Writerly Advice: Taking Time For Reflection

Hello Readers!

As the days of Summer drift away and the nights become longer, I find myself in a reflective mood.  As an introspective person by nature, I reflect a lot.  A LOT!  I suspect that many of us are like that.  It seems to come with the territory of life within the creative arts.  Stopping to think about the many aspects of my creative life is therapeutic at its most basic, but more importantly, it provides a basis for confidence and improvement in my craft.

Do you take the time to reflect on the good stuff that has happened in your writing life, or just the bad and the ugly?  It’s easy to dwell on the negative stuff.  We all know, as writers we get enough of that.  But I challenge you to think for a bit on the positive.  It’s allowed, and I dare say it can work wonders.

Last May, I arguably had my “Best Birthday Month Ever”.  It truly was amazing!  Now, three months later, I still feel excited when I remember it, even though not too much has changed in my professional writing status.  That’s okay, because as I reflect back to that thirty-one day period of time, I know that a lot has changed within me as a writer.  I might be in something of a holding pattern at the moment, but thinking back fills me with a renewed confidence.  I am published in Summer Nights, a book of short stories, which is so amazing.  Although I haven’t signed a publishing contract for my novels or landed an agent yet, I have had a few recent requests.  I know that I am capable of creating something of interest and value to people outside of my family and close friends.

It is important for writers to take the time for reflection.  Look back periodically and remember something that gave you validation along your road to publication.  And while much of the path to publishing has us waiting on information, taking the time to reflect on those positive and rewarding things which have brought you to where you are today can be a real source of inspiration. It is pulling me through.

As a special treat, here is a song to get you in the spirit as well 🙂

What awesome writerly things do you reflect upon?  Do you find inspiration from your critique partner?  A full request from an agent or editor?  How about a blogger, or even an interesting hashtag?  Perhaps you got some great feedback at a conference a while back.  Did you enter an online contest?  What can you reflect on to give you a boost to keep pushing forward?   Feel free to comment below!

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Let’s Talk: The Writerly Word Count Sweet Spot

Hello Readers!

Summer is winding down.  It’s been a really long time since my last post, but the season has been so busy!  Lots of visits with family, son applying for jobs, driving practice, etc.; It’s been awesome, but my self imposed writing schedule kind of went out the window.

My Summer Writing Bucket List, here, details the plans I had, but a prison break which included a massive manhunt in my neighborhood forced me to switch gears in June as well.  I blog about that experience here (I won’t lie…It was intense).  Finally, I received the latest draft of an incredible screenplay one of my novels inspired, and gave my edits to the screenwriter, just last night.  My bucket list kind of fell by the wayside, but other incredible things took its place.

With the screenplay edits and prison break behind me, I am now free to focus once again on another work in progress.  And I cannot wait!  I have mentioned this here before, but I am a very “lean” writer.  I am envious of my colleagues who over-write and have to do massive cuts to bring their manuscripts down to size.

My writing process always finds me with the opposite problem.  My first draft is often a complete, albeit skeleton of a story, and I go back through editing to fill in gaps, embellish plot, and give more depth to my characters.  I will never be able to craft an epic saga.  I don’t think I have it in me.

This “lean” style of writing, I think, stems from years writing research papers in college.  Outline, get to the point, justify and prove your facts, cite your sources.  It doesn’t leave much room for embellishment.  This factual form of writing is something I did well, and enjoyed.  Writing fiction, however is a whole different ballgame.  Because of my affinity for writing research papers, I think my Writerly Word Count Sweet Spot will always be on the 50-60K range.  I have written longer and shorter fictional works than that range, but most often, that is where I end up.

The Writerly Word Count Sweet Spot.  This is different for everyone, I believe.  Somehow, though I have no scientific proof of this,  it must be connected to us as individual people.  The stories I want to tell are lighter, quicker reads.  Nothing really heavy, since I like to be entertained when I write.  Is that weird?

I posted about word counts on this blog before, too.  I think it’s really important to keep them in mind because agents and editors know what readers expect as far as word count goes, and what sells for each genre.  Works that stray too far from those norms may be problematic to sell to  the public.

Sometimes the storyline can sometimes outweigh the word count.  Think about all of the books we have read through the years.  There are always exceptions.  I try to keep that in mind, because, I believe in my stories.  I believe in my characters.  I don’t like to think that one of my book babies might not see the light of day because its count is a little out of the norm.

So, today, as I prepare to continue on with my edits, I remind myself not to fret about the length my story will end up.  I will move forward, making it the best story it can be, however many words that is.  If it’s a novella, it’s a novella.  If the plot takes off in a meaningful way and ends up longer than my usual Sweet Spot, awesome!  But I have to remain true to the story and characters.  And let me tell you, these characters really make me laugh!  I hope someday they will make you laugh too 🙂  That kind of enjoyment is worth a lot, no matter the word count.

Before I sign off, I ask you these questions:  Do you have a Writerly Word Count Sweet Spot?  Does it fit squarely within the norms?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

I hope you all enjoy the rest of your summer.  Take care, and as always, thank you for stopping by my Writer’s Block!  Enjoy the following video 🙂

Writerly Advice: Keeping Busy While In The Query Trenches

Hello Readers!

Thank you for stopping by my blog today 🙂

Today’s post finds me at a time where I am waiting to hear back on some important information.  So I thought I might share some of my diversions which are helping me deal with the wait.  Since you are most likely a writerly type, this will pertain to you, and you will most likely be able to relate.  But many of us wear multiple hats, and some of this might ring true to other areas of your lives as well.  I know it does for me.

Diversion #1:  New Manuscript.

once upon a time

As many of you are aware, I recently started a new manuscript.  I know, I know.  I broke my policy of finishing my fall NaNoWriMo project by the end of the summer (see my Summer Bucket List post for proof).  But this new manuscript couldn’t wait.  I swear.  So in the back of my head, I feel a little bit of guilt about shelving my 2015 NaNo, but it’s okay.  No Biggie.

I mention the new manuscript because working on it has kept me busy.  Really busy.  It’s not keeping me completely sidetracked while I wait, but seriously, it’s helping.  And I actually love the fact that I had to let my NaNo sit a little bit, because when my mind feels like the new manuscript has to gel some, I can switch gears back to it.  Which is good, but sometimes I feel a little bit like this:

stressed with post its

Except unlike this picture, my sticky notes have things written on them; things that occasionally help me keep ideas organized, but not always.

Diversion #2:  This Blog.

There is nothing more gratifying to me as a writer, than connecting with other writerly types.  This past couple of years, I have spent time with authors, poets, screenwriters, and industry professionals all right here on this blog.   Waiting to hear back as a writer can be tough.  When my mind starts to think the worst, I try to take the bull by the horns and learn something new or share something useful.

Blogs are great for that.  Through them, you can pose questions, share helpful information, interview other writers, etc.  All of these things aren’t going to make the time go any faster, but they might make the time more pleasurable, and divert your attention somewhat.

Diversion #3:  Read something new.  And review it.

This isn’t rocket science.  We like to read.  It’s what we do.  It’s what we hope to give our own readers.  By taking the time to read the works of others, we help to pay it forward.  By reviewing the books, perhaps on your blog, you can get a conversation started, thereby helping to pass the time as well.

Diversion #4:  Plan a trip.

journal coins, map

You don’t actually have to take the trip, mind you, but I sometimes got to a travel site and make plans, down to what excursions I’ll take once there.  On my “To-Visit” list is The Pacific Northwest, South Dakota, Iceland, Scandinavia, and Austria.  There are plenty of other places I’d love to see, but these are just what I have been thinking about as new stories and world’s swirl around in my head.

Hopefully this helps.   And as an added bonus, writing this post tonight has helped divert my attention from the waiting game for about an hour or so!  To that end, I’m going to get myself a couple of Oreo’s and get back to Diversion #1:  my new manuscript.

Happy writing and waiting, everyone!

Writerly Advice: When My Book-Baby Needed A Time-Out!

Welcome Readers!

One of my Twitter friends asked me a question today, and it kind of got me thinking.  She wanted to know if there was ever a point when you should just scrap a manuscript.

Hmmm.  Let me think about that for a moment.

The Big Question

Who among us has never felt the frustration of conceptualizing a manuscript, plotting, planning, and writing it to the point that we are absolutely certain it will CHANGE THE WORLD, only to discover that it just doesn’t work?

No doubt, many of us have.

My Reality

Case in point:  My 2013 NaNoWriMo project.  As a writer, I was in a phase where I wanted really complicated plot twists and character relationships, and on top of that, a few of the plotlines and characters would span the time/space continuum.  I am befuddled just thinking about that beast.

I got about a third of the way through writing it (from an outline, no less) and found that I couldn’t make it work out the way that I was sure it would when I plotted it months earlier.  That manuscript was taking on a life of its own, and as its “parent”, I just couldn’t keep up with it!  If there was ever a time for me to consider scrapping a manuscript, it was then.

But I didn’t.

Because…

I have mentioned this in other posts on this blog, but writing, as are all of the arts, is a living thing to me.  The process of writing is fluid and morphing, and the books we read become part of us, as we live and breathe, taking on a life of their own.  Instead of scrapping that beast of a manuscript, I trunked it; I gave it, and me, a Time-Out for a while.  That manuscript needed to think about was wrong with it.  I needed time away from it as well, to perhaps come up with a plan to better usher that particular Book-Baby into the world with a little more finesse.

Just an FYI, that Book Baby is still in Time Out.  It’s been months.  Neither of us has figured out what is wrong yet but someday we will.  I can’t give up on it.  It is a story which has a wonderful heart and deep feeling, but in its current state it’s just too unruly.  With a little thought and hard work, I feel like my Book-Baby will become a beautiful thing. Perhaps giving it a name will help (wink, wink!)

I don’t know how long it’s Time-Out will last.  It could be years.  And who knows.  Maybe it’s supposed to be more than one book, or maybe something in the universe was telling me that I am not ready to write that story…yet.  It is definitely a “something”, because I still get chills of excitement when I think about it.

So, My Answer To The Big Question:

I wouldn’t scrap a manuscript altogether. Like the unnamed Book-Baby in my example above, I would give it a Time-Out, long enough for the two of us to iron out our differences.

A Few Questions For You:

How do you deal with unruly manuscripts?  When they don’t work out as planned, how long before you set it aside? Have you ever scrapped a manuscript completely?

Share your response in the comment section!

Thanks for stopping by my Writer’s Block!

Writerly Advice: Using #Hashtags!

Hello Writerly Friends!  Thanks for stopping by.

Today on my blog, we’ll be discussing … Hashtags!  I make no claims to know all of the ins and outs of this phenomenon, but perhaps there is some information here that can help you on your writing journey.

Hashtag1

The #hashtag.  We have seen them everywhere, from Twitter to Facebook, to street-side advertising and television commercials.

I am an avid Twitter user.  I use hashtags to follow certain groups of writers or contests, or topics of general interest to me.  Sometimes my hashtag use is fleeting.  For example, when #pitmad was over, I stopped following that tag…until the next one!  My “seasonal” hashtag follows generally coincide with writing contests.  They have a short lifespan, but come back at certain times of the year.  Here are a few of the “seasonal” hashtags that I use:

#Pitmad

#adpit

#NaNoWriMo

#sunvssnow

Some hashtags, though, I use throughout the year.  I use them to ask questions of industry professionals, or to post things of interest for like-minded people.  Here is a short list of the tags I use often:

#amwriting

#writing

#askagent

#writingtip

#askeditor

I found a great blog post from Author Media listing a ton of writerly hashtags.  The list they post is very thorough, and gives a brief description of what some of them are for.  Certain hashtags are used on certain days of the week or times of the year.  That post is definitely worth checking out.

Another thing to realize is that hashtags are searchable.  This can benefit the writer in several ways.  I try to use a blend of common and more unique hashtags when putting my blog posts together because anytime someone searches one of the tags in Google or any other search engine, my post will come up in their search.  This is helpful to writers because it’s a great way to get exposure.  Authors can and should have a title hashtag for their books when they release.  It can be a powerful tool.

I am in no way an expert about tagging and social media, but I can see the potential for their use.

How do you use hashtags?  What are your favorites?  Feel free to share your information below!  Until then:

hashtag-1

Let’s Talk: Word Count!

Welcome to my Writer’s Block!

We are talking about word count today.  Whenever anyone asks me about books I have written or am working on, they inevitably ask me about how long it is. Truth is I know that they want to know how long it is, in pages.  Yet, I answer them in word count.

“Sixty-eight thousand words?  How many pages is that?” they ask.  And I know there is a formula for figuring it out in a general sense.  For the purposes of being able to answer those questions about page count, the following information is listed on fionaraven.com:

Using your current word count and the appropriate formula below, calculate the number of pages you can expect in your finished book:

Your word count divided by 390 = page count for a 5.5″ x 8.5″ book For example: 50,000 divided by 390 = 128.20 pages

Your word count divided by 475 = page count for a 6″ x 9″ book For example: 50,000 divided by 475 = 105.26 pages

In the examples above, use the 5.5” x 8.5” for fiction, and the 6” x 9” for non-fiction.

But Back To Word Count  🙂

Word count is how writers determine what kind of baby we have:  is it a short story, novella, epic novel?  We can generally tell by the word count.  There are several sources for a description of word count “requirements”, but it is also important to realize there is also some grey area there as well.  I tend to lean toward the more flexible word count designations.

Writer’s Digest has a very good post about it here, where they show optimal, acceptable, and unacceptable ranges for just about any fiction book and level.  I like this article, because of that “grey area” I spoke about earlier.  Nothing I do is ever black and white.  I have said this other places on my blog, but the arts, to me, are living things.  They evolve, grow and develop in differing ways.

Does word count really matter?  I think it does.  If you pitch a book to an editor at a press or to a literary agent, it really should fall into the word count range for the genre that it is.  The agents and editors know the market.  They know what readers specific genres expect as far as word count.  So, I think it does matter.

What happens if your novel falls short of the desired word count?  All is not lost.  While I believe in word count ranges, if a story is well told and it’s only a novella length piece, maybe that’s what it was meant to be.  And if your story explodes into the hundreds of thousands for word count?  Perhaps you have a series on your hands!

Is  word count something you should focus on from the beginning of a project?  Maybe, maybe not.  For example, I believe in a free-flow writing process.  I do like outlines (a LOT!), but when actually doing the writing of a first draft, I get the ideas down, and fill in gaps later.  I tend to be a very lean writer, generally speaking.  I don’t think I could ever write a novel of epic length.  It doesn’t suit my style.

But if it is November 1, and I am embarking on another trip through NaNoWriMo, word count is everything to me!  I want to win, so my goal is 50K or more words by the end of the month.

How do you feel about word count?  Do you follow any hard and fast rules, or are you an embracer of the grey area, like me?  Comment below!  I love to connect with my readers J

Writerly Advice: Get Happy! Finding The Courage to Celebrate Our Little Writing Victories

Thanks for stopping by today!  Today’s post stems from some very needed words of encouragement from a writerly friend of mine.  I had been so full of self-doubt that it took a lot of convincing that I had every right to be excited and happy about my work.  Because of that rather lengthy pep talk, see below:

Which brings me to the topic at hand.  Many of us are content to be holed away in our quiet spaces, receiving constant critique and criticism.  We thrive on it, because we know that is among all of the criticism that we find those gems; advice and ways to hone our craft, making it shine even brighter than before.

That’s what we all want.  We want our work to be as good as we can make it.

All artists live in a world where perfection is never achieved.  It cannot ever be attained, because there is always more to learn.  As a music educator, I view the study of music as an evolving, living thing.  It is the same with writing.  We learn from the masters.  We take what those who have come before us contributed to the craft, and somehow make it our own, leaving behind a legacy to be built upon by others.

But in pursuit of all this, and amid the constant critique and criticism, it can sometimes be hard for the writer to find the little victories to celebrate; our own little gems.  But between all of the edits and drafts of our work, we go through lots of little successes. A turn of phrase that somehow makes a page sparkle.  The use of a word that perfectly captures the moment in a character’s world.  The courage to remove a thousand words of unnecessary “stuff” from a chapter.  The courage to sit down and map out something new.  It feels so good!

I think it might be in my genes, but here is a trap I fall into:  self-doubt.  I can say that with time, I have grown enough as a writer that I can often push those nasty little feelings aside, but it isn’t easy.  Sometimes it takes my writer friends, who know exactly what I am going through, to encourage me to see past the doubt to the glimmer of victory in my work.  I try to do the same for them, whenever possible.  The writing life is hard, but also very fulfilling.  We cannot do it alone.

Today, I challenge you to have the courage to celebrate those little writing victories. Seek them out, if you have to!  You are allowed.  Here’s one: We are so in tune with the action of revision, that we don’t see revision as its own “hurrah”! Now that I think about it, writers have a ton of things we could celebrate every day.

How do you spot personal victories as a writer?  Please share your victories here in the comments.  Large or small, I want to hear about them!