Showing posts with label Perseverance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Perseverance. Show all posts

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Letter to the Pitch Wars Hopefuls Who Didn't Get In

Dear Heartbroken Hopefuls,

As someone who didn't get into Pitch Wars (or land an agent) with my first book, I know the sting of rejection. I know how much it sucks to anticipate and hope and wait and then not have things work out the way you wanted them to.

I'm here to tell you, it's okay.

It's okay to feel really, really sad. It's okay to cry. It's okay to be jealous of those who got in. It's okay to be upset, to question everything, to wonder if being a writer is really worth it. To wonder if you want to keep going.

All of these feels are normal feels.

I love the scene in Gilmore Girls where Rory has broken up with Dean and is acting totally okay but Lorelei knows she is, in reality, not okay at all.


This is me telling you it's okay to wallow.


Let me say it one more time.

It's. Okay. To. Wallow.





Take a break. Stay off Twitter if you need to. Set aside your manuscript or WIP for a day or two and indulge in a Netflix binge.

And then come back.

My pastor said in a recent sermon "Bitter experiences in life aren't optional, but becoming bitter is." I know that's super heavy and serious after all those Gilmore Girl gifs, but it's true. Disappointments happen. If you're a writer they happen A LOT. But don't let it cause you to miss out on great things. Don't wallow for too long. Don't go into permanent hiding. Don't stop writing. I've said it before and I'll say it again: The opportunity to learn from the mentors, and your peers, doesn't end now that the Pitch Wars mentees have been chosen. We'll still be writing blog posts and answering your questions on Twitter and sharing encouragement and advice. The feed is still full of other writers looking for CPs and beta readers and just a friend to talk to who understands what they're going through. Embrace that community. Trust me when I say you'll not only want it, but NEED it as you continue to work toward your goals.

And of course, I'll tell you everything you've already heard from us mentors over the last week: Pitch Wars is not your only shot at an agent. It's not the only path to publication. Even those who did get in have no guarantee of either of those things. Keep writing, keep revising, take feedback into consideration, find good CPs, polish to best of your ability, and start querying. All this is great advice, and some of you have already put it into practice. But some of you want to punch me in the face right now because even though you know it's true, it doesn't make you feel better. If that's you, first let me extend you a virtual hug. The pizza guy is on speed dial. There's ice cream in the freezer. And I'll say it one more time.

It's okay to wallow.

We'll be here when you're ready to keep going. And we're already stocking up on confetti to celebrate with you when your time comes.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Don't Give Up (Or, Why I Heart Pitch Wars)

I've noticed a common theme among the mentor's Pitch Wars tweets this year: DON'T GIVE UP. Now, I know it's sometimes hard to hear that from another writer when they've already got the finished book, the agent, AND the book deal. If we're being honest, we've all thought it at some point...


Easy for you to say.

Well, as a hopeful, yet-to-be-published Pitch Wars submitter, I'd like to echo the "keep at it" sentiments. (Also, you shouldn't compare your journey to someone else's, but I already wrote a post about that here.)

Last year I submitted to Pitch Wars right after receiving a pretty heartbreaking rejection. It went something like this:

Start querying first MG novel.
Get a bunch of rejections.
Get a full request! Huzzah!
Have phone call with agent. Double huzzah!
Be told book is awesome, but too quiet to sell as debut. Huzzah?
"Do you have any other books?"
Scramble to finish WIP and send to agent, hoping it's enough to tip the scales.
Email notification dings. Heart leaps. Open email...
Heart sinks.

Let me just say, this agent was over-the-moon wonderful and encouraging and supportive, and I could not have had a more lovely interaction with her. But the very nice, very complimentary no was still a no, and of course I was disappointed. So I had some Ben and Jerry's...



...decided it wasn't meant to be, determined I wouldn't let it get me down, and that very night I submitted my manuscript to Pitch Wars.

I didn't get any requests for additional pages.
I didn't get picked as a mentee.

I did get feedback. (Thank you Michelle Hauck and Joy McCullough!) And wouldn't you know it, they both said the same thing: lovely voice, hard to market the story. But they also had some really great advice on what they felt could be improved. Because of them, and tweets from some of the other mentors, I at least knew what I had done wrong in my query and I'd grown as a writer. I knew it was time to move on to the next book.

So I didn't give up, and I kept going, and it was all rainbows and unicorns from there, right?

Um, yeah, no.

About six months (and a slew of rejections) later, I'm in the midst of waffling between two WIPs, and feeling like this...


It had been FOREVER since I'd made any real progress, and I was desperate to just FINISH SOMETHING, DAMMIT. I had three-quarters of a novel--why was the last bit SO FRIGGIN' HARD? I felt like a complete failure. Like maybe I should just give up on this whole writing thing.

I felt like all I would ever be was an almost.

Almost good enough.
Almost represented.
Almost published.

It was really, really hard to write. I ignored my manuscript(s) for weeks. But eventually I admitted it felt worse to NOT write. So I limped along. Some nights I think I managed to add one decent paragraph to my almost finished novel. Then, after borrowing Write Your Novel From the Middle by James Scott Bell from a dear friend/CP, I had a plot breakthrough. I thought maybe, just maybe, I could do this. 

I gave myself a deadline: Pitch Wars 2015. I started to feel the excitement of possibility again. Several sleep-deprived weeks later...

The Pitch Wars Mentor Blog Hop went live and I sat down to make a list of the mentors I wanted to submit my FINISHED manuscript to. 




Would I love to sit at the feet of a mentor for the next two months? Of course. But whether we get picked or not, or whether our manuscripts are all shiny and ready for the world or a hot mess that needs way more work, we'll have to remind ourselves to keep going. There's always more to be learned, more stories to write, more ways to improve. There will always be super awesome 2,000-word days and really, really crappy one-sentence days. If there's one thing I've learned thus far, it's that this writing thing takes a lot of working and waiting...and then working and waiting some more. I happen to think it's worth it.

So for those of you in the Pitch Wars trenches (or the querying trenches, or the WIP trenches), let me be that annoying person who says it for the one hundredth time: DON'T GIVE UP.



And THANK YOU Brenda Drake, and Pitch Wars mentors. Whether I get picked or not, I have a novel. I've gained invaluable advice from the mentor's tweets and blog posts, not to mention connections with other writers. I've remembered what it feels like to be passionate about telling stories. To be hopeful and positive and excited about my writing journey. This year's contest has seriously been so encouraging and helped me so, so much. It's been exactly what I needed. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled Pitch Wars twitter stalking...

Monday, August 18, 2014

A New Day

In my last post I talked about the joys of waiting...  

You send your manuscript, finally complete after months and months of grueling labor, to a magazine/publisher/agent...and then you wait. But...there are no guarantees. Sure, you could be waiting for that hallelujah-angel-chorus moment of acceptance. But you could also end up with that heartbreaking, pass-the-tissues-and-the-Ben-&-Jerry's-please rejection.

On Friday I was on my way out the door to run errands with a car full of kids and had just picked up my cell phone when I heard that adrenaline-inducing, new-email chime. I looked at the screen, saw the sender's address and my heart skipped a beat as I opened it and got my answer...



I haven't posted many details about this particular part of my writing journey which has been happening over the last few months, because in my opinion (and in the general opinion of writers and writerly professionals everywhere, if I'm not mistaken) it's not in good taste to kiss and tell, as it were, when querying. My writer's group, of course, knows all the nitty gritty details, but the long and short of it is this: I had a nibble on my novel query, sent an agent my manuscript, and after one phone call and several emails, sat back and waited to find out whether or not said agent would sign me.

In the end it was a no. A very sweet, very complimentary no, but a no nonetheless.

Honestly, I expected to feel crushed. Maybe even cry a little. Instead I found myself remarkably non-hysterical. In fact--dare I say it?--I felt relieved. Through this whole process I've grown and learned so much and received some invaluable encouragement and advice. Now I had my answer, and while it wasn't the answer I would have preferred, at least I knew that door was closed and the time had come to go knockin' on some new ones. So, I allowed myself the Ben and Jerry's (because you don't pass up the perfect excuse for indulging in tiramisu flavored ice-cream) and a good 20 minutes of pursuing the latest issue of Glamour (because Olivia Wilde) and then proceeded to stay up til almost midnight submitting my manuscript to Pitch Wars. And you know what? I think it's the most triumphant I've ever felt hitting "send".

After all, a dream isn't a very good dream if it's not worth fighting for, no?

Earlier last week, I bookmarked this quote for a future Picture Quote Monday and I think it's perfect for today. (Thank you to my friend Jacqui of Simply Jacqui Photography for the use of her photo). Here's hoping for some of that magic.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Booyah!

In my last post (yes, I am aware that last post was over a month ago) I mentioned the biggest reason for my blogging absence: I've been hard at work finishing my novel. Well guess what?

I DID IT!!!!

I finished my second novel. *insert girlish squeals here*



My biggest emotion in the light of this news? Honestly...relief. In a lot of ways, I found my second book was more difficult to write than my first. Mostly because my inner critic didn't get the memo that I wasn't interested in his opinion. It turns out I really CAN do this thing called writing, and that the first time wasn't just a fluke.

Take that, critic.

So far, I've gotten very positive reader feedback. Even from people who aren't related to me. YES.



Now I'm just waiting on my dear, unofficial editor to send me her notes, and then this book can be off to a certain inbox where, fingers crossed, it will be loved and welcomed and asked to stay for tea.

I shall do my best to return to more regularly scheduled blogging. But please don't hold me to too high of a standard for at least the next 4-6 weeks, as I'm currently attempting to maintain my sanity until summer vacation, and reminding myself that packing the entire house will be totally worth it once we get into our new digs (It has an office!! Oh, the glorious writing-space possibilities!).

P.S. If you didn't give up on me during the last month of awkward silence, thank you. You're awesome. Like, happy dance awesome.



Monday, February 10, 2014

Patience is Better (Unless You're a Zombie)

I follow a lot of book agents and writers on Twitter and it seems like lately my feed has been filled with a whole lot of  "I have an agent!" announcements and book cover reveals and publishing day congratulations. All of this has been equal parts inspiring, motivating, and painful. Seeing someone else reach their goal can make yours seem so very, VERY far away. And let's just say that patience is not my strongest quality. So for today's Picture Quote Monday I set out to find an inspiring quote about being patient and all its benefits, because I know for a fact I'm not the only person who struggles with this. I found plenty, such as this one: "Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait." -Longfellow. And this one: "Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet." -Rousseau. But sometimes, when you're in the midst of a difficult lesson, you just need a giggle.

Which is why I picked this one.


Unless, of course, you're a zombie.

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, December 16, 2013

Picture Quote Monday {Pursue}

Dreaming is the easy part. But we all know how hard it can be to chase those dreams and try to turn them into a reality. The pursuit takes persistence, dedication, and lots and lots of courage. But isn't it all worth it? I hope you're encouraged (I need it to!) by this reminder that dreams can come true!


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!

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 20, 2013

Picture Quote Monday {Sum Total}

So often we hear words involving "daily" in a negative context. The daily grind. Day in and day out. Day after day. It's like these phrases are trying to convince us our daily lives are boring and meaningless. But it's our daily lives that lead to our future. It's like that old saying, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." But I like this saying better.

(Created with A Beautiful Mess app - read about it in my latest Small Things post)

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.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Rejection, Persevere, Win, Repeat

My latest published work, "Muddy Water" in the February 2013 issue of Sparkle

There's nothing quite like seeing the words "Written by [insert your name here]." For me, it's more than just reassurance that I really can write, it's a reminder of what I can accomplish when I persevere. Last year I sent out eleven manuscripts (fiction and non-fiction) to several children's magazines. Of those, nine came back with the words, "Thank you for your submission but..."

There are times when the rejections get frustrating. As a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom with a graphic design business, I definitely don't write as often as I'd like to. And after weeks of propping my eyelids open til midnight in an effort to send off a handful of manuscripts, those "no thank you" replies can sting. (Especially when rejection letters from magazines who don't publish theme lists come back marked "did not fit our current editorial needs." Then tell me what you want from me!).

But every acceptance I receive is made sweeter by the rejections I've had to endure to get there. Since 2009 when I began submitting, I've racked up 27 rejections and 5 acceptances. My first year submitting manuscripts I didn't sell a single one. And when I did finally get my first yes, my excitement was tempered a bit by the news it would be published in a future issue--three years in the future, to be exact. (I finally get to see it in print this August).

No matter how many you receive (I've been told you never reach a point where you're above them) it's important to remember this: Rejections aren't the end of the world. It may mean you need to be humble, accept some constructive criticism and make some changes to improve your manuscript. Or it may simply mean you haven't found the right home for it. Just because it gets turned down, doesn't mean that your story (or you) is worthless.

After all, Gone With the Wind was rejected 38 times before someone was smart enough to say yes.

Have you had a victory born from perseverance? Share your wins in the comments below. I'd love to share a virtual high five!