Writers crave feedback. We put massive emphasis on a qualified professional commenting on our words. We insist if only the feedback fairy blessed us, we’d be mere weeks away from a sale-a-month. The truth?

Sometimes feedback sucks. Sometimes it doesn’t do a damn thing except leave us worse off than before.

I’m not talking about feedback that’s hard to take because it’s brutally honest. I’m talking about fluff feedback. The kind that is given simply for the sake of something being given. And no, I’m not ungrateful for the feedback I’ve received. I’m simply saying in some scenarios what I received was worse than a form rejection, because it made me stare at the words, reading between the lines, looking for some editorial code to crack when there wasn’t one.

If not for the sane side of my brain (aka Nicole’s voice of reason), I’d still be staring. Instead, I’ve moved on.

The funny thing about feedback is sometimes it’s best forgotten.

E

Yep, that’s right. I got a real job. No, don’t snicker. This time I really did get a real job, full time, forty hours a week, as the manager of the little sewing store where I’ve been working part time, six to ten hours a week, off and on since March.

I started last week, so I haven’t touched my manuscript. Well, I did touch it. I put it in a tote bag to take to my out-of-town training last Thursday and Friday. The thought was that I would work on it when I was alone in the hotel…hahahahahaha…

So I haven’t actually touched my manuscript, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be touching it this week either. I’m working from 10:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. I have an employee drug test to do on my way to work this morning, some errands to run before I go to work tomorrow morning, because on Wednesday, I’ll fly out of LAX to Phoenix for some more training, and I won’t be back until late on Friday evening. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I won’t be doing any writing this week either.

But, I have a plan. I’m a morning person. I plan on getting up with my Hunky Hubby each morning at 5:30 a.m., making dinner in the crockpot, or putting it in the fridge ready for when I get home in the evening, and doing some chores. I’ll get to the mall at 8:00 or 8:30 in the morning, go to the Starbuck’s and write for an hour or two before work.

Then, I plan on eating the low Points Plus lunch that I packed myself in the morning and walking the mall for at least twenty minutes during my lunch break. No, I won’t be distracted by the shopping and stores…or See’s Chocolates.
Hey, stop that! I’m still here. I can hear you laughing!

Alright, it might be a little ambitious, but at least I have a plan right?
So any tips for juggling work, family, chores and still finding time for your dream? Any great slow cooker or make ahead recipes you’d like to share? I could use the help!

Tari

My writing friends keep me sane. (Or they keep me comfortable with my sanity, which might be the bigger help.) There are moments in this business when I look at my reflection and I think why the heck am I doing this? The payoff is not guaranteed. In fact, it can be downright intangible. And I get satisfaction from the voices in my head only for so long. That’s when a writer friend steps in and feeds my soul with an irreverent conversation that doubles as a brainstorming session, or an email that demands I pick up my weepy-ass self and get on with writing. But the boost can come from nothing more than seeing their names in my email address book or list of Twitter followers. The point is, I know they’re there, waiting to commiserate with me about life with one foot planted in reality and the other locked in imagination.

If you’re a writer, you know that life isn’t always easy.

The other day, Tari wrote about her fulfilling experience as a member of OCCRWA. And I’m here to tell you that even if there isn’t a group as wonderful as Tari’s group near you, you can still connect with people who will keep you writing…and keep you sane. We all have stories to share, and I’m not talking about the fictional kind. I’m talking about ups and downs, highs and lows of being a writer who hopes and prays for publication.

Today, I hope you’ll share a bit of your journey with someone, somewhere. Who knows? Your words may be just what another writer needs to hear to keep going.

Elley

Writing vs. Sleeping?

October 19, 2012

I’m a mother to two small children. If you’ve been there, you know the number one obsession during this time is sleep. When can I get it? How much? How deep? (Starting to sound dirty, but really, I’m just desperate for a little consecutive shut eye).

I’ve always been a night owl and a light sleeper. I was never into taking naps. I was not one of those people proclaiming to love sleep. I didn’t think much about it really.

The biggest argument in my brain these days though centers around sleep. How much do I need and how much does that take away from writing time. If both kids nap at the same time (praise be to the children overlords), do I get some much needed quiet writing time in, or do I give in to my exhausted brain and body and take a nap too?

Each day is a different answer because each day has different challenges. I want more writing time, but I also want to not break down because I simply can’t function anymore. And, next year (or the year after), when (if) both kids are on a normal sleeping pattern, I’m sure something else will crawl into the space of sleep, challenging my writing time for dominance.

What is your challenge? The number one thing that invades your writing time? How do you deal with it?

Nicole

The Power of Progress

October 18, 2012

When I first started writing, I joined email lists and online communities for information and support. I read blogs and books on craft. I signed up for and participated in workshops. Lots of the knowledge I gained caused me to panic. Find your voice. Know the market. Write the book of your heart. Kill your darlings. The advice was daunting, because frankly I wasn’t sure what any of it meant.

I sort of expected to be a pain free, slush pile success story. I knew most writers wrote for years before they sold, but I dreamed of being among the one percent (I’m not even sure that’s an accurate percent for this. Wait, I’m sure it’s not. I made it up, encouraged by all the political speak around this time of year.) who sold their first manuscript on the first try. Of course, that didn’t happen for me. Although my first manuscript on my first try did get a partial request from an agent I respect. Looking back, I can see how lucky I was to have that. And then looking back on all of it—the almost three years I’ve been writing with the goal of publication—I realize I’ve come a long way. My writing has come a long way. And that didn’t happen in a vacuum.

Those email lists, message boards, blogs, books and workshops that confused the hell out of me early on, festered in my mind. The more I wrote, the more bits and pieces of information would switch on little light bulbs in my head. Oh! So that’s what they were talking about. The more I shared my work with trusted, qualified individuals (not my best friend who is a straight shooter and a voracious romance reader, but my critique partner, editors and agents who took the time to give me feedback), the more the light bulbs flashed. When one editor wrote that she liked my voice, I spent weeks thinking, I have a voice? I have a voice. Finally!

What I’m trying to say is despite the confusion and second-guessing, I kept writing, even when I didn’t make sense, and I’ve made progress. While I’m still searching for that sale, every day wanting it more than the day before, the progress I’ve made gives me hope. Remind me of that when I hit another rough patch.

Elley

A Weekend of Romance

October 15, 2012

I was having lunch with a group of friends this weekend, and the conversation to the right was about the best way to kill off a cheating husband…and possibly his accomplice. The conversation to the left was enough to make me blush like a schoolgirl, and at my table we were just plain giddy with childlike excitement. This weekend was the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America’s 31st Birthday Celebration. The group of ladies who put this event together did an amazing job, and I’m so glad to be a part of this incredible group.

The meeting was amazing with three outstanding speakers, lunch, drawings for prizes every writer would covet, followed by pajama parties that were mini workshops, and social events. I know I usually tell you about the speakers, and you deserve to hear about them, but I really want to tell you about the friendships and connections that I’ve made in the last year and a half at OCC RWA. This group of writers has an amazing membership that includes brand new writers just exploring the possibility of writing a book, aspiring writers who have a finished manuscript or more that they are editing or shopping, newly published writers who have finally “gotten the call” that we all hope to get, some very successful self-published writers, NYTimes and USA Today bestselling authors (many of them), and award winning authors. These women… and men, support each other by sharing their knowledge, reading each other’s work, offering advice, sharing their connections, motivating, inspiring and cheering each other on.

I’ll admit that sometimes I’m nervous in this group. I feel like a fraud, like somebody who doesn’t really belong there, but somehow found the golden ticket. After all, I’ve never published fiction, this is my first complete full-length manuscript. My published work is little newspaper and magazine articles, eight hundred to three thousand words, where I don’t make-up the story, I just tell it. Now I’m writing with the big girls, and I’m trying to pull up my big girl panties, but sometimes I’m so busy looking up at the other girls, that I can’t reach down to get them…hmmm, somehow that sounded better in my head.

The point is… and I’m going to sound a little fan girl here, but that’s okay because I am… every month I sit with successful authors, I’ve had them graciously read chapters of my book, help with my synopsis, pump me up to pitch editors or agents. And, when I leave the meeting, they stay in touch on Facebook or on the OCC loops, and in personal e-mails. To think that this is not a dream, that I am actually ALLOWED to be part of this very special group is amazing. I am so honored to share this journey with so many amazing women.

Anyway, thank you to author Charlotte Carter, who first told me I needed to join this group nearly twenty years ago, to Jann Audiss who made me feel so welcome from the very beginning, to author Louisa Bacio for including me in things, and always being willing to help, to authors Tessa Dare, Kara Lennox, and Deanna Cameron who have all helped to improve my writing, to new authors Laura Drake and Beth Yarnall, who have taken time from their own work to share what they’ve learned. Thank you to Joyce, Erin, Sara, new author Nikki Prince, Elena, okay, I’m not going to list everyone’s name here, but I hope you all know how much I love you, and that I’m so glad to have such amazing friends to share this journey with!

And thank you Hunky Hubby, who is not yet an OCC RWA member, and doesn’t write, but I think he wants to join just so he can hang out with these amazing ladies every month…but thank you for making me join, driving me 45 miles to the meeting every month, and reading every word that I write.

Wow, you’d think I just won a RITA award, and all I did was go to a meeting! Maybe I’ll save this just in case.

Who supports you in your writing? Who do you turn to for honest feedback? Who inspires you, motivates you? Who shares your writing journey? Hopefully Elley, Nicole and I are part of that group. You’re part of ours!

Tari

Writing Is a Rush

October 11, 2012

When my husband walked into the dining room yesterday, he saw me pale-faced, sitting at the laptop. The ensuing conversation went something like this:

“Are you okay?”

I glanced at him. “Yeah.”

“Then why do you look sick?”

“I’m about to submit.”

“Submit to what, torture?

I rolled my eyes. “No. Submit a manuscript.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?”

Of course it’s a good thing! But even good things induce panic. People get “cold feet” before weddings and still live happily ever after. Why can’t I shake, cry, lose my lunch and still make a sale?

What really surprises me is that despite the worry and stress that goes along with submitting (for me anyway) there’s a lot of positive emotions mixed in.

Satisfaction

Pride

Contentment

Hope

Excitement

Joy

Oh, I know as the days go by with me waiting to hear about my submissions these positive emotions will be overshadowed by anxiousness. And once I hear about the submissions these positive emotions may be obliterated by the sadness and doubt of rejection. But where else can I run such a gamut of feelings without being labeled unstable? Writing is such a rush!

Wherever you are on the emotional writing scale, I hope you’re making progress toward your goals and dreams.

Elley

Purging My Soul

October 8, 2012

The weather has finally cooled here along the southern California coast. The last few weeks have been very warm, but it started feeling a little more like autumn this weekend. We did a little fall decorating, the mantle is covered with autumn leaves, hurricane lamps filled with orange and amber candles, mini pumpkins and pine cones scattered all about.

Decorating made me feel very reflective. This last year, okay last two years have been very challenging. Last year I said I was ready for a fresh new year, but this year…I’m a little more cautious.

…and yet, I see so many possibilities, so much good in the future.

So I wrote. No I wasn’t working on my manuscript this weekend. I just wrote. Journal pages really, but no journal, I just wrote on loose leaf paper…pouring out my feelings, spilling my hurt, my stress, my hope and even my love all over the pages with blue ink from my stash of ten-cent blue pens, and lots of tears. It felt so good. I’m not a regular “journaler.” I never have been. Although there are times when I write regularly, most of the time I find a moment where I just need to write, to work through my feelings, to get on with things. It’s cathartic.

When I was younger I wrote poetry, but now sometimes I write personal essays, sometimes I write journal type pages, sometimes I write letters to myself…or someone else, though they aren’t meant to be sent…and sometimes I write confessions, trying to find absolution for my sins. I file the pages away, occasionally share them, and once burned them when I was done.

When I go back and look at those that haven’t been burned I can often go back to the time when I wrote them, feel the old feelings, not always difficult feelings, happy feelings about meeting my Hunky Hubby, being a new mother, buying our first home. Hopeful feelings as our boys have taken their first steps, started school, graduated, met lovely young women.

Many people assume because I’m a writer I keep a regular journal, and sometimes I wish I did, but this works for me. Writing when I need to, the way I need to…it just works.

I’d love to know how many of you keep a journal? Do any of you write, spilling your feelings the way I do…random pages, random styles? Maybe you find other ways to purge your soul. I’d love to know please share…

Tari

How Far Would You Go?

October 3, 2012

Yesterday, in the name of craft, I ogled pictures of Adam Levine and watched 40+ minutes of YouTube how-to videos related to reupholstering furniture. More ogling is in my future, as is reupholstering a chair on my own. How else am I supposed to get to know my hero well enough to write from his point of view?

This got me thinking about other things I’ve done in the name of craft, none of which were particularly taxing or pushed me outside my comfort zone. I learned to elegantly drink Jameson whiskey…neat, because a character did so. I sat in the dugout of a dark and empty Major League Baseball stadium on a cold November night just to describe the setting with all five senses. My husband and I… Yeah, that might be TMI. Suffice it to say there were no hardships there. *ahem*

All of that got me thinking about what I would do in the name of craft, things like visiting faraway places and shadowing experts in relative fields. But there are a few things I’d never do. Jumping out of a plane comes to mind. (I’d rewrite the story to lose the skydiving if I couldn’t get the details right from the safety of my couch.) Eating bugs. Bungee jumping. Camping. *shudders*

How about you? What have you done in order to get to know your characters or story better? What would you do? What would you never do?

E

I’m just about there. Although I’ve finished my first draft, I haven’t typed the words “The End,” because I haven’t finished editing. I’m doing the final edits on my first book this week. It’s going off into the world, and I will put it out of my mind, while I start book number two. Okay, I can’t put it out of my mind. I’ll wait hopefully. I’ll worry and fret, almost as I do over my children that have spread their wings and gone out into the world, but I will try not to focus too much on where it is, or what it’s doing, as I start book number two.

I’ve learned so much while writing book number one. I’ve had great mentors. I’ve done workshops and classes. I’ve had epiphanies that have changed my work. I’m not the same writer that I was when I started book number one.

So, what will happen when I begin book two. How will my process change? I’m excited to find out.

Oh, I’m not ready to become a plotter. I love letting the characters tell the story themselves. I love sitting down each day to find out what will happen, just as I do when I read a book. I love hearing their voices in my head as my pen flies across the page, spilling the story in blue ink onto the wide-ruled pages of a spiral notebook. (You should know by now that I’m set in my ways…and yet…) I think I understand storytelling better now. I understand conflict. I see my characters differently. My POV is less scattered. And although I’m not a plotter, there’s more organization to my process.

After years of writing short, succinct, to the point as a non-fiction writer, I’ve learned how important each word is, but now, I’m not afraid to tell the whole story or to explore other stories within the book. I no longer withhold the subplots or other important characters.

How will book number two begin? Although I’ve been focusing on book one, book two has been swirling around in my brain, the characters voices whispering in my ear. I’m ready to find out.

If you’ve already written book one and are on to book two, three…or more, I’d love to know if you think your process has changed? If you have changed as a writer? If so, how? What made the differences? Who influenced you?

If you are working on book one right now, what have you learned that will change the way you write in book two? Do you have mentors that are influencing your writing?

Share your experiences please! I’m off to put the final touches on book one. I’ll be back though. I promise.

And they lived happily ever after…until she started book two.

Tari