Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Handling Critique

No matter how much you may agree or disagree with any critique of your work, NEVER dismiss it out-of-hand. There can be great value in a critique that you don't agree with, as long as the critique points out places that may need improvement. There's always the possibility that those critiques will turn out to be wrong, but in the editing stages of your work, it never hurts to take a second look.

With that said, don't go around making EVERY change suggested by the people who critique your work. Listen to their advice, then make your OWN decision! It's YOUR book, after all.

I recently received the critiques that I paid for with the RMFW contest. I didn't score as well as I'd hoped, but without a point of reference, I can safely say that my scores were not at ALL disappointing. One of the judges gave solid critiques, noting areas of the manuscript that needed work or polish. They didn't make any assumptions about the state of the book or suggest that I COMPLETELY rework the entire thing. While some of their suggestions differ from the notes I've gotten from my critique group and beta readers, on the whole, they're very helpful.

The other judge barely marked up the manuscript. Instead, they recommended making one of the secondary characters my protagonist. This assumes that this book is still in its early stages. And because this book is basically done and in first person POV, it's also a recommendation to write a completely different book. Rather than work with the one I've written.

BUT I don't think they wasted their time or mine. Sure, they could've been more helpful and given critiques rather than "this is lame, unbelievable, I'm walking away now" comments, (stuff I WOULD have listened to if it didn't directly contradict 10 other readers who dove into the story head-first and loved it, even while they "tore it to pieces" to help me make it better). It's still useful, though, because it makes me look at my writing as a whole. It makes me evaluate everything I've learned, read, and accomplished in this manuscript.

The only other note I can give to you, my readers, is that when you're giving critiques, be helpful. Don't be afraid to say the tough stuff (like "I don't know if this is working" or "this is difficult to believe"), but make sure that it's said in a way that helps the writer. Use examples of "why it doesn't work" that are relevant to the story itself. If a story takes place in the distant future and an evil person wants to do an evil act, don't say "this country wouldn't let that happen because in 1986 they passed a law that banned that action."

Laws change, nations change, governments change, and evil people will ALWAYS do evil things and create conflict in the universe, even if their governments passed laws banning those acts two or three hundred years ago.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The End?

After 11 months, I have finally reached "the end" of my novel. I'm not QUITE done, but it's close enough for me to celebrate today!

I got my critiques back from the contest I entered, and I want to look them over and make some minor changes. Other than that, I'm ready to start putting together the Pitch Package to send out to agents.

This is the scary part for me. I got some great feedback from the contest, but I still don't know what individual agents are going to think of this novel. Moreover, there's no way for me to know what the market it looking for. I don't "write to the market" as an author, but I do consider what's "selling" and sometimes speculate about possible trends. I'd like to think that I'm ahead of the coming curve, but as an industry outsider, there's no real way of knowing.

The best advice I ever received, and the best advice I can give, is to write what you love. That's what I'm doing. That's why this journey has been so much fun, even when it's been hard work. There's still a lot more work to do, even though the editing is almost over. For this stage, at least.

The reason this post has a question mark in the title is because there's never REALLY an end in this business. Unless a career is ending. There are only two places to go from here since I refuse to give up. One is to move forward with publication. That's something that I'm going to strive for with every book I finish. The second place I can go is "back to the beginning." And that means starting a new project. That's on the horizon for sure, and I'm already thinking of new ideas for the next book.

This isn't the end by any means, but it's a milestone that I've worked toward for a year. It's nice to be able to start querying again. And the next step is only moments away.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Coasting to the Finish?

I have less than 60 pages to proofread before this manuscript is ready for the query process. And I must admit I'm scared. I've worked very hard on this book, and I'm excited to draw near to completion. Part of me wants to start celebrating my success today, even though I'm not done with it yet.

Another part of me wants to sit back, relax, and revel in the fact that it's "all down hill from here." The last few pages have been edited several times over, and I'm quite confident in their quality. Part of me knows that this section of edits will be easy. And I want to just let the book edit itself.

It won't do that, though. I HAVE to edit it. I have to keep working, pushing, striving to make this the best book it can possibly be. I've already said that this is by FAR the best book I've ever written. What that means in the context of the publishing marketplace is yet to be seen. And I don't mean that to be self-deprecating. I know many people who loved this book. Teachers who want to give it to their students.

And I still love it. It makes me want to continue writing. But I'm so close to the end of this project that I want to coast through the finish line. It's like I've reached the last thirty minutes of my work day and almost everything is done for the day. All of the projects left can wait until the next day, so I find something easy to do and get back to the nitty-gritty tomorrow.

I'm actively fighting these desires and thoughts because I know that giving in would amount self-sabatoge. Apathy can be dangerous. In many ways, it can be more dangerous than "active" laziness.

I have high hopes for what comes next in my writing endeavors. And that excitement is pushing me to finish this project well while enticing me to simply jump to the next step and skip the last 60 pages of my book.

How do you feel when you're almost done with a project? Are you tempted to give up? Do you embrace the process and ignore the end-goal? Do you skip ahead for any reason?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fear of Success?

A couple of years ago, I read a blog post from someone who seemed interested in writing. I don't remember the entire post, but what stood out to me was that they held back on something they were interested in because of their deep fear of success. At least, I think it was a deep fear. Not that it matters for the sake of this post.

It got me thinking: what does fear of success look like? And as I thought about it over the following years, I came to the conclusion that I have no idea.

In various areas of my life, I do face a lot of fears. Most of them are minor and barely affect me, but they do remind me of the fact that life isn't easy. As far as my writing is concerned, I do fear failure. It's something that I think about from time to time, and with the lack of forward-progress in my career thus far, it sometimes feels like a looming presence over my life. But I don't give up because that would be REAL failure.

As I work through the final edits to this current project, knowing for a FACT that it's the BEST book I've EVER written (because I've learned SO much over the years!), I start thinking about the possibility of moving to the next step in my writing career. My fear in that area is a simple fear of the unknown. I don't know what the next step will look like. I don't know how I'll have to go about producing more work, what my job situation will look like, or even who may be representing me as I move toward publication.

I don't even know IF I'll get this book published.

But am I afraid of success? I still don't know what that looks like.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't about belittling someone else's genuine struggle. I don't think less of anyone for mental and/or emotional roadblocks that might standing in their way. In fact, the whole point of this post is that I really don't UNDERSTAND what that fear looks like, and I'm trying to "think out loud" in the hope that I might be able to comprehend a different mindset.

At the end of the day, though, success is why I work as hard as I do. And it's why I'm trying to work even harder every day. Yes, fear of the unknown makes me want to crawl into a hole and hide, but it also makes me want to move forward and take those unknown circumstances by the collar and "work out a solution" to any "problems" that they might bring my way.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Disconnected?

I don't know if I've been feeling disconnected lately, but I know I've been neglecting my involvement in the online writing community. As my previous post might have suggested, though, I've been very connected to close friends of mine.

I've been pushing through my project, and I think I'm less than a month away from being able to start sending it to agents. If I hadn't focussed so much of my energy on my interpersonal relationships, I know the stress of trying to finish this book would have caused unacceptable delays.

I honestly don't know if blogging will become consistent again in the near future, but if it doesn't, it's because I'm working on very important projects and even more important friendships. I will try to get more content up here, but no promises. And I want to get involved in the online community again, too. At the very least because I need to know what's going on in the world. But I also want to contribute to all of the wonderful conversations that everyone keeps having.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The Importance of Community

Everywhere I turn these days it seems someone new is reminding people how important community is. Especially for those of us who spend a good deal of time on our own, writing. The writing community is vital for our survival. Both as a way for us to grow in our craft and as a way to remain sane when the trials of this industry make us want to pull our hair out.

The other day, a friend of mine showed me this video, and I think it's something to really consider.


Friday, August 02, 2013

Charity of the Month: Fisher House

Charity time!

Fisher House is one of my favorite charities. They're great because they provide housing for families who are away from home for life-saving and/or life-improving surgeries and extended medical care. Disabled vets get to stay with their families while they struggle to recover from injuries suffered in the line of duty.

And one of my other favorite features: 95% of ALL donations go DIRECTLY to houses around the country. Only 3% pays for administrative costs, and 2% is spent on raising more money.

So drop by and give them some support.