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Thursday, April 30, 2020

 

4 Things I've Learned From Being Quaratined

So far I’ve been trapped in my house—quarantined—for 4 ½ years. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. But it feels like it’s been that long.

Pixabay

Although I’m lucky enough to be able to work from home (teaching 5th-8th graders), and I’m fortunate enough to have remained healthy (along with my family and friends), it’s been rough. However, I’ve learned some things about writing while being forced to stay home, and here they are:

1. Boredom can be a good thing. I fill my days with eating, reading, binge-watching TV, eating, writing, eating, yard work. Shake off the boredom and use being bored as a nudge to try something new. I’m (mentally) working on the idea of writing an article to pitch to WOW. Check out the website and scroll down to the "Submissions (website/newsletter)" section to see what the current themes are. And contemplate doing something different, because you know you saw that episode of Law and Order last week… and here it is again.

2. Be loose. I live in sweatpants or pajamas. Did you notice (see #1) how much food I’m consuming? It’s nothin’ but elastic these days, baby. I’ve taken this loose attitude and applied it to other facets of my life. Be flexible with your opinions about your ever-expanding waistline. (Most women who are immortalized in museum sculptures or paintings have extra meat on their bones. Would you rather be thin for a fleeting amount of time, or admired forever? Ask yourself that while you’re getting a late morning snack, because your early morning snack’s memory wore off.) Also, be flexible with what you’re working on. Perhaps you’ve got a long WIP (like a novel) going on. Take a break and stretch your abilities with something shorter. A poem. An essay. A bit of flash fiction.

3. Be patient. I went to Costco early one morning during the “old people” shopping hour to get toilet paper for my daughter. (She’s no hoarder. She’s just finally down to her last roll and hasn’t been able to find it anywhere.) I got there 10 minutes after they opened. The line went along the short side of the building, then down the long front, then it snaked back along the long front to the door. Thankfully, I was able to snag a package after scratching the eyes out of a little hunchbacked 80 year-old without incident. It was worth the 40-minute wait. Getting my manuscript published? That will be worth it, too. I just have to be willing to play the waiting game, and take a few steps forward at a time getting there.

4. Smelling bad is alright. Reread #1 and #2. If I’m having too much fun lounging in pajamas and fantasizing about Benjamin Bratt while eating whatever isn’t duct-taped and nailed down, do you really think I have the drive to take a shower every day? Sometimes… well, sometimes it even becomes a three-day funk. Coming up with a rough draft that stinks is okay, too. If you’re having an online writing critique meeting with some friends, or you’re emailing something for some feedback, it’s perfectly acceptable for the first draft to suck. To smell badly. It may be stinky initially, but after some constructive criticism and some revision, it will smell as sweet as a freshly-shampooed head of hair.

Hopefully we’ll follow the advice of the medical profession instead of over-eager nonexperts, and hopefully we’ll feel safe to truly venture out sometime this summer. But until then?

Nothin’ but elastic, baby!


Sioux Roslawski tried to take a cute picture of just her "quaratine coiff" but it was too scary. Radar luxuriating in his dog bed will have to convey the level of laziness that Sioux's enjoying. If you'd like to read more of her stuff, until she gets off her rear end and builds a website, check out Sioux's Page.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

 

Ennui: Not So Boring After All

I was talking to a friend the other evening and she was annoyed with herself: “I always thought if I had the time, I’d work on my calligraphy, clean out the garage…”

Welcome to the World of Pandemic Ennui, y’all.

I love that word “ennui.” It’s one of those words you don’t hear much anymore, but when I do think of it, I picture a woman reclining on a chaise longue (also a word out of fashion), a hand resting against her forehead, while the other arm falls to the side, fingertips grazing the floor. Or there’s Libs, when she’s not being a Tiny Terror:



The short definition for ennui is boredom, but it’s so much more than that:

noun; ennui
a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.

Doesn’t that just about sum up where many of us are at right now? And though the world is slowly starting to open again, it will be in phases, and so we have days of ennui ahead of us still. But that doesn’t mean we can’t lie around and entertain our thoughts. Like what matters to us as writers.

I’m thinking about skill sets; the ones I have and the ones I want.

Take online communication. Like blogs, for instance. You may have noticed an uptick in blog tours lately. Which makes sense when you can’t get out and travel to bookstores and libraries; you have to bring the book to where people are. Blogs have always been an important “distribution” tool for writers, but I suspect they’ll become even more integral in marketing/promotion. And there are other tools to consider…starting a newsletter or (re)building a website. What’s going to work, career-wise?

And of course, online communication includes social media, which has been a boon to creatives during this shut-down time. At last, we all have a day (or twenty) to take a look around at ALL that’s out there in the virtual world. Media beyond YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. Maybe TikTok? We have a minute now to do some browsing among writers we like or writers like us. It’s a great opportunity for a little comparison shopping, if you will, to see what’s a good business fit.

Perhaps this is the moment you—and by you, I mean me—have been waiting for, the chance to get a long-postponed project done. Like making a powerpoint presentation. Of course you—and again, I mean me-- know how, but are you stuck in the basics when you could add so much more pizazz? Or create a book trailer! Or learn photoshop! There are classes that can teach you, me, all of us, EVERYTHING—and at a price for any budget.

Finally, whilst we’re stuck in our ennui, perhaps it will occur to us that there’s a good reason that we’ve never quite got round to what we thought we always wanted to do. Namely, that we don’t really want to do it.

Who wants to clean out a garage? And maybe we haven’t signed on with Instagram because we have our hands full with trying to cook any kind of meal much less one that’s picture-worthy?!

Ahem. The point is, we can be productive stretched out on a chaise longue in the drawing room (or in my and Libby's case, wherever). All it takes is a little thought to what we do want to do, how we want to spend the precious gift of time we’ll have.

One day, when the world opens wide its arms and welcomes us back.

~Cathy C. Hall


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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

 

Interview with Kristina Neihouse: Runner Up in the Fall 2019 Flash Fiction Contest

Kristina is a full-time librarian who delights in reading, writing and talking about writing. In addition to time spent overseeing an academic library and tutoring center, she attends writing groups and readings whenever possible. Most Saturday evenings she can be found in the Monroe County Detention Center talking with female inmates about writing and other life choices. Read their work at Write On Published.

She likes to write a little bit of everything, from pieces that look like poetry to flash fiction and creative non-fiction essays. In 2017 she was awarded an Anne McKee Artist Fund Grant to publish her first novel Knowing When to Leave. In 2019 this debut novel won a silver medal in the Florida Book Awards Young Adult category. She is currently at work on a second book in the series.

Check out Kristina’s sporadically kept blog at KAN writes to learn more about Kristina and her writing.

Be sure to check out Kristina's story Red first and then come on back and read her interview!

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First, congrats on winning runner up! Can you tell us about what inspired this story?

Kristina: I belong to a local Writer’s Guild. Every few weeks they hold a “writing exercise” where by we have a limited number of days to write a piece of no more than 750 words based on a common prompt, such as three words, a first line. One such exercise was hosted by a painter who shared a photo of one of his paintings to use as inspiration. From that work, the color red and a tumbler of whiskey on the rocks brought about my story. It’s good for me to remember, you never know where inspiration will come from, so keep writing.

WOW: I totally agree about finding inspiration! And I was so impressed to see that you visit the Monroe County Detention Center to talk with female inmates. Has your writing changed at all by working with them?

Kristina: I guess it makes me value my writing more, appreciate the time and space I have to write. It keeps me in touch with writing as a healing process. And to just write for the sake of writing.

I enjoy spending time with the women, encouraging them to write. I want them to tell their stories, even if it’s only to themselves by writing in their notebook.

WOW: How rewarding that must be! So, how did this story change from the first draft to the final draft?


Kristina: This story was one of those rare gifts. It really wrote itself. Other than minor word changes it’s not that different than when I first put pen to paper.

WOW: I'm impressed! What approach do you take in your revision process after you finish your first draft?
Kristina: My first drafts are a mess! I try to keep my first drafts free form, just write write write. Next, I enjoy the process of digging back in and honing down the story, playing with the order of sentences, paragraphs. I do a lot of rearranging and cutting. I am not afraid to get rid of what does not belong.

WOW: I can completely understand that. What are you currently working on? What can we expect next from you?

Kristina: I am working on my second novel. It’s part of a series that started with my first novel Knowing When to Leave. This second novel is a challenge. I think that’s why I’m playing around with so many other formats; flash, poetry, memoir essays, etc. It’s a form of procrastination, procrastinating writing by writing!

WOW: What a way to procrastinate. I love it! Best of luck with your writing! And congrats again!

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Monday, April 27, 2020

 

Save the Cat! Goes on a Blog Tour (And Giveaway)


We're excited to announce the blog tour for the Save the Cat Writes the Novel by Jessica Brody and the Save the Cat Structure Software. Follow along the tour to read reviews of the book and the software, guest posts, interviews, and a chance to win a copy of the book and the software.

What is Save the Cat!®?

Save the Cat! provides writers the resources they need to develop their screenplays and novels based on a series of best-selling books, primarily written by Blake Snyder (1957- 2009). Blake’s method is based on 10 distinctive genres and his 15 story beats (the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet). Our books, workshops, story structure software, apps, and story coaching teach you everything you need to unlock the fundamentals and mechanics of plot and character transformation.

Find out more about Save the Cat! by visiting their webpage at www.savethecat.com.

About Save the Cat! Structure Software


Save the Cat! Story Structure Software is adapted from the Save the Cat! methodology to help screenwriters and novelists unlock the fundamentals of plot and character transformation. The Story Structure Software is a virtual writer board with digital index cards to help map out your story against the 15 beats or plot points to your story. The software enables writers to track emotional shifts of characters from scene to scene, develop profiles and edit and version your story with ease.

You can purchase a subscription to the Save the Cat! Structure Software at Save the Cat's website.


About the Book, Save the Cat Writes the Novel

An Amazon #1 best seller with over 500 reviews, it’s the first novel-writing guide from the best-selling Save the Cat! story-structure series, reveals the 15 essential plot points needed to make any novel a success.

In this revolutionary novel-writing guide from the best-selling Save the Cat! series, novelist Jessica Brody demystifies each beat, making it simple to learn the complexities of storytelling. The best-seller also reveals the ten universal story genres to help you drill down into what makes your type of story work. Featuring sample “beat sheets” for hits from the likes of J. K. Rowling, Khaled Hosseini, and Stephen King, this practical guide also includes real-world advice on pitching your novel, plus the quirky, original insights (like the eponymous tip to “Save the Cat”) that make this series unique. By the end of this book, your own imaginative beats will combine to create a story that thrills readers from start to finish.

Print Length: 320 Pages
Genre: Writing References
Publisher: Ten Speed Press/Random House
ASIN: B078VWDNKT
ISBN-10: 0399579745
ISBN-13:978-0399579745

Save the Cat! Writes the Novel is available as a print and e-book at Amazon.comBarnes and Noble, and IndieBound.

About the Author, Jessica Brody

Jessica Brody worked for MGM Studios as manager of acquisitions and business development before becoming an internationally best-selling author of more than fifteen novels for adults and teens including The Geography of Lost ThingsThe Chaos of Standing StillA Week of Mondays, and Better You Than Me. She travels the country teaching Save the Cat! workshops to novelists.

Book & Software Giveaway

To win a copy of the book Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody and a year subscription to Save the Cat Structure Software, please enter using Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on May 3rd at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles with Jason Kolinsky Save the Cat's Chief Marketing Officer

WOW: First of all, I am so excited to be part of this tour for Save the Cat!. How did you first come to join the company?

Jason: Hi Nicole! It’s great that we are connecting like this – hope you and your team are keeping well and safe!

To be honest, I had no idea that a book about writing stories would change my entire life!

For those who don’t know much about Save the Cat! (and I didn’t when I was first introduced to it), Save the Cat! is the top selling book on screenwriting and novel writing. It’s become the go-to book for writers, writer’s rooms, class rooms and industry execs – when writing, discussing and developing stories – no matter if it’s for the page, stage or screen.

The book has become a language, it’s for writing but also for communicating with other writers and creative professionals – I like to say if English is the international business language then Save the Cat! is the language of storytelling.

My story with STC! is pretty amazing. A friend recommended the book and after a few months (I’m a procrastinator at heart), I finally sat down and opened the book and I haven’t stopped reading and referring to it ever since. It changed the way I looked at stories, how to understand how they are written and told…. storytelling would never be the same for me. I attended a Save the Cat! Weekend Intensive Workshop in New York City, and instead of working on an idea for a screenplay, I’ve started to help write the Save the Cat! brand story.

After the class, I shared with the instructor that I had a background in marketing and asked if they needed any help. I started working on business and marketing plans as a no cost consultant for about 2 years and then I finally earned the opportunity to become part of the STC! family, to lead the marketing with a goal to get the word out about all the great lines of products and services Save the Cat! has in lending a helping hand to writers.

WOW: That is so incredible how you were led to Save the Cat! Which brings me to my next question that I absolutely must ask...why "Save the Cat!"?

Jason: Great question! Save the Cat! has had a huge impact on creative culture, the brand pops up everywhere from the cover of the New Yorker to Netflix shows like “You” to newly published authors – it’s astounding how a book originally for screenwriters and film makers became a methodology and approach embraced by novelists and TV writers as well.

I have to say, I’m so happy to be part of something that helps writers bring their work to life.

WOW: That is so rewarding! What has changed for your writing since you started using the Save the Cat! methodology?

Jason: Well my writing had always focused on business, and I just limited it to facts and figures; however, Save the Cat! made me take a fresh look at what and how I write – it inspired me to deliver the story behind those facts. I now always ask myself how to make my thoughts more compelling and memorable with an eye out for moving the idea forward.

WOW: I think that's incredible! So, for this tour, you will be writing a guest post on how Save the Cat! has impacted creative culture. And it really has! From your observations, how has the writing community changed since Save the Cat! started appealing to both screenwriters and novelists?

Jason: What a time to be a writer! There has never been a better time to write – more stories are developed and released than ever before. The writing community is growing rapidly and what we have seen is that many successful writers are using the same plotting techniques for Novels, Screenplays and TV series. You see this with the adaption from one form to another – we’ve been blessed to help writers make those shifts and remain focused on the key story beats and plot points when developing their work.

WOW: Tell me a little bit about how you and Jessica met and how she came to write Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.

Jason: Absolutely – and what a great match Save the Cat! and Jessica have made. As a matter of fact, we just launched our very first Save the Cat! Masterclass Webinar featuring Jessica, live! on May 2nd – please check it out!

The story of Jessica and STC! is a fun one, that many of your readers can relate to. A struggling novelist (Jessica Brody) has rejection letters piling up - has a lunch with a screenwriter friend to tell her stories of woe, after listening patiently he said, “I think I can help you. There’s this book that I read. It’s a book called Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder. It’s written for screenwriters, but I think the concepts could work just as well for novelists. Because really it’s all about how to structure a good story.”

With some tweaking and adaptation, Jessica took the fifteen key story beats that Blake Snyder developed and laid them out to plot and structure a successful novel.

Jessica then rewrote her manuscript and sold her first novel to a major publisher! She sold 3 more and was so excited that she connected with us to become an instructor. By teaching novelists, she gained such insight into Blake Snyder's principles, that we decided to pitch Save the Cat! Writes a Novel. Five major publishers bid on the book, with Ten Speed, a division of Random House, winning the publication rights. (Now, in 2020, she's had over 20 sales, all to major publishers.)

WOW: What a journey! What type of writer is Save the Cat! for?

Jason: Most books on creative writing or storytelling are grounded in theory and written by academics for students. The Save the Cat! methodology was developed by Blake Snyder, a working screenwriter – he wanted a book written by a screenwriter for screenwriters. I can honestly say the same about Jessica and Save the Cat! Writes a Novel – our books are written by writers for writers.

So, I’d say the type of writer who wants to write a novel or screenplay with the goal of having their story made or published.

WOW: Sounds like a good majority of us! Can you describe a little bit about what Save the Cat! Structure Software is like? For a new user, what can they expect by using this software?

Jason: Of course! The Save the Cat! Story Structure Software is a writer’s virtual board with digital index cards to help you map out and organize your story.

The software guides screenwriters and novelists through the 15 beats of their story, helps direct the writer to choose emotional shifts in each scene and chapter, the software has key prompts to develop characters, relationships and so much more so that the writer’s story is structurally sound!

WOW: I love how much that software helps build the story. What is next for Save the Cat!? What is next for you?

Jason: Although times are a bit uncertain, we have some great projects launching in May:

- Our very first Storytelling Masterclass Webinar with Jessica Brody – 3 LIVE classes over 3 Saturdays starting on Saturday May 2nd. 

- The launch of our first online screenwriting course

- A new iOS app for the Save the Cat! Story Structure Software

Thanks so much for this chat – can’t wait to see what’s next for WOW.

WOW: That sounds exciting! If you could give aspiring writers any advice right now, what would you say?

Jason: Yes – It’s a great quote by Blake Snyder, author of Save the Cat!:

“The worst thing that can happen in screenwriting is not to finish. Half-written screenplays never sell.”

This means so much on so many levels – finish what you start, so that you can move forward!

WOW: I completely agree! Thank you so much for joining us today and we look forward to seeing you on the tour!

--- Blog Tour Dates

April 27th @ The Muffin
What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Visit the Muffin today and you can read an interview with the Save the Cat team as well as enter to win a copy of the book Save the Cat! Writes the Novel and a one-year subscription to their software Save the Cat! Structure Software.
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

April 28th @ Pro Writing Aid
Make sure you visit Michelle's post over at Pro Writing Aid and read her review of the save the Cat Structure Sofware.
https://prowritingaid.com/en/Blog/Author/183/Michelle-Cornish

April 29th @ Karen Brown Tyson
Make sure you visit Karen Brown Tyson's blog today and read her review of Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.
https://karenbrowntyson.com/blog/

April 30th @ Karen Brown Tyson
Visit Karen's blog again and you can read a guest post about the impact of Save the Cat! on creative culture.
https://karenbrowntyson.com/blog/

May 1st @ Sunflowers & Bluebirds
Visit Jess' blog today and you can read her review of Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.
https://sunflowerstobluebirds.wordpress.com/

May 2nd @ Jessica Samuel's Blog
Make sure you visit Jessica's blog today and you can read her review of Save the Cat! Writes the Novel and her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.
https://jessicasamuelsauthor.com/

May 3rd @ Help me Naomi
Visit Naomi's blog today and you can read her review of Save the Cat! Structure Software. Just in time for CampNaNoWriMo!
https://helpmenaomi.com/blog/

May 4th @ Her First Mile
Visit Alyshia's blog today and make sure you read her review of Save the Cat! Structure Software.
http://herfirstmile.com/

May 5th @ Halfway to It
Visit Jeanna's blog (and Instagram!) today and read her review of Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.
https://www.halfwaytoitblog.com/
https://www.instagram.com/halfwaytoitblog/

May 6th @ Editor 911
Make sure you visit Margo's blog today and read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.
https://editor-911.com/

May 7th @ Brooke's Reviews and Sweeps
Visit Brooke's site today and make sure you read her review of Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.
http://www.brookereviewsnsweeps.com/

May 7th @ Sandy Kirby Quandt
Stop by Sandy's blog today and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.
www.sandykirbyquandt.com

May 8th @ Quill and Books
Stop by Katheryn's blog and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.
https://quillandbooks.com/

May 9th @ Choices Blog
Visit Madeline's blog today and you can read a fantastic Save the Cat! guest post about how to choose the best idea to write.
http://madelinesharples.com/

May 10th @ Margay Leah Justice Blog
Visit Margay's blog and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software and Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.
http://margayleahjustice.blogspot.com/

May 11th @ Beverley A. Baird's Blog
Make sure you stop by Beverley's blog and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.
https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

May 12th @ Reading Whale
Visit Caitlin's blog and read her review of the Save the Cat! Writes the Novel and of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.
https://readingwhale.com/

May 13th @ Mint Miller Writes
Visit Mint Miller's blog today and you can read a review of Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.
https://www.mintmillerwrites.com/blog/

May 14th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Visit Anthony Avina's blog today and you can read his review of Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.
https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

May 15th @ Chapters Through Life
Visit Danielle's blog today and you can read her review of the Save the Cat Structure Software.
http://chaptersthroughlife.blogspot.com/

May 16th @ Coffee with Lacey
Grab some coffee and make sure you stop by Lacey's blog today and read her review of Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.
http://www.coffeewithlacey.com

May 17th @ Leslie L. McKee's blog
Visit Leslie's blog today and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software and the Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.
https://leslielmckee.com/blog/

May 18th @ World of My Imagination
Visit Nicole's blog today and you can read her review of Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.
https://theworldofmyimagination.blogspot.com/

May 19th @ Beverley A. Baird's Blog
Visit Beverley's blog again and you can read a guest post about how software can help organize and plot your story.
http://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com

May 20th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Visit Anthony Avina's blog and you can read his review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.
https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

May 21st @ L. M. Harley's Blog
Visit Laura's blog today and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.
http://lmharleywriter.com/blog.html

May 22nd @ Fiona Ingram's Blog
Visit Fiona's blog today and you can read her insights into the Save the Cat! Structure Software.
http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com/

May 23rd @ Knotty Needle
Visit Judy's blog today and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.
http://knottyneedle.blogspot.com/

May 24th @ Tyrean Martinson's Blog
Visit Tyrean's blog today and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.
https://tyreanswritingspot.blogspot.com/

May 25th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Visit Anthony Avina's blog and you can read his interview with the Save the Cat! team.
https://authoranthonyavinablog.com/

May 27th @ Amanda Zieba's Blog
Visit Amanda's blog today and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.
http://amandazieba.com/

May 28th @ It's Alanna Jean
Visit Alanna's blog today and you can read a guest post by the Save the Cat team about writing genres vs. audience genres. Don't miss it!
http://itsalannajean.com/

May 28th @ Shayla Raquel
Make sure you stop by Shayla's blog and read her review of the book Save the Cat! Writes the Novel.
https://shaylaraquel.com/

May 29th @ Thoughts in Progress
Visit Mason's blog and read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.
http://masoncanyon.blogspot.com/

May 30th @ Make Me a Success
Make sure you stop by Kirsten's blog and read her review of the Save the Cat! Structure Software.
https://www.makemeasuccess.co.uk/blogs/


***** SAVE THE CAT! GIVEAWAY *****

To win a copy of the book Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody and a year subscription to Save the Cat Structure Software ($189 value), please enter using Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on May 3rd at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget and follow up via email. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sunday, April 26, 2020

 

Confidence and Imposter Syndrome: Why Do We Suffer?

Man, imposter syndrome is so real. Let me tell you a couple recent anxiety-filled moments I had, and how I've gotten over them--or have I?

photo from Flickr.com by Alan Levine
I'm teaching a course for WOW! right now that I'm absolutely loving. It's about how to write middle-grade and young adult fiction. I have written and been traditionally published in both. I am a certified English teacher of 1st through 9th grades. I read this genre to my daughter and for my own pleasure. I had a book review column for six years for a mid-size newspaper. I edit novels for a living, and many people have gone on to indie or traditionally publish them. And still, STILL, I wonder: am I qualified to teach this course? I want to say this to myself right now:

OMG! What is wrong with you?

The other day, I felt like I had validation from an outside source. In the WOW! course, my students start their novel writing process with a tagline and book cover summary as well as picturing where in the bookstore or on the Amazon "bookshelf" their book would fit. My philosophy is before spending months on a book, figure out your goals and if you want to be published, where readers will find your books and whether they will want to read it. Is your book about something? You have to think of the story hook (the tagline) and where readers will find you. I know this is good advice, and it's helped me with my own writing. But I was doubting myself when teaching the class.

Maybe we shouldn't have started this way, I thought. Maybe we should have begun with planning the novel using Save the Cat.

But then I was listening to the lastest Self-Publishing Show podcast with Mark Dawson and James Blatch. They also offer classes, and they get good reviews just like we do at WOW! I know that the information they share on their podcast is "right," and it matches what I hear and read on other sites, including WOW!. (Why do I trust them and not myself?!?) But until I heard one of them say that it's smart to start with your book cover and tagline before you even write a word, I hadn't felt confident that I was correct to start this way when teaching my class. As I was listening to that episode, I even said out loud to myself (or to the dog, as we all know she is hanging on my every word): "So I do know what I'm talking about. I should be more confident in my abilities and teaching."

This week, I was also worried about some advice I gave to a picture book author. (Right now, there's a lot of time at home, folks, alone with our thoughts, right?) Let's look at my credentials: I have a picture book traditionally published. I have been to countless workshops on picture books. I have read hundreds of picture books, new and old. I know the trends. I offer a picture book package on my Editor-911.com site, and one of my picture book clients recently secured an agent who sold the book to a publisher! (This is very exciting. It's almost like I have my own agent when a client is successful!) I know I help people take their ideas and make them better. But still I worried: Am I giving her the right advice?

Sometimes, I think the fact that I do worry is what makes me a good editor. If I thought I knew it all, then I wouldn't study and think about clients' work long after I shut down my computer.

But I'm still irked at myself for needing this outside validation. But isn't that true for most writers?  I thnk it's why we take rejection and bad reviews so personally and can't stop obsessing about them, even if we have 500 good reviews. I'm not sure if it's true for most editors, but it's true for me. And I'm working on having more confidence in my years of experience, repeat clients, good reviews, and so on. Having confidence is not boastful. It's not bragging. It's just understanding that I know what I'm talking about and I have the knowledge and skills to educate and help others reach their goals.

Here's to confidence and kicking imposter syndrome out the door!

Margo L. Dill is teaching the MG/YA class she mentioned above in the fall. You can sign up whenever. But she's teaching the WOW! novel writing course for any genre now, and the next one is on May 1. You can find that syllabus at the link. To find out more about Margo, go to www.margoldill.com

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Saturday, April 25, 2020

 

The Perfect Writing Routine

Back in the long ago times, I think we called it January, I made a single cup of coffee and sipped it while drafting a chapter. I went to yoga. I ran to the library. I’d make another cup of coffee and sip it while I read a chapter. The perfect coffee and work combination.

I now work in an office suite that we call home with a commodities inventory/planner and a mechanical engineering student. One cup of coffee at a time doesn’t cut it for all three of us so we brew in a stainless camp coffee pot that’s optimistically labeled as 16 cups. We each fill our mug of choice and put the rest in a Stanley thermos that will keep the brew hot until evening. The perfect coffee and work combination.

Writing routines are a lot like coffee. The perfect routine depends on you and your situation. That’s why I tell my students, “This is what works for me. You might have to tweak it or even hammer out a new one. But that’s okay. You have to go with what works for you.”

I’m on deadline. Since we’ve been social distancing I finished drafting a 15,000 word book on the Trump impeachment. The audience is teens and tweens. I’ve done a rewrite on that project and now I’m finishing another 15,000 word book for tweens. It is due in a week and is on the coronavirus. I am laying words down every day.

Not up for 15,000 twice over in two months? That’s okay. You have to find what works for you. Set a smaller word goal or try something else altogether.

Sioux is querying far and wide. She has a book ready for a home in print or e-format. If I remember correctly, she said that she’s queried 80 agents.

Not ready to query almost 100 agents? That’s okay. You have to find what works for you. Query a smaller number or try something else altogether.

Some of you may be binging TV, movies, books or podcasts. We’ve watched 11 Star Wars movies and 10 Harry Potter films including the Fantastic Beasts. Next on our list is Bond, James Bond. I could tell you that watching all these movies has given me insight into characterization and story arcs, and it has, but I’m really just spending time with my coffee guzzling family.

The reality is that you need to do what you need to do. Find a routine or a worldview that works for you where you are today.

Will it be the perfect way to do things next week? Possibly not, but that’s okay. You have to find what works for you now. With that in mind, I need to go work on Chapter 7 after I pour myself a cup of coffee.

--SueBE

Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 25 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins  May 4th, 2020) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins July 6, 2010). 

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Friday, April 24, 2020

 

Friday Speak Out!: Coronavirus Coffee Kit

by Laura Yeager

I’ve been writing for about 40 years now.

To make my writing life easier, I have an editor, Noah, who happens to be my ex-boyfriend. You might remember that I wrote about him in a 2017 post for WOW’s Friday Speak Out. The post was called “Noah, Best Dressed Editor in Town.”

We were together in the 80s, when I was living in NYC after college. New York was too much for me to handle, and he’s the type who will never leave New York, so we split, and I moved back to Ohio and married a wonderful man who understands how hard it is to find a good editor.

But we’ve remained friends and I like to say we’re friends with benefits, a different kind of benefits; he’s my editor, and I help him out, too. Noah won’t take money for his editing services, so I send him clothes and household goods via snail mail that I can pick up out here in the Midwest burbs for much less than he would pay in NYC. There are several amazing local thrift stores, where I shop regularly for him. (My husband has gotten used to this barter system, and knows that my relationship with Noah is purely platonic at this point. He likes to make jokes about the clothes I send Noah: “Are these socks for me or Noah?” he’ll quip, holding up a package of Gold Toes.)

Since the coronavirus crisis, Noah’s been working at home. A typical New Yorker, he usually buys his coffee on the way to work from a vendor on the street. When I talk to him on the phone in the morning, I can hear him giving his order to said vendor: “I’ll have a bagel with cream cheese, and a black coffee.” But since he hasn’t been leaving the house, he’s been going without coffee. I don’t know how anyone could attempt to “go to work” without a couple cups of this life-giving liquid.

This year, Noah’s been diligently editing my work, and I haven’t gotten around to sending him anything in return. A couple days ago, I decided that the perfect thing to send my editor would be a coffee maker, coffee, filters and a little coffee scoop. I’m calling it “The Coronavirus Coffee Kit.”

The first thing I did was research on the internet to see if “coffee kits” existed. I found nothing, so I decided to make my own. I got on walmart.com and picked out a Mr. Coffee and sent it to him. Then, I went to our local super market and purchased a bag of Joe, 200 cheap filters and a plastic, red coffee scoop, all of which I mailed separately. And presto, in a week or so, he’ll have his daily coffee.

They say it’s the little things during this pandemic that allow us to survive. I’m glad I can help him get through the day a little smoother. Next, I will ship him some bagels and cream cheese via Zabar’s.

How long this pandemic is going to last no one really knows. But at least someone in Manhattan, namely Noah, will go through this crisis with coffee and a bagel as per usual.

And I’ll have a terrific editor.

* * *
Laura Yeager began her writing career as a fiction writer, publishing at journals such as The Paris Review, The Missouri Review and The North American Review. Currently, she writes for curetoday.com, a leading cancer website, and psychcentral.com, a mental health website. Laura teaches writing at Gotham Writers’ Workshop and at Kent State University. She is looking for an agent for her book The Prodigal Daughter, a collection of short fiction and nonfiction about bipolar illness.
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Thursday, April 23, 2020

 

One Small Thing - Coping During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Wow! Isn't this an interesting time? I'd love to tell you that everything is pleasant at our residence and that I'm going to give you the key to making your Covid-19 time magical. I'd also love to tell you this will be ending by the weekend. I'd also like to give each of you a unicorn and a rainbow.

Now you know what I'd like to do - and you also know I can't. Here's what I would like to do instead:

I'd like to share a bit of my own reality and recommend you find one small thing each day. Just something small that will bring a bit of sunshine into the storm that is reality right now. No one knows the intricate details of your life but I have a feeling whether you are an essential worker, a work from home worker, a furloughed worker, a mom, a baker, or a candlestick maker you've been effected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Here at our house, it's the usual spring business for the farm. Our agronomist just emailed the report about how our fields did for winter kill. We are struggling with buying seed, hauling manure, re-seeding fields, and of course the dropping milk prices. This really isn't unusual. The last 5 years of farming have been difficult and this year really isn't all that different. This is a good thing. What's unusual is having all our school age children here ALL DAY LONG - EACH AND EVERY DAY. And yes, we are blessed. Yes, we enjoy them. Yes, they are wonderful.

I thought working from home was glamorous. When I started working from home (I'm only at my office 2 mornings a week usually, so this is nothing new here) I realized it was a bit more challenging than I thought. I was juggling a few toddlers, slow internet, interruptions like laundry, dishes, or a visit from the neighbor. And this one time all the cows got out - but that's a story for another day.

Now there's 7 of us in this house all day long. The distractions are unending, the noise is deafening, and someone is constantly hungry. I'm teaching things I barely know a thing about - like the area of a triangle...can't say I've ever used this information from my own middle school years. Most days I feel like I'm drowning. I should be enjoying every moment surrounded by my family. I shouldn't complain because there are people who I love and who are very dear to me who haven't felt the touch of another person in 6 weeks. I try to keep it all in perspective.

Here's what I have found to be very helpful in finding my happy. I have yet to find balance, but choosing ONE SMALL THING each day has helped me take a deep breathe. It's not always the same thing each day and again I don't claim to know your life or what will or will not work for you. Here are a few things I've done that are small but help me find my happy:

Take a walk in the woods
Go for a run (outside or on the treadmill)
Try a new recipe
Facetime with a friend
Bake something for a friend
Reading a few chapters of a good book
Take a bubble bath
Lighting a candle 
Opening a window
Taking a nap
Writing in my journal
Planting some seeds
Rubbing my feet 
Calling a friend or relative
Checking in on someone I love and care about
Putting lotion on my hands

See? Some of these things are incredibly small. Others may take a bit more time/energy, but none of them are so huge I need to change my plans. I finished brushing my teeth this morning and noticed a small bottle of hand lotion. I rubbed a bit on my hands, closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and as I massaged my palms and took in the lavender scent, I released some tension in my shoulders. The toddler saying "mommy mommy" outside the door felt like more of a blessing when I opened the door and stepped back into reality.

I've noticed people are doing a lot of purging and cleaning. That's impressive, but if you don't have much time, it's ok if you don't do the big things. Reality is, some people are not going to make it out of this pandemic alive. My goal is help carry our family through this with our health and our sanity. I only look at grades once a week, my hair is graying around my face, and I'm struggle to eat healthy. I just keep telling myself it's all going to be okay and when I feel like things are too loud, too disorganized, too much...I find my one small thing for the day. Finding that one small thing has helped me find my happy.

What do you do when you feel your happy slipping away? What is one small thing you've done or want to do to help yourself feel better during this difficult time? What does your reality look like? I'd love to hear from you!

Hugs (virtual for now),
~Crystal


Crystal is the office manager, council secretary, financial secretary, and musician at her church, birth mother, Auntie, babywearing mama, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and their five youngest children, two dogs, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, horses Darlin' and Joker, and over 250 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal milking cows, riding horses, and riding unicorns (not at the same time), taking the ordinary and giving it a little extra (making it extraordinary), blogging and reviewing books here, and at her own blog - Crystal is dedicated to turning life's lemons into lemonade and she has never (not once) been accused of being normal!

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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

 

ProWritingAid Review

As a writer, I'm no stranger to spell check and grammar check. What surprises me is that I can read over a story again and again and it isn't until a month passes that I realize that I missed a huge editing error. That's why I love using ProWritingAid. It is the extra pair of eyes that I need before I send a story out. Let's walk through why I love it so much.

You start out by uploading a document and in realtime, ProWritingAid goes through the piece of writing and makes suggestions to you. I used ProWritingAid to go through a story that I wanted to send out to the literary world. Well, it caught more than a few things I missed.

Obviously, ProWritingAid goes through your story and makes grammar suggestions. Like any grammar software, I don't always agree with the suggestions, but what I do love, is the readability feature. For example, I wrote, "Since everyone else loved it, she bit her lip and didn’t say anything." ProWritingAid suggested that I write, "Since everyone else loved it, she bit her lip and said nothing."  It's a small change, but I loved the suggestion immediately and changed my story based on their feedback.


It also calls me out on passive voice, which is kind of a weakness for me. I wrote the words, "She didn't want to give management the impression she was distracted by her cell phone." ProWritingAid suggested, "She didn't want to give management the impression her cell phone distracted her."


One of my favorite features is the summary section. It's a humbling examination of how my writing did overall. ProWritingAid even offers feedback on where you can improve. For this particular story, they suggested I reduce filler words. They also let me know my readability measures, overused words, and even cliches. (You know my sentence up there I mentioned? The one where the character "bit her lip"? Well, ProWritingAid called me out on that. They mentioned it was a cliche.)


Another favorite section of mine is the thesaurus check. Every now and then, I am stumped for a better word choice. Not every word needs to be replaced with an enhanced one, but sometimes it matters if someone saunters into a room versus someone who slinks into a room. Those don't always come to me in the first - or fifth draft. So, with ProWritingAid, you can highlight a section of writing (1,000 words at a time) and you can get suggestions on different words you can use. I wrote the sentence, "A flash of concern appeared on Lauren's face." The words "flash," "concern," "appeared" and "face" was underlined by their Thesaurus check. When I hover over each of those words, different suggestions come up.



With ProWritingAid you get an exhaustive examination of your writing. They go over things like overused words, sentence structure, sentence length check, and a ton of other reports that you can generate to assess your writing further. ProWritingAid dives deep into the quality of your writing, word choices, and so much more.

I'm so excited to announce that we are giving away three premium licenses to ProWritingAid!

***** GIVEAWAY *****

To win a premium license of ProWritingAid ($70) value, please enter the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway ends May 5th at 11:59pm Central. We will choose 3 winners on May 6 and announce them in the Rafflecopter form. We'll also follow up by email. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

 

Interview with Margo Daly, Runner Up in the WOW! Fall 2019 Flash Fiction Contest

Margo’s Bio:

Margo lives with her husband in the beautiful port city of Fremantle, Western Australia.

She holds three passports, Irish, British, and Australian. She’s a grandmother, has a BA in English Literature, and has had careers in teaching and nursing. She has scribbled for years and is currently making good a promise to herself ‘to write seriously when she turned seventy.’ She has had two flash fiction pieces published. When she’s not writing she’s singing, dancing, playing table tennis walking her daughter’s dog or watching dystopian movies.

If you haven’t read “Sorry,” Margo’s story, take the time to do so before coming back here to learn from her process.

WOW: There is so much in this story. What was your inspiration? The spark that got you started in the writing process?

Margo: My inspiration, watching women apologising behind trollys in supermarkets for years I think. Then it morphed into the conflict that only women can feel between motherhood and their own lives. Personal experience as a young mother. Then the hormones kick in, that override everything.

No spark, but I loved reading as a child and poured out my heart to my English teacher in essays. Practical considerations too, pen and paper much cheaper than paints easel or kiln.

WOW: Every detail means something in a piece this short. How did you select the dreams that the narrator has for her future? The things she sees in the store?

Margo: For her dreams, I tried to cover a few bases: work - connection with colleagues, different identity; painting – creativity; yoga - body and soul; and learning a language - brain stimulation.

Things in the store are banal, every day food.

WOW: Several times the narrator’s emotions and what she is contemplating change direction. How was this shaped during the rewrite process?

Margo: I got a clearer picture of the pregnant teenager and how protective she was. Also the security guard, the store manager, her husband, none of them have any idea of what she’s going through - a 350 degree turn around in what? Half an hour?

WOW: Your bio says that you promised yourself that at 70 you would write seriously, and we’re so glad you honored that promise. What advice do you have for readers who may think they are too old, too busy, or too uninspired to write?

Margo: It’s never too late! Draw inspiration from authors who started late in life. I’m currently doing a Master class with Margaret Atwood. I love Lydia Davis, Joyce Carol Oates, to name a couple.

Also read books on writing, Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway, On Writers and Writing by Margaret Atwood. Tap into Reedsy and Flash fiction sites.

Keep an eye open for competitions. I’m very glad I found yours! I belong to a writers group, we meet every fortnight.

WOW: We’re glad you found our competition, too! Tell us a little something about your writing plans. Where should we look for more of your work?

Margo: Good question! Most of what I’ve done is in a folder in Dropbox. I’m working at the moment on the same story told from 3 different perspectives…sometimes fun, sometimes an interesting challenge. Feel like at the moment I’m trying things out. Perhaps I’ll publish a book of short stories.

Thanks for the opportunity for me to look at what I’m doing,

WOW: Thank you for sharing your story and your process with our readers. Hopefully some of them will follow your example and try writing and submitting to one of our flash contests!

Interview by Sue Bradford Edwards

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Monday, April 20, 2020

 

Hallmarks of a Great E-Newsletter

Pexels.com


There was a time when I tried to clean my inbox of all the e-newsletters I had subscribed to. These days, I find myself subscribing to all different types of e-mails, because I want to study them.

In my day job as a freelance magazine editor, I’m not in charge of the e-mail marketing. But since I’m on the verge of launching a podcast (I swear. It’s coming soon!), I’ve tried to brainstorm what I would put in an e-mail if I had subscribers to connect with each week. I’ve heard advice from many different entrepreneurs that building an e-mail list is something you can do from the very beginning—so don’t put it off. This week I signed up for a mini list building course that will help give me that final kick in the pants to do the work.

Why do I want to build an e-mail list, you ask? Well, first I would like to build it so I can get the word out to all true crime fans that a new podcast is coming. I can use the e-mail to share teaser episodes and create targeted content readers will find useful. Down the road, I can use this e-mail list to offer services and products to readers as well.

I’ve spent some time this past week really studying some of the e-newsletters I get in my inbox. Here are a few ways other business owners and businesses have created content to serve their e-mail subscribers.

One fashion blogger I follow, Living in Yellow, really does a good job with sharing favorite products (with affiliate links most of the time) that I would actually be interested in checking out in the weekly They also share recipes, recent blog posts, craft ideas, and other things that always bring a smile to my face on Sunday afternoons.

I always look forward to C. Hope Clark’s Funds for Writers e-newsletter when it shows up in my inbox on Friday afternoon. Clark shares writing advice, contests, writing markets, and I can study the writing articles that she runs each week and decide if I want to pitch one (I’ve had a few articles published in the e-newsletter so it’s great for prospecting).

I receive another e-mail in the true crime genre called “The Line-Up.” It features something fresh each week, whether a list of true-crime book recommendations, recent blog posts, TV and film recommendations and creepy stories in general.

And of course, I have to mention WOW!, which has more than one e-newsletter so you can choose your own adventure! By going to this link you can sign up for e-newsletters on blog tours and events, special offers from sponsors and affiliates, writer’s markets, contests, and more. I’m pretty sure I’m subscribed to all and can say the team always goes above and beyond when putting together useful content for subscribers.

I’m not going to give away any ideas on what my own e-newsletter will have, but in a future post I may recommend (more like beg) you sign up for it. Until then, I’d love to hear what type of content you put in e-newsletters if you send them out or what you personally like to see in them.


Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also blogs at FinishedPages.com. She is hard at work  creating her passion project, a true crime podcast. 

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Sunday, April 19, 2020

 

Finding the Perfect Match

I am in the midst of querying like crazy. My eyes are strained, due to hours and hours of staring at my computer screen, hoping to find the perfect agent or publisher. Since the beginning of March, I've sent out over 80 queries, and--lucky me--I've even already gotten some rejections that came the next day that were sent to me in a timely manner.

image by Pixabay

In my desperation for a sign that I've stumbled upon the perfect match, I grasp onto details like this:

Oh, this agent plays Ultimate Frisbee. My son used to play Ultimate. People who play Ultimate are passionate, energetic, and not afraid to get "messy." This is the agent for me!

This agent loves the actor Natasha Lyonne. I ate up Lyonne in the show Russian Doll, as well as in the series Orange is the New Black. This agent has great taste. She is the perfect person to rep my manuscript.

Oh wow! This agent is crazy about whales. As a grown up, I once sat through the Shamu show--three times in one day--hoping they would choose me to come to the edge of the tank and touch Shamu. Each time, they ignored me and picked a kid. I’m crazy about whales too. It’s kismet. This agent is destined to represent me.

Of course, these connections are all in my mind. It reminds me of the day I saw a car with an Oklahoma license plate, and knew that I would get home and find an email “yes” from a publisher or an agent (my manuscript centers on a Tulsa event). I didn't. Writers are like that. We hang from the most tenuous of threads, hoping…

Writers also are fond of laughing instead of sniffling sobbing uncontrollably. Ken Pisani actually wrote a piece about writer rejection that made me chuckle. One of the things he pointed out was that apparently, he terrified agents, because frequently he would get an email beginning with, “Dear Ken--I’m afraid that…” He has a similar humous observation about his timing.

As I was drafting this post, I read that one writer had the privilege of sitting in on an agent reading queries. The agent went through 19 queries in 14 minutes. They chose one to set aside in the "maybe" pile. When agents are reading that quickly, potential and talent can be overlooked. All a writer can do is hope that a later agent doesn't miss the possiblities.

And if you're wondering how bumpy the road to snag a literary agent is, read this article.  In it, Stephanie Elliot recalls telling her mother that when she had sent out 100 queries without getting representation, she was going to give up. Later, she told her mom that her 140th query was the lucky one. Of course her mother said, “But I thought you were going to quit at 100!” Elliot explained that if she had thrown in the towel after 100 queries, she wouldn’t have an agent. In this piece, 11 writers share their stories.

Me? My magic number is 155 queries. (31 days in March, which is now April and will soon be May x 5 queries every day = 155.) Will I be like Stephanie Elliot? Will I hit 155 and if I still haven’t got a yes, will I continue submitting?

We’ll see...


Sioux Roslawski is a distance teacher, a freelance writer, a hopeful author and a determined dog rescuer. These days, she's slogging through lists of agents, hoping to find one who will say "yes" to her manuscript. If you'd like to read more from Sioux, head to her blog.

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Saturday, April 18, 2020

 

Some Answers to the Current Most Common Writer Questions During the Pandemic

photo by Marco Verch
Here are some questions that might currently be on your mind:

  1. How do I write when the world is in chaos? 
  2. How do I write when my daily routine is destroyed?
  3. How do I write when I'm never alone, when someone is constantly needing me, and when I hear "Mom" or "Dad" or "Honey" or "Woof, Woof" a million times a day? 
Can you tell I've been asking myself that last one for the past month? 

I've written before about how we have to allow ourselves some grace during this time. Some of us need to physically heal. Some of us need to deal with anxiety and frustration. But I also thought it important to suggest some ways that you could possibly work writing into your life right now--a couple things that are working for me, and others that I've seen on social media or heard on podcasts. These will work for any work-in-progress or even a new project.

Ideas for Writing Progress During the Pandemic: 
  • Write before "they" get up or after "they" go to bed: This is what is currently working for me. For example, I woke up yesterday morning at about 6am and had two glorious hours to work on editing the book I'm trying to indie publish (very soon) (fingers crossed). Even the dog slept by my side while I worked! 
  • If screen time works...don't feel guilty: I struggle with this, trust me. My nine-year-old daughter is playing her tablet more than ever before; but honestly, it's the only time that she's not talking to me or making a lot of noise. She has headphones on, and I can't hear anything. It's bliss. (If the dog would only understand this is also quiet time.) If you need a chunk of quiet time, it really is okay to put some headphones on your kiddo and let them watch an hour (or two, three, four (winks)) of YouTube videos of other people playing video games. I read a great article about how all screen time is not the same. You can find that here, if you'd like. 
  • Do what you can when you can: It's no secret that one of my favorite writer podcasts is "The Self-Publishing Show" with Mark Dawson and James Blatch. They had a terrific episode, out yesterday, about writing during the pandemic, and Mark had some great ideas for working on your work-in-progress. He mentioned bringing a voice recorder (your phone!) on daily walks and dictating while walking--either words of your manuscript or notes about your characters and plot. If that doesn't work for you, he mentioned bringing a notebook to jot down notes. Then when you do have time to write a few hundred words, you'll have already thought about what you want to write. It's a method that worked for my critique partner, Camille Faye, and how she wrote her first novel, Voodoo Butterfly while also being a stay-at-home mom. You will want to check out that "The Self-Publishing Show" episode, which you can listen to on a podcast app or watch on YouTube here
  • Connect with other writers through Zoom or Skype or whatever you fancy: Tomorrow, I'm attending a virtual writing retreat with my critique group from noon to 6pm! (You better believe my daughter will be thrilled to hear this when she hears she will get extra tablet time!) My critique group member, Tricia L. Sanders, a cozy mystery writer, did this type of virtual write-in with her mystery writers' group and said we should do it, too. So we are! Look, if Zoom can be used for happy hours and Easter and Passover dinners, then it can be used for a writing retreat. For 30 minutes at the start of the retreat, we'll get online together and talk about our goals and projects. Then on the :00 and :30, we'll sprint or edit for 20 minutes and then record our progress in our private FB group. For the other 10 minutes, before the next sprint/editing session, we'll stretch our legs, snack, or take the dog out. Then back at it again. This will force me to make the time to work on my own stuff. And I'm not sure if my daughter and puppy will last the whole six hours, but let's say they even last half that time--I will feel like I got so much done; and plus, I'll connect with my critique group members!  
I hope one of the ideas above can help you during this unprecedented time of anxiety, isolation, and change. That's the thing. This is unprecedented! So if you're struggling, well, of course, you are. I have had days where I felt on top of the world, and like I've got this--no problem. Then other days, like right before I sat down to write this, where I felt like I could not make it another hour in these conditions, let alone six more weeks (or more if summer camps are closed). 

If you 've been doing something that works, and you're writing and making progress on your projects, please share with us below.

As you've probably heard said so many times before in the past month: We are all in this together.

Margo L. Dill is a children's and young adult author as well as a writing instructor and coach. Her next class for WOW!, Writing a Novel With a Writing Coach, starts on May 1. To sign up, go here. To check out Margo and her books, go here. Sign up to receive the first chapter of her novel and a coupon here

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Friday, April 17, 2020

 

Friday Speak Out!: Onward!!!

by Angelica R. Jackson

I realized I’ve been querying for so long that I can remember the days when writers hoarded boxes to ship weighty, printed manuscripts to addresses in New York; I even saved uncancelled stamps from our own mail to reuse on my submissions. So many mail rooms have received envelopes from me decorated with a hodgepodge of stamps and a veneer of dried rubber cement.

Or, I could go further back to when I was still in high school, writing science fiction stories that the genre magazines turned down as derivative (rightly so). Over the years, the rejections mounted; I sold several freelance articles, but it was twenty years before I finally got a yes on a fiction piece.

Someone asked me recently what kept me going and I knew the answer immediately: it was the form rejection I received from a literary journal with a handwritten note of encouragement scrawled across it. The editor had added a single word, “Onward,” followed by no less than three exclamation marks. Although the comment lacked specificity, it galvanized me when I was feeling particularly low.

From then on, whenever I was discouraged, I’d cry “Onward!!!” and write a new story, or join another writing workshop, or dissect a beloved novel for its structure. I took it as an order to continue to grow and learn while I waited to be discovered.

That one word made me into a better writer, or at least it made me feel validated enough to put the work in to become a better writer. It carried me through short stories and novel drafts and the harrowing query process.

Some years later, we moved house and I came across my folder of rejection letters. I’d saved them with the goal of using the papers to decoupage a bookcase for my to-be-published-someday books, as a way to thumb my nose at the editors who had failed to recognize my early genius. But as I read through them, I discovered these pages didn’t hold any sentiment for me any longer: no pang of rejection, no angst directed at the sender. They’d lost their power.

The only one I really wanted to keep was that treasured form rejection with the handwritten note. I finally found it and held it up to the light, expecting to hear a chorus of angels in the room. Instead, I noticed that the “Onward!!!” wasn’t handwritten—it had actually been photocopied along with the form rejection. It wasn’t meant for me personally at all.

Or was it? Since I’d taken it for my own personal mantra, it had done its job. Like Dumbo’s feather that made him fly, I discovered that the magic had been inside me the entire time—or if not magic, an inner stubbornness and determination that kept me writing and submitting.

So now I’m passing it on to whoever needs it, to borrow my motto and keep writing and growing. Onward!!!

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 Angelica R. Jackson is a writer, photographer, and avid naturalist living in the Sierra foothills of California. She is the author of the award-winning Faerie Crossed young adult urban fantasy series, and her photos are collected in Capturing The Castle: Images of Preston Castle.
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