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!

Community: Why it’s important for writers.

Writers. The majority of us tend to swing toward the introverted side of the social pendulum, myself included. If I spend too much time in a social setting, my energy reserves fall into the red.

But as exhausting as some social encounters are, I do think it’s important for us to get out of our own heads and here’s why:

Reason #1 – Your health.

I touched on this last week, but burning the candle at both ends = not a good idea.

As creative’s, we spend HOURS buried beneath our projects. From our characters and plot to the writing itself, we obsess over each sentence, paragraph and page. Being devoted to your work is awesome but you need to remember to take care of you! I’m speaking from experience on this one. I will push until I can’t push any more and I’m left with a migraine the size of the Pacific Ocean, pounding against my skull like tidal waves crashing to shore. My lovely business partner, Sookie, was a kind enough friend to tell me to stop being stupid and curl up with my dog and take a break! If not for her, I would have kept working through it, worse for wear, and our April Edition of our digital magazine, Today’s Man, probably would not have turned out as nice as it did.

If you’d like to see our hard work, check it out here. It’s free!

Reason #2 – The work will be better for it.

So yes, in order to have a clean, brilliant piece of work, you have to put in the effort to make it so. This is an undeniable fact. However, if during that time, you’re groggy or you’ve stared at the work so long the letters just look like shapes, you are going to miss some things. My YA Fantasy series’ first novel is currently with beta readers after I had spent two months just hacking away at it. Don’t get me wrong, I made a LOT of headway with those revision. However, I started rereading it last week (because I’m a glutton for punishment) and already have a laundry list of new revisions to make. Without that break, those issues would have gone overlooked.

Reason #3 – Your sanity.

For me personally, especially in the stage that I am in now, this is the No. 1 reason I need a writing community. A couple weeks ago, I had the incredible opportunity to have my query letter critiqued by Danielle Barthel of New Leaf Literary.

I received this opportunity by participating in Writers For Hope, an annual online auction, whose proceeds support RAINN, a campaign to fight sexual violence. Every ten dollars helps a victim of sexual violence, so if you can give, RAINN is an incredible cause! You can find out more about RAINN here.

I cannot express how thankful I am for Danielle’s notes. They were everything I had hoped they would be – helpful, encouraging and gave me insight into how I needed to clarify certain things to make my pitch as strong as possible! And on top of all that, she sent me the critique within two weeks! But that incredibly quick turn around didn’t keep me from itching with anticipation. If it weren’t for my CP’s Lynanne, Chelsea and Hanna, I would have surely gone mad (in the Hatter way, not the Hulk way). So if for any other reason, you should surround yourself with a community of writers to help keep you sane throughout the submission process.

Reason #4 – Did I mention that the work will be better?

A few posts ago, I talked about the importance of finding a writing buddy. I bring it up again because YOU SHOULD REALLY HAVE A WRITING BUDDY! Seriously, along with the sanity bit, since I found my writing community, my writing truly has improved . . . exponentially in fact. I still have issues with gerunds, but hey, that’s what revision is for.

On Friday, I celebrated [one of] my critique group’s fifth anniversary. The anniversary was so much fun. We talked about writerly things and caught up with each others lives. It also reminded me of how much I’ve grown since I joined a little over a year ago and how excited I am for my [hopeful] continued growth, personally and professionally.

Moral of all this, even though you could hold up in your laptop all by your lonesome, slaving away on your WIP, should you? Even if you’re super anti-social, I think finding a community, even an online one, is worth the additional effort. You’re way more likely to get a return on your investment than not.

Happy writing!

You wrote a novel! That’s a Victory!

Not sure if you guys knew this, but novel writing is hard work! If you’ve written a novel (or any document that exceeds 50k words), raise your hand in the air AND HIGH-FIVE YOURSELF! Seriously, simply finishing a story is a huge accomplishment.

Now, if you’ve taken that doc, revised it then revised it again, go find someone to high-ten! You stuck it out through editing all those words and that is a serious feat!

If you’ve taken the plunge and sent your baby novel to beta readers, give someone an elbow-high-five because they’re awesome and so are you! Because here’s the scary truth, people are now reading a story written by you in its entirety.

I just took that plunge last night at 9:42 pm, and I’m still bouncing in my chair with nervous excitement. Seeming as how my border collie doesn’t have the capacity to give a high-elbow-five (though she gave awesome high-fives and tens because my dog is a genius!), I elbow-fived my desk. Cue funny bone that’s not so funny.

Well after I pressed the dreaded send button, sending my MS into the world after it’s fifth round of revisions, I was doing the writer-ly thing and downplaying the fact that I finished a novel. Instead, I was focusing on the possibility that the betas would come back with world-crushing, soul-sucking critiques and I’ll have to start from square one.

But my lovely friend and CP Chelsea told me, “Take the victory. There aren’t a lot of them.” And she was completely right!

As writers, and human beings, we face so much rejection and defeat that it’s almost illogical to belittle your successes.

So if you’ve achieved a milestone lately, whether it be large or small, treat yourself! You deserve it!

And keep writing!

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!