My Week In Review – ROW80 Check-In 6

Hello gentle reader,

It is time for another weekly check-in! I hope you had a great and productive week. Mine was… crazy.

Quote of the Week

“I think I’ll try defying gravity.”

Wicked, The Musical by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman

Trying to get traditionally published sometimes feels like trying to defy gravity. This week I received one too many rejections and was tempted to throw my flying broom in the fire. But then I didn’t, partly thanks to the support of Jessica Montgomery, Rhiann Wynn-Nolet, Kate Michael, Rachel O’Laughlin, Juliana Haygert and Rachel Horwitz. These ladies are awesome and I’m so grateful I have them…

Picture of the Week

EM Castellan- Russell Hotel

Hotel Russell, Russell Square, London

I went to London this week, and I stayed at a beautiful Victorian hotel. That was quite fitting, since I’m working on a novel set in Victorian London…

Word Count of the Week

This week I had some time off work and I added 9000 words to my Work In Progress, which means it is now at 18,000 words. I’m very pleased with that.

TV Show of the Week

DowntonAbbey

Downton Abbey (ITV)

Slowly but surely, I am catching up on the latest seasons of this awesome show…

Film of the Week

Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies

I went to see it last Friday and I loved it! Such a fun, adorable and thought-provoking movie.

Good News of the Week

This week, Rachel O’Laughlin decided to self-publish her Epic Fantasy and wrote an excellent post about it.

ROW80 Check-In

ROW80 Logo

My goal for this round is to write every day. This week again I managed to write

4 days out of 7.

Links of the Week

On my blog I posted about movies that taught me something about writing, and I added pictures of handsome actors. It was Valentine’s Day after all this week.

On There And Draft Again this week, Mara shared some World Building Resources and I gave advice on how to write a 200-word pitch for a Fantasy novel.

On her blog, Emily Wenstrom interviewed the awesome YA writer Aimee L. Salter about her creative process. Worth a read!

Literary agent Carly Watters posted about When to revise your manuscript and when to keep submitting It was exactly the post I needed to read this week.

And YA author Maggie Stiefvater revealed the cover of the sequel to The Raven Boys here.

Next week

Next week on my blog I shall take part in the Thursday Children meme for the first time. It’s “a weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them.” I’m very excited about it…

How was your week? Make sure to share your writing progress and what inspired you this week in the comment section below!

My Week In Review – ROW80 Check-In 5

Hello gentle reader,

It is already time for a weekly check-in. I hope you had a great week (despite the snowstorm for those of you who are on the US East coast!). Mine was busy and productive…

Quote of the Week

“Despite herself Winnie was looking at life as if for her book. She was double-living through a day with genuine concerns because the needs of her fictions were as strong as those of her life, or stronger.”

Lost by Gregory Maguire.

That pretty much sounds like me at work this week…

Picture of the Week

M.LIN London 1849

London – A Clock (by my friend M.LIN)

I’m still working on my YA Historical Fantasy, which means I’m still obsessed with Victorian London…

Word Count of the Week

This week I added 5000 words to my Work In Progress, which means it should now be at 11,000 words. However since I deleted 2000 words (I realised one character could be taken out of the story without harming the plotline) it is now at 9000 words.

TV Show of the Week

Ripper Street

Ripper Street (BBC)

This mini-series is set in Whitechapel (London’s East End) in 1889, six months after the Jack the Ripper murders. I find it highly enjoyable, and I can pretend it’s research… 🙂

Good News of the Week

This week, both Brianna Shrum and Emmie Mears got an agent!

Reading their post recounting “how they did it” is quite inspirational, I recommend it.

ROW80 Check-In

ROW80 Logo

My goal for this round is to write every day. This week again I managed to write

4 days out of 7.

Music of the Week

snow-white-and-the-huntsman

Finding a relevant music to my Secret WIP has proven hard.

This week I have listened to the soundtrack of Snow White and the Huntsman (by James Newton Howard) quite a lot, and I like it.

Links of the Week

On my blog I made a list of 5 books I think should be movies. Stop by and let me know which book you’d like to see turned into a movie.

On There And Draft Again this week, Jessy tackled The Creation of a New World: Believability and Raewyn discussed The Role of the Epic Fantasy in a Byte-Sized Future.

On her blog, Authoress Anon wrote a beautiful post about writing the story you want: The Story Inside You. Read it.

If you need motivation to write every day, Twitter sprints are a good way to get writing along other writers. I especially like Lauren Garafalo’s #ROW80 sprints (twice a day) and Susan Dennard’s  #BAMFWordBattle (all day long when she is on a deadline!)

And finally, because your week wouldn’t be complete without this picture:

Wedding dress and bouquet made entirely from the pages of The Princess Bride

Next week

Next week on my blog I shall be discussing how having a crush on an actor can make your book better. The post will thus include pictures of handome actors. Hey, it’s Valentine’s Day on Tursday after all…

How was your week? Make sure to share your writing progress and what inspired you this week in the comment section below!

ROW80 Check-In 1- Writing a first novel by Marie Lu

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Hello gentle reader,

It is time for my first ROW80 check-in of this round. As a reminder, my goal for this round is simply to Write or edit every day.

I don’t know about you, but this week went by really quickly to me. I started my new position at my day job and it was quite time-consuming. In my spare time I wrote a couple of blog posts, went to see Les Miserables at the theatre and rewrote my query letter. But I didn’t find the time to work on my novels, which I intend to do this week. Finally my blog received the Lovely Blog Award and you can read all about it here.

Now if you’re new to this blog, know that each Sunday, I share an inspiring story with you to keep us motivated for the week to come. This week I’m sharing YA author Marie Lu‘s tale of her Very First Novel. She published this post on Publishing Crawl in November 2012 and I thought you might find it interesting… Enjoy!

Marie Lu-Legend

“I’m talking about my very, very, very first novel. You only have one first novel–not your first published novel, but the first one that you are able to write “The End” on. I know that for the most part (unless you are Stephenie Meyer!), first novels don’t end up going anywhere except for the back of your closet or the Archives folder on some old hard drive. And for the most part, this is a good thing. But I’ve always felt a certain rosy fondness for first novels–not just for my own, but for others’. It’s usually that first novel, however bad (or good), that teaches us that we want to become writers. It’s the one that makes us realize that we can do it. The dream is possible, at least according to our word count.

 Here’s the story behind my first. […]

That first novel was a high fantasy titled The Wings of Heaven. I’m still not sure why I called it that, since it had nothing to do with the story. It was about a young, orphaned (of course) knight’s apprentice named Pher (pronounced “Fair”) Artemsrough who aspired to become a knight and who loved the kingdom’s red-haired princess. One day, a beautiful woman came to the kingdom and told him that he was the Chosen One, and that she was on a quest to bring him to the far reaches of the world so that they could find a shiny ancient object that would tell her what his role in a prophecy was. I can’t even remember who the bad guys were in this story, but there were definitely some bad guys. I think. Along the way, the beautiful woman and Pher picked up a ragtag team of elves, thieves, and assassins that all happily joined them on this quest. There were also some children that could breathe fire, some powerful sorceresses, and a snowy cave called The Dark of Night.

It was 160,000 words. Yeah, I know.

Of course, fifteen year old Marie was completely oblivious to all of this thing’s flaws. I worked on it obsessively. Every night, I’d set my alarm clock for 2 AM, wake up, stuff a bathrobe under my door so that my parents wouldn’t see lamplight leaking from the bottom of the door, and then write quietly until the hour right before dawn. I wrote notes in my schoolwork and drew pictures of my characters on the margins of my homework. I posted chapters of it onto a personal site that I shared with my closest childhood friend. I spent a great deal of time lost in the whimsical haze of First Book Euphoria. I promised myself that I would finish it. I will never forget typing “The End” on that manuscript–I leaned back in my bedroom chair at 3:30 AM, stretched my arms up high, and smiled so hard that I thought I might break.

It was a terribly written story. I loved it with all my heart. I learned from The Wings of Heaven that I could finish a novel-length book, that I could carry characters from point A to point B (however badly), and that I could keep a promise to myself. I learned that if I wanted something badly enough, I would find the time to work on it–even if it was in the middle of the night.

Of course I went on to submit it to over a hundred literary agents, and of course they all soundly rejected it. I don’t think I even had a single request for sample chapters–that should tell you something about my query-writing skills. I remember crying over some of those rejections, laughing over others, stuffing them all in a big manila envelope (which I still have), and then pushing stubbornly onward. The thing is, looking back, my naivety was probably my greatest advantage. Had I actually known how difficult it would be to get published, I might never have finished that manuscript. I never might have been able to face getting rejected. And writing another manuscript. And getting rejected. And writing another. And getting rejected. And another. And another. If I hadn’t been so naive, I might have stopped right there. But I was so young, arrogant, optimistic, ignorant, and hopeful, and because of that, I was able to convince myself to write “just one more.” Most importantly, I was able to figure out over time that I wanted to write stories regardless of publication, that I loved it and that it was a permanent part of me.

This is why I love first novels, in all their imperfection and wonder.”

What was your very first novel like? Did you try and get it published? And how are you other ROWers doing after this first week? Feel free to leave me a comment below!

Here is the Linky to cheer the other ROWers on if you wish to do so.

ROW80 Round 1 – Goals!

ROW80 Logo

Hello gentle reader,

January 7th, 2013 (that’s today!) is the official start date for Round 1 of A Round of Words in 80 Days (aka ROW80). I have decided to join this writing challenge for the fourth time. Created by Kait Nolan, ROW80 is “the writing challenge that knows you have a life”, or “the challenge that champions the marriage of writing and real life.” Unlike NaNoWriMo which runs for only a month, each ROW80 round runs for 80 days and the participating writers have to set themselves writing goals for that time. Each Wednesday and Sunday, we check in and let the others know how we are doing. The idea is to form writing habits that writers will hopefully continue once the challenge is over.

As you may know if you follow this blog, my daily life is pretty crazy. I have a day job that keeps me extremely busy, I travel a lot and I read tons of books. Fitting some writing time in my schedule is a challenge, but I’m still very intent on getting published one day.

So here are my goals for this round (and yes, I know they are the same as the last round’s, but if at first you don’t succeed…) :

Write or edit every day

Writing – Write a short story, and continue writing the first draft of The Cursed King

Editing – I’m currently querying The Last Queen, and I keep this goal in case someone (!) asks for a revision…

This First Round starts today and will end on Thursday, March 28th. Every Sunday I post about an author’s successful journey into publishing. Make sure to stop by if you need motivation to keep writing!

If you would like to join in this writing challenge and become a part of the ROW80 community, here are the rules:

  1. Post a goals post in which you lay out your goals for this round.
  2. Post a check-in post every Wednesday and/or Sunday, in which you share your progress with the other ROW80 participants.
  3. Comment on other participants’ check-in posts.

Here is the Linky for the other participants’ posts. What are your ROW80 goals for this round?

ROW80: Final Check-In

ROW80 Logo

Hello gentle reader,

And we’ve come to the end of this 4th round of A Round Of Words in 80 Days (aka ROW80). My goal for this round was to write or edit every day and I’m pleased to say this has been my most productive round so far (this was my third participation). For at least 6 weeks I had a 100% sucess rate and even in the last few weeks, when work really got crazy and I couldn’t find the time to write every day, I did get a lot done.

So this round, I have:

– edited my WIP The Last Queen (thanks to a few awesome CPs and beta readers) and started querying it.

– added a few chapters to my two other WIPs.

– took part in the launch of a new blog along some writerly friends. The blog is called There And Draft Again and you can check it out here.

Here I’d like to thank Juliana Haygert and Lauren Garafalo for cheering me along during the Twitter sprints. You ladies are awesome!

See you all next round!

In the meantime, keep writing…

ROW80 Check-In 9: Marie Lu on dealing with Writer’s Insecurities

ROW80 Logo

Hello gentle reader,

I can’t believe it’s already time for another ROW80 check-in! My goals for this fourth round are as follows: Write or edit every day.

So this week was crazy. I think I wrote every day but I have been doing so many different things I can’t be sure. What I did do was launch a blog alongside some lovely ladies (Raewyn Hewitt, Jessica Montgomery, Mara Valderran, K.L. Schwengel and Rachel Horwitz). Our blog is called There And Draft Again: A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers and I hope you’ll be willing to hop over there and support us. There’s a giveaway for our first blog followers. Alternatively, you can follow us on Twitter.

Now, on to an inspiring story to keep us going this coming week. Today I’m sharing Marie Lu’s take on Insecurities. She published the following post on her blog in February 2011, back when her best-selling dystopian novel Legend was still unpublished. I found this post especially fitting this week because I’m querying The Last Queen and I’m not feeling very confident about my writing at this time…

 Marie Lu-Legend

“Artists and writers tend to be fragile creatures by nature. Our work is a piece of our passion cut out and put on public display for the world to see, and we wait with our hearts in our throats as others analyze that work. Sometimes we achieve the ultimate goal: entertaining our public by making them react in an emotional way (joy, sadness, anger, enlightenment, even disgust–depending on what we’re aiming for). More times than not, we’re greeted with our greatest fear: the public’s disappointment, the public’s accusations that our work is a ripoff of something else, or the worst of them all…..the public’s silence.

I have to admit: I’ve never been a very secure person. I wish I could say that I’m confident in the quality of what I do, that I don’t care what others think as long as I’m happy with what I’ve created. But I can’t. I care very much what others think of both my artwork and my writing, and when I’ve disappointed viewers and/or readers, I feel ashamed that I let them down. And as the clock ticks gradually down to Legend’s November launch, I’ve learned something else: a book deal does not cure insecurity. In some ways, it makes it worse. Am I capable of pulling off three consecutive books all featuring the same characters and the same world? Am I smart enough to create prodigiously intelligent characters? Will I be able to make my readers fall in love with my hero and heroine? Some days I can answer these questions with an upbeat “yes, like Obama, I can!”. Other days, I will re-read my words-in-progress and think, “This is trash. This is drivel. Reviewers are going to eat me alive when this comes out.”

In the end, all I can do is put everything into my writing/art and hope that what comes out is something that the public will like. I do know one thing: Legend is the best story I’ve ever written. Which is nerve-wracking. I remember telling myself as it first went out on submission that if Legend couldn’t make it, then there was a good chance that nothing I write would ever make it. It’s my best effort (up until this point, at least). Whether or not that effort is good enough will remain to be seen.”

How are other ROWers doing? Here is the Linky to support each other!

ROW80 Check-In 8: 5 Writing Tips from Laini Taylor

Hello gentle reader,

It is already time for another ROW80 check-in! My goals for this fourth round are as follows: Write or edit every day

This week I was waiting to hear from my beta readers on The Last Queen after my latest round of edits, so in the meantime I did something which has nothing to do with my Darklands trilogy. I dug up an unfinished first draft and added some 5000 words to it, and it was a lot of fun. I also worked on my query and researched agents. Finally I worked on a Super Secret and Super Exciting Project (code name TADA): you’ll find out all about it on 1st December!

Now, on to an inspiring story to keep us going this coming week. Today I’m sharing Laini Taylor’s writing tips. The following article was published on the Publishers Weekly website on 16 November 2012. In case you’ve missed it, here it is:

Laini Taylor‘s Days of Blood & Starlight (the follow-up to Daughter of Smoke & Bone) is filled with dazzling writing, not to mention fantasy, suspense, and a page-turning story. Take notes, because Taylor’s sharing her 5 writing tips.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a small child, but I was thirty-five before I finished my first novel, because I have issues with perfectionism. It took me a long time to learn to finish what I start, and I’ve developed a lot of tools and tricks for keeping myself moving forward through a story when a big slice of my brain wants nothing so much as to stop and rewrite everything I’ve already written. It can be exhausting, but the upside is that I love to revise. The main thing I’ve learned is that we all have to learn to work with—and appreciate—the brain we’ve been given, and not waste time wishing things were easier.

1. Know what you love. Try imagining the book that would light your heart and mind on fire if you came across it in a bookstore—the one that would quicken your pulse and keep you up all night reading. What would it be? Details, details: when, where, what, who? Think it up, imagine it fully, then bring it forth. That’s the book you should be writing.

2. Never sit staring at a blank page or screen. If you find yourself stuck, write. Write about the scene you’re trying to write. Writing about is easier than writing, and chances are, it will give you your way in. You could try listing ten things that might happen next, or do a timed freewrite—fast, non-precious forward momentum; you don’t even have to read it afterward, but it might give you ideas. Try anything and everything. Never fall still, and don’t be lazy.

3. Eliminate distractions. Eliminate Internet access. Find/create a place and time where you won’t be bothered. Noise-canceling headphones are great. Hotel-writing-sprees are even better if you can make that happen every once and a while: total dedicated writing time. During my second draft pass on my last book I made 20,000 words happen in a week, which is practically supernatural for me, and it would never have been possible without three nights in a hotel in my own city. It’s an incredible splurge, and a huge liberation, and you might just deserve it!

4. Get your characters talking. Dialogue is the place that books are most alive and forge the most direct connection with readers. It is also where we as writers discover our characters and allow them to become real. Get them talking. Don’t be precious. Write dialogues. Cultivate the attitude that every word you write need not end up in the book. Some things are just exercises, part of the process of discovery. Be willing to do more work than will show. The end result is all that matters. Be huge and generous and fearless.

5. Be an unstoppable force. Write with an imaginary machete strapped to your thigh. This is not wishy-washy, polite, drinking-tea-with-your-pinkie-sticking-out stuff. It’s who you want to be, your most powerful self. Write your books. Finish them, then make them better. Find the way. No one will make this dream come true for you but you.”

How are other ROWers doing? Here is the Linky to support each other!

ROW80 Check-In 5 : Claire Legrand on How To Come To Terms With Your Writing

Hello gentle reader,

And it is time for another ROW80 check-in! My goals for this fourth round are as follows:

Write or edit every day DONE

Editing – Finish my current round of editing for The Last Queen, get my manuscript critiqued and beat-read, then edit some more.

DONE: This week again I have been editing every day.

Writing – Write a short story, and continue writing the first draft of The Cursed King

I didn’t do any writing this week since I was focused on editing The Last Queen.

So this was another good writing week for me and I’m still happy with my goals. This week I also posted on my blog two posts you might enjoy: my Halloween reads recommendations and a discussion on the popularity of YA High Fantasy novels.

Now, on to an inspiring story to keep us going this coming week. Today I’m sharing YA author Claire Legrand’s tips for writers. Claire’s debut novel THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS came out in August 2012.

“When I first started writing, I spent a lot of time online researching what writers should and should not do. There are many rules floating around out there dictating what supposedly makes for a good writing process and a bad writing process, a good writer and a bad writer, a book that will sell and a book that won’t.

Some I have encountered are:

  • You must write every day.
  • You should NOT write every day.
  • You should write [insert number of choice] words per day.
  • You should make a writing schedule and stick to it, absolutely no excuses.
  • You should be writing [insert number of choice] books per year if you ever hope to make a living in this business.
  • You must write at this pace.
  • No, this pace.
  • No way, THIS pace. Slackers.
  • You should write at least one million words before even thinking of querying an agent with a manuscript; before then, you’re not ready.
  • You should create an account for THIS social media service, and THIS one, and THIS one too, and post THIS many times a week.
  • You should blog regularly, on a set schedule, and stick to it. If you blog irregularly, you’re a bad blogger/writer/human being.
  • You should use Scrivener.
  • No, you shouldn’t.
  • You MUST outline, in detail.
  • You MUST outline, but only the main plot points.
  • Eh, you don’t need to outline.
  • You should plan your book around this method of story structure.
  • No, this one.
  • No, those suck, THIS one.
  • You should query one agent at a time.
  • You should query five agents at a time.
  • You should query ten agents at a time.
  • Your book should be between [number] and [number] words long, and anything else won’t fly.
  • You must use critique partners.
  • Your first drafts should look like this.
  • You should only have to do [insert number] rounds of revisions; anything more, and something’s wrong with you/your book/your soul.

Frankly, these shoulds and shouldn’ts start contradicting each other pretty quickly, and it can make a fledgling writer feel pretty lost. Heck, I’m all fancy and published now (and I say that tongue-in-cheek because there’s not much that’s fancy about it, and also, I still don’t feel like I know what I’m doing), and reading these kinds of statements STILL makes me feel pretty lost. They also, if I focus too hard on them, make me feel like I’m doing everything wrong when I can look at what I’m producing and rationally know that I’m not.

Rules can be a good thing. As Victoria Wright might say, rules help the world run just so.

But writing is not always a quantifiable activity. Much of it is instinct, luck, and plain old dogged persistence, whether that’s rigidly scheduled in a spreadsheet or just crammed into whatever spare thirty minutes you can find as your day allows it. And much of what works and what doesn’t for one person’s writing doesn’t translate to the next person. Therefore, I would say that many of the so-called universal writing rules we might see in blog posts, online articles, and tweets are really just what the author has found to work for herself, or for her friends, or for the majority of people within her peer group.

But that doesn’t mean it has to–or will–work for you (or for your book).

Such a statement seems elementary enough (everyone’s different! we’re all unique snowflakes!), but I still have a hard time accepting it. I’m a person very influenced by others, for good or for ill. This means some of my most productive writing days are when I’m “sprinting” online in the company of friends; this also means that other’s successes, failures, methods, and “musts” all have a way of affecting me deeply. I start to think I’m not doing enough or that I’m not doing it right, and then I lose confidence, and then I sit there staring at a blank Word document while scarfing down a box of Cheezits.

The thing is, I don’t do half the things on that list up there above.

I don’t use Scrivener; I have a notebook in which I scribble random thoughts. The rest is done in plain old Microsoft Word, with a lot of world-building and character notes jotted down in Notepad.

I don’t use critique partners. There is one good writer friend whom I trust to look at my unpolished work, but beyond that, no one looks at my books before my editor except for me and my agent.

I outline in detail, but I don’t have a set writing schedule every day, nor do I log my word counts or have micro-goals of any kind. I tried doing that, but it didn’t work for me because if I didn’t meet a goal for the day (or the week) I felt like a failure, and my work suffered for it. Instead, I shoot for big goals (finishing the book by this date) and as long as I meet that big goal, what happens until then doesn’t matter.

I write long what I call “zero drafts” (that is, the first ever draft of the book, before I make preliminary cuts, before I send to abovementioned good writer friend, before I send to agent). And when I say long, I mean long. And even beyond that, once a book has gone through revisions, it’s still on the longer side. I’m just plain wordy (as you can tell by reading this post and really my blog in general). (…)

What does this say about me and my writing?

Absolutely nothing. Except that I write long and then cut back during revisions. It does not reflect on the quality of my writing, the effectiveness of my methods, or how I measure up against the writing and methods of others.

Likewise, my method of outlining, my writing schedules, the fact that I only have one beta reader, etc. etc., means nothing except that this system is what works for me and my books. End of story.

You hear that, brain??

So I’m going to tell you this, in hopes that myself, through writing it, will soak in the reminder (and because I know there are others out there who, like me, doubt and compare and wonder if they’re nuts or stupid or somehow wrong for writing like they do):

The way you write is not necessarily how others write.

Your books are not going to be as [insert adjective of choice] as others’ are.

Your writing will be just that: how you write.

Your books will be just that: your books (and no one else’s.)

Know this, accept this. The sooner you do, the sooner you will come to terms with your writing. And the sooner you do that, the sooner you can get to writing that next book (and the next one, and the next . . . ), no matter how long/short/bracketed/messy/outlined/pantsed/critiqued/Scrivenered/Worded/slowly written/quickly written/ it ends up being.”

How are you other ROWers doing? Here is the Linky to support each other!

ROW80 Check-In 3: Bree Despain’s Writing Tips

 

Hello gentle reader,

And it is time for a third ROW80 check-in! My goals for this fourth round are as follows:

Write or edit every day

Editing – Finish my current round of editing for The Last Queen, get my manuscript critiqued and beat-read, then edit some more.

I haven’t done any editing this week since I’m waiting to hear back from my CPs and beta readers.

Writing – Write a short story, and continue writing the first draft of The Cursed King

DONE : I worked on The Cursed King but progress was slow this week, although I did write every day except for Wednesday.

So this was again a good writing week for me and I don’t feel that I need to adjust my goals. This week I also managed to read one book and I kept my blog alive by taking part in The Next Big Thing blog hop: feel free to have a look if you want to know more about my WIP.

Now, on to an inspiring story to keep us going this coming week. Today I’m quoting bestselling YA author Bree Despain. I found the following on her website. Bree is an American author who has a degree in creative writing. She started writing full-time after being involved in a car accident and she has written three novels in her DARK DIVINE series.

Writing Tips

  1. Be a sponge. The more knowledge you can soak up, the better your writing will become. Take writing classes, attend writing conferences, and read as much as you can. There are plenty of online resources for writing classes, but if you can, take an in-person class at a local university or writing conference. There is something very energizing about sitting in a room with a bunch of other writers. And you will probably learn more from in-class debates, and critiquing other writer’s stuff, than you will from reading a computer screen filled with writing tips . . . hey, wait a second . . .hehe. Keep reading anyway 😀
  2. Don’t forget to write. Okay, that sounds silly . . . but really, it happens. Sometimes we get so absorbed in the task of learning about our craft, that we don’t actually ever sit down and do the writing. Or sometimes, we experience “information overload” and we get so overwhelmed we just need to unplug from the world in order to start writing. Remember—no amount of reading, class taking, networking, or schmoozing, etc. is going to get you anywhere if you don’t actually write. Write every day if you can. Carry a notebook to capture ideas when they strike you. I actually wrote the prologue for The Dark Divine on the back of a program during church.
  3. Join a critique group. Like I said, there is something magical about being in a room with other writers. And a critique group is a fun, inexpensive way to get feedback, advice, and brainstorming help. Plus, some of my favorite people in the world are my writing chicas.
  4. Let your writing sit for a bit. Like a good piece of cheese, let your writing “age” for a while before you send it out. Stick your manuscript in a drawer for a couple of weeks and then come back to it with fresh eyes. Let your critique group read it over and offer feedback. Sometimes, you may even need to put something away for a long time before you can really see the kinks that need to be worked out. After sending out the original version of The Dark Divine (unsuccessfully) to a few agents back in 2006, I realized that the manuscript needed a major overhaul—but I didn’t know how to do it. I ended up putting that book in a drawer (figuratively speaking) for over a year. I moved on to other projects, and then one day, the answers to my problems with The Dark Divine just started to work themselves out in my mind. I pulled the manuscript out again and spent the next year overhauling it, let it sit for a month, and then sent it out to agents again . . . and a few weeks later I landed the fabulous Agent Ted!
  5. Don’t be unwilling to revise. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: GREAT BOOKS AREN’T WRITTEN—THEY’RE REVISED! Revising is just part of writing, and a major part at that. Hardly anything you write will be golden the first time you put it down on paper. You will tweak and revise on your own, with your critique group, in writing classes, at writing conferences, then take your stuff home and revise, revise, and revise it again. And then you’ll send it out to agents, and more likely than not, you’ll end up tweaking and revising your book even more based on the rejections you get. Then you’ll send it out again, and when you land an agent—guess what? He/she’s going to make you revise it some more before it goes out on submissions. And then when you sell your novel . . . well, that’s when the REAL revising starts. And then when you think you can’t possibly revise that darn freaking manuscript one more time . . . they’ll send it to copy editing where you’ll find out that apparently the language you’ve been speaking all your life isn’t actually English . . .Okay, okay, you get my point? Sorry to say it, but you won’t make it anywhere in the publishing biz if you aren’t willing to revise your writing.
  6. Don’t do all of the revisions people suggest to you. I know, I know, I’m such a hypocrite. I just went on telling you that you MUST revise your book, and now I’m saying not to? Okay, before you kick me in the pants, let me explain. You will get a lot of advice on your book, and a lot of critique suggestions—a lot of them will be good suggestions, some . . . well . . . not so much. Or some suggestions might work well for someone else’s story, but don’t jive with your vision for your book. You will even run into a few people who will pretty much want to write your book for you. But remember, you are the author. This is your baby. Take every revision suggestion with a grain of salt. At first, some revision suggestions seem impossible, or highly improbable, or just plain not right for your story. I always sit on revision notes for a few days (sometimes a few weeks) before I implement them. With a little time and perspective, you will be able to sift out the good suggestions from the bad. And sometimes, an impossible suggestion will suddenly click in your head and it will make a huge difference in the quality of your book. But, if after a little time, a revision suggestion still seems off to you—well then, it probably is. Go with your gut, and do what’s right for your story. But always consider WHY a certain suggestion was made. Did a critiquer want you to change Z into X, but that doesn’t sit well with you? Well, then maybe the reason for Z happening is just not clear enough to your reader. Or perhaps after evaluating the suggestion you will realize that Z actually needs to be changed into Y rather than X. I often find that many revisions are a matter of making things clearer. Does that make any sense?
  7. Accept the fact that becoming an author takes time—and a lot of it. Yes, there are those fluke cases where someone writes a book and then has a multi-million-dollar debut book deal six months later. But for the other 99.9% of us, it takes several years to become an author. Ask just about any published author (including Sara Zarr and Laurie Halse Anderson) and they’ll tell you that it takes about 10 years to make a name for yourself in this biz. And most of us are better off because of the time it took to strengthen our writing. I thank my lucky stars that my first novel never sold. I’m extremely grateful that the original version of The Dark Divine was rejected by every agent I sent it to. Your writing may not be ready for publication right now, but if you keep working, and learning, and reading, and writing, it WILL get there someday. Good Luck!
  8. Remember that authors are real people too! I loved telling stories and writing when I was kid. But I seriously thought that authors were this special breed of people, and someone ordinary like me could never become one. I wish I would have figured out a long time ago that anyone—with enough drive and hard work—can become an author. Even a mild mannered citizen like myself :D.

How are you other ROWers doing? Here is the Linky to support each other!

ROW80 Round 4 – Goals!

October 1st, 2012 (that’s tomorrow!) is the official start date for Round 4 of A Round of Words in 80 Days (aka ROW80). I have decided to join this writing challenge for the third time. Created by Kait Nolan, ROW80 is “the writing challenge that knows you have a life”, or “the challenge that champions the marriage of writing and real life.” Unlike NaNoWriMo which runs for only a month, each ROW80 round runs for 80 days and the participating writers have to set themselves writing goals for that time. Each Wednesday and Sunday, we check in and let the others know how we are doing. The idea is to form writing habits that writers will hopefully continue once the challenge is over.

As you may know if you follow this blog, my daily life is pretty crazy. I have a day job that keeps me extremely busy, I travel a lot and I read tons of books. Fitting some writing time in my schedule is a challenge, but I’m still very intent on getting published one day.

So here are my goals for this round (and yes, I know they haven’t changed much since the last round, but if at first you don’t succeed…):

Write or edit every day

Editing – Finish my current round of editing for The Last Queen, get my manuscript critiqued and beat-read, then edit some more.

Writing – Write a short story, and continue writing the first draft of The Cursed King

Round Four starts on Monday, October 1st and will end on Thursday, December 20th.

If you would like to join in this writing challenge and become a part of the ROW80 community, here are the rules:

  1. Post a goals post in which you lay out your goals for this round.
  2. Post a check-in post every Wednesday and Sunday, in which you share your progress with the other ROW80 participants.
  3. Comment on other participants’ check-in posts.

Here is the Linky for the other participants’ posts. What are your ROW80 goals for this round?