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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

There's Writing, and then There's Writing...IWSG June

It's a blog hop, folks, led by Captain Alex Cavanaugh and his minions.  To find links to more writers talking about writing, click here

The last time I wrote an IWSG post, I talked about struggling with my writing project, and the muse that yanked me off in a different direction.  That direction was a 550 word essay that I wrote in under two hours and sent on spec to the Boston Globe. Less than a week later they informed me they wanted to publish it, and it will appear this weekend. Working on that snippet was fun, and the acceptance, complete with pay, gave me little confidence boost. 

That same week, I finally tracked down a copy of a spring issue of a boating magazine where I have a fifteen hundred word feature about my hometown harbor (guess my complimentary copy got lost in the mail).  A few days later, the mail delivered another regional magazine where I have a center spread on eight seafood restaurants.  The two magazines sit on my coffee table, taunting me in a way, reminding me it’s been over a  month since I focused (or tried to focus) on the novel. 

I belong to a local writers group, and the last two times I’ve read pieces of my current project the feedback was tough, critical in ways that are correct, but for some reason, also damaging.  I’m reading from an early draft, I know the writing needs to be tightened, but I have to get through the story first, and I’m finding it difficult to have the thing torn to pieces before I’m done.  After the last critique session, I re-read the draft and realized in addition to the accurate comments from my group, the whole thing lacks complexity and conflict.  I have a million miles to go and right now, I’m straining to take a step.

Perhaps that’s why every once in a while, I open the two magazines on the coffee table and rifle to my articles.  Perhaps that’s why I look forward to getting Sunday’s paper and seeing my byline.  Maybe that’s what led me to write another, 650-word essay that I’m planning on submitting soon.  These days, I’m really not sure I'm ever going to publish a novel.  But this less, tear-my-hair-out kind of work convinces me at least I can still write.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Be proud of those articles! Those aren't easy either. And you know you can do it. When you're ready, you'll tackle that novel.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Excellent work on those publications! Be proud! We're all proud of you. :)

It took me a looooong time to learn to not disparage all my other writing successes just because they weren't The Novel.

Bish Denham said...

Wow, those publications are nothing to sneeze at. (Where did that saying come from anyway?) As for the novel, maybe you need to set it aside and try a new one? I have several that will never see the light of day. I bet most every writer does.

Cathrina Constantine said...

Congratulations, Liza!!!!!

Robin said...

Non-writer types have often recommended to me joining a writing critique group. I've read so many blog posts (like this one) in which a person feels so defeated after attending one of those things that it sucks all of their creativity right out of them. I'm not sure how helpful they are. There is a fine line between helpful and toxic. In my old age, I'm beginning to understand that you should never take something away from someone unless you can replace it with something else. Or if you can't replace the thing that isn't working, give them two things that are that they can build on and do more of. It isn't right to take someone who has talent (AND YOU HAVE TALENT) and make them leave a place after sharing their work feeling like they a) don't want to write or b) aren't capable of writing anything decent.

For the record, I believe that you can write a novel. A really great novel. You just need to believe it, too.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

So happy for your success. Remember the first draft of a novel is often crap. Some writers do more than ten drafts though I think three or four is more usual.

Joanne said...

you are writing and thinking - that's key. Congrats on the articles. If they give you a boost and you have fun writing them - that is key. You are beating yourself up on your novel - don't make it a chore you dread. It's your challenge, but it's okay to stop and browse your magazines. Kudos!!!

Connie said...

Congratulations on your articles! I think it's great that you are sending things out and getting published. Maybe time spent thinking about something else will help you come back to working on your novel with a new perspective.

Arlee Bird said...

If you're getting published then something is happening in your life that's not happening with most people who like to think of themselves as writers. Good for you. You're getting stuff done.

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

Nick Wilford said...

Those are definitely great victories that you should be proud of. I'm not sure the writing group is that helpful - their comments may be accurate but there's a way of saying things in a more encouraging manner. I don't show anything to anyone until I'm done with the first draft at least. Maybe you should let yourself just write for now without worrying about how it might be critiqued or received - just a thought.

Juneta key said...

That is fantastic about the articles. I have wanted to do something like that "articles" but have no idea how to begin. Keep plugging the novel will get there.

Some of my fave Holly quotes:
"First draft is for you. Final, draft is for everyone. Don't confuse the two." ~Holly Lisle 

"Keep writing, keep believing, and never give up on your dreams." ~Holly Lisle 

"Maybe what you should be praying for is One Good Enemy." ~Holly Lisle

Hang in. Mine your disasters for all they're worth. Make sure the universe repays you, with interest, for the shit it's put you through." ~Holly Lisle

More inspiration from quotes:

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” ― Ray Bradbury

"The first draft of everything is shit." -Ernest Hemingway

Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

Jenni said...

Congrats on your acceptances! My only published work is in magazines, but wow did those yeses boost my spirits. Maybe I'll have to remember to reread those when I'm discouraged.
I wonder if you showed your work too soon to your critique group. I've done that before and it really took me a long time to get back into the story. Everyone's different, but for me, it works better to have my stuff polished to the best of my ability before I show it to others, because I'm easily discouraged.
But don't give up on that novel!

Sandra said...

Today I read something at my read and critique group with an ending I was sure my group would find weak. Instead, they LOVED the ending. I'm glad I took a chance. I was hoping to get ideas for making the ending stronger. Who would have thought it was what led up to it they found weak.

Don't let the criticism get under your skin, unless it is likely to led to fingers tapping on a keyboard to revise or continue writing.

Pixel Peeper said...

Congratulations on the published work! Maybe the magazine articles are baby steps...but baby steps are closely related to the giant strides of a novel.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Wow! I would leaf through those articles and look for that paper, too. That's awesome! Way to go! I think taking time to celebrate accomplishments is important and motivating for the long-haul projects.

Elizabeth Alsobrooks said...

The competition for article publication is fierce! Way to go! I'd look for the kudos too. Congratulations.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liza - well done on getting those articles published ... and then realising your project needs some readjustment ... all will be well ... it's plodding on isn't it - but with those extra boosts of confidence in the articles published. Good for you - cheers Hilary

Murees Dupè said...

Congratulations on getting your work published. That is amazing. You should be proud of that. A novel is a beast of a thing. Just take it a word at a time. My first book took me over 5 years to get ready for publication. You are doing a lot better than you think. Good-luck.

J.L. Campbell said...

Liza, as long as you keep writing you'll stay in practise. I also get pulled in several directions by my projects, but good sense and reality prevail at some point.

glnroz said...

you being a writer? That is no surprise to a lot of people...congrats and "plow forward"... Glenn

Diane Burton said...

That is so great! Congrats on the publications.

Pat Garcia said...

First, congratulations. I am still trying to break into the magazine world with my short stories, so your article has given me a big boost to hang in their and keep submitting.

Second, I find it hard to be in a critique group when I am working on my first draft. I usually write out my first draft and then start with getting critique when I am ready to tighten up my manuscript. However, I do work with a writing coach as I write my first draft. She is extremely good, very critical, but her comments don't come across as damaging because I know she means well with me.

Just some thoughts on how I work with my writing. Maybe it will give you some new ideas about submitting your work to be critiqued on before it is finished. Critique is excellent but it can be a stopper when we are writing the first draft.

All the best.

Shalom aleichem,

Olga Godim said...

It's great that you're being published and paid for it. Be proud. I'm a journalist too and I know how it feels.
As for the writing group, I think you shouldn't show your first draft to anyone. The first draft is for the author alone. I never share the first draft of anything I write. Only after I thought about it for a while, tinkled with it, went through a couple of revisions, it becomes fit for a writers' group. What you could share, if you need someone's input, is a synopsis, or you could brainstorm the story line, the conflict, the characters. But not the first draft.
Sorry if I sound didactic. Just my personal opinion.

mshatch said...

I currently don't belong to a writers/critique group but I do have one person who I will let see my first drafts. She's very good at telling me what's working, and, more importantly, what's not and why. For example, I've recently been playing with a fan fiction story, and after reading my first two rough draft chapters, she saw where I was heading, and was able to point out what wasn't working, why, and what needed clarification. I'm fortunate that this same person has been reading my work for a while now and probably knows me and my style well enough to be extra helpful. She is also kindly honest, I am immensely grateful to have found her. Perhaps there is someone in your group who might fill that sort of role?

And definitely keep your successes out on full display to remind yourself that, yes, you are a writer. The proof is right there.