Showing posts with label Doubt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Doubt. Show all posts

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Pitch Wars Prep: Why You Should Enter (And What to Expect)

Okay, so you've got a polished manuscript, a perfected query letter, and you've conquered the dreaded synopsis. Congratulations, you're ready to enter PitchWars!


That queasy pit of nervous excitement in your stomach? Totally normal. 

Other feelings that are also totally normal:
Doubt
Fear
Anxiety
Questioning the quality of every word in your manuscript


Also, voices. The ones that say things like, "Do you really want to do this? Do you really want to bare your writer soul to a group of strangers in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, they'll like your book?"

Yes. Yes, you do. Here's why:

Being a writer is all about putting yourself out there. And if you're serious about becoming a published author, it's unavoidable. It's also hard and scary. But at some point you're going to have to decide that you've done all you can do, your book is finished, and it's time for it to leave the nest. Pitch Wars gives you a great opportunity to let your book test its wings. 

The entire Pitch Wars process is the life story of a querying writer. If you've never queried before, it's a great way to dip your toes in the water. If you have queried before, well then you know the drill! Just like when querying agents, you have to polish your manuscript, prepare your submission materials, research the mentors' wish lists to see who would be the best fit for you and your book, submit your entry, and then...wait. (Waiting is also part of the writer's life story.)

But what if I'm not chosen? I hate the thought of being disappointed. I get that. I've been on both sides of the Pitch Wars coin: I submitted in 2014 and didn't get in, tried again in 2015 and was chosen as a mentee. I've felt both disappointment and elation on announcement day. But disappointment is something all writers have to deal with, through every stage of the writing journey. If writers weren't willing to risk disappointment, books wouldn't exist. It's totally okay to feel bummed and have a cry and eat the ice cream, just don't stay there. If you're not chosen, take any feedback you receive, apply it to your book, seek out CPs and Beta Readers, and KEEP GOING. Remember, Pitch Wars, and other writing contests, are not the only way to get an agent. Plenty of writers - myself included - get their agents through the slush pile and old-fashioned querying. Not making it into Pitch Wars does not spell the end of your writing career. DON'T GIVE UP.

And whether you're chosen as a mentee or not, there's something all you hopefuls gain: An amazing community of fellow writers. The other writers on the #PitchWars feed are amazing! You guys are (hopefully) already connecting, swapping manuscripts, and encouraging one another. That doesn't have to end when the mentor picks go live. Writing is a tough business, every step of the way. Having a solid community of people who know what it's like, who can help you strengthen your writing, and talk you down when you're ready to quit is so important. Keep cultivating those relationships.

But what if I AM chosen? What can I expect as a mentee? Hard work. There will likely be late nights, or early mornings, or lunches eaten in front of your laptop. You should be ready and willing to listen to critique and thoughtfully consider your mentor's suggested revisions. Some may resonate with you right away, some you might want to think about for a day or two, some might spark a different "Hey, what if we did THIS?" idea. You may have to kill some darlings and cut a few (or a lot) of words. The days until the agent round will both drag and fly by. And there will also be fun! Twitter chatting and team names and gif wars and taunting and all sorts of shenanigans. If I had to sum it up in two words: Challenging & Awesome.


But you can't experience any of it if you don't put yourself out there and jump into the fray! Don't let doubt, insecurity, or fear prevent you from taking the plunge. No matter the outcome, you'll have the chance to grow as a writer, and that my friends, is a win. 

I can't wait to read all your amazing middle grade submissions! (I mean, we all know MG is the best category, amiright?)

And since I'm obsessed with these adorable gifs, I leave you with a viable option for retrieving sustenance during the flurry of Pitch Wars...



Monday, January 13, 2014

Picture Quote Monday {Compare}


I tweeted this quote yesterday, but it's just too good not to share again. Over the holidays I had a conversation with a family member about this very subject. She was frustrated with some difficulties she'd recently run into, and even more frustrated over the fact that a friend of hers had seemingly quick success resolving the exact same issues. My response: It's always going to be like that.

Now, on the surface, that doesn't seem very encouraging. But it's the truth. No matter how old you get, or how much progress you make, there's always going to be someone that seems to have it better and/or easier than you. I say this from experience—and it's something I still struggle with. But the problem with this is summed up so perfectly by the above quote. So often, we only see the other person's glorious finish, that destination we ourselves long for so much. But if we could see their behind-the-scenes clips, we'd probably see the same frustrations and roadblocks and difficulties we face. And chances are, along the way, they ran into someone "better" and felt the same way you do.

It's so easy to fall into the pit of comparison. Don't do it. Instead of letting another person's success bring about feelings of doubt, insecurity, and—let's be honest—jealousy, let it inspire you. Offer them congratulations. Then keep pressing on toward your own goals. You can't get to the light at the end of the tunnel without walking through the dark first. You can't win the game without playing the minutes. Keep moving forward, one step at a time. We're all at a different place on our journey, and someday, you'll have your own highlight reel to look back on.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Day I Almost Quit

It's noon and I still haven't put up today's blog post. Why?

Because I almost quit last night.

The last two weeks have been filled with some serious ups and downs. This year's NaNoWriMo project is not going easy on me. Some days the words have flowed well, but most days it's been an uphill struggle to keep moving forward. Not necessarily because the story isn't there, but because I'm not meeting my own expectations. Last year, I averaged 2,300 words a day and I was in love with my story. I knew exactly where I was going next, and the snags were few. This year, I'm lucky to meet the required daily 1,667 by midnight each night, I have no idea what to do in my next scene, and my entire story seems like one gigantic tangled mess.

I was hoping that last year's finished novel would be some sort of magical line in my writing career. Beyond this line, everything would be easier. Every first draft would be gold. Every story and character would be loved and cherished through the entire process.

Or something like that.

Instead: Reality. In all honesty, I knew it would be hard. No dream is ever easy to reach. No passion ever really reaches perfection. There's always more learning and growing and hard work to be done, even after harvest. But I was completely unprepared for how difficult this month would be. It seems my fifth NaNoWriMo is shaping up to be my most difficult. Last night, after ignoring my novel for as long as I could (it's only 36 days 'til Christmas--I HAD to finish crocheting that stocking), I finally sat down at 10:30pm and coughed up 1,000 words before giving up an hour later.

And then I tried to convince myself of all the reasons why it was okay if I gave up completely.

After all, I've chalked up four NaNoWriMo wins--that's not too shabby. We're all allowed to have an unfinished year, right? Why should I waste my time on a story I'm not enjoying? A story that will probably end up in the trash bin anyway.

And there was the truth. Or, should I say, the lies.

The story isn't good enough. 
I'm not good enough.
I'm wasting my time.

I went to bed discouraged and defeated--and while we're being real--with a soggy pillow.

But thankfully, dark nights are often followed by mornings of clarity. I was reading some sample chapters of an upcoming novel from one of my favorite authors (I'll be sharing those pages with you in a couple weeks, so stayed tuned for more info on that!) and I had a thought. It's a thought I've had many times before that has always given me new life when I'm in the writing dumps.

This book is made of words. Simple, everyday words put into sentences, put into paragraphs, put into chapters to make a book. The story is beautiful, well written, intricate. But it all begins with just...words.

I like words. I can handle that. I can do that.

So I sat at my computer and wrote 300 more words this morning. They might not be perfect, they might get thrown to the cutting room floor come December. But if I want to be a writer, I must be willing to risk the imperfect first draft. The messed up timeline. The characters who aren't sure who they are yet. The villains who seem undefeatable.

Because I don't want to be the person who missed out on a great story because she quit in the first draft. I don't want to be the person who misses out on future possibilities because I focused on present difficulties. My story might not make it to 50,000 words (it is a children's book after all, and I'm focused on the 35K-45K range) but I don't want to stop before THE END.


So, as a reminder for myself and anyone else who needs it, here's today's picture quote.




Friday, July 12, 2013

On Unicorns, Rainbows, and Rest


I came across this photo in my Facebook feed last week (courtesy of The Institute of Children's Literature), and I couldn't help but breath a giant sigh of relief. Which was immediately followed by a torrent of doubt. But so many other people say you have to work through it. Write every day even if it sucks. Write yourself out of writer's block! Don't stop, no matter what!

For weeks I felt like I was beating my head against a wall with my current work-in-progress. I just couldn't seem to get back to that beautiful place of writerly bliss. You know, the place where I sit down and look at the blank screen and suddenly the story begins to flow effortlessly and the words stack up as my fingers fly across the keyboard like a unicorn galloping across a rainbow on the wings of inspiration.

Okay, in reality maybe there's not quite so many rainbows and unicorns, but you get what I'm saying.

I was forcing myself to write, waffling between two ideas--both with potential--but coming out with exactly what the above quote describes: uninspired dreck. The more I wrote, the more frustrated I became, and the more I fell into an "I love you but I don't like you right now" relationship with both of my stories. So, with few other options and still feeling like I was breaking some sort of set-in-stone, thou-shalt-not-stop-writing rule, I took the above advice and stepped away. I didn't touch my laptop for several days in a row, worked on other creative projects that didn't involve writing, and curled up for some much needed reading therapy. I cleared the clutter from my word-mired mind and made room for inspiration to return from its vacation.

And it did.

After a week, I began to feel the itch to take up my pen. And as of today, I finally have a solid outline for my book and am ready to press forward. 

Also, my house is freakishly clean.

I learned a couple things from this little exercise. One: At some point I think you have to release yourself from the notion that there's a perfect formula for anything. Otherwise, you'll waste valuable time trying to follow other people's strategies. Everyone's process is different, and that's okay. Maybe your path to inspiration looks like plowing forward now and straightening your plot lines later. Maybe it looks like taking a long walk or watching your favorite comedy. Maybe it looks like closing the laptop (or notebook) and only writing to jot down notes as they come to you. Whatever works for you, go forth and do without guilt.

Two: I think it's important to remember there's a difference between quitting and resting. Quitting is a result of fear. Resting is a result of movement. It's a natural and necessary part of the cycle: work, recharge, work, recharge. 

No matter what your strategy is for getting unstuck, I think it would benefit all of us to give ourselves permission to rest. You can't go forever without burning out. Just because you take a break, doesn't mean you're giving up--it means you're filling up. And that's not just okay, it's good.

What about you? What strategy works for you when it comes to tackling creative block? What refills your cup of inspiration? I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, July 8, 2013

(Moving) Picture Quote Monday

For this week's picture quote, I decided to do something a little different. Instead of a one or two-sentence quote, I chose one of my favorite passages from Jon Acuff's NYT Bestseller, START. Luckily, I have a husband who's really good at making pretty awesome videos. My graphics + his editing/production talents = one moving picture quote.


I highly recommend picking up this book. Read my review for all the reasons why.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

On Milestones and Hope

I reached a new milestone in my writing career this week--I sent out my very first book query! *SQUEEE!* My book has officially left the nest to try and find its place in the world. It was a lot more nerve-wracking than I anticipated and I definitely felt some nervous jitters as I hit send. But that was nothing compared to the excitement I felt when the confirmation email popped up in my inbox.

My first ten pages are sitting in an agent's inbox right now. Whoa.

Now comes 6-8 weeks of waiting. For me, this is one of the hardest parts of being a writer. Not because I have a hard time being patient, but because I have a really hard time being optimistic. I'm much more of a realist when it comes to things like this. Part of me wants to believe my manuscript can and will be accepted by my number-one agency/agent pick on my first try. But the other part of me thinks, if it took sixty queries for a book like The Help to find success, who am I to think I'll find success right off the bat? Plus, there's this feeling that--besides it being statistically unlikely--it wouldn't be fair. After all, so many amazing authors have had to work incredibly hard to land an agent. Who am I to hope I could nail it on a first try? And isn't it better not to hope for too much, so I won't be disappointed if things don't work out?

But despite all of that, I hope. This time, optimism seems to have taken hold of me. I really, truly hope that this particular agent will choose to represent me. Sure, it might not happen. And that's cool. I'll find another potential agent, send another query, and hope some more. Because I realized something as I waffled between optimism and my perception of reality. Even though it may seem like I'm hoping for too much, what point is there in trying if you don't hope for--and even anticipate--success? If all you hope for and expect is failure, your dream is going to have a super sad existence. And dreams aren't meant to be super sad, pessimistic creatures. It goes against their very nature.

So...make your dream happy. Feed it some hope.


Friday, May 10, 2013

The Crazy Train

There's nothing like preparing to query an agent to make you question everything you thought you knew.

Grammar, punctuation, genres: suddenly every time you look at your manuscript, it feels like that moment when you write a word and you say to yourself, "Is that how that's spelled? It looks weird." And then you google it and it turns out it was right all along, but you still can't shake that feeling that it's totally wrong.

This is why there are so many jokes about all writers being slightly insane.

So I'm spending every spare moment editing and polishing and triple checking every punctuation rule and trying to find an official statement on the difference between a chapter book and a novel, and suddenly I realize tomorrow is Friday and I should publish a blog post. And then I feel guilty for not having something amazing prepared because after all, you've got to have a platform. How else will you reach your potential readers? And then I think about the average number of readers my posts get, and I start think, "Who are you fooling? What readers?" And then I tell myself to shut up.

See what I mean about being crazy?

My emotions are a constant seesaw of I-can-do-this to I'm-not-good-enough. Everything I read about publishing is filled with encouraging words that upon closer inspection sound more like code for "prepare yourself for rejection." And if I can't remember when to use a semi-colon instead of a comma, can I really call myself a writer?

Where am I going with all this?

I don't know.

The fact is, I could turn this into a disgustingly positive, ultra inspirational post that goes on and on about how you've got to just go for it, the learning never stops, battle the monsters of fear and doubt...etc, etc, etc. And those posts are great. Sometimes we need those posts. But sometimes, we need to hear about someone else's struggles so we can say OH MY GOSH, I'VE SO BEEN THERE. It's instant relief to know it's not just you and maybe you're not as crazy as you thought. And for the whole twenty people who will read this post, I hope that's what it will be.

Did I just end my sentence with a preposition?

Danggit.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Self-Doubt Monster

The last few days have been filled with less sleep for me and more cartoons for the kids (hey, don't judge me!). Why? Because I'm in the midst of editing my novel (I have a novel! Saying that will never get old.).

Overall, I'm enjoying the editing process. It's exciting and exhausting and scary. You have to take an honest look at your work. You have to be willing to make changes (like cutting a lot of words that seemed brilliant while you were writing them, but turn out to be less than stellar in the light of day). You have to put yourself out there and start sharing your edits with trusted people who can point out what still needs work. But the scariest part of editing?

The self-doubt monster.

My monster's mantra goes something like this: Sure, you might have had one or two great moments, but is that really enough? Do you really think anyone is going to want to read this? Do you really think you could actually get a publishing deal?

If you're a creative person, chances are you've met this monster, too. It's the one that--just when you start to think, "Wow, this is actually really good!"--sneaks up behind you and whispers, "But is it good enough?"

This monster tries to convince you your talents are lacking, your chances of success are miniscule, and you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

What's the key to turning this Bigfoot into a dust bunny, easily swept away in the wake of your awesomeness?

Strike the word "impossible" from your vocabulary.

If you can grasp hold of the idea that anything is possible and really, truly believe it, it changes everything. Because if anything is possible, you'll stop at nothing to learn more and do better and your talent will grow. If anything is possible, you'll persevere, even in the midst of disappointment. If anything is possible, you'll try again and again and again, because you've got just as much of a chance as anyone. 

Remove the word impossible from your creative vocabulary and your dream becomes very possible. And if you believe your dream is possible, there's no more room under the bed for that monster of doubt.