Be open to the feedback you’ll get.

You’re going to get criticism. You’re going to be told to change things. Be able to process these sort of things productively. 

A common thread I’ve seen throughout my research about writing and publishing is that it’s often hard for writers to hear feedback and constructive criticism about their work.

I haven’t gotten to the stage yet where I’ve had anyone else read my manuscript – from what I’ve researched, you bring in readers after your second draft, and it makes sense, because my first draft is a tangled mess of sentences and structure and ideas.

I’m nervous to have people read it, because I know they’ll have feedback. I hope I can take it positively, and move into revising with gumption and not much dragging of my heels. I’m worried constructive criticism will discourage me, because it’s hard to imagine that I’m going to devote an unknown amount of time to creating the second draft, and that after that, my work still won’t be over.

I know it takes a long time, but I’m starting to feel impatient, and nervous, and edgy. It’s been a while since I’ve worked now, you know? It’s been a long time now that my husband has been waking up every day, sitting at a desk, putting in hours, making money for the both of us. Maybe I should get a part time job as I approach the second draft, but I’m afraid that I’ll derail myself if I do so. And after so many months of stressing and not working, should I risk derailing myself but easing some financial stresses, or push it for a couple more months?

How many more months? How much longer can I keep trying like this?

Okay. *deep breath* I’m digging worry-holes again and I’m going to roll my ankle in one of them if I don’t stop thinking now.

All I really came here to say is my lesson for the day: I want to try and be ready for constructive criticism when it comes, and be able to take it in with a positive attitude and an open mind.

Also, I just really want to be done, too. But I have to keep taking it bird by bird. Step by step. Word by word.


Things I’ve learned from my current read.

I’m currently reading a recently published YA book that deals with a female protagonist who hunts the supernatural. The story is fun, but here’s some things I’ve learned from where it’s lacking:

– While the protagonist has her moments, her character overall feels a little weak. It’s told in first person (like most YA is today), and her voice just doesn’t stand out from other YA narrators. I begin to look back on all the first person YA I’ve read recently, and I realize most of their voices begin to meld into one sort of harmonic conglomerate: a sassy teen with a few witty one-liners, who has some angst but is growing and learning.

So, do I want to risk having my book in first person and having my protagonist’s voice melt in with so many others out there? Or do I gamble with third person, which is so rarely used in YA nowadays and may not appeal to YA readers?

OR, do I try to write in first person, but remember that my protagonist is not just a sassy, angsty teen? That there’s more to her than that? Maybe I could take what I’ve learned here and use it to help my protagonist gain a stronger voice, a stronger sense of self.

– Going back to what I’ve learned from the book I’m currently reading, I’m having trouble really falling into the setting and placing myself in the book’s world. The protagonist has been a paranormal hunter her entire life, and is now for the first time ever experiencing ‘normal’ teenage things like high school and making friends. It’s been interesting enough that I keep turning the pages, but not necessarily engaging.

While reading this morning, I suddenly realized that it’s partly because I can’t picture her environment in my head. She’s walking around with a couple other students, getting to know them, making friends with them; they’re going on adventures together, doing normal high school stuff like going to games; but I can’t really build a bigger picture in my head other than the three of them standing together. What’s the weather like beyond them? Is it fall? Is the air crisp, are the leaves changing? Is it the east coast, or the west coast? The three of them cluster together in my head, surrounded mostly by fog in my imagination, because the author hasn’t provided the brushstrokes I need to complete the painting.

So that’s good to keep in mind for my own story. I like knowing how things look, feel, smell, taste. I want to know if it’s a cold night, or if the sun is burning on her bare arms. Those little details help place me in a story.

Just checking in.

Daily standard word count, here. Total for the day: 744.

Not much, but I’ve done worse, too.

I’ve discovered a new technique that seems to be helping to keep the ball rolling (rolling slowly, but hey, it’s moving): loosely outlining by chapter. I can’t seem to write an extensive outline, as I’m not sure where the story is totally going yet (and I think I would feel confined if I tied it all up neatly in a structured box like that). However, I’d been dragging my pen, barely making progress day to day, and have been constantly getting stuck when I don’t know how to continue.

So for the past two days, I’ve started bulleting the next 2-3 steps/moments/conversations/etc I can imagine happening in the story as they come to me. And so far, it seems to be helping provide a little more momentum.

Random notes for the day:

– I’m feeling extra emotional and insecure today, about everything. I cried out to my husband over the phone, “What if I can’t do this? What if I do write it and it turns out to be awful, terrible, and I’ve wasted so much of my time and your time and our money?!’

He very gently said to me, ‘Hon, it’s close to the end of the month, isn’t it? I think you might be extra sensitive right now.’ (and he’s right. the mood swings – lord jesus.)

– For people with sensitive hearts for animals, you may not want to read this next update. But I have to put it down to get it out.

Driving down the road today, I saw a small creature moving up ahead of my car. Getting closer, I saw it was a baby rabbit trying to drag itself out of traffic to safety on the side of the road. It’s back leg was dangling useless behind it. I put on my hazards and gave it cover with my car so that it could make it to the side. Then I pulled over and gently threw a sweatshirt I had in my car over it, wrapped it up and drove to the animal hospital with it on my lap. It was so small, and weighed next to nothing.

But the vet couldn’t save it. “The doctor examined it and it had external bleeding,” the nurse explained to me over the phone when I called for an update a short while later. “We had to euthanize it, I’m sorry.”

I knew that was the most likely outcome; I understand that. But the image of it dragging itself, foot hanging, eyes wide, looking so small and afraid as cars flew by it – I can’t get that image out of my head. I try to tell myself that I did the right thing by getting it out of that situation, that at least it was able to hopefully die a little more quickly and with a little less fear – but what if I caused it more fear by wrapping it in my sweater (even though I did it as gently as I could)? What if I caused it more fear by bringing it to such a foreign environment, smelling like antiseptic and dogs and cats?

I have to stop thinking about it, but the tiny, helpless creature keeps popping into my head without my permission.

– I’m going to watch some Buffy now to distract myself.

Something I realized while on the freeway today.

Blogger Katie May was kind enough to point out to me in my last post that I shouldn’t get down on myself for only writing 517 words in a day – that even if I just wrote 517 words in every day, it would still be 15,510 words in a month.

I was thinking about that today while on the road and suddenly it hit me: I quit my job back at the end of May, and have been floundering around since then, worrying about whether I made a mistake and whether or not I should be a writer.

If instead of worrying, I had simply sat down and wrote 500 words a day, even if they were terrible, even if it was the worst story ever – I would probably have somewhere around 42,000 words now (I’m terrible at math, so don’t quote me on that).

42,000 words.

So I need to stop hussing and fussing and just sit down and write. Yes, there is the possibility that it will end up being awful, but I won’t know until it’s done.

Interesting thing I noticed as I wrote.

I mentioned that I was having trouble writing this short story, that I felt like I kept writing and writing and it wasn’t going anywhere. This was stuck in the back of my head even as I wasn’t writing, a fuzzy ball of lint sort of thought that kept clinging to the back of my mind as I drove and did chores and showered, that kept muttering, “What’s wrong with it? Why can’t I get it moving?”

And then it hit me, suddenly and unexpectedly, when I was in that hazy shadow space right before falling asleep two nights ago. The character was supposed to be a girl.

The thought passed in and out of my head quickly, but still it felt certain, right. I thought it over for a brief second and then promptly fell asleep.

The next day when I sat down to write, I stared at the story in front of me. And then I began to type, jumping right back into the middle of things, changing the name of the character and the ‘him’ to ‘her’ without going back and revising, just doing it. And suddenly, everything started flowing.

It was such a strange experience. The other characters in the story suddenly seemed more comfortable. Everyone could talk with more ease. They were learning from each other where before they were simply going through the motions. I wondered briefly if this is what authors meant when they say that their characters sometimes take on a life of their own. I wasn’t forcing them to do things anymore; they were speaking for themselves, they were helping things move towards an end goal.

And then I hit the end. Boom, finished. Two weeks of trying to write a simple short story and all it took was changing the ‘he’ to a ‘she’ to give it motion.

I feel crazypants now that I’m writing the experience down, but that’s how it felt. And I think what I can learn from this is to sometimes let my gut and the sleepy, quiet part of my mind do the thinking. I was trying to jam all the pieces together and make them fit, but I think sometimes you can’t hulk-smash fiction. Yeah, I have to be strict and diligent with myself if I want to get anything done, but it’s okay to let in a little bit of the koala-brain. You know, since koalas are sleepy little things, chomping slowly on eucalyptus leaves with half-closed eyes. Koala-brain was all like, ‘yo, baby. s’okay. You know how you’re falling asleep right now? How you all sleepy and fuzzy right now? Here, I’m gonna sneak this idea in while you are in this state. Nom nom. Eucalyptus.”

And on that note, I leave. Because I’ve hung my crazypants up on the line to dry and the whooooole world can see it now.