“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” -Ernest Hemingway
I don’t know if I could call myself a writer and not have that quote stir something within me.
Writing is no simple task. Sometimes – as many authors know – it can serve as a kind of exorcism, as we surrender our fears and hopes to the page.
Sometimes the words, the motivations, the muse are all there at the same time – and the prose flows from fingers to the page. More often, it can be like hacking through a nasty underbrush of words that just won’t come together and pages littered with the dreaded -ly’s.
Regardless, you walk away when it’s done having left a bit of yourself there – on the page.
I’ve gone months, sometimes years without writing. But always, somewhere inside of me, there’s a yearning to fill an empty page with a story that has been rolling around inside of me.
Is it a need to share? Or is it a desire to fill up a blank space with meaning – like a nervous babble to fill awkward silences?
I’ve grown restless these last few months without writing. My fingers itch to weave thoughts into words, into stories.
Do you know the feeling? …of a story somewhere taking shape? Something slippery in the wet darkness that eludes capture….its tail tickling your legs as it speeds past to the hiding places just outside of reach.
Maybe I’m out looking for my story. I’ve only to catch her, you see…
and to sit down at the typewriter and just, well…begin.
As writers, we encounter a lot of problems. Probably the most talked about problem is when people ask us if we’re still writing (which, I guess is a good conversation starter, but is kind of frustrating because the emphasis is usually on “still“). :p
But there are lots of other ones like:
#1. Fearing and loathing editing. Then guilt-tripping yourself about not doing it, because why not? :p
#2. Figuring out how to describe body placement and movement in a fight scene (or, let’s be honest – a sex scene). This gets trickier if you have multiple of these scenes in your book and want to keep the language fresh.
#3. Hoping someone’s eyes don’t glaze over when you explain your story’s concept.
#4. Spell check hating your name or your characters’ names.
#5. The conundrum of double spaces betwixt sentences – should I? Or should I not? Or should I Google other people’s thoughts on it for the next…hmm 3 hours.
#6. Fighting the urge to tell someone that they’re acting just like one of your characters. Because it makes you sound weird and a little creepy.
#7. Missing your characters when you’re finished with your book.
#8. Your obsession with notebooks (Moleskin!!), pens (it’s so tricky to find a really good one), and/or typewriters.
It’s been a little while since my last blog post – that’s partly because of the whirlwind of crazy that is currently my life (between work, grad school, politics, and attempting a social life).
But if I’m being honest, there has not been a shortage of things to write about (obviously) and I did have a few weeks off from school, when I could have been editing my novel or dusting the cobwebs off of my blog. The largest reason I’ve been creatively silent is because I’ve had a brush with trolls.
They definitely weren’t as cute as the little guy I picked for my image for this post, but trolls they were nonetheless.
On the internet, there seem to be a vast pool of users lurking…maybe even poised and waiting to troll others. If this were middle school, and I were a parent, I’d tell you that it’s because they’re jealous or there’s some kind of other failing in their life and maybe they’re taking it out on you. But, as I’ve been trolled in real life and online, I couldn’t tell you why some people like to troll. Though I’m not sure their reasons even matter. More frustrating still, I can’t tell you how to let it roll off of your shoulders either.
That fact of the matter is that no one enjoys being torn down and no one appreciates bullies. Whether we admit it or not, trolling gets under our skin – seeking out a place to live in our hearts and minds. Aiming to fill us with doubt and empowering that terrible little voice inside of us that loves to tell us “no.”
What can we do? We have to be our strongest champions. We have to believe in ourselves. We can’t pack up, hide, and turn off when things get hard. We can’t let bullies tear us down. We have to keep on, keepin’ on. Because the moment we stop, we let the trolls win. But worse than that, we hurt ourselves when we stop doing the things that make us happy.
Today, people will dress up in all kinds of costumes and go to parties and/or get free candy. But writers…
Well, writers embarking on the adventure known as NaNoWriMo will eye the clock, fingers will be poised over keyboards or over a well-loved notebook, waiting –
Waiting for that month that embodies both a writer’s sprint and marathon – National Novel Writing Month, where writers will try to pen, type, or scrawl out 50,000 words in one month.
Crazy, you say? Well, maybe.
Ill-advised? Probably, considering it’s also the start of the holiday season.
Impossible? Well, that’s where you’d be wrong. Because every November, countless writers finish first drafts of novels this month. So if you’re a writer, or a reader, this month can be pretty magical too.
And even though it’s very ill-advised, well considering I work full-time and am in graduate school, I’m going to through my pen into the ring as well. Fun fact, while I’ve never actually won NaNoWriMo, I have used to to start, finish, and revise my novels. But this year, I’m going to try to do the whole thing. Because, hey, all those other years wee just practice. 😉
Happy Halloween, all and happy eve of NaNoWriMo, writers. 🙂
Since NaNoWriMo is around the corner, I’ve decided to compile a list of goodies for writers. Feel free to add any ideas in the comments, as I’m always looking for gift ideas for my writer friends (and, if I’m completely honest, for myself). 🙂
1. Tools – I know that most people do a majority of their writing electronically, but many of us love the old fashioned tools. I love fancy pens and I have a whole relationship with my moleskine notebooks. If your writer is a big nerd like me, a vintage type writer or vintage typewriter accessories! Yes, please!
2. Editorial services – Any writer who has a finished product needs an editor. The longer and more complex the product, the more we need an editor. I recently paid for a developmental edit from Writer’s Digest critique and editing services, and it was worth it. You don’t have to use them, but be sure to use a reputable editor as these services tend to be pricey.
3.Food & libations – Starving artists, it’s a thing. I swear, I’m always hungry. Over the years I’ve gotten some pretty sweet treats from friends (and from myself) including:
Book Cookies – a friend made these for me and I loved these so much that I took pictures to remember them!
And of course coffee and tea related swag from Etsy. Here are some of my favorites
6. Beware the “how to” books – this really depends on the author. Some writers are not fans of how to books, and instead get tips from magazine, blogs, writer communities, and other online resources. But there are some really good books out there, like my absolute favorite – Stephen King’s On Writing. But again, be careful in giving advice books when not specifically asked for.
And finally: Moral support. This is the most important. Love your writer, pet your writer, tell them to keep at it, and if they ask you to read something, please do it. But whatever you do, don’t stress the word still in the following sentence: “you’re still writing that same story?” Actually, now that I think about it, you probably shouldn’t put an emphasis on any of the words in that sentence. It may make your writer cranky and in need of the aforementioned treats.
One of the most common questions we ask as writers is – how much editing should I do?
We know first drafts are hardly ever (I don’t want to say never, but really, pretty much never) fit for publication. But how do you know when your work is ready (or even simply good enough)?
I’ve heard other authors say that your work is ready when you put back in a “the” that you previously took out (in other words obsessing over the little things). But that’s not necessarily true. I’ve asked an agent at a writer’s conference and was told that you should get a piece “as polished as possible” before you submit it…but what does that really mean?
Pay editing services – should you or shouldn’t you? The struggle is real…
For a long time, I struggled with if I should pay for editing services. My editing method of choice? Annoying friends and family to read my work and essentially proofread my novel and give me general feedback. And btw – thank you to all of the friends and family who did read my novel (some several times), you are wonderful. 🙂
But after sending my novel out to two agents and getting rejected, I decided to take a second look at paid editing services. First, let me say that in the book business, you are going to get more than one or two rejections. But, because I’m an over-thinker (and because I know that you shouldn’t query the same agent/house twice with the same novel), I decided to get some professional help before the rejection letters really started stacking up.
How to find editors?
Ah, this part is oh-so tricky. As writers, we’re protective of our work and we don’t want it stolen or butchered by shysters. As a result, we’re a little tentative about who we give our darlings to for tending. I can’t say with absolute authority who you should pick for an editor. There are a lot of good ones out there. But I’d say (and this is only my opinion), for developmental edits:
Use a well-known, legitimate source to find them or use a well-known giant in the industry, at least for the first time so you know where to set the bar in the future. I went with Writer’s Digest 2nd Draft Service and was pleased.
Find someone through word-of-mouth, from someone you trust, who knows what they’re doing.
Either way, you need someone who knows what they’re doing and has experience with developmental editing for novels (or whatever you’re trying to get published). If you can find one specifically for your genre, excellent. If not, try to find someone who at least has some industry experience. Why? I’m getting to that…
How much should you pay?
Oh, we starving artists. I’m sad to say that developmental edits are pricy and for a long time, that was a sticking point for me. But, after having one done, I can say that it was worth it for me.
Does that mean I’ll do a second developmental edit for fun, after I make some of the suggested changes to my novel? Prob not, this girl has to eat too (and clad my feet in pretty shoes). BUT, I will do it after I write my next novel, without a doubt.
What is a developmental edit anyway?
Fear not, friends. Until recently I didn’t know what a developmental edit was either. But I’ve recently gotten one done and as a result can speak with some knowledge on the situation. Here’s what you’ll get with a developmental edit:
Logline (single sentence that summarizes your work, think mini-elevator pitch)
Synopsis of your novel (handy because it proves that someone took the time to read it).
Overall analysis (and kind of a grading) on your novel elements (plot, writing, etc.)
Detailed level of analysis: Takes your novel elements (plot, writing, characters, etc.) and delves into a greater detail of analysis. Here is where the editor will give you comments on what you’ve done well, where you need improvements, and sometimes even ideas on what you can do to make things better. Also, sometimes developmental editors will point out some basic grammatical/proofreading areas for you to look at as well (which is super handy).
Do I really need a developmental edit?
My answer is – it depends. If you’ve been submitting to agents and haven’t been accepted as a client, if publishers have rejected your work, or if your self published work isn’t doing as well as you’ve hoped – you might want to take a look at it. Granted, a lot of the book industry is based on preferences and there is a chance that you haven’t found the right agent or audience for your book yet. So, really take a look at why your book isn’t doing as well as you hoped (or think about why you don’t have an agent yet, like me) and do some soul searching.
For me – the answer is yes. I found the developmental edit extremely helpful and plan on implementing a majority of the suggested changes. Why not all of them? Because it’s my art and I can do with it what I want. After all, some amount of editing comes down to preference and as the author, you hold the final say over your work.
That being said, prepare yourself when you get the developmental edit back. Chances are, there will be a lot of good things that the editor has to say, but there will most likely be areas of improvement as well (and as a writer, I know how hard that is to take). But think of it this way: if there were no items to fix, you wouldn’t be able to utilize the service to make things better.
Know that this isn’t your last edit.
lol. I wish…and you probably do too. But the fact of the matter is that after the developmental edit, there is at least one more round of editing/proofreading. And, if you go the traditional publishing route, you may end up working with another editor to polish your work even more. Don’t fear though…it’s just another step on the road to getting published and maybe one glorious day, seeing your book on a lovely shelf at Barnes & Noble or online at Amazon.
So chin up, it can happen…you might just need a little extra help getting there.
*Just a disclaimer before I tell you about my adventure at the local open mic night: the poem included within is snarky (even though I’m generally a nice person) and creative fiction, therefore any similarities between actual people/events is purely coincidental.*
I actually did it – I read at an open mic poetry night and not only that, I went first (though going first wasn’t by choice).
I’m not going to lie, I’m not the best public speaker and I was incredibly nervous. The last time I read something I wrote (in a creative setting) in public was probably 20 years ago….in middle school.
There was a time when I fancied myself a poet. A lot of crazy things happened during my formative years, and it was during this time that I found my voice as a writer, a lot of it in poetry and a lot more in journaling.
So why did I decide to read after all this time? After two decades of silence?
After going to a few open mic events to support the arts and a poet friend, the poetry-bug seemed to be nibbling on my arm. And as I continue to traverse this bumpy path of being a writer, I’ve come to realize that it’s important to get out there, try new things, and meet new people. The only way to keep creativity flowing is to keep reading, writing, moving, meeting, exploring, and trying. Plus, I figured that if I can read poetry to a room full of strangers, surely I can pitch my novel to agents this weekend in NYC…or at least, that’s my theory. 🙂
As I walked up to the mic, I reminded myself not to trip (I am notoriously clumsy) and as I started to speak, I reminded myself to keep my voice sassy (the poem requires a sassy tone). When my fingers began to shake, I curled one hand around the microphone and the other around a seashell I got while traveling this year. Then I took a breath and let the words come…
24, smooth, single, and free he said hung too, but that’s all relative, see? Smooth? Yeah, that’s true. But 24? Honey, please. Even with cheaters you had to deceive. As for hung, well – that one’s on me. You’ll say what you will when your lock wants a key. The things that you say, compliments you give, believe me, I never expected to live – to see them put down on a cheap ad for sex, the same day I took a pregnancy test. It had to be 24? The year you gave me a ring? When I thought myself lucky, having reeled your ass in. 24, smooth, single, and free? Is that what it meant, all these years here with me? As for hung, well – I’m sorry, I lied. There was so much missing, I felt empty inside. Tried to gaslight me, when I asked where you’d been. Honey, that might be your greatest sin. 24, smooth, single, and free as for hung, well – you never could lie quite like me.