Working Mindset & Imposed Deadlines

Writing is work. Plain and simple. In order to have something worth reading, you have to put the time in. There’s no other way. You have to do the work.

I know I’ve spoken many times about how it’s okay for the first draft to be rough. You’re getting a sense of your characters, their motivations, your world and all of its rules. Unfortunately once you finish that first draft, the lengthy revision stage begins to weigh down on you. It’s crushing and intimidating and awful. But it doesn’t have to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I have had my fair share of self-deprecating rants about how my writing is god-awful and metaphors are the devil. Seriously, I’ve spent HOURS getting just one metaphor right. All because I desperately want others to love my characters and their stories as much as I do.

But I recently had a revelation about my writing process and what helps me stay productive. I know this won’t work for everyone, but here it is…

1. Take your story one draft at a time.

The hard truth of it is that you’re not going to become John Green overnight. It’s not going to happen. Even John Green didn’t become John Green overnight. It took multiple drafts and revisions to create books like The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns. So while I would love for the next draft of my WIP to be the last, I’m not going to stress myself out about it because in all honesty, I know it won’t be. But I’m also not going to think about how many revisions stand between me and querying because that’s a daunting idea that will only bring on another wave of crippling self-doubt.

2. Admit you are a baby writer. There are things you simply haven’t learned yet.

This isn’t an insult, I promise. Think of it more as your tether to reality. Like I said in No. 1, it takes time to cultivate your skill. So give yourself opportunities to grow and learn. Join a critique group or find critique partners. Go to writing conferences and workshops. Take a class. Your writing will thank you for it.

3. Don’t stop writing.

I know this one is hard, but seriously, your writing won’t improve if you sit back and wait for it to do so. You have to put in the words in order to grasp what it means to create a novel. Sarah J. Maas has said in multiple interviews how her first draft of Throne of Glass was its own learning experience. And if you’ve written more than one MS, you also know this to be true. So keep writing, keep learning.

4. Give yourself a deadline.

I don’t mean, “THIS BOOK SHOULD BE DONE BY NOV 1st!” No, because you’ll drive yourself crazy that way… trust me, I know. Give yourself word count goals or chapter goals. Start each week by saying, “I’m going to accomplish [X] this week.” And do it! Make and keep promises to your work and yourself. Confidence in one’s writing ability is a cumulative thing. Each promise you keep builds on the last until writing/editing is a part of your regular routine.

A really great place to start is with the Twitter Monthly Writing Challenge. It’s a commitment to writing 500 words a day. The community is incredibly supportive and encouraging. You can learn more here.


What about ya’ll? What revelations have you had about your writing that keeps you productive? Share in the comments below.

Happy Writing!

4 Tips in Killing Your Darlings

So last week, I talked about improving your narrative and touched on the idea of killing your darlings. Because this is what I’m currently [painfully] dealing with in my own rewrite, I thought I’d share a little of what’s been working for me.

Tip No. 1 – Identify Your Darlings

Killing your darlings is a little difficult when you don’t realize what they are. Please know I’m not trying to offend your genius, but sometimes your darlings sneak up on you. My most current darling came in the form of a two-sentence moment that had hung on to the MS since draft two.

Now into draft six, I’ve been dredging through Chapter 3 for a bit because I’ve been trying to keep this moment for whatever reason. In the words of YouTuber Grace Helbig, “I don’t know.” Once I realized that it was a darling, it was cut into the graveyard of manuscript outtakes.

Tip No. 2 – Have a Manuscript Outtakes Document

I did not come up with this idea, but it is a concept that I wish I had adopted earlier. The gorgeously talented J.L. Gribble, debut novel Steel Victory comes out this week – order a copy NOW, gave me the idea a few weeks ago during a critique session.

This does a couple of things: 1) You’re still hanging onto your darlings, so killing them from the MS is a little easier, 2) If you do ever have an opportunity to use them, they’re there at the ready, and 3) If by some chance you do get published and acquire a fan-base, you now have outtakes to share with them as easy promotional items.

Tip No. 3 – Follow Kurt Vonnegut’s Rules on Writing

Specifically (and I mentioned this last time) that each sentence should either develop character or advance plot. It took me a while to understand what this really meant because in my little baby writer brain, I looked at my MS and said “but it does develop character; it does advance plot.” In reality, I was focusing on the wrong things, making the beginning narrative slow and boring. It “technically” did what I needed it to – develop the relationships of my two main characters and set the stage for what’s up against them – but I was focusing so much on what made my characters who they were instead of who they are in the moment that the plot was stagnant. This is a hard concept to wrap your head around, but once it clicks, you’ll see the improvements in the writing.

See the full list of Vonnegut’s Rules here.

Tip No. 4 – Have a Trusted Writing Buddy

I think I’ve developed a strange dependency on my uber talented group of writer friends because I know without a doubt that my writing would not be improving without them. Going back to what I was saying before about my headache that is Chapter 3, that darling I didn’t realize was a darling – yeah, my friend and CP Chelsea was kind enough to tell me, “I think that’s going a little far.” Which of course hit a switch in my head, causing an immediate ::face:palm::. I had been struggling with the writing because I was trying to keep something that didn’t belong there. I was trying to save a darling.

Once I transferred said darling over to the graveyard, it opened the way for me to concentrate on the plot movement and figure out how to close out the chapter (which will hopefully happen tonight).

I hope these tips help you as much as they’ve helped me. What about you? Do you have any tips on killing the darlings in your WIP? Share them in the comments below.

Happy Writing!

Trust me, you want a beta reader.

So last Tuesday I jumped onto Google Hangouts and discussed my current WIP with the four poor saps I convinced to beta read it. I cannot begin to express how eternally grateful I am to these wonderful people for taking the time to review my work. Their notes were everything I needed them to be and so much more. To repeat what I’ve said to two of the four (because this is the only phrase that comes to mind to describe how I feel): I feel like I’ve just won the expansion pack to my favorite card game.

But seriously, if I’m able to pull off what I’m aiming for, I am beyond excited to read the next finished draft. Granted, I may be a walking, talking zombie when it’s finished, BUT [I hope] it will all be worth it.

I know that the concept of having your first novel read from someone other than yourself is a very exciting, stressful, albeit terrifying notion. But I’m here to tell you it’s not as scary as you might think. You just have to go in with a gracious heart and an open mind. Honestly, the scariest part for me was pressing “send” and the minutes leading up to the critique. Once we were in the flow of the conversation, I bounced with excitement and my mind raced with ideas.

Now I’m not saying you should just throw caution to the wind and send your MS to just anybody. You should definitely vet your betas. My four betas covered a wide range of genres/audiences, which provided a really well-rounded review of the piece. All four were also novelists (don’t know how I got so lucky), which helped identify why some things were/weren’t working.

Below is a list of things I need to improve:

  1. World Building. The problem with creating a complex world with it’s own political/social structure is that sometimes you forget to clarify the rules of said world because your focus is on your protagonist. Your fictional world has to come across as vibrantly on the page as it does in your mind.
  2. Round out Secondary Characters. So this is one of those “DUH” moments where I knew the complexities of the characters, but the reader didn’t. As the writer, it is vital to communicate the intricacies of the characters important to the MC’s story. Otherwise, they fall flat against the backdrop, which is no good. Show the reader how awesome your cast of characters are! (Yes, I did scribble that on my notepad during the crit session.)
  3. Making the wrong promises. One of the podcasts I listen to, Writing Excuses, discussed the importance of the beginning narrative making the right promises to the reader. In the beta draft, the beginning narrative focused more on the MC’s trauma than how her current actions are driven by it. Focusing on the trauma set up the story to be a Who-Done-It, which was not what the novel was about.

Here’s the deal, the above list really isn’t that daunting. Sure, it means more work, BUT the MS will be so much better for it. I’m already knee-deep in revisions and I can already say I am loving the changes. Mind you, I’m saying this now at the forefront of the new draft, I could easily turn into a raging revision troll if left to my own devises.

Happy Writing!

Anxiety and Resilience: Waiting on the Critique

At the beginning of April, I took the plunge and submitted my WIP to beta readers. The five people reviewing my MS are all incredibly talented writers with works of their own and I am INDEBTED to them for taking the time tear my first book apart.

BUT . . . waiting for their notes has been . . . well . . . a rollercoaster of anxiety.

Now don’t get me wrong, I live for improvement. I am so excited to hear their thoughts and dig through their notes to make my WIP the best it can possibly be before I start querying it to agents. But no matter how excited I am for the draft that will result from their feedback, I can’t help but fear the potential for having my heart ripped out my chest.

For the majority, I like to maintain a rational, objective viewpoint when receiving critiques. No note is a bad note, regardless of its level of usefulness. I thrive off constructive criticism but this is my first time having my book read cover-to-cover. Safe to say, I’m out of my mind.

Below is an example of my mind this past month:

Right Brain: What if they hate it? They could hate it. It’s YA Urban Fantasy. They could definitely hate it.

Left Brain: Even if they did hate it, they wouldn’t say so. They’d give you criticism on what exactly obstructed their enjoyment.

Right Brain: But what if they hated it so much they just don’t have words?

Left Brain: That’s why there’s a rubric, to prompt feedback.

Right Brain: But what if it was so bad, we have to start all over?

Left Brain: Then we’ll start all over with their notes in mind.

On and on, this conversation went, plaguing my mind with stress and anxiety and doubt. These negative feelings are a part of life, especially in such subjective fields as writing and art. What’s important is how you react to it.

Regardless of what brutal notes I get from my beta readers, I know I’m still going to push forward and work hard until I achieve my goals. I’m just stubborn like that. But if there’s anything I’ve learned in my 24 years, it’s that your level of resilience must be equivalent to that of your projected success. Dreams take time and hard work to come to fruition. So when you meet those roadblocks, if success is important to you, you’ll find a way to overcome them.

Here’s to pushing forward!

The Awesomeness of Finding a Writing Buddy.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb

A couple of posts back, I ranted about the importance of improving your writing for the sake of the story. In that post, I touched on a few different avenues in which to do so: webinars, classes, critique groups, workshops. But here’s the thing, writing can be an incredibly lonely occupation, which I feel lends itself toward losing confidence, losing excitement and eventually giving up on goals.

The examples I gave above [on ways to improve your writing] are awesome for short-term motivation and learning new ways to harness your craft, but there is one avenue I highly recommend taking on the crazy road to publication: The Writing Buddy.

In the last couple years, I have had the incredible opportunity to meet some wonderful writers and have been blessed enough to form a friendship with these beautiful people that helps keep me [and I hope them!] motivated.

I know I just used a LOT of adjectives, but I can’t tell you how truly lucky I feel having these talented people in my life. Just this past weekend, my friend and critique partner, Chelsea, came with me to an abandoned asylum to scope out the location of my WIP’s big fight scene.

Though we didn’t actually get to go into the asylum 😦 (government property and such), it was still a fun adventure and I got to spend an afternoon just talking about writing and our different projects. If it weren’t for these little snippets of awesomeness, I’m not sure where I would be as a writer.

There are a bunch of opportunities for you to find a writing buddy of your own. Below are just a few of the ways I’ve met mine:

Local Writers Critique Groups
I found Chelsea (and so many other wonderful people) through Meetup.com. Mind you, not all writers groups are on MeetUp, but many are. (You also have to weed through numerous other types of social groups, but it’s totally worth it!)

National Novel Writing Month
I met SO MANY writers during NaNoWriMo this past November and all of them were absolutely fantastic. I keep in touch with a surprising amount given my introverted-ness (pretty sure this isn’t a word), but hurray for social media! Anyhoo, through NaNo, I met the awesome J.L. Gribble, a debut novelist whose first book, Steel Victory, comes out this summer. Check out the cover reveal here and for more information on Gribble and Steel Victory, go here.

Online Critique Sites
This is where things can get a little tricky. There are a LOT of critique sites out there, so you have to do your research and find what’s best for you. BUT you can find some very, very, VERY talented writers to help improve your writing. I found the BEST CP EVER online [actually, she found me, and THANK GOD!].

Just a quick rant about my gorgeous CP Lynanne (you can check out her blog here), there have been moments in my revision process where I look at a chapter and I honestly have no clue of where to go. When I get her notes back, it’s like a light goes off and I yell, “EUREKA!” It helps that she’s also a very talented writer, whose book series is super creative and an absolute joy for me to read (both excerpts and concept notes).

Back on topic . . . Yes, it’s easier to hoard your work and not share it with anyone, and like the African proverb says, you will go fast. But if you want to go far with your work, get a Writing Buddy and Critique Partner.

Happy Writing!