Kick start your week with a lil' moxie!
Earlier this month I tore myself away from the laptop to attend the 2014 Writer’s Digest Conference here in New York City. For me, heading into the beautiful Roosevelt Hotel was equivalent to Indiana Jones stepping off the cliff in The Last Crusade. It was a huge leap of faith. In my writing and in myself.
I purposely filled the month leading up to the conference with CampNaNoWriMo, a writing challenge of 50,000 words in 31 Days. I reached my goal in the wee hours of July 29th which left me with three days to stress and panic about what I’d signed up for. I had to remind myself that my desire to learn and eagerness to meet other writerly folks outweighed the scary unknown.
Then, day one arrived. Hello nerves!
I arrived earlier than planned because the conference's hashtag on Twitter [#WDC14] was full of people already there and I felt like I was missing out. Showing up early paid off and I was let into one of the Pro sessions, Do You Really Want to be a Best Seller? Here’s How. led by Larry Kirshbaum, a Senior Literary Agent with Waxman Leavell Literary Agency. When the session ended, the Grand Ballroom filled with others like myself, that had signed up for the next day’s Pitch Slam [for a detailed post on my pitching experience, click here], where Chuck Sambuchino prepared us with his Pitch Perfect session.
All of the conference sessions fell into one of the following categories:
- How to Get Published
- How to Write Better
- Platform and Promotion
I mostly followed the How to Write Better track, attending sessions like How to Write a Page Turner, You Have Three Pages to Win Me Over: Essential Advice for Your Opening Pages, Setting and Description: Where Are We and How Much is Too Much?, and Working the Muddle Out Of Your Middle. Led by editors, agents, booksellers and authors, like Jacquelyn Mitchard [uh, The Deep End of the Ocean anyone?], the sessions were so chock full of information that by the end of the conference my head—and notebook—were filled nuggets upon nuggets of advice and encouragement.
As if that wasn’t enough, every day ended with a Keynote Speaker. All of them inspired me with their stories. Here are just some of the quotes that I know I'll lean on again and again:
[Author: Slow Motion, Black & White, Family History]
"It's hard to give yourself permission to call yourself a writer."
"There is no such thing as a magical place of arrival, there is only the solitary self facing the page."
[Author: Six Years, Missing You, Tell No One]
"Only bad writers think they're good."
"Don't be a douchebag."
Kimberla Lawson Roby
[Author: The Prodigal Son, A House Divided, The Perfect Marriage]
“It doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 80 years old. It’s never too late to live out your passion.”
"Double your determination and keep moving right along."
I was nervous going into the conference, but by the time it was over, I was sad to see it go. I felt myself grow with every session attended and every conversation had, whether it was with one of the speakers or a fellow attendee.
Speaking of, it was beyond amazing making writer friends on similar paths to my own. Friends that send you tweets like this when you feel like you're drowning in post-pitching nerves:
I can't recommend the Writer's Digest Conference enough. I walked away excited about my future in writing...whatever it may be. I learned a lot, I laughed a lot, and I worried about passing out while pitching a lot. What could be more fun than that?
For the first time since the birth of this blog, there will not be any fiction in this week’s Fiction Friday. Not wanting to leave you empty handed, I now present to you…Fact-Filled Friday:
Fact 1: I participated in CampNaNoWriMo this month and…I won! Yay! I left the preset goal of 50,000 words and at 2:30am on July 30th, I’d reached 50,293. Then, I got this:
Fact 2: Despite committing to write a ridiculous amount of words in a ridiculous amount of time, I left New York City to attend a gorgeous wedding (congrats Lauren & Franklin!) in a gorgeous town (Healdsburg, CA). This is definitely not NYC:
Fact 3: I’ve heard back from all of the Beta Readers except for one. The nervousness I had sending my baby—I mean my book—out into the world has been replaced with an overwhelming sense of pride. Not only was the feedback more positive than I’d prepared myself for—because, of course, I’d armored up—but the readers proved to be smart and insightful with their critiques. I’m really excited about jumping back into the book and doing some tweaking. If you guys are reading this: THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
Fact 4: Today is the first day of the Writer’s Digest Conference here in NYC! I am super excited…and nervous. It will be my first writerly step on the road to becoming a published author—aside from writing and editing the book, of course. Nerves or not, I’m ready. Armed with notebook and pen I’ll be diving in head first and wading through the amazing sessions they have lined up. Also, I'll be participating in Pitch Slam which is basically speed dating, but with agents and editors. Stay tuned for posts of what I hope to be an awesome experience at the three day conference. Please wish me luck!
Fact 5: Next week, we will return to our regularly scheduled program…
Whoa, it's been a while since I’ve updated you guys on the progress of my book! For the past several months, I have been mired in carving and shaping the story into something I wouldn’t be embarrassed by. Hacking away at flowery dialogue, adding new scenes and slimming down drawn out passages that would surely put readers to sleep. I’ll post about my editing journey soon, but for now I have something else to share.
I have found my way to a fourth draft and it is officially out in the world! Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. It’s in the hands of Beta Readers, which for me—the only one to have read the book so far—feels like I've exposed myself to the whole wide world.
Hitting send was both super exciting and super nerve wracking. Exciting because I feel confident about the story and because there are several scenes that I’m extra proud of. Nerve wracking because, well, what if my rose colored glasses are thicker than I thought they were? I guess I’ll find out soon…
In other big news—and why I’m looking forward to getting feedback—I have signed up to attend the 2014 Writer’s Digest Conference in August. I can't wait to meet other writers and learn as much as I can from sessions targeted at helping me to become a better writer. I also signed up for one of the Pitch Slam sessions, where I will have 90 seconds to convince an agent that my book is worth them taking the risk. Yikes! If nothing else, it will be an amazing learning experience.
Well, that’s it for now and I promise to blog about the trials and tribulations of editing soon. Thanks for reading!
Head full of fog I try to open my eyes, but it’s harder than it should be. Slowly and with full effort I finally succeed. My vision is as cloudy as my thoughts, but I am acutely aware that I am not at home.
As my eyes come into focus panic riddles my body so swiftly that I grow dizzy.
I was right, this is not my home.
In front of me is a door, but hope fades before it has a chance to flare. No knob, no handle. Not even hinges to try to unscrew. Above, below and side to side, nothing but concrete.
I’m in a concrete box.
I try to stand up. My legs are tingly and weak.
What the hell?
I gingerly shake them before attempting to rise again. Wobbly, but successful I stand and get my bearings.
Turning to face the back of the room I see a security camera in the corner, red light glowing. I stare at it wondering who is on the other side. I want to ask as much, but for the first time I realize how dry my throat is.
I swallow hard as my eyes drift over to the back wall. The fear induced gasp causes spittle to catch in my throat. A coughing fit doubles me over, hands on knees until it finally dislodges from my throat and splats onto the concrete floor.
I take a deep breath to gather my courage before looking up at the wall again.
You know what you did. Repent or die.
The words are painted across the wall. Fresh enough for beads of dark crimson to run from each letter toward the floor. My sense of smell kicks in and I choke on the metallic, coppery scent in the air.
It’s written in blood.
My brain pounds against my skull, palms grow sweaty as my body temperature skyrockets.
Backing away from the wall, the creak of the door opening stops me in my tracks. Panic sends my heart racing and I breathe so quickly I think I’m going to faint.
“Don’t turn around.”
The voice is disguised, robotic, but it is terror inducing nonetheless. I do as I’m told—solely because I am paralyzed with fear.
“You have forty-eight hours to figure out which of your sins has sent you here to your reckoning. If you succeed and repent you will be set free. If not…you will die.”
My brain goes into overdrive searching for the right words, for sins I’ve committed, a primer on how to speak, but then he is behind me and all thoughts fade away. Except one.
I don’t want to die.
Tears flow freely as I hold my breath in anticipation. That’s when I feel the pin prick of a needle sink into my neck.
An unbearable screeching pushes on my brain. My eyes shoot open and I sit up--heart racing. I look around to discover that I'm in my room. Relief sweeps over me knowing that my nightmare was just that. A nightmare.
Reaching over I hit snooze before closing my eyes and laying back down. I must have drifted off again because the alarm wakes me. I stretch my arms wide and let out a little morning roar before shutting if off and taking a moment to savor the quiet.
I open my eyes ready to start the day, but instead prickly bumps rapidly spread all over my body and my breathing grows shallow. In my periphery I can see the exaggerated rise and fall of my chest. I lay frozen staring at the red letters that stain my ceiling:
See you in 48 hours.
Considering the fact that I just finished the first draft of my first novel, I am in no way purporting to be some kind of expert. What I am is an often times undisciplined individual that is probably not fun to be around when I fall into a creative rut. So if you're anything like me I just might be uniquely qualified to help you get from page one to a completed first draft. Here's a list of the things I did, learned and remembered to get it done:
"The First Draft Of Anything Is Shit".
Please excuse the expletive, but I didn't say it, Hemingway did. Yep, Ernest Hemingway.
I hung this quote by my desk as a reminder on the not so good days that it was okay. I learned to take pride in the fact that I had written anything at all. And to remember that even Ernest Hemingway wasn't always thrilled about the words on the page, but he pushed through because he knew it would all get fixed in editing.
Trying to be a perfectionist when writing, especially the first draft, is a losing battle.
Advice is just advice.
My favorite form of procrastination is doing research. I mean, at least I'm being productive. Right?
When I started to research writing a book there was one piece of advice that popped up in almost every article.
That advice? Write every day.
You know how sometimes you're just not in the mood to do something and no matter how hard you try to push yourself it just isn't happening? Well, I guarantee you that you will have plenty of those days on your journey toward finishing your book. You know what else? It's okay. I didn't write every day and I still have 379 pages of double spaced goodness waiting to be edited.
Don't get me wrong I loved the advice. They were all right, you should strive to write everyday. What I had to learn was not to feel like a complete failure on days when the words just weren't there.
So embrace the advice that you are given, but keep in mind that the world won't end if you deviate from it, it's just advice.
Change Your Scenery.
Writing at home is great, especially if you have a dedicated space and a cozy environment. The problem for me is that home is also where I have other things to do.
I want to start the next scene, but I should wash the dishes. I know I should write one more chapter, but why not take an hour to eat lunch while searching the internet. I need to make a new playlist because it'll make my writing better. What's on the DVR?
After doing some research*, I came across this list of places in NYC that were writer friendly. I ventured out with my laptop and a renewed determination. Being surrounded by so many people allowed me to feed off of their energy. My daily word count grew and I was flooded with some truly inspired ideas.
I settled into a great balance between writing at home and going out into the world. I even had a weekly date with a friend in the midst of her own writing projects.
When you're staring at the screen, but you're thinking about doing laundry...get out of the house!
*Sometimes research is research. Although, I'm sure I was procrastinating this time, too.
Use A Timer.
Now this is advice that I wish I would have followed sooner.
I will admit that, initially, I didn't use a timer because I was scared. I didn't know if I had the discipline to succeed and I was afraid of failing.
What if at the end of the hour I had nothing? I felt that if I failed on such a small step in the process, I would most likely fail at the project altogether.
Then one day I decided to finally put on my big girl pants. I was over halfway through the book so I figured, what do I have to lose?
I chose to write in 3 one hour sessions with 15 minute breaks in between. During the hour there would be no phones, no internet, no interruptions. If I actually had to research something I would do so during the following break.
I could not believe how focused I became during those hours. I found myself pushing against the clock and I loved it. I went from a daily word count of 500-1800 words a day to 3000-4500! Even better, ideas were coming at me from every direction.
I will definitely use the timer method from word one of my next novel.
Suck It Up.
Let's say you've gone two days [or more] without writing. At this point, if you are like me, you feel like a failure and now doubt that you'll ever finish your book.
Instead of stewing in 'whoa is me' land try this: SUCK IT UP.
You're going to waste your time brooding and do you know what's going to inevitably happen? You'll come out of your writer's block or rut or whatever you want to call it and then you're going to write.
So how about we start cutting out the middle man? During the in between times instead of moping around, be productive. Maybe, you know, do some research.
Believe You Can Do It.
If you only remember one thing on the list, make it this one.
From the moment you decide to write a book until you type the last word, believe that you can do it.
As much of a hippie dippy, power of positive thinker as I am, when you are pursuing a creative endeavor, especially one you've dreamed about for so long, self doubt loves to rear its ugly little head. This is why I like to intersperse my blog posts with inspirational quotes. Simply searching for ones to use has proven to lift my spirits and get me back on track.
Whether you search out quotes, develop a personal mantra or create your own cheerleading squad of family and friends, do what you need to do to keep believing. After all, as Henry Ford said:
“Whether you think you can or think you can't - you are right..”
Do you have any more suggestions to add to the list? Will you use any of these suggestions outside of writing? Let me know in the comments below!
So after a shaky start to Niko Finishes Her Novel Month [NiFiHeNoMo] I am proud to update that I am ahead of schedule on my 30,000 words in 30 days mission.
As proud as I am, I have to admit that I'm a little embarrassed to say that it has not been due to me diligently sitting at my laptop and banging out at least 1000 words a day. Nope. Since I made the decision to take on this endeavor my mind has been all over the place. Sitting at my laptop and actually focusing on my novel was proving to be agonizing. The words and scenes weren't coming to me. Anything I did write was so forced that it was borderline depressing. All I wanted to do was check my Instagram, read other blogs, or finish reading Allegiant.
Then I finally decided to try something that I had been avoiding: The Timer Method.
Any book or article you read about writing or being productive in general will, at some point, tout the benefits of setting a timer and concentrating solely on the task at hand until you hear the ding. It wasn't that I didn't believe these experts, it was just that I knew how my mind worked and I truly didn't believe it would work for me. Essentially my mind is a brat that doesn't like to be told what to do...obviously....
Full disclosure: I was scared. Scared that I wouldn't have the discipline that I needed to not search #TheWalkingDead on Twitter when I should be in the cocoon of the timer. I didn't want to fail because falling on such a small level could lend itself to me believing I could and would fail on the grander scale.
Yes, I know. I can be pretty dramatic.
Fortunately I sucked it up and told myself to grow a pair.
The first day using the timer method I did 3 one hour stints. By the end of that third hour I had written 4025 words. For someone who's been hitting 1000-2000 words a day lately I was beyond thrilled. The screen grab above was taken on November 10th, not only pushing me ahead of my total word count goals, but also surpassing my daily word count record.
I can't say exactly what it is about using a timer that pushed me beyond my limits to numbers that I never knew I could reach in a day. I can say that it almost became like a game. I started to enjoy challenging myself when I would look up and see how much time I had left. I would also try to have a larger word count with each hourly stint.
It also didn't hurt that I was hit with some serious inspiration and was excited by what I was writing. I suppose I have to attribute some of the inspiration from the extra push that the timer gave me, right?
You know what else I believe helped? Finding the most obnoxious timer online. It felt like it was me against the timer. I mean, what could be more annoying than a bomb with a lit fuse that actually explodes at the end of the countdown? No seriously, ifyou know of something please tell me.
Well, that's my update and if rambling on has helped you in any way, please let me know!