Love yourself and your writing.

Who do you write for? Do you write for yourself, or do you write for your audience? Maybe it’s a little bit of both. Either way, I’m sure you have expectations for your writing and the minds you hope to nourish and engage.

Now here’s a question: What are you doing to nourish yourself?

(Think about that as you continue to read.)

It is common practice to tell writers to write every day. I don’t agree with that. While I do believe that you should write often, I think that writing every day is overkill. Take some time to let ideas bloom. Take some time and have a new experience. After all, it’s always great to be able to pull ideas from your very own experiences.

Instead of watching my kids play yesterday, as tired as I was, I skipped with them. We had a foot race. We drew in the dirt. Think of how much better my descriptions would be describing those things now than before I actively did them. Even beyond helping me to writer better scenes or descriptions, I had fun! I was living in the moment.

At this stage in my writing journey, I’ve found that I’m always trying to live beyond the moment. Sound weird? Here’s what I mean: I am always fretting about my next move.

Maybe I should do another round of revisions. Will I need another critique of my WIP? Who should I get to critique it? Ooh, I wonder if that idea I had this morning would sell well with a wide audience. I wonder if my topics are too niche and I need to branch out.

This means that I am usually glued to my phone in some way, full of angst. I am malnourished. I have not been doing enough to nourish myself.

So, back to our question: What are you doing to nourish yourself?

Hopefully, you’ve struck a better work/life balance than I have. However, if you and I are in the same boat, let’s paddle out of this situation by seeing what we can do:

  • Unplug! If it’s weekly, biweekly, or monthly, have a tech-free day to help reconnect with our surroundings.
  • Pamper yourself! Go fishing. Have a spa day. Put on fuzzy slippers and binge watch your favorite show.
  • Write yourself a note. It doesn’t have to be long. Let yourself know that you are proud of yourself. Save it for a cruddy day.
  • Big or small, have an adventure. Go on a road trip. Try a new ice cream place. There’s nothing like the excitement of a new experience. Bottle it up until the next time you unplug.

Just as you promise to make time for your writing, promise to make time for yourself. I will do the same.

 

Snowballs, Icebergs, and Reality Checks of Writing

To those of you currently battling snow of epic proportions, I apologize if the title alone made you roll your eyes. However, I promise that no other title was better suited. Compared to others, my writing journey is still in the beginning stages. Yes, I have had some wins along the way, but in regards to time, I haven’t been at this for multiple years.

Snowballs

When you see announcements of others striking multiple book deals, it is easy to loudly applaud them while internally wishing you could pelt them with an arsenal of snowballs. After all, you want to take them down, not actually hurt them. It’s hard to not be jealous. You want your name announced. You want your book on shelves. You want a spot on the illustrious bookshelf of the chosen few.

But, here’s something to keep in mind: While you were busy wallowing in your melting snowball arsenal, you missed all of the grunt work that someone else was doing.

Icebergs

Ah, the iceberg of success. If you’ve ever tried to reach any type of goal, this image should be burned into your brain. As writers who have not yet tasted the sweet fruit of success (and the type and taste of said fruit will vary from writer to writer), we must keep in mind that we are likely unaware of the setbacks, missteps, and failures that another writer has had to endure. We are likely too much in awe of acquisitions announcement to even think about this sometimes.

Reality Checks

As much as you want a rea l check, don’t discount the importance of a good ole reality check. For me, I had to ask myself if I was doing all that I could to improve my craft. Was I seeking enough critiques from quality critique partners? If I wasn’t happy with the critiques I was receiving, was I actively seeking to get better feedback elsewhere? Was I using my time wisely? Was I paying attention to what was selling? Was I using mentor texts?

See, there are plenty of things to do to make sure that you’re crafting the best manuscripts that you can. Besides, I don’t want to just be on a bookshelf. I want to leave a mark on the entire library. Back to work!

 

“Every idea ain’t a good idea!”

I’m not sure which older person in my life said this to me, but I certainly remember hearing it more than once. I also know that it rings very true.

While we are busy Story Storming our hearts out over the last week, let’s not get bogged down in the details. It’s highly unlikely that you’re in love with every idea that you’ve jotted down. I’m certainly not. But, here’s the thing:

  • I don’t expect to love every idea.
  • I don’t expect to use every idea.
  • I don’t even expect every idea to be good.
  • I do expect to hold on to my list for quite some time.

What’s the point of holding onto ideas you’re not swooning over? Some ideas may merge, mutate, or morph into something really great. Some ideas may springboard you into writing a great project that you had never really considered.

Don’t overthinking thinking at the last minute.

When Distraction becomes Fruitful

I have focused goals for this year. It took me less than a week to get distracted. To be fair, I was only distracted for a few days. I saw a call for children’s TV pitches, and one of sought after themes just so happened to align with an idea I’d been fooling around with.

Do I know anything about pitching a children’s TV series? Nope! Did I let that stop me from seriously considering this? Nope! I won’t keep you in suspense. I decided against actively pursuing the opportunity.

The surprise? I got my idea out of my head and it actually started to take shape (and make sense)! I’ve always considered fresh looking at something with fresh eyes as meaning taking a break from it and returning or having someone else take a look at it. Today, my fresh eyes came in the form of envisioning my idea in a different medium. I actually visualized it. (I oddly stared at my TV while it was turned off, but what works; right?)

I can proudly say that I’m more motivated than ever to continue writing on this #MuseMonday.

My experience so far w/ Rate Your Story

So, remember when I got that Rate Your Story scholarship to use for this year? Honey, I’ve already been putting it to use. I’ve submitted 3 picture book manuscripts so far, and I’ve already received feedback on two of them.

I’m not going to lie to you in this blog, ever. I pouted when I saw my feedback. I thought these early drafts were pretty good. They’d been through a couple of critique partners who said they were pretty good. Let me just say that good critique partners are great, but a critique from a professional (particularly someone more seasoned that you are) is invaluable.

Truthfully, the feedback I got was more than just feedback. It was an honest critique. It eloquently told me what needed to be improved, offered concrete suggestions, and pretty much told me to try again. There wasn’t a bunch of added fluff to cushion my fragile writer’s ego. Nope! I understand the compliment sandwich, but critique partners can sometimes get too focused on the compliment part.

I’ve printed out my manuscripts, along with the feedback I received. I’m going to return to them in a couple of weeks with fresh eyes and new inspiration. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

 

Storystorm: PiBoIdMo 2.0

storystorm_participant Today is the first day of StoryStorm. You may be more familiar with its previous name: PiBoIdMo. Tara Lazar is once again bringing the goods, and this time, with the move of the initiative from its November time slot, we can all start off our year in the best possible way: with hopeful creativity and a supportive community.

Sure, StoryStorm is for writers, but non-writers can benefit from the principles. Write down a bunch of things that interest you. Write down one thing a day. Here’s another twist: take the time to write down something that makes you happy every day for a month. Keep these items in a jar and refer back to them on a day when you’re down or when you’re in a funk.

Really, whatever you decide to do or not do this year, make it count. Don’t shortchange yourself. There’s only one you, and 2016 (if nothing else) taught us that how long we have on Earth is unknown. Do what makes you happy. Let the smile on your face be so genuine that it infects others. Be the light in the world you want to see. If we all did that, imagine how bright things would be.

What 2016 did for me

Let’s take a look at what my 2016 writing goals were:

That being said, I have some writing expectations for 2016. I expect to write at least 12 picture book drafts. That is a lofty goal. If it wasn’t there wouldn’t be a 12X12 group. I don’t need cheerleaders like that. I’m sure that works for some folk, but a big, organized group would probably do me more harm than good at this point. Why? I hate when people feel left out, so I always feel obligated to respond or help or lend an “ear.” I’m not going to get much written if I keep letting myself get distracted.

(That’s an excerpt from my old blog, in case you were wondering.) Did I write 12 picture books? I did! I’d also had a goal to write a MG novel. Did I do that? Nope. I started one but didn’t like it. It has been abandoned for now.

What else did 2016 have in store for me? 2 floods, moving twice, and finding out I have carpal tunnel in both arms after busting my butt from trying to recover from the floods. I also landed an agent thanks to a Twitter pitch party.

Clearly, this was a rough year. However, I learned a very important lesson: I am stronger than I thought. We never really know our limitations or the depths of our strength until life really lets us have it.

If I can strive to meet my writing goals after losing nearly everything in a flood and living with my family in a room at my mother-in-law’s house, I will continue to seek that same inner strength as I approach 2017.

So what did 2016 do for me? It taught me that I am as awesome as I strive to be. I surpass awesomesauce. I’m at like awesomeroux level. (smile)

 

 

 

Writing Distractions Part 2 (focusing on my own work)

Since getting the double carpal tunnel diagnosis, I’ve pulled back a great deal on how much I’m actually on the computer. Aside from writing, I solely work online. This means that I am always typing.

It has helped, but I have had to make the hard decision to “rough it” for a while and not teach as many classes as I have been. I’m taking a term off from one school. It’s the first time I’ve done this. I worked up the time they wheeled me down the hall to have a c-section both times.

I am still going to teach one class, but it doesn’t start until mid January. Work is a necessity, but it also keeps me from writing as much as I would like. I think it’s important to realize that we have to give our writing the importance that it deserves. If we treat it like a hobby,  or something that’s not a priority, I think that shows in our work.

Anyway, this newfound (forced) break will give me a little bit of extra time. I plan to take advantage of it and solely focus on my own writing.

Yup, I won’t be doing any new critiques whatsoever starting this week and lasting until mid-January. I have a NF WIP that I plan on sinking my teeth into, and I can’t wait.

My battle with rhyme

I have some pretty random writing goals. Yes, I primarily want to write picture books, but i have a pretty big writing goal that includes that. I want to get one of everything published. I want to publish a MG, NF, an article, etc. I’d even wanted to get an academic article, but they keep switching up APA on me, and I’m too lazy for that.

What does that have to do with anything? Writing a rhyming picture book is on my list of writing goals. I am proud to say that I’m getting better with it.No, really!

I went from an okay story with erratic rhyme. Then I had a pretty good story, but the rhyme seemed forced. Now I have a pretty good story, but the rhyme is leading the story too much.

That looks like progress to me.

So, what did I do to fix my most recent issue with rhyme? I first sent my manuscript to Rate Your Story. Their feedback is extremely helpful. Then, I read my manuscript one time and sat it aside. I wrote down (yes, by hand) what story elements I needed to tighten and brainstormed some solutions. After that, I wrote a new manuscript. I pretty much only kept two characters from the original. Now, I’ve sent this most recent manuscript to my critique partner. Where’d I get this particular critique partner? He’s actually one of my favorite partners I found through the KidLit411 Manuscript Swap group on Facebook.

Make those connections, my friends, and keep on tweaking those manuscripts.

Writing Distractions

As a writer who wants to do big things, it’s easy to become distracted. I’m sure I’m not alone. We’re supposed to build an author platform, right? That means I need to be on social media, right? We should always work to hone our craft, right? That means I need to take more classes. Writing in isolation is garbage. That means I need to be an active participant in the writing community, right?

It’s really easy to get caught up in the non-writing side of writing. I just recently had to check myself about this. I love contests. I love interacting. I love a great deal of the extras. However, if I’m not being productive as a writer (you know, with an actual increase in my word count to show for it), I have to be honest with myself about not being on task. Then I have to fix it.