Where Dreams Meet the Business of Writing

Posts tagged ‘writing’

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise #IWSG

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Today I’m writing for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s blog hop. The first Wednesday of each month, we write in inspiration to a question posed by the group’s administrators. If we want to. We don’t need to write in response to the question posed, but I like to use their query as the springboard for the monthly post.

This month we were asked, ‘Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing?’

 

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

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I’d love to share a story about when I surprised myself by perfectly writing a first draft – something lyrical and magical that flowed from my fingertips and required not a bit of editing. (Yeah, that would be a surprise, wouldn’t it?)

Instead, today I write of another type of surprise. But, it turns out not to be as bad as I initially thought.

A few weeks ago, I submitted a query about a guest post for another author’s blog – an author I respect greatly and look up to as a role model. She accepted the proposed blog (Yay!) and proceeded to ask a question about a particular magazine that I’d been published in. For the sake of anonymity, let’s call it Magazine XYZ. She was considering submitting a piece to them and was curious about how they were to work with.

I pulled out my spreadsheet and checked dates. I replied with the dates I submitted the article, when it was accepted, and when I was paid. There wasn’t any back and forth about the piece. It was a simple acceptance, I cashed the check and was happy. All was easy and effortless.

And then the next question appeared in my inbox. How much did they edit what I’d sent?

Hmmmm – good question. I had no idea.

When I first started my writing career, I often compared what I sent with the final product. I wanted to see where edits had been made and how they improved the story. It gave me a good feel for weak points I could improve upon and ways to strengthen future stories.

Several years earlier, what prompted me to compare versions was when I read a short children’s story and I knew that I hadn’t written those particular words. When the story posted, I went to read it, anxious to see my work online. I forget the short phrase that was used, but it was something so foreign to me I knew I’d never even thought this particular phrase, let alone wrote it. Sure enough, a whole paragraph had been added – all completely new with not a spec of my own words in it. But, that was okay. I still happily transferred the small amount of money that appeared in my PayPal account and went on writing.

Now, curious about Magazine XYZ, I pulled out my complimentary print copy and reread the final product. All appeared well. Nothing seemed too foreign or out of place.

Then…I opened up the document I’d submitted to the Editor. Expecting to find some minor changes, words added or words deleted, I felt very confused as I began reading the original copy. Nothing was matching up. Oh, some paragraphs and wording was the same but was in nowhere near the same order it had been sent. Huge major portions appeared in the final cut that didn’t show up anywhere on my submitted piece. It was familiar copy to me. It didn’t seem out of place. It turned out the additional information on the subject was taken from my blog.

Looking at the two side by side, I barely recognized the published article as what I’d sent.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The final article was far superior to what I’d sent. In fact, when I looked at what I’d so proudly sent off, I cringed in embarrassment. When I examined what I wrote, I shook my head in amazement – or should I say surprise?

I’m happy they did such an intensive editing job on that particular article. There is no argument whatsoever that what they printed was a top-notch quality product. It was far better than the words I’d labored over for so many days.

I had two surprises that day. The first was my astonishment when I realized the extensive amount of editing that had happened. And while I won’t be showing anyone the original piece, I’m happy to say that the second surprise was realizing how much my writing has improved in the last two years. No, I’m still not capable of writing that elusive, perfect first draft. There’s still a lot of room to learn and improve more. But for today, while honoring the insecure writer in myself, I will embrace the recognition that my craft is improving. I’m better than I was yesterday. I’m better than I was last week. And, I’m certainly better than I was two years ago!

 

Check out more Insecure Writer’s Support Group posts here.

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When Dreams Almost Disappear #IWSG

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

The question for June is:
Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

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I don’t know if “I quit” were the words that formed in my brain one June afternoon two years ago. I think the exact words were more along the lines of “I’ve failed, I’m a big fat loser, and I have to give up on my dream.”

I’d been working towards quitting my retail job to write full time. It had taken some time, and I thought I was prepared. We paid off the house the year before, so the monthly expenses I needed to pay for were lower than they’d ever been. While I didn’t have a huge amount in the savings account, it would cover three months of bills, should I need it. Additionally, the vacation and time accrued from my employer would cover several more months.

build itBesides, on the premise of the movie, Field of Dreams, I was going to build it and they’d come.

The first major obstacle hit me full force before I’d gotten out of the building. Following my final punch-out, carrying an armload of goodbye goodies from my coworkers, I stopped in my manager’s office to say goodbye. And then, in this moment when it was too late to change anything, he informed me that I’d get my vacation hours…but I wouldn’t get any of the PPTO time accrued. He’d had three weeks to let me know this and hadn’t thought to mention it?

I was livid. I was so angry I couldn’t start the car and drive right away. I had to sit there and cool my raging boil to a simmer. That was a thousand dollars I’d kissed goodbye. Two and a half months of bill money. Poof! Disappeared. Never to be seen again.

That’s all right. I’ll make it. This is just one setback.

And then, in April, the car died. That small savings account? Now, it too was gone.

By May I knew that I’d ‘built it’…but they weren’t coming.

Oh, I’d gotten a few small acceptances here and there. But it wasn’t enough to give me the freedom to sit at home and spend my days following my writing dream.

I started looking for a part time job. Without any success. When I saw that my eye doctor was hiring – for full time – I applied. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to work full time, especially there. I’d been in that office. I’d seen the office girls in action. I knew that at the rate they ran, and with the days that stretched to seven o’clock in the evening, I’d come home exhausted and wouldn’t have the energy to write.

When the office called me to come in and work a two-day trial period, which they were doing with all the applicants, to see who would be the best fit for the office…I lost it.

I threw myself across the bed and bawled. And kept bawling.

I’d tried. I’d failed. I saw this as the total loss of my dream.

What was worse was this brain of mine wouldn’t allow me to only view this one instance that I was seeing as a failure. It had to bring up every single failure it could remember – from my lifetime! I hadn’t just tried one thing and failed. I was a failure. I was a loser. I couldn’t do anything right.

I sobbed until I was drained. Then, I fed the cats and went to bed early.

The next morning I got up. What do writers do? Even loser-writers? We write about it. I sat in front of my laptop and poured my heart out. For hours. I typed and pounded the keyboard. I should have just slashed a vein and let it run on the computer. It would have been easier.

Now, two years later, I look back and almost laugh at myself.

I worked two days for my eye doctor and came home with $140 check. I didn’t end up getting the job. (Whew! Thank you, Lord!) And I kept going. I did end up getting a part-time job, which I still have. I work for ‘them’ in the morning, which pays the bills, and I come home and work ‘for me’ in the afternoon as I build my dream.

I didn’t officially quit. But it was close. I was so close to that quitting edge that I felt like I’d fall off the precipice and never return. Until I reminded myself that some days I’m my own worst enemy and I shoved that negative, whiny creature back in a time-out box so I could carry on about my business – that of following my dream.

 

You can find Trisha Faye here:

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What I Should be Doing Today

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After a pathetic January, devoid of almost all written word, this is what I should be doing today. Instead i alternate between looking at my massive ‘To-Do’ list sitting on the desk beside my mouse and gazing out the window, as if my thoughts will bring about a warmer day.

All right – I talked myself into it. I’ll wallow in the depths of no writing for the rest of the day. Then tomorrow, bright and early, it’s back to business!

Writing Humor

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I’m not sure who to credit for this, other than SJS. Thank you for the laugh!

Three Sites with an Abundance of Writing Tips

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Here are three sites with great resources of writing tips. They’ll keep you busy. Or scan the lists for some of the sites that are most helpful to you.

Writing Tips – The Best Writing Tips for Writers

Do you need tips to help you become a more productive writer? Do you need tips to help you write that next viral article? Below are some of the best writing tips on this blog.

  1. 10 Productivity Tips for Writers
  2. 9 Lessons I Learned in 8 Months of Writing for Income
  3. How to Write Great Content when You Don’t Feel Like It
  4. Two Ingredients of Awesome: Content and Metaphor
  5. How to Write Content that Gets Read

 

How to Write Your Memoir

“… 99.9 percent of people lead boring lives. But every single one of them is trying to make some sense out of his or her existence, to find some meaning in the world, and therein lies the value and opportunity of memoir. It’s therapeutic for the writer, and it eventually even helps his or her descendants understand themselves better.”

 

Tips From the Masters

You will find pearls of writing wisdom in these pithy lists by 21 masters of their craft, such as: Andrew Motion: 10 Techniques to Spark the Writing – Expert writing tips, Annie Proulx: 5 Techniques for Good Craftsmanship – Expert writing tips, or Billy Wilder: 10 Screenwriting Tips

I’m Hiring Myself

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Today, I got a new freelance job. For myself. It’s on a trial basis, for nine weeks. At the end of July, I’ll have a performance evaluation and see if I was up to par.

No. I haven’t gone crazy. (Although some days I wonder.)

I’m posting about this experimental hiring of myself for accountability. I’ll update occasionally throughout this testing period.

My checkbook prompted this new regimen. Or, should I say the diminishing numbers in the checkbook. I’ve been a full time freelancer for a little over a year now. I’ve made it through this far. Barely. But, between royalty checks being far less than I’d like, and a few assignments falling through, it seems that each month gets just a bit further behind. I didn’t have the money for a new tire last month. I’ve realized that it’s been a year since I made a trip to see my grandkids that are growing up far too quickly. And, I’m looking ahead and wondering how I’ll get to California in November for my mom’s eightieth birthday.

Looking at the financial aspects jockeying for attention, I decided to apply at local libraries for a part time summer position. I applied for four positions. All were from fourteen to nineteen hours a week. It would cut into my writing time, but the supplemental paychecks would add a few (very few) figures on my bank balance.

Except…the positions begin next week…and no one has even called me for an interview.

I should have been perfect for them. I’ve worked in a library before. I’m a mother and grandmother – I know about dealing with children. And…I’m a writer.

Evidently they didn’t think I was as good of a fit as I thought I was.

When I stopped into the dollar store last week for some laundry soap, I noticed a ‘Help Wanted’ poster in the window. I debated about filling out an application, hoping for a ten to twelve hours a week job. At home I pulled up their website and was checking out the employee benefits page before I got a reality check.

For a rough guesstimate, ten hours a week at nine dollars an hour is three hundred and ninety dollars a month. Minus gas. Minus taxes. That brings me down to about three hundred dollars a month.

If I add in a half hour drive each way, probably twice a week, now I’m looking at twelve hours invested to get three hundred dollars. Surely, I thought, if I productively queried for twelve hours a week I could generate at least that much, if not far more.

I’m talking working for that whole time. Not blogging. Not connecting on social media. Not researching. Not adding to a novel that’s still far from complete. Not outlining a new book that tempts me from the netherlands.

Twelve hours a week of queries. Or, writing on said anticipated assignments.

I decided to run a trial period. Nine weeks. The period the library jobs would have run. I made myself a time card. I’m going to log in and out. I’m going to track my time. I’m committing to an aggressive twelve hours a week.

I looked back at the past four months. Three queries one month. Nine another. Four another. No wonder the acceptances aren’t rolling in. Three and four queries a month is pitiful. Did the 30 Days/30 Queries class I took from Mridu Khullar Relph last year not sink in? Did I learn nothing?

If I’m going to thrive in this career and make some good money, not muddling through at just over broke, then I’d better buckle down and treat it with the same respect and hard work that I’d give any other employer.

So I’m hiring myself and will track my progress, much as I’d have to prove to a boss that I’d accomplished the tasks they set forth for me.

Now I’m motivated. There’s nothing like a little challenge to bring out the contestant qualities lurking under my skin. I’ve got something to prove. I’m out to prove that investing the time in myself and my own career will be better financially than any other punch-the-timeclock job.

I’ll keep you posted!

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Writing from a Different Gender Perspective

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Writing from a Different Gender Perspective

I have to admit it, my easiest characters are women, usually in the thirty to fifty year age range. Writing POV from a male perspective? That becomes difficult. (And they usually end up being too close to my ex for comfort.)

I was excited to see this post, Gender Bending: Writing a Different Gender Than Your Own, by Janice Hardy. She has some excellent advice about writing rich, dimensional characters of the other gender. Here’s two of her tips. Go check out Jane Hardy’s Fiction University for the full article.

Focus on the character, not the gender.

If you try to “write a woman who…” you might get stuck trying to be “a woman.” But write about “a character who…” and you’ll find yourself thinking more about what that character will do and how they’ll act in ways that fit the story and the situation. They’re a person first, a gender second.
Remember no two people are alike, regardless of gender.

“Men are like X” or “women always Y” don’t apply. My husband breaks all kinds of those rules, and I’m not your typical gal. Avoid the stereotypes and even have fun with them a little. Have men that love shoes, women who are rabid for sports. Let your men (or women) be as different from each other as they are from the opposite sex. A group of men won’t all have the same feelings about things, same as a group of anything won’t have the same feelings.

How is it for you? Can you write from the opposite gender’s perspective?

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