Which label would you prefer to chose for yourself? Quitter or Go Getter? Most of us would probably prefer to be listed in the latter category. But quitter isn’t always negative. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first.
Quitter – this person quits writing when…
…writing is hard …he receives negative feedback …marketing is work …she doesn’t follow the guidelines and everything is rejected …life is too busy
Go Getter – this person persists in writing, but…
…she thinks feedback doesn’t apply to her …is unwilling to make changes …doesn’t keep adding to knowledge of the craft of writing …he doesn’t read material for children …may rush into submitting before ready
Neither camp is a win. But the positive side of each is.
Positive Quitters – know when…
…a short story, article, picture book, novel just isn’t working and are willing to start over or set it aside …the story they are working is not one for them to write. (E.g. cultural appropriation) …they’ve queried/submitted a story with no takers and it’s time to move on …it’s time to take a break from a project
Positive Go Getters – know…
…to take feedback and revise …to try a new genre or audience or category …to be willing to rework and revise to make a story better, again and again …to keep learning more about the craft of writing in various ways …to read material written for children, especially in areas where they write …when it’s time to submit or resubmit and will do so appropriately …not to give up too easily
Being positive quitters and positive go getters will help writers continue forward on their paths.
Except for writing quotes, this blog has been on hold the last two and a half months. Getting a manufactured home set up—which entails much more than I ever knew—moving out of two storage units, and an apartment, and moving into the house has taken so much time and energy. And there’s still more to do.
I likened our unpacking boxes of items that have been in storage for twenty months to Christmas. Oh, there’s that wonderful ______. Aww, I’d forgotten about ______. Yea, I have my _____ back. Other times I was reminded of a garage sale. Why’d I pack that? Or, some of it’s great stuff, but I don’t have a place for it. The result has been a lot of culling.
Which is similar to revising a piece I haven’t looked at in a while. Wow, did I write that? It’s good. Oh, yeah, I remember this part—it works. Why did I think this was important? Nice, but doesn’t fit here. Cut, cut, cut. Reorganize, rethink, rewrite.
One recent task was sorting boxes of papers from over 20 years ago. Notes and cards from friends and family, newspaper clippings, documents from and to my children in their teen years, travel itineraries, play programs, photographs, etc. What I didn’t expect was how much emotion these would create.
Some brought up sweet memories.
Others made me laugh or smile.
Some brought pain as the dear person is now gone from this life.
I was puzzled when I couldn’t remember a person in a note or photograph. Who was this person? I wasn’t even sure of context. From church? A husband’s coworker? A class? A fellow writer?
Others made me think fondly of those I’ve lost contact with.
Some I shared with those involved. Which was quite fun, by the way.
However, I didn’t expect to be exhausted during and afterward.
Writing can be mentally as well as emotionally exhausting as well. I’m reminded of my critique partner and a scene she recently glossed over—”I just wanted to get it over with,” she said when we all needed more. It was going to take further energy and emotion to get the scene right. But, when she took the time to dive deeper, the chapter was so much stronger. R.R. Martin said, “Fiction is about emotional resonance, about making us feel things on a primal and visceral level.” If we’re not feeling anything but impatience when we write, will our readers also be impatient?
I could moan about how much time I’ve lost during this physical move. Or I can move on. I’m choosing the latter. By September I plan to be back into a regular writing routine, but I’m starting now with this blog. I love this quote from Eric Maisel in Fearless Creating: “What are any of us to do? Abandon the work or complete it, learn from the experience, cry, forgive ourselves, and move on…Now dry your eyes. There’s work to be done.”
In response to questions on KIDLIT411 (a Facebook group), I offered a free Zoom meeting today. About nine or ten writers participated and we spent about an hour together.
Getting ready for it–using a list of questions some had–I realized I’d done a live talk on a similar topic for SCBWI Oregon back in 2019. So, I took the PowerPoint from that, did some rearranging, and had a presentation.
My plan had been to record the Zoom meeting. I was almost done talking when I realized, I’d never pushed start record. Arghh. Next time I need a sign that says START RECORD right in front of me!
Since I can’t share the recording as planned, my husband reminded me I could convert the PPT presentation as a pdf. Wise man. Except it was too huge. He suggested we try google slides–it cut off some of my text. So, instead I chose outline view in PPT and copied the text of my slides and answered some extra questions I was asked:
ORGANIZING RESEARCH PROCESS
Keep track of those you are interested in!
You can do…
A Word document
A Word table
An Excel spreadsheet
Each tab a different agent (editor) and paste all your info including links
A pen and paper notebook
What info you may want to keep
Email or link to submission form
usually forms are through agency—sometimes query manager
Personal blog link
Where you found them…
What they want to see, such as …
Query or cover letter
Full manuscript, first ten pages, first 50 pages, first chapter
Synopsis – one page, brief, or …
How they want it sent – email (attached or not–usually pasted in) or form (with link)
Someone else mentioned Jessica Faust and James McGowan at Book Ends Literary
How much time do you spend writing versus doing writing business?
It depends on what’s going on in my world. I don’t know how to quantify it either. When I’m burnt out on writing, I might go catch up reading newsletters, research agents, submitting. It varies week to week. I also do the latter when the in box gets too full! 😉
Is there a list of good agents versus bad? No. It’s too subjective.
What about Query Tracker? I’ve not used it. Developed my process before it existed.
I hope this is helpful to those who couldn’t attend.
With stay-at-home/shelter-in-place orders and the wisdom of
social distancing, many of us are feeling isolated. I’m finding myself on
Facebook more than usual just for socializing. What I’m personally not
missing is my weekly critique group.
About four weeks ago we decided to try virtual meetings
because I had moved away. Our first meeting, the others met up at a house and we
Skyped with them all sitting around one
computer. I was the only remote person. The next week we decided to try Zoom with each in one at home. It worked great and
we’ve been using it ever since and have even added two others to our group. It’s
great seeing everyone’s faces at once. We just have to be careful not to talk
over each other. (I’m
paying for Zoom since free is limited to 40 minutes at a time. It’s well-worth
the $16 something a month. Zoom lets me set up a recurring meeting which means
the meeting starts automatically. Another member also signed up as a backup
We are submitting our manuscripts on Monday and we “meet” on
Thursday. After we share our comments on a manuscript, members return the
notated copy to the author. Some of us do so via email as we’re using Word’s
commenting. Others prefer making handwritten notes on a printed copy and
mailing. It’s working well. And no one is having to drive anywhere.
Most of us had participated in Zoom meetings (or webinars) which made us aware of the program/app. But there are other similar options. Here’s what I’ve discovered:
Whereby: the free option
allows up to four people to meet at one time. For $9.99/month (probably plus
tax), you can have up to 12 participants.
GoToMeeting: You can test it free for 14 days. Plans start at $12/month.
Also has a free trial—theirs is 30 days. Plans start at $9.95/month.
Google has a G Suite Hangouts Meet: I found it difficult
to find pricing and stopped looking.
JoinMe: There’s a free
trial. For 5 participants it is $13/month. Prices go up from there. Appears
that scheduling is only an option for a higher fee.
Yesterday, a student who deals with depression and anxiety
and, like all of us, now this pandemic, said that looking at the instruction
manual felt overwhelming. Yet still she had sent in her assignment. In my
letter back to her, I commended her for her accomplishment and then gave her some
writing “work” advice.
Writing it made me aware of my own creativity. Or should I
say lack thereof. I’m finding it much
easier to do a student lesson, critique someone else’s picture book or novel,
than to actually create myself. It’s easy to jump on the news, Facebook (for
socializing), etc. I need to take my own advice.
We all have upheaval in our lives right now with social
distancing and worrying about the coronavirus. Some of you have children home
full time now. You and/or your spouse may be working from home which is another
adjustment. Or someone in the family has been laid off. It’s stressful. Perhaps
these suggestions for making writing “work” easier will be helpful to you, too.
First, pick one task
Get that one done today and stop. Don’t worry about other writing
things that need to be done. However, if doing one tasks leads you to wanting
to do more, feel free. Just don’t agonize over those days when you can only do
But how do you know what task to do?
Set yourself a writing work schedule
1. Start by making a list of all the things you want to get done: – read recent children’s books – brainstorm ideas – research for one idea – work on first draft – revise a short story, article, picture book, or chapter – do market research – listen to a podcast on ____ topic – read blog posts on _____ – analyze feedback from others on my work – write a cover/query letter for _____ – submit manuscript _____
Be as specific as possible.
See more sample task ideas at the bottom of this article
and in the chart.
2. Commit to a time period whether it is a half hour or an
hour or two. Pick three to five days a week.
3. Next, if you can, prioritize you list in order of most important.
If none stand out, that’s okay too.
4. Then take your “to-do” list and plot them on a calendar OR
during each scheduled time just pick one off of your list.
5. Add and cross-off items on your “want to get done” list.
Word by word, project by project, if you spend a little
bit of time, you will make progress. Celebrate those accomplishments no
matter how small.
Here’s a chart suggestion for recording what you’ve done so you can look back on it and be encouraged:
Second, remember you are not alone
We are all affected. Interacting digitally with others can help us not feel so isolated. My critique group is using Zoom to meet weekly. Don’t have a critique group? Offer to exchange critiques via email with other writers. (You can find them through SCBWI.org, on the Blueboard, through Facebook and Google groups, etc.) Talk to others in these groups. Comment on blog posts or podcasts that you found helpful. Share those links with others you know. And/or share on Twitter.
Third, encourage yourself
I’m finding myself doing a lot of what I call “comfort”
reading—that’s rereading books that I know I’ll enjoy. Recently, it’s been the Harry
Potter books. I’ve also connected with some old friends whom I haven’t talked
to in years. I’m getting outside in the fresh air. What makes you happy? It’s necessary
to take a break from all the bad news and uncertainty.
Read recent children’s books. Whatever fits what you want to write.
A novel. A handful of picture books. Chapter books. What did you learn?
Research one magazine market. Read about the magazine
in the market book, go to the magazine’s website, read guidelines and editorial
calendars, and sample copies if available. Take notes, if you like. I often
write directly in my copy of a market book.
Search #MSWL on Twitter. Agents and editors give updates using