Writers – Trust Your Gut

Revise, Survive, Write

I wrote a chapter book. It was fun, and silly, and my gut told me I needed to make the main character a couple years older. What did I do? I told my gut to be quiet and sent the manuscript off to an agent. She loved the first three chapters and requested the full manuscript – then she passed. She loved the story, but the main character seemed… too young. ARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!

computer-1295358_960_720

Why in the WORLD do we writers not trust our gut? It is always (and I mean, ALWAYS) right. So why do we ignore and then kick ourselves later for not listening? THEN do it all over again?

I could go down a long wordy path about why we ignore our gut, but what we all really need to know is… STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW!

thought-2123970_960_720If your gut keeps whispering an idea, listen.

If it tells you your manuscript still isn’t ready – don’t submit.

If it tells you your favorite scene is dragging your story down – cut it.

I really hate my gut sometimes. Sometimes I don’t want to hear what it has to say, but that doesn’t change that in the long run, my gut has my back and is nudging me towards a better manuscript. Yours is too – so lets give it a break, listen up and get ourselves published again.

TrustYourGut

 

 

Advertisements

Get your story critiqued for free by others in the writing field.

Revise, Submit

If there’s one thing we writers can all agree on it’s on how important it is to have someone other than your Aunt Margaret edit your manuscript. You’ve been starring at your precious gem for so long you don’t see the little things. That’s why editors and publishers nearly demand that your manuscript be edited by someone other than you before you submit it for publication. That’s great and all, but what if you don’t know someone willing to read your work? Or maybe you don’t want people you know to read your work – what then? That’s when you a need a critique group.

If you search online you can often find critique groups in your areas of people who meet up at bookstores and coffee shops once a month and swap manuscripts. Too intimidating for you? Or don’t have time for in person critique groups? There’s also online options that won’t cost you a fortune fir feedback. The one I’ve used most when I go the online route is:

CritiqueCircle.com

Ch0SWFP7_400x400

HERE’S HOW IT WORKS:  

Creating a free account is easy, and you can start critiquing others work in the Story Queue right away. You earn credits for the critiques you give (typically around one credit a critique- more if it’s a longer piece). Then you use those credits to get your own stories added to the queue. It takes 3 credits to post your own story. If you want to post more than one story during the same critique period, the subsequent stories will cost more credits. If you are posting a novel, I recommend you break it down to 1-3 chapters per posting, max. People are willing to commit to smaller word counts.

They have different queues for the many different genres of writing. You are open CC-Queuesto critique from and post your work to any queue you’d like. At first, I preferred to stick to posting my work in the “Newbies” queue which lets others on the site know you’re new to this. There is limited time to post here, but I recommend you use it while you can.  After that, I recommend you find your genre(s) and stick to reading and posting there since you’ll find writers with similar interests who have more experience in your type of writer (makes their critiques much more helpful).

Stories are left up for one week and receive between 2 and 8 critiques each – sometimes more, sometimes less. You can stop accepting critiques at any point. After reading the nice things people say, give them a ‘grade’ for their hard work and start the reading, posting cycle all over again.  Simple!

WHY I  LIKE IT:

My husband has phenomenal editing skills, but I can only ask him to read so many of my manuscripts before it starts to feel abusive. Critique Circle lets me see my manuscript through the eyes of readers who don’t know me, so they’re more honest than husband is (smart man). There is even the option to critique anonymously, if you’d like.

The site encourages critiquers (or “critters”) to be constructive while still being positive. 98% of the users of the site stick to this beautifully. Most critiques left me feeling good and ready to make their suggested changes.

CC- Critique

The other – less tactful – 2% I chalked up to it being “them not me” and would do my darnedest to set their opinion aside. With any critique site you have to go in to it realizing that just like you don’t like everything you read, there will be people who don’t prefer your work. It doesn’t mean it’s not good, or not marketable, it just means it’s not their taste. Those are the critiques you politely thank for their time and then ignore their suggestions. If you remember to stay polite regardless of what’s being thrown your way then you’ll see that kindness reciprocated.

OTHER FEATURES:

While I can’t begin to list them all, there is a lot more than just story queues on their site.  There are forums where you can meet and talk with other writers. Messaging so you can talk back and forth. Tools to track your progress. Writing exercises, games. Resources to answer your publishing/writing questions and blog posts to keep you encouraged. You really have to join to see everything they have to offer.  With Premium memberships your options are even greater for a small monthly fee.

CC Header

COST:

Basic Service is FREE. Premium membership for around $3 per month and Gold for about $6.

WHY YOU SHOULD USE IT:

Agents, editors – they all want to know if your work has been reviewed by others and for good reason. Your work is your baby, and like the parent of that awkward looking baby that has NO clue their child isn’t cute – you have to have someone that isn’t in love with your story look at it and honestly tell you if it’s awkward, cute or just a ugly duckling story that hasn’t been revised into a swan yet. Critique Circle is a great place for that. I recommend you give it a try.

CHECK OUT THEIR SITE:

www.critiquecircle.com

CCLogo
CLICK HERE

PART THREE – Mosaic Writing Style

Revise, Write

mosaic art

Mosaic Writers: The Puzzle Masters

We’ve covered “Pantster” and the “Plotser” methods for writing. Now we’re going to cover the more disjointed style of writing – Mosaic writing. This method is near and dear to my heart, because it’s what I discovered works best for me (after lots of trial and mostly errors with the other writing methods).

Mosaic writing is like mosaic art, lots of little pieces that come together to make one whole. It can be argued the other two writing styles do this as well, in a more structured way. The Mosaic style is more fluid, more “all over the place” – which can be disastrous if it’s not right for you, but is magical, if it is.

This next checklist of advice might seem counter intuitive for this method, but saying write whatever the h#!! comes to your mind doesn’t sound very helpful either – even if that is the heart of this writing style. Let me try and find a middle ground.

Separate your Inner Editor and Inner Writer

The first time that I discovered mosaic writing was after reading the book The INFJ Writer by author, Lauren Sapala. In her book she has an exercise where you find a piece or music that moves you – one that touches you to the very core. You find a quiet place, completely alone, and listen to it. You let yourself get absorbed in it- and then you write.

This exercise was so helpful for me, because the biggest struggle I had as a writer was editing while I wrote. I wrote a chapter, then edited a chapter. I fooled myself in to thinking that I could be successful “editing as I went.” Never was. When I edited as I went, finishing first drafts seemed to take ages, and when they were done I was rarely satisfied, and often started the dead-end process all over again.

It wasn’t until I did the exercise that Lauren suggests that I found my creative zone – the place where my editor was no where to be found.

Take Order Out of the Equation

Not writing your story in order may be nearly impossible for you, but if mosaic writing is the right method for you, this is the most essential step. You write the story in whatever order in comes in. If you get the ending before the beginning, write it. If you get one minor scene in the middle of the book, write it. DO NOT force the story to come in order. If you do, you’re inviting your inner editor back in to your writing season and your editor will stop you in your tracks.

broken tilesFor myself, scenes from my stories come in flashes, almost like memory fragments. I write those “memories” down. I write on my computer, so for each book I create a new document folder, then, when these fragments come, I have a place to collect them all together. I personally create a word document file for each fragment “memory.” I save it as  the book title and keyword from the fragment. That helps make it easier to piece the fragments together later in the process.

Your First Draft Will Look Different than a Typical First Draft

The first story I wrote using the mosaic writing method was by far the most satisfying writing I have ever done, but I do remember wondering if I would know when the story was “done” since everything was coming to me out of order. You do. There hits a points, when the fragments start filling in gaps between other fragments you’ve already written. Eventually the fragments stop coming, and that’s when it’s time to invite your inner editor to have a look at what you’ve created.

My inner editor freaked out a little bit after seeing my first “draft.” Thoughts like, “you call this a draft” and “this is incomplete” came to mind. Ignore those voices.  Mosaic writers first drafts don’t look like other first drafts – that’s okay, just don’t stop there.

Grout – the Stuff that Holds Your Ideas Together

Mosaic Up Close

When you beginning putting your written fragments together you’ll need grout. In real mosaic art, grout is used as the glue to hold the artwork in place, and fill in the random gaps that the broken tiles can’t. Mosaic writing is no different.

You’ll know, by this point, what shape your story is taking. You’ll know your characters, you’ll know where the story needs to go, it’s just a matter of filling things out. That’s what the “grout” writing is for.

I personally invite my “inner editor” to sit with me as I read through all the fragments of scenes I’ve written and then let my editor piece them together like a puzzle (editors like things to make sense, your inner editor will love this job). You’ll notice a natural order emerges to your scenes – at this point, I rename the files to include numbers, so that the scenes are in the order you would read them in a book. It looks something like this:

MosaicBut my story is never complete at this point. Sometimes I have redundant scenes (like how I have two #6 scenes in the example). I have to pick the one that’s a better fit and throw the other out. And once I’m happy with the order, my editor goes buh-bye for a time and I have to start writing again, creating scenes and “grout” that connects these fragmented scenes in to a complete picture.

Now You Can Edit

With mosaic art, the grout doesn’t dry instantly. You often have some time to shift things around until it comes together the way you like. You have that flexibility in mosaic writing too. Keep making tweaks and adjustments until you are satisfied with your story (or nearly satisfied, if you’re someone like me who never feels like their story is complete). At this point you have a first draft that resembles what other writing styles first drafts looks like. So don’t stop there! Keep editing and making changes until your manuscript is polished.

If any this style resonated with you, give the Mosaic Writing Style a try. This method is wonderful, for the right mind. If this doesn’t seem like a fit for you, try  “Panster” or the “Plotster” methods. No two writers are alike! But you can finish a masterpiece using any of these methods.

Happy Writing!

WRITING TIP: Eat your veggies and your criticism too.

Revise, Survive, Write

When I bring dinner to the table, it’s not the chicken nuggets my eight year gets old excited about, it’s the veggies. Peas? She squeals. Carrots? She sighs. Mix those two together and I’m afraid she might faint from all the excitement. No, she’s not normal, and I love her for it. We, as writers, could learn a thing or two from her too.

Criticism of our writing is like eating veggies. It’d be great if all anyone ever gave us was the sweet stuff, but the fluffy compliments don’t help us grow. It’s the straightforward criticism that helps us change and improve. Sometimes it’s hard to swallow. Sometimes it makes us cry (that’s what my other kids do when the veggies come to the table), but we need it.

So, the next time someone dishes you up a big plate of criticism, plug your nose and take a big bite. You might learn to appreciate it – maybe even look forward to it, like my daughter does with her veggies. Then again, maybe not. But you won’t know ’til you try.

 

 

Revise: What’s your current work in progress?

Revise

So, it’s time to practice what I preach. Today my writing time is revising a silly picture book manuscript I’m getting ready to submit (I love it so, so much. Can’t wait to see it with illustrations). Enough about me…

What are you spending your writing time on today?

Share your current work in progress in the comments below. Heck, test your elevator pitch our on us! And don’t forget to link us back to your blog.

Happy writing!