Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Missing in Action

I confess. I've been derelict in keeping up with my posting. I have a really good reason not an excuse. A few days ago I heard from an editor that had been quiet about the sample chapter I submitted. It's been about two years. The only thing I could surmise from the silence was that she was not interested. It turns out that wasn't the case at all. I guess the chapters got buried beneath everything else she was doing.

So when I got the email apologizing for the length of response time I was floored. On top of that, she's still interested! Life is full of wonderful surprises.

The email came at a time when I was procrastinating a revision of the manuscript in question. I don't have to tell you the kind of fire that lit under my nether region. So I will keep this post short and get back to it. But I just had to share a bit of sunshine in the writer days of gloom.

Just because you don't hear right away doesn't always mean that they are not interested or that your writing sucks (a personal fear of mine). Sometimes it's just a matter of time management of priorities for the submitee and they will get back to you as soon as they can.

In other words...DON'T GIVE UP.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Discouraged and Rising

Today I'm walking through the throws of being the discouraged writer. I'm sure it won't last for long, but in this moment it feels like my writing feet are stuck in the morass of doubt and fear. Why am I here again? Not really sure. I think what's pulling me down is the worry that I'll never get it 'right'. Whatever 'right' is.

There has to be a 'right' otherwise there would be no need for rejection letters. Or are things so subjective (this possibility terrifies me and is probably more accurate) that there's no 'right' way, just a group of industry professionals who are looking for something specific that they haven't defined for themselves. When asked at conferences or events what they are looking for, their response is always: I don't know, but I'll know it when I see it. AUGH! That's worse than no answer.

So I struggle through the next revision wondering if I'm correcting the problem or just adding to it. I've thought about utilizing a developmental editor, but who has that kind of money? Certainly not me.

That leaves me with the vagaries of critique groups. I'm not doubting their value. I believe critique groups are an essential part of the writing process, especially for the developing writer. It's that the groups I'm involved with have no published writers. That leaves me questioning some of what they say.

It would be awesome if there were a mentoring opportunity for me. Someone I could ask who has first-hand knowledge of the publishing industry. There may be someone like that out there, but I haven't a clue where or how to begin the search. Do mentors even exist anymore?

What's your take on this?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Retirement and Writing

Yesterday evening I was blessed by my co-workers celebrating my retirement. What a wonderful time, although I must admit it was a litte bittersweet. I was smacked in the face with emotions I thought I had processed, but apparently that will take longer than I anticipated.

I've been a psychologist for about twenty years. There were times that I thought nothing was better than this and there were times I tought I couldn't get away fast enough. My specialty in psychosis and children made it a very stressful career. If I summed it up this is what my clients taught me.
    1) Enjoy your life in the moment. Don't wait for it to get better.
    2) Accept life as it comes, fighting it doesn't change anything.
    3) Living with yourself can be a real adventure.
    4) There is always room for grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

So what does this have to do with writing? Everything! I have learned to enjoy every manuscript I work on, whether writing my own or critiquing someone else's. Life is what it is, and rejections letters are really an opportunity to make what I have written better or to point out what I have yet to learn about the craft. My life has been an adventure and I don't plan on changing any of that. Watching the way a plot unfolds or a character grows is more than awesome. Allowing myself the space to grow, fumble, and miss the mark as a writer are opportunities to extend to myself the grace and mercy I readily extend to others. And forgiveness is for those professionals who haven't yet realized my genius...just kidding.

As I begin this journey of total commitment to the learning and execution of the craft, I am filled with excitment and anxiety. I guess I'm approaching writing like everything else I've done...wade in until I'm waist deep then dive in and head for the deep end.

So here I go. Let's see what happens

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Processing the Process

It occurred to me this morning that I have put time constraints and pressure on my writing. I had these ideas that if I finished a particular piece by a certain time that I would get published sooner.

This push caused me to falter in my growth of the craft. Today I am rethinking everything. What does it take to make a good revision? How do I see what constitutes a good change in the manuscript? How do I make sure what is in my head is actually put in the story?

For me it boils down to taking the time, however much I need, away from the ms so that when I come back to it my mind is not filling in the blanks. I need to take the time to completely think about what I have written compared to the authors whose writing I love.

What kept me from doing this before? So many things that I can't name them all, but the biggest one is impatience. I am so used to learning easily and understanding things right away that I expected this to happen for me in the writing process. didn't.

It really was a surprise for me. I thought that if I put the story on paper it would automatically read like I see it in my head. Of course it doesn't. I am learning that it will take many attempts before what I see with my minds-eye is present in the story for the reader to pick up.

How did I come to this conclusion? It took an agent pointing out the problem. He had complimented many things about the story and my writing. But, and there definitely was a but, in his own words "the story was light in characterization."

It took me aback. I knew my main character inside and out. If anyone asked anything about her I could tell them without hesitation. The problem was no one else would know any of that from reading the story and I couldn't see what was missing.

It took me taking the time to think about all of my favorite books and what made me love them. Then I had to think, really think, about my main character. Can you guess what I found? The agent was absolutely right! ( that is some kind of surprise.) But it took him saying this before I could see it. So now I have to completely rethink how I think about my writing. Metacognition at work. Sorry, the psychologist slipped through.

While this is a great 'aha' moment for me, has anyone else experienced this great epiphany in their writing?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Procrastination is the great monster that sits in my lap and keeps me away from the computer. I poke him. I prod him. But he will not get up! I bet if I light a fire underneath his hinder-parts it will get him moving. But if I do that won't that ignite me, too? Isn't that the point?

Okay, Stephanie, you're up. It's back to the grindstone. Write those words. Polish those sentences. Make that manuscript sing!

I just read a blog about creating a platform. There were questions that were intended to help determine the what and how of it. They were great. Not only did it help in terms of the platform, it energized me around my ms. So it's back to the revisions!

I am determined to make it the best it can be. I believe 100 percent in the concept and the story. I just need to think it through, see the character in 3-D. That should work out most of the kinks. I know it can and will work once I put it all together.

I will do what helped me in grad school, set a schedule and stick to it. And as a bonus, I retire at the end of this month and will be able to devote even more time to the project. I will get it done!

In case you're wondering, I'm not all that old. In fact, I'm more than two light years this side of ancient. I needed a break and it was more than time to try something else.