Cleanse. Write. Repeat.

I know what you’re thinking. Christine, what does clutter have to do with my writing? Well, whether we like it or not…many outside factors impact our writing habits. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I realized just how true that was. Thankfully, over the last year, I have taken time to declutter much of what prevents or hinders my writing.

Hey, I’m not perfect. I’ve had some major lulls in the past year too, but the point is always to return. The more we keep to organizing and/or cleansing our writing lives, the easier it will be to keep to a healthier routine. Sometimes the clutter isn’t physical clutter on our desks or working surfaces of choice, but in our minds. Here are four ways to declutter your writing life:

One: Clear that space. So, what I really wanted to say here was, clean that desk. However, I’m more realistic than that. In fact, I know there are people who enjoy a less organized home. However, there is something about approaching a space to create and having the room to do it. What I mean is, even if your living room is covered in unfolded laundry and/or kids toys, make a spot for you and your work.

Even if it’s just for an hour or two, clear a corner, a coffee table, etc. for your writing tools of choice. I always find that when I approach my clean coffee table, light a candle, and open my laptop…all of that clutter in my mind moves aside for some writing time.

Two: Make the time. Yesterday, I attended a small tribute to the late poet, Mary Oliver. Ten or so of us gathered, reading bits of her work. In her book, A Poetry Handbook,Oliver spoke about how important it is to show up for your writing.

She wrote, “If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself–soon it begins to arrive when you do.”

Isn’t it the truth? For me, making the time often means getting up for #5amWritersClub. I’ve only been back in the club for a week now after being out for two months, but gosh what a difference it has made.

Three: Keep a clear inbox. Recently, I found myself scrolling through a full inbox. Tons and tons of emails, piled on top of each other. It dawned on me just how out of sorts it all was. I think we sometimes forget just how overwhelming something so simple can be.

Remember, everything can be sorted into folders. What a difference it makes! Drafts, query letters to agents, rejections letters, you name it! If you’re going to keep it all, you might as well organize it.

Four: Protect Your Plan. Whatever it may be, an hour in the morning, a fifteen minute break at work, or some late night time, protect it. There will always be a text message, phone calls, new episodes of This is Us, well…you get the picture. Temptation is there, waving at us in the corner of our homes. It’s important that we take that type of clutter and press a big metaphorical pause button. Texts, calls, TV, etc. will be there after we dedicate an hour to our writing.

So, there you have it. Cleanse. Write. Repeat.

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

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

discovering “the end”

As of this very moment, I have crossed over the 45k mark of my novel. I have a target goal of between 60k-65k words to end my first draft with. So, for the past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about the words, “The End.” Truth be told, I only have the slightest idea of how my first draft will end. My entire journey writing this novel has been one built on discovery with my main character. Sure, some things have been very clear to me from the start, but most has been a cloudy mess. I’ve been marching right along beside her through the fog. Now, the end is in sight and I want it to be just right.

I can’t help but think about this quote from The Fellowship of the Ring: 

““Have you thought of an ending?”
“Yes, several, and all are dark and unpleasant.”

–J.R.R. Tolkien

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Perhaps it is because I know this is the first of three books. I already have discovered several things that are meant to happen in the second book and only one thing that I know will happen in the third. So, the big question is…how do you discover “the end”?

Whether that means “the end” to a first book, a series, etc. I have decided that the only thing I can really do at this point is this:

-Rely on my instincts. They’ve gotten me this far. There’s no point in doubting them now.

-Make a list of every plot point I want to cover before the finish line.

-Drink coffee.

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Because this is my first draft, I am very comfortable in the fact that I will be going back and fleshing out many scenes and making major edits. However, I would like to nail down the end of this novel with a sledgehammer. I am filled with exhausted emotion for my main character. I want her to get some relief, but my instincts are telling me that it all isn’t going to be quite that simple. All in all, it’s an exciting process.

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How do you discover “the end” in your projects?

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

bits of writing advice from bookcon 2018

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to dive into the world of books in a different way than I normally do. I attended BookCon in NYC. BookCon is basically a giant convention complete with publishers, fandom, best-selling authors and all the things a bookworm would love. This was my first time attending BookCon. While I had attended Book Expo America a few years ago in the same location, I felt that the vibe of BookCon was way more fan-based (in a good way.)

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For this week’s blog post I thought it would be interesting to share some bits of writing advice that I scribbled down while sitting through many different panels. Basically, they were little moments that stuck with me and inspired me. How could I not share them with you?

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Cassandra Clare is the best-selling author of The Mortal Instruments, The Dark Artifices, and more. When asked about how a writer incorporates personal experience into their own writing, she shared:

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“You may not pull the real life actions, but you will pull the emotions. It has to feel real.” –

That last bit there, “it has to feel real,” that’s the bit that stuck with me. Sometimes I think we get really caught up in what our characters are going through and try and get the difficult scene down on the page without thinking about how an outside reader will actually feel when reading it. That advice came at the right time for me as I was working on a very emotional scene in my WIP.

Cassandra also discussed villains and what makes them well-written. One of the things she brought up that I found fascinating was a point about minions that follow a villain. Why do these minions follow the evil character with the horrid plans? What is their motivation and what makes it something worth supporting? Funnily enough, that advice was also fitting for the scene in my WIP. Don’t forget about the details of your villain.

Brandon Sanderson is the best-selling author of many high fantasy novels that take place in the Cosmere universe. When asked about writing a character with magical powers, Sanderson commented:

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“’What can’t the magic do?’ is always the more interesting question. What are the flaws of these powers?” – 

I scribbled fast for this one. It is important to not only focus on how wonderful magic can be, but what are the cons that come with it? What are the limitations? When I worked on a young adult fantasy novel many years ago, I gifted a character with fantastic fire powers. They had absolutely no consequences or limitations to them. I was just an excited, new writer who wanted to write a fantasy novel. Years later, I now see that is one of the many reasons why that novel didn’t work out.

Victoria Aveyard is the best-selling author of the Red Queen novels and I will say that many of the fans cheered extra loud for her when she walked on the stage. I always enjoy fan questions as opposed to the commentator’s questions because they are usually amusing. One 15-year old fan asked, “What advice would you give to your 15 year old self?” Aveyard answered:

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“What makes you weird now is going to be what makes you successful later.” –

I think as writers, it’s sometimes easy to forget how important it is to celebrate our unique qualities. We should all celebrate our weirdness, follow our passions, and write about what makes our heart race! Don’t you agree?

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I hope that some of these bits of writing advice resonate with you on some level. For me, hearing writers talk about writing is one of the things that fills my inspiration meter.

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

Editing…Editing…Editing…

Hey guys!

For those of you who don’t know, I’m in the midst of editing the 6th draft of my novel. I’ve been working on this novel for two years now and am quite attached to the world I’ve created. Anyway, I’m frustrated with myself because I’m not where I want to be in the editing stage. Lots of doubts are swirling around in my head. It certainly doesn’t help when people keep asking “when will your book be published?!” The writing process is way more complex than people think. Editing and polishing first, query letter and agent searching next…etc.

So, I decided to read through some old blog posts this morning to motivate myself and funnily enough, I found one about editing your first chapter. I wrote it a long time ago on a different blog, but was surprised to see that I was struggling with the same inner demons then as I am now. I thought I would share it here because there are a few great tips.

In conclusion, it’s time to sit down and make myself an editing plan. One that I will stick to!

Hope you enjoy my “reblog”

Until next time,

Christine

“I find myself right now in the midst of editing my first chapter. Along with my own worries, doubts, and irrational expectations, I am joined by the opinions of others before me. Others who have made it clear that the first chapter is the most important chapter. It’s true isn’t it? If your reader isn’t interested in the first chapter of your book what’s going to make them turn to chapter two?

Here are some of my thoughts on what a first chapter should/shouldn’t include:

Make the first few sentences count: When I open a book I want to be pulled into the story. I need the first few sentences to be gripping and important. It doesn’t necessarily need to be something elaborate. Sometimes simplicity is key, but that simplicity has to have a special element.

Don’t give it all away: I sometimes find myself disappointed when I read the first chapter of a book and it contains way too much important information. That includes plot content, character descriptions and background, etc. Then I already feel the need to re-read it and that sometimes defeats the interest I originally had in the book. I like it more when important content is sprinkled throughout the first couple chapters.

Make the end as intriguing as the beginning: You want to end the first chapter with a pretty bow on top of a perfectly wrapped package. To end the last chapter with a line that isn’t intriguing as the first line is foolish. You have to make the reader turn the page and want to read chapter two.

Do you have any tips on how to perfect your first chapter?”