Writing

Crap, Crap, Everywhere: How to Find Perspective When You Think the Pages Stink

Yep, I’m still in revisions. And this post is late today (sorry about that!).

I’m at the point where it feels like revisions will never, ever end and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. It was turned off last Tuesday. Or maybe back in December …

Anyhoo, I’ve been going through my pages making notes for yet another round of revisions, and frankly, things are worse than I thought. And when that sort of thing happens – especially when you’ve been working on the same piece for too darned long – it can lead to a slippery “everything sucks” path. Yes, I’ve been there. Many of us have been.

So, how to avoid that slippery-nastiness and stay high and dry on your quest for an awesome rewrite? Here are my five tips to find perspective:

  1. Have someone else look at it.  Sometimes, we’ve read our own words so often that they literally blur before our eyes. That’s where critique partners and groups come in. Polish the pages as well as you can fairly quickly, then send them out.  This gives you distance and time away while they’re in someone else’s hands, and when you get back, you may find out things aren’t as bad as you thought.
  2. Step away from the pages … Yes, I mean you. Leave them the heck alone! Other times, leave the darned thing alone for a little while. If you’re stuck on a particular scene or chapter, beating your head against the same wall day after day will give you a headache. Instead, leave it be and let your sub-conscious stew on things for a day or two, maybe longer. Who knows what it will come up with (though I’m hoping for something awesome.)
  3. Work on something else. Like the first two sections, this is to give you some distance away from the stories, away from the same words you’ve looked at too many times, poked and prodded to no avail. Instead, work on something else – another novel, plotting, flash fiction, maybe non-writing – anything to get your mind flowing out of the stuck-in-peanut-butter section, and towards something more positive and productive.
  4. Remember to highlight the positive as well as negative. If you critique for others, I certainly hope you don’t just point out everything you don’t like about a piece, since that’s a big downer. So remember to point out the bits that you do like, too, and give yourself the same kind of critique you give others.  Remind yourself what is working… and hopefully those sections can survive the revision and get even stronger.
  5. Be nice to you. Yes, let out the annoying inner-editor, but don’t get flayed alive. There will be parts that will suck. A lot. But it can get better, too. You will become a better writer. The scenes will get stronger. So while you’re making note of problems, suggest possible solutions to yourself – just as you would to a critique partner – and try to make your rewrites easier and less painful.

So, was that helpful? How do you make it through revisions, especially a tough revision? Have I missed anything important?

And hey, liked this post? Why not sign up for the blog.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week. As for me, back to work!

The Journey to Publication, Writing

The Power and Danger of “If”

BC2010 Holiday Aug4_10 040“If” is a strange, tiny little word. On it’s own, it doesn’t do much. But give it a dance partner, and it changes everything.
Think of all those “if then” statements from programming.

And of course, the all important “what if.”

What if leads us to wondrous places, flying wherever our creativity can take us. We soar and dance with this statement, ever onward and upward. There are no limits to where “what if” can take us – and then, in turn, our readers, whoever else it touches. “What if” is powerfully contagious.

Of course, his darker brother is, too. “If only.”

While “what if” can let us soar, “if only” plops us right back on our behinds, or mires us in depression. “What if” leads to our dreams, whereas “if only” laments and regrets, depresses us, dampens our dreams and our pscyhes. “If only” leaves us looking sorrowfully back at the “could have beens” and makes us ignore the freedom and possibility of happier creatures, like “what if.”

Funny think, that one tiny little word, the power of “if.” And the danger. Be careful where it takes you.

What do you think? Where has “if” taken you?

Thanks for reading. Have a great week – and may “if” leave you soaring. 🙂

The Journey to Publication

7 Reasons for Hope to Persevere

It’s scarcely 1/6 of the way through the year (17%), and I begin to wonder if I can achieve what I set out to do, if this will be another year when I try hard, but nothing seems to come of it. More rejections, and I fear contest entries were more like throwing away money. In short, self-doubt and depression come calling.

What about you? Have you fallen off the goal-wagon? Are you, like me,  frustrated with your progress in life and career?BC2010 Holiday Aug4_10 055

Don’t be.

  1. There are 10 more months left to reach those goals – that’s 83% of the year.
  2. It’s winter. Everything sucks in winter – that’s not your fault, so don’t let it suck you in.
  3. Spring is right around the corner. No, really. Those snow drifts will melt away just like the resistance you’re feeling right now; bright green buds will sprout, along with new opportunity and hope you didn’t think existed.
  4. Things have to be crappy sometimes so we appreciate when wonderful things happen. That means wonderful things are right around the corner.
  5. Your life is full of blessings and wonderful treasures – even if your immediate goal is still out of reach. Take the opportunity to open your eyes and appreciate what you have, what life is RIGHT NOW, instead of what you want it to be.
  6. Change is hard. Growth can be accompanied by growing pains. Just wait until you see what comes next.
  7. This gully is just part of the road you’re on. You are NOT the road. The vista will look brighter from the top of that next hill.

How do you find and maintain hope?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

The Journey to Publication, Writing

Affirmations for Writers

Last week I was talking about how to climb out of the whirling toilet-bowl of despair, and I suggested making yourself some affirmations. Personally, I found this kind of hard, since it felt a bit corny to me. But, I did come up with – and find – some. To get you started – and share some positive energy – here are some affirmations that maybe will help you, too. Enjoy.

“If you don’t do it this year, you’ll just be one year older when you do.” – Warren Miller

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” – Max Depree

“The greatest rewards in life go to the risk takers.” – James McCormick

“Separate yourself from the road you’re on. The pitfalls are part of the road – NOT you.” – unknown

Today is the day you succeed. No one can tell your stories better than you.

Everyday, and with every word, you become a stronger, better writer.

If it was easy, everyone would be a writer.

I am a talented writer.

I guide my own destiny, and I’m accountable for the results of my decisions and actions. I reinforce my successes and correct for errors. – from Shad Helmstetter*

I don’t wait for inspiration. Work inspires inspiration. If I succeed, I keep working. If I fail, I keep working. Whether I feel interested or bored, energized or tired, encouraged or discouraged, I keep working. – from Shad Helstetter*

I do not pre­sume that my audi­ence will under­stand me, so I make sure to write as clearly as possible. – from Deb Gallardo’s website**

Some great links for writer affirmations:

Margie Lawson.com – Favorite Quotes

*Author page for Olivia Salter – Writer’s Affirmations

**From Deb Gallardo’s page, The Writing Life: Writers’ Affirmations

The Affirmation Spot: 60 Affirmations for Authors, Writers, and Poets

 

Any that you’d like to share? Some that work for you? Please comment below.

Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed, and have a great week!

The Journey to Publication

Crisis and Catharsis: Or, Just Keep Writing, You’re On Your Way

It’s been a heck of a wonky-week. I’ve been reading new craft books, and testing out a new potential CP. CP looks terrific, but both the books and the CP delievered the news (unintentionally, both of them) that what I was taking for subtly is just lack of clarity. Oh, and the plotting isn’t working either because apparently I’ve been doing it all wrong (that I figured out myself after the craft book).

In the end, what this means is that I’ll be able to improve my writing on both a micro and macro level. What it means right now is that I feel pretty down on myself. I mean, really, how didn’t I see this before? What was I thinking? How could I have been so stupid? I must be the worst writer, ever.

Those questions, though, are useless. As they are whenever the evil-voice inside our heads starts beating us up. Because this is just a test, just another step on our journey. And the kind of things we say to ourselves – we would never say such terrible things to another loving being, so why the heck do we put up with saying them to ourselves?

Since it was the crisis portion of plotting I finally realized I was mishandling, it also occurred to me that it was what I was facing in my writing-life, too. But the crisis isn’t the end of everything; just the end of one thing. A mini-apocalypse, if you will, out of which you emerge stronger and changed, headed towards the climax. Because my life (and yours) is not a novel, it means there will be more than one crisis that we’ll face throughout our lives. It will hit us, whack us down like a two-by-four to the face, and it’s our job to shake it off, stand up, and keep on going. Because there’s something better ahead. Because the crisis is just one signpost on a much longer road. The view is blurry ahead, but if we keep putting one foot in front of the other, we’ll get there.

And don’t worry – the bruises will heal.

Take care, happy writing, and hopefully you duck before the two-by-four gets you. Thanks for reading.

The Journey to Publication

Mountain Climbing in a Fog: How Do We Measure Progress?

We all have end goals, some small, some, well,  mountainous. Some goals – and their attainment – is easy to measure and see. Others less so, especially if success is something measured in our heads. That makes some of these goals like mountain-climbing in the fog: we have no way of knowing where we are on our journey, if we’re at the foot of the mountain or inches from the top. But we just have to have faith and keep climbing anyway.

Mountain from BC holiday, Aug 2010
Mountain from BC holiday, Aug 2010; photo taken by me.

Sounds “easy,” huh? 😉

My husband has a new position in the company he works for which is relatively new, and which some days, he feels wholly unequal to. He knows where he wants to go, what he wants to achieve, and while I’m certain he has made progress towards those goals, he isn’t so sure. For him, I’ve found that sometimes he questions his own abilities and qualifications, often under-estimating them. And really, I think this is something a lot of us do, no matter what field we work in. When something really matters, we want to put our very best into it – whether that’s our writing, our office jobs, our relationships, whatever. Sometimes it feels we’re not equal to the task – especially when you hit tough terrain on that mountain. All we can continue to do is value and yet continue to improve our skills, abilities, and selves – perhaps sometimes just our confidence – to make ourselves capable and earn success.

The thing with amorphous goals is that it’s very difficult to see the signposts on the journey upwards. At least, not on the way up. Maybe we’ve drawn a map, and we know we’re fulfilling each point – like publishing, with querying, agents, more manuscripts complete, etc.  Equally frustrating is the old adage that no one’s journey is the same: a maddening adage because it’s so true. We have to set our sights on a mountaintop we more imagine than see; perhaps we don’t even know how tall the mountain – or how long the journey – will be. It’s probably better we don’t. Then we pack up everything we’ll need to get there: every skill and wit we possess; faith that the goal is attainable; friends and loved ones to help us on the way; education material to keep improving the materials we’re working with; and a touch of sheer orneriness to keep us going even when many others would have given up.

Then onward we head, up our mountain, towards our goals, towards our dreams and the promises we make to ourselves.

Sometimes the journey will be shorter than we expected; maybe we picked a short mountain, or maybe we started half-way up. Other times, things will get hard; the top wouldn’t be so special if they weren’t. But we’ll promise ourselves to keep on climbing, keep on reaching, no matter what. And hopefully, when we reach the top, the fog will clear if only for an instant so we can look back at the path we’ve come from and at the vista of our success … or maybe we’ll realize we’ve only reached a partial summit of a bigger mountain, a bigger journey, that we’ve only just begun.

Cheers to all the “mountain climbers” out there – may you keep on climbing, and may you enjoy the view when you get to the top.

Next week, I’ll look at how we can establish particular “markers” to measure (or guess) how far we’ve come.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

The Journey to Publication

Decision Paralysis: Or, You’re Allowed to Screw-up

I’ve been getting ready for the big RWA conference in Anaheim in July, and recently had to make my picks for the “pitch sessions”: one agent appointment, one editor appointment. I’ve done pitches before with a fair degree of success, and in fact, I like doing them. But this year, just the idea of choosing who I should try and make an appointment with made me queasy. Which agent do I pitch to? Which editor? Do I forgo the possibility of pitching to an editor altogether and just stay with the agent? What if I pick the wrong one? What if I’ve made the wrong decision?

What if I screw up everything?

Because there’s the rub: it’s a relatively small decision in the grand scheme of things (ie: I’m only pitching to this agent / editor, I’m not signing a contract instantly on the spot … although that would be both terrifying and wonderful). But, in deciding who I choose to pitch, which agents I query, what I query them with, these are decisions that are steps in my writing career. And, being a perfectionist, I desperately want to make the right ones.What if I overlook the agent who is really the right match for me, and it’s another year or more before we make contact? What if the editor I choose hates my style of writing? What if, what if, what if …

All of which, my clever husband reminds me, is impossible to know. And, you’ll hear from most authors – even the most successful – that they have not always made the best decisions, that they have screwed up … but they’re also still here to talk about it.

Maybe that’s something we can all learn from. Sure, we try to make the best decision we can based on the information we have at the time … even if it turns out to have been a mistake.  Only hindsight and time will tell (barring psychic powers – maybe that’s why I like paranormals.)

The important part of whatever decision we make, whatever action we take, is that we TOOK it.

I could, at this point, probably trot out some quotes about trust in faith / destiny, the importance of moving forward, how we only grow if we act fearlessly, that sort of thing. But I won’t – ’cause you’ve probably heard them, too. And I would love to claim that I’m fearless, but I’m not. I just try and act despite my fear. I’ve made mistakes in the past, and being human, I’m probably pretty likely to make them in the future; hopefully I won’t continue to make the same mistakes. Maybe that’s the best we can hope for.

So, what do you think? Is there a better way? Is action in the face of fear just stupid, or necessary?

Thanks for reading, have a great week, and happy writing.

The Journey to Publication

Acceptance and Publication: A War of Attrition?

I’ve been out querying and feeling a bit down about my writing lately – one of the low points in the ride, perhaps – and my husband suggested that I had to consider the process towards publication like a war of attrition.

I got the feeling he meant I couldn’t simply give up, but I had to actually look up what he meant for a definition this morning. For those of you as “familiar” with this term as I was, here are some definitions:

war of attrition plural wars of attrition [countable]
a struggle in which you harm your opponent in a lot of small ways, so that they become gradually weaker (source: Longman online dictionary)
In game theory, the war of attrition is a model of aggression in which two contestants compete for a resource of value V by persisting while constantly accumulating costs over the time t that the contest lasts. The model was originally formulated by John Maynard Smith[1], a mixed evolutionary stable strategy (ESS) was determined by Bishop & Cannings[2]. Strategically, the game is an auction, in which the prize goes to the player with the highest bid, and each player pays the loser’s low bid (making it an all-pay sealed-bid second-price auction). (source: Wikipedia, along with a much longer and more detailed definition.)
The way he put it, basically you have to continue to query and submit until eventually, you win because the other “player” (in this case the agents and publishers) simply give in.
I’m not sure I agree – in fact, I’m pretty sure I don’t.
While I do believe it’s important that we continue to get our work out there, to never give up (especially on the days you really want to), I think instead of a war of any kind, it’s more like you’re continuing on a hunt for the right “match.” Hmm, instead of a war of attrition, maybe it’s a bit more like the children’s game, Snap – you know, the one where you have a whole bunch of cards facedown, and you turn up one and then go hunting for the matching card. You win the pair if you find the match. If you don’t, you turn them both back over and start again on your next turn.
I suppose my opposition to the progress towards publication being like a war of attrition, is that it assumes a winner and loser, one side eventually admitting defeat; a rejection isn’t a loss, but simply a lack of match.
So, what do you think?
Thanks for reading, and have a great day.
The Journey to Publication, Writing

What Are Your Reasons? : Remembering Why You Persevere

Maybe it’s the dull day, maybe it’s a lot of other things, but I’ve been feeling pretty down about my writing lately, which led me to go back to my list. I think most of us – no matter what goal we strive for and continue to fight to achieve – sometimes feel like the battle is all up hill for too long, and you’re somewhere near the bottom, stuck in the mud (or maybe that’s just me, who knows). Anyway, what helps – and the advice I’ve seen for most long-term goals whether weight-loss or publication dreams – is to make yourself a list of all the reasons you can’t quit. Or if you like, perhaps it’s a list of why you started on the path to your goal. Whatever the case, it becomes a list of why you can’t quit. If the quest for the same goal continues on for a very long time, I imagine some of the reasons may change, or perhaps no longer apply, but they’re still important.

I thought today – since I was looking at it – I’d share my list, perhaps to inspire you to start one of your own. It’s easier than you think, since I’m only asking for ten reasons to start with (if you want to move up to twenty or fifty, bravo, and keep at it). But for now, let’s start with ten. If you’re in the down-swing of mud-slogging, than it may feel pretty hard coming up with any reasons not to quit. So, here’s how to anyway. Start with the title: Ten Reasons Why I Can’t Quit …. [insert your goal – mine was writing]. Then number the page 1 to 10. Then start filling in each number. Allow yourself the freedom of “stupid” or “obvious” reasons – especially for the first few. Just because they’re obvious doesn’t make them bad, and you can replace them later if you come up with something better. But, just fill in those 10. Okay, get started, I’ll wait ….

Okay, did you do it? Do you have your 10? Sign and date it on the bottom – it’s helpful sometimes to know when you last needed this list, and how current it is. Now either post or put it somewhere you can find and refer to easily. Especially on the hard days. And remember, not every day will be a hard day – there are always better ones ahead. And use your ten reasons to keep you strong, or at least keep you pushing along even on the days you are stuck in the mud at the bottom of the hill.

Here are my ten, completed just as I suggested you do yours.

Ten Reasons I Can’t Quit Writing

 

  1. Writing is a part of me. I wouldn’t feel complete or satisfied without it.
  2. Only those who don’t quit, who persevere, can succeed.
  3. It’s my dream to be published, to have readers other than just a close few.
  4. I want to make money doing what I love.
  5. I want to be an example to my children that you can follow your dreams and passion, and succeed: you don’t have to compromise.
  6. I want to be an example to my children of the merits of patience and perseverance (and that there is reward after all the hard parts.)
  7. I want to tell my stories, and I want my voice to be heard.
  8. I want to prove to myself and to those who have supported me that I can stick it out, I can be true to myself, AND I can succeed – and they can, too.
  9. My stories and my vision are unique, and deserve to be shared and showcased.
  10. I want to be one of the few. The few writers who persevere and succeed; the few people who follow their dreams and inner passion; the few people who don’t sell-out or compromise their lives.

–          S.C. Chalmers, August 14, 2011

What are your goals? What are your reasons? Is there a general theme to them? What does it say about you – I showed you mine, so what about you? Please comment below.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

The Journey to Publication

Perseverance or Tenacity: Keep on Pushing

This morning I read a blog post that I wanted to share because I think it’s something we all need to consider, especially if trying to succeed in an industry like publishing, or the arts, or … well really, if you want to succeed at anything, accomplish a particular dream, I don’t suppose it matters what industry you’re in.

Anyway, the blog post is: Taking Perseverance to a Whole New Level by Lara Schiffbauer

For me, it arrived at a fortunate time since it’s the end of the month, and in my accidental-wasn’t-planning-to-make-them goals for 2012, I’m trying to stick to sending out at least 3 queries a month, which usually means it falls on the last Monday or Wednesday of the month. Anyway, sending out things like queries can seem a very daunting task, since it always seems to take far more time than you anticipate, and there is that fear that it won’t get the result you desire anyway.

So, onto the blog post by Lara Shiffbauer. Go read her post first, then come back … okay, did you read it? Did you come back?

Anyway, she talks about the big-brother to perseverance, or at the very least, another close relative: tenacity. This being that you stick to what you’re doing without doubting the principle / reasons why you’re sticking with it. It means you can’t second-guess the quality of your work, the potential for failure (or success), all the insidious kinds of “what-ifs” that can assail us. And as I mentioned before, while “what if” can be a terrific friend when we’re working on a piece of fiction, it’s a dark and wily foe if you bring it into real life (you know, the same kind of thing that makes you wonder the horrible reasons your spouse is late, when really, they’re just picking up milk? Yep, that’s Mr. Not-so-nice What-if.)

Really, if you consider it, the questioning of our style of writing, the quality, the marketability, our potential for success, etc, etc, etc, while we do need to assess this at least a little I think, too much assessment (that becomes obsession or brooding), will quickly become the enemy of perseverance. Afterall, what’s the point continuing to fight onward if you’re just going to fail anyway?

Because you can’t succeed if you give up.

When I gloomily suggest all queries will result in rejections (uhoh – getting into superlative and unhelpful description  like “always” and “never” isn’t good), he’s quick to point out that they certainly can’t say yes if they didn’t get a query.

So, how do you need to keep on pushing? How could blind tenacity help you where perseverance might fail? What kind of queries or cold-calls do you have to make to make sure someone on the other end can say yes?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.