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7 Things & #Writemotivation

So fellow writer Jody Neil Ruth set the challenge of answering a series of questions which I’ve put off for nearly 7 days, but now it’s blog time again for #Writemotivation so I’ll throw them all together. Sorry for my tardiness 🙂 Doesn’t help that my new-in-June MacBook Pro decided to get a dead pixel, which required a new display, and the new display 2 months later had a faulty bit that crashed the Wi-Fi, so I was given a brand new MBP on Saturday which took all weekend to restore from backup. Fun!

Absolutely nothing relevant here. But it’s me in the Brecons.

The Last 7 Songs I Listened To: (just now realising the potential for embarrassment here. I’m on my “Chill” iTunes playlist, so … don’t judge ;))

  1. Aurora – Hans Zimmer
  2. Songbird – Kenny G (this is the part about not judging)
  3. The Road of Trials – Austin Wintory
  4. The Secret Life of Daydreams – Jean Yves Thibaudet (Pride & Prejudice)
  5. Trane to Conamarra – Bela Fleck & the Flecktones
  6. Green Mile – Esowellnic
  7. Rebecca – Craig Armstrong

Last 7 Books I Read: (this is hard because I’ve been doing a lot of beta reading lately)

  1. The Fiery Cross – Diana Gabaldon
  2. Drums of Autumn – Diana Gabaldon
  3. Voyager – Diana Gabaldon
  4. Dragonfly in Amber – Diana Gabaldon
  5. Cross Stitch/Outlander – Diana Gabaldon
  6. Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg
  7. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien (not the first time ;))

7 Favourite Movies: (I stink at narrowing down this category)

  1. LOTR trilogy (yep, one movie, I cheat. But if I had to choose, I’d say Return of the King)
  2. Harry Potter (I’m SO cheating here, but if I list 3 of them, Deathly Hallows Pts 1 & 2, and Prisoner of Azkaban, I’m just taking up too much real estate… deal with it!)
  3. Atonement
  4. Dances With Wolves
  5. Withnail & I
  6. Sliding Doors
  7. Happy-Go-Lucky

Whew. That was hard. There are about 10 more that should technically go in my favourite-films-ever list.

7 Songs that are Significant to My Stories (two different stories):

  1. Raining at Sunset – Chris Thile
  2. How to Save a Life – The Fray
  3. The Cottage on the Beach – Dario Marianelli
  4. A Thousand Years – Christina Perri
  5. The Hospital Room – Leon Willett (Dreamfall soundtrack)
  6. Everybody Here Wants You – Jeff Buckley
  7. True Love Waits – Radiohead

7 Favourite Authors:

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. J.K. Rowling
  3. Simon R. Green
  4. Ian McEwan
  5. Kazuo Ishiguro
  6. Diana Gabaldon
  7. Emily Giffin

I’m going to be lazy and omit the last, which is to bestow the questionnaire on others. Not that I don’t care what others are interested in – by all means, answer away and let me know! 🙂 But I think this has made the rounds and a lot of people will have already done it, and as I’ve just amped up my job search to find something before the end of this flippin’ year, I choose not to make time to track down who’s not done it yet 🙂 Sorry.

Which brings me to my resolution last night to spend a lot more time on the 2 things most important and vital right now: finding a job, and finishing the stories I’m on. I love emailing and tweeting and all that, and I will never stop! But I need a bit of a break right now so if I’m less active, it won’t be for forever. I just really need to take the reins and get myself organised. I’ve been in limbo for way too long.

On to #Writemotivation…

1. Reach 70k word mark on WIP first rough draft.

This is looking less and less likely. As previously stated, at the start of the month, amazing Leigh gave me some much-needed feedback on MS#1 and I’m DETERMINED to finish edits for this bastard baby by the end of the month. This month. So that I can then do #4 below.

2. Revise 1st MS based on any beta feedback received.

That’s what she said!

3. Send feedback for beta reading (if not done by end of August).

I finished one round. But I’ve acquired a lot more beta reading (yay!) since I wrote this goal. Probably not possible, because I’m going SUPER slow (boo!). Sorry, Andrew & Jamie & Rebecca. I want to be thorough! Thanks for your patience 😀

4. 1st MS x3.

Even if I do this on the last day of September, I’ll be relieved, because that’ll mean I finished the edits for MS#1 FINALLY.

5. Revise query for WIP to include changes. Done.

6. Set aside specific time weekly to read blogs/comment/cheer! Doing.

There you have it. Thanks for reading & I hope your goals are much less overblown & far more successful 😀 Chin chin!

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IWSG First Wednesday of September – Structural Renovation

This is my second monthly Insecure Writer’s Support Group post, which you can read more about here. It’s all about sharing fears and concerns with other writers, and cheering each other along. As a fairly anxious one myself at the moment, it’s nice to read others’ blogs and see we all go through similar things on our journeys! (Though I wouldn’t wish some of my paranoid worries on others 😉

Right now is also a #Writemotivation goal month (see my last post) and I’ve pledged to get about 28k written on my WIP which is rolling merrily along at the moment. However, as fortune would have it, a lovely friend gave me some much-needed feedback on MS#1, so I jumped on the chance to make changes.

At first it was like looking at a cluttered attic and having no clue where to start to get it organised. I *thought* I was done. I *thought* it was ready. I think it’s come a really long way in the 6-7 years it’s been kicking around, and I’ve re-written the thing from scratch twice. This time it just needs tweaking, shifting, and a few new scenes added to replace some hangers-on that were simply in the mix because of their age, not because they necessarily added anything.

So, Leigh, a massive thank you!

My current thought (I won’t say worry, but…) is simply changing things that have been in this story for so long. Darlings, I suppose. To me, anyhow. It’s like removing supports in a house you’re renovating… which ones are really necessary to keep the structure sound, and which ones are just decoration? 
When I was 7, my family was renovating our 100-year-old house and turning the main bottom floor room, which was a gravel garage, into a family room. There were a few poles, one metal pipe and a support in the middle of the room. I wasn’t old enough to know that they could figure out which could go and which needed to stay, but I remember vaguely having nightmares that the house would collapse if they took the wrong one down (so they might, y’know, need my help figuring it out to make sure).

I definitely don’t need my story to collapse! I’m so ready to be done, and by ready, I mean, THIS MONTH, for real, polished and done. I believe in this story, but I needed the beta feedback, and I’m grateful to others reading it now as well. I think everything I’m targeting is frivolous, and drags the story down. But I guess I’ll find out if it still holds up when I send a final draft to some betas!

Have you had experience taking out long-standing scenes that you took for granted? How did you feel afterwards? I feel a bit like I’m cutting limbs off, but I think they’re superfluous limbs. 🙂

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Why receiving online feedback is fantastic. And why it can suck.

Oooh, controversial!

I recently posted the first few paragraphs of MS#1 online, on a website whose lovely writer host features regular contests that not only get agent attention, but allow readers to add their own feedback.

I know that I, more than anyone, need feedback to progress and grow as a writer. I’ve no shame in admitting this because it’s absolutely true! I need all the help I can get! High school English was a long time ago. I’m no grammar wiz. Often I make foolish mistakes and although I *know* better, my brain rushes through it without considering. I think a lot of writers do this. (Maybe? Or is it just me). Especially when we’ve written some parts so long ago that we don’t even properly see them anymore. Can I get an amen?

In this day and age we writers have more opportunity than ever before for exchanging feedback. There are thousands of websites for writers out there, with forums and mailing lists and match-ups for betas and CPs. Twitter and Facebook and other social networking sites help us find people who will tell us what we need to hear, in the way that helps us the most. I’m SO grateful to the people I’ve met so far, whose writing inspires me, and whose feedback pushes me! (You know who you are :))

But I’ve decided one arena in which a writer can trade feedback is not for me. The “contest.”

No one likes to receive flippant criticism. When someone tells me they think something needs to change, I’m delighted to understand where they’re coming from and make the change because it improves my story. I’ve had another person point to the same paragraph (possibly for the same reason, but I’ll never know) and basically say, “This sucks, I don’t understand it. I couldn’t get past it.” That doesn’t help me make it better.

So in this most recent contest, several of the comments I received were complimentary and encouraging, pointing out things they might change to improve, offering advice but also saying what they liked–all so very much appreciated. “This is where I tripped up, but maybe try this.” In leaving my own feedback for others, I chose genres and styles that I like to read, so that I could more easily suggest ways to improve. I don’t read much crime, so I skipped those.

What I don’t like is that contests like these are reciprocal. If your entry gets in, you are kindly asked to comment/critique on so many other entries as well. While this is requested in a spirit of fairness, it can backfire. It can cause pointless feedback because some people out there are just there to get feedback on their work and couldn’t give a flying patootie what other people do (and while I think the writing community is mainly generous and kind, those sorts of people exist everywhere). So they do it in a half-hearted, snippy, flippant way. And not only have I seen these responses confuse and frustrate other writers, you guessed it, it confuses and frustrates me. It’s easy to let emotions get in the way of clearly seeing work that is our heart’s expression. If someone says “this sucks”, then it must suck, right? Who am I to argue with Random Person X? And when you go down that trail, you’re liable to cut entire chapters out for no reason other than frustrated shame and self-doubt. But if that person is sitting across a coffeeshop table from you, typing an email, or responding in a forum, it’s much more comfortable to say, “Well, can you tell me why, and how you would change it?”

I went back and re-read a lot of the comments left on others’ work, and saw a bunch of similar feedback. It makes me want to go around to each and every one, clarifying what that person might’ve meant but didn’t say. Because nothing is more frustrating than thinking something’s wrong, but having no idea what or how to fix it. I can relate to this!

While I love getting my head down and charging full speed ahead, I need others along the path to see what I can’t see. Preferably others who *like* to help.

As a friend pointed out, often times these public critiques nurture bandwagon-mentality. “Yeah, I agree with Jane Doe up there. That paragraph is so out of place!” Well, did you think so when you first read it, or did you think so because Jane Doe said so? And I ask that in all seriousness. I need to know. I want to grow as a writer, but I find that situations like this cause more doubt than they do assurance that change is needed (or not).

And because these comments are sometimes made out of obligation, to tick off the numbers, they’re often things like, “Well, I don’t like this genre,” or “I can’t read books written in this tense.” Well…I don’t expect everyone to like the genre or tense I’ve chosen, and this is a contest for a variety of genres. It doesn’t help me to know that Joe Blogs doesn’t like present tense. I’m not going to change *that*. Sorry!

While I’ve gratefully received some beautiful gems in the feedback in this and past contests, I think the wrong mentality can easily be applied. In a forum, people aren’t given restrictions (usually) on how much to comment and critique. I tend to believe their feedback is genuine, and because their name is linked in the forum to their own posts, I can easily click to see what they’ve submitted. I think it’s safe to say everyone appreciates honest, helpful, friendly feedback. Sometimes it’s hard to swallow it, if it means making major changes. Tough; that’s life. And we want to grow, right? But it’s so much easier to anonymously post feedback on something because you have to, knowing that your identity isn’t linked to your OWN writing (in most cases).

I hope I don’t sound bitter! I’m actually happy because this means it’s one less avenue for me to explore, and makes it easier to focus on the blogs and avenues that I know do help me: one-on-one critiquing and specific forums. I feel much more at ease giving feedback in an email or chat or forum without feeling like 400 people just read a flippant remark and nodded, “Yeah. She sucks. NEXT!” I don’t need the world to see my writing before it’s published. Just the people who can help me make the changes I need to make to get there 😉

I will still love reading these kinds of posts and commenting on other brave souls’ shared work, because I know how good it feels to have someone put a finger on the things you’ve been unable to name, or for someone just to give you a pat on the back and say, “I like this; maybe try this here; clarify this; and keep at it!”

What feedback experiences have been the most helpful to you? Have contests worked for you? Specific online forums? Face-to-face groups? Emails between betas/CPs? I’d love to hear how other people seek out their feedback, and seek to give it. I LOVE reading others’ work and feeling like even one thing I suggest can help someone improve their story. It’s not always easy to receive, especially when you’ve poured years into something, but I don’t think it can be a truly solitary venture. Even if you work alone and never see your CPs face-to-face, it’s a fact that we get so close to our own work that we have to have others show us what it looks like, by lifting that mirror and telling us the things we’re not able to see with our own eyes. But I also think it works differently for everyone. So, sayonara, contests. Thanks for showing me how I work best.

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July #writemotivation

At the end of April I came across the hashtag #writemotivation on Twitter and while I’ve been a bit wary (read: uneducated) about hashtags in the past, this one caught my eye. A bit of research into it later, and I was signed up for the May #writemotivation. This meant that I was putting my writing goals out there, published on K.T. Hanna’s blog – the genius behind this group – and my own. Despite knowing I was getting married and and going on my “minimoon” in May, I made some lofty goals.

If you’re reading this, a writer, and are unfamiliar with #writemotivation, check out K.T. Hanna’s blog. I highly recommend you sign up next time around! The basic premise is keeping others motivated via Twitter and blog commenting and checking on on each other’s monthly goals. Writing can be so solitary, and I feel like this was just the social boost I needed. The people are LOVELY and I’m so glad to have found the group.

So since I’m not getting married this month (sadly, as it was a total BLAST), I am dedicating myself to getting the majority of the rest of my WIP first draft finished. Here are my July goals:
1. Finish new round of edits to MS #1.
2. MS #1 x5.
3. Finish edits to WIP to Chapter 9.
4. Write 10k in WIP.
5. Balance job hunting with writing, CP/Beta work, and blogging. Be realistic!

The last one might be trickiest. I’ve taken on another CP and another Beta – happy to have found them! But this means I’m still finishing (but delaying finishing, at the same time, as I’m enjoying them WAY too much) the OUTLANDER series, while reading several other WIPs/drafts of other writers. And regardless of my writing goals, I still need to spend time on the job hunt. I’m hoping we can relocate to Scotland so I’m looking for jobs there – but this job hunt-around, I plan to be very picky about what I apply for, spend an entire afternoon if I can on each application, and focus on what would be worth moving for. Also still looking for work in the Bristol area, though I feel like I’ve been beating my head against the wall in that respect for over 2 years now.

So I’ve got to be realistic, but I know I can do this. No big plans; I can’t go away this month because the UK Border Agency has my passport as they process my new visa (don’t get me started on the nerves!!), and part of me knows that even if I get an job interview this month, I don’t know how well it will go without my passport in hand to show them. So I’ve got plenty of time and NO EXCUSES 🙂

I will be doing the rounds on all my fellow #writemotivation writers’ blogs and Twitter and hope to see yours soon 🙂

Photo credit to Hugh Lee and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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