empty reserves

Today, I wanted to say something supportive, something encouraging, something that adds to the discussion and reminds me why I try to participate in this group every month.

Today, I can’t.

I’m currently struggling with a lot of stress-inducing factors in my life right now, decisions I have to make, issues with finances and health and family.

My writing is suffering for it. I’ve lost faith in what I’ve written, I’ve lost motivation to edit words already on the page, and I’ve lost inspiration to create new things.

I’m sorry I couldn’t overcome my insecurities and self-doubts today. Maybe next time. Hopefully next time.

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the importance of community

The 2015 Pitch Wars agent round began yesterday. We mentees are quite active behind the scenes, whooping and hollering and jumping around whenever someone gets a request and supporting those who still have none. (The “Zero Requests Club” keeps shrinking!)

I’m not going to lie about the stress of these three days, but that further emphasizes the need for writers to be part of a community. To have fellow writers at different stages of their writing careers around to offer advice, to encourage, to be a listening ear, and to remind you of the facts when your anxiety threatens to blow every little thing out of proportion.

One of the best parts of Pitch Wars is gaining a mentor. Julie has been my rock solid anchor throughout this contest–corresponding a little before the picks, actually choosing me, and then whipping my MS into a far better version of itself–and she’s keeping me sane now. I know I can go to her for anything, big or small, and I’ll feel better as a result.

And chances are, if you’re talking to someone ahead of you on their writing journey, they’ve faced many of the same fears/concerns/questions you have right now. Don’t be afraid to ask.

the joy of revisions

Revisions can be fun!

Yeah, I said it.

My Pitch Wars mentor gave me some stellar feedback on my manuscript. She put name and face to the things I sensed were wrong but couldn’t identify. And her questions gave me an avalanche of ideas.

One little thought led to another to another and suddenly I struggled to hold myself upright.

It was AWESOME. It still is.

I’m falling in love with my characters again. I’m loving the relationship between the two leads. They’ll say funny things to each other, they’ll say things they regret, and they’ll say things that mean the world.

I’m giving my queer MC more agency. She’s reaching out and claiming the opportunities that come her way rather than bracing for waves as they hit her. Other opportunities she creates herself.

It’s becoming a better book.

Dear IWSG friends, don’t be afraid of revisions. Embrace them. Yes, buckle down and write that first draft. Then give yourselves the freedom–and the space–to tackle what doesn’t work. To improve it. To transform it into the best possible version of itself.

As the incomparable Victora Schwab said:

busy times

I’m moving to a different state tomorrow, so this post is brief by necessity.

I can’t speak highly enough of critique partners and feedback. It is TERRIFYING to put yourself out there. Even if it’s just a query or the first 250 words of your novel. But it’s so worth it. I’ve done many revisions of both my query, my first 250 words, and by extension the rest of my novel because of the wonderful comments I’ve received (most public, but some behind the scenes from my CPs as well).

Not wonderful because they made me feel good. Wonderful because they were honest, forthright, and helpful. I needed to hear about what I was doing wrong, where I was unclear, how my characters’ voices weren’t coming through, how my POV was inconsistent.

I took a chance by posting to the New Agent Query Critique blog hop, and I’ve reaped so many rewards I don’t know how I’ll ever pay back the writing community. So my IWSG advice is to take a plunge, find someone who’s willing to critique your writing, and become a better writer for it.

(Just keep a few friendly beta readers in your back pocket for the hard days. I got feedback from a friend who loved an earlier, less polished version of my novel, and that made me walk on air for a while.)

did I write the wrong book?

Twitter’s #MWSL hashtag and the related site Manuscript Wish List are brilliant. They give agents and publishers the chance to post brief overviews or short descriptions of the genres and/or types of books they want to see cross their desks. They can be inspiring, random, and even laugh-out-loud funny.

Those posts also make me wonder if I wrote the wrong book.

I expected my first completed novel to fall into the science fiction genre. As a scientist who’s loved science and attempted to write fiction since a single-digit age, it made sense. However, my imagination — and, potentially, my stress — had other plans. I finished my first novel as I finished my PhD and entered the world of full-time research. While the world of this novel had a set of rules it followed, it wasn’t sci-fi. It was fantasy. Urban fantasy, to be specific. I discovered things about myself and my perspective on the real world through the eyes and experiences of the two main characters. I’d expected it to be a tragedy, but beta readers had better ideas, and now I’m developing a sequel.

Unfortunately, I frequently see comments about the current saturation level of the urban fantasy genre, and that dumped water all over the fires of my passion to get it published. Many of the agents I’ve queried have echoed this with lines like “this isn’t what I am/the agency is looking for right now” even as they compliment my writing style or approach to the story.

I’ve ripped apart the first chapter to change my first 250 words (which apparently still need more work…). I’ve revised/edited the entire novel three times now. I’m preparing it for upcoming contests aside from Twitter pitches. And I’m starting to feel the burnout.

I’ve heard various forms of advice that boil down to the same thing: write another book. I didn’t think I could write another one, not one different enough from my urban fantasy novel for it to “matter” (that is, for it to do a better job of piquing the interest of agents). And then a new idea hit me in the face on Thursday. A young adult fantasy. Something that’s just for fun, that’s different, that has a voice that’s more silly than serious. Rather than laugh it off, I’ve decided to run with it. I’m using it as my CampNaNoWriMo novel, and the more I think about it, the more excited I get.

So, perhaps I did write the “wrong” book. The wrong book for the current market. The wrong book for the agents who have rejected it.

But it’s not the wrong book. Not for me. It’s the book I wanted to write, the book I needed to write. It’s the book that taught me that I’m capable of finishing a novel, of revising a novel, of improving my writing craft. Thanks to academia, I have July off from work. Perfect timing for Camp. Perfect timing for a new novel idea. Perfect timing to get a lot of writing done before my next job — as excited as I am about it — steals all my time and energy and creativity.

I started this post needing support — which I’ll always accept! — but now I feel like I should offer some as well. Keep writing. When the going gets tough, just keep writing. Chase those ideas you love. Play with the weird ones that fall into your lap. Revise your drafts, send the polished versions to agents, participate in contests, and when all of that fails, write another book.

Eventually, you’ll find the right one. My hope is that each and every one you write is the right one for you.

This post is part of the July series from the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

insecurity as a writer

Today I discovered the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. (I know, I’m behind the times.) Since I missed the first Wednesday posting for June, I decided to visit a few of the linked blogs to read what these authors posted.

So many of my fears and issues are shared by other writers. It’s amazing how encouraging it is to know this. I’m not weird for panicking over edits or facing days (even weeks) of writer’s block or wondering if my work is any good. If you’re a writer in need of some encouragement, check out this small sample of entries from the most recent first Wednesday (June 3).