Monday, May 23, 2016

To Be a Writer and Not Be Writing by Kamy Wicoff


INTRO: All writers can be insecure, even authors who have a publishing press. Kamy Wicoff is the founder of She Writes and She Writes Press. She is here today to tell us about her writing insecurity. Her story is one that will resonate with so many. Please help me welcome her! 


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Last spring, my first novel, Wishful Thinking, came out. For six months I lived the Writer-with-a-capital-W life, touring the country giving readings, begging book clubs to have me, doing some interviews and speaking on a few panels, and, of course, obsessively checking Amazon. And then it was over. It was time. I had to get back to work, to be a writer-with-a-small-w again, working alone.

Initially I was thrilled. I was exhausted from hocking my book to anyone who would listen, and the faint taint of humiliation that comes from constantly selling yourself had long overstayed its welcome. Ah, to be back at the art again! To immerse myself in a world of my creation, taking dictation from my characters and barreling through a story, rather than struggling to be heard in a crowded marketplace, hammering away at inane social media I could care less about!

So I sat down. And nothing came.

It’s now been another six months. Still nothing.

I am terrified.

I have only published two books in my life (the “only” depends on your perspective, of course, and right now, without an idea in sight, it is how I feel)  – the first was nonfiction, and the second was a novel. Between the nonfiction book and the novel, there were several years where I was fairly sure I’d never write again. But I had some good excuses. I went through a painful divorce. I had very young children. I didn’t want to write another memoir, and had never written fiction and had no idea if I could. When the idea for my novel came to me it was like a bolt from the blue, a lifeline from the gods of creativity to a new way of being a writer that I was sure was the right one at last. I’d never written a novel before, and I wrote one I was proud of. Surely now there would be no more dry spells. Surely now I had found my groove.

The thing is, writing, for me, anyway, doesn’t work like that. I know lots of writers who start the next book before the last book has even come out. (I am Facebook friends with a lot of them, unfortunately for my ego.) But I have spent the last several months trying to make peace with the fact that that isn’t me. It’s hard. It’s scary. I have told myself that by reading, journaling, living life and focusing on my business (I am the founder of SheWrites.com and its publishing arm, She Writes Press), I am “filling the well,” preparing myself in ways I can’t understand now for whatever it is I’m going to write later. But it is very hard to have faith, to be a writer and not be writing. Can I say I am a writer during the times when I don’t write at all?

An age-old question, I know. The muse is fickle, and more likely to visit when we are not chasing her. But it’s hard to wait without panicking that I may be waiting forever. 

So I ask you: what do you do in the in-between, when inspiration doesn’t come yet? I’d love to know. I’ve got some time to kill.


Thank you, Kamy, for being our guest today!


Bio:

Kamy Wicoff is the bestselling author of the novel Wishful Thinking and the nonfiction book I Do But I Don’t: Why The Way We Marry Matters. She is the founder of one of the world’s largest communities for women writers, www.shewrites.com, with 27,000 members worldwide. She is also the founder, with Brooke Warner, of She Writes Press, a “third way” publisher leading the way in creating alternative publishing companies for authors. Kamy serves on the board of Girls Write Now, a New York City nonprofit that pairs high school girls with professional women writers as their mentors. 

To learn more, visit: www.kamywicoff.com.  

Monday, May 16, 2016

Sad Mr. Adverb

Sad Mr. Adverb is so very sad
Seems he's been labelled crazy and mad 
By whom? you might ask, and rightfully too  
By Them, you'd be told, them in the blue
They say don't use him, not any ole way
He's not fit for language, requiem, or play 
Well, if that be true, then give him the boot 
For new writers know nothin,' and old writers toot moot 

[Haha, I know! Don't quit my day job and take up poetry writing.]

THEY have been telling us to cut adverbs for so long that the rule is now a norm. Why? Because too many writers use adverbs to modify the wrong word. Or they use ambiguous adverbs that tell us nothing. It's become easier to say, "Don't use them," then to illustrate their proper use. 

"And when he spoke, his words came slowly and softly." The Legend of Devil's Creek. D.C. Alexander.  
"She gave a sharp cry of realization just as hands, which she had noticed specifically for their size and strength, caught her upper arm from behind." Mean Streak, Sandra Brown.  
She had just enough time to recognize the heavy hammer she sometimes used to [...] It was in his hands [...]." Dead Wood, Dan Ames 
"When I sit up I do it slowly, blinking heavily. There is a sour taste in my mouth [...]" Follow the Crow, B.B. Griffith. 
"It was a vision of hell. A dismally foggy day over stinking heaps of refuse—" Book of Shadows, Alexandra Sokoloff.
"Reidinger's face was terribly young and unlined, but his brown eyes [...]." The Angel of Zin, Clifford Irving. 
"[...] Jack had said something else to him, too quietly for Wendy to hear, and Tom had only shaken his head sullenly [...]." The Shining, Stephen King. 
"It's difficult to come out on top when everyone is your enemy. Fortunately for us, we aren't at that point yet." Dragon of the Stars, Alex J. Cavanaugh. [Some would argue that out in this case is an adverb. I'll leave that decision for the wordsmiths]

When used correctly, adverbs convey something important and even powerful for the reader. They add rhythm to your prose. They're the reason your reader turns the page; they add something vital to the plot. They don't glob up your sentences. Learn how to use them effectively and I promise your writing will become stronger. 


By the way, @TheIWSG is now on twitter. 



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Monday, May 9, 2016

How to be a Good Critique Partner

A good critique partner can be as hard to find as a rare diamond. Once found, it’s all important to hold onto them. The best way of doing this is to be a good critique partner in return. Anyone can read a manuscript and offer an opinion, but a good critique partner does a little more, thinks a little deeper than the average reader. Below are some tips on how to be a good critique partner.

1. Respect the author and the manuscript. Before delving in, remind yourself that the manuscript you’re looking over isn’t your story and neither is it likely to be written in your voice. While you’ll only ever have your opinion, it helps if you are able to approach the manuscript not as a general reader, but from the writer’s point of view, attempting to see what the writer is trying to express through their work. Rather than offering what you think should be portrayed in the words, try to work out what you think the writer is trying to portray and then, based on that, offer your opinion.

2. Tread lightly. Treading lightly is especially important with relatively new writers or writers who have never experienced a critique before. Be mindful that the writer is a real person with real feelings and their manuscript is often their precious baby they have entrusted into your hands. Your valid opinions will have a greater chance of being heard if they are delivered in a thoughtful manner.

3. Avoid assumptions. If you happen to spot a broken writing rule, don’t assume the writer made a mistake. Perhaps the writer broke the rule on purpose. Ask yourself what the author was trying to convey. Did the author achieve their goal? Don’t make assumptions about the characters either. Perhaps the author has a grand plan in mind which will be revealed later in the text.

4. Offer concise comments. When you make a comment or change the text, make sure you clearly communicate the reason. If it’s about personal taste, then it helps to offer why. This gives the author a chance to see where you are coming from, to get to the heart of the issue. The author knows the manuscript far better than you do, so what you think might be the issue, may only be a pointer to the actual problem.

5. Offer suggestions. If you do see a problem, your job isn’t done once you’ve pointed it out. It’s especially helpful to the writer to hear possible suggestions on how to fix the problem. The writer may not follow those suggestions, but they might inspire a whole new solution. Hearing the suggestions might also give the writer a greater insight into the problem.

6. You are a critique partner, not an editor. You may not have the same vision for the piece as the writer, but that shouldn’t get in the way of your job, which is working within the bounds of the writer’s vision. If you can see a path that’s different, by all means share it, but make sure you justify your reasons for the suggestion otherwise the writer could be left in the dark as to why you feel a change would be appropriate.

7. On Grammar. If you are going to correct the writer’s grammar, please make sure you have checked the rules first. Too often I’ve seen critique partners ‘correct’ already correct grammar. And if you are the writer who has been critiqued, always double check the grammar that’s been corrected. Don’t assume your critique partner is right.

8. Follow instructions. Sometimes a writer is after a specific kind of critique. They might not be after all that little stuff like sentence construction, rule hunting, or even grammar. They might have just finished a messy first draft and needs someone to cast their eye over the bigger devices such as the general plot, the pace, the character arcs. If you then offer observations on the little details, you are wasting both your time and the writer’s.

9. Praising what works is as important as spotting what doesn’t. This is not about stroking the writer’s ego, or softening the blow for a later critique. It’s helpful to know what is working in the manuscript. It can often bring insight into the reader where the writer couldn’t see before.

10. Return the manuscript in a timely manner. The best critique partners are fast workers, but not everyone has the time to churn out a carefully considered collection of comments. This is fine, so it helps if you can agree how long the critique might take. If you are delayed, then let the writer know. If you are a slower critiquer, then it also helps to return portions of the manuscript at a time so the writer isn’t waiting around for the full finished piece. This way the writer can start working on the first part while you continue to critique the next part.

What do you look for in a good critique partner? If you are looking for a partner, then don’t forget the IWSG Critique Circle on Facebook.


Lynda R. Young