Like so many of us, I wear several hats. One of the hats I wear is Founder and Director of the non-profit: The Room to Write. In that capacity, I write blog entries for The Room to Write's website blog. Sometimes my two hats: non-profit director and creative writer, have commonalities. This is one of those instances where a blog post I wrote for TRtW also works really well as an author blog post. So, here is my posting in its entirety:
There's something about spring and, in particular, the month of May that makes everybody buzz about seeking new ways to grow, not only in the garden but in their spiritual life, family life, professional life, and--hopefully--their creative life.
Sometimes our creative lives take a back seat to all the other lives we maintain.
If you're hoping to grow in your creative life, a wonderful and free resource is available to you thanks to a collaboration and sponsorship from Wakefield Community Access Television (WCAT) studios titled The Journey of a Story interview series.
No matter what genre you write in and regardless of the age your target audience is, some things remain constant in writing, and we have uncovered some really helpful insights that can save you a lot of time and frustration when it comes to the publication process.
In The Room to Write's interview series, The Journey of a Story, we focus on the writing and publication process rather than the content of each book. We're not at all interested in an author's pedigree, but we are very curious about the obstacles in each author's journey that they had to overcome in order to persevere all the way to publication. We love to learn about time-and-sanity-saving hacks!
We're not so much interested in plot twists as we are curious how a writer battled writer's block, formatted a query letter, found an agent, and the nitty gritty details of the revision process. The Journey of a Story series is a high-quality series on a low budget because--let's face it--most writers are not making a living from their creative writing projects and publications. By day they are teachers, doctors, financial advisors, therapists, and successful entrepreneurs. Other writers have only found the time to write after they retired from their full-time jobs.
So, tune into 30 (currently) different interviews of authors who write everything from adult romance to children's picture books, poems to plays, kids non-fiction to adult essays. It's quite an eclectic group and they share generously from their experiences. The one commonality? They are all from New England, with the vast majority reside in Massachusetts.
So sit back, tuck it, top off and learn how real writers write and how they eventually publish!
You guessed it.
A deadline is a writer's best friend.
Writers need deadlines, even self-imposed ones. If you're like me and you still manage to slip by the guards, you may need to toss in a dash of public accountability. This is where my critique group has been key to progress. I write the words down, but I seriously doubt I'd have brought two novels into the world with one in the oven if the deadline of a monthly critique group didn't force me to write.
But, for a slacker and master procrastinator like me--it's still not enough. I don't want to painfully squeeze out a chapter here and a blog entry there under duress, the sharp curve of a swinging pendulum slowly descending upon me.
After all--I like writing.
I love it. It's the very air that I breathe.
So, why do I avoid it like a teenage crush: hiding behind my locker door, slipping into class and slumping in my seat, pretending to read to avoid unintentional eye contact?
I think I'm afraid.
There, I've said it. Perhaps this is the imposter syndrome I've heard about.
Whatever I've written up until the next moment I write that is at all entertaining, enjoyable or that somehow seems to be making sense as a cohesive story is clearly a fluke.
My streak is sure to run out and I fear that the next time I sit down to write I just won't do the rest of the piece justice. Perhaps that's why revision can sometimes seem more attractive as a task because I've already figured out the full story, the characters and most details. I simply need to polish them up, perhaps shift them around--or maybe rewrite whole passages entirely.
But, this ends now. (I hope:)
With the new year standing right outside my door, I am going to rely on a writer's second best friend: a closed door to a quiet space. Eureka! Only days ago (two to be exact:) did I discover that my husband, who had been occupying the "office" space in our house for the better part of the last two years--while I took up residence in the equivalent of a busy hotel lobby in our living room--is now in the "real" office three days a week. The room that had been "his" can be adopted and adapted as "ours." What a discovery.
It only took me two full months to realize it.
So, I go into the new year with new hope that I can ignore my fears, pay more attention to deadlines and more consciously enter a room where writing happens--not laundry or phone calls or dishes or a cat being adorable.
Here's to finding some space for passion in the new year.
I gave myself twenty minutes to write this:)
It may not be perfect, but it's done.
Autumn--my favorite season for sure!
I'm ignoring the season that follows and trying to savor this season before us with its colors and cooler temperatures. Don't get me wrong, I've learned to completely embrace my beach bum alter ego the last several summers, but then the humidity and the heat start to wear out their welcome and I long for a good excuse to stay indoors--to write, to read, to use the oven again, to use the fireplace and put slippers on. I like to get my cozy on.
Yet, everything has started up. Though we're allegedly "slowly" getting back to school and work and all those extra activities we somehow fit in before Covid came knocking at our door, nothing feels slow about it. We're knee-deep in October and I've already put lots of things on the calendar for November and even got someone inquiring about a date in December this morning. What!?
The weird thing is that I seem to get more done, focus better, feel better about my days when they are filled to the brim. When I look at a day and wonder how it will all happen, it usually does--one "to do" at a time. But, I long for quiet, calm moments where I can do nothing, read for pleasure or watch British Baking Show (it's back for another season--is it crazy that the news of it filled me with a sort of comforting joy?).
Yesterday I made it through the first full-pass revision of my entire Middle Grade novel, Eleanor with the Weeping Eye. I am so excited about this book! I'm eager to get it out there and hear a response from Beta Readers, the first will hopefully take a crack at it next week once I have made a few more adjustments to scenes, print it out, spiral bind it and send it off in the mail to her. Like every writer, I hope it's as good as it feels like it is when I read through it from beginning to end. On this last pass, I tweaked and fixed and totally reworked some chapters because tense and perspective got all mixed up in parts.
If you like Middle Grade and want to serve as a Beta Reader for my Eleanor book--send me an email. See the description here.
It's summer. Sometimes it's hard to stay focused on a project when the sun shines, the pool waves, kids abound and schedules turn loose-y goose-y. So, I am grateful for my writer friends. We need them. You know the ones that like to talk about writing--
who are actually willing to read what you write.
I just got off the phone after a good chat about the most recently revised version of my manuscript Lucy Bound in Lyrics with my writer friend and author of the daily blog Existential Auto Trip, Dom Capossela. He was one of the small, brave group of writers who strolled in to be part of the writers' critique group I was starting over four years ago in 2017. Wow! Here's a photo of that first meeting--though the current members are all different now.
Lucy Bound in Lyrics has undergone several revisions since then and I have grown as a writer as a result. At least I hope I have:) If Dom's feedback is any indication, I am on the right track. He really liked Lucy and appreciated her father's character. It was good to hear from a father who can see through that lens since he is the first male beta reader I've had.
So, thanks Dom! For all your support along my writing journey. It's important to have people in my life who will read my stuff and, if I'm really lucky, are willing to carve out an hour to talk about it on a summer's day.
I am grateful for good friends and honest feedback!
I did it. It's done. Well, any writer who has ever written anything, especially a novel-sized anything, knows that "done" is a relative term. Nothing is ever done--at least not the first time around. But, I have reached The End and as backward as this may sound I am relieved to be at the point where I stop and start all over again--at the beginning, ready for the first complete revision.
Above is a photo of the home stretch. With such nice weather I have taken my laptop out onto the sunporch for a change of scenery and more open space to glance around, breath it in and wrap it up.
So, that's it. That's all I wanted to share. Eleanor with the Weeping Eye (which may get retitled to Eleanor with the Violet Eyes) has by some miracle gotten untangled like the clump of necklaces photographed somewhere down below in an earlier posting. Once one strand got loose, I found the path of another and another and it feels good to sit back satisfied that most of the strands made it out in one piece.
Looking forward to sharing it with you all one day. Until the next revision, it ends: "That’s how I came to know Eleanor with the violet eyes and, in turn—myself."
Recently I decided to pick a new name for a character in my YA novel Lucy Bound in Lyrics. Readers were getting the two characters Sully and Simon confused. Instead of just picking a new name myself, I thought the readers might be the best ones to decide, so I put it to a vote for Beta Readers and my book club Beta Readers to weigh in because they know the characters already.
It ended up being so much fun, and it was interesting to hear what their thought process was. Names seem like a small detail, but there's so much behind a name and everybody's experiences flavor the impressions differently. So much fun! See the votes below:
- - - - - - - - - -
"My vote is for Jacob only bc I have a Noah and Mason at school right now and that's what I associate those names with. I honestly do like them all though. Can't wait to hear what you pick!"
"My vote is Mason. 😊"
"I like Mason
It's funny how names can root you into a specific time period (or can cause a visceral reaction in someone - I wouldn't like a character named Regina). Interestingly both of my kids share names (or nicknames) with other book club members' children. I am/we are either trendy or risk-adverse if that has any impact on how you view my vote."
"My vote is Mason"
I like Jacob first and best, it’s innocuous and slightly average. You could easily look over a kid named Jacob and not give him or his name a second thought. He’s a shade of grey until you look closer and see the nuances, greys can be cool or warm and usually consist of other colors.
I dislike Noah for no particular reason.
Thanks, this was a fun little brain break."
I like Simon but if you have to change it, I vote for Mason.
"Funny, the names didn't bother me in the book. Maybe at first I thought, now which one is this, but generally I think boys are all the same so Sully/Simon, whatever. Ha. If I had to pick I'd go with Mason. Still seems like a nerdy name like Simon. Jake is too cool and Noah is too biblical. Ha."
"I'd go with Mason because it sounds like Simon and so I can picture that name being the same character.
In life, especially in 2020 (oh, wait--we're not in 2020 anymore?:), it's important to take time out to sit and soak in a few pleasant moments when they surface. As a writer who is currently working on books for young people, it's natural to wonder if my projects will be enjoyed by the ages they're intended for.
Cue my in-house editorial team with a penchant for unabashed honesty. They had so often asked to read what I was writing when I was drafting and later revising my Young Adult novel: LUCY BOUND IN LYRICS, but the answer was always, "No, you're too young." So, I started writing a Middle Grade novel allowing me to say, "Yes, take a look."
The two projects are completely different, which makes it fun for me. The Young Adult novel has been a heart-wrenching, creative, learning journey and a chance for me to take broad strokes with my poetic paintbrush to address the challenges of an age-group I used to teach in the classroom and advise as a college admissions counselor. Alternately, the Middle Grade novel has been a fun and funny, wild, mysterious ride with characters I hadn't expected to meet but am glad they insisted on joining in. I can't wait to find out how it ends. Seriously! :)
So, two weeks or so ago I printed out my YA novel and spiral bound it for my very first Beta Reader: My oldest daughter. She is a voracious reader and being a teenager--I knew I wasn't going to get unearned praise. In fact, I wondered if I would get any. It felt so good to share something so dear to me with someone so dear to me.
I gave her a list of questions and a teen-friendly mini emoji survey after each chapter. Then, I waited for the verdict. And, she didn't disappoint. She really enjoyed the book, but pointed me toward some scenes that felt too long, some words that were used too often, a couple of outdated terms and even offered up a comp title: Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams. Her feedback was put right to work and as a result I made a rather substantial format change that was not only a compliment to the storyline but super fun for a writer who loves poetry. I finally got the feeling: It's ready! I wanted it to be ready so many times over the past two+ years, but this was the first time I felt pride for it in my bones.
Last week, I needed a boost in motivation to propel me through the resolutions needed in my MG novel: ELEANOR WITH THE WEEPING EYE. I printed out the 120+ pages in their rough draft form, punched three holes, tied yarn through each to bind it and handed it to my second oldest daughter to read and let me know if I was going in the right direction. Not only did she read it, but she read the first 55 pages out loud to my younger son who really enjoyed the story until my daughter's throat started hurting. She didn't want to stop reading it, though, so she finished the rest in silence, herself within hours. She loved it!
My books aren't published, but it still felt so good to see kids (especially my own kids!:) reading them--even if just bound together with plastic coil or pieces of yarn. It was the most instant gratification a writer can get.*
I'm going to soak it in and savor it for the gift that it is:)
* Disclaimer: Giving birth and raising your own in-house editorial team should in no way be thought of as "instant." There really is nothing instant about it and much thought should be given to the responsibility and expense involved when embarking on such an involved editorial plan. In-house editorial teams may cause exhaustion, stress, sleepless nights, depletion of food, less time for writing, clogged toilets and memory loss. :)