Recently, I “came out” as a writer. Doesn’t sound like much of a declaration, does it? And yet, when I began writing seven years ago, no one—not friends, and certainly not family members (save one) knew that I was an aspiring writer. I kept that information to myself, certain of the sly looks or hoots of laughter that would follow my stated ambition to pursue writing. As you can imagine, telling people that I wrote romances was out of the question.
That changed this summer when in a damn-the-torpedoes-full-speed-ahead kind of way I finally came clean and began talking about my writing to family and friends. Still, I found myself hedging on the genre I wrote, somehow thinking that “Women’s Fiction with a Romantic Element,” sounded more respectable than “Romance Novel” and would side-step the inevitable (and wrong) stereotypical thoughts toward bodice ripping, bare chested, ripped-beyond-belief young men forcing the gentle young maiden to surrender. Continue reading
There’s an old idiom that feels appropriate to me this week: “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” I’m not sure who said it or why, but obviously they weren’t talking about writers. Right now, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do, and the thing is, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.
As I write this most of the eight ladies are cranking out words and sentences and scenes (100 pages worth) in order to finish off the last assignment in our first McD workshop class. A rough draft of Act I is due and for most of us, it’s the first major chunk of writing we’ve had to turn in. So for the past week and half I’ve spent every waking moment writing the remaining scenes that will finish out my Act One, and it’s starting to feel like I’m cranking out sausage. And like sausage, what I’m turning out right now is a slapdash mess of everything my fried brain can serve up and then smush together. I can’t help thinking that most of the ingredients belong in the trashcan–like the stuff that goes into ground pork. Continue reading
My McDaniel Master’s diploma came in the mail several weeks ago. When I heard it was on the way, I envisioned a hefty stock certificate with a gold leaf border & embossed seal tucked into it’s own little leatherette holder—something hefty and impressive, like my Bachelor’s degree. Since I hadn’t really celebrated this particular accomplishment in any concrete way, I was jazzed when the certificate showed up. It didn’t just herald an educational accomplishment; it represented the fulfillment of a long time dream!
The exclamation point slipped away the minute I slid the certificate from the envelope. It told the story well enough and included my name, the date, the program title, and the college seal and colors and signatures, but there was no embossing or glittery gold border. The certificate itself was flat and insubstantial. Flimsy almost. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, Justine made a great post on useful writing tools. Conflict, beats, and turning points were all mentioned, but no one mentioned receiving feedback. I think we missed the boat. Peer review may be one of the best tools a writer has at their disposal, but only if it’s managed well. What does that mean? In a nutshell it means staying off the ledge of knee-jerk reaction.
To me, the best feedback is not dressed up in pretty language, nor gushingly complimentary. I don’t particularly want to hear how great everything is, I want to know what needs improvement. So, just give it to me straight. I can take it.
Or not. Continue reading
I’ve learned the hard way that to be successful at most things in life it takes a village (to borrow a phrase). There are exceptions to the rule, of course, and I’m guessing that if we took a survey, writing would probably top the list.
Writing is a solitary profession, no doubt about it. It’s lonely work for the most part. Writers generally spend long hours pounding away on a keyboard while they periodically flog their self-esteem with thoughts of self-doubt. You have to be a little crazy (who said that?) to spend hours with only a box of microchips for company while on a quest to create the perfect make-believe world that is completely believable.
Writing with the door closed, particularly during the first draft, is a smart idea. Most of us need a sense of ease and freedom to write whatever the girls send up knowing that it doesn’t have to be perfect on the first go round. Writing in a vacuum without benefit of your own personal writing community to see you through the dark moments (of which there surely will be many), is not.
I learned this the hard way, too. Continue reading