Be Gentle to Yourself on New Year’s

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Ah, January 1. A fresh start no matter how you look at it. Even if you aren’t ambitiously making goals, it is still the first day of a brand new year, and there’s something to a brand new year.

If you are making goals, check out my last New Year’s post on how to take time for successful goal-setting.

But if you aren’t…read on.

Has life handed you challenges over the past few years? Is the thought of adding goals to your already-full plate enough to make you crawl back into bed?

Sometimes goals are overrated.

Yep. I said it.

Oh, I think they are important. To progress in life, we must aim for something. However, one thing we overlook is that word: progress.

Life happens. Illness happens. Job change happens.

When those things happen, our goals end up on the backburner, and we often say forget it. I can’t do it now. I don’t have enough time. I might as well just quit on it and try again next year. And then we quit. And we don’t progress.

Why don’t we cut ourselves slack and revisit and revise our goals instead of quitting on them–and on ourselves?

Last year, I wrote about my own need to revise my goals. I wasn’t sure how or when I would manage to revise my submitted manuscript, but I knew I would do it.

Then life happened.

I had an opportunity to shift from teaching English to Spanish, and, as something that has been in the back of my head since I began teaching (my Spanish texts have always sat alongside my English texts on my classroom bookshelves), I jumped.

People thought I was crazy. I have 13 years in as an English teacher. Why change now?

Why not?

It was one of the most freeing things I’ve done. Just making that choice, knowing that I could do it, created an epiphany for me: If you don’t grab those opportunities when they arise, will you ever see them again? (Cue Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”)

I also knew making that choice would impact my revisions. The paying job has to come first. Instead of giving up, I revised my goals. AGAIN.

As the first semester came to a close, out came my manuscript. I was so stoked to be back at it that I worked at it every single day. Looking back, the wait was good for me–and for the manuscript. Fresh eyes and a revived passion made a world of difference, and I’ve already made the first round of revisions.

Heading into the new year, I’ll begin the more arduous round of revising, but still with the same fresh eyes and revived passion. My new goal is to have it ready for submission by the end of May.

So don’t quit–on those goals, those dreams, or yourself. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing right now. Keep progressing, for that’s what we should really measure ourselves by.

Happy New Year!

 

Please share your journey with me! I love to hear from other writers. Not a writer? You should still sign up for my email list! There will be special freebies along the way, like snippets of The Devil Inside Me, backstory on characters, and explorations of the serial killing mind.

I’m back!

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I planned to take a nice little sabbatical from social media and blogging over the summer to do a massive edit/re-write on The Devil Inside Me. Life, however, presented me with a wonderful opportunity: to teach Spanish instead of English. I love languages and their connections and differences, and a tiny voice has been in the back of my head for YEARS telling me to take this leap. Even better: it’s at the school I was teaching at anyway, which makes for a seamless transition with peers and administration.

Needless to say, I spent my summer prepping for Spanish I, II, III, and IV. I’m a department of one.

With the first semester finishing this week, the feeling that I’m subbing for someone else has subsided and my students are doing well. Time to get back to writing and blogging!

At first I was annoyed about putting my manuscript on the backburner, despite the advice of letting it sit and stew–but there’s a reason that’s repeated advice: it makes a huge difference. Finally, I was able to re-read it with fresh eyes and an equally fresh perspective, open to changes and suggestions from agents. Most importantly: I finished one round of massive editing. Winter break will herald the start of equally massive revisions.

I’ve got some short stories in the works, I’ve refreshed the website, and via the blog I’ll be sharing good things I discover along this new part of my path toward publication. Please share your journey with me as well! I love to hear from other writers. Don’t forget to sign up for my email list! There will be special freebies along the way, like snippets of The Devil Inside Me, backstory on characters, and helpful guides on writing!

Why You Should Attend a Writing Conference–part two

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Last week, after my experience at the Writing Workshop of Chicago, I gave you three reasons for attending a writing conference. Today, I’ll give you three more!

4. Confirmation that you’re moving in the right direction

I think for most writers, certainly for me, the doubts creep in continuously. Am I good enough? Is anyone going to like this? What the hell was I thinking? Last year, I participated in PitMad on Twitter and had someone tell me they thought my idea had promise and was marketable. That was enough to propel me to continue. At the Writing Workshop of Chicago, I was able to pitch my concept in person to small press publisher, Emily Clark Victorson of Allium Press. She too said that it was intriguing and asked for my first three chapters. Hearing this not once, but twice, made me feel like I was on the right track. I had a good, marketable idea. The next question would be could I write the story? Remember, I’m an English teacher. I had better have a good command of the English language, grammar, and punctuation–but these things do not a story make.

Last fall, after my PitMad experience, I participated in a writing bootcamp for my first ten pages. The agent and writer I worked with, Paula Munier, showed me that my manuscript was far from perfect, but she did tell me what my strengths were as well as where I’d need to improve. At the Chicago workshop, I submitted my revised ten pages to Lori Rader-Day, author of four mysteries (including Little Pretty Things, which I loved!). My hard work at revisions paid off, as she was very complimentary–but rest assured, I still have a page of revisions to tackle based on her comments.

Aside from the huge boost in my ego and confidence, these experiences confirmed that yes, I could write the story. I could also take revisions and make improvements. Every day that the doubts creep in, I can come back to this and remember that no, it’s not all a pointless waste of time. I’m headed in the right direction–and that provides the impetus for me to continue pursuing this path to publication.

5. Suggestions that you may have never thought of

Chatting with other writers gave us all the opportunity to share our works-in-progress. That resulted in lots of questions–some of which we could answer; some, not so much. Those unanswered questions revealed plot holes, character development needs, and, for some, world-building issues.

Both Paula Munier and Emily Clark Victorson asked if I’d considered making my protagonist a female. You know what they say–if more than one person makes a suggestion, there may be something to it. So I asked Ms. Rader-Day her thoughts, and she asked me it would improve the plot, the conflict, if I changed the gender. In other words, would it make more sense?

Now THAT gave me pause because…well, the answer was yes. Most of H.H. Holmes’ victims were female. Wouldn’t it create more tension to have a female bring down his illustrious descendant?

6. Did I mention networking?

Last week I pointed out that the writers, agents, editors, and publishers you meet may not necessarily become your mentor, agent, editor, or publisher, but you never know who may be the one to open that door for you. And while this was just a one-day workshop, I feel as though I left with the start of some excellent connections. I am already a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, and both of these groups were represented at the conference. Ms. Rader-Day encouraged me to come to the fall meetings to get to know others, and Ms. Victorson suggested the same–commenting that they are some of the nicest people around. (Ironic, isn’t it, that the nice people are the ones killing off characters?) If you’ve been researching this industry as I did for some time before I took the plunge, I’m sure you’ve noticed the theme that surrounds getting published: it’s about getting your name out there and making connections. If that scares you to near-death, that’s ok. Find a class, or a one-day workshop, near you. Join a group and hang around on the edges until you’re more comfortable–I’m a complete stalker of the Mystery Writers of America’s social media, but I rarely comment. I’m still too in awe of the company! The point is–get out there and do something. Get outside of your comfort zone. The only way you know is if you try.

 

Sign up for my mailing list HERE to receive a snippet of my current project: The Devil Inside Me. I’d love to hear your comments!

 

 

Chicago Writing Workshop

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It’s not too late! There are still open spots for you to sign up and attend the Chicago Writing Workshop that’s happening on Saturday, June 23. If you’re looking for a conference that won’t break the bank (especially if you’re near Chi-town and don’t need a hotel), check this one out. Likewise, if the thought of spending two or more days with a bunch of strangers is terrifying, this is a one-day 9-5 workshop. You can do lunch all by yourself if you so desire.

Bonus: It’s held at the architecturally beautiful Congress Plaza hotel, which also happens to feature prominently (read: murder scene!) in my novel, The Devil Inside Me.

Registration is just $169. I thought that a fair price for what’s offered. Literary agents, editors, and authors deliver most of the workshop sessions. And for each of the five breakout blocks, there are three sessions to choose from. Some are applicable to everyone, such as “Pursuing a Small Press Publisher,” and some are geared to specific genres: “How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal,” “How to Write and Pitch Awesome Science Fiction and Fantasy,” “How to Get Your Young Adult and Middle Grade Novels Published,” “Tell Me True: Tips on Writing Memoir and Essay.”

I’m particularly looking forward to the “Query Letter Comprehensive” session since that is the next step on my list after these edits that seemingly never end.

For reasonable add-on fees, you can also pitch agents and editors of all genres ($29 per). Several are sold out of time slots, but to give you an idea of the caliber we’re talking about, here’s just a few on the list: Emily Clark Victorson, Marcy Posner, Tracy Brennan, Abby Saul…

Sound like a decent deal? I thought so. I’ll let you know how it went afterward–and if you’re attending, I’d love to meet!

The Journey Begins

As my grandma used to say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so, since I’m certain no one has experienced death-by-blogging, here goes.

Like many of you, I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can recall. When I was a child, my punishment was to go in my room to think upon my misdeeds. I loved my punishment–because it meant I could read! I’d lie down on my floor turning pages until my mom came in with her have-you-thought-about-what-you’ve-done look.

A love of reading is often a companion to writing. Story ideas have always popped up in my head, even in grade school, when a ballerina-turned-astronaut who gave dance recitals for space aliens was a concept I thought would be fascinating (I had a lot of career ideas tumbling in my third-grade head). I was applying the concept of asking “what if” before I even knew it was a thing. (Ever wonder where authors get their ideas? Here’s what Stephen King had to say about it.)

My problem was I never went much beyond the initial ideas in my head. Sometimes I would start writing, but I most certainly never finished. Finally, many years removed from those dancing space explorers, I had what I thought was a compelling-enough idea to sit down and write.  And write I did–60,000 words’ worth, until I finally admitted I didn’t know where it was headed. I couldn’t believe that I was going to do what I had scoffed at others for doing: I was shelving that novel. (AvaJae, author of the young adult series Beyond the Red, discusses this very concept on her writability blog.) It wasn’t me. It wasn’t right. 

But it wasn’t a waste.

I learned so much from that writing experience, and that is just part of what I intend to share here with you, dear readers. Along with dishing about my quest for publication (and all the wicked and wonderful rejections), my goal is two-fold: to provide something for both avid readers and aspiring writers.

Readers, I can’t wait to share with you the backstory and sneak-peeks of my current project: The Devil Inside Me. I would be thrilled and honored to have you all along for this ride. If you are a lover of mysteries and crime novels, if you are a lover of fiction that has some historical basis or connection, then subscribe today to have my blog posts delivered to your inbox! 

For writers, I hope to give you some of the inspiration and encouragement we can all use along this path, especially if you, like me, are an as-of-yet unpublished writer who has a hard time saying you’re a writer. Give yourself permission. My first piece of advice I want to share comes from writing/editing/publishing guru Jane Friedman’s blog post “What It Means to Be a Writer–and to Emerge as a Writer.” She says, “I like to define writer as someone who writes, not someone who is published for their writing per se. Let me qualify that a little: A writer is someone who writes regularly and consistently, someone who engages in the process. If you give yourself to that process, if you do the work, if you write regularly and consistently, then you are not emerging as a writer—you are already engaged, you are already a practicing writer.”  Brilliance.

So, welcome. I’d love to have you along for the ride, this journey of reading and writing and publication.

Follow my blog online, or sign up for my email list to get free snippets of my current novel, backstory on characters and setting, and writing guides!

Please comment and introduce yourselves! Are you a reader? What are your favorite genres and authors? What do you love in a book?

Are you a writer? What have your personal experiences been with writing and publishing? What struggles have you experienced along the way?