not my phone and computer were collecting texts and emails, and occasionally even whether or not I was hungry. My lovely little room, walks on the prairie (even in the snowstorms of a Chicago spring), and conversations with new colleagues fed a brain that seemed wonderfully open to the world, and to my own unconscious.
One night early in the residency, instead of returning to work, I decided to join several colleagues to listen to another’s discussion of her volunteer work in a Michigan hospital, gathering bedside stories from in-patients. She played several of the stories for us. I was riveted. I heard an urgency in all the short, impromptu stories. The patients have to choose only one story to tell, my colleague said. I had a visceral response in my chest, home of where my feelings tell me things. One story. Only one story. I have to write Reeni’s story as if it is the only one she gets to tell. That’s where I will find the urgency. And maybe I will find her voice.
The next day I began, sitting on my pillow on the floor with paper and pencil. If it was Reeni’s last day on earth, how would she tell the story? And then I found her voice.
It would have been enough to do the kind of deep writing I did from that day on. But going into the residency with my three guidelines enabled me to do and experience more than that.
I discovered that I am a writer who is able to spend many hours a day working if given the opportunity. That I am a writer who can find and stay in deep connection with my unconscious for more than a few moments at a time. And that I could also enjoy the deep pleasure of becoming part of a supportive, smart, funny, and all-around extraordinary, group of fellow artists.
In my life as writer, therapist, wife, mother, friend I’ve repeatedly found that while attitude is not everything, it is quite a bit. When I enter an experience with gentle and positive expectations, an open mind, and the ability to respond to surprises of any nature, I free myself again to grow, change, and continue the adventure of living.
It’s not necessarily easy. But it’s always worth the effort.
Drawing from her skills and experience as a clinical social worker and consultant/educator, Carol also writes extensively about the psychological and emotional aspects of the writing journey, and the essential skills for creating and maintaining emotional resilience. Her column, “The Flourishing Writer,” is archived in the Illinois SCBWI Prairie Wind.
Carol lives with her husband in Chicagoland and treasures her family, friends, and work at an extraordinary early childhood center.
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Ahhhh! Tax day is coming! Yes, once again April 15 is almost upon us. Hopefully you’ve already filed your taxes for 2015 by now, or you’re about to. And if you’re a writer (or are otherwise self-employed), hopefully you’re also deducting your writing expenses.
OK, so I’m no tax expert, but I have been filing my own taxes for my entire working life. And I only started using TurboTax when things got a little more complicated — namely, when I started treating writing like a business.
What does that mean? How do you distinguish writing as a hobby from writing as a business? Look deep within yourself for the answer: Are you trying to make a go of a full-time professional writing career? Or are you writing for fun and an occasional story sale?
If you want to write for a living, writing is your business, even if you have a day job that helps pay the bills. If you are starting to sell stories or novels and getting paid for your work, it is definitely a business. In either of these situations, you should consider keeping track of all your writing-related expenses and claiming them as deductions on your tax form, typically using Schedule C (Form 1040) Profit or Loss from Business. In the early years, possibly longer, this is probably going to be more losses than profits, but that’s okay, as long as its not from lack of trying to earn money and you can demonstrate your intentions.
What writing-related expenses can you deduct? You’d be surprised. If you’re attending workshops, conferences, or conventions, you can deduct some or all of your travel and meal expenses. If you’re a writer, you’d better be a reader, so deduct those books, especially the ones you buy for research. (Warning: This may lead to an increase in the number of books you own, because once you know you can claim that purchase as a deduction…) Meals and drinks with other writers can also be deducted, as well as entertainment expenses! Did you buy a new laptop that is exclusively (or mainly) used for writing? Go ahead and deduct all or part of that purchase.
Look, don’t be shady about it. Only you know if these are legitimate writing-related purchases, and you should hold onto receipts and documentation to justify it, should you ever be unfortunate enough to face an audit. But don’t be nervous about it either; you’re entitled to these credits for the considerable time, work, and money you’re investing in your career. Because once you start selling stories and books, the IRS will most certainly be happy to shave off a significant portion of your earnings in income tax. Filing your self-employment taxes can seem intimidating, but Writer’s Digest has a good overview, and you can find lots of information online or consult with a tax professional.
But here’s my one big tip if you’re deducting your writing expenses regularly, which I wish I had thought of years ago: If you can, dedicate one of your credit cards to only writing-related purchases and activities. My wife suggested it to me last year, and this is the first full year in which I’ve implemented it, and wow, it made tracking my expenses so much easier! Everything is in one place and nearly itemized and organized by categories, such as travel, meals, purchases, etc. in the yearly report.
Having this system cut my tax preparation time by more than half, because I wasn’t digging around multiple credit card statements, receipts, and e-mails to account for everything. I typically also maintain an Excel spreadsheet throughout the year, which I forget to update until tax time, and the credit card statement more or less replaced that because I made a habit of charging everything. No fuss, no muss.
Do you have any tax “hacks” like this that work for you? Other tips or suggestions? Drop them in the comments below. And I wish you many happy returns!
I’m on the road a lot this month, so I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about packing all the worldly possessions I need to survive away from home. And since I neglected to schedule myself a post for this month until this very morning, packing for events is what you get to hear about today. Yay, right?
Here’s what a Jodi-author carries with her on tour:
A carry-on suitcase (the biggest the airlines will allow while still calling it a carry on), and a duffle bag. It used to be my suitcase and a purse, and then I noticed a mom with a diaper bag and a) became very jealous of her giant bag, and b) realized I could put bags inside of bags.
In the suitcase:
A tote bag with my box of swag inside. It’s pretty heavy, so it goes on the bottom, or tucked into the bottom side along the telescoping handle tubes. I just wrap the top of the bag and the handles around everything to keep it in place. The whole bag comes with me to signings, so extra signing stuff goes in here too — my copy of Incarnate, quote cards, whatever else I need to bring.
Compressible bags with different kinds of clothing in each. Shirts in one, pants in one, underthings in one. Though now that I’m thinking about it, maybe I should get more of these bags and separate entire outfits by days. This would be useful for trips with multiple stops. Hmmm.
I always carry at least one extra of all the clothes I need, just in case something horrible happens. And speaking of emergencies, I always include Feminine Supplies, a small first-aid kit, and a back-up battery for my phone.
Since I usually wear knit socks, and those are a little bulkier than store socks, I stuff those into the corners of my bag when it’s all packed. Shoe people would manage to fit shoes in here. I feel lucky when I get to an event and I am wearing sneakers.
Two vacuum bags. They’re just the Ziplock kind that you can press the air out of (I do this by sitting on them), but they’re really handy for keeping dirty laundry separate. I’m going to admit, on longer trips, I fold my laundry before putting it in there, but that’s because it compresses better than if I just shove it all in there.
My human form / aka makeup.
And in one of the outside pockets — my bag of liquids. I have a reusable quart bag with a zipper that’s pretty sturdy and fits perfectly in the top compartment.
I don’t have three ounces of anything in there; all my liquid containers are either in one- or two-ounce leakproof, BPA-free bottles, some with wide tops, others with narrow.
I wear contacts (gas perms, which require more liquids than soft or toric lenses), so I have to make sure I can fit a lot in there. I have dropper bottles for my contact stuff, but since they have flip tops and I’m afraid they’ll leak, I replace the flip tops with a solid screw top and change them over when I reach my destination.
If I’m going to be somewhere for a longer period of time that will require more, say, shampoo, then I usually will go in with my travel-mates to buy a bottle. But that only works if we’re going to stay in the same place for a while.
I get as many things in non-liquid form as I can. So makeup remover, even though I use a liquid or semisolid at home, I bring face wipes when I travel. If I had any dry shampoo that worked well for me (the quest continues), I’d probably bring that, too.
In my duffle bag:
Computer in its sleeve, with charging cables for it and my phone (as well as my headphones).
My purse. Sometimes, once I get through security, I’ll move my hand sanitizer and other small purse liquids back here, that way I can access them without wrestling with the overhead bins.
My knitting bag with a small project inside. On my last trip, I taught two people to knit socks.
A BPA-free leak-proof plastic bottle so I can fill it up with water rather than buying a bottle of water once I get through security.
A book or two.
A light sweater or cardigan, and perhaps one of those neck pillows if it’s a long/overnight flight.
Everything goes in the same place every time, that way I can find things while I’m on the plane without having to look.
Packing started out as an elaborate game of Tetris, and while I’m sure there are still a lot of improvements I could make to my routine, I have definitely gotten better at this since I first started out!
What about you guys? Any great tricks you want to share?
Rejection, reviews, competition, disappointment, deadlines, and doubt. There is no shortage of adversity in the writing life, making the ability to bounce back one of the greatest skills a writer can foster. And it can be fostered.
Because resilience is not a genetic or personality trait, but a process which can be learned and practiced. Overcoming the challenges that exist in our writing lives often feels difficult because it is difficult.
But not impossible.
And if you don’t believe me—Jennifer Mann—perhaps you’d believe another Jennifer?
“There are those writing days where I feel more alive than I can almost handle. And then there are the days of all out despair where I worry I’ll never have success again. If I have patience with myself, I get that exhilarating feeling all over again, and it keeps me going.”
“A big part of surviving in this business is managing my own negative emotions. That means I protect my mind and my heart fiercely. I do whatever I need to do to stay in a healthy place, because I've realized that I'm no good to anyone when I've let a bad review or my own natural writing insecurities get the better of me.”
“Not only do real-life experiences and relationships inform and inspire your art, these will be there for you on days when the writing world is difficult or frustrating or just plain hurts your feelings.”
“We can’t get better or grow if there is no reason to. Obstacles, like critique, rejection, time constraints, tech failures, family obligations, power outages, chocolate shortages, give us a reason to change how we do things, and every time we do something differently, we grow.”
“I remind myself that it is just a book. Sure, authors can impact, and maybe even save, lives when their stories reach the right person at the right time, but possibly not as many lives as, say, heart surgeons or the inventors of airbags... and I sometimes need the reminder to just get over myself and put things in perspective!”
I’m in a cozy, dark room – too warm, and scattered with noises of children’s breathing, soft wordless Beatles’ arrangements, and the burble of the turtle tank filter. It’s nap-time at the early childhood school where I work, and I’m on duty. I’m also working on a major revision for my novel in verse.
It’s an unlikely setting, this child-dense room with documentation of the children’s discoveries through paint, clay, blocks, but between two or more hours at Starbuck’s in the morning and the napping room in the afternoon, I’m making good progress on my revision.
In the not-so-quiet space I sink deeply into my character’s life, where I may hear and feel her anguish and joy without interference from any angst of my own.
For years I struggled with finding the perfect place to write, because something seemed “off” with so many spaces. I found myself writing in short, deep spurts, but I was easily distracted. Too quiet. Too loud.
The thing is, I carried with me so much noise of my own, that almost every place was far from perfect.
Early on in my committed writing journey, I heard the well-known caution to “keep my head down and do the work”. And yet online and off, in informal gatherings and at conferences, the longing to be book-published was front and center. I worked hard, submitted, survived rejections with my learned resilience, and “came close” many times.
Then, about five years ago, unusually distracted and distressed by the new industry policy adapted by so many agents and editors: If you don’t hear from us, assume we’re not interested. If I don’t hear from you by when? I wondered.
The absence of waiting for responses took too great an emotional toll on my resilient self.
So one day I decided to put an end to the situation that troubled me. I challenged the assumption that I would eventually get a book contract. Maybe I wouldn’t. I said it aloud, then asked myself one of the most important questions of my life: Now what?
Now, I am a writer, I answered myself. Now, I keep writing. An emotional gust of wind that blew me away in the best of ways. The relief I felt turned into a joy about writing that opened unimagined possibilities.
Without any expectations of myself other than writing, I gave myself permission to work at all the things I loved – poetry, essays, picture books, and my middle grade novel in verse. I avoided places online and in person where discussions of hoped-for publication abounded. I felt somewhat isolated from a community I’d been involved in, but the benefits were worth it.
Eventually I began submitting again. But I was calmer, even carefree. My queries were more casual, authentic. I had acceptances and rejections – interestingly, with more personal responses to rejections than I’d ever gotten. I was shocked and quietly pleased to find that my middle grade novel in verse was chosen a finalist for the Katherine Paterson Prize.
My agent took notice of my book from the contest, and the revision process with her has been challenging and immensely pleasurable. I feel a calm, deep pleasure when I when I get an acceptance, an agent, write a verse I’m particularly proud of – instead of the wild excitement I felt years ago when I assumed each step was closer to “success.”
I hope my book is published one day – of course. But success is truly the journey, and how my own strengths meet the challenges of the work.
And, of course, the sweetness in the dark, not-so-quiet room with the sleeping children.
Carol Coven Grannick has been a writer since before her fourth grade teacher told her she was one. Her poetry, essays, and articles have appeared in numerous print and online venues.
She began writing for children in 1999, and her poetry and fiction have appeared in Highlights for Children, Ladybug, Cricket and Hunger Mountain. Her picture book manuscripts have won several awards, and her middle grade novel in verse manuscript, "Reeni’s Turn," was named a Finalist in the 2014 Katherine Paterson Prize at Hunger Mountain.
Drawing from her skills and experience as a clinical social worker and consultant/educator, Carol also writes extensively about the psychological and emotional aspects of the writing journey, and the essential skills for creating and maintaining emotional resilience. Her column, “The Flourishing Writer,” is archived in the Illinois SCBWI Prairie Wind.
Carol lives with her husband in Chicagoland and treasures her family, friends, and work at an extraordinary early childhood center.
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Years ago, a friend told me that getting published was the easy part. It was staying published that was difficult.
I laughed a little. I died inside.
I was still trying to get published the first time, let alone a second or third time, and I wasn’t having a whole lot of success.
But perseverance won, and eventually I did get published. And because I was one of those annoying overachievers, I’d already written first drafts of the second and third books in my trilogy by the time I turned in my first book, which meant that I had some free time.
I wrote another — unrelated — book, revised it a bit, shared it with a few critique partners and my agent, and when I had another stretch of free time, I went back to it to make the manuscript shine.
But something was wrong. There were huge parts of the book that I loved, but I knew it had problems, and I wasn’t sure how to fix them. I knew the book wasn’t strong enough to give to my publisher, so I put it aside to wait for a spark of brilliance to tell me how to fix it.
That book is still waiting. I had to move on. So I finished writing my first series (again), and I wrote another new book. I gave it to critique partners. I gave it to my agent. I revised the snot out of it. And I thought it was ready, so I gave it to my publisher. They said they didn’t think this was the very best followup to my first series.
I started thinking about that thing my friend had said years before. I started wondering if maybe she was right. I’d been published! People liked my book! But I’d put one new book aside because I knew it wasn’t ready, and I’d had to put the other new book aside because my career wasn’t ready.
But because I had no desire to starve to death and a very strong desire to keep my career in motion, I wrote yet another new thing (while finishing working on my first trilogy). All the necessary people liked it and approved it, and that book became my second series. (For those wondering if that pattern continued, it did not. There were no books between that one and what will be my third series.)
I’m sharing all this because I think a lot of writers believe that once you’re published, you can hand in new books and a couple of years later, they appear on shelves. Not true! New books must go through the same rigorous acquisitions process as the first one, but this time with sales records of your previous books as a key factor in what the publisher decides to do.
I know a lot of authors who’ve written new things after they’ve been published, and for one reason another, had to trunk them. Maybe they knew from the start it wasn’t ready. Maybe their agent said it wasn’t ready. Maybe their publisher said it wasn’t ready.
And you know, there’s no shame in that. Trunked manuscripts — no matter what stage of your career they were written — are still useful creatures. There are no wasted words in writing, even if those words never make it to the bookshelves. All that experiences goes into the next new thing, which will be even stronger than the last ones.
We all have trunked manuscripts. Lots come before getting published the first time, but they happen after, too. For a lot of writers.
And it’s totally okay. Just keep writing. Keep looking forward. (And hopefully one day, you can resurrect the trunked manuscripts you particularly love. That is my plan!)
Due to slow sales and a changing market, I’d lost both my publisher and agent—and I was devastated. Also, a science fiction/mystery YA that I’d been positive would sell when it went to acquisition meetings at major publishers had ultimately been rejected.
After over 35 published YA and middle grade books, I was on my own.
Here’s what I wrote in my journal:
“I feel so sad when I think back on how high my hopes were but now everything has led to this point of failure. I am so sad...discouraged...mourning the loss of dreams.”
I moped around for a few days, doing things like eating chocolate, reading comfort books and hanging out with my family. But I couldn’t sit around—I had to write.
So instead of giving up—I got busy.
I researched publishers that accepted unagented manuscripts. I polished then submitted my manuscripts—including a few pictures books. This format was new to me since I’d mostly written novels, but I’d sold one picture book--Snow Dog, Sand Dog, illustrated by Jess Golden (Albert Whitman, 2014) and that gave me hope. So I wrote more picture books.
One of these, Cash Kat, seemed like a good fit for my friend Danna Smith’s publisher Arbordale, so I sent it to them. A year later they offered me a contract—and now Cash Kat (2016) is a beautiful hardback picture book, illustrated by Christina Wald! It teaches how to count money and celebrates the special bond kids have with their grandparents.
More books I submitted on my own sold: Never Been Texted (Leap Books, 2015) and Curious Cat Spy Club series to Albert Whitman (2015). The third book in this CCSC series, Kelsey The Spy, comes out April 1—and I can hardly wait.
And remember that YA science fiction/mystery I’d tried so hard to sell? Well, it’s coming out in September 2016 from CBAY Publishing under the new title of Memory Girl.
Instead of my career being over, it’s taking a new shape.
Being discouraged is part of the writing game. Most writers deal with the lows of rejections, losing agents or editors, low sales numbers and having books go out of print. A writing career is like riding a roller coaster, going up and down then up again.
Here are some tips to help you ride the painful downs:
It’s healthy to grieve a disappointment or loss—but then get busy.
Network! Writer friends give great advice and publishing tips.
Small publishers can offer big opportunities.
Keep busy writing: books, articles, reviews. Name recognition counts.
Try new genres! You never know when magic will happen.
If you aren’t in a critique group, join one—or start one.
Don’t give up—as long as you’re writing you are a writer.
My biggest writing struggle is getting started. My current novel, the Psychopath Book, was going well until My Sister Rosa came out in Australia and New Zealand. Suddenly there was promotion to be done, interviews, book launches, travelling.
I’ve been for home more than a week and this is how it’s gone:
Day One: I catch up on admin, which includes interview questions, paying bills, laundry etc as well as tweeting. Because Twitter is a vital part of my process. *cough*
Day Two: More admin. How does admin build up so quickly? Why can’t bills pay themselves? Why can’t Twitter pay my bills?
Day Three: More admin. More tweeting. I open Psychopath Book file. I have no idea who any of these characters are or what this book is about. Not entirely convinced I wrote these words. Who has been messing with my computer while I was away? I ask Twitter. Answers are unsatisfactory.
Day Four: More admin. Way more tweeting. I stare at Pyschopath Book file and read some of it and recoil in horror. Why is this so hard? There are plenty of writers with full time jobs, who are carers for children and elderly parents, who write ten books a year. I am the worst. I ask Twitter. Twitter overwhelmingly confirms my worst-ness.
Day Five: I ignore admin. Time to get back to actually writing this damn book. After I’ve delivered a very important rant on Twitter and commiserated with friends over the dread ways in which Twitter algorithms are trying to destroy Twitter. I read my notes on Psychopath Book. They don’t make any sense. Staring at this stalled novel fills me with despair. I watch Attack the Block for the millionth time. Surely it will inspire me? It does. To write an entirely different book.
Day Six: I continue to ignore admin but not Twitter. I make myself read more Psychopath Book. I edit some sentences. Some of them are okay. Most are not. I start to have vague memories about these characters. I marvel at the many ways I have misspelled pyschopath. It’s impressive.
Day Seven: I continue to ignore admin and am on Twitter slightly less than usual. I blog. What? It’s important for an author with a new book out to stay abreast of social media and blog the rants that are too long for Twitter. It’s also important to watch the cricket in case I one day get around to writing that highly commercial cricket novel I’ve been thinking about writing for years.
Day Eight: I finally write some actual new sentence of the Psychopath Book. They’re total shite.
Day Nine: I write more shitey sentences of the Psychopath Book. I know who these characters are! I can write this book! Shitely! I just have to make sure I never take more than a day or two off ever again.
And repeat. A lot.
TL;DR: Getting started is really hard.
I think we’ve all had the experience of meeting one of your favourite writers and them turning out to be horrible. They bark at their fans, they’re rude to their publicists. Sometimes you don’t even have to meet them. They launch online attacks on anyone who doesn’t give them five-star reviews, tweet racist “jokes”, or they’re arrested for beating up their partner.
Some writers are truly awful people. Yet some of those truly awful people write brilliant books. How?!
One of my favourite writers is Knut Hamsun, a Norwegian writer, who deservedly won the Nobel Prize in 1920. His 1890 novel Hunger blew my teenaged mind. I’ve read it many times since and still find it amazing. It’s about a bloke wandering around Oslo (then called Christiania) starving. It should be boring; it isn’t. I keep rereading it to try and figure out why. All I’ve got is compelling character + amazing writing.
Hamsun was also a card-carrying fascist. He thought Hitler totally had the right idea. He was tried for being a traitor to Norway after World War 2 and found guilty. You know, because he was.
How could Hamsun, who wrote moving, beautiful, psychologically insightful books, be a fascist? I don’t know. I have theories though.
The first is the fairly obvious one. People compartmentalise. They decide whole groups of people aren’t really people. They only see the psychological complexity of people like them and that’s who they write about: the ones they see as fully human. I suspect that’s what was going on with Hamsun. White Scandinavian/German people = yes. Everyone else = no.
My other theories are a bit more woo woo.
Sometimes something extraordinary happens in the process of creating. I’m convinced that even the worst people can produce magic because of it.
It’s hard to describe, but most creatives will know what I’m talking about. There are times when the writing is going so well it feels like words are pouring out of me, that they have nothing to do with me, even though obviously, I’m the one typing.1 When I’m in that magical zone I can write for hours and have almost no memory of what I wrote.2 It’s almost an out-of-body experience, like being high.3
There are other times when the writing is going well, and the words are flowing, when I’m fully aware of what I’m writing, but somehow I’m making connections I wasn’t previously and I’m smarter. I can see more, and write deeper, and truly understand all the characters, even the villains. This is my favourite kind of writing zone.
During those moments it feels like the act of creating has changed me. I’ve become my best self, full of empathy and insight that I don’t always have. I assume this happens for other writers. Even the evil ones. Because I have met some truly horrible human beings whose books are wonderful. Magic is the only explanation.
TL;DR: Writing is so magical it can even transform nasty people into empathetic souls.
To be clear. This is pretty rare. Most writing days are more sweating and yelling than magicking.
This does not, alas, means those words are always perfect. I wish.
I imagine. As someone who writes for teenagers I obviously have no first-hand experience. *cough*
This week Kelly and JJ discuss critique groups: how they found theirs (each other!), how to find one in general, whether or not you need critique groups, and how to give effective feedback.
Subscribe to us on iTunes, or use this feed to subscribe through your podcast service of choice! If you like us, please, please, please leave a rating or review, as it helps other listeners find the podcast. We know you’re listening! You tell us you do! So why not do us a favor and let other people know? Thanks in advance!
Kelly pointed out that she and JJ met 10 years ago, and now they both feel super old. They met through a mutual friend when they were both living in New York.
Do research: online, literary center, library, organizations like SCBWI or RWA
Critique groups are often about chemistry, and that you all understand each other’s work
How to critique work and offer feedback
Generally, line edits are not useful feedback at the drafting stage
Character development, plot obstacles, etc. are more helpful than pointing out misplaced commas
Once a month is probably a better timeframe to meet than weekly, in terms of how much time you have to produce work and to review others
Asking questions is good method of critiquing, as it allows the author to remain in control of their own work
Try and find a group of people who are “at the same level” or slightly “better” than you so you can learn from them and learn together. Being the “best” in a group means you have nothing to learn and you’re just teaching. You want to challenge and inspire each other.
Before going into a critique meeting, maybe come up with a list of concerns that you would like your partners to focus on: voice, characterization, dialogue, etc.
Stephanie and Stacey will be hosting a critique partner connection here at PubCrawl later this month, so stay tuned!
Hi friends, Stacey here, with my critique partner and fellow pub-crawler, Stephanie Garber! Today we are chatting about something we imagine most of you are all too familiar with..
Rejection. We’ve all been there, starting with the threesome of friends that decided to become a twosome without you, or the unrequited love you slathered on that skinny basketball player in sixth grade. Writing is not for the faint of heart. It often feels like the bad days outnumber the good, that the days of utter dejection and rejection will stop the ship from sailing all together. Many days, I feel like the luckiest person alive to be doing the one thing I’d always wanted to do — make a living as a writer. Some days, I feel like I might chuck it all. Go catch up on those movies I’d been wanting to watch, those travel adventures I’d wanted to take. I wouldn’t read, because reading would only remind me of my giving up. But it would be an easier life, wouldn’t it?
Statistics show that the average number of rejections writers receive before selling a manuscript is about 3,967, based on absolutely no evidence at all. Once you do make that sale, there may be and probably will be dark days ahead. There is the pain of being rejected for blurbs. The torment of not feeling cool enough on social media. The agony of reviews, both professional and bloggers. There is the consternation of not being included on ‘lists,’ or not being invited to conferences, and the heartache of being passed up for awards. There is the distress of having an agent fail you, or an editor leave, or your publisher not buying your next book.
Stacey: Speaking as someone who has a book out and two on the way, When I feel down about publishing, I distance myself. I surround myself with Stacey-supporters and avoid that thing that brings me pain. I get busy doing other stuff, cleaning out the coupon drawer (I know, I have a coupon drawer) finding stuff to giveaway to the Salvation Army, I research my next vacation spot.
Then, when I’m ready, I talk to other people who have ‘been there’ and can validate my experiences. One of my favorite quotes is, “misery shared is misery halved, and joy shared is joy doubled.”
Stephanie: As someone who has shared both misery and joy with Stacey Lee, I can say that the above quote is so true!
One thing that helps me deal with feelings of rejection is to think of books as if they are birthdays.
When it’s getting close to my sister’s birthday and my family starts talking about how we are going to celebrate, I don’t start feeling sorry for myself. I never wonder, Why isn’t anyone talking about my birthday? Isn’t anyone excited for me? Same for her presents. I’m not going to count how many presents my sister receives and then compare the number of gifts I’m given for my birthday—that would be ridiculous.
And I believe the same type of comparing can be said for books.
So, let’s say, your book is slated to come out in summer or fall of 2016, avoid the temptation of feeling bad because the winter and spring books seem to be receiving most of the attention right now—those books have birthdays coming up, they should be getting the buzz.
Stacey: It’s important to remember that there is more to you than your writing. We are not in a race. What can screw us up is the image in our head of how things are supposed to be. As nobody ever said, the flower does not compare itself to the beauty of the flower growing beside it, it just blooms. We each proceed at the pace we’re meant to proceed, taking the losses as they come, but also the wins. There is the joy of connecting with a reader who needed your book. The hug from your critique partners, whose love and support goes way beyond books. There are the emails from your publishing team calling you ‘awesome.’ There is the simple joy of losing yourself in your storytelling. These things must be remembered.
*Cue a rainbow.*
Stephanie: During the holidays I spent sometime cleaning out my closet and I found a journal from when I was in high school. I was nervous about looking inside it—I was a pretty depressed high school student—so, afraid of what I might find, I told myself I would only peek for a second. The page I opened to was a list, written in brightly colored markers, full of all the things I wanted. I listed things like clear skin, perfect SAT scores, to be able to dance, and to someday write a novel. And while I still don’t have clear skin, my SAT scores were far from perfect—and sadly so are my dance skills—I did write that novel.
And I know I’ve said it here before, but just writing a book is a huge accomplishment, whether it sells or not. I meet so many people who tell me they want to write a book, but hardly any of them actually sit down and do it. So if you have written a book that is awesome. If it’s being published, or if it’s about to be published, that is even more incredible!
Stacey: Remember the speeder chase scene through the redwood forest in Return of the Jedi? It’s exhilarating to watch that scene because the camera shows it from the perspective of the rider, Luke. You don’t get a sense of exactly where he’s going, but you feel all the bumps and jolts and swoops and loops that he experiences. As we enter this new year, take a moment to rise above the chase scene, and view it from the top, where unlike that scene in Star Wars, you will not see all the bumps and dips, but the one thing you will see is your progress.
Now it’s your turn. We know all of our readers are in different places with their publishing journeys—we’ve shared a bit about our experiences, so now we’d love to hear from some of you.
This week JJ talks with New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis about her publishing journey, revision, how she learned to revise and critique, and what she’s reading and enjoying!
Subscribe to us on iTunes, or use this feed to subscribe through your podcast service of choice! If you like us, please leave a rating or review, as it helps other listeners find the podcast. Thanks in advance!
BETH REVIS is the New York Times bestselling author of the Across the Universe trilogy, as well as The Body Electric, Paper Hearts, and the forthcoming A World Without You. She lives in the Appalachian mountains with her boys: one husband, one son, and two very large dogs. You can find out more on Facebook, Twitter, or online. If you never want to miss a thing and also get exclusive insider opportunities, sign up for her newsletter here.
JJ is working on her middle grade and waiting on cover concepts for Wintersong
Just to let you guys know, both JJ and Kelly will be doing an AMA at the /r/YAwriters subreddit on MONDAY, JANUARY 25TH. Come and ask us questions about publishing, revision, and whatever else might cross your mind!
Your enemy is the blank page. When it comes to writing, there’s no wrong way to get words on paper. But it’s not always easy to make the ink flow. Paper Hearts: Some Writing Advice won’t make writing any simpler, but it may help spark your imagination and get your hands back on the keyboard.
Practical Advice Meets Real Experience
With information that takes you from common mistakes in grammar to detailed charts on story structure, Paper Hearts describes:
How to Develop Character, Plot, and World
What Common Advice You Should Ignore
What Advice Actually Helps
How to Develop a Novel
The Basics of Grammar, Style, and Tone
Four Practical Methods of Charting Story Structure
How to Get Critiques and Revise Your Novel
How to Deal with Failure
And much more!
Enter for a giveaway of PAPER HEARTS: Some Writing Advice! Beth has generously donated a signed copy!
A question I used to see a lot from aspiring writers when I was still working in publishing was Do I need a website? Do I need to get on Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/Instagram/[insert social media platform]?What do agents and editors mean when they say “online presence”?
I won’t lie; whenever I received a submission from an agent, the first thing I did was Google that author. I wasn’t necessarily looking to see if the author had an enormous platform or following; I just wanted to get a sense of the person behind the words. For me, it was always the most helpful if the author had a personal website where I could go, read their bios, find their social media links, etc. Not having a professional website isn’t a deal-breaker, but these days, it would strike me as a little odd.
I’ve been coding and designing websites since I was in high school (does anyone else remember Geocities? No? Bueller? Bueller? Okay, I’m just old then.), so I’m pretty comfortable with this sort of thing, but I know this entire process bewilders a lot of people, so I thought I would write a tutorial for our readers (and some of our members!) to help them out.
Full disclosure: Here at PubCrawl, we use Bluehost, so the screenshots used in the tutorial will be of their website. We’ve been pretty happy with Bluehost in the five years we’ve been with them and would never endorse something we ourselves did not use or wholeheartedly support. There are a myriad other hosting options out there, but if you choose to go with Bluehost, we would appreciate it if you would click on the link we’ve provided, as it generates a little revenue for us at PubCrawl. We do what we love here for love and not money, but a little kickback would help us fund our giveaways and keep the lights on!
This is a bit of a long post with a lot of images, so the rest is under the cut!
1. Pick a domain name.
A domain name is your address on the internet, as it were. Ours is publishingcrawl.com, but as an writer, it’s best to have a domain under the name you’re writing under. (For example: Mine is sjaejones.com because I am writing as S. Jae-Jones.) The first thing I would do is check to see if your name is available. The easiest way to do that is simply type yourname.com into your browser and see if anything turns up.
If your name is already taken, then you can add -writer or -books to the end of your name, or else try .net or .biz, although .com is probably best for search purposes.
2. Select a web hosting plan and register your domain.
Most web hosting services will register your first domain for free, and for the sake of simplicity, I would recommend you do it all at once.1 Select your plan of choice. (For most writers who don’t expect heavy blog traffic, the most basic plans are sufficient. You can always upgrade later.) Register your new domain name with your host provider.
Okay, now here’s where things get a bit complicated. Think of a website as a piece of property: the host is the land itself and the domain is the address. If you want to live on that piece of land, you need to build a house.
If you know HTML, you could code that house yourself. (I’ve done so; it’s incredibly time-consuming and exhausting.) Or you could download and install a CMS, or Content Management System, like WordPress, Joomla, or similar. We at PubCrawl use WordPress (and I do for my own website as well).
Once you’ve set up your domain, you will prompted to set up a username and password for your host. Once you’ve done that, log in to access your Control Panel (usually called cPanel by most hosting services).
Once you’ve been logged in, at the top navigation bar, you will see cpanel. Clicking on that will lead you to your Control Panel, which will look something like this:
Bluehost and other providers will often provide a 1-step installation for WordPress and other CMS builders. Under Website Builders, click on the WordPress logo and you’ll be brought to a page that looks like this:
Start a brand new install, select your domain name, and Bluehost will do the work for you.2 Set up your WordPress login with a username and password.
Once everything’s been installed, in order to access the backend of your website, type www.yourname.com/wp-admin/ and you’ll see this:
Fill in your username and password and that will take you to your Dashboard, which looks like this:
Ta-da! Now your website has been set up. Time to make it look pretty.
4. Select a theme to install on your website.
The default WordPress theme is actually pretty decent, but if you want to put your own personal stamp on your website, I would recommend browsing the WordPress themes gallery. There are a lot of themes you can choose, many of them for free. You can also hire a designer to make your website more personal at this point, but to be honest, a lot of the free themes at WordPress are clean and professional, so there isn’t a huge need to break your bank account.
5. Fill your website with content.
In your WordPress Dashboard, you’ll see an option on the lefthand navigation bar titled Pages. This is where you can create different pages for your website: an about page, information about your books, a blog, a contact page, etc. As an editor, I didn’t need all that much, just a place to contact you. Readers may like a lot more extra content, so include as much information about your book as you please!
That’s all for this post. Hope this was helpful for everyone who’s looking to set up a website and didn’t know where to start. If you have any further questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll try my best to answer, although each case will be different, of course.
If only to avoid the headache of having to go into your domain registration page and point the DNS servers to a different host, etc. ↩
As opposed to having to set up an FTP login, finding an FTP client, access MySQL databases, fiddling with wp-config.php files, etc. I’m an old hat at this, you guys. ↩
Recently I critiqued two unpublished novels. Their authors wanted to know whether they should give up or not.
There’s no clear cut answer to that question. Some great novels had unspeakably bad early drafts.1 Some that their author never feels happy with, and are never published, have pretty good early drafts. Who am I to say this particular novel has no hope of one day being excellent?
I have novels started years ago I’ve never managed to get into a publishable state. But who knows? Some day I might. I never give up on a novel. I just kind of abandon them for, um, a while. Sometimes a really long while.
It’s also true that I rarely go back to these abandoned novels. There’s always a newer, more shiny novel to write.
Other writers do go back to them. I know someone who only got an agent after they pulled out a long forgotten novel, rewrote it, and sent that out. It was exactly what the agent they most wanted was looking for.
However, I would definitely suggest you give up on a novel (however temporarily) if you’ve been writing and rewriting it for years. Particularly if it’s the only novel you’ve ever written. It’s more than past time to write a new one. Who knows maybe in the process of writing a second novel you’ll figure out what was wrong with the first one?
Almost every novelist I know has given up on a novel.2 The important thing to remember is that writing that novel was not a waste. What you learned writing the abandoned novel will help with the next one. Bigger than that: YOU WROTE A NOVEL. You did it once so odds are good you can do it again.
Sadly, the lessons learnt from writing the previous novels don’t always directly apply to the next novel. Usually the lessons are more of a what-not-to-do kind of a thing. You’ve learned not to write novels with only one character locked in an empty room. Maybe you’ve learned about creating believable characters, but sadly not much about world building or setting, because you only had that one empty room to describe.3
Each novel tends to present different problems.4 They do this in order to keep things interesting. Thanks, novels.
So, yes, feel free to give up on a novel. But only once you have a complete draft.
If you’ve never finished a novel before, no matter how much you hate it, no matter how convinced you are that it will never work, you need to see it through to a complete draft. Especially if you’ve never completed a draft before.5Scott has some cogent words to say on the necessity of writing endings as well as beginnings and middles.
It’s also good to keep trying to make a novel work. I know too many (mostly) unpublished novelists who don’t rewrite. Instead of continuing to work on the newly completed draft to make it work they move on to a brand new novel. The problem with doing that is rewriting requires a different set of skills from first drafting. You’ll never write a good novel if you can’t stand to work past that initial draft.
“But I don’t know how to rewrite!” I hear you cry.
TL;DR There is no definitive answer on whether you should give up on your novel or not. It all depends.
None of these novels were unspeakably bad.
Or two, or twenty, or a hundred.
There are many first novels sent in the one room with hardly andy characters that don’t go anywhere. Funny that. About the only successful novel set in one room I can think of is Emma Emma Donoghue’s Room, which totally pulls it off. But then not the entire novel is set in the room.
Unless you’re one of those writers who writes the same book over and over again. If that one book is super popular. Congrats! You are a sure-fire commercial success. We readers love authors who are consistent and don’t freak us out by writing totally different books in completely different genres.
Once you’ve finished a bunch of novels you’ll have a better sense of whether a novel isn’t going anywhere and can put it aside if it’s really not working.
Hey PubCrawlers! So, you participated in NaNoWriMo. First, congratulations on what you accomplished, even if you didn’t (technically) finish. That takes a lot of work, a lot of guts, and a lot of stubbornness. So…what’s next? Let me start by telling you what I’ve learned over my years of participation (and also as a literary assistant).
Sometimes the book you’ve written isn’t one you end up loving enough to keep.
It can hurt to write that many words, only to realize it’s not a story we want to show to the world. But it’s okay to feel this way – every word written is important, regardless of what happens after. Even if it stays in a drawer for years, you accomplished something that helped you grow and learn as a writer. Even the most prolific writers learn something new about themselves every time they write.
A lot of us have this tendency to believe that everything we write should be work-shopped and queried and edited and shaped. But I’ll be honest – I have at least two NaNo novels that have never seen the light of day. They’re not great – structure-wise, they fall apart halfway through. The characters are inconsistent. The story is so-so. And I love that I am the only one who has the privilege of reading them and seeing just how far I’ve come.
Getting to know who you are as a writer is never a bad thing – it’s one of my favorite aspects of this contest.
Don’t query the book on December 1st (or even in December, period).
This one comes from the agency side of my experience. Agents get an influx of queries those first few days after NaNo and it’s usually a sign that a writer is querying his/her NaNo draft fresh out of the contest. I get it – finishing a novel is incredibly excited, and lots of us are guilty of querying too early, NaNoWriMo or no. But if you decide to revise the book and query later, querying too soon means rejections, which means you’ve crossed a handful of agents off your query-able list when it comes to that project.
When revising, an outline works wonders, even (or especially, if you’re a pantser) when the draft is already on paper.
When you write 200 pages or more in a matter of weeks, plot lines can get crossed, characters can disappear, motivations can get muddied, and epiphanies can change the entire trajectory of your book. But what can you do? If you want to finish, you have to keep writing. That is, after all, what NaNo is about – disengaging the part of your writing brain that tells you to edit as you go, and getting the words on paper.
When you outline after the fact, you can see where the events you might have missed should go, where the characters who faded away might re-emerge (or that they aren’t needed, period), and where the dead-ends can be smoothed back into roads.
This tends to be the first thing I do with NaNo novels – it’s the easiest way for me to get on track with revision.
Apply what you learned to future projects.
Before finishing my first NaNoWriMo years ago, I had a hard time finishing a novel. I constantly went back on passages I had just written and edited them, making them absolutely perfect. I felt like, if I could just make this chapter perfect, the rest would follow more easily than if I just wrote anything and everything on my mind.
I was…not entirely correct. Because I spent so much time smoothing and perfecting and correcting, I lost sight of the story itself. Writing another chapter became even harder, because suddenly nothing was as perfect as the chapter I’d spent all that time fixing. So I’d spend just as much time fixing the next one. And the next. And the next. Until finally, the process became boring and tedious and I’d give up.
NaNoWriMo gave me the freedom to simply do what I had to do to finish the race. To get the words out. To write “The End”. And I realized that editing and perfecting and smoothing is so much easier and so much more satisfying when you’re doing it to a finished product. Sometimes you end up rewriting half the book. Sometimes you don’t. But until you make that lump of clay, there’s really nothing to shape anyway.
There are whole communities of people who want to write with you.
And you don’t have to stop when NaNo ends. If you have trouble finding beta readers, critique partners, or just other writers to commiserate with, NaNoWriMo is a wonderful place to meet people. In person, in forums, as buddies, whatever. Whatever you’re comfortable with – the set up is tailored for introverts and extroverts and extroverted introverts alike. Going to a write-in can be so helpful – not only do you got words into the draft, you have the opportunity to exchange information with other people looking to hang out with writers.
It’s okay to not finish the race.
Seriously. This year, I ended November with 35,000 words, and I’m more than okay with that. The most important thing is that you’ve challenged yourself as a writer. Challenging yourself is the whole point of the contest – and for some people, that might mean finishing 10,000 words or 120,000 words (yes, I know some people who manage insane word counts and it boggles the mind). Whatever you’ve achieved, that’s exactly what it is – an achievement. Don’t ever worry that you’ve achieved less than someone else – one word written is still one word more than zero.
These are just a few of the things I’ve learned from participating in NaNoWriMo. I’m intrigued – are there any lessons you’ve learned or wisdom you’ve attained from participating? I know there are a lot more insights than the ones I’ve listed above, and I’d like to hear about them!
Hey, All! Stephanie here, with my good friend and fellow pub-crawler, Stacey Lee. Today, we are so excited to talk about two of our favorite things: writing and fun!
Stephanie: It’s the beginning of November, which means NaNoWriMo has just begun!
I love the idea of NaNo. I love that it’s a race to write fast, and one that everyone can win. So instead of competing, people are rooting for one another. A wide array of authors give inspirational pep talks. Strangers write together in coffee shops. Friendships are formed as people participate in group writing sprints.
NaNo is fun! And I think this is a key reason why it is so enduring. I don’t know about all of you, but whenever I’m feeling particularly stuck, uninspired, or that everything I’m writing is really garbage-y, I think it’s because I’ve forgotten to have fun with it. And I believe it’s nearly impossible to write a story others will love if you’re not feeling any love as you write.
So Stacey and I have put together a list of, Seven Ways To Bring The Fun Back Into Your Writing:
1. Fall in love with words again.
Stephanie: When I was younger, being the super-cool kid that I was, I sat in my room a lot and read my thesaurus. I loved discovering new words. I’d highlight the ones that sounded most interesting then write little stories around them. Sadly, my teachers often informed me I was actually using many of these words incorrectly—but that’s another story.
The point of this story is, I made an effort to uncover new words as if they were treasures to be found. I’m not sure when I stopped (probably around the time I started making friends), but lately I’ve started hunting for words again, and listing all the lovely words that I’d been neglecting. It inspires me—like finding the perfect party dress and deciding to throw a party because of it. Now it’s even easier to re-discover words with awesome sites like thesaurus.com.
I’m also a big fan of McGraw-Hill’s Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions.
This book also has a thematic index. For example, if you’re searching for a term to use in place of liquor store, you’d find: candy store, comfort station, filling station, guzzelry, happy shop, headache department, headache house, juice house, leeky store, LIQ, oasis, thirst-aid station.
2. Commandeer your setting.
Stacey: Stand up, and wiggle your shoulders. Roll out your neck. Now make fists and pump them toward the heavens and say, “I am Master of my domain!”
Now sit back down and examine the world you’ve created. How can you make it better? Don’t settle for what’s ordinary, or expected because when we do that, we put readers (and ourselves) to sleep. Make it more vivid, more memorable. How? By not just adding a crooked door to the cottage, but creating an emotional connection between the crooked door and your character. Maybe every time your character sees the door, she remembers how her dad kicked it down when her mom locked him out. Or maybe the door is always threatening to fall. You can create a lot of layers, and have even more fun with your writing, by commandeering your setting.
3. Let Your Imagination Leap Out Windows.
Stephanie: A couple weeks ago a former student of mine sent me this lovely quote:
Her imagination was by habit ridiculously active; if the door wasn’t opened to it, it jumped out the window. –Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady
When I read this I pictured a bored woman jumping out of a window. But I believe the author is really saying that writers should shrug off anything confining them and take bold daring risks that will bring them to frightening and dangerous places. This goes beyond breaking rules. It’s simple to say, “I don’t care about what everyone says, I’m going to start my book with my character waking up.” But mining deep within yourself, to find a subject that will not only force your reader to see some facet of the world through a different lens but stretch you as a writer, that is something else entirely. This might not be ‘fun,’ but it’s definitely exciting.
4. Find Reasons To Celebrate:
Stacey: I think sometimes we’re running so fast, we forget to stop at the rehydrating stations. Celebrations are one of the ways we can rehydrate, along with eating and sleeping and laughing. I book a spa appointment every time I turn a draft in on time—my own private pat on the back for making my deadline. And speaking of celebrations, Stephanie and I are preparing a celebration for our one-year anniversary on Tumblr because it’s basically an excuse to be merry and giveaway an awesome stash of books.
5. Pick a Theme Song
Stephanie: I know a lot of people do playlists, which are also awesome, but playlists usually encompass a variety of emotions. A theme song should be your anchor to one distinct feeling, which you are excited about threading throughout your entire novel.
For the first book I wrote, Hoppípolla by Sigur Rós was my theme song. It was whimsical and beautiful, and it made me think of make-believe things come to life. Whenever I felt as if my writing was stale, I would put that song on and it reminded me of what I was attempting to achieve.
6. Get into a good story.
Stacey: Nothing helps me rediscover the joy of writing like reading a good book, watching an awesome film or play. When I’ve reached a roadblock, sometimes just reading the words of others inspires me to go back and kick some roadblock bootie. Great stories I’ve experienced recently:
Phantom of the Opera musical (made me want to write a tragic love story!)
The movie The Martian (plotting brilliance)
Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton (the evil scheming ballerinas!)
7. Participate in NaNoWriMo.
We know the month has already started, but it’s not too late to join in the fun.
Now it’s your turn! We’d love to hear any tips you have that might help put the fun back into writing!
That’s all for this week! Next week we’ll have another pep talk for you, plus answering your questions! Comment with any questions you have for us about writing, drafting, motivation, etc. or send us as ask through Tumblr.
A few years ago, we had the pleasure of hosting a wonderful world building Q&A with Julie Czerneda around her then-new release, A Turn of Light. Now she’s back, but instead of us asking her the questions, she turned the spotlight onto the unsung heroes of the literary world: beta readers. In honour of the latest installment of her Clan Chronicles sci-fi series, This Gulf of Time and Stars, we have the privilege to share with you not just a giveaway, but an interview between an author and her trusted second (and third) pair of eyes.
So without further ado, welcome Julie!
Science fiction folks know. What they like and don’t like. Most particularly, they know what they love. All about what they love. I’ve been to conventions. Trust me. You can count me among them for I’m just as cautious about a “new” take on a beloved film or tv series. Hopeful, yes, because I want more. But cautious.
Because, seriously. What if They mess it up?
There’s no mysterious and plural They involved in my books. There’s just me. My publisher, quite rightly, expects me to know what I’m doing. My readers do too. So when I returned to write more about Morgan and Sira, I understood the stakes. I had to get it right. Me. All by myself.
Unless…I had help. What if I could find another set of expert eyeballs? Someone who’d recently reread the first six books of the series. Someone who cared about details. Someone who loved the story enough to tell me if I messed up their hopes for it.
Impossible, I thought, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Having received permission from my publisher to grant access to the unpublished manuscript, I set up a webpage with quiz questions drawn from the series, and launched a Betareader Competition. (You can try it yourself, with answers!)
EGAD! People leapt to participate. It was amazing. I took the top ten respondents and grilled them with a second, tougher quiz. At the end, I’d found my readers. I’m delighted to introduce Carla Mamone and Lyndsay Stuart, winners of a tough job and official betareaders of the first draft of This Gulf of Time and Stars.
Carla Mamone is a newlywed from Ontario, Canada, who loves to relax with a good book, her cat in her lap, and a hot cup of tea. She loves puzzles, the colour pink, and all things furry and cute. Carla earned a Bachelor of Arts in music, studying voice, composition, and music theory. She is currently working as a secretary for her family’s appraisal company, but hopes to soon join the publishing profession editing science fiction and fantasy novels.
Lyndsay Stuart got her start proofreading while working on internal communications for a big player in the Canadian automotive industry. She has worked as a mosquito identifier, is the kind of person who has a favourite lichen (Xanthoria fallax), earned a Tae Kwon Do black belt in Korea and can kick serious butt as a swordsman. She has a husband whom she saved from a bear and two little children who she thinks are the sweetest little monsters that ever were even though they’ve covered the whole house with chocolate finger prints.
Julie: Ladies, whatever made you do all this?
Carla: When I heard about the betareader competition, I thought it sounded really fun and interesting. I’m a very meticulous person, so I knew I could (hopefully) do a good job. Plus, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to work with one of my favourite authors.
Lyndsay: I was spending a lot of time stuck in a chair with a new baby and needed to set my mind to some work or go crazy. It was a chance to use my powers for good. Besides, how could I live with myself if I let the chance go by without even testing myself on the quiz?
Who am I kidding? While all that is true, the draw was the chance to read the book early! I’m terribly impatient and all the work was worth it!
Julie: I have to admit, it was wonderful knowing you were both so excited to do this. But it was work. What did you find the hardest part?
Carla: Not being able to tell anyone about the story. I love talking about the books that I am reading, so it was really hard not to talk about such an exciting story. My husband would ask me what was so funny or why I was crying and I couldn’t tell him about any of it. That was definitely the hardest part.
Lyndsay: The characters and the story aren’t mine so who am I to say when they aren’t right?! It was a bit tough to look at things a little more critically than usual – especially when the story was so interesting & exciting that the last thing I wanted to do was flip back and double check things! In a few places I had to highlight the text and admit that I didn’t understand the reasons underlying particular tensions or a character’s reaction to ::cough, cough:: circumstances.
Julie: Carla, you went above and beyond. I do believe I would have trusted your husband. But thank you for being so good about the non-disclosure thing. (Sorry about the tears, but it did help to know where the story had impact.) Lyndsay, when you showed me what you didn’t get, that was great. Very often I’d been obtuse, or found a different way to tweak. Now, I’ll feel less guilt once you’ve told us what was the most fun.
Carla: Not having to wait until November to see what happens next to Sira and Morgan. I also really enjoyed working with you and Lyn. You’re both so kind, I couldn’t ask for better people to work with.
Lyndsay: I bounce-floated around the house for a month, the surprises in the story are so good! Julie doesn’t just dish out surprises, she’s given us clues about the next book too! I have my guesses and can’t wait until you guys read the book. There is much to discuss.
Julie: Back at you, Carla. And the wait’s over now! One thing I’d asked, and you provided, were any bits you especially enjoyed. Thank you both for those.
The crucial factor, for me, in choosing a betareader wasn’t only expertise, for many people had that, but how well—and quickly–you could communicate my mistakes to me. Time was of the essence, as I had only the gap between my submitting first draft and the final galleys in which to make corrections. You were both amazing, but be honest, how hard was it to squeeze this into your lives?
Carla: The timing actually worked out perfectly. I was in the middle of planning my wedding and was getting pretty stressed and overwhelmed. Betareading gave me an excuse to take a break from wedding planning for a few weeks. So, after I was finished, I was excited to get back to planning and didn’t feel as overwhelmed.
Lyndsay: When this competition began I had a 2 month old baby and a 2 year old toddler, all my reading, studying and annotation couldn’t happen until nap time and I knew Julie was depending on me. Eek! I learned that diapers and reading tablets do not mix with pleasing results.
Thankfully it seems that my real world job experience reviewing written material paid off and for once I got to offer helpful suggestions on something I love. Is this what we call a Unicorn? It’s at least Cinderella getting to go to the ball.
Julie: Congratulations again, Carla! And how lovely being a reader was something good at the time. Whew! Lyndsay, as a person who started full time writing with a 6 month old and a 2 and a bit, I tip my hat. It’s hard enough to get to the bathroom, let alone think. Bravo, both.
Both, you see, because I decided to have two betareaders. (As well as a trusty standby third in case.) Why? Firstly, so you could, if you wanted, talk about me behind my back. The main reason, however, was because I saw from your quiz answers regarding the sample scene that you each identified different problems to bring to my attention. I’m not sure you knew that, but I knew I should have you both. How did you choose what to point out to me?
Carla: I tried to find anything that didn’t match the characters’ personalities or descriptions from the previous novels. I didn’t include anything that was specific only to Gulf, unless I felt that it was necessary.
Lyndsay: Hmm, how to answer without spoilers? For example, there was a section where the timeline had a tiny hiccup. A discrepancy of +/- a few hours doesn’t usually jog a reader out of the story, but in this book I had to point it out. It mattered because the characters can’t go out in the dark so the timing issue created an impossible situation.
Julie: Humbled, I was. Grateful, most of all. Thank you, Carla and Lyndsay, from the bottom of my heart. Gulf wouldn’t be the book it is without you, and you gave me the confidence to send it forth knowing those who’ve loved the series will continue to do so. It’s only fair to let you two have the last word!
Carla: I just want to thank you, Julie, for your wonderful books and for letting me be a part of this one. I had a great time!
Lyndsay: To Julie & DAW, I’m very glad to have gotten this opportunity and thankful to all who helped make it happen.
To you, Readers, I must say that at the end of Rift in the Sky Julie promised all of us we “ain’t seen nothing yet.” Julie knows exactly who and what we love and she’s filled this book up with all of it. Wondering what’s next to come is killing me! Until then it’ll be a big treat to read the final, polished version of This Gulf of Time and Stars.
Julie: Thanks again! A last, last word. (I get to do that.) Invaluable as my betareaders’ expert eyes proved–followed by those of my alert editor, copyeditor, and proof readers–please remember the responsibility for consistency and continuity in the Clan Chronicles is mine alone.
As it should be. Enjoy this new installment!
And now, the giveaway! Enter to win a free copy of This Gulf of Time and Stars, open to participants in the US and Canada. If audio books are more your thing, we’re giving away one of those, too! Listen now to a sample from the audiobook of This Gulf of Time and Stars narrated by Allyson Johnson, courtesy of audible.com
The Clan Chronicles is set in a far future with interstellar travel where the Trade Pact encourages peaceful commerce among a multitude of alien and Human worlds. The alien Clan, humanoid in appearance, have been living in secrecy and wealth on Human worlds, relying on their innate ability to move through the M’hir and bypass normal space. The Clan bred to increase that power, only to learn its terrible price: females who can’t help but kill prospective mates. Sira di Sarc is the first female of her kind facing that reality. With the help of a Human starship captain, Jason Morgan, Sira must find a morally acceptable solution before it’s too late. But with the Clan exposed, her time is running out. The Stratification trilogy follows Sira’s ancestor, Aryl Sarc, and shows how their power first came to be as well as how the Clan came to live in the Trade Pact. The Trade Pact trilogy is the story of Sira and Morgan, and the trouble facing the Clan. Reunification will conclude the series and answer, at last, #whoaretheclan.
Since 1997, Canadian author/editor Julie E. Czerneda has shared her love and curiosity about living things through her science fiction, writing about shapechanging semi-immortals, terraformed worlds, salmon researchers, and the perils of power. Her fourteenth novel from DAW Books was her debut fantasy, A Turn of Light, winner of the 2014 Aurora Award for Best English Novel, and now Book One of her Night`s Edge series. Her most recent publications: a special omnibus edition of her acclaimed near-future SF Species Imperative, as well as Book Two of Night`s Edge, A Play of Shadow, a finalist for this year’s Aurora. Julie’s presently back in science fiction, writing the finale to her Clan Chronicles series. Book #1 of Reunification, This Gulf of Time and Stars, will be released by DAW November 2015. For more about her work, visit www.czerneda.com or visit her on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.
We talk about a lot of things on Pub Crawl – writing craft, the submission process, the editorial process, the industry, and lots of stuff in between. We like to encourage writing by hopefully imparting insight and advice. Lots of people do; bloggers, writers, editors, agents. And at one time or another, you’ve likely seen this advice: Write Every Day. There are no excuses. Do it or you’ll never get better. Practice makes perfect – so practice every single day.
But for many of us, this advice can actually be detrimental to the process because we are going through a different kind of process: Healing. And sometimes, healing means not writing every day, or at all, for a long time. And the biggest key to this is understanding that it’s okay. That your pace may different. That even your writing routine may change. This does not make you less of a writer, nor does it mean you won’t still improve.
Full disclosure: I lost my father in March of this year. I say this not to garner sympathy, but to give some context. It was shocking in many ways, and completely unsurprising in others. But the thing I didn’t expect? How grief really felt, and still feels. How it comes out at strange times, making the rest of your day difficult to get through. It’s a daily struggle, and I am only just beginning to understand that it will be for a long time yet.
The worst of it was, I lost my will to write. For many years, I posted poetry and flash fiction on my blog a couple of times a month. In addition, I did write nearly every day, or revised finished projects, or dashed off a few lines here, a few lines there. A random scene. A conversation between characters. For a long time, I was lucky enough to be full of inspiration.
After March, I still tried to write. But I was dissatisfied with the words, with the content. Suddenly, I wasn’t sure who I was as a writer. What did I even enjoy writing? What stories did I have to tell? Everything was colored by this new way I viewed the world, however slight the difference might have been. I would begin a story, short or long, and see it through to 5,000 words before deciding I wasn’t into it. I’d sit down to dash off a line here, a line there, and end up staring at a blank screen instead.
I read advice that told me to keep writing, to keep doing, to keep practicing OR ELSE. So over and over again I attempted it, and more and more the anxiety over that command made it impossible. And you know what? It wasn’t until I finally allowed myself a break, some time away from the page to actually breathe, that writing finally started to be of interest again several months later. Now, I’m using NaNoWriMo to encourage that interest – but I’m not punishing myself when I don’t hit the word count.
This is not to say I am not still struggling. Every word is harder to write than it used to be, because I’m fighting to understand who I am now versus who I was then. This is the same for those struggling with depression, or even with physical illness. Sometimes the idea that a true writer is one who writes every day, despite the struggle, despite the emotional hardship, is more detrimental to a struggling writer than the idea that we are allowed some time off, or we are allowed to adhere to a schedule that works for us – even if it means not writing daily. We are allowed to back away for a little while, to regroup, to think, to fight.
There is only one “right” way to write, and that is whichever way empowers you as an individual. If the idea of writing is giving you anxiety, remember that it’s okay to take a break if you need one. Writing isn’t going anywhere – it’ll still be there when you’re ready.
I’m certain I’m not alone in this – if you’ve found a way to write through emotional hardships, tell me about it! I’d love to know what you’ve done, or are doing, to find writing in your life again.
This week Kelly and JJ discuss digging deep and finding the will to continue with NaNoWriMo. Also, real talk: we talk about bipolar disorder and depression, and the difference between I Don’t Want To and I Can’t.
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Here’s the thing, y’all: NaNoWriMo is great for getting words on the page, but also remember to be kind to yourself.
My NaNoWriMo ends today.1 The following is what I thought of the NaNo experience, which let’s be honest, is not aimed at someone like me, who’s already a professional writer with multiple novels already published for whom writing is my job. So take it with a massive grain of salt.
I have been writing every day for 56 days in a row.2 Twenty-five of those days took place during NaNo. Before NaNo I was averaging about 300 words a day. During NaNo I averaged 700 words a day.3
I already knew that gamification works on me. I’ve been using Scriveners’ Project Targets for years so that when I reach my word count goal my program congratulates me. Why, yes, I do take a bow.
Obviously, for me the NaNoWriMo word count goal is too high. It’s been at least a decade since I averaged anything like 1,667 words a day. So I went in with the lower goal of 10k words for the month in mind. I passed that goal on Day 12.
I enjoyed watching the word counts of my “writing buddies” going up. There definitely was an increased sense of camaraderie. I am not in this alone! Look at all these other people striving to finish their novels! Look at their bar graphs going up! I would love to have a stats page like the NaNo one for all my novels. I loved that bar graph.
But . . . by the second week the 1,667 words a day expectation was starting to get to me and the ever-increasing words per day in order to finish on time was really freaking me out. The line on the bar graph shows you every day where you’re supposed to be and I was never even close. I only hit 1,667 twice. I was starting to feel like a failure for not hitting 1,667 words a day and falling into the bad habit of typing in order to hit the word count, rather than choosing the right words. I was starting to hate that bar graph.
On day 16 I had a stern talk with myself: Are you a writer, Justine, or are you a typist?
I spent that day reading everything I’d written of this new novel, rearranging and deleting loads of it. It was my best writing day of the month. Not because it was a 1k day but because I was really happy with those words. I’d started to figure out what the novel’s about and where it’s going. I was beaming.
From that day on I went back to my usual practice of starting each writing day by reading over what I wrote the day before, editing it, and only then writing new words. I was back in the rhythm of my novel and feeling happy. I wasn’t thinking about word counts, I was thinking about the novel.
NaNo didn’t work for me because I struggled to get that massive word count goal out of my head. Yes, I wrote more, but much of that excess of words was more typing than writing.
I would have loved NaNoWriMo back when I was a teen writing obsessively and feeling like I was the only one on the planet who was trying to write novels. It would have given me a structure and a community. I would have been in heaven. And, wow, would I have blitzed that measly 1,667 words a day goal. Those were the days when I could write a 5k story in a day without breaking a sweat.4
Also back then I had no clue about rewriting. I thought you were supposed to produce perfection in your first draft. NaNo dedicating January and February to Now What? would have clued me into the whole rewriting thing much much sooner. How lucky you all are!
I won’t be doing NaNo again. I’m too competitive. I really wanted to hit that word count goal even though it would have played havoc with my RSI. Despite my self-pep talk I’m still annoyed I didn’t come close to 50k. But I’m really glad I tried it. I’ve been recommending NaNo for years without actually knowing how it worked. It really is a pretty sweet and easy to use interface.
It’s proven itself over and over again to be just the thing for new writers who keep getting in their own way. Finally, someone is giving them permission to just write! And they do.
It also had the lovely side effect of getting me to check in more frequently with my writer friends on where they are with the latest. Knowing that you’re not alone with your novel, that there other people sweating over theirs, is reassuring. We humans are social creatures. We mostly prefer to suffer together.
The following are some little tweaks I’d love to see on the NaNo pages:
I would love it if you could edit your stats page to put your own word count goal in. Mine would have been 300. It would have made that line on the bar graph far less intimidating.
More writing achievement badges! At the very least one for ever 5k increment would be lovely. The jump from the 10k badge to the 25k badge and then from the 25k one to the 40k one is too steep. More rewards = more better!
I’d also love it if the word counts continued to be visible even after people hit their 50k goal. So instead of just seeing that those writing buddies are WINNERS! you can see that they’ve continued writing. It would be a good reminder that hitting 50k is not the end goal—finishing a novel is. (For those who didn’t know 50k is a very short novel. Most are at least 60k. Razorhurst was 90k. It’s not a long novel.)
TL;DR: NaNo’s fab but didn’t work for me. However, my younger self would’ve loved it.
I’m ending early because I’m off to Adelaide for the historic first day/night test. I can’t wait!
That’s unusual for me. I usually take at least one day off a week but more usually two. I’ve been experimenting to see whether it makes my RSI worse. So far so good. I did have a flare up but that seems to have had more to do with trying a new treatment.
I also stopped blogging for the month of November so the jump in word count is not quite as dramatic as it looks but it’s still pretty dramatic.
Those are the days that led me to having RSI now. But I digress . . .
This poem was first published when I was nine. First in the Newcastle Morning Herald and then later in the feminist magazine, Refractory Girl.1
I can fly.
They say I can’t.
They don’t exist.
I can fly.
They won’t believe me.
They aren’t real.
They can’t understand me
They won’t understand me
They don’t understand me
They say I’m mad
no-one can fly.
I can fly
The day after it published in the local newspaper some of the kids at school demanded that I fly for them. They recited the poem back at me and laughed in my face. I spent the day wishing I’d never written it but also basking in my teachers’ praise.
The next day the other kids had forgotten about it but the teachers were still praising me. Yup, I was still buzzing about being an actual published poet. I enjoyed and was weirded out by the publication and attention thing. Praise = good! Kids laughing at me = oogie!
It was an early lesson in the gap between writing and publication. The writing part is private and often wonderful. Publication and public responses to the writing is a whole other thing. I’ve been doing my best to keep that in mind ever since.
My mother, Jan Larbalestier was part of the Refractory Girl collective. Yup, nepotism got my poem republished. For the record, I didn’t know anyone at the Herald.