Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, June 24-30, 2018

It’s time for your weekly dose of informal writerly learnings.

/rant on/

I’ll start off on a negative note. Harlan Ellison died last week, but I have purposefully not posted about it or shared any posts about it on social media. Though he was influential in the science fiction universe and wrote much that is considered objectively great fiction (he was even a consultant on my favourite series ever, Babylon 5), I have never read any of his work. I wondered why that was and realized that I instinctively disliked the man in the interviews in which I saw him. Since, I have learned that he was a universal asshole and a misogynist prick. The incident with Connie Willis at the 2006 Hugos was just one, very public incident. For the record, I may read his work someday, but regardless of what I think of the man as a writer, I will always think of him as a poor example of a human being. I don’t care what his damage was, to be honest. It’s no excuse. We must do better, be better, than the pathetically low bar he set.

/rant off/

Now, on to the good stuff.

Patrice Williams Marks stops by Writer Unboxed: what is a sensitivity reader, and can I become one?

Susan Spann says, fear is a liar. Inspirational. Writer Unboxed

Barbara O’Neal considers light and dark, and writing with duende. “Duende is the dark magic, the force of Other, that enters the work and turns it from something interesting, maybe even really good, into something transcendent. It is born of the knowledge that death walks among us, that sorrow will mark you with her handprint, that we are all doomed to be forgotten.” Yum!  Writer Unboxed

Heather Webb wonders, is juggling multiple writing projects at once is exhausting or a bright idea? Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland: writing as the art of thinking clearly in six steps. Helping Writers Become Authors

Victoria Mixon: five advantages of rereading.

Joanna Penn interviews Michaelbrent Collings about writing with depression. The Creative Penn

Nathan Bransford explains how to list your publishing credits in a query letter.

A.K. Perry continues her exploration of James Scott Bell’s signpost scenes: trouble brewing. DIY MFA

Ambre Dawn Leffler shares five tai chi and yoga techniques to help with writer focus. DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira offers six writing exercises to fuel your creativity. Writer’s Digest

Jami Gold breaks down the revision process, so you can improve your storytelling.

Lisa Granshaw offers an oral history of Babylon 5, the beloved TV novel that showed us a different way to tell a science fiction story. SyFy

Thu-Huong Ha: No mas, say the writers. How bilingual authors are challenging the practice of italicizing non-English words. Quartzy

MTV’s Decoded with Franchesca Ramsey – six phrases with racist origins.

 

Jessica Leigh Hester: why medieval monasteries branded their books. Atlas Obscura

Arika Okrent presents the curious origins of 16 common phrases. Mental Floss

And that was Tipsday for this week.

I hope all of my Canadian friends had a LOVELY Canada Day long weekend (today will have been our Tuesday-that-feels-like-a-Monday) and that all of my friends in the US will have an equally enjoyable Independence Day holiday.

Be well until Thursday rolls around and don’t forget to come back for some quality thoughty.

tipsday2016

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Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Aug 3-9, 2014

It appears to be I Fucking Love Science! (IFLS) week again.

This surfing seal is a cutie. Guess what? IFLS.

Remains of extinct giant penguin discovered. My question: how do they know its head looked like that? IFLS.

The headline could have used a little editorial assistance. 60 years after his death, Alan Turing’s morphogens help solve the mystery of how our digits developed. Yup. Moar IFLS.

Second super moon of the summer showed up on August 10. IFLS.

Theoretically, this means of interstellar propulsion could work. Thinking spacey thoughts yet? IFLS.

The Smithsonian answers the question, what happens to your body in space without a space suit?

 

Literary link here: Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander connection with newly discovered neolithic ruins in Scotland. National Geographic.

“Backroads” Bill Steer explores northern Ontario’s dolmen stones. CBC.

We had not one, but two earthquakes in Sudbury on August 5th. One was a 3.8 (!) They’re not frequent, but they’re freaky 🙂

This Shai Reshef guy has a really good idea: accessible, affordable education. TED.

LEGO for science geeks girls! Sure wish I had this kind of stuff when I was a kid. Barbie and her friends had to make do (I dressed them up in “costumes” and made them popsicle stick “swords”—maybe the LEGO ladies wouldn’t have attracted me, after all).

Feed your brain. It’ll give you ideas for teh stories 🙂

Thoughty Thursday

The next chapter: Diving back in

The last of my caturday quickies is a bit of an update on the work in progress (WIP) and other writing projects I’m tackling these days.

I revised my short story “A Terrible Thing” for Tesseracts 17 and submitted that on February 27, just one day before the deadline (!)  I submitted a short story back in October for the competition, but was not successful at that time, though the rejection letter was of the very encouraging variety (please send us something else).  I followed the editors’ advice, and ATT is sufficiently different from the story I submitted last fall that I hope it will tickle some fancies 🙂

I also submitted a poem for the League of Canadian Poets’ National Poetry Month blog: “peregrine.”  I’ll link through when it’s posted.

In related news, I forwarded an opportunity to my friend, Kim Fahner, a couple of months ago, and she, in turn, asked her publisher to submit her poetry collection, The Narcoleptic Madonna, to the powers that be.  The result?  Kim will be participating in the Battle of the Bards at Harbourfront Centre April 3rd!

It’s inspired me to think more seriously about submitting some of my poetry to various publications.  We’ll see where that leads.

As of today, I’ll be diving back in to Initiate of Stone and the next set of revisions.  I’ll also be revising “The Michael” for the Writers of the Future competition and working on a new story, “Way Station,”  (which the Retro Suites inspired) for In places between.

Finally, after my bout of training fury and certification regret, I’ll be catching up with my critiquing crew.

I never did work further on Gerod and the Lions.  I am hoping that I got far enough into it that I’ll be able to pick up the threads when the time comes.

A not so pleasant writing-related task that I’ll be picking up shortly, is collecting all my various financial bits and pieces and submitting my taxes.  I claim writing as self-employment on my income tax.  My lack of recent publishing success is a bit of a concern, but it’s certainly not for lack of effort 🙂  Do you think auditors would accept this blog as evidence of my industry? 😉

Writerly Goodness

Writerly Goodness

What’s been happening in your writerly lives lately, my friends?  Are you writing “hard”?

What’s coming: I’ll continue my series, A life sentence with mortal punctuation, tomorrow, and in the future, I hope to have an interview with Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Award 2012 quarter-finalist Alon Shalev regarding his writing life and the second book in the Wycaan Master Series, The First Decree.

The next chapter

Have desk, will write

Have desk, will write (Photo credit: Bright Meadow)

Today, I’m going to share some of what’s happening next with my work in progress (WIP).

Early in the life of Writerly Goodness, I blogged regularly about my WIP, from its origins, through various drafts, to the lessons the whole process taught me.  I also blogged my character sketches and world-building fairly extensively.  I’ve been a little quiet on the subject in recent months however.

The reason for this is that I have been focusing on the revision of my latest draft, and in keeping with my reasonable and malleable goals for the new year, I have now finished that work (to the degree I am currently able) and have sent my manuscript for a content edit.

This is scary.

Why?  Because it means that I’m taking this whole process seriously.  I’m getting closer to perfecting Initiate of Stone for submission and/or publication.

Given the responses I’ve gotten from various writerly authority figures in my early life, my internal editor is very well-versed in the whole “what the hell do you think you’re doing/you can’t write/your ideas are crap/your writing is puerile/you’ll never make it” brand of advice.  I’ve had to tame that beast and try to get over it.

But … there’s still this voice in my head that says: “but what if this investment (the content edit) backfires?”  What if the result is the confirmation of all my worst fears and neuroses?

I can’t think about that.  So, while I wait to hear back from the editor, I’m moving on.

What’s up, buttercup?

First, I’m going to make a few submissions of short stories.

I’m revising one for submission to an SF magazine, which I will have to do this weekend.

I’m going to participate in a few flash fiction challenges.

I’m also going to aim for a couple of anthology submissions:

  • Sword and Mythos – January 15-February 15, 2013
  • Tesseracts 17 – February 28, 2013
  • Plus, I’m going to keep my eye out for the open reading period for Fearful Symmetries.  I don’t know if I’ll have anything appropriate for the publication, but I’ll certainly give it a try.

Second, I’m going to move on to a new novel.  As of my last writing on the subject, I hadn’t decided what.  The logical next step would be the second novel in the Ascension series, Apprentice of Wind.  I’m thinking that something completely different might be in order though.

So just to give me a complete break from Ferathainn for a while, I’m going to tackle Gerod and the Lions.  I’m just going to leave you with the title for now and I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

Finally, I’m getting back to work on my critiquing.  I’ve been inactive on this front for a while, again because I’ve been focusing on my novel, but I’m waaaaaay overdue in this department and I have to get back into it.

This will have to wait one more week, in the event, because I’m traveling for the day-job again.  My apologies to my peers.  Zombie Mel will return from the land of the critiquing dead, just not quite yet.

Set yourself up for success

The deal here is that if you are progressing on one project, but not actively working on it,

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writing: Sandro Botticelli’s St. Augustine in His Cell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

you may need to pick something else up.  Take on a new challenge.  Keep honing your craft.  Get over your bad self.

Now this is not something you might just choose to do while waiting to hear back from your beta-readers or an editor.  You could be querying, or trying to get your self-publishing ducks in a row.  Keep in touch with your creativity.  A writer writes above all else.

Some people may think that juggling projects is a bad idea.  They want to see one project through from beginning to end and believe that they can’t divide their attention with another novel.

There are going to be those fallow times though, and I’m not just talking about those times when you have to “get distance” from your novel between drafts, when you might want to do something non-writing related (I’ve done home reno projects, or some other form of artistic expression for this, drawing, pottery, or taking part in a play).

I’m not talking about keeping your creative reserves replenished with reading and movies and creative dates either.

I’m talking about those times when you’re waiting.  Fill up those fallow times with new creative projects so you don’t stall out entirely.  Don’t let your muse get lazy.  Keep him, her, or it, active and healthy.

This is just my opinion.  In no way am I suggesting that this approach is the only one.  It’s just the strategy that I’m using, and that I’ve seen other successful authors use.

How do you fill up your fallow times?  How do you manage your writing projects?  Do you work multiple ones at the same time, or focus on a single project until it’s completed?  Do share 🙂

The Right to Write

As part of the Wordsmith Studio Goodreads group, I have been reading Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write.  I think I’ve fallen in love 🙂

Cover of "The Right to Write: An Invitati...

Cover via Amazon

Julia’s philosophy of writing is something that I’ve aspired to for years and I think that I’ll be referring to her book for some time.  The book has an organic quality to it that I admire.

What follows are the gems I mined from Cameron’s book, and all the credit for them must, of course, go to the author.

Gems:

Introduction
“Writing has for thirty plus years been my constant companion, my lover, my friend, my job, my passion, and what I do with myself and the world I live in.  Writing is how, and it sometimes seems why, I do my life.”
“Our ‘writing life’ … cannot be separated from our life as a whole.”
“… writing is a powerful form of prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a higher and deeper level of inner guidance …”

Begin

“It’s a luxury to be in the mood to write.”
“… writing is like a good pair of pyjamas …”

Let yourself write

“We have an incredible amount of mystery, mystique, and pure bunk around exactly what [becoming a writer] means.”
“When we just let ourselves write, we get it ‘right.’”

Let yourself listen

“Writing is about getting something down, not about thinking something up.”

The time lie

“The myth that we must have ‘time’—more time—in order to create is a myth that keeps us from using the time we do have.”

Laying track

“For the first time, I gave myself emotional permission to do rough drafts and for those drafts to be, well, rough.”
“Writing—and this is the big secret—wants to be written.”

Bad writing

“Bad writing—when it’s good—is like New York street pizza.  Sometimes it’s a little too crusty.  Sometimes it’s a little soggy, but the tang is undeniable.  It has flavor.  Spice.  Juice.”

This writing life

“I have crawled out of lovers’ beds to sneak off and write.”

“There is a great happiness in letting myself write.  I don’t always do it well, or need to, but I do need to do it.”
“Writing is alchemy.”

Mood

“All of us have a sex drive.  All of us have a drive to write.”
“Writing may be an art, but it is certainly a craft.  It is a simple and workable thing that can be as steady and reliable as a chore—does that ruin the romance?”

Drama

“Keep the drama on the page.”
“Keeping the drama on the page is ruthless, enlightened self-interest.”

The wall of infamy

“… I advocate writing for revenge.  I advocate writing ‘to show them.’  You turn the dross of your disappointments into the gold of accomplishment.”

Valuing our experience

“Seeking to value ourselves, we look to others for assurance.  If what we are doing threatens them, they cannot give it.  If what we envision is larger than they can see, they cannot give support for what it is we are doing.”
“Valuing our experience is not narcissism.  It is not endless self-involvement.  It is, rather, the act of paying active witness to ourselves and to our world.”

Specificity

“One thing at a time, one thought, one word at a time.  That is how a writing life is built.”
“Detail allows us to communicate precisely what we mean.”

Body of experience

“Because we think of writing as something disembodied and cerebral, because we ‘think’ of writing rather than notice that what we do with it is meet or encounter it, we seldom realize that writing, like all art, is embodied experience.”
“True knowledge, authentic knowledge, is something deeper than the mind entertains.”

The well

“Writing is what we make from the broth of our experience.  If we lead a rich and varied life, we will have a rich and varied stock of ingredients from which to draw …”
“Sanity in writing means acknowledging that we are an creative ecosystem and that without fresh inflow and steady outflow the pond of our inner resources can grow stagnant and stale.”

Sketching

“If I see or hear the impulse to put in a tree, I put it in the landscape of what I am writing … the writing itself knows when and how and where it will use it.”
“‘It’s a sort of lucid dreaming where I carry the idea of the story and the Universe delivers to me bits and pieces as I need them.’”

Loneliness

“Not writing is the lonely thing.  Not writing creates self-obsession.  Self-obsession blocks connection with others … with the self.  Writing is like an inner compass.  We check in and we get our bearings.”

Witness

“What writing brings to life is clarity and tenderness.  Writing, we witness ourselves.”

“Why don’t we do it in the road?”

“People who write from discipline … take the risk of trying to write from the least open and imaginative part of themselves, the part of them that punches a time clock instead of taking flights of fancy.”

Connection

“Writing is a way not only to metabolize life but to alchemize it as well.  It is a way to transform what happens to us into our own life experience.  It is a way to move from passive to active.  We may still be the victims of circumstance, but by our understanding of those circumstances we place events within the ongoing context of our own life, that is, the life we ‘own.’”

Being an open channel

“When writing dominates a life, relationships suffer—and not coincidentally, so does the writing.”
“Although we seldom talk about it in these terms, writing is a means of prayer.  It connects us to the invisible world.”

Integrating

“The root of the word ‘integration’ is the smaller word ‘integer,’ which means ‘whole.’  Too often, racing through life, we become the ‘hole,’ not ‘whole.’”

Credibility

“Based on the idea that writing is product, not process, the credibility attack wants to know just what credits you’ve amassed lately.  The mere act of writing, the fact of which makes you a writer, counts for nothing with this monster.”

Place

“The accumulation of details, the willingness to be specific and precise, the willingness to ‘place’ a piece of writing accurately in context—all of these things make for writing that a reader can connect to.”

Happiness

“It is my belief that writing is a way to bless and to multiply out blessings.”
“Writing is a form of cherishing.”

Making it

“The universe is not, to my eye, a cruel and capricious place.  I believe that our desire to write is a deep-seated human need to communicate and that it is answered by an equally powerful human drive to be communicated to.  In other words, for every writer there is a reader—or many readers.”

Honesty

“Writing is about honesty.  It is amost impossible to be hinest and boring at the same time.”

Vulnerability

“Vulnerability in writing is the enemy of grandiosity … of pomposity.  It is the enemy of posturing; the enemy of denial … Vulnerability is writing health, and health—as I can assure you—can be a scary-feeling experience for some of us.”
“Vulnerability, which is honesty’s shy younger sister, is the part of ourselves that renders un capable of great art, art that enters and explores the heart.”

Dailiness

“Writing is the act of motion.  Writing is the commitment to move forward, not to stew in our own juices, to become whatever it is that we are becoming.”
“Reality happens in daily doses.  Life lived a day at a time is life made much of.”

Voice

“Writing from the body—dropping down into the well of your experience and sounding out how you feel—ultimately yields a body of work.  We say that a voice is full-bodied without realizing that this is a literal phrase: when we write from our gut rather than from our head we acquire the same resonance that a singer does when the breath comes from the diaphragm rather than high up in the chest.”

Form versus formula

“… joie de vivre, … kick-in-the-pants power comes when we allow form to triumph over formula.  In other words, when we trust that writing ‘live’ has a real and valid life to it.”

Footwork

“It is a spiritual maxim that God never closes one door without opening another.  It is a spiritual joke that while this may be true, the hallway in between is murder.  When we are ‘stuck’ in our writing lives, it is usually because we are clinging to a situation that has outlived its usefulness to us or we are unwilling to explore a new risk that we sense we really must take.”

Practice

“Practice means what it says: writing is something to be done over and over, something that improves through the repetitive doing but that needs not be done perfectly. … Consistency is the key to mastering the instrument that is you.”

Containment

“Showing our writing to hostile or undiscerning readers is like lending money to people with terrible fiscal pasts.  We will not be repaid as we wish.”
“We must write from love and we must choose those to read us who read from love: the love of words.”

Sound

“We talk about the writing voice but seldom about the importance of literal sounds in the sound it makes.”
We talk about music in writing but we seldom focus on the music all around us.”

I would live to write, but …

“We want official validation that we are ‘really’ writers.  The truth is, we need to give that permission, that validation, ourselves.”

Driving

“I have a drive to write and I do drive to write. … the art of writing devours images and … if I am going to write deeply, frequently, and well, I must keep my inner pond of images very well stocked.  When I want to restock my images, I get behind the wheel of my car.”

Roots

“… writing benefits from other commitments.  Writing responds well to some gentle scheduling.  A day job not only promotes solvency, it promotes creativity as well.”

ESP

“It is my belief that all of us are naturally intuitive and that writing opens an inner spiritual doorway that gives us access to information both personally and professionally that serves us well.  I call this information ‘guidance’ …”

Cheap tricks

“… the part of me that writes in young, vulnerable, and easily swayed. … I use a lot of cheap tricks to bribe my writer into production.”

Stakes

“In writing, stakes are a question of clarity and empathy.  As writers, we must make it very clear what our characters stand to lose or gain so that our readers, encountering these stakes, can feel empathy and care about the outcome.”

Procrastination

“Writers procrastinate so that when they finally get to writing, they can get past the censor.”

Into the water

Julia’s prescription of morning pages, a narrative time line, and cups.  You’ll have to read the book to find out what these are.

The right to write

“To be truly human, we all have the right to make art.  We all have the right to write.”

These are only a few of the gems I could have plucked out for you, and all of them are of a similar nature.  If you are inspired or intrigued in any way by these, go grab the book.  Go on now!  Give yourself a lovely gift for Christmas.  Or suggest it to a loved one.

Cameron includes exercises at the end of each chapter and it forms a kind of writer’s rehab.  The Right to Write is, if nothing else, Cameron’s attempt to heal the injured and encourage the aspiring writer.

Three bits of Writerly Goodness in October 2012

I’ve been on the road quite a bit this month.  Specifically, from Oct. 16-18, 24-28, and 29-31.  So I hope you’ll forgive the lack of posting.  I did warn you 🙂 Normally, blogging while I’m away isn’t a huge problem, but recently, I’ve been travelling so much that I’m plain exhausted.

I think the cold I caught Thanksgiving Day (here in Canada) is finally going away, but the fact that I got sick at all (first virus in two years) tells me that I’m overdoing it.

So here is the first of two catch-up posts for the month of October.  Tomorrow, I’ll blog on various things that have been happening on the learning mutt side of my life.

We Grow Media’s “Build Your Author Platform” course

I signed up for this in September, having missed the course earlier in the year.  Knowing what a busy few months I’d have ahead of me, I probably should have waited until the next one, but it doesn’t look like things will get much better at work, so ultimately, there was no time like the present … then.

Dan Blank’s course was enlightening with respect to narrowing focus, targeting our ideal audience, and making use of tools like Google Analytics.  The weekly insider calls were productive and encouraged community building within the course.  Unfortunately, these and the specialist calls took place during the day and I couldn’t take part in most of them.

They were recorded, however, and so even though I couldn’t participate in them, I could still reap the benefits of the calls with Joanna Penn, Joel Friedlander, Jeff Goins, and Jane Friedman.  Those calls were worth the cost of the course alone.

I can’t really give much more away without starting to discus the materials in depth and those belong to Dan.  Suffice it to say that while I wasn’t able to participate in October as much as I wanted to, I have the course materials on hand and will make use of them often in the months to come.

Having said that, I think the course is best suited to those with some technical savvy but just getting going, and who also have a product to promote (novel, non-fiction, poetry collection, etc.).  The participants who had no background in social media or blogging whatsoever tended to have greater difficulty, and those like myself, who do not have a recently published work to promote couldn’t necessarily narrow down our focus sufficiently to make the most of Dan’s lessons.

For the former group, I might recommend Dan’s Social Media 101 and Blogging 101 courses offered through Writer’s Digest University.  Links to these can also be found on the We Grow Media site (linked above).

Khara House’s October Submit-O-Rama

I intended to get some submissions done over the course of October anyway, so I thought I’d join in the fun of Khara House’s October submit-o-rama.

The challenges varied from three submissions per week, through to a submission every day of the month, to the alpha-challenge in which you’d do the same but submit to magazines, contests, and journals in alphabetical order.  There was also a name game challenge to submit to publishers according to the letters of your name, and a create your own challenge.

I chose the last and settled on one submission a week.  I cheaped out, I know, but I honestly couldn’t manage more.  Anticipating the travelling I’d have to do in the latter half of the month, I submitted twice in the first two weeks and then decided I’d try, but not kill myself, for the remainder of the month.  That way, I met my challenge and didn’t overwhelm myself further.

I’ve received one rejection so far and the remaining ones are still up in the air.  Fortunately, my rejection included a request for other material, so I’m looking at it as a positive.

Khara had forums up on her site: Our Lost Jungle (linked above) as well as an event page on Facebook.  There were a handful of dedicated but insane writers (my opinion only) who managed 31 submissions in the month through various challenges.  Kudos to them!  They worked so hard and I’m sure they’ll be reaping the rewards for some time to come.

Now most of them are onto the November challenges of NaNoWriMo (national novel writers month) and PAD (poem a day).  I wish them the best and am sure that they will do smashingly!  And of course, our dear Khara deserves praise for putting everything together and giving everyone the kick in the pants they needed to get their work out there!

New York Comes to Niagara

I wanted to attend this conference last year, but ended up not being able to due to work commitments.  So when the conference Web site announced that applications were being accepted, I jumped on board.

NYCtN is an Algonkian pitch conference and writers first have to apply, submitting a short synopsis and writing sample before they are accepted and able to register.  When I made it through that stage, I immediately registered and booked my hotel room. 

Then came the 88-page guide and half a dozen emails with accompanying assignments.  My work was set out for me.

Now I have to make something clear.  My goal in going the conference was just to find out what the heck a pitch conference was, how it worked.  I’m an experiential learner and sometimes reading about something just doesn’t cut it.  So again, to be clear: I had no expectations.  I fully expected to have every agent and editor in the place reject me out of hand.

And I went prepared for that outcome.  This is not to say that I wrote anything but the best pitch I was capable of or that I blew off any of the assignments.  I’m a keener.  That would be impossible.  I just wasn’t pinning my hopes or self worth on the result of the conference.

Until it started.

Once the first pitch panel took place, which I, keener that I am, volunteered for, I was caught up in the hype.  I forgot about my humble goal and suddenly, I felt the pressure to sell.  It didn’t help that I was told in no uncertain terms that my novel was dead in the water and that traditional fantasy of any variety wouldn’t sell to anyone.

Nor was it particularly useful that I was advised to either throw out my created world and place the story in a historical setting (not my novel), or failing that, that I should set aside Initiate of Stone and focus on a more commercial project until my money-making capacity could be well-established and that I could then bring out the snoozer and rely on my reputation to coast me through what would surely be a slump in my writing career.

Please note: this was my interpretation of the advice, not the actual advice given.  You’ll understand if I wasn’t particularly clear-headed about it.

I lived in that illusory and completely self-induced angst for two days until, thanks to a friend, I remembered why I came to the pitch conference in the first place.

I revised my pitch but did not alter my project and I was true to my original intention and to IoS.  I pitched it and received some positive response.  Then I had to disappoint (seriously, the worst thing I can do to anyone in my book and pure torture for me) the person who had done everything in his power to guide me in the direction of success.

Here’s what I learned:

  • A pitch conference is all about the commercial viability of the pitch and its ability to obtain the interest of an agent or editor.  You have to back your pitch up of course, but the only thing that anyone will hear at the conference is your pitch.  For all intents and purposes, your novel might as well not exist.
  • It’s best not to bring only one idea/pitch, and if for one reason or another you only have one, you can’t be invested in it.  If you are, then a pitch conference may not be your best bet.  There are often opportunities to have your pitch critiqued before the pitch session opens.  If one idea doesn’t pass muster, keep pulling them out and throwing them against the wall until something sticks.
  • It’s common to pitch an idea for a novel that you haven’t written yet.  So long as you have the time and dedication to bang it out, this is acceptable, even expected.  I might go so far as to suggest that it’s a good idea to have your novel ideas plotted out and maybe even a few key scenes written, but that you may need to be flexible enough to accept suggestions that will drastically alter your novel.  This is harder to do with a project that you’ve invested months or years in writing.
  • If you’re like me, and reading these pieces of advice isn’t really enough, if you have to experience a pitch conference for yourself and you only have one project, one you’ve invested time in and are attached to, then stay true to your intent and be prepared to hear some things that you won’t want to accept.  Keep in mind that these things are going to be said to you with the best of intentions: to make you a viable career author.  If you’re not ready for that, so long as you understand that and keep all the excellent advice you receive in mind, you’ll be fine.

One way or the other, you and your work will emerge stronger on the other side.

Algonkian conferences have helped many writers achieve success.  Just visit their site and read the testimonials.  It’s a great opportunity that if you’re ready for, you shouldn’t pass up.

Besides, you usually get excellent advice outside the pitch panels and sessions as well.  In this case, Barbara Kyle delivered several sessions on plot and structure and Amy and Duncan McKenzie delivered an informative and entertaining session on improvisational techniques.

I even got some sight-seeing in 🙂

I highly recommend attending an Algonkian conference, or any pitch conference, and found it had the potential to be profoundly life-changing.

Writerly Goodness, signing off 🙂

Ten things I’ve learned from giving and receiving critique

You may remember from previous posts, that I’m part of an online critique group in Author Salon.  It’s intense.  AS does not want thin-skinned writers who wither and whine, nor do they want wimpy critiquers.  They have stringent guidelines and templates to follow.  The questions to answer make you think critically, analyze, dig deep, and justify every comment.

It’s hard as hell, but it’s also teh awesome (misspelling intentional) 🙂

I’m not going to blog about finding a critique group, group dynamics, or any of that stuff.  I’m just focusing in on what I’ve learned from being on both ends of the process.

I’ll start on the giving end, and really, the way to think about a critique is that you are not just giving one, but gifting one.   I’m not saying I’m all that and a bag of chips, but if you do the job well, and put your heart and soul into it, you’re giving your absolute best to your partners.  You’re giving them a gift.  It takes me forever to do what I think is a good job, and I’m still not great at it.  I apologize at some point in every one, because ultimately, it’s just my opinion.

And away we go!

Five things I’ve learned from giving critique

  1. Be honest.  If you like what you’ve read, great, but don’t stop there.  Figure out why you like it and explain your thinking honestly to your partners.  If you don’t like something that you’ve read, that’s fine too, but you can’t leave it there.  Figure out why it bothers you and articulate those thoughts honestly to your partners.
  2. Be specific.   Rather than writing, “S/he needs to figure this out sooner,” again, explain it in detailed and concrete terms.  So, “The character you’ve written is smart and thinks on her feet (you may want to summarize an example from the piece).  You’ve placed several clues in his/her way (again detail the clues) but she’s/he’s not picking up on them.  Your protagonist needs to be at least as smart as the reader.  Have him/her connect the dots along with the reader.  It will be a more immersive/engaging experience.”
  3. Be reflective.  One thing I discovered almost immediately is that as I started analyzing the work of others I figured out a few things about my own writing.  Make notes to carry back to your own work in revision.
  4. Be consistent.  This is about bringing your A game every time.  Feeling tired/uninspired?  Write through it anyway.  The words will come just like they do when you’re writing your novel.  You can always edit out the unintelligible crap later 🙂
  5. Be better.  The more you critique, the better you get, the deeper you can go, the more articulate you can be about why a certain change will improve your partner’s work.

Five things I’ve learned from receiving critique

  1. Be grateful.  If you’ve given your best, expect that your partners have done the same.  Thank them for all their hard work.
  2. Be receptive.  You won’t like everything your partners tell you about the weaknesses in your work.  Get out of your own way and consider every point.  Then …
  3. Be selective.  You don’t have to enact every change your partners recommend.  In doing that, you’ll try to please everyone and end up pleasing no one.  But …
  4. Be critical.  If you choose not to accept the blood, sweat, and tears that is the advice of your partners, then start digging again.  Find the compelling reason that this won’t work in your novel.  Defend your decision, but don’t get defensive.  Finally …
  5. Be honest (redux).  There comes a time when all your justifications and refutations fall apart into the random collection of words that they are and you have to admit that you still have work to do.  You could see this as a defeat, but I’d rather reframe it as an epiphany.  When you finally understand what needs to be done and can see how to do it, the way forward will appear as a glowing path through the darkness.  It won’t be easy.  It never is, but if you keep the path in sight and walk it faithfully, it will lead you to a better novel.

Do you have any critiquing experiences to share?  What have you learned from them?

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Writerly Goodness, signing off.  Good writing to you all!