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Wednesday, July 7, 2021

What Would it Take? IWSG July 2021

It's IWSG Day. The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of the amazing and generous  Alex Cavanaugh. To find links to other IWSG contributors, click here. Thank you to July co-hosts: Pat Garcia, Victoria Marie Lees, and Louise – Fundy Blue.

July’s optional question: What would make you quit writing?

Whoa. This question stopped me hard. As soon as I read it, I was deep into my brain answering—albeit flippantly. What would make me stop? The loss of my two hands? An unrelenting coma? My ultimate demise? But later that morning, as I drove to work, I pondered more seriously. Really. What would it take? I lost my father and within hours, sat down to write a eulogy because writing about him and choosing what to include soothed my aching heart. When my sister was terminally ill, I expressed my heartbreak in poems. I lost my job of 23-years and blogged my way out of the shock. When my husband passed away last spring, a day later I could do nothing BUT sit down and write about him. In truth, for a long while it was impossible to write anything that wasn’t about him, but eventually I could, and now that writing allows me to feel some semblance of normalcy. So, what would it take? I’m not sure I want to know, to tell you the truth.

Frustration, of course, comes along with “business” of writing. For me, most recently, that has involved researching agents who seem like a real fit for my novel and discovering they’re closed to queries. Then there are the rejections that appear in my inbox. It’s hard not to feel discouraged about those, or for example, when I became a finalist in the #revpit twitter contest this spring, but didn’t win. There was the contest I did win, which earned me an agent read on the first 50 pages and ultimately, feedback along the lines of: “Great writing and compelling characters but I’m severely limited in the adult projects I take on…”

There’s a one-step-forward-five-steps back, nausea producing, hopes-up-only-to-plummet-down cycle most writers experience, and I suppose, at some point we all ask ourselves if it’s worth it to stay on the ride. Darned if I know, but like Dorie the fish, I just keep swimming. The writing always brings joy, and as long as I keep trying, success beckons, even if it remains ever off in the distance.

What would make you stop writing?

 

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Waiting and Sharing - IWSG June 2021

It's IWSG Day. The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of  Alex Cavanaugh. To find links to other IWSG contributors, click here. Thank you to co-hosts for June:    J Lenni Dorner, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, Lee Lowery, and Rachna Chhabria

This month’s optional question: For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?

For me, wait time on a first draft depends on the project. If I’m writing an essay or a blog post, I hammer out a first draft and then wait a day or two, even sometimes as long as a week to look at it again. On return, necessary improvements become obvious. If deadlines allow, I wait again and do a final edit before sending it out.

With novels, it’s a whole different story (Lol—pun not intended but left in anyway). I tend to write chronologically from beginning to end. Whether it’s my first draft or my 12th, I usually go at it for several months. When I’m done, I give myself a week or so before starting back at Chapter one. I don’t feel like I need that much more time, because after writing or editing 80,000 plus words, when I return to the early story, I see it with fresh eyes. The exception is when it’s time to read a draft chapter or two to my writing group. I share pages with them chronologically too, and with wait time between readings they usually get a part of the story other than what I’m currently editing. Once I see the consensus in their comments, I go back to the portion I read to them and implement the suggestions.

This past month when I read pages to my group, in spite of my best efforts, they called me out on repeating a piece of information again, again, and yup, there it was again. I also used the word “coffee,” something like thirteen times. How did I miss that? They nailed me on both of the issues and I fixed it all, which helped me make that part of my book better.

Do I wish it took me less time to come up with a decent draft? Sure. But in my case, taking a breather before looking again and getting a group critique results in better work, so I’ll stick with the practice.

What is your writing process like?

 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Taking the Online Offline - IWSG May 2021

 

It's IWSG Day. The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of  Alex Cavanaugh. To find links to other IWSG contributors, click here. Thank you to May co-hosts: Erika Beebe, PJ Colando, Tonja Drecker, Sadira Stone, and Cathrina Constantine.

This month’s optional question: Have any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn't expect? If so, did it surprise you?

One of my earliest published pieces appeared in print and online. The essay, called “His and Her Unemployment" was a lighthearted look at the different ways in which my dear late-husband and I reacted to unwanted unemployment. His experience occurred earlier than mine when the company he worked at for 17-years went out of business. As for me, I wrote the essay real time, a few weeks after my position was eliminated in an economic downsizing.

All that time ago, my husband had been business-like about searching for employment. When he wasn’t focused on that, he used his free time to complete projects around our house. Because there had been anticipation his company would go under, he’d had a mental lead-up to his change in circumstances. While it wasn’t easy, when it happened, he got down to work, both job-search and otherwise. I, on the other hand, had zero warning. After 23 years, I was called to a meeting at two o’clock one afternoon. By four, I was out the door, dizzy with the speed and awfulness of it.

Like my husband, I updated my resume, attended outplacement meetings, (started this blog) and networked like crazy. But unlike him, I didn’t pick up a hammer or paintbrush. Once I completed my job search work each day (even now I feel the need to italicize that), I walked to clear my head. I met friends for hikes or coffee (picking their brains for career tips, I may add, as I figured out what would come next). I made trips to the city, visited family and, recognizing my husband’s diligence, wrote the essay acknowledging how much he’d done around the house when he was off work— admitting (wink, wink) the same couldn’t be said for me. I ended it tongue-in-cheek with something like, “There’s no escaping it. Pretty soon, I think I’ll have to paint the front porch.”

Along with the walking and the coffees, I was actively seeking employment and I believed the essay made that clear, until one anonymous reader wrote what felt like a scathing comment suggesting if I was collecting unemployment I didn’t deserve to. Let's just say the tone was— unpleasant. The outrage shocked me. All I’d intended was to poke a little fun at myself while comparing my husband’s home improvement diligence to—ahem—my lack of home improvement diligence.

I was darn tickled to get that essay published, but the comment tempered my pride. Eventually, the piece was archived, but for longer than I wanted, anyone who read it online could find those negative words, which to me, implied I was a slacker. It was my first real lesson in being wary of what I write for publication—you never know what will set someone off—and it landed a proverbial gut punch once I realized jobs come and go, but online comments last forever.

 What feedback or comments have you received about your writing that surprised you?

Also, for anyone seeking a good book, may I recommend Little Matches, a Memoir of Grief and Light by Maryann O'Hara? Hopeful, heartbreaking, warming and real, her beautifully written message comes through loud and clear. Grief and joy can coexist. They're both elements of love.