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things to keep you sane while querying

20 Apr

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I have a theory: you can query agents with your manuscript and not go crazy at the same time.

Crazy, right?

I’m currently in the querying trenches for the third time in my writing career, and, given that, I think this is a topic I am arguably qualified to weigh in on. I’ve maintained a relative level of sanity during my querying bouts (you know, more or less) and I’m still standing (don’t mind my hunch).

Here’s how I’m doing it:

  1. Let yourself go a little crazy – Yeah, forget about staying completely sane. The title was a lie to lure you in. But no worries! A little crazy isn’t bad, right? You’re only human, and this reaction is only natural. Fighting it means fighting yourself, and you’re not going to do that because–well, because it’s mean. You cannot expect yourself to stay calm, and rational, and with perfectly styled hair. Not at a time like this. The sooner your come to terms with losing your shit a bit, the sooner you’ll be able to survive this process.
  2. Be kind to yourself – This one first and foremost. You are doing a ridiculously difficult thing by putting your work out there. You will have to wait a lot, and the waiting will make you feel like your brain is being picked away at by a toothpick. You’ll also get rejections — lots of rejections. Those will make you go all greyscale, and people will wonder why you’re no longer in color, and you’ll wonder why your heart feels so swollen and sad. This is the time to be kind. Don’t beat yourself up because you spent all day obsessively refreshing your inbox. That’s normal. Don’t insult yourself because you found a typo in your query. Join the club instead. We have snacks. The best thing you can do while querying is to practice empathy towards yourself. Imagine a beloved friend being in your shoes. The kindness that you would dish out for them is the same kindness you should give to yourself.
  3. Get creative – This is the best time you could possible pick to throw yourself at another creative endeavor. Start writing a new book. Take a painting class. Plant a garden. Restore an old Model A. Do that granny graffiti thing where you cover your town with knitting. As much as you can, obsess about something new and shiny. Your brain wants to create. Give it an outlet, and let it go.
  4. Don’t rush your process – If you’ve set a goal to have a literary agent by some date or a published book before you turn whatever age, take it back this instant, so help me God. You can’t control any of that, and if you can’t control it then it has no business on your list of goals. You can control how many words you write a day, when you finish your book by, and how many agents you’re going to query in a week, but you can’t control the publishing industry. You will do yourself a disservice if you try. There’s not time limit here. Focus on controlling the things you can control, and let the rest come when it comes.
  5. Enjoy your freedom – You have no deadlines right now. Editors aren’t breathing down your neck for your work. There is no drama unfolding on your Goodreads’ page about what a piece of crap you are. The Twitter trolls aren’t after you, you’re not burnt out from book tours, and you have no stress about your series being canceled before you can wrap it up. At this moment, it’s just you and your work. And I bet one day you’ll miss this.

The truth is, your mind is going to run itself into the ground. Your going to feel all the feels, sometimes every single one in the course of a single day. Your going to question yourself at every turn, and you may even consider giving up.

Just like each and every one of your favorite authors before you.

This is it, friends. You’re doing it, and you’re doing great.

 

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the benifits of a continuous practice

21 Mar

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Recently, I stated using Instagram to document my #continuouspractice. The basic idea is to pick something you want to practice and stick with it for 100 days, documenting as you go along. I picked writing, which I first felt was a little silly since I’m already writing nearly everyday as it is. Still. I think, more than anything, I wanted to give it a go so I could see all my minutes, hours, and days building in this new format. It’s been a way for me to look back and see that, wow, this is all adding up. I’m devoted af, and it’s creating whole, complete, magnificent works.

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And so, every day, I snap a picture of my writing time. Later I post the pic to Instagram and to a private writing group I’m a part of on Facebook where we keep a daily #continuouspractice thread.

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The practice has helped me to focus in on my work more so than I was without it. I’ve seen how my days add up, and so I try to use them to the fullest. I finished editing my WIP quicker than I expected. Now I’m using my practice to work up the next big idea as well as set time aside for this little ol’ blog of mine.

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Feel free to follow me on Instagram for more, and don’t hesitate to jump into the wonderful world of #continuouspractice, whatever your practice may be.

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Happy writing!

diy the-sky-is-the-limit shirt

3 Jul

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This is not a diy blog, but this is a diy post.

Readers, ye be warned.

The bad thing about Pinterest is it brings all kinds of things to my attention that I don’t currently have and that I immediately want. Like a shirt that pretty much sums up my soul with the words “COFFEE, BOOKS, & RAIN”. The good thing about Pinterest is that it sometimes gives me hacks for how I can get these things FOR CHEAP.

I made that shirt up there, and I’m going to tell you how. But I hate those diy posts that have to make things complicated and that give you a picture of every single step to have to scroll past, so there will be none of that. I’m just going to tell you how to do it. Quickly and simply. With words.

Because I’m assuming you have a life you’d like to get back to.

Okay, here goes:

Get your shirt, a bleach pen (they can be found in the smelly chemical isle of your local store), and an idea. Masking tape is optional, as is white vinegar. You should also have something flat to shove up inside your shirt to stop the bleach from getting on the back. Stick that thing in. Make sure that the shirt is flat. If you want, take some masking tape and tape yourself a little border. That’s what I did to keep my words in a nice square. Now go to town with that bleach pen all over your shirt. It comes out like a gel so it’s pretty easy to figure out. When you’re done, let it sit for around 15 minutes. Different colored shirts are going to require more or less time. It’s not rocket science. Just wing it. Rinse in cold water and soak in white vinegar if you have it. I’ve heard it helps to stop the bleach. Then wash it in a load of lights.

Presto! It looks great! You’re one of the cool kids on the block!

Okay, over and out.

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grand plans & a grand way of keeping them

3 Feb

A writer friend was talking on Facebook the other day about we writers and the processes we go through writing and editing and editing again and again. Then submitting to agents, waiting, editing again, submitting again, editing again – and she laughed and noted that it must seem strange to the non-writers who listen to us with all our many updates.

She’s editing again? I though she did that already. She’s brushing up her query? But she “brushed up” her query LAST month.

Yeah, she brushed it up last month. And she’s brushing it up again now. And she probably brushed it up three times in between but didn’t want to admit to each of those times.

Give her a break.

Now, all of that said, I’m on my last round of edits.

Take that to mean whatever you will.

I’ve got a great method I wanted to share. It’s a slow method but the results have been worth it.

I start by going through all of the edits I put onto my hard copy for one chapter and change them in the Word doc. Once they’re all in I turn on my computer’s voice recorder and read that chapter aloud. I can pause the recorder and make quick fixes as I see them or highlight sentences I want to come back to. Then I listen. I find so many things I can improve this way. I make all of the changes I see to make until the chapter strikes me as perfect. Then I reread it for the recorder one last time. Voila.

I’ve heard countless authors talk about the importance of reading their work aloud once they get close to the final draft. They need to hear it in order to feel it. Recording it and playing it back for myself brings me to yet another level in listening, one in which I’m not even distracting by the reading. I can focus fully on the feel and the flow.

Now, I’m alright with this slow and steady pace, but I want to be sure that I’m querying before my baby #4 comes at the beginning of April. This gives me two months. If I can edit a chapter a day then I’ll have plenty of time to make sure my query is golden and to get all of my *dream agents* in a line as well. Most of this work has already been done, but I want things PERFECT, you guys.

That was a very wobbly lead-in to the next item on this blog post: my art journal/planner.

For those of you who like making art more than you like planning, you’re going to love this. For those of you who like planning more than you like making art, you might want to look away. The sight of a to-do list splattered with paint could prove to be too much for you.

An art journal/planner is pretty much the freakish offspring of -well- an art journal and a planner. Art journals are getting ridiculously popular on the internet and in the artsy circles. Just take a peek on Pinterest. There is no end to it. Now add in a planner, and that’s what I’m doing.

Here is a fun Facebook group if your interesting in getting started. I lurk over there. And here is a blog post better than my own.

Here is my title page:

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And here is week one for me:

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I had fun piecing it together here and there as the week went on, getting out some creative juices without needing to put in much commitment, time, or effort.

I used a mix of media: embroidery floss, mod podge, sharpie markers, pens, pencils, magazine clippings, paint chips, scotch tape, masking tape – even an old grocery list and coffee splatterings.

Here is what week two looks like today, Monday:

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I purposefully taped down just one side of my weekly planner page. This way I have room to make art under my schedule as well.

I’m most excited about documenting and preserving life with this. Writing notes when the kids say or do funny things, when Clayton and I share busy/sweet life with each other, when something worth celebrating happens (like the delivery of a new hoop).

What we’re drinking, listening to, dancing to, laughing at. Memorable things, mundane things. This is a place for it to be recorded.

This will also help me stick to my plans and goals, and give me space in the week to be creative.

Nice, yeah?

Okay, now back to editing…

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when you realize your story is awful…

13 Jan

Oi. This latest round of edits is killing me. And possibly killing the book as well. Funny how scenes and sentence that looked so good to me one week can look like hell the next. Only, funny… yeah, that’s not really the right word.

I’m telling myself all the right things: with any project I’m working on, my thoughts are bound to be fickle and fleeting; the important thing is to keep to the writing and the editing whether I’m on a high or a low. Think the book sucks? Fine, but keep working on it. Think it’s a sure-fire New York Times Bestseller? Fine, but get back to work.

Still, I find it a bit disheartening to read through what I thought was very good and instead come to the conclusion that it’s all kinds of messed up.

I’m not the first person to feel this way. I don’t know a lot about the world, but I do know, without a doubt, that the greats and the failures alike have all had conflicting thoughts over their work during its creation. I also like to imagine that the greats are the ones who kept working on it even when their current state told them that the piece was crap – no – especially when their current state told them that the piece was crap.

So I’m getting back to work on mine. Maybe it will fail like my other four novels. Or maybe it will grow into something great. Either way, this is no place to stop.

I’ll let you know if my opinion of it changes.

God, I sure hope it does.

I’ll leave you with a response from one of the greats…

Neil Gaiman Answers Well

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a few thoughts on the muse

29 May

“Every time I hear writers talk about ‘the muse,’ I just want to bitch-slap them. It’s a job. Do your job.” -Nora Roberts

She has a point. And I get it. It’s easy for writers, who tend to be imaginative, and whimsical, and, well… whiny, to dwell too much on fantastic mythical creatures who could come along at any moment and finish all of their work for them.

It’s a job. Do your job.

But I’ve felt that other thing too. Those moments when the ideas and words are flowing so brightly and easily, and you feel like you can hardly take credit for any of it. It’s being given to you somehow, made without your even trying. You’re shocked, surprised, running for a pen, and feeling a little bit like your mind has been invaded. And you wouldn’t mind if it were invaded again.

There’s something poetic about it which, of course, attracts the writer’s mind. A muse. Wouldn’t that be lovely.

I think Nora’s point is that thoughts of a muse could be unhealthy for a writer. Cause you to leave work undone simply because you weren’t feeling inspired enough. It’s a good topic to address.

But Elizabeth Gilbert argues that the opposite is true as well in her wildly popular TED Talk, “Your Elusive Creative Genius”. She discusses artists of all kinds, their often self-destructive lives, and the pressures creators face at the hands of their critics. Our common thinking has a way of pushing artists to the brink (in case you didn’t notice), and she suggests a new way of thinking, one in which artists are free to succeed or fail, both of which are inevitable if you lead a creative life, then move on to the next project.

I like the idea of a muse. A friend in your head whose both a little manic and a little depressive and who you get to put up with if you want to harness your creative side. But here’s the trick: when she’s off getting into trouble, and she will, you better buckle down and get your writing done anyway. Because it is, after all, your job. Do your job

I have more to say, but I’ll leave it for another post. In parting, here is Elizabeth’s TED talk. I hope you’ll find the 20 minutes to watch it. It’s not one to miss.

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artsy-fartsy stuff

8 May

So, I’m a bit of an artist, but I haven’t done much lately. And I miss it. Especially with people like BJ Pramann and Maggie Stiefvater living in my cyber world, posting cyber pictures of their latest & greatest pieces.

Last weekend I finally cracked and bought a sketch pad. When I got home I sat down for ten minutes and drew a horse and rider. I enjoyed it immensely and wondered how I’d let myself go for so long.

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Now I need to tackle the cover because it’s boring…

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I have some ideas. I’ll post a picture when I’m done with it.

Anyway, the moral of this story is : BEING FRUGAL IS NICE, BUT BUY ART SUPPLIES. BECAUSE YOU’RE HUMAN, AND YOU HAVE TO.

In other news, college is a hoax. They tell you that you need it if you’re going to make money, but THEY LIE. I just brought an art print to a custom framing store to see what it would cost me to have it matted and framed, and I left positive that the young man who owned the store was making more money than my husband who has a university’s stamp-of-approval and works in his field.

The moral of this story is : DON’T TRUST THE PEOPLE WHO TELL YOU THAT YOU HAVE TO GO TO COLLEGE.

Here’s the print

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Isn’t it dreamy?

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