Remembering to take care of yourself.

As writers, we often find ourselves juggling the balance between our creative goals and our every day life responsibilities. I’m sure many of us spend 40 hours a week at a day job that doesn’t involve writing at all. I know I do. Besides that, we all lead personal lives, have families, and tons of chores. Personally, I spend my free time writing and 9 times out of 10 it is incredibly fulfilling. However, there are times when we can get so wrapped up in our goals and progress, that we forget about ourselves. When does it all become too much?

When I was thinking about writing this post, I was further fueled by the unfortunate passing of one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver. For me, she was a self care poet. A poet I would turn to when it all just seemed too much. I want to now take that self care mindfulness and give it to you. Take a moment to ask yourself the last time you did something for you.

Trust me, I understand wanting to accomplish goals. The thrill of to do lists and spreadsheets fuel me like a strong cup of coffee! However, sometimes we all have to take a moment to breathe, light a candle, and give ourselves a pat on the back for the progress we’ve made.

Now I will leave you with a poem called, Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver and the hope that you will plan something for yourself after reading this post.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

R.I.P. Mary Oliver.

Until next time,

Christine

What Makes A Good Critique Partner?

If you’re a writer of any kind, at some point you’re going to reach a point in your career where you will find yourself in need of a critique or have to give one yourself.

I have been part of intense writing workshops and consistent monthly writer groups for many years. Each experience has had its positives and negatives, but one thing remains true. As writers, we need constructive criticism to grow.

Lately, I have been pondering what makes a good critique partner. What can we do as writers to lift each other up while also giving constructive feedback? I’ve come up with three key points that I try to focus on when giving critiques.

Be Honest

First and foremost, you have to be honest about the work you are reading. Sure, that might sound simple, but sometimes things get in the way of telling the truth.

For many of us, we pair up with our friends as critique partners. This can be complicated. If you happen to come across work that you don’t think is all that good, it can be hard to be honest to a friend. In my experience, I have always made sure to make it clear that I was honest feedback. As previously stated, writers need constructive feedback to grow, therefore, you’re really doing your friend a favor by being honest. If we just sat around stroking each others egos all say, we wouldn’t get very far.

In my personal experience, I will never forget the time I went to a week long workshop. I was 100% torn apart. Did it hurt? Yes. Did it make me grow? More than any other workshop or group I have been a part of.

Be Positive

With that said, don’t feel like you can’t praise each other! I have read work before that was practically perfect in every way and I proudly told them so! For every two things you say that might be a little difficult to swallow, try to throw a positive in the mix. As in most cases, balance is key.

I have been part of groups before when people go in too hard. They ignore positive feedback and find it to be useless. In reality, it’s just as important to give some positive feedback as it is to be honest. We aren’t trying to beat each other into the ground here.

Remember the workshop I mentioned earlier? They had some strict rules about balancing negative feedback with positive. It helped to balance the process. After about three days of adjusting to a real critique environment, I saw the light. Once my group noticed I was trying to improve and letting my ego go, that’s when the real magic started to happen. Which leads me to my next point…

Be Open

All in all, the previous two points don’t mean anything if you aren’t open to it all. I’m not telling you to believe every single critique you get, because there will be times you disagree. The beauty of feedback is you can take what you need. You are still in control of your writing. Try and take the time to be open and to thoughtfully digest your critiques. On the other side, be open and thoughtful when you are giving them too.

We are all in this together. Creative souls unite!

Tell me, what do you think makes a good critique partner? Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay. Thank you for joining me here today. You can look for a new post next Thursday.

Until next time,

Christine

Planning, Planning, Planning

Happy 2019! *throws pixie dust* I’m so happy to be back in the steady blogging game! This year, I promise to bring you, what I hope will be, some very entertaining posts.

If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll know that last month brought the completion of my second draft. (Now, this is my full second draft–there were many half drafts before that!)

If you are stopping by for the first time…here’s a warm chocolate-chip cookie gif…

Welcome! I’ve been working on my current novel for two years now. It is a Young Adult Fantasy novel, and I am very happy to report that I am entering the planning stages of the query process.

The Query Process…where to begin? This isn’t my first rodeo, but it is the first time I am tackling this process in a long time. My last attempt at querying agents was in 2014. Five years later, with a YA Fantasy in hand, I am ready to BEGIN!

So, what does that mean exactly? There are tons of books, websites, hashtags, blog posts, and more to help a writer navigate the complicated world of publishing. However, I always begin with an organizational method. It’s how I operate as a human.

I took a poll on Twitter the other day regarding Query Tracker. I used this method of organization the last time I queried, but I’m still on the fence as to whether or not I want to use it. I think creating a custom spreadsheet might be a better fit for me this time around.

With that, I have purchased the latest addition of Writer’s Market: Guide to Literary Agents. I will spend the next few weeks formulating a list of agents in that book and then hunting them down on social media to ensure that they are open to submissions. As I move forward, no doubt adding more columns to my spreadsheet, I will surely refine my process. Right now, I’m just excited about getting started.

You have to begin somewhere, right? I’m happy to start the New Year off this way.

I wish you tons of luck on your 2019 writing goals! Thanks for joining me here today. Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay. You can look for a new post next Thursday.

Until next time,

Christine

have yourself a merry little writing session

Tis the season for hot chocolate, Christmas music, and writing sessions. The past two months have been quite intense as I juggled my day job and a hefty list of writing goals.

However, I am happy to report that I am right on track to finish my second draft this coming Friday! I don’t know about you, but I think the Christmas season kept the pep in my step! That, and a ton of coffee.

After that, my draft will be sent to a few trusted writing partners for critique! All in all, I’m feeling quite positive about the journey ahead. 2019 will be filled with writing pitches, query letters, and hopefully some MAGIC will happen.

I wish you and yours a very Happy Holiday Season! I’ll be back in the New Year with some awesome new blog posts (on a regular blog schedule because ya know…that’s one of my goals for the new year!) See you in 2019!

this is what it looks like to be halfway through NaNoWriMo 2018 as a NaNoRebel

We have officially crossed the halfway mark of NaNoWriMo 2018. A few weeks ago, I proclaimed myself a NaNo Rebel, armed with a set of goals that were customized to my writing needs. I’m here today to give you an update on how that’s been going…

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…now maybe that gif is a little over dramatic, but here’s the thing I’ve learned about writing: No matter how much you plan, you will always have to adapt. Maybe that’s what I’ve learned about life and it has just spilled over into my writing life too.

As I began working on Draft #2 of my novel, I quickly realized that the first half of my book is where most of the work needed to be done. Therefore, I have had to slightly adjust my goals due to things taking longer than originally planned. Even though I’ve had to do that, I haven’t lost hope.

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Things are coming together slowly, but surely. To spread some positivity…here are three things I’m loving about NaNoWriMo 2018:

  1. I’m seeing my novel in a brighter light. Things are clearer and the changes I am making are definitely improving the quality of my plot.
  2. My “accountabilibuddies” (translation: accountability buddies) are keeping me going. Having that support is making all the difference.
  3. I am making more progress than I ever would have made had I not set goals!

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Cheers to the next half of NaNoWriMo and writing goals beyond!

Until next time,

Christine

“how can we get you there without getting you there?”

Happy NaNoWriMo 2018 to you all!
This week’s post is meant to declare my writing goals for the next two months along with talking about a very interesting topic that came up the other day over lunch with my writer friends. Here’s how it happened:
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We gathered among mac & cheese and made vows to be the very best “accountabilibuddies” (translation: accountability buddies) we could be over the course of the next two months. (Yes, we extended our NaNoRebel goals all the way until the end of December) We reviewed what our goals would be and how we hope to achieve them.
With the looming first week deadline fast approaching, inspiration came up, and the idea of sparking the right kind of feeling to sit down and write. This expanded into the topic of travel plans. My good friend leaned over and said, “I should just go there, right? No big deal!” We all laughed together, because while it would be wonderful to hop on a plane and travel to a different country, it’s not always doable.
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So, I posed the question…”How can we get you there without getting you there?”

That is the challenge, right? For many of us, our inspiration comes from far off lands. Even if we are writing about a fantasy world, chances are we gathered inspiration from some real life location. So, what do we do when we can’t abandon the ship of our real life to set sail for unexplored territory? After all, we can’t all be Sasha Alsberg

…even though sometimes I would really like to be! Have you seen her awesome hair? Her color-coded bookshelves?

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Moving on…

So, I got to thinking. What could we do to get there without getting there? In times where I want to feel my setting, I mean really try to FEEL it, I try to turn to the five senses. Maybe all of these aren’t achievable, but here is what I have been mulling over these past few days…

Start with a character if you can. I really like to put myself in the shoes of characters when possible. Then try some of the following:

Taste: What would the people in your setting eat and drink? They’ve come home after a long day and it’s time for dinner. What would be on the table?

Touch: Is it hot where they are? Maybe it’s time for a trip to the sauna… Is it super cold? Well, we have been getting down to the low 30s in NJ lately. Perhaps it’s time for a late night stroll.

Smell: I am a candle addict. Chances are, it doesn’t smell like “Puurfect Pumpkin” in the setting of my book, but somehow it still fuels the inspiration.

Sound: This is one I absolutely swear by. I have soundtracks for every character in my story, along with many soundtracks for different types of scenes. The thing is, there are soundscapes for everything these days. Head on over to youtube and type in “Busy street sound effect.” You’ll get a ton of results. The possibilities are endless. Oh, and don’t forget to crank it up! Immerse yourself! (Forget about the neighbors.)

Sight: This is kind of self-explanatory. This is where we stare at pictures of the places we want to travel to. I like to change my desktop to a certain location that I’m working on. Every time I see it, it reminds me of certain details I’d like to include. I also highly recommend vision boards! Just because you’re not going there today or next week, you might still go some day! Make a beautiful collage of what you want to see when you’re there one day.

I guess we could all chip in on a magic carpet if this doesn’t work…

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…and last but not least…my NaNoRebelRevisionGoals!

November 1-4: Chapters 1-3

November 5-11: Chapters 4-6

November 12-18: Chapters 7-9

November 19-25: Chapters 10-12

 

November 26-December 2: Chapters 13-15

December 3-9: Chapters 16-18

December 10-16: Chapters 19-20

December 17-23: Chapters 21-22

 

Thanks for joining me here today. Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay. You can look for a progress update next Thursday!

Until next time,

Christine

 

Revision Adventure Update

At the end of July, I began my Revision Adventure. Since then, it’s been quite an interesting experience. I have to say that when I began this process, I thought that I would get the same kind of feeling I did when I was writing this novel. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve edited and revised projects in the past, but it has been quite some time. I forgot about the complex nature of revising and how in some ways, it is more difficult to navigate. While I thought that I had the right formula to get through an initial revision, I discovered it needed some adjusting.

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I’m happy to report to you today, that I made it through. It took some altering of time based goals and a lot of contemplation about how to make realistic progress at a decent pace. After a period of discouraging thoughts, I turned back to the main source of inspiration for the novel that I began with a year and a half ago. Luckily, that was the ticket. I realized that now it is more important than ever to give myself credit for any bit of progress I make. New goals are okay. The only thing that matters is that I hang on to the passion that I put into this project, keep my characters close to my heart, and move forward!

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Let’s face it folks…revising and editing a novel is hard! I have now reached a headspace where I am enjoying the process once again and in turn getting very excited about how this novel is turning out. It feels good to be here, but at the same time I know I had to go through that tricky period to get where I am today. As writers we are always learning and always growing. It’s a beautiful thing.

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Thanks for joining me here today. Tweet me your thoughts @AWritersWay. Remember, you can join me here every Thursday for new posts!

Until next time,

Christine