Facing It | Receiving the Advice

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I’ve touched upon this topic a little bit already in an earlier post, how there’s a fine line between going back over a chapter you’ve already written ten times over without letting yourself just write the story. But now I feel like I’ve gotten far enough along to where I actually need to start paying further attention to lengths of scenes and what’s actually considered “fluff” over what’s actually “necessary.”

A writer has a certain degree of artistic license. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And when it comes time for those edits it can be painful to cut any of it out. Especially if it’s a scene you’ve come to love. Advise is a tricky thing, because you want to learn from someone who’s more experienced than you and that’s why you asked them to beta read in the first place. At the same time you don’t want to just dismiss what they have to say because you don’t like it.

  1. Know that it’s okay to reject an opinion.
    You don’t have to accept everything someone says about your story. If you want to leave a bit in there, leave it in there. If the scene needs shortened or lengthened, do it. If it’s a section that reveals too much of your plot early on, maybe save it in another document to put it elsewhere in the story. I recently had to do that with one of the original scenes I wrote when The Firedamp Chronicles project began. In fact, I had to accept that it actually belongs in the fourth planned book rather than the first. So I have several documents of original scenes, imagery and terminology that I’ll work in as the WIP presses on. Don’t feel that you need to explain all your decisions to your beta readers either. If they’ve only read a couple of chapters and something they suggest (for or against) will make sense later on, don’t reveal all your secrets just yet! Let them discover it on their own.

    Don’t feel that you need to explain all your decisions to your beta readers either. If they’ve only read a couple of chapters and something they suggest (for or against) will make sense later on, don’t reveal all your secrets just yet!

  2. For the most part, they’re right, even if you don’t want to hear it.
    You’ve probably experienced this next topic at some point in your life whether it’s with writing or some other area – advise from family is the worst. The level of acceptance can be depend on the kind of relationship you have with them! (You love your family, for the most part, am I right?) But when it comes to any level of professional advise it can be more prudent to seek counsel elsewhere.

    In the early 2000s it was seen almost “weird” meeting strangers on the Internet. But over the past fifteen years with the rise of multiple social media platforms it’s much more socially acceptable. There’s still the fear of someone stealing your work or “catfishing” you, but there are still trustworthy folks out there whose aim isn’t to take advantage of you. Find a small group of people you trust, using whatever method of communication you trust, and let them know that they can trust you as well. That way, whether you beta read for them or they for you, you know their opinions will hold more weight and the advise pill will be easier to swallow.

There’s still the fear of someone stealing your work or “catfishing” you, but there are still trustworthy folks out there whose aim isn’t to take advantage of you.

So I guess the only question that remains is this: Have you found someone you can trust? I’d like to think I have, and I’d like to think that they can trust me. We all have a singular goal – to be a published author. If we hold each other up and support one another in our journeys rather than be cutthroat about it, then we can celebrate each others achievements and be genuinely happy for each other.

#WQOTD for all you more grammatically-minded folks: Should I have used “advice” or “advise” in this post? I just picked one form and stuck with it!

If we hold each other up and support one another in our journeys rather than be cutthroat about it, then we can celebrate each other’s achievements and be genuinely happy for each other.

For now, don’t worry about the edits, unless you’re already at that stage of course! Just remember that you asked for their help. They’re giving up time in their day to sit down to analyze and enjoy and believe in your story. So don’t be too harsh on your return. They’ll appreciate that you’re just willing to listen!


Facing It | Writer’s Block

I’ve decided to start a new blog series called “Facing It.” I don’t know how original it is or if I’m even qualified to write it, but I’ve recently felt like I need to do just what the title implies. To face it. To call out whatever it is and face it rather than avoid or downplay it. I’m sure there are also countless other blog posts that talk about writer’s block, how to overcome it or let it run its course, so this post will just highlight what I’ve learned and what I’m doing to press on.

  1. I am learning to recognize the difference between “procrastination” and “writer’s block.”
    While I’m not sure if there’s any scientific proof out there to support this statement, I do know that I’ve crossed the line several times into one realm or another. There are days that I want and need to write but I just can’t focus on the outline or story at all. Is that called writer’s block or is that called procrastination? I think that it’s a combination of the two working together against the writer. But what ARE the differences between the two?
    A. Procrastination: Twitter. Facebook. MySpace (yes, that still exists). YouTube. Smart phones. We live in a world of distractions. They’re also tools that connect writers and readers, writers and writers, and writers to potential publishers and booksellers. I feel that procrastination is a sign of doubt. Doubt in one’s ability to write or doubt in the story itself and that’s why the writer gives up. That’s how it is for me, anyway. I’ve found myself doubting my ability to write a novel, much less a series, the further in I go. That’s why I procrastinate. I just need to write the story first. That’s the only way I’ll know if I actually CAN.
    B. Writer’s Block: This one is far more frustrating than procrastination because it’s something that’s harder to control. With procrastination you at least have a choice of not watching that YouTube video or not. Of going on Twitter or staying off of it. This one is harder to overcome because if you’re stuck on a decision one of your characters has to make that will affect the rest of the story then you know that you can’t move on until that’s resolved. I am challenging myself to remember that no matter how prepared I am with my research, outline, or knowing how to get from point A to B to C, writing isn’t easy. Writer’s block is just part of the process. Like researching everything….ChallengeYourself
  2. I am teaching myself that it’s okay to skip a day. Or two.
    Of course, me being me, I chose one of the hardest genres to write: historical fiction. And when you’re writing history you better know what you’re talking about. That’s not intimidating at all! Personally, I’ve found that it’s actually healthier for me to not write for eight hours straight every single day and add some non-fiction reading into the mix. That in itself usually helps get the juices flowing again. A new event. A new date. A new person. A new map. If you can train yourself to think of what you can do to combat writer’s block, do it. Research is what I do. I sound like I should be a stuffy professor in the back stacks of a library. I’m not, but boy does that sound appealing…I digress. Whether you’re researching something new or enjoying a baseball game with the family, don’t feel guilty about not always working on your novel. A work-life balance is necessary with writing just like it is with everything else. Sometimes time away from it is just what you need. I know it’s what I need. I also need to bake cookies tonight…(is that considered procrastination or just “taking a break?”)
    TeachYourself
  3. I am accepting that it’s okay to have a side story or two.
    This one can be a double-edged sword. You don’t want to have ten side stories you’re working on to avoid your main one. Sometimes you do need a break from the “work” and wind-down with something perhaps a bit more fun. My novel series is the challenge. My current side story is the fun. It’s where I can use “less smart” words and write what I can’t include in the story I intend for publication. The downside to it is sometimes I can write six pages of my side story and just a paragraph of the novel series. To quote Jubal Early from the Firefly series, “does that seem right to you?” Write what just what you need to get the juices flowing once more but then transfer that back to what you actually hope to get published.
    AcceptYourself
  4. I am learning to heed advice from others and trying to not get caught up in the “fluff.”
    Advise can sometimes be a hard pill to swallow especially if you are a stubborn person like I am. Especially if it comes from family. Why is it always easier to take advice from strangers on the World Wide Web (I just aged myself there) than it is from your father, your sister, even your grandmother? But there is such a thing as too much advice which can create more doubt than help. I’m learning to go back to the basics. My website is just one of thousands of blogs out there on writing. That’s a lot of noise and I admit that, while I may not really be qualified on a professional level to tell people what to do and what not to do, I’m finally finding my rhythm after over two years of research (it all circles back to research, doesn’t it?!) Advise is good. Just don’t let yourself get caught up in the fluff, especially if it doesn’t pertain to you.

    Was that just advise? Whoops!

The moral of the story is this: find what works for you.
If having the latest writing program to help you organize your thoughts is what you need, use it.
If working on an amazing old, well-maintained typewriter is what inspires you, use it.
If you have a favorite author’s blog you follow for tips and tricks of the trade, use it.

If you doubt yourself and your abilities and your story, face it and seek people out who you can trust to help you along your way.

Without facing whatever it is that’s holding you back from getting it done, giving up may look more appealing than actually becoming published. It’s a long and hard process. To paraphrase my uncle’s own advise, write the story. That’s really all you’re doing with the first draft. Telling yourself the story. To emphasize what other writers before me have said: the first draft is always crap.

Everything else can come later.


3 Pros to Outlining Your Novel

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There are many things within the authoring world that confuse me, but there’s even more that just makes sense. What might be a necessity for one writer might not even be on the radar for another and vice versa.

I didn’t even know about outlining until a year into my research process. I don’t remember whose Twitter account it was that eventually led me to KM Weiland’s but I came to appreciate her tips and guides and blogs. THEN I discovered that she was a published writer herself with several self-help books on the process – she isn’t just fiction. She’s non-fiction as well.

The more I went through her blog, Helping Writers Become Authors, the more I realized that I really was lacking direction. All I had was the idea, but no idea on how to get from point a to b to c and so on without just abandoning my story all together. From past experience I knew that was my biggest downfall and this time around I want to be published more than ever.

Some, more experienced writers are able to function without the outline structure. They’re the more free-spirited type of writer. The more artsy who has notes and post-its and every inch of their wall or notebook covered from top to bottom with random ideas. Then there’s me. I can’t do that. I need to have a clean work space, I need to be organized, and I need to know exactly where I’m going.

That’s why the outline concept appealed to me from the very beginning, so down below I will be pointing out more pros than cons on the method. I’m sure it’s been discussed on countless other blogs before, but these are just based on my own observations as I’m slowly working through my series.

  1. Some publishers request a copy of your outline.
    It wasn’t until I started looking through that Writer’s Guide book to publishers did I realize that some of those folks actually want a full copy of the outline for your work. I think I saw it pop up more for fiction publishers than non-fiction, but if you already have an outline started and your interested in submitting to a specific place, you don’t have to go back to the beginning of your novel and convert it into outline form. It’s already done and saves you several hours’ (or days, depending on how long your story is) of work. All you may need to do is format it if the publisher requests it and you’re all set!
  2. Even though you may deviate from your outline during the writing process you can always have multiple drafts of the outline.
    While I mentioned I don’t like having multiple notes and post-its earlier in this blog, I don’t shy away from writing in the margins of my physical copies. You should see the first two pages of the first draft of my overall outline – it’s a hot mess of reminders, tips and updates. I’m already working on adding things to my outline that I didn’t have in there before, like certain things a character does or an important subtle hint on what’s coming. I’ll just have to remind myself to print out a new copy once all is said and done and save that version as THE version so I don’t accidentally send a publisher the disjointed original.
  3. Gives you a guide from beginning to end.
    There really isn’t much that needs to be expanded upon with that statement. It says it all right there. An outline’s main purpose is to help guide you all the way through your story from, well, beginning to end [or lack thereof if you’re having a procrastination day!] I felt nearly completely lost without mine. Some days I still feel a bit lost because, let’s face it, I’m creating my own world for someone else to enjoy and that’s a lot of pressure!

Whether you outline or not, whether you fully read this blog post or not, I suspect that we’re all heading towards the same goal of becoming a published author for the first time or you already are and you’re just preparing for your next release. Regardless of your methodology, you need to find what works best for your pacing. Having an outline has helped give me a sense of direction and some sense completion. If you are a new writer I strongly suggest having a read of KM Weiland’s helpful series available on Amazon. (She has no idea I’m plugging this so I swear this isn’t an #ad or anything like that. I just think they’re incredibly useful!)

So don’t worry if you have a day of complete distraction and procrastination. Even seasoned authors have them! Just keep pressing on!


Apparently “Beta Readers” Are a Thing

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When I first ventured into this new phase of my life I never knew there was such a thing as a “beta reader.” As I looked more into it the more I realized that maybe I should find a few of my own. But then that “fear” crept up again. You know…the fear

Of course in Rachel’s case it’s fear of quitting her job and making something of her life, but I think the same concept applies here. I’ve been afraid of showing others not only what I’ve written so far but how little of it I’ve actually produced.

But then I realized that that is what I have been craving. I needed input. Someone to tell me whether they like it or hate it. Whether it’s a storyline they’ve read before or not. Whether it’s something they think is marketable, relevant, or fresh. I think it’s something every writer has to face some day – the criticism. I think that that is what’s been causing the mental block in my head from continuing with what I have already. Now thankfully I think I’ve found someone with whom I can share these fears, a fellow writer who is also working on her first novel as well.

There’s still that trepidation though, of whether or not you’ve chosen the right person, but beta readers are a necessary part of the writing process, and there’s only doing, not just trying. (Though I’m sure I’m butchering that phrase just now!)


It’s Okay to Take a Break

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For the past six months I have been researching. Researching so much that I felt overloaded with information and that overload caused me to have to take a break. I find myself still staring at four library books I’m praying are not overdue. But that’s when I realized, two weeks ago, that I needed a break. I felt boxed in by my own tiny office and desktop. I felt the drive leak away. I really had burnt myself out.

But with Spring in the air, a new laptop, and new resolve, I know I need to keep going. I need to finish at least one story I’ve started in my life. I’ve always found that to be my weak link. I get an idea. Start it. And then complicate it so much that I don’t think I’m good enough to get myself out of it.

That’s when I realized that I absolutely HAVE to keep going with Carrick. I need to keep chasing this dream I’ve had since I was a child. My biggest problem is I don’t have a proper outlet. I don’t think I mean outlet. I have the social media outlet. I suppose I mean like-minded folks in my own town with whom I can relate, but the introvert in me is rearing its head. So please excuse today’s ramblings. It’s time to get back to work!


A #WriteTip for Fellow Novel Virgins

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Short #writetip for my fellow #novelvirgins

I have been researching my first novel for seven months. Seven. Granted, I took a break over the Thanksgiving/Christmas period because it just became too much with normal life. But that’s the trick, isn’t it? Knowing when too much is just…too much?

I don’t know how it is for other first-time novelists, but I have found that I can’t research/write every single day. This past weekend I went through three volumes of non-fiction on the Homestead Strikes of the 1800s in one day. To quote the Wheel of Fortune game, THAT’S TOO MUCH!! (points if you know what I’m talking about!)

I have found my research and my epiphones come in waves. One line of research can inspire a whole paragraph chicken-scratched in the next page of my journal that had originally been earmarked for, well, more research quotes.

Knowing when to take little breaks has been learned the hard way. As a first-time novelist you know you are working at your own pace. You don’t have an editor or a publicist asking you for your next set of chapters, or if your book is going to be a trilogy, or potential readers (yet!) asking you questions you don’t know the answers to yet. Don’t let yourself burn out before you get to the meat of your idea.

It’s okay to take your time, you novel virgin! You’ll know when you’re ready to pick it back up!

#keepcalmandwriteon


Puddled in Your Head

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Does it feel like you’ve been researching way too long without producing much?
Does it feel like way too much information has puddled in your head with no relief?

Earlier this week I felt the same way. With one-third of my journal filled I was feeling overwhelmed until I decided to bite the bullet and sticky-note it all. So I dug out my old college supplies, found those skinny Post-It strips, and got to work. Halfway through all the jumble I found my synopsis. And then halfway through the synopsis I found my characters’ route and from that I am finally able to start formulating my plot.

So don’t let the writing process frustrate you. That’s why it’s called the writing process; just give yourself time…especially if it’s a historical novel!


Why You Should Research Your Historical Novel

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Every writer has to start somewhere. Every potential author needs to know that they don’t know everything. That, quite honestly, is one of the cold hard truths of the fast-paced publishing world. When I started this book last September, all I had was one tiny idea. One tiny element that would eventually grow to be this beast of a project where I am consistently learning new things.

If you’re going to write about a certain time period, KNOW that time period. You can’t write on the mid 1800s if all you’ve seen on the subject is a single film version of Jane Eyre. You have to immerse yourself in it. Be analytical of the content you find and be extremely picky of what you choose to include in your own nonfiction.

For first-time writers the task can be daunting at first. It was for me when I realized how little I knew. Some authors can pick up their pen and crank out half a novel in a night. Don’t let yourself become discouraged if you find yourself getting stuck. That’s what the research there is for! If you’re not sure what type of hat your character could have worn, or why they believe what they believe, or if the town you chose for your backdrop is the proper setting for your climax, research it.

Another truth: readers will know, and want to know, why you chose the details you put in. Your readers will also be able to pick up on false facts, especially if you’re writing something historical. Granted, it will be your take on events that actually happened, but be prepared to be able to explain the why.

Is research daunting? Yes. But you will not only find connections in the process but gain a wealth of knowledge on your subjects that you may otherwise have never known.



Speaking of Libraries

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If you are looking for a library to research in and you are in the Pittsburgh area, I suggest stopping by the Northland Public Library. Not only is their staff incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, but they have a tiny little snack store with a microwave where you can refuel if you want to keep working. Not only that but they offer classes on everything from basic computer skills to crafting, the Virtual Book Shelf, Bookmobile, meeting rooms and more. It has become one of my favorite places to visit for research material and it is consistently busy with several schools being nearby. So there’s my simple Tip of the Day. Nothing on this website is sponsored, but as I work more on my novel I’ll be exploring other local libraries.