Friday, August 31, 2012

What Counts

    I thought about it the other day and I guessed if I took the drafts, half-finished novels, finished novels, rewrites, blogs, anthologies, short stories, and character sketches that I've written over the last year, there would easily be over a thousand pages.  I don't have a published novel but I have two s*&%$ first drafts of two novels.  I have a half a novel I wrote in the month of July that is actually the length of a NaNoWriMo novel.  I have written eight short stories that compose The Charm or The Strikeout with two more installments to come.  My point is, I've written a lot of stuff.  Writing is my primary job these days but I don't have a steady paycheck from this.  In fact, I've never received money for my writer.  But am I still a writer?

     In my opinion, the answer is yes.

    I am currently in a stage where I am creating product.  Whether or not it sells remains to be seen but I am still a writer.  I can't just tap a magic wand to a stack of paper and say "Be a novel written by me."  I have to write it.  I wouldn't want to write a novel using the magic wand approach anyway.  It's more fun to write on my own and create my own product.

   I've had people question what I do or not understand that I really do work.  Yes, I can take a nap in the middle of the day (which usually leads to a later in the night writing session like I'm doing tonight).  I take breaks in the day to do laundry or domestic tasks.  I help with family stuff too.  Writing is fit into that.  And I like that.  I like that I can write in the morning and then spend the afternoon at a friend's house connecting in person rather than on a computer.  I like that I am available to help my grandma go to the store.  But I am still a writer even though I live in my office--literally.

     Do I need an office across town to be taken seriously?  Do I need to sell a million copies before I'm considered to be a writer?  Do I have to write a thousand words a day?  No.  I am a writer because I work hard and am consistent and serious about what I do.  I learn and grow every day.  Someday, the fruits of my labor will be in stores.  For now, I am planting the seeds and preparing for a harvest.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Some Thoughts On Criticism

Every writer has one.  Or two.  Or several.  They are something that cannot be avoided.  Until you as a writer can learn how to please every palette in one story, there will always be negative critics.  You can't escape them.  Sometimes their voices drown out the positive ones.  There are ways to live with them and still be a success as well as learn from what they have to say.

I've been in situations where I've had my work torn apart only to have the person tearing apart my work swoop in to try to take away my opportunity to use for their own gain.  I had a teacher tell me that my work sounded like something for a soap opera or a Made For TV Movie.  I had a classmate type a page of hateful criticisms towards my work that were so bad, I was able to turn them into my teacher.  He said my work sounded like something from Desperate Housewives and that I didn't care about my characters among other things.  I've had family members try to tell me what jobs I should be working instead of writing--twice.  I'm sure other insults have been tossed around behind my back.  But these are what I've heard.

I believe writers should support each other and not tear each other down.  I'm not perfect at this (more on that later).  I also think if someone tells you about an opportunity they're pursuing, it is unethical to critique their piece--good or bad--and then pursue the same opportunity.  In this case, it was a contest and neither of us won but I learned a valuable lesson about who to trust and how to respect other writers.  I am now much more selective of who gets to read my rough drafts.

The teacher who criticized my work had very little experience in the subject he taught and I was able to take additional classes from teachers who had more experience and better reputations.  They built me up and kept in mind that I was a beginner.  The class I took with the critical teacher was a beginning level class and he was grading as if we were a room of veteran screenwriters.  Just because a teacher tells you that you're doing a bad job doesn't mean that they are right or that you can't change.  I was also able to prove that he played favorites with his students and I wasn't one of them.  I could have turned him into the school but I chose not to.  I didn't think it was necessary.  From what I understand, he has changed a bit since I was his student and I can only wish that is the truth.

The classmate was a beginner just like I was.  I don't remember most of what he said about me.  I preferred to forget what he said.  What he said wasn't entirely wrong.  He was right that my characters were underdeveloped.  He was wrong in saying that I didn't care about my characters.  I cared very much about them.  The story he was criticizing started as a scene written for an assignment in class.  The story can now be found in prose form on my blog The Charm or The Strikeout.  It's still not perfect but I love the story and the characters. What I learned from the critique and writing the stories have carried into all of my future work.  And the idea that my work sounded like something out of Desperate Housewives?  It may not have started out as a compliment but I later took it as a compliment.  I loved the writing on Desperate Housewives.  It was one of my favorite shows.  This person later apologized and as far as I'm concerned we're okay.  He got to see me go from a rough newbie to a polished writer over two terms.  While it was painful at the time, it was one of the biggest lessons for me as a writer and I am grateful for that.  It has helped me to be constructive when I'm critiquing a draft that may not be very well written.  I now make sure what I say to another writer is something that can help them improve and not give up.  Giving up after a less than perfect piece of work is the LAST thing that any writer should do.

As for the family members.  They meant well.  I believe that until someone has tried to go through the submission process for a piece--whether it's a poem, a novel or a screenplay--that person has no authority over what any writer should be doing with their time.  It would be like me going on a talk show and telling the audience how to raise their children.  I have taken care of children in the past but I've never raised a child so I have very little place to speak on the subject.  Thankfully, I have very few family members who feel this way and I'm usually able to quiet them when they see how hard I work.  I ask myself, "What authority does this person who is critiquing me have over my work?"  Unless it's a literary agent or a publisher, I take their advice with a grain of salt and consider the source.

I did not use these examples to call anyone out.  I wanted to show that every writer hears criticism.  It is not always a bad thing.  There are healthy ways to criticize and unhealthy ways to criticize.  I have had both.  Once I'm published, what is said about me is out of my hands.  Thankfully, most of my critiques have been very positive and I have a lot of very supportive fans who lift me up and are eagerly anticipating my work.  That is what keeps me going.

Criticism is a part of writing.  Not everyone is going to love your work.   Not everything that is said about you will be true.  What I have learned from criticism is that it is something to learn from, grow from, and come back from.  It does not always feel good.  You won't always have a teacher to step in for you.  But it is not something that should stop you from writing.  When writing stops being fun for me, that's when I'll consider a new path.  But that hasn't happened yet.  Even on a bad day I still feel like I have the best job in the world.

Monday, August 20, 2012

How Do You Warm Up To Write?

In a few of my writing classes in college, we'd have warm up writing time.  It was one of my favorite things to do.  At one point, I had permission to come to class late because I was working across campus.  This often meant arriving to class late and missing warm up time altogether.  I wasn't happy about that but I managed.

Lately, I have had a lot of things on my plate.  My time to write has been interrupted by other things or distracted by other things so it's been hard for me to shift focus.  Sometimes, it takes hours to get me from wrapping up one project to spending time writing.  Generally, opening the file and putting pen to paper is what gets me started.  Sometimes, it works right away.  Other times, I need more help.

What do you do to warm up?  Does it involve even involve writing?  Is it a ritual where you have to have certain things to get started?  Feel free to share in the comments.  I'd love suggestions from my readers that we can share.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Writer Tip: Chapter Lists

Some writers need to draw a map before they get started.  Others just need an open document and to find a quiet space.  I had a teacher who was a "Go With the Flow" writer and was critical of his students--like myself--who weren't.  I did try the teacher's method and wrote some of the worst things I've ever put to paper.  I now proudly map out my stories in some way before I get started.  I need to have an idea of where I'm going.  Before I start a novel, I now fill a notebook or computer folder with character bios, outlines, ideas, and anything to help organize my thoughts.  Doing this has made me a more confident writer.

I love to give my chapters a title.  I feel like each chapter is its own little story that builds together to create the larger novel.  Titles aren't my strongest suit and often get changed multiple times but that's the beauty of the writing process.  It's not final until its bound and published.  I've started to keep a list of my chapter titles so I can get an idea of what titles I've given to the chapters so that I can see later on what titles are working and what might need to be changed later on.  

This is something that I've just recently started to do so I'm still working out the kinks with it, but so far it's helped me to feel more organized when it comes to my chapter titles.  It's such a simple thing to do but saves me a lot of stress in the editing process.

Below is a sample of what my list looks like.  It's a really simple design but will hopefully save a lot of headache in the editing process.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Relaunch of Sorts

For the last several months, Musings From the Farmgirl has been host to my original short fiction anthology The Charm or the Strikeout.  I have decided to separate my work into two blogs.  Musings From the Farmgirl will now host articles about my journey as a writer, prompts, and other items I find of interest.  The new site, The Charm or the Strikeout will host the installments.  All of the previous seven installments have been moved to the new site and removed from this one.

I look forward to sharing new content with you very soon!  Thank you all for the support.

Friday, March 30, 2012


I've rediscovered the joys of Journaling.  Journals are awesome!  They can be anything from a word document in a secret file to a bound book with a colorful cover.  I have tons of them scattered in my office.  I've been filling mine lately with thoughts I don't want to share publicly, story ideas, observations and more.  Journals can be therapeutic or they can set you up for organization.  I even have a journal for my novel that includes inspirations and outlines.  I encourage you to discover journaling.  If writing every day is too overwhelming, start small.  Write once a week and then increase as you see fit.  For me, I journal when the mood strikes.  It could be every day or every few months.  And the most important thing to remember:  DO NOT SHARE ANYTHING YOU DON'T WANT TO SHARE.  Journals are a personal thing and you shouldn't feel like you need to share them unless you want to.

Happy Writing!

I hope you all are enjoying "The Charm or the Strikeout" as much as I am enjoying the process of creating it. Installment Four should be arriving very soon.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

To Take A Break Or Not To Take A Break

December is half way over and I haven’t really done a whole lot of writing.  

I haven’t decided that’s a good thing or not.  On one hand, I wrote two novel s in four months.  On the other hand, I have a goal to have either the first novel self published by this time next year or have a publishing date.  At the moment, neither novel is ready for public consumption.   They need a lot of work but at the same time, I kind of need a break.

I did a lot of writing in a short amount of time.  My brain needs a little bit of a rest.  I’m now starting to get to a point where I’m coming up with ideas for the rewrite including changing the direction of the story to raise the stakes a bit and create more compelling tension.  I’m actually really excited about the possibilities for the story and where it could go. 

It’s also the holiday season.  I have a half decorated house, sugar cookie dough in the fridge and brand new Christmas cookie cutters that need to be used.  I’ve decided that taking some time to celebrate the season is a good thing for this month.  After that, I can get back on a steadier track.  In the meantime, any writing I get in is a bonus.