Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Moving Past the Negative

Why are we so willing to believe the negative and forget about the positive?  We could receive a dozen positive reviews about our writing, but it just takes one negative comment for us to break down and cry or to begin doubting our ability to write.  

So how do we overcome these bumps in our confidence?  Here are a few tips (trust me, I have to remind myself of these on a daily basis):

1. Writing is subjective.  There will never be a manuscript that 100% of people will love unconditionally.  We all bring our own experience (background knowledge) into what we read.  I may like someone's plot because I connect with it, but someone else may hate it because it seems ridiculous.  Don't even get me started with characters (just think Team Jacob vs. Team Edward).  So it's unrealistic to think that everyone who reads my manuscript will like it (as much as I wish it were possible).  We can't get upset when someone has different taste than ours.  

Similarly, we all have our own strengths and weaknesses as writers.  Sometimes we're more attune to our weaknesses and tend to look for them in our critique partner's writing (maybe because it's at the forefront of our minds when we write).  Make sure to take the time to focus on your strengths too.

2. We don't have to give in to every criticism.  Just because someone thinks you've done something wrong doesn't mean that you have to change what you've written.  As the writer, you ultimately get to decide what your manuscript looks like.  If a suggestion makes you feel uncomfortable, don't change it.  This even applies to suggestions made by agents and editors.  Of course, you run the risk of losing them as agents or editors, but you shouldn't let anyone force you to make changes that you don't want to make.

3. Don't give up!  Most writers, at one point or another, have allowed their self-doubt to creep in and make them wonder whether or not they should continue writing.  Maybe you gave up a job to become a full-time writer.  Maybe you're sacrificing a couple hours of sleep each night.  Maybe you've spent oodles of money on a writing workshop or retreat.  Don't let one negative comment derail you from your purpose.  Instead, take a step back and use it as a learning experience.  How can you use it to improve your writing?  

What other tips do you have to add?  What do you do to get past the negative?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

In My Mailbox #2

During the past three days, the students at the high school where I teach participated in a poetry slam.  We were fortunate to have some local authors donate their time to help judge: A.E. Cannon, author of The Loser's Guide to Life and Love; Kim Williams Justesen, author of My Brother the Dog; Ann Dee Ellis, author of Everything is Fine; and Carol Lynch Williams, author of The Chosen One.  Thanks again to those wonderful judges!

Two of the authors gave me a copy of their book, which I will place in my classroom library for my students (as soon as I reread them, of course!).  They are the first two books In My Mailbox, a meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren

Everything is Fine by Ann Dee Ellis
The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

I also took a trip to the library yesterday to pick up books that I'd put on hold awhile ago.  I haven't finished reading the books from my last In My Mailbox post, but my hold was about to expire. 

Balancing Acts by Zoe Fishman
Breathless by Jessica Warman
Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder

Now I just have to find the time to read all of these interesting books ... without sacrificing my writing time!

Body Language Blogfest

I admit that I nearly forgot about the Body Language Blogfest, hosted by Harley D. Palmer at Labotomy of a Writer.  Thanks to Roland D. Yeomans for reminding me!  

Below is my excerpt from Again, the Young Adult manuscript that I'm currently revising.  I haven't spent much time revising the chapter that my excerpt is from, so please understand that it's still a work-in-progress (the self-conscious side of me needed that disclaimer).  It was so hard to eliminate all the dialogue and only use body language!

[Excerpt has been removed to protect my work.]

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Rep to Protect

Writing is a roller coaster ride of emotions.  It's easy to succumb to its ups and downs.  We love the thrilling rush of writing the perfect scene, a snappy exchange of dialogue, or a blush-worthy description of our character's first kiss.  

Yet we despair at the constant feelings of insecurity: Will our novel attract an agent or editor?  How much rejection is normal?  Should we give up? 

So how do we prevent our bi-polar emotions from discoloring our online reputation?  

Any interested agent can instantly peruse our online presence through a simple Google search.  Every comment, every post is up for immediate viewing.  Have we displayed ourselves well?

Here's my question to you: What would you consider inappropriate to list on your blog?  Or comment about on another blog?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What Happens Next?

Last summer I participated in the Central Utah Writing Project, a program that helps teachers become better writers and better teachers of writing.

I credit the program and its members for giving me the courage to start writing my first manuscript, a dream I'd had for over a decade.  

During the Summer Institute, A.E. Cannon, author of The Loser's Guide to Life and Love, gave us valuable advice about writing.  She said you should always end your daily writing in a place where you know what is going to happen next.  That way, you won't waste time the next day staring at your computer screen, wondering what to write.

You know what made me think of her advice?  Sitting in front of my screen, wondering what to write next, and wishing I'd followed her advice.  I'm at a point in my novel where I'm stuck.  I've hit the dreaded writer's block.  

What do you do to overcome writer's block?  How do you avoid it?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In My Mailbox #1

To celebrate National Library Week (April 11-17), I've decided to begin my first "In My Mailbox" post.  For those who are unfamiliar with an In My Mailbox post, check out The Story Siren.  Since I read far more books than I can afford to buy, my books come from today's trip to my local library. 


 Boys, Girls & Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman
The Everafter by Amy Huntley
Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison
The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott

So many choices!  Have you read any of these?  What did you think?  Any suggestions about which one I should read first?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Weekly Check-up

Whew!  I did it.  I survived my first week after setting my writing goals.  It wasn't easy, nor did I complete every goal.  But I wrote more than I would've written without the goals, so that makes it all worth it in the end.  Oh, and still no word from VCFA ...

My check-up on last week's goals:
  1. Write 500 words a day for at least 5 days on my current WIP. I wrote 500 words for only 4 days, but now my manuscript has 2000 more words than it did a week ago.
  2. Work on revisions for chapters 9-11 on my previous manuscript. I'm going to a revision workshop in the near future.  When I told my friends that I was going to work on revisions before the workshop, a wise friend told me that it was like washing my clothes before taking them to the dry cleaners.  So I abandoned this goal ... for now. 
  3. Finish critiquing a writing partner's manuscript before my writing group meets on Saturday. I finished all but one chapter on my writing partner's manuscript, but I also read the first chapter of her new WIP (so I think I made up for it).
  4. Submit online. I didn't do this one because I'm not sure my manuscript is ready to be submitted (see goal #2).  Maybe after the revision workshop.
 My new goals for this week:
  1. Write every single day, but at least 500 words on 4 days.
  2. Finish critiquing a manuscript for my group at my upcoming revision workshop.
  3. Read The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman (homework for the revision workshop).
What I learned this week: Even with my goals, time has proven once again to be an elusive foe.  I've learned that I give in to far too many distractions.  Of course, some distractions take a priority over my writing (like my darling children), but I learned that my best writing time last week occurred when my kids were in bed asleep.  And I mean really asleep, not in their rooms awake, preparing to come out every five minutes.  

I also learned that it will not be the end of the world if I don't get into the MFA program that I applied to weeks ago.  Everyone had great suggestions of how I can work on improving my craft, namely practice, practice, practice. Thanks for all the helpful suggestions!

Happy Library Appreciation Day!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Revision Tip

At ... and this time, concentrate!, Summer introduced me to Wordle, a website where you can post an entire manuscript and it will visually display the words you use the most.

To better see my Wordle results for my WIP Again, click on the image below.  

Wordle: WIP: Again

Wow, what an eye-opener!  I'm aware of some of my overused words, but others surprised me.  Now I can go through my manuscript and utilize the "search and edit" function to change these words.  

Thanks Summer for this great revision idea!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Still Waiting ...

Still no word from VCFA*. But that's OK ... now that I know I'm not the only stalker out there. (But I do feel sorry for postal workers worldwide!)

Thanks for all the encouraging words and suggestions. It's a relief to know that I'm not alone, that there are plenty of impatient writers like myself.

I'm discovering one major downside: my confidence keeps slipping lower after each disappointing trip to my mailbox. I keep questioning my writing ability and whether or not it's up to the standards of an MFA program.

No matter what, even if I don't get into VCFA, I refuse to give up. It just means I may need to take a few steps backward and work on becoming a better writer.

So, here's my question: Where do you go to improve YOUR craft? Are there any excellent books or online classes that you would recommend?

Just in case. Of course, still keep your fingers crossed for me!

*Update: The admissions counselor emailed me and said they had more applications than they'd expected, so it could be another week or two until I receive something in the mail. I guess that means I can postpone the mailbox watch for a little while.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Search for Sanity

I've started stalking my postman. No, really. I mean, does it have to take an entire hour to stuff the mailboxes in my neighborhood? That's just counting the time I arrived home from work. Who knows how long he was out there before I saw him.

I'm not normally a stalker. I promise.
You see, at the beginning of March, I sent in my application to the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. The admissions counselor advised me that I would hear back from them in 4-6 weeks. It's now Week 5; hence, the close relationship with my mailbox. (Actually, it started after Week 1, but who's really counting?)

My impatient waiting has made me question my ability to stay sane when I finally begin the querying process later this year. I know that it could take months (or years!) of querying before I receive a favorable response.

How do you all stay sane throughout the process? I'd really like to stop stalking my postman. (I'm sure he'd like it too!)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Thanks and Goals

I owe a great big thanks to all of you who commented on my blogfest entries! All the thoughtful comments were filled with encouragement, which I greatly appreciated. Even better, the number of followers on my blog more than tripled this weekend. As a newbie blogger, my heart sings to see all those who showed an interest in my blog! I can't wait to be one of those bloggers who celebrates having 100 followers.

Thanks to the example of Crystal Cook on her blog Write Because You Must, I'm going to start setting weekly goals. They seem more manageable than monthly or quarterly goals because I tend to procrastinate. I commend all of you who manage to write 1,000 or 2,000 or 3,000+ words per day, but I'm not there yet. As much as I'd love to be able to write that much, I know that if I set my goal too high, I'll give up before I even begin. Besides, I haven't written since the March Marathon on Throwing Up Words, so any word count will be better than my current situation!

This week's goals:
  1. Write 500 words a day for at least 5 days on my current WIP.
  2. Work on revisions for chapters 9-11 on my previous manuscript.
  3. Finish critiquing a writing partner's manuscript before my writing group meets on Saturday.
  4. Submit online.
I can do this, right? What weekly goals you set for yourself? (For when I begin to aim higher, of course.)

Friday, April 2, 2010

First Page Blogfest - Part Two

I figure that while I'm exposing myself with my first manuscript, I might as well do it with my second one too (see previous post for more information).

Below is the first page of Over the Edge:

[Excerpt has been removed to protect my work.]

First Page Blogfest

I ran across an interesting idea today: a First Page Blogfest hosted by Kelly Lyman. Basically, it involves posting your first page of your WIP and letting readers comment about it. I've done this several times on Miss Snark's First Victim ... but anonymously. I know I need to develop a thicker skin, so I'm crazy enough to try this. Please feel free to provide as much constructive criticism as you'd like. Being the nervous sort, I do have to add a disclaimer: this is still a work in progress, so please don't expect perfection. :)

Okay ... (deep breath) ... below is the first page of Again:

[Excerpt has been removed to protect my work.]

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Big "R"

Revision. It's a word that makes my students groan ... every time. To them, when they finish a first draft, it's their last draft. I used to be the same. Mostly because it was a writing assignment that I didn't enjoy. Once I got to the final period, I was finished. Period. :)

Not anymore. I've learned to love revision. It's my chance to fine tune every word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, and so on. I've lost count of how many times I've revised the first 1-2 pages of my manuscript. I jumped into the hook faster, I changed the tense from the past to the present to the past again, I made it less telling and more showing, etc. Each time I revise, I'm confident that it's so much better.

And then I discover another error I've made.
Sometimes I wonder if the revision will ever end. I know that my manuscript needs to be the best it can possibly be before I seek representation and/or publication.

So, here's my question to my wise readers: How do I know when my revision is finished? Or will it ever finish? Will I ever be fully satisfied? I know, that ended up being more than one question, but I'd really love some advice!

In the meantime, I'm sure I find find something else to revise.