Writer’s Platform Building Campaign

Just a quick note to tell you about the Third Writer’s Platform Building Campaign, hosted by Rachael Harrie of Rach Writes.

The goal is to connect bloggers with one another to foster networking and genuine connections between writers in similar areas. The Campaign will run from August 22nd to October 31st, with campaign challenges scheduled over the next few months. There’s even a twitter hashtag for the group: #writecampaign

To learn more about the campaign, go HERE.

To sign up to be a campaigner, fill out this FORM.

Whether you choose to join the campaign or not, happy writing!

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End-of-the-year Assessment

I can’t believe it’s December already. Lame, I know, since we’re all feeling that way. But I thought it would be a good time to stop lamenting how time flies and try to determine just what I’ve accomplished this year so far.

What follows may be of limited utility to you, but I encourage you to evaluate your own writing efforts in a similar manner – you may discover you’ve achieved more than you think!

Novel-length Projects

Medieval Historical Romance – Complete at 93k. I’m still tinkering with it. I sent out two queries to two agents this summer. Although both rejected it based on partials, I did get a personalized rejection from one agent. I learned the oh-so-important lesson: don’t query too soon. Since then, I’ve strengthened the beginning thanks to critiques I received through Miss Snark’s First Victim and Sharon Mayhew’s blog Random Thoughts. I got some constructive criticism and encouraging feedback through the Golden Rose Contest. And thanks to a posting on Adventures in Children’s Publishing, I found a critique partner who is helping me assess the novel with fresh eyes. It’s amazing what story elements, sentences, even words you take for granted when you’re reading something for the gazillionth time! I also took a chance and submitted my first chapter to Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest after they picked my scene for the SYTYCW scene challenge.

Goals for the upcoming year – Armed with a newly polished manuscript, I plan to query agents in earnest after the holidays. I had hoped I would be at this point this fall, but obviously that didn’t happen. If the agent search is unsuccessful, I fear I’ll have to set this project aside. *sniffle* 

Speculative Fiction 1 – This is the project at the center of the kerfuffle with my critique group last month. I’m proud of this WIP because I’ve completed two drafts this year (considering how many years it took me to finish my historical romance, this is quite an achievement). After completing the first draft, I was able to identify some issues with the story, and took steps to make some big changes, including adding a third POV character. With the second draft now complete, all the major plot points are in place. 

Goals for the upcoming year – It’s time to take this story to the next level. I’ll be revising this story mercilessly to ensure all the new elements I’ve incorporated gel. I’m still hopeful my critique group will help me strengthen the manuscript. If not, I’ll need to hunt up some beta readers. *gulp* 

Speculative Fiction 2 – I actually started this story before the one above and was 25k into it but then ran into some considerable plot roadblocks. However, after working through the other spec fic story and mulling things over in my subconscious, I now know what I need to do in order to proceed. 

Goals for the upcoming year – Finish the draft. That’s all there is to it. I’m going to have to rework some of what I already wrote and add a whole lot more. *groan* 

YA Contemporary – This was my NaNoWriMo project this year. I had wanted to write this one for awhile but my writing plate’s been pretty full. So I though NaNo would be the perfect time to jumpstart a new story. Thing is, I only got 13k words down during the month of November. But I have a rough outline for the story and look forward to working on the rest of it. Unlike my historical and speculative works, the voice was one of the first things that came together for this project. It’s also nice to be able to write something without doing a whole bunch of research first, since I’m drawing on my direct experiences growing up. 

Goals for the upcoming year – Finish the draft. I’m a little concerned at how easy this story is developing. Maybe I’m getting better or maybe I’m not pushing this story far enough. We’ll see once I have a complete draft. *sigh*

Short Story Projects

Speculative Fiction Short – I was so excited about this story. I got good feedback from my writing group and started submitting it bigtime – Asimov’s, Analog, Clarkesworld. And got rejections for my efforts – though one editor did say: “The story is very nicely done, but I’m afraid it’s not quite right for me.” What can I say? That made me feel a teensy bit better. But I decided to hit the submission breaks, and I have been mulling over story revisions ever since. 

Goals for the upcoming year – Rework story, workshop it with my critique group, and start submitting again. *bracing for the worst* 

Speculative Fiction Flash – This originated as a prompt from my writing group. I fleshed it out and then shared it with my critique group. Everyone really liked it but thought it needed to be expanded. I didn’t agree with that. I liked it’s length and wasn’t up for creating an elaborate world to go with it. So I tinkered with it a bit and sent it off just last week. 

Goals for the upcoming year – See if I get any sort of feedback on the story from the magazine I submitted it to and identify other outlets for the piece. If nothing works out, reevaluate. *crossing fingers* 

Literary Flash – This also originated as a prompt from my writing group that I revised and shared with my critique group. I submitted it to a few places and got form rejections. Then I read it at an open-mic night, which forced me to evaluate each and every word. I made a few changes and sent it out again. This time I received a very nice personalized rejection, telling me what worked and what didn’t. And he was totally right. 

Goals for the upcoming year – Wait a few weeks, then revise with an eye to what this particular editor pointed out. Then start submitting again. *deep breath*

The Writing Life

I’ve taken ownership of my dream to write:

I started blogging on February 23, 2010. 64 posts and 64 followers later, I’m still going strong. I’ve had to make some changes, but I’m pleased with my slow but steady progress. I’ve had 18,000+ pageviews since I started (a big difference from the total on the nav bar, which only counts since May 2010).

I started tweeting (@bluemaven) in mid-March. Twitter keeps losing my old tweets but I think it’s almost 300. I have 120 followers, which is pretty good considering how picky I am in who I follow. I also don’t chat a whole bunch on twitter – just sharing links and sometimes day-to-day commentary.

140,000 – approximate word count Jan-Nov 2010 (including new WIP content, prompts with writing group, and blog posts – but not revisions). 

Goals for the Coming Year – Keep on keeping on. I want to maintain my blogging and twitter regimen. I’d also like to find a good writing conference to go to. I’m thinking RWA Nationals, but that scares the crap out of me. *shivers*

What have you accomplished this year? What are you proud of? How are you going to take your work to the next level?
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A Case of the Not Enoughs

I’m constantly worried I’m not working hard enough on my writing. That I’m not writing enough. That I haven’t had enough life experience to write anything worthwhile. I’m already pretty sure I haven’t read widely enough even though it seems I’m always reading when I’m not writing. And I suspect I’m not revising enough, even though I’m not sure how I should approach that process differently.

Bottom line, I fear my attempts to better my craft just aren’t good enough.

It’s a debilitating spiral of negativity to be caught up in. But consider:

It is no longer enough to have a webpage. Writers must blog, tweet, share on Facebook. And the list of Thou Shalts keeps getting longer when it comes to social media. (On a side note, Paulo Campos over at yingle yangle has a great post on how social media affects people’s perception of writing success.)

It is no longer enough to land an agent. While agents are still a writer’s number one advocate in the publishing world, the writer still has the ultimate responsibility for selling, positioning, and managing their work. Now, this is nothing new. With so many aspiring writers out there, armed with record levels of literary, the market will favor those writers who can seemingly do it all.

Am I one of them? I don’t know yet as I’m still struggling with this notion: It is no longer enough to write a book.

I’ve written a book (and completed a number of solid drafts for other projects). One that I’m proud of. But is that enough in today’s marketplace? NO. I need to ensure both my idea and story execution are marketable. Competitive. The best I can make it and then some.

This means it is not enough to write for yourself. You must look past your own narrow view of the world. You must know your audience (Found in Translation by Michael Cunningham provides a fascinating take on how to envision the audience for your work). Ultimately you must have a built-in market if your book will win the struggle to stay relevant in our evolving digital culture.

When making the leap from writing for myself to writing for publication, aspects of my work that didn’t bother me before were thrown into sharp relief. I had to ask myself if my work was still good enough for a wider audience. And I didn’t like the answer.

It’s hard enough to write a book from start to finish. I don’t mean you have to write in a linear fashion, but that you actually complete the project (tinkering aside). When you hit that point, it can be a tremendous relief. After all, how many other people have great book ideas but get stymied by the execution? But then the real hard work looms ahead of you. Revision. After too many passes to count, you have a polished book, sure, but is it one people want to read? One you can market to publishing houses? One that people will plunk down money for?

Is it that good?

This is where I stumble every time. I just don’t know. I think my work is good. My few readers think so too. But is it good enough? Have I done enough? And if I haven’t, how do I take my work to the next level?

Am I overstating things here a bit? Probably. Am I so discouraged that I will stop linking words, creating dizzying chains of sentences that when fused together make for some awesome storytelling? Hell no. I started writing because I loved it. I won’t stop now. But I still think I haven’t done enough to get things right. I haven’t learned enough. But as always, I’m willing to try.

If this post is a little too grim for you, take a gander at the Agency Gatekeeper’s take on debut novelists and what they need to beat the odds:

What do you need? The ability to write really, really, really well. And a great query, a great first page, and The Jeff Herman Guide. Or another  method of finding agents who are likely to be a good fit.

 Until next week.
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Slow Blogging

Lots of theories abound when it comes to social media and how blogging should be utilized:

  • Post every day.
  • Respond to each and every comment.
  • Read and comment on other blogs indiscriminately.
  • Flaunt yourself as much as possible.

Trouble is, I’ve never been much of an exhibitionist. Admittedly, blogging is a bit of a contradiction for me. Every time I post, I put myself out there in the ether for public consideration – except I do this under an alias because I’m not ready to own up to being a wannabe writer unless I make it. So why do I do it? Because the benefits of writing practice and engagement with the larger writing community far outweigh the nuisances of blogging.

That said, I’d rather be working on my WIPs instead of putting together my next blog post. But when I do blog, I want my posts to be as strong as possible. I’ll revise, research, and let them sit until they’re ready. This takes time. I guess I’ve always preferred quality over quantity.

When it comes to commenting and interacting with others, it’s all about the content for me. Not the brown nosing, the contests, the polls. If I feel I can’t add to the discussion on someone else’s blog, I don’t bother to comment. Blasphemy, I know. I’m just not comfortable saying something for the sake of saying something. I like to think about things, and I don’t want to rattle off the first thing that comes to mind. Especially when it is so easy to follow things back to the source. I don’t want to be haunted by half-assed comments years from now.

So when I heard about the notion of slow blogging, I felt relieved that it wasn’t just me who took issue with the time pressure of producing content and interacting with others. The concept has been around for awhile now. Anne R. Allen provides a great overview of the movement with respect to writers, which I stumbled upon thanks to a post by Elizabeth Craig. If you want to know more, you can read the Slow Blogging Manifesto and a New York Times article on the movement.

So from here on forward, I will aim to post once a week – usually on Wednesdays.

Before, I loosely coupled my posting schedule to the number of trips I took to the coffee shop to write – roughly two times a week. It was an informal schedule at the best of times before it was utterly destroyed during the big move and subsequent babysitting of contractors over the last two months. But weekly blog posts? That I can get behind. People have talked about the benefits of having a posting schedule before (Elizabeth Craig again comes to mind), so we’ll see how it goes.

I see this move to slow(er) blogging as:

  • a way to help me handle the time pressure of blogging,
  • a justification of the pace of posting I’ve already unconsciously set,
  • a way to reinforce the quality over quantity criterion I’ve always valued,
  • a formal acknowledgement of my accountability to myself and my readers, and
  • a way to ensures I have time to do justice to the topics I post about.


And if this builds in extra time for writing, who am I to complain?

I’ll also be tinkering with some of the labels and tags this week, so apologies for any inconsistencies on that front.
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Best of the Best – The Writing Blogosphere’s Major Players

In my first Best of the Best post, I tackled agent blogs, but this time around I’ve focused on writing websites that consistently provide essential information, advice, and inspiration for writers at all levels. Upcoming Best of the Best posts will focus on YA, Science Fiction, and Romance resources, so stay tuned.

The sites I’ve compiled here (in alphabetical order) are all ones that I follow regularly and are highly visible in the writing world. If you aren’t paying attention to them, you are truly missing out.

Author, Jody Hedlund [http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/] – Represented by Rachelle Gardner, Jody Hedlund (@JodyHedlund) writes inspirational historical romance, but her blog is a great example of how to build an author platform before the release of your novels. Her posts offer great insights into the writing life, craft, and the publishing process. Also be sure to check out her helpful Character Worksheet.

Guide to Literary Agents [http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/] – Editor of Writer Digest’s annual Guide to Literary Agents, Chuck Sambuchino (@ChuckSambuchino) posts essential information about the publishing process. Series like New Agent Alert, Agent Advice, How I Got My Agent, and the newer 7 Things I’ve Learned So Far are hugely informative for those of you seriously pursuing publication.

Miss Snark’s First Victim [http://misssnarksfirstvictim.blogspot.com/] – Authoress (@AuthoressAnon), a self-proclaimed victim of the now-defunct Miss Snark, has created a supportive space for aspiring writers through her blog. Monthly Secret Agent Contests – where an unnamed, rotating agent chairs a contest for the best opening – are the biggest highlight, along with smaller contests where people can submit their work and be assured of honest, usually constructive feedback. A must, especially if you are writing YA, MG, SF/F, or Woman’s Fiction.

Mystery Writing is Murder [http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com/] – Elizabeth Spann Craig (@elizabethscraig), unsurprisingly, writes mysteries, and her blog is a wonderful resource for writers at all levels. She provides practical writing advice, poses thoughtful questions about the writing process, and keeps tabs on what’s going on in the writing blogosphere thanks to her twitter updates and a weekly roundup – her series of posts labeled “Twitterific.” Follow her and stay informed.

Plot to Punctuation [http://www.plottopunctuation.com/blog] – Freelance editor Jason Black (@p2p_editor) blogs primarily about the nuances of character development, in an in-depth, thought-provoking manner. If you struggle in bringing your characters to life, like I do, you should keep an eye on this blog. Black’s not as prolific as other bloggers, but the quality content is worth the wait.

The Bookshelf Muse [http://thebookshelfmuse.blogspot.com/] – Angela Ackerman (@AngelaAckerman) writes kid lit of all kinds, but the true value of her blog is the Emotion Thesaurus, where she provides a list of actions that show (not tell) a character experiencing that emotion. She also has thesaurus posts on setting and color, texture, and shape. Also, be sure to check out her recent compilation of writing blogs you can’t live without.

There Are No Rules [http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/] – Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) is the Strategic Director for Writer’s Digest, and her blog delves into publishing trends that authors need to stay abreast of. As her blog title’s suggests, Friedman believes there are no rules anymore when it comes to publishing because of the rise of digital media. Her take on issues can be controversial and run counter to traditional publishing models, but if you want to succeed in the ever-changing publishing landscape, you should at least be aware of what she has to say.

Wordplay [http://wordplay-kmweiland.blogspot.com/] – A writer of historical fiction, K. M. Weiland (@KMWeiland) blogs about craft and the writing life. Her posts are informative and thoughtful, and she also has a video series exploring a specific aspect of writing each week. Be sure to download her free ebook Crafting Unforgettable Characters.

Writer Unboxed [http://writerunboxed.com/] – One of Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites since 2007 (and for good reason), Writer Unboxed provides posts full of inspiration and tips on a near daily basis from writing professionals from a variety of backgrounds. The Writer Unboxed bloggers also post author interviews, highlighting different writing journeys.

If you have across other writing websites that provide essential information and quality content related to craft and business of writing, please share in the comments. Thanks!
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