My story, “Forensics & You,” just went live at HOBART today! If you have a few minutes today, please give it a read. I hope you enjoy!
Here, in the crazy beginning week of NaNoWriMo, it’s easy to get swept away with reaching that all-important word count. I posted yesterday about the benefits of coloring to highlight the importance of balance. I’ve read some participants’ accounts of frustration, disappointment, and pushing away children and spouses in order to write that novel by the end of the month. The thing is, NaNoWriMo simply isn’t a good idea for some people. Some of us don’t work well under that sort of pressure. Furthermore, some aren’t wired in the manner necessary to produce the sheer quantity required to complete that kind of a task. I’m known for my (mostly) clean first drafts. The way most of my writing is published is very close to the way it comes out. I’m not saying I’m a superior writer, though. I’m saying that most of the editing and revision process happens inside my head, before I even begin to write. For me, the emphasis–each time I write–is quality.
Michael Grab is a stone balancing artist. He does some truly amazing sculptures. His method of rock balancing is a good metaphor for my writing process. Before he places a rock, he studies it carefully. He says, “The fundamental element of balancing in a physical sense is finding some kind of ‘tripod’ for the rock to stand on… By paying close attention to the feeling of the rocks, you will start to feel even the smallest clicks as the notches of the rocks in contact are moving over one another. In the finer point balances, these clicks can be felt on a scale smaller than millimeters.”
He moves on to a discussion of the mind in balance. “Parallel to the physical element of finding tripods, the most fundamental non-physical element is harder to explain. In a nutshell, I am referring to meditation, or finding a zero point or silence within yourself. Some balances can apply significant pressure on your mind and your patience. The challenge is overcoming any doubt that may arise.” (Lisa Be, Life Buzz.com) So, it’s important to take care of yourself: mind, body, and soul.
In terms of NaNoWriMo, find what works for you. As some wise person once said, “It’s only a failure if you didn’t learn something from the experience.” NaNoWriMo isn’t going to work for me. I decided to take the first week to totally revise my YA novel, Children in the House of Vengeance, taking some valuable feedback I’ve gained from a few rejections and putting them into action. You see, to date 3 agents have requested the full manuscript, and 3 agents have rejected the full manuscript. This tells me I need to re-evaluate it. I’m still writing something each day, but it might be a new portion of that book or a blog post, a few pages of my new long project, a poem, a guest article for someone else’s blog, or my Awkward in the Midwest column over at Easy Street Magazine. As long as I’m working, I’m happy.
So, if you’re like me and you’ve already decided NaNoWriMo isn’t for you, give me a shout! It’s a lonely world out there in the digi-sphere right now. Everyone is busy crunching through those word counts. Or, if you are continuing on the path to write your entire novel this month, tell me about it. Let me know that you’re still alive!
The important thing is to find BALANCE in your life–including the part of you that is a writer. Take care of your health. Take care of your heart. Take time to laugh. And cry. And talk to other people. Most important of all: Be present in your life. Because, as Master Oogway says to Po in Kung Fu Panda, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why they call it the present.”
Today is November 1st–day one of NaNoWriMo. The goal: write an entire novel in 30 days. This is the first year I will be participating in the madness. If you want to join the fun, you can just do it or go to the National Novel Writing Month website and sign up. At this site, you can track your progress, get support, and meet other writers. Either way, come back here and let me know how it’s going. We can encourage each other along the way!
Let the games begin! And may the odds be ever in your favor!
If this is your first attempt at writing a novel, here are a few resources to help you get started:
10 Simple Habits to Help You Write Your First Book (Life Hacks): Simple tasks to put your writing potential in action.
How to Write Your First Book (BuzzFeed): 21 successful writers share their stories about overcoming writer’s block, completing, and selling their first books.
How to Start Writing a Book, 1st Chapter (Writer’s Digest): A sampling of advice, tips, and guidelines to inspire your “first steps from blank page to finished piece.”
You just finished months of writing, editing, and perfecting this miraculous creation. Then comes time for submitting–a daunting task. You find lit mag listings on Poets & Writers, Duotrope, or NewPages. You write a beautifully crafted letter and attach it with your poem/story/essay. Then, you wait–checking every five minutes for a reply, logging in to various submission managers, hoping to decode Submittable’s mysterious status of “In Progress.” You hope for the best, but know those rejections are going to come in like dirty, shameful children, one right after the next.
But, alas! Some wonderful journal wants your piece! Someone really read your work, and they actually enjoyed it! Now they even want to PUBLISH it!
Hold on, honey! Before you accept, read this article from The Review Review. It’ll give you warning signs to steer you from a bad publication.
Toxic Journals: What to Watch Out For When You Submit Your Writing (Robert Boucheron)
**Feel free to comment on your experiences with ‘toxic journals’ in the comments. We’ll all benefit from each others misery.**