Tag Archives: author

Persistence is half the journey

After attending my first writers’ conference, I came away inspired, and with a bucketload of great ideas! Of course, I won’t post the content of anyone’s actual presentation, as that’s not mine to share. However, I hope you benefit from these thoughts on what I learned, and some ideas on how I plan to apply them in my own journey. This is the ninth in a series of posts on lessons learned from the SCBWI Northern Ohio 2017 Conference.

Lesson 9: “It’s a process. It’s a journey. Celebrate every step of the way as you work to make your story the best it can be.”

The penultimate session of the day was a panel discussion featuring Jennifer Wills (@WillsWork4Books), Linda Sue Park (@lindasuepark), Jill Santopolo (@jillsantopolo), and Brett Duquette (@brettduquette). They had tons of great advice, so I’m just going to share a bunch of random points, in no particular order:

  • Don’t sell your soul. If someone says “I’d be willing to publish if you change your main character’s name… and also all of the key plot points,” then you’re not really telling your story any more, are you?
  • When you get a rejection, look for the gems – what did they like? What can you improve?
  • The story is more important than your feelings. Making the story the best it can be is what matters, and if you let your feelings get hurt during the process you’re missing the point.
  • Don’t look sideways, or worry about what anyone else is doing (i.e. if they’re ‘ahead’ of you in the writing or publishing process). It’s your story. It’s your journey.
  • Art is not a competition, and we all want more stories, not fewer. Everyone you approach throughout the process wants stories to be successful, so instead of killing your story, find ways to improve it.
But.. that journey has sooo many steps. How am I going to make it that far?

Long story short:

Don’t give up. Sometimes, it feels like no one likes your stuff. Or like your story will never improve. Or like everyone else is getting to the end faster than you. Or like it’s too hard of a journey and you just want to get off the train. But if you improve, even by increments, then the journey was worth it.

Result: I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – when the “I’m never going to be published” blues hit, I just need to pull up my big girl pants and take the steps I can to move forward.

I’ll keep you posted as I make progress. In the meantime, I’d love to be inspired by a story about a time when you thought your journey was over only to realize you had it in you to keep going.

Happy writing, editing, querying, publishing, and journeying!

Photo of mountain road by Matt McK on Unsplash
Photo of footprints in the snow by Bartosz Gorlewicz on Unsplash

Why I won’t be paying to crush any candies: how #writing a novel is like playing #candycrush

As I work on completing my first novel so that I can either sell it to a publisher or self-publish, I am tempted to rush to the end. I just want it to be done already! But I also know that rushing it is the worst way to get my story out there, and will ultimately do me a disservice. I keep reminding myself that the journey is key. Do the right things, and good will come of it.

I have also recently become addicted to Candy Crush. Who hasn’t? That game is making millions of dollars per day*, or so I’m told. And the people who made it definitely know what’s addictive to humans — sounds, praise, lots of candies flashing across the screen…

The problem with Candy Crush — wait for it; you might think I’m going to say it’s that you have to wait to get new lives or that you have to do those quests in between sections, but that’s NOT what I’m going to say — is that it only costs 99 cents to “cheat.” See, not what you thought I was going to say, right?

Philosophically if the game is offering you extra moves or the chance to skip the quests, then that isn’t really cheating. But every time I think about taking that super-easy road, I ask myself this: “what am I playing for?” I’m not playing to reach the end — there IS no end. If you’ve reached “the end” you’ll have seen that there’s another similar game now available, or new levels are suddenly on offer. I’m playing to play.

Dare I make the comparison? Yes, I do dare: there’s almost no more perfect metaphor for becoming an author than playing Candy Crush**.

Yep, you can get there faster — whether “there” is Lemonade Lake or publishing your novel. But if you do make that skip, it’s going to cost you. It might just be 99 cents to start, but once you open the door to shortcuts, you’re willing to take them again and again. Pretty soon, you’ve spent $20 on a “free” game, or you’ve published a book that you realize could have been better — whether that’s better written, better edited, or better marketed. And then your return isn’t as great as it would have been.

I’m in Candy Crush for the journey. If I stay on level 86 forever, at least I’m still making the journey, rather than putting resources into a venture that ends up netting me nothing.

Of course, I realize that without all the people who do pay for levels, I’d have no Candy Crush to play at all, since the company has to make money to stay afloat. You can pick apart my metaphor in many other ways if you wish. Maybe it’s not that perfect. Neither am I***. But I’m still sticking out my editing process, and my Candy Crush level, until I beat it myself, rather than taking the shortcut.

Happy writing and Crushing!

*This is one of those “I think I heard it somewhere” anecdotes, rather than an actual fact that I can back up with proof.

**I’m sure there are many more perfect metaphors, but writers are given to hyperbole. It makes for a better story.

***In fact, I had to make the rule not to pay for Candy Crush because I’m the kind who might get so addicted that I probably wouldn’t ever stop if I let myself skip. I NEED the 30-min buffer. Plus, I’m “frugal.” Ask my husband. He might use a different word, but either way it means I try to keep us both from spending too much on “unnecessary column” items.

UPDATE: After being stuck for literally weeks (due to my no pay rule). I finally passed level 86! Yay! Now back to work.

#amwriting

One of the amazing things about being part of NaNoWriMo last year was the momentum. So many people working towards the same goal, constant support, the ability to tweet out word counts late at night and still get back a distance high five….

That’s why, even though I’ve lost some of my momentum without the NaNo deadline (don’t get me wrong — the great people over at NaNo are still providing tons of support during the “Now What” months; it’s just harder to meet my own deadlines than someone else’s), I’m still using the #amwriting hash tag.

That way, when I have a word count or celebration to tweet out, at least there are still people out there who will be celebrating with me.  🙂

Why would anyone want to #write a novel?

The other day, a friend of mine mentioned to a mutual acquaintance that she was beta-reading my first draft. The acquaintance responded with a question that I am certainly not the first person to be at the other end of: “Why would anyone want to write a novel?”

She didn’t literally mean “anyone,” of course. She meant anyone like her, or like my friend, or like me. Anyone who has a job as anything other than a professional novelist.

There are many, many ways to answer this question. Because I love to write. Because there’s a story inside of me that wants to get out. Because disappearing into the fantasy world of writing is often even more fulfilling than reading a novel, an activity which I also love. Because when it’s difficult — when the characters won’t cooperate, when the words won’t flow — is when it helps me grow even more as a person and as a writer.

The good people over at NaNoWriMo probably said it best:

“The other reason we do NaNoWriMo is because the glow from making big, messy art, and watching others make big, messy art, lasts for a long, long time. The act of sustained creation does bizarre, wonderful things to you. It changes the way you read. And changes, a little bit, your sense of self.”

Might not be the same for everyone, but that’s why I want to write a novel.

I write to write. I write because I love it. I write for me.