How Can I Be a Writer, I’m Not _______

How Can I Be a Writer?

There are so many images of writers: smoking, coffee guzzling, depressed alcoholics pouring their hearts and souls into their words. Those grizzled, introverted men who know writing is their raison d’être*, their one, true calling!writer_morgan

I don’t look like that.

I don’t smoke, nor drink coffee**, and I rarely drink alcohol, even socially. I’m about as ungrizzled as a person can be***.

avatarMorgan

Plus, you know what? I don’t think of writing as ‘my calling.’ It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but I’d still be me, even if I stopped writing.

I have no better idea than you do about why we’re here, but the best I can figure out is that we’re here just for the experience points.

*

Yes, people who struggle daily against the oppression of depression can be writers. Your brain chemistry, no matter what you might struggle with, gives you insight into characters that no one else could write.

And those characters may be just what someone else needs to read, to know they’re not alone.

If you get medication or other treatments to help you cope better? That doesn’t take away your uniqueness, it just gives you something else to work with.

For those of us whose brain chemistries are naturally more cooperative? That’s okay.

Even if you’re not an introvert, relying on the written word to communicate coherently, doesn’t mean your words cannot have beauty in them.

Just because you’re not a “tortured artist” doesn’t mean your writing can’t be just as meaningful and insightful.

*

We all bring something different to the page, and that’s a good thing.


How are you different than the caricature of a writer?

What does that add to your writing?

 

P.S. April 22nd is the 2nd anniversary of this blog. Happy blogiversary to me!

* Reason to be (in french).
**Or dark soda, I resort to Sunkist for my caffeine no more than 3Xs a week.
***At my age

Confession: I’ve Been Struggling

I’ve Been Struggling

For the last two months, you’ve probably noticed a theme in my blog posts: finding momentum.

I’ve been dragging-tail, binge watching TV, my lofty goals have all fallen by the wayside, discarded like empty candy wrappers.

I knew writing was hard, I knew it takes skill, timing, and luck to get anywhere in this business, but I just knew if I got my story just-right, it would be fine. Someone, somewhere would like it.

My vague plans when I first started this journey were: query for a year, if I had no takers, just self-publish. I never realized how much one could edit. I didn’t realize that every rejection would have me look at my novel with a more critical eye, and find things to fix, to polish, to shine.

It’s a learning process, I’ve been telling myself.

I never looked at my book and thought: This Is Shit.

I’ve thought mine was a decent ‘popcorn’ book and I wanted it to be stronger. I knew I could make it better and I wasn’t afraid to ask for help.

But last week?

Last week, I had the thought: what happens if I just stop.

No one’s making me write, or edit, or revise. No one would be mad at me. They might be disappointed, but more disappointed FOR me, than IN me.

What would happen if I let the dream die?

The thought crept in, like the story of the monster on the roof of the car, scratching his way in, one scrape of his nails at a time. I’d felt the doubt pressing in, but I wasn’t ready for this thought.

The thought hit me like a punch to the gut–I felt queasy. I wanted to slam the door shut and pretend I never saw the thought.

What if just thinking it jinxed me?

The thought of just walking away bothered me. If I walked away, all of my work would have been for nothing.

No matter how many times I try, I haven’t failed unless I give up.

The stars themselves fought and aligned and gave me a empty weekend: free of friends, family, or obligations.

I wasn’t ready to give up. I shoved my way through “reading” my own manuscript. In 3 days, I read over 150 pages and made notes, unlike any I’d given myself before–notes of Morgan: the reader, not Morgan: the writer. (I even read a book or 2 for fun, in the middle of that.)

Sunday afternoon? I wandered over to the Panera where my local CampNano group was writing, opened up my draft, and started making changes.

I’m making progress again, and it’s very good for my writing emotional-state.

The “Just 15 Minutes” Approach to Achieving Your Goals

The “Just 15 Minutes” Approach to Achieving Your Goals

How to make yourself work when you just don’t want to work

When I first start a project, I’m all fired up and ready to go. But writing takes longer than I can sustain my enthusiasm. As the weeks, months, (years) slip by, progress periodically stagnates.

There are many people who only write when they feel their muse talking to them, then the words flow out of them. Full chapters, books come out in states not-so-far from a finished product.

I am not one of those people.

I’ve spoken before about my marathon-style writing. In a world of hares and turtles, I am a turtle. A turtle who’s been known to take breaks and binge on tv, as though the race itself were on pause.

But, eventually, shame and guilt kick in. I’ve been slacking off and disappointing the one person I can’t avoid: myself.

That’s when I tell myself: JUST FIFTEEN MINUTES

clock

If I just sit down at my desk, pull out my manuscript and do something, it’ll count myself as having made some progress, as having not skipped yet-another-day of working on my novel. I could do a great variety of things:

  • write
  • edit
  • read
  • take notes

as long as I do it for at least 15 minutes.

Sometimes, that’s all I do. I inch forward with the tiniest bit of progress, just enough to claim credit.

But you know what?

Most of the time? I get a lot more than just 15 minutes of work done once I actually get my butt into that chair.*


What tricks do you have for getting work out of yourself?

*Note: This technique also works on laundry, dishes, office work, learning to play guitar, playing with small children**, and a variety of other tasks!
**Note 2: That’s a lie, after 15 minute  with small children, I’m ready for a nice, long nap.

The #1 Reason I Won’t Let You Read My Manuscript

I’ve been blessed with many supportive and encouraging friends and family. Many of whom have offered, asked, or begged to read my manuscript. A select few, I said ‘yes’ to, as beta-readers, but for the rest of you, I’m making you wait.

Why?

I want you to enjoy my book.

blankPerson But Morgan, you say, I’m sure I’ll love your writing! Plus, I could be part of the process and that would be fun!
Yes, supportive friend, it would. But I want you to still be excited when I’m published. avatarMorgan
blankPerson Morgan, you don’t think I’d still be excited?
Friend, you can only read my story for-the-first-time once. avatarMorgan
blankPerson Seems obvious.
And I want you to travel the journey WITH Lilyen. If I let you read an earlier draft, you avatarMorgan won’t be able to stop yourself from comparing it to previous versions. You’ll wonder why I changed [this] and why I didn’t fix [that]. I want you to enjoy the very best I can offer. When someone is working on a chocolate-chip cookie recipe and you get to try every batch, eventually, cookies are still tasty, but you’re not enjoying them, you’re stuck in Evaluation-Mode.
blankPerson I don’t know, I really love chocolate-chip cookies.
Keep the excitement, just wait a little longer. avatarMorgan

I Can’t Read My Own Writing

I Can’t Read My Own Writing

I really wanted to read my novel before starting on copy edits.

I just wanted to be able to make notes where my attention started to wane, so I’d know what might need heavy editing.

Slower Pace

When I read for fun, I typically read about a hundred pages an hour. I slow down with dense descriptions and war maneuvering, but for the most part, I read quickly. I blame being very plot driven, having an imagination that’s more conceptual than visual, and playing far too much with my grandmother’s “Learn to Speed Read” kit from the ’60s.

When I’m copy-editing my work, I can get through about ten pages an hour.

I thought that it couldn’t possibly take me more than six hours to read my own novel, but I was wrong. I’m not reading as slowly as copy editing, but twenty-five pages an hour is a quarter of my recreational reading pace.

Copious Notes

I’m not the sort of person who typically takes notes while reading recreationally. I’ve done a fair amount of copy-editing and critiquing of peer’s writing, though.

I absolutely cannot read my own work without making notes! Without saying “this part needs rewording” or “that part is awkward.”

Critical of My Own Work

I don’t know if I’m reading it differently or if I’m just being overly critical, but I’m seeing so many more issues with my writing trying to read it as a whole than I did when I was editing it a page at a time.

Clearly, the difference is I’m looking at it like a reader or a critique partner, rather than a writer trying to be done with this draft.

Finishing Reading

I’ve got 50 pages read, 253 to go, wish me luck! I’m hoping being this judgmental is exactly what my novel needs.


Can you read your own work? Do you find that the best way to find the flaws?

The Hardest Part of Writing

The Hardest Part of Writing

It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been doing this, how skilled you are, or what stage you’re in, there’s always one thing that has to happen each day.

You have to get started.

You have to write that first word, that first sentence, that first page, that first draft.

You’ve got to edit that first paragraph, that first chapter, that rough draft.

And revise. And edit. And re-write.

And every time you sit down to work on it, you’ve got to open the document, remember where you were, what you were working on, and where you were going.

Sometimes Many times Usually when I sit down at my computer to work on my novel, I check my Facebook and my chat messages. I open up the document and read some article someone linked me. Then, I tell myself I’m getting down to business and I’m gonna get through this. So, I open up my twitter and tweet that I’m clocking in. But, perhaps a snack would help, plus I like to have one or two full water cups on my desk, so I don’t take a break until I’ve drunk all the water. (All this is, of course, assuming I can talk myself into working when I get home, instead of just chatting with friends or watching TV.)

Finally, on my good days, I start to dig in. I read my notes on where this chapter is going. I read the last worked on paragraph a few times to remind myself where I was and then I’m off.

Usually, it’s faster to go from ‘starting’ to ‘reaching my daily word/page count goal’ than it was to get from ‘sitting down’ to ‘starting’.


Do you have any rituals you do to get your mind prepared for your writing?

Wrestling With Revisions

Wrestling with Revisions

Sometimes when revising with an editor, you can run into conflicts.

I’ve been almost stalling on my current section of revisions: my editor suggested that I turn a background romance into a full-blown subplot. I’ve been fighting it and I don’t know why: I like the character, I like the concept.

Why Am I Pushing Back?

  • Maybe it’s too much work.
    • My internal editor is just being lazy on how to integrate this new plot point.
  • Maybe it’s just not the story I’m trying to tell.
    • I could be struggling with integrating it because it’s the wrong story and the romance features should stay in the background or get cut entirely.
  • Maybe it isn’t the story I’m trying to tell – but maybe it’s a BETTER ONE!

Asking For Help

I couldn’t figure it out, so I asked for help. I asked my YA support group and my alpha reader if they had any ideas.

That’s when J. in my support group reminded me, “a subplot that can be cut or ignored without affecting the main plot shouldn’t be there.”

It hit me like a brick in the face.

My editor was trying to make the elements I’d presented her with WORK-she wasn’t trying to make it a different story.

Subplot Uses

I need to make sure that the romance element is doing something. It needs to forward the plot, it needs to forward my main character’s internal growth.

Ways to use a subplot:

  • Forward the external plot
    • The love interest character(s) always forwarded the external plot, but the romance itself didn’t effect much
  • Forward the main character’s emotional growth
    • She opens up, but there should be more. It should help her overcome something in her head, some hang up of hers.
  • Provide motivation for the secondary character

Now What?

  • Follow the suggestion
    • Do I bring the character back?
  • Fix the weak point, but do it a different way
    • Do I make my main character angst over the love interest more?
  • Ignore the suggestion
    • That doesn’t matter, because I’ve made the scene work for me in other ways
  • Something else?

I’ll be over here staring at my revision draft.

20170309_111749.jpg


What revision suggestions have you struggled with? Did you end up going with the suggestions?