Posts tagged getting published
The Pain and Pleasure of Revision (Quote of the Day)

What I want to know is: what kind of crack was this guy smoking when he said this?

Just kidding.

Seriously though, anyone who has ever written a novel—heck, anyone who's ever written a postcard—knows that revising and editing can be tedious. Hellacious. Torturous. You stare at a screen or a piece of paper until your eyes are about to fall out, trying to decide whether you've used the word "is" too much and debating with yourself about comma usage. It can be absolute misery.

But then you reach the last page. You have one final battle with a semicolon, and you're done. The original word count has been whittled down by about 10,000, and when you go back to the beginning and start reading—by golly—it doesn't sound like a soap opera on paper anymore. Suddenly, that mess you wrote is a neat mess; a structured mess; perhaps even not a mess at all. It's become something enjoyable to read, and as you enjoy it, you realize: I did this. This is something I created and perfected: the culmination of all my hard work. And it's good.

That's where the "exquisite pleasure" comes in—not necessarily in the act of dismantling and repiecing your writing, but in the knowledge that with every change, you're crafting a better story. When you revise, you know you can handle the pain, drudgery, and exhaustion it so often takes to create beauty. Writing makes you feel like an artist, but revising makes you feel like a professional.

Isn't it wonderful that writers can be both?

Today's Prompt: Create your own superhero. In this hero's world, crime is at an all time low. For over a month, he/she has had nothing to do except his/her day job—no people to save; no bad guys to fight; no need to put on the cape. Write about this dry spell and how your superhero handles it.

Happy Writing!


The Trouble with Writing: Why  Writing isn't Easy (Quote of the Day)

Don't be discouraged if you're having trouble with your current work in progress. Anyone who's ever written anything "seriously" has had exactly the same struggle.

"What is the best way to go from here?"

"Is this character believable enough?"

"Is this scene really necessary to the plot?"

"What about that flipping Oxford comma?"

Getting caught up in dilemmas like these can make you feel uncertain about yourself. After being stuck for a period of time, you may start doubting your abilities, and maybe even your story as a whole.

Well, I'll let you in on a little secret.

The trouble you're having isn't because you're not clever enough or talented enough. No! The trouble with writing comes with caring. You spend hours or weeks agonizing over the validity of one plot point, not because you're too dense to recognize whether it's good, but because you deeply want your story to be told successfully. As writers, we shape our stories as carefully as we might shape our children as they grow; molding them into the best versions of themselves they can become. If we wrote whatever popped into our heads without thinking twice about it, our books would be rambling and pointless; they'd have no value to anybody--not even to us.

I've never met a writer who said, "This novel is just something I did for fun. It doesn't really matter that much to me." A writer's feelings towards his/her work usually run more along these lines:

"It's really close to my heart."

"This novel means so much to me."

"It comes from a very emotional place."

"Writing this book has helped me heal."

Funny. It doesn't sound all that fun--but it does sound worth it.

So if you're having trouble with writing today, good! Work through it, get past it, and move on to the next troublesome bit. When you reach the last page and write those final, beautiful words, "the end," you will honestly be able to say, "This is something to be proud of. I was met with an abundance of difficulty, but I persevered. I thought hard and made hard choices. Now I can say with absolute certainty that this book is the best it can possibly be."

"... Until I start editing, of course."

Today's Prompt: Set a timer for 20 minutes and then write a story about something that genuinely means nothing to you. Stop when alarm sounds. How does it read? Was it easy or difficult to write?

Happy Writing!


Love at First Draft--How to Keep the Spark Alive (Quote of the Day)

NicholasSparksQuote When I wrote the last page of my first novel, I cried. I mean, they weren't rolling-down-your-cheeks-and-landing-in-your-coffee tears, but there was definitely a shine in my eyes. There's an astounding sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing a book. All of a sudden, there you are, with a couple hundred pages that you eked out all by yourself--maybe over the course of months; maybe in a few frenzied days or weeks. For some of us, our stories have been in the works for years and are just now coming to a close. It's an emotional experience, no matter how long it's taken. And when it's done? Well that calls for tears--shouts for joy--happy dances--running out the door and kissing random people in the streets! It's finished; it's finished; hooray!

But notice that Sparks says, "the last page of the first draft." Does he know what he's talking about or what? Once we go through hours of editing and revising and scrapping and rewriting, the excitement tends to wane. Your once-cherished story starts to lose its loveliness after you've stared at the same pages for hours, borrowing from the thesaurus and taking out/putting back the same bewildering comma over and over again. Before you know it, your relationship with your novel reminds you of your grandparents' marriage. You know what I'm talking about. The ones who've been together forever, which is amazing, but... They buy each other socks for Christmas and pick spinach out of each others' teeth.

Oh, and they keep squabbling about whether that silly comma belongs or not.

I wish we could hold onto that "last-page-first-novel" feeling all the time. Wouldn't that be great? Well... I think we can at least get it back. I propose that this week, you do something special with your novel; reignite that old spark.

No, I don't mean take it out for a fancy dinner and champagne; what I mean is, leave it alone. Seriously. Take a vacation from editing. Put your novel in a box or a dark corner for a week. Maybe even two weeks. Then, when you start to miss it, go back to the first chapter and read. Just read. Resist the red pen and pretend like this book isn't something you wrote. My bet? You'll find yourself falling in love all over again.

Today's Prompt: Write a comedic story about your grandparents, or another elderly couple--real or fictional--who've been together "forever."

Happy Writing! KC

Writing for Money--or Not (Quote of the Day)

Watercolorquote Can I get an amen? There's this weird notion amongst people that if you get published, suddenly you're rolling in the dough. Nope. First of all, that's a fallacy. Second of all, you don't write because you want to get paid. It wouldn't matter if you never made a cent. You write because you can't help it; because there are characters and words in you and they have to come out, one way or another. Ultimately, you don't write for the money; you write because you have to.

Today's Prompt: Write a story surrounding a character with these traits:

  • 30 years or older.
  • No stable profession.
  • Addicted to get-rich-quick schemes.
  • Has one talent: a knack for losing money.

Happy Writing!


The Value of Revision (Quote of the Day)

In writing my first novel, I learned the value of "intelligent, even fastidious revision" as Oates puts it. The end of the first draft came in at a hefty  115,000 words, not all of which were necessary. Luckily for me, I was born with a very analytical, rational sort of mind (which isn't better than any other sort of mind, but does happen to be well-suited to editing). I'm generally able to read my writing and say, "this particular part is junk. It has to go" and then cut off pieces as mercilessly as if they were unsightly warts or over-long toenails.

And that's exactly what I did with my first novel. After three rounds of revision, I had whittled it down to a significantly sleeker 90,000 words. It was much better off, but the truth is that rational and analytical as I am, the cutting was hard to do. It was necessary to remove some parts I had grown extremely attached to. Although I loved certain phrases and scenes, I had to revise, revise, revise and put the good of the whole book above my emotional investment in a few lines and pages—and also above a certain level of pride. That's incredibly difficult. 

I can see what Joyce Carol Oates means by calling revision an art. But more than that, it's a discipline. It's a willingness to sacrifice, and it's a practice in humility. To write well is a gift. But to write well and still be able to admit, "this could be better?" That's how you turn a gift into a way of life.

Today's prompt: Revisit a story you wrote in the past and treat it like it belongs to someone else. How could it be better? Are there unnecessary parts? Questions that need to be answered? Print it out and mark it up with a red pen. Show no mercy. Now go make the changes and turn it into the best story it can be.

Happy Revising!


Quote of the Day—Colin Powell

I chose this image for this quote because sometimes I really feel like that little bird with that giant shovel. When it comes to doing the work it requires to finish a book, market yourself, get published, etc. it can feel like a burden too heavy to lift. But of course, we have to keep at it. Even if the work seems impossible, dreams don't come true in our sleep! It takes sweat, determination, and hard work to make them happen. So keep at it and don't give up until you get there.

Today's prompt: In the yard, there is a bird feeder, chock full of birdseed. But sleeping directly in front of it is a large, grumpy cat. Tell us how you would get your breakfast if you were a bird.

Post your response in the comments! Happy Writing!