Monday, December 22, 2014

Group Hug

If you've been following my posts, you already know that I quit querying my last project so I could focus on my WIP. A few weeks ago, something prompted me to send out a few more queries. I was pleasantly surprised when I received a full request. It's been a great few weeks of 'What Ifs' and 'Maybes', but alas, this morning I received a polite pass.

I had a blog I began a few days ago that I was supposed to post today. But after receiving the 'we didn't feel strongly enough about your project to take it on at this time' message, I kind of cracked. I don't know, I could blame hormones or 'Tis the Season. Regardless, I immediately posted my Woe is Me Message to my fellow RWers. Even during this crazy busy time of the year, they immediately responded with words of encouragement and support. I seriously wished I could reach through the screen and give each of them a giant hug.

So, instead of blogging about writing today, I instead decided to thank my AMAZING critique groups the Revision Warriors and the OWLS (Osceola County SCBWI). I LOVE you guys so much. Thank you for believing in me and for inspiring me each and every day.

If you are not a part of a critique group, I strongly recommend you join one. If you write children's books and are a part of SCBWI, contact your local branch for information on a critique group within your area. You won't regret it.

photo credit: JeremyHall via photopin cc

Monday, December 15, 2014

Staying Committed

Snowflake via Alexey Kljatov

The HOLIDAYS are upon us! With all that goes on with kids and their schools, work parties, friend parties, traveling, vacations, and the shopping, it's hard to stay focused and committed to writing and editing. Since NaNo, I've made many lofty goals for revising only to be waylaid by sickness, surprise family emergencies, and doctor visits. My goals have basically been dashed to pieces. Just looking at my to-do lists make me want to pull all my hair out.

Here are some helpful tips if you are experiencing the same kind of busy life and insane scheduling:

  •  Keep breathing. This helps a LOT. 
  • Count your blessings and remember that good things can happen! This makes a smile appear on my face. 
  • Divide and conquer! Instead of revising 10 chapters in a week, cut it half, and then maybe cut it in half again if need be. Stress is not a writer's BFF, unless it is. Procrastinators unite! 
  • Prioritize. Drop the extra baggage whenever and wherever possible. If it can wait, sneak 20 minutes of writing in! 
  • Practice focusing. As a mom, this can be difficult for me. I have noodle-brain syndrome and think of a million things at once. Try honing in on that ms by making a playlist or reread the previous couple of paragraphs to get your mind set on the words.
  • Ask for help! You'd be surprised how many people want you to succeed in your endeavors! Let them be a part of it by wrapping some gifts or picking up some stocking stuffers for you. Or ask for a night or two of peace and quiet as your holiday gift! 
  • Don't fret. Eventually, things get done. You'd be surprised how often I feel like I'm barely keeping my head above water and then it's New Years! We can do this! I believe in you!

So, dare I ask what your goals are during the holidays? Please share!

Happy Holidays!!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Winning NaNo (even when you fail)

For the first time in many years, I participated in NaNoWriMo, and in doing so I learned a little something. 

Let me start by saying that I had stayed away from NaNo in years past because every time I tried to reach my 50K word goal, I failed. And even though I knew that 50K in a month was a giant task, (and one year my town lost power for eleven days after a major Halloween snowstorm) it stung to not meet the goals I had set for myself, especially when so many others seemed to cruise right through to the end. 

I didn’t just fail. I felt like a failure.

Even though I didn’t really think about it in these terms, feeling like a failure is what kept me from trying NaNo again. And thus, I broke up with NaNo in a very it’s not you, it’s me fashion.

Fast forward a few years to NaNo 2014. I’m about 20K into a new WIP that I’m pretty excited about, and I decide that I want to give NaNo another try. Maybe it would be just the thing I needed to finish that all important first draft so I could start fresh with revisions in 2015. 

Of course, the first thing I do is tell my CPs. Apparently, the stars were aligned just right that day as I found out that all of us intended to participate this year. Yippee!! We all vowed to support and cheer for each other. We talked about our goals and how we planned on accomplishing them. This had me super excited and shot my motivation bar up to 11. 

Next, I made a plan.  I knew myself much better than I did during NaNo’s past, and so I came up with a plan that would give me the best possible chance to win. Monday through Friday, I was going to go to bed at 7:00 pm and wake up at 4:00 am every morning. That would give me two hours to write before I had to get ready for The Day Job. 

It was going to be AWESOME.

And awesome it was. For a time. However, November is a notoriously busy month for my family. As November flew by, I fell behind.  And behind. Aaaaand behind. That old familiar feeling crept it’s way into my consciousness. Despite my best efforts, I’m failing. Then, I’m a failure.

However, this year, a bigger part of my brain squashed that train of thinking immediately. Maybe I won’t write 50K new words, but I HAD written new words. Quite a few of them actually, and I was damn proud of those words. I also realized that not meeting a goal in a certain time frame was NOT synonymous with failure. It’s not even close. NaNo (as well as most other things) is not about winning or losing, or judging your achievement by another person’s progress. 

When I used a different perspective to consider what I had accomplished -- I  wrote way more in November than I had any other month in 2014 – then in reality, I kicked NaNo’s a$$. I was a word producing machine! My NaNo 2014 was a major success. 50K or not, I could feel good about what I'd done and look forward to doing it again next year. 

Thinking this way is motivating instead of discouraging and demoralizing. If you don’t try, you can never succeed, so never beat yourself up for trying. 

So, I guess the point to my story is this – be proud of what you’ve done, not what you haven’t yet accomplished. Give yourself credit for trying. Learn from your experiences and, in the end, do the best you can and allow yourself to feel good about it. 



Monday, December 1, 2014

Tackling that Revision

Happy Monday!

We are in DECEMBER! I'll give you a minute to freak out about that.

We've also reached the end of NaNoWriMo. If you won: GOLD STAR FOR YOU. If you participated, but didn't quite reach 50k: GOLD STAR FOR YOU. Because you got words on the page. And even if it wasn't 50k words, it's more than you had on October 31st. That's something to be darn proud of.

Now, if you DID reach 50k, or even reached the end of your novel, you're solid, right? Eh. Maybe. Maybe not. It kind of irks me when people scream DON'T YOU DARE THINK YOU'RE FINISHED. More than likely, you're not. Generally speaking, first drafts are for getting the words out. Revision is turning those words into what you dreamed they would be.

In December 2013, I started what would become my biggest revision project yet (helloooo, my precious PLAY ON). And while it was most definitely hard work, I ended up with a book that I am so very proud of. I'm no expert, but I do have a few tips on how to tackle a major revision.

Be open to change.

This is the number one step. If you’re not ready to change anything, then you’re probably not ready to revise. Finishing your draft is awesome! But revision is where the magic happens. If you don’t think you need to change anything in your first draft, I suggest letting your manuscript sit for at least a week or so--heck, come back to that baby after the holidays, if need-be. When you return with fresh eyes, you may be surprised at the things you find.

Know what needs to be done.

When I get notes from my CPs/agent/editor, the first thing I do is make a list of each issue that needs addressing. This way, I can check them off as I go.

Make an attack plan.

This is where outlining comes in handy. It doesn’t have to be some long, drawn-out, 10-page outline. Simply jotting down main plot points can be super helpful. The point here is that you need to know where you're going.

Have a support system. And chocolate. And pie.

There may be tears. And that's okay. This writing stuff gets tough. Sometimes, you just need someone else to tell you that you CAN do this, even if you don't believe it yourself. Trust me.

Embrace the "mental health days."

We’re not robots. We have brains and bodies that need rest. Burnout is a real thing that sucks. I, for one, love my mental health days. If you need a night of Netflix and brownies, go for it. Your MS will wait for you.

Be patient with yourself.

Again, it's tough. And the first round of revisions may not be "it." You may need two rounds. Three. Seven. But once you're holding a manuscript that's everything you'd hoped it would be, all the work is so, so worth it.

Monday, November 24, 2014

NaNoWriMo Homestretch!

It’s getting gritty ‘round here at Revision Warriors. For the first time ever, we have FIVE NaNoWriMo participants. This means lots of early alarms, buckets of coffee, and loads of Facebook pep-talks. And because of ALL that, this post will be brief. 

Unless I can use this post toward my word count.  Hmm. 

My own crazy:  NaNo Critter Mascot accepts NO excuses. 
As we near the end of this intense writerly marathon, I’ve paraphrased some of our own RW pep-talks and tips we've given each other these last weeks.

It’s a FIRST DRAFT. Let it be messy. Like, plotlines-don’t-add-up kind of messy. By now, you’ve no doubt told your inner editor to pipe down a few times. But at this stage, even if it’s a BIG oops, like an errant plotline or you realize one of your heroes should play for the other team, well, good catch. Write your thoughts down somewhere you won’t lose them and move forward. From that point on in your ms, write the story with your new twist. Adjust your previous chapters in revision. Later. After you’ve hit your 50K.

WRITE CHAPTER INTRO PARAGRAPHS. If you’re feeling lost or unsure (or stuck in the murky middle of your ms), try writing the opening paragraphs for your remaining chapters to help plot the way.

KEEP MAKING WORDS. Even if you need a prompt. Here are a few ideas: 
   -    Your protagonist now has a cold. Or a stomach bug (I think everyone at RW had an illness during November).
   -  How would it affect your story if there were an ice or tropical storm moving in?
   -  What if your antagonist does something good in front of your protagonist?
   -  One of your characters randomly receives a letter about claiming an inheritance. 

ALMOST THERE! Only one more week of these early wake-up, late nights, and writing while bobbling your sandwich and a plate on your lap. Let’s bribe our friends/family/children with promises of quality time and coffee dates in December, but for now, keep going!

It is worth it. You have LOTS of new words!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pity Party

We've been taught since we were infants to reach for the stars and work our butts off until we succeed. Knowing this, I've set many short and long-term writing goals for myself.

Now that I've hit the murky middle in my WIP, I've been feeling, well, a bit sorry for myself for not achieving more at this stage of my writing career. I question if I have any business writing a book. I studied Music Education in school. Am I kidding myself? This is my third novel. I really hoped my last MS would be The One. But despite the partial and full requests, it now lies restlessly inside a jump drive collecting dust while I lounge in a sea of self pity.  *cue Debbie Downer tones Womp Womp*.

When I'm feeling down like this, it's difficult for me to stay focused. (Think Doug the dog in the movie UP.) So last week when I sat down to write and instead found myself surfing the Internet, I swam across a life preserver. Yes, in the black hole of wasted time, there was a giant plastic doughnut in the form of a blog post I swear was written just for me! The post reminded me that I'm not alone and that every single writer--both pre-published and published--have felt the same anxiety. 

So readers I share this wonderful post with you if you haven't already read it. It's written by amazing author Dahlia Adler. Thank you Dahlia for reminding me that I'm not alone.


photo credit: Peter L Barker via photopin cc

Monday, November 10, 2014

Finding balance during NaNoWriMo

Ode to Jack Kerouac by Oliver Hammond via Flickr

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, you might have changed your schedule for the month, or are trying to squeeze writing in whenever you can. Whether you're a planner and have organized a spread sheet for everyone around you so that they're aware of your writing time, or you wake up early or go to bed late, you're noticing that NaNo isn't easy.

I came into NaNo with a plan that provides balance to my busy life as a wife and mother to 3 kids under 10, and setting enough time aside to get my 50K novel done in 30 days.

Four days a week, I set aside the daytime to spend it with family and friends and do most of my writing at night after everyone goes to bed. The other three days, I take my 4-year-old to Mother's Day Out for a couple hours and come home to write, write, write, and do laundry, clean, go grocery shopping, etc.

The reason I came up with this plan is because I wanted something I knew I could stick to. I didn't want to get halfway into Novemeber and quit because everyone around me was complaining that I'm ignoring them. This plan gives me time to write and time to spend with people so I don't get crazy. ;)

It was important to me to make time to do things I enjoy like eating lunch with a friend, watch a movie, or to veg on the couch with my hubs to watch the latest and greatest The Walking Dead after the kids go to bed. Without this time planned out, my relationships and mental attitude would suffer.

So, while we're writing and trying our darnedest to meet our word count for the day, let's also think of ways to find balance, even if that means playing catch up later. Spend some time with people you love most or take a day off to refill the creativity tank. :)

Best of luck to all the people NaNoing this month!! We can do this!! You can find me on NaNo as DiDiBo and on Twitter here.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Do You have Creative Outlets Other Than Writing?

I’ve always felt like I have a creative brain. For me, that means there’s about a million things I want to do or want to learn how to do, and all these things compete for my attention. And while I think it’s great that I have all these interests and ambitions, it’s also frustrating.

Fact: There will never be enough time to do it all. *sad face*

So that means I've had to (for now) limit my non-writing activities. So when I'm not writing, I run an indie nail polish shop on Etsy called Wikid Nails, where I sell my handcrafted nail polish. If you follow on me on Twitter you may have seen one or two a lot of my manicure tweets. (Guys, I have a serious glitter addiction. Just sayin'.) And during the fall, I hawk my wares at some of the local craft fairs as well. 

I also love to knit and crochet. Mostly I make fingerless gloves, yoga socks, and slouchy hats that I sometimes sell, but mostly give as gifts to friends and family.

There’s magic in producing something that simply did not exist before I felt compelled to create it.

Take knitting. Even though I know how to fashion the stitches, I’m still boggled every time I finish a pattern and have a completed project. I think, how the heck did I turn a ball of yarn into a pair of fingerless mittens?

Answer: magic. Duh!

Unfortunately, there’s no pattern for writing a book. (though if someone could get on that, that’d be awesome.)

The principal is sort of the same though, if you liken words to stitches. You have to string them together, over and over, twisting them and turning them until they become more than the sum of their parts. It takes time and practice, and little bit of magic, and in the end, something new exists in the world that hadn’t before. And you made it happen. Ah-maze-ing!!

I'd love to hear about YOUR creative endeavors outside of writing. Bonus points if you're an Etsy seller, too. And if you are, leave a link in the comments. I'd love to check out your shop!