I have been going through edits with the editor and the only thing on my mind is:
I’M A HORRIBLE WRITER!
Let’s back up.
I can’t be a horrible writer if my manuscript was picked up by a publisher….
I’M A HORRIBLE GRAMMAR-IAN!
Maybe that’s it. I’m great at writing, but my grammar skills are horrible. This is not news to me or my school teachers. I know this fact, my grades reported it, and the teachers did their fair share of reminding me, YOU SUCK!
Maybe, I should keep this secret to myself?
I NEED TO REMEMBER ALL THESE EDITOR’S NOTES! That’s my next step. I read and re-read each edit note in hopes of remembering the lesson for next time.
I make the SAME mistakes – A LOT!
Deep down in the pit of my stomach, I’m hoping I’m not as bad as I think. Yet, if I am, my hope is to learn from this and make sure that I DON’T make at least half of these mistakes with the next manuscript.
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to California and attend the Wrightwood Literary Festival. Never having been to the Wrightwood area was an adventure on it’s own. It’s a picturesque small town, population 425, nestled up in the mountains just north of San Bernardino. The area was not only beautiful, but rich with small town charm and nice residents.
After the festival I parked and wandered around. I ventured inside two antique shops, a local grocery store, a pizza place, and the town’s tiny pet shop (They had animals for adoption and I nearly left with a senior Beagle/Hound mix.)
The Wrightwood Literary Festival, while about writing, was much more than that. It was about nature. And if you have ever been up there you will know that it’s hard to avoid surrounding yourself in anything other than the thoughts of how we are connected to nature.
This event was different from any other writing event I have been too, and cheaper too! Usually, these things are full of big names, from agents to editors to publishers. Where the entire conference you are more worried about pitching and meet-and-greets, that everything becomes stressful and overwhelming. This was all about taking a breathe, and relaxing and grounding yourself. To center yourself and open your senses.
So, while I didn’t gather notes about writing and how to pitch and how to submit, I came away with something even better. Remembering to breathe, remembering why I write in the first place. Remembering that if I shut out the distractions and look to nature I can create amazing stories.
I’ve had a wonderful last few months in the writing world, yet, I want to showcase the behind the scenes struggles. Why? Because so often authors see the good news of others and develop a pain in their heart that it was not them getting to share good news. For this reason, I think it’s important to breakdown what happens before the contract.
In the last two months I have announced signing a contract for my picture book Winston Versus the Snow and my sweet romance novel Grounded in January, both coming out in 2019 from Brother Mockingbird Publishing. AND….my signed acquisitions letter for my Inuit picture book Nanook and the Pizza (coming 2020 from Audrey Press).
Here are the numbers….
WINSTON VERSUS THE SNOW –
- 25 rejections, not bad considering my first picture book Nonnie and I was rejected over 50 times.
- 3 “love, but can’t publish it”
- 5 Twitter pitch contests, 1 “like”
The story was originally titled Winston Hates the Snow, but at a writer’s conference I decided after a panel speaker’s advice to change the word hate. It also went under a major revision prior to the final submission.
First submission April of 2017 – making this a relatively “quick” acceptance. (Nonnie and I took 7 years to sell)
NANOOK AND THE PIZZA –
- 28 rejections
- 1 “love, but not right for us”
- 4 Twitter pitch contests, 0 “like”
- 1 revision request – which turned into the acquisitions letter afterwords.
Submissions started in February of 2017, with one major rewrite prior to the revision request.
GROUNDED IN JANUARY –
- 2 rejections – 1 with, please submit your next manuscript when available
- 2 Twitter pitch contests, 5 “likes” (I only submitted to 1 of them in the end)
First submitted July 2018.
Yep, that story ends there for this one.
This shows you the more you write and read, the better your writing becomes. The more you focus on craft, the better your writing gets.
I have coughed up big bucks for writer conferences over all my writing years. But you know what has taught me the most about writing?
Books on craft and critiquing others’ work!
And I would not be able to critique others’ manuscripts without the knowledge absorbed from these books.
In the past I’ve spoken about a few books on writing, yet it was not until my latest purchase that I realized I have a stack of books on craft (I think it might be time to re-read them all again).
Why do I find books on craft so helpful? Because I can absorb the information at my pace. I can read, highlight, pause, contemplate, and read again. I can go back and look up specific information when I’m stuck on a manuscript (It’s not nice to pause an entire conference so you can skim through your manuscript and make a note).
My advice for books on craft is, the newest…the bestest (not a word I know). Writing is always changing with what is acceptable and what is “historic writing.” If you are reading a book published in 2001, while a large chunk is still relevant, a lot is not. (Yes, I understand Stephen King’s book on writing is timeless, shriek, no I haven’t read it)
Bonus: my latest interview can be found here.
P.S. If you have any books on craft that you love let me know!
I absolutely love and loathe naming characters. Think about all the time parents spending picking, arguing, voting, and vetoing names for their kids! It is not any different for writers. A name can help or hurt a manuscript.
The first part is trying to find a name that is familiar, so readers can relate. Yet, the name must also be unique to prevent readers from finding it “boring.”
The second part is matching the name to the characters’ lifestyle, age, and how readers might perceive the name. It’s like the devils on your shoulder, GOOD and BAD.
GOOD: Name her Alice, everyone loves an Alice.
BAD: Alice sounds like she would be my grandma.
GOOD: But your Grandma Alice is the best.
BAD: Yes, but she is still my grandma. I don’t want to date my grandma.
Although part one and two look similar, they are different in their own right. You would not give a Greenlandic name to a Oklahoma man who has no family connections with Greenland. Another example could be Rose. Rose might be perceived one way by a large group of readers, which might hurt or help make your story. If the reader doesn’t believe that Rose is a 10-year-old skateboarding champion then you lose the connection with the reader.
I do a detailed amount of research on the names I use, making sure the origin, etc. would be a good match for my characters. My favorite tool to use for character names is Baby Name Origins.
Please join me over on WOW! WOMEN ON WRITING, where I’m Friday’s Speak Out guest blogger and throw out some wild & crazy ideas for women writers.
I’ve been working on my revisions for a picture book, rather intensely, over the last month.
I reached out to new contacts and made more contacts, but kept falling short of the answers I needed.
To top it off, what I started to discover was that I had incorrect parts in my manuscript. But without the needed answers I couldn’t fix the mistakes. And, I could not resubmit the piece in the current state. I felt like a boat at sea who lost its oars.
There I was sitting in the boat, the water around me calm, the oars floating away. I struggled to make them out as they disappeared beyond the horizon. A storm was nowhere in sight, just my boat and I, stranded in the calmest of waters. We are not sure how long we will be there in the silence. The boat and I.
Sure, I could hand paddle back to a shore, somewhere out of view. I know it’s there, but I’m not about to waste my time if the oars come floating back. Yet, with my new knowledge, I only had two options. Wait for the oars or let the boat sink.
I decided to wait…..(flailed my arms a bit and ate too much chocolate)
And would you believe the oars came back and brought more oars with them?!
Readers, don’t give up on your stories. Seek out help, try new avenues. It’s worth it and you might even learn something new.