So far in my journey I have learnt a lot of new things; like what the hell a split infinitive is. I’ve learned that editing is a lot harder than writing, that opportunity abounds when you take the time to look for it, and that taking each new step is simultaneously terrifying and rewarding.
Today I submitted my first complete MS, Love en Pointe, after receiving a request for a full from one of the lovely editors at Harlequin (hello dream publisher!!) based on my entry into a pitch contest. (If you’re looking to pitch I highly recommend reading through the entries to see how people pitch their book, and especially read the three winning pitches to see what publishers look for.)
It’s kind of how I imagine it would be to send your child off to their first day of kindergarten. You hope that you’ve done all you can to prepare, and pray that your baby isn’t harshly criticised. A small part of me wondered if I should keep the submission a secret…you know, just in case I get the dreaded R. But what the hell, I’m excited and proud of myself, so I’ll sing it from the rooftops.
Anyway, this post was just to record my progress (which is kind of why I started this blog in the first place, to document my experiences) and because I have scoffed an entire ‘reward’ magnum in about four seconds so I’m high on sugar right now.
Lately I’ve been tired…really tired.
In the few months that have passed I have travelled overseas, tried to deal with the loss of my grandfather, gotten a promotion at work, finished a draft of my MS and started editing it, and made a commitment to myself that I would give this writing thing a red hot go. This is on top of the daily grind which includes work, exercise (personal training, aerobics or yoga 5+ times per week), trying to keep my house from looking like a bomb site feeding my husband (he’s a fabulous cook but gives no regard to nutrition, hence I cook during the week) and supporting him while he goes through a rough time at work.
As I said, really tired.
When I woke up the other morning I was so tired in fact that I had the urge to cry for no other reason than I just wanted to go back to sleep. Not really healthy if I think about it rationally.
I guess all writers go through this in varied frequencies during their journey to publication and beyond. Before you’re published it’s all about balancing a job or family (or both) whilst learning and writing. Then you get published and you have the added pressures of deadlines, managing marketing and social media, networking etc.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade writing for the world. It gives me an immense amount of pleasure…but sometimes one needs to take a step back and take some time out. For me that’s taking a few days off, chilling on the couch watching Mad Men and going to bed embarrassingly early.
My relaxation of choice
I felt it important to raise this topic in the hope that other writerly folks might see it and cut themselves some slack. We’re all human and we can’t be finely tuned writing machines without the appropriate amount of down time. Giving your mind and body a break could mean that an idea that has been distorted by sleep deprivation suddenly becomes clear, or a solution to your current problem materialises itself after a good night’s sleep.
Be kind to yourself.
How do you like to unwind from writing and life?
I didn’t know the extent of my reliance on ‘bad words’ until I started the editing process. Actually, that’s not entirely true – I do a lot of presenting in my ‘day job’ and I recently realised I use the word ‘so’ instead of ‘um’ when I present. But one can be forgiven for the odd filler word here and there when talking in front of 200+ people. Those filler words are far less acceptable in the written format, however.
I’ve already completed two edits of my MS, Love en Pointe. The first was a read through immediately after I typed those famous words ‘the end’ on the last page of the Word document. I picked up a whole lot of types born out of the mania that was NaNoWriMo and fixed some clunky sentences. After I received feedback from my trust beta readers, I completed a more thorough edit by further weeding out typos and playing around the with order of a few scenes towards the beginning of the story. I also re-wrote one of the key scenes to strengthen the conflict.
At this point I thought my MS would be looking pretty good, I have another scene to write from scratch and a few character elements to tidy up. I also thought I had managed to weed out my nemesis word ‘just’ (seriously, I use it in every other sentence whether I’m writing a romance novel or an email.) Then I found this fantastic blog post from Cara Bristol about letting your computer edit out the ‘bad words’ (seriously, if you’re editing go and read that post.) Some such bad words include; just, really, totally, try, tried etc
I ran through Cara’s list and did a few ctrl+f searches, it appeared that my eyes had managed to glaze over a further 51 instances of ‘just’ even after I made a concerted effort to weed the suckers out! For shits and giggles (and because I’m a massive nerd) I typed all of the bad words into a spreadsheet and recorded how many times they came up in a ctrl+f search.
In total there were 3,578 bad words left in my MS after two edits. Three thousand, five hundred and seventy freaking eight.
… that’s rad
After I threw a small tantrum, defiantly watched crap on YouTube and pouted at my screen for longer than is healthy, I have started the long task of weeding out the bad words.
Have you ever counted up your bad words? Are there any words in particular that keep popping up when you write?
I mentioned recently that I am going through the editing process for the first time. I’m polishing my manuscript (Love en Pointe) for submission, but I’m itching to get back to ‘writing’ with the kind of abandon that only works for a first daft.
I know editing is an important part of the process. It’s what helps to make a story shine, but I must admit that hours and hours of wordsmithing sometimes does my head in…
Hence, here are 5 things to do when you should be editing but aren’t…
- Housework – I know I’m procrastinating when the urge to do some washing hits me. I can’t possibly sit down to edit with a sink full of dirty dishes or an overflowing wash basket is looking me in the eye.
- Instagram (or Pintrest, We Heart It…any site filled with pretty pictures) – visual creatures unite on these website, and they provide for hours and hours of excellent procrastination time. I’ll just look at one more page of pretty nail[polish before I start editing…
- Online Shopping – ahhh ASOS, how many times I have been spending my money instead of editing. Same goes for Etsy, Book Depository and Amazon – retail therapy is a legitimate therapeutical activity…isn’t it?
- Looking at pictures of grumpy cat – aka getting stuck in the meme hole. Also in this category are trawling through hilarious pictures of LOL Cats, Overly Attached Girlfriend / socially awkward penguin / success kid / fail memes, pictures of daschunds, funny GIFs and anything on Tumblr.
- CSI – and general TV watching which I class as ‘character research’. I have a weakness for crime shows with acronyms so CSI, NCIS, Law & Order SVU, and occasionally (if I want to play a drinking game) CSI Miami for it’s inadvertent use of humour are at the top of my list.
Honourable mentions go to: reading (a totally worthwhile activity whether you’re editing or not), doing The Age quiz on my iPad, bossing my husband around while he plays Resident Evil (I always know the right way to get away from Zombies and he just wastes all our ammo), making my second/third/fourth cup of tea, and stalking people on Facebook.
In all seriousness (just for a second and then I’ll get back to being a clown) I’m spending a lot of time editing at the moment. It’s a tough activity but one I know will be so worthwhile to my manuscript. However, when you’ve read the same sentence five times and the words have lost all meaning, you just have to tear your eyes away and do something else.
What do you do when you’re procrastinating from your work? Anything you’d like to add to the above list?
I’m currently editing my first draft of Love en Pointe and I’ve arrived at Struggle Town; population 1.
This is a whole new experience to me, finishing my first draft of Love en Pointe was exciting as I’d never completed a full-length manuscript before. Writing it was a blast and watching the word count go up and up was so motivating.
Editing…well that’s a whole other story.
I’m slowly working my way through a printed version, picking holes in my work and hunting out the myriad of spelling errors, incorrect uses of apostrophes (oh the horror) and ugly typos all created during the craziness that was NaNo. I’ll be honest…it’s not fun.
I think editing is one of those things that I’ll grow to enjoy, perhaps when I build a little confidence and stop being my own worst critic (does that ever go away?) But for now I find myself procrastinating by doing all manner of things; washing dishes, painting my nails, baking cookies, writing blog posts…
Ahh grumpy cat…another great way to waste time when you should be editing…
Anyone else in Struggle Town with their writing at the moment? Feel free to comment below and we can be grumpy together.
Something interesting happened back in November when I decided to partake in NaNoWrMo. I posted on Twitter and Facebook that I was jumping in with two feet, totally unprepared with nary a plan or plot in sight. I just started writing.
Lots of people were very encouraging and many came back with ‘oh, I’ve always wanted to write a novel’ or something similar. When I suggested signing up to NaNo I got a very common response: ‘but I don’t have anything to write about/I don’t have any ideas’. I honestly found this quite baffling, as someone whose ideas come so frequently they can actually be a distraction to my current WIP, I didn’t understand how this could be the case.
I wanted to cry out ‘but you can write about anything!! You could write about a laser-sword fighting rainbow unicorn vigilante if you want.’ (Actually that would be pretty awesome – someone should write that.)
It occurred to me that perhaps I took my creative side for granted; it’s always been there (ever since I was old enough to wield a crayon) and it spills into everything I do. But I think it goes much farther than being a naturally reliant on my right-brain. My Dad, a fellow creative soul, recently said something which resonated with me when we were visiting the National Gallery of Victoria together:
‘Looking at art really feeds the soul, doesn’t it?’
Yes. It absolutely does.
Nourishing the creative side with attention and stimulation is what will help to fuel the ideas when you are writing. It’s not just about studying the craft until your prose is worthy of an award or being disciplined enough to sit down and write each day. Those things are certainly important, but feeding the creative soul, nourishing the right-brain and giving the stories somewhere to come from is what will help you get an idea for that blank document that is staring you in the face.
Here are some of the things I find really helps get the creative juices flowing:
- Go to an art gallery or museum and wander around, something might just jump out and grab you
- Go for a walk – try to go somewhere with beautiful scenery, or just somewhere different to your usual environment. Observe and take in your surroundings
- Look at photos – sometimes I just trawl through image sites (try Flickr, We Heart It or even just Google images) to get inspiration. Sometimes even looking back through my own photos will jog a feeling, or a memory which could be turned into a story, character or scene
- Try a different medium – paint or draw, make something or get your camera out and snap some photos. Just see what comes out! You never know, there might be a story or character that’s just waiting for you to put coloured ink to paper
- Go to the library – I find that being surrounded by books always inspires me, so looking through what’s on the shelves at the library might help to get you in the mood. Same goes for bookstores, or even just surrounding yourself with books at home
- Read, read, read and read some more – I know this is common advice but it works, reading often and widely can inspire you to keep going when it seems all too hard
What do you do to get those creative juices flowing?
I think I was ‘pinning’ well before the concept of Pintrest (or even the internet, gulp) was around. As a teen I would fill scrap books with all of the clothes and makeup that inspired me, I’d add pictures of my friends and get them to add their own inspirations as well…little did I know my mother would hang on to said scrapbooks and embarrass me years later with proof that I did in-fact like puffer vests and platform runners (hell Spice Girls influence).
Irreparable emotional wounds aside, inspiration boards and Pintrest are great tools for writers! I’m a very visual person and I ‘see’ my characters rather than thinking of them in terms of words. An inspiration board is the kind of thing that I did when I was writing back in my teens. Now, I just use Pintrest.
The social and highly addictive site has grown quickly (to the tune of 48.7 million users at March 2013, according to this article) with many of those being women. I say ‘many of those’ because each site seems to claim a slightly different statistic, but in many cases it’s evident that the vast majority of users are women. This is good news for romance writers as it means your target market is right there waiting for you!
There are a lot of articles on how writers can use Pintrest to market books, increase their online presence following etc. (check out this blog post and this one) but I like to keep it basic and use it for images that inspire me. Whenever I feel like I need to ‘see’ the world my characters are living in, I spend a little time looking at my board and adding to it.
I’ve set up a board for the novella I’m working on (One Last Wish) but I have other random things that I enjoy looking at, including Disney pictures, vintage romance book covers, and word-related funnies.
I highly recommend giving Pintrest ago (set aside some time, it’s a slippery slope) whether you use it to promote your work, increase your online presence or simply stick up images you like.