Showing posts with label Fear. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fear. 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, 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.




Thursday, August 15, 2013

Own It

Last week someone said to me, "So you're an author?" It threw me for a second because most people who ask about this ask if I'm a writer. I'd never had someone ask me if I was an author. I mustered up all the courage I owned and forced a hesitant-yet-hopefully-confident "yeah" through my lips. Then I promptly chickened out and backtracked. "Well, I haven't published a book yet. Right now I'm in the process of trying to get an agent for my children's book." My gaze darted to the door where I was sure the writing police were about to burst through, ticket for false identification in hand. I squeaked out a quick defense of my earlier affirmation: "But I have had some short stories published in a few magazines!" So much for confidence.

After having conversations with other writers and reading blog posts and Twitter feed comments, I've come to realize I'm not the only one who has a hard time labeling who I am as a writer. In fact, there seems to be a trend--a pattern to the words we use to describe ourselves, depending on our level of confidence and/or perceived accomplishments.

When we first venture into the writing world we tend to define ourselves as "aspiring writers". This is the newbie level. We walk by the exclusive Writer's Club and we can see the bright lights and smell the freshly published books and hear whispers of 5-star reviews. We cast longing glances toward the line of people waiting to get through the door and say to ourselves, "Someday..."

Fast forward a few short stories and a couple of NaNoWriMos later, and we get brave, drop the "aspiring" and move up to just "writer". Writing is something we love doing, and we do it often enough to be (somewhat) comfortable allowing ourselves the title. At last we feel like we've reached a high enough word count and taken enough classes or read enough craft books to sneak to the back of the line. But then panic sets in because suddenly there's a rumor cascading down the queue that only authors are allowed through the door and you don't know if you're an author yet and you can only shuffle closer and closer to the door with anxious pulse and sweating hands and hope your name's on the bouncer's ultra secret clip board because who really knows where the point is that you cross the threshold from "writer" to "author" and who makes that decision anyway? And the closer you get to the door, the more you convince yourself that you should just step out of the line and wait until your name graces the cover of a book inside a real Barnes and Noble and you can bring it along as proof that you really are what you consider yourself to be deep down inside.

*deep breath and...exhale*

Here's the reality: There's no difference between being a writer and being an author. Merriam-Webster's definition of author is this:
1 :one that originates or creates
2 : the writer of a literary work 
By definition, you are the author of anything you have written. Therefore, I am an author. And I'm hoping the more I repeat that to myself, the easier it will be to simply answer, "yes" the next time someone asks. (So if you see me mumbling to myself, don't worry, it's just a confidence building exercise.)

Now some of you may hesitate to even go so far as to call yourself a writer, much less an author. As if you have to be published (aka getting paid) in order to lay claim to that title. But I say, NAY! I became a mother the moment my first child entered the world. I don't have to put in 10 quality years of child rearing, or wait until my daughter successfully graduates from college in order to earn the title of Mom. (And last time I checked, I'm not getting a paycheck.) The moment you wrote down that first idea, that first line--the moment you birthed your story--you became a writer.

Own it.

Because the bouncer isn't there to check if someone else put you on the list. He's there to see if you'll put yourself on the list. He's there to ask one question.

Are you a writer? Are you an author?

Whether or not you get in is entirely up to you.
  


Check out these great posts for more encouragement on owning your writer/author label:

Don’t Eat the Butt–Lies that Can Poison Our Writing Career #1 - Kristen Lamb (one of my favorite bloggers)

When Should You Start Calling Yourself an Author?

- See more at: http://authoritypublishing.com/book-publishing/when-should-you-start-calling-yourself-an-author/#sthash.LsW6Zk8o.dpuf

When Should You Start Calling Yourself an Author?

When Should You Start Calling Yourself an Author?

- See more at: http://authoritypublishing.com/book-publishing/when-should-you-start-calling-yourself-an-author/#sthash.LsW6Zk8o.dpuf



Monday, August 12, 2013

Picture Quote Monday {Courage}

And we're back! After a refreshing family vacation, I'm (almost) ready for the craziness of the fast approaching school year to begin. I can sense adventure on the horizon, and I'm ready to move ahead with courage and excitement. Hope this gives you some inspiration for your week!


Monday, July 29, 2013

Picture Quote Monday {Striking Out}

I love this quote from Babe Ruth. A good rule of thumb to live by. 
Step up to the plate and take a swing this week. You might just knock it out of the park.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Oh Hello, Irony

There are times when the truth slaps you with a load of irony.

It goes something like this: First you're like, "whoa", and then there's this awkward moment when you realize you're going to have to admit you were wrong, and then you do and you feel SO much better.

At least, that's been my experience.

You may recall a post I wrote a couple weeks ago involving unicorns and writer's block. Well, the reason I was so desperate to overcome my creatively stuck position, was because something awesome was about to start and I had made a goal--a goal which I had shared with a major author and a couple thousand people.

Let's flashback a bit and this will make more sense...

Earlier this month, I responded to a blog post by Jon Acuff, in which he gave a Safety Not Guaranteed-esque call to those willing to go on an unspecified adventure. If you were willing to embark on said adventure, without knowing any details, you were to email him your name and mailing address. And in true clandestine fashion, the blog post was set to self-destruct in 24 hours.

Thus began the Start Experiment. A group of individuals from all over the world, taking a chance and ultimately being grouped together to encourage and assist one another in the pursuit of a dream or a goal, punching fear in the face in the process. One of the first things we were asked was what we were each willing to risk--what would our goal (to be moved toward over the course of 24 days) be? I immediately knew what mine would be: To write the first draft of my second novel.

Hence the need to be able to actually write.

The entire foundation of Jon's experiment, and the theme of his latest book, START, is that fear needs to be overcome in order for you to move toward your goal. So I was going to overcome the fear of stalling out, the fear of not being able to write, the fear of running out of ideas. Fear was going down!

And then a funny thing happened on the way to the fear smack-down. After coming out of the first week of the experiment with a super lame word-count, I had an epiphany. I suddenly realized that my risk was actually driven by fear. 

Helloooo, Irony.

You see, I finished editing and polishing my first children's novel in May, and queried my first agent the beginning of June. And instead of taking time to celebrate my accomplishment and focus on getting an agent/getting published, I immediately put a huge bunch of pressure on myself to write a second book. I convinced myself that one book wasn't enough to make an agent feel I was worth his/her time, that I needed to at least have a second one started to prove I was a real author and not a one-hit wonder. 

And then I wondered why I felt stressed-out, overwhelmed, uninspired and generally unhappy with my writing.

And so, after a jolly good laugh, irony and I parted ways and I took a new path. Now my risk is pursuing my dream of getting published by focusing on my finished book and preparing more queries to send out in the next couple of weeks. I've created a neatly ordered list of agents that I would love to have represent me, and I'm going to start tailoring my individual queries next week. I'm also continuing to write by working on some picture book ideas that I've been cultivating. This has been much less stressful and--hallelujah!--FUN. And come November, I will happily don my novel writing hat once more and leap into the literary abandon of my fifth NaNoWriMo. Until then, I will pour my heart and soul into a project fueled by hopes and dreams, not fear.

So, in case that was a lot to follow, here's a quick recap:

Fear 0 - Ashley 1


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.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Off With Its Head

Last Sunday my pastor asked us the question "What is intimidating you?" It was an interesting question, going a bit beyond "what are you afraid of?" By the time I was in the car headed home, I knew my answer. I told my husband I thought I had my answer figured out and that it seemed a little weird to me. But when I told him what it was he just nodded and said "Yeah" in this emphatic, no-you're-not-crazy-that-makes-total-sense, kind of way. (If I haven't mentioned it before, I'll say it now: I LOVE my husband. He's awesome.).

What intimidates me? One word: Success.

Once I'd figured it out, I jotted down why. Here's what I wrote: Because if you're successful, people will expect more of you. The voice of intimidation tells me, "You did it once, but can you really do it again?" What happens if I can't meet others'--or my own--expectations?

I just finished writing my first children's book. When I finished writing it, I was super excited to move onto the next project. It was going to be great; I'd figured out a method that works well for me, I knew what I was doing now, right? But as soon as I started planning my next novel, Intimidation came on the scene. It started reminding me that each project is different and this might not go as smoothly as the last story. Who was I to think I could ever become a full time writer? Don't I realize how hard that dream will be to accomplish? What if I run out of ideas? Are you sure that plot isn't a bit too complicated? And on and on, twisting facts and turning them into half truths that left me feeling powerless and weak.

In his sermon, my pastor used Goliath as his illustration for the character of Intimidation. He presented the idea that Goliath wasn't really there to fight. He was there to Intimidate--to cause the Israelites to run away or be frozen with inaction, ensuring they wouldn't reach their goal of victory. And frozen they were, until David came on scene.

The more I think about it, the more I've realized Intimidation is playing the same game with me. This last week, despite understanding what I was up against, I started listening to its voice. I ran to other manuscripts, trying to find a different story that would be easier to write. I froze, and essentially ended up with writer's block, feeling so stressed and anxious about my plot that I stopped working on it altogether. I allowed intimidation to overwhelm me. I let it dismantle the effective writing routine I had gotten into. And it sucked the life and the passion right out of me.

But I know I can't let it win. So I fought back. In his book START, Jon Acuff talks about answering the exaggerated lies of fear with truth. I sat down and organized all my hastily scrawled story notes that have been laying around in notebooks and on scraps of paper and filed them by title. You think I'm going to run out of ideas, Intimidation? I've got eight different book ideas that I've written down over the last three years. Think my ideas are horrible, that I'll never figure out my plot? Take a look at the original notes for my now finished book. They're a mess. They're horribly written. But look what came out of it. Think I can't handle the hard road ahead? Look at what I've already accomplished. I can--and I will--do it again. I went back and re-read the beginnings of my in-progress manuscripts and fell in love all over again with the one I had planned to work on in the first place.

Bit by bit, the drive and the energy and the passion has returned. The voice of intimidation may still be there, but that doesn't mean I have to listen to it. When Goliath shows up, I'm going to bring David to his house. I may have to slay Intimidation and cut it's ugly head off over and over again. But that's okay. Because I have a dream worth fighting for.

What about you? What is intimidating you right now? What steps have you taken to silence the negative voices in your own life? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Picture Quote Monday {Critics}

I love this quote because it really puts into perspective something that writers (and anyone else who has a dream and a passion) have to deal with: criticism. And not the constructive kind. In Jon Acuff's book START, he has a great section titled "Critic's Math". In it he says, "1 insult + 1,000 compliments = 1 insult." It can be so hard to look past that one negative. So the next time someone hates on your dream, think of this, have a little giggle, and as Jon says: "Leave the haters behind you."

 P.S. Look for my full review of START on Friday! You won't want to miss this one.

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.