The Writing Slump

Well folks, I’ve hit it, the dubious “writing slump”. Granted, I’ve had a lot going on, but if you’ve been following this blog for a while, I think it’s rather clear that I don’t accept that as a valid excuse. Now don’t get me wrong, a break is good for the soul every now and again, but I look at my past month and the workaholic in me sees all the things I didn’t do. It’s a character flaw I need to work on, but in the eternal words of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “I’m cookie dough. I’m not done baking.”

Yes, that was a Buffy reference. Get over it.

Anyhoo, back to Vesuvius the writing slump (because I name things that make me angry after things that go “BOOM”), it’s not that I can’t write or won’t write, more over my brain is too caught up in what’s going on around me to focus on a new novel. Vesuvius just came in, scraped his rusted fold-out chair across the varnished hardwood floors of my brain, set up shop at the intersection of creativity and productivity and heckled me until I gave up and jumped into the next episode of Veronica Mars.

So yes, I had plans for this past month while book 1 was with beta readers. I was going to rewrite book 2 and map out book 3, along with publishing weekly posts here. The reality of this past month is as follows:

  1. 3 blog posts – skipped a week because I was coming back from a writing retreat with Raw Dog Screaming Press. It was a lot of fun and exactly what I needed.
  2. Read through book 2, made a lot of notes for changes to plot/character and such, spent the rest of the month mauling over whether or not to just start from scratch completely. I’ve rewritten the first paragraph in my head many, many, MANY times before going to sleep the past few weeks.
  3. Wrote the first chapter (that will be scrapped) of book 3. I don’t regret writing it, because of that scrap chapter, I was able to finally let go of a setting that was only half-cocked anyway. I did map out the book, but only got as far as the midpoint. Hint: Time Travel is not easy to plot.
  4. I also put together a 53-page digital magazine and put my sister-in-law and her puppy on a plane to Germany (for any of your who’ve ever flown internationally with pets through the military, you know that this is a HIGH-STRESS event).

I promise there is a reason why I chose to list out what I’ve accomplished this month. I wanted to show that just because we writers tend to fall on the side of “I haven’t accomplished anything,” doesn’t mean that what we’re feeling is the reality. So if you’re in a writing slump, take the time to make a list of the things you have accomplished during that time, it may take some of the pressure off.

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!

Enjoying the Journey: My first writer’s conference.

Well lovely writers, I did it, I confronted my fear of the professional literary world this weekend.

Just to clarify, I don’t exactly fear the lit world; it’s more so I find it a bit intimidating. I love following industry professionals and other authors on Twitter, but being connected via web versus talking to actual people in person are two different things.

So on Saturday, I attended the Chesapeake Writers Workshop in DC. The majority of the day was spent absorbing a TON of information about the industry from Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest. From self-publishing versus traditional publishing to building your own platform, Chuck covered a LOT of topics and provided an incredible amount of insight. If you have an opportunity to attend one of his many speaking events, do so. It’s more than worth it.

He’s posted a list of his upcoming events on his website, here. Also, if you haven’t checked out his blog, Guide to Literary Agents, on Writer’s Digest, do so here.

Along with the fantastic lectures, I had the opportunity to formally pitch two agents. Both Ella Kennen of Corvisiero and Jamie Bodnar Drowley of Inklings were so sweet and knowledgeable and really made my first pitching experience so enjoyable [though I’m pretty sure I was a rambling mess!]. Leon Husock of L. Perkins was also kind enough to hear my bumbling pitch after the workshop ended, which I am EXTREMELY grateful for, especially because I’m pretty sure he was done for the day and just wanted information on getting a cab. Sigh.

Attendees of the workshop also had the opportunity to have their WIP’s first page read by the agents in a panel setting. The agents, including Mr. Husock, gave their feedback on what would cause them to stop reading the sample. Though my own first page was not read (there was a limited amount of time for the panel and there were a LOT of writers in attendance), the agents’ input was incredibly helpful. Many first pages had similar issues, so I will be sure to try and avoid those pitfalls in the future.

In conclusion, my recommendation is to do your best to attend these conferences and workshops. Even if you bomb your pitches, discussing your project with an industry professional is an invaluable opportunity. It can let you know if you’re heading in the right direction or if you need to re-evaluate and adjust.

As I said in a previous post, be gracious and kind. Sometimes the truth is hard to hear, but you and your WIP will be better for it. So even if you hear something you don’t want to hear [like the importance of building your platform], don’t argue, just accept the advice and make a decision later.

And most importantly, just keep writing!