Top ten of 2013
I like lists. I like making them, looking at them, and checking them off. Here's a list of ten (writing related) things that happened to me this year that mattered:
10: I received over one dozen partial and/or full requests from agents since May (I am still waiting to hear back from 5 for one manuscript and 1 for another manuscript)
9: I had my blogs read by real authors like Ellen Potter and Tanya Lloyd Kyi.
8: I sat in a room with Diana Gabaldon, Michael Slade, and Jack Whyte for an entire evening. I didn't say much but I nodded like a fool and didn't hide in the bathroom.
7: I connected with an amazing group of fellow writers via Twitter, such as Brenda Drake, Jessa Russo, Rachel Pudelek, Roselle Kaes, Lauren Spieller and so many more I'm probably forgetting but not because they aren't awesome.
6: Rainbow Rowell and Jill Shalvis tweeted me and The Bloggess followed me. All three events made me inexplicably happy.
5: I read Elenor and Park. It matters. It made me want to be better.
4: I met this truly awesome agent that I won't name. She might not be my agent, but she became my friend, which is pretty cool all by itself. Turns out agents are real people.
3: I found critique partners and new friends, Tara and Kelli, that will go beyond writing and be part of what makes 2014 special.
2: My story, A Not So Lonely Christmas, was published in Foreward Lit's anthology, Holiday Spice
1: I self published Forever Christmas via Amazon
Making words matter
Writing has always been something that has come easily to me. I whip off genuine, personalized report cards in a day. I can write a blog post in under ten minutes. I wrote my first novel (without edits) in four weeks. When the story is there for me, it's not difficult to get it down on paper. That's not bragging-- it's just the way I've always written. Having said that, in the past, my writing has always been for me so it hasn't mattered that there were glitches in the plot or character inconsistencies. Now that I'm actively trying to make my stories stand out above others, to make my writing catch the eye of an agent, what was once good has to be spectacular. Good is not good enough and speed doesn't count for anything.
It's difficult to separate yourself from your writing long enough to see the faults and weaknesses. I'm okay with having them and I'm okay with fixing them but the thing that is hard for me is narrowing in on where they are. This is why it's so important to utilize the feedback that anyone, particularly anyone in the writing/publishing/editing/agenting industry, has to offer. The people that I have "met" in the last year through social media and because of putting myself out there as a writer, have been incredibly supportive and kind and positive. I feel as close to some of them as I do to some of the friends that live down the road from me. I believe you can establish strong bonds and friendships via social media and email. It's new age pen pals. The difference, however, is the personal element is removed so they can, perhaps, offer that extra bit of hard criticism you need. Why? Because even though they like all your statuses on Facebook and retweet your tweets, even though you chat more frequently with them than others who live a few minutes away, they haven't seen you cry when you get a rejection letter or laugh like an idiot when you get amazing feedback. They know you but they don't KNOW you. This can be a very good thing for a writer as it allows them to be a stronger critic. There's an element of detachment that comes with online friendship that can only be changed by actually physically meeting. And I hope that one day I get to meet some of the amazing people that have befriended me. In fact, I already have met some of them and it's a pretty awesome feeling when they're just as cool as you thought they'd be. However, until I meet the others, I can let that buffer level of detachment work in my favor. They can be just a little harsher than my best friend who has to put up with me being moody when she tells me what I know is the truth. If they don't want to deal with my irritation over pointing out something that needs fixing, they can move away from the computer. Trust me, my best friend can't. I will show up at her house cause I'm fifty shades of needy and clingy like that.
So the point is, I'm going to spend some time really letting the feedback wash over me, knowing that these people who are offering me pointers and suggestions, for some reason, want me to succeed. I've said it before but it bears repeating: writers are the most supportive, encouraging group of competitors you could align yourself with. I guess it's because there can never be too many books. Or maybe it's because the same story can be told a million different and compelling ways. Whatever the reason, the writer's I've met want every bit as badly as I do to succeed. But they fall over themselves with praise, feedback, encouragement, and their valuable time to make sure I'm right there with them.
For the next little bit, I will be drawing on them to help me make my work the strongest it can be. I will also be checking out as many articles, blogs, posts,and websites as I can. Here's what I'm starting with this week:
Any good sites you'd recommend for character development or building conflict? Share.
Holy writer's block, Batman
I seem to have a severe case of writer's block. I don't believe it's catchy so it's probably self-induced. I'm trying to come up with theories as to why I can't write all the words I want to. Here's what I have so far:
1. I can't actually write and my brain just realized it.
2. I can only think/write in 140 character sentences (I wanted to count that just now)
3. I've watched so many episodes of Good Luck Charlie that I my brain doesn't understand adult romance anymore.
4. There are no more words or original concepts in my head.
However, what I really think it is that I'm in a holding pattern. I'm standing on the edge of the page waiting to see if it'll turn, if I can turn it, or if the book is closed. I'm part of an anthology being released very soon and I'm curious-nervous-excited about how that will go. I have my latest full manuscript, my best one I think, out with six agents by request and a partial of it out with another agent. And not just any agents-- amazing agents. I feel like I'm waiting to see if everyone comes back and says no. If that happens, I have to figure out why. I have to reassess what I'm doing and how I'm doing it. I have to reassess if I should be doing it. My brain might be imposing a self-preserving hold so that if the rejections start coming in on Damaged, I haven't tied myself into another piece of writing that truly matters to me.
Over the last year, I've realized that even when I say I'm going to quit, I don't mean quit writing. I may quit querying and putting myself out there for a bit just to gather some perspective but it's impossible to imagine that I will simply stop writing. It is not easy to put a piece of yourself out there for others to assess and judge. It's also not something I would have imagined myself capable of even eighteen months ago. But the process has made me stronger as a person and a writer. The trick, for me, has been to take the feedback and apply it to my writing. It's hard not to take it personally, because writing is personal, but when you're querying agents you want to stand behind you and your work, it's also a business. They know what they're looking for, what excites them and what they can sell. It is hard to disconnect yourself from your work enough to realize that when they reject your writing, they aren't rejecting you.
So, maybe my writer's block is stemming from my mental preparation to face these facts should the ending not go the way I want. Or maybe my overactive-relentless-non-stop-worrier-brain just needs a break. I'll let you know.
Life vs Twitter
I used to spend time on Facebook. Then it was Pinterest. Now, it's all about Twitter. My best friend had a great status when she started Twitter: Twitter is my new Pinterest which was my new Facebook. I like Twitter. At the moment, I like it a lot because in 'real life' my husband is playing air guitar to Guns and Roses so it's probably better to be looking at the computer screen. I thought I'd see how my life compares to Twitter overall. I couldn't do a fancy Venn diagram like I'd make my students do at school because I don't know how to do that on Twitter, my website, or in real life.
What's your favourite form of social media and why?
There are no words
It would make sense that someone who writes has a plethora of words in their brain, ready to be used in efficient and beautiful ways. This might be true when there is pen and paper or keyboards and screens involved but, for me, when it is time to be verbal, it would seem I have run out of words. Several times, just today, I have had sentences go like this:
While cleaning today, I got upset with my kids twice (or twice x a lot) because they weren't following directions. They answered, "But you said _______!" To which I would then reply, "But that's not what I meant!" Why don't they know what I meant to say? And why can't I say what started out sounding normal in my brain? If you're lucky, you have people that "get" you. They understand what words need to be used in the blanks or when you say the exact opposite of what you really need to say. My best friend calls this "speaking fluent Jody". The more I write, the more important it seems for people to start understanding the language I now speak: the language where I used up all of the good words in my writing and am now left with a very tiny word bank. This bank mostly consists of "um", "you know", "but", "huh?", "uh".
While this might seem amusing, consider my predicament when I'm trying to get my way with my husband or trying to prove to someone that I am, indeed, quite educated. Not easy. Especially since very recently, my verbal genius included pronouncing "ruching" as "rush-et-ing". Yup. As I said, despite having many of them written on paper, there, really, are no words.
Tell me I'm not alone with my inability to form complete sentences when I need to speak aloud. What's the funniest mispronunciation you've heard or said?