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.