Tags: obstacles

The Emotional Stages of Revision

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: October 20, 2015
Comments: No Comments

As I’m revising my middle grade novel, I feel distracted. I feel alone. I feel like no one has ever felt this lousy and distracted and unproductive while revising a novel ever before in the history of literature.

So what do I do? I google my problem. I type in “revising a novel sucks.” I think I want to tell someone (the google search box?) how much it sucks. And I think maybe someone has blogged about it and I can read it so I won’t feel so alone. (Also, this googling mean I’m not working on revising my novel for the moment, which is good cause REVISING SUCKS.)

Anyway, I found this: The Ten Emotional Stages of Revising a Novel, by Farrah Penn on Bustle.com.

I have been in all of these stages! Resentment. Second guessing. Fear. Distraction. Maybe not always in this order but I have BEEN IN ALL OF THEM!

And I’ve come out on the other side before. So maybe I will again.

And maybe if you’re stuck in one of these stages, you will too.

Feel free to tell me all about. Turns out we are not alone…

Elizabeth Rusch

How to Deal with a Huge Pile of Comments

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: August 20, 2015
Comments: No Comments

Have you ever felt buried under a pile of manuscripts comments? My two critique groups generously agreed to read my whole middle-grade novel April Fool. So I had 10 copies printed and mailed them off.

All 10 members read them, poured their hearts, souls and intellects into reading and commenting. And now I face this:

Pile of April Fool manuscripts

(Wow, it looks so much more intimidating on my desk…believe me, its a huge pile.)

When I met with the two groups, the members gave me oral comments and I took notes furiously. But I don’t want to miss anything they may have written in addition, so I have to go through this huge pile. Did I mention that it is huge.?Or at least feels huge…

So how do I take a pile of marked up manuscripts and turn it into a plan? I start by pulling the first manuscript off the pile. I begin to read the comments. In Word I start two files: One is a list of notes on comments that I know I want to address. These comments and suggestions resonate with me, and I have a hunch that by making these suggested changes the manuscript will not only be better but will also be closer to what I want the book to be. The second Word doc is a list of notes on suggestions that I think are interesting but that I’m not sure I want do.

The first list becomes my master TO DO list for revision. The second list I will consider again after I have finished those revisions. After working with the manuscript on the first set of notes, I usually have a better idea of whether these suggestions will take me in the direction I want to go.

There is one more step to this manuscript mountain climbing process. The height of the pile is partially my own fault. Instead of printing the manuscripts double-sided to save paper, I print single-sided. That way I can flip through a manuscript, taking out all the pages that have no comments or that have comments or edits that I don’t want to do. This leaves me with a much smaller pile of the pages that have important comments or line edits that I want to input. Ahh, a smaller mountain.

This reviewing and sorting and weeding process helps me both ponder comments at my own pace and sets me up with a clear list of revisions I know I want to make.

And when I’m done with all these revisions and I’m ready to print out my new improved manuscript, I’ll have lots of recycled paper to print it on 🙂

Happy revising.

Elizabeth Rusch

The Problem with “Butt in the Chair”

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: May 20, 2015
Comments: No Comments

I’ve heard at least dozen writers talking about overcoming writers’ block with one simple rule: Sit your butt in the chair.

I have two problems with this advice. First of all, I don’t really get writers’ block, I get writers’ inertia. Writers’ block is when you don’t know what to write…you don’t have any ideas or any direction. Writers’ Inertia is MUCH worse. You  have ideas, you know what you want to do, you know the direction you want to take…but you just can’t get started during a given writing day or session. Putting my butt in the chair does not solve my Writers’ Inertia.

 

 

That’s because when I get my butt in the chair with my computer on and ready to go in front of me, I can do SOOOO many things other than write or revise!  I can:

Check my email.

Check facebook.

Check twitter.

Post on facebook and twitter.

Research lodging, flights, car rentals, and things to do for upcoming schedule trips OR trips I would like to take some day…

Answer some emails.

Check to see if an article of clothing I want has gone off-season and on-sale yet.

Clear out my email.

Check the weather.

Check the hourly forecast.

Check the forecast in someplace I’m visiting in the future or hope to visit in the future.

And now, look!, I found another one! I can write a Scriva post!

Writing this post kind of counts as writing — and it serves another purpose, too. For me the only way to overcome writers’ block or writers’ inertia is to write.

Thanks for the warm up. I’m going back to what I SHOULD be doing, which is revising my novel. Chapter 11 is next.

Elizabeth Rusch

 

A Tale of Three Retreats

by Elizabeth Rusch
Published on: September 20, 2014
Comments: 3 Comments

Haven House, Hood River, OregonEvery fall, usually the first weekend in November, the Viva Scrivas gather somewhere fabulous for a weekend writing retreat. (If you’d like to learn more about these expeditions of extreme productivity and bonding, please check out earlier blogs such as DIY retreats, Insider View of a Scriva Retreat, and Gift of Gratitude: Thankful Beads, and posts about the retreats on their personal blogs such as Dreaming of a Scriva Retreat.

In a recent meeting, people began grumbling about how we had skipped our usual June retreat and that we all were starved for writing time and really needed to get a fall retreat on the books. The first weekend in November didn’t work for a few people so we started paging through our calendars.

“Well I could do Saturday the next weekend but not Sunday,” someone said.

“I could do Sunday that weekend, but not Saturday,” said another.

“How about midOctober?”

“Not ideal for me, but I might be able to make a day.”

And so it went, with no weekend being the perfect weekend. Amber suggested a one-day writing retreat at her house on a Friday. Miraculously everyone could make it. Then we thought about doing something close to home another weekend, so people could come and go as they needed to.   Two weekends seemed promising, so guess what we did? We booked both!

In midOctober, we will have four days at my friend Kate’s house in Hood River (Pictured above: a rental she is letting us use at cost).

Willamette Writers Scottland Yard writing roomAnd we will have three days and nights at the Willamette Writers house in West Linn (which by the way, offers six adorable writing rooms for rent all year round; we rented the whole house.)

So instead of one retreat with two or three days, we have three retreats with a total of eight full working days. What looked like an impasse turned into an abundance of writing time.

So if your groups is struggling to schedule a writing retreat, be creative. And think local.

Scriva Liz

Gas and Brakes

How long does it take you to write a book? How fast do you work? I get asked these questions a lot, especially the first one by school-aged kids.  The answer is that it varies – dramatically.

My fastest book was a school library title on tennis (draft in a month, final in a few months) because that was how long the publisher gave me.  Next fastest was The Planet Hunter: The Story behind What Happened to Pluto which went from proposal to final approved manuscript ready to be illustrated in a handful of months. (My editor and I wanted to get that book out as fast as possible to explain the fascinating story behind why Pluto was no longer considered a planet.)

Typically, my books take much longer. I am working on a book now called Mario and the Hole in the Sky that will be published by Charlesbridge in 2016. I started working on it in 2007. That’s nine years for a picture book.  My graphic novel Muddy Max: The Mystery of Marsh Creek which comes out this year (YAY!) began as a middle grade novel in 2006. That’s eight years. My book The Mighty Mars Rovers took a similar amount of time. I’m working on picture book now that I literally started a decade ago.

The reasons for these long periods of time can vary. Many times, I am writing multiple, completely different drafts of the same book – and that takes a long time. (Thank you Scrivas, for reading version after version after version!) Other times I get discouraged after submitting something that doesn’t sell and I put it aside for a while.

In fact, it would be misleading to suggest that I was working on all these projects all the time in those years. What is much more typical is that there are times in the life of project when I put on the gas and other times I put on the brakes.

A current project in development on the inventor of the piano is a good example. When I got the idea in 2010, I start researching furiously (gas). I worked on it off and on through summer of 2012 (little pumps of gas), when I took a research trip to Florence, Italy (gas, gas, gas). When I got back, I did some writing and thinking (gas). Then I got stuck and I got busy with some other deadlines (SCREEECH! Brakes).

I have to be careful because brakes are easier to sustain than gas (things at rest like to stay at rest.) I didn’t touch this project for almost a year. And that really bothered me because I really loved the idea. So I started to put on the gas – writing, rewriting, problem-solving, polishing. I heard that an editor I wanted to share it with would be going on maternity leave. So I put on the gas big time, getting the book ready to submit.

Alas, she turned it down.

I was disappointed but also a little relieved. I just felt like I need a little more time with the project – to do a few more drafts and try to get it just right. So instead of submitting it elsewhere, I put on the brakes. But only gently. I want to slow down but not stop.

In driving you’re not supposed to put your foot on the gas and brakes at the same time. But for writing, I’m going to try it. I need the gas to keep momentum. But I need the brakes, too, to give me time to get it right.

Elizabeth Rusch

What you need to know about the BIG, BAD market

by Amber Keyser
Published on: March 12, 2013
Categories: Business of Writing
Comments: 2 Comments
Little-Red-Riding-Hood-me-001

Old father Wolf eyes up Little Red Riding Hood. Illustration: Tyler Garrison

Once upon a time…

We writers love diving deep into our stories.  We create worlds and characters.  We prefer to live in fairytale lands.  But sadly, our stories eventually crash headlong into the BIG, BAD market.

Mine just did.

Here’s what you need to know:

The market is slow.  The books that you see being released today were drafts 3-4 years ago and were acquired by editors 2-3 years ago.  Right now thrillers are hot, but if you think you can start writing one now and catch the wave, think again.

The market is conformist.  Once something (say vampires, for example) hits.  Most houses want a vampire book on their list–but just one.  I got a very nice rejection letter from an editor who said, “I love your manuscript but I just bought a book on this topic.”

The market is fickle.  Paranormal is out.  Thrillers are in.  YA was hot, hot, hot.  Now middle grade is the thing.  For years, nonfiction has been a nonstarter.  Suddenly (and thanks to the new Common Core standards) every editor wants narrative nonfiction.  Don’t even get me started on the rumored death of the picture book.

What does this mean for Little, Red Writing Hood?

Get to know the wolf, I mean, market.  One great way to do this is to join Publishers Marketplace.  The price seems steep, but I know of no better way to get your finger on the pulse of what is selling right now.  Daily deal emails will show you that we’ve run out of steam on ghost stories and teens solving murders but there are hints that Westerns and animal stories might be the next big thing.  Follow #tenqueries and #askagent on Twitter.  You’ll get a sneak peek into the slush piles.

Don’t try to game it.  Unless you are an established writer who can call up her agent and say, “Let’s pitch a Western.  Here’s a four page proposal” (which, by the way, is how The Hunger Games was sold), you can’t game it.  New writers need finished, polished manuscripts.  That takes too much time to write to a trend.

Learn from the editors who march to their own drummers.  These are the trend-makers.  These are the people who ferret out innovative writing and create the fads.  Publishers Marketplace allows you to search deals done by specific agents and manuscripts purchased by specific editors.  Explore.  Who is a free-thinker?

Remember that the market cycles.  Your time WILL come if you are crafting compelling stories that fit the appropriate genre guidelines (no 20,000 word YAs, no sex in MG, no 5,000 word picture books, etc).  There will ALWAYS be a market for good writing.

Going back to our fairytales…

I want you to write stories you love.  I don’t want you to be paralyzed by the big, bad market.  But promise me… please… that when you delve into that deep, dark forest you will take the time to get to know the landscape.

To join or not to join, that is the question

by Michelle McCann
Published on: December 7, 2011
Comments: 2 Comments


Hi, I’m Scriva Michelle–the new girl. A few weeks ago I was officially inducted into the Viva Scrivas (a terrifying hazing from which I am unlikely to recover). It’s been a long, ambivalent road for me deciding whether or not to join this talented writing group. I work part-time and have young kids, so finding time to write has been a major struggle for me. THE major struggle. I’ve had a number of children’s books published, but I wrote them all before I had children. Ten years ago!

Once the kids arrived, I felt like if I was taking time away from them, paying someone else to watch them, I should be doing something that actually paid more than the cost of the childcare. My writing virtually stopped.

But my old writing partner, Scriva Liz, never gave up on me. During those non-writing years she continually reminded me that I can write, that I love to write and that I should get writing again. She is a persistent gal, that Liz.

In an effort at full disclosure, I’ve been thinking about why I resisted the pull of the critique group. Here are the fears that have kept me away until now:

1) I HAVE NO TIME. I will fill up the tiny amounts of time I have for writing with critiquing other people’s manuscripts (which is already what I do for paid work–I’m an editor). After all, critiquing is much easier and more fun, at least for me.

2) I HAVE NO TALENT. I will be discovered as a fraud, a non-writer. I will either not be able to actually write again (it has been nearly 10 years, after all), or the group will realize, once they read my first submission, that I actually suck.

Neither of these fears is unique. In fact, they are cliché writer fears. But there you have it: not only do I have no talent, I am also a cliché!

So why do it?  Why not write at home, alone, and never show it to anyone? Now that I’ve taken the leap, I’m seeing the positives:
1) I NEED A KICK IN THE ASS. What has happened in the past few months that I’ve been dipping my toes into the group to see how we fit is that I’ve actually been thinking about writing all the time. I’ve been listening to the similar struggles of other writers in the group and realizing that I’m not alone. Feeling the pressure to do it. And I’ve been writing. For the first time in 10 years.

2) I NEED DEADLINES. Meeting once a month forces me to at least sit down once a month and try to get some words on the page. If I don’t submit something to the group at some point it’s going to be embarrassing. So I have to work. Someone is waiting.

3) I NEED SUPPORT. I’m starting to realize that maybe the reason I stopped writing for 10 years is that I needed some support. Some cheerleaders encouraging me to skip the kids’ soccer games for once and choose to write instead. Some talented people to sit with as we all stare at the blank white page and painfully pull the words and the stories from our heads.

And I think it’s working. I went on my first writing retreat last June, and now, five months later, I have about half of a middle grade novel written and the rest outlined. I actually survived the first critique of my early chapters, and while the Scrivas have given me plenty to work on for revisions, nobody laughed me out of the room. Nobody said, “You suck! Who in the world ever suggested you could write for kids?” At least not out loud.

And yes, I do struggle to find time to write my own stuff AND read/critique the other writer’s manuscripts. But there are words on the page. Finally. And another deadline next week.

I’m in. Time to get writing.

Optimists of the World…Make Room for Everyone Else!

by Sabina I. Rascol
Published on: August 12, 2011
Categories: Challenges, Other Topics
Comments: No Comments

Dr. Seligman, I owe you an apology. I thought you were one of those positive thinking guys. Instead, you have your Ph.D., Penn professorship, professional colleagues and profuse research all in the science of optimism. You’re not into people merely repeating “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better,” whether it’s true or not. Rather, you desire to help people change habits of thought that will concretely improve their health, happiness, relationships, work… and even WRITING! For this, I thank you.

At a pivotal meeting in late 2008, the Scrivas discussed personal obstacles to writing. As I remember, these fell into two broad categories that likely all creative types can recognize: 1) life—demanding jobs, young families, lack of time; and 2) doubts about ourselves and our work—showing up in questions such as, “Am I good enough?” “Do I have anything to say?” “Does my work matter?”

Here’s the rub. What we believe affects what we do—or don’t. Aptitude and motivation are not enough, Seligman says. Optimism is also required. “A composer can have all the talent of a Mozart and a passionate desire to succeed, but if he believes he cannot compose music, he will come to nothing. He will not try hard enough. He will give up too soon when the elusive right melody takes too long to materialize. Success requires persistence, the ability to not give up in the face of failure. I believe that optimistic explanatory style is the key to persistence.”

People can have general or localized pessimistic tendencies. The good news is that optimism can be learned. As Seligman puts it, it’s not what happens to us (“Adversity”), but how we explain it to ourselves (“Belief”) that matters, affecting how we feel and what we do or don’t do (“Consequences”). Here’s an example. The A is the same in both instances. The differing B is what determines the C, action or lack of it.

Adversity: I feel stuck, I can’t write.
Belief: I’m a terrible person. I can’t ever do anything.
Consequences: Why bother at all? I give up.

Adversity: I feel stuck, I can’t write.
Belief: My goals are unrealistic. I need to come up with more realistic goals.
Consequences: OK, there’s something I can do. Let me revise my goals.

This is merely an amuse gueule to whet your appetite for the multi-course meal of Seligman’s book Learned Optimism. You’ll want to read his full ABCDEs, and learn about permanent, pervasive, and personal explanations (pessimistic), and their optimistic opposites.

For myself, having Learned Optimism, I’m moving on to Authentic Happiness. Yes, that is finally within reach! It’s another Seligman title, now waiting for me on the hold shelf of my library.

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