changes: when to do it & when to stay true to your story

As writers, we have to learn to go with the flow. Sometimes the best ideas don’t translate on paper, and we learn to be open minded and not bitter when others point this out. Whether it’s critique printers, beta readers, or editors–we tend I learn that our first draft is just that: first. Odds are, there’s almost always going to be a second. And potentially a third, fourth, fifth, sixth….

When I was working on my first manuscript with Katelyn (of Stark Contrast Editing), I ran into a lot of places with the book that I wasn’t sure I wanted to change. It was so near and dear to my heart, loosely based on something I had been through myself, that I didn’t know how to take her suggestions. At first I wasn’t open to them, and she handled it with grace. However, as time grew, I knew she was only trying to help me. The manuscript took on a new life, one it never would’ve had if I hadn’t opened my mind to changes.

This was a good type of change.

Recently I got some feedback on another manuscript and i wasn’t sure what to do. Thankfully, I have an agent who believes in me and this manuscript and we decided to make changes not to the book itself but to how we were presenting it. I went through maybe a week of stressing and trying to find things to move around and chapters to cut and more things to add, but in the end I just knew I didn’t WANT to change it. Going in with an open mind to what my agent was going to say, it was the biggest relief when we ended up on the same page.

The feedback was solid, but what someone has to remember with feedback is that it’s all so subjective. Everyone has a different opinion, and just like we don’t all love every book we read, so it is with everyone else. Not everyone will think your manuscript is the bees-knees– and that’s ok.

So how do you balance between being open to change and sticking to your original art?

STICK TO THE HEART

Are the changes going to stick to the heart of the story? If they’re going to make the feel of the story even stronger, odds are they’re good suggestions. Take time to think about the possible changes. Sometimes they won’t be easy, but if you are avoiding the changes because of how difficult it could be or how much work it will take, you might want to rethink what you’re getting yourself into as an author.

 

DON’T SACRIFICE FAVORITES

Sacrifices are always necessary, but if there is a certain line or phrase or moment that you don’t want to let go, then don’t. Sure, it might need to be moved or tweaked as your manuscript goes through edit, but you don’t HAVE to cut something because someone says so.

 

GO WITH THE FLOW

In the end, I can’t say more than this:

Every manuscript is different. Every author is unique. Every editor, agent, publisher works differently. All you can do is go with your gut. Sometimes you might be ‘wrong’ to everyone else, but overall the most important person that matters with YOUR writing, is you, the author.

 

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how working with an editor changed the way i write

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I was never good with criticism, good or bad. I have never been good with rejection, and I have never been good with someone telling me how to do something.

This sounds like a, “DON’T WORK WITH ME” advertisement as an author. BUT I PROMISE THIS WAS IN THE PAST!

After I finished my first true novel, one that had been years in the making, I sat down and was excited and ready to query. I wanted to start sending out my amazingness and have everyone faun over my words.

This was the dream. Isn’t it everyone’s?

Luckily, at this point in my writing I was blessed with a wonder CP who gently suggested that maybe I should consider working with an editor to work through some slow parts and make my manuscript the best it could be. While I wasn’t sure of cost and the idea of someone openly criticizing and making suggestions with my book-baby, I decided to give it a shot.

After e-mailing and going over some details back and forth, I began working with Katelyn from Stark Contrast Editing. I am blessed because I was basically her first client, and I think this is one thing that really made it easier on me to be open to criticism. She was patient and quick to respond, and understanding of many things I didn’t want to change at the time.

I can’t review Katelyn’s services justly, because she completely changed the way I write. She opened my mind to little things (action, not description) that I was pretty terrible at. Words or phrases that I overused (“sigh” and “that” and descriptive actions of the eyes), and so much more.

Though my first book was unsuccessful in scoring me an agent, I was confident that Katelyn had given me the tools to do even better. Once more, she encouraged me to start writing what I really wanted to write. I had worked with her on a YA Contemporary, but Historical Fiction was my passion, and ultimately I think my calling with writing.

I took her advice to heart and worked hard on my next manuscript. When consulting the very same CP who introduced me to Katelyn, she raved how much better this first draft was, and it was only off of her suggestions that I worked, queried, and scored an agent. Although I didn’t work with Katelyn on this one, I cannot deny that she didn’t completely makeover my writing process.

Yes, your book may be that good to begin with, but it seems to me there is no writer that has never had a typo or even just a sentence that didn’t make sense.

I would always suggest working with an editor over not– even if you don’t think you need one. Everyone needs an editor, and every writer is not an editor. Whether you hire someone or work with another writer in a personal way, it needs to be a trusted relationship that can help develop your story into a true masterpiece.

 

While I didn’t write this as a plug for Katelyn’s services, if you are looking for an editor I cannot recommend her more. She and Nikki (aka my wonderful CP I talked about) at Stark Contrast Editing are masters at what they do, and you couldn’t ask for better people to work with.

 

 

how twitter can get you published

twitter marketing_ehdunnWriting a book is hard enough, but now that you’ve got that (almost, completely, halfway) done, it’s time to start increasing your Internet footprint as an author (or dare I say brand).

Blog? If you can, but we will get to that later.

Right now we are going to talk about Twitter.

I’ll be honest, I had no clue what the point of Twitter was. I thought it was somewhere people shared that they were eating their food or watching a show or in general sending updates into the void that no one cared about.

As I started getting into the writing arena, a very good friend introduced me to the Twitter universe and all I could do to get plugged in. Slowly I was entering pitch contests and using hashtags to connect with other writers. I began exploring the literary world that I had no idea existed through bursts of 140 characters.

So don’t roll your eyes at me when I tell you that Twitter is an amazing tool. USE IT.

It can be overwhelming. You want to create your own hashtags and get the perfect mood of a tweet in so few characters, and you aren’t sure if you should follow your dream agent or ::gasp:: tweet him/her. Take a deep breath. I’ve got a few tips that I have learned over the years, some of which come from professionals.

First, if you’re looking for some handy hashtags for writers, check out THIS LINK and THIS LINK. They have a lot of good suggestions.

Second, follow your favorite people. An agent might tweet about a project they’re looking for that matches your manuscript, (#MSWL = manuscript wish list and it’s SO helpful), or an editor might let everyone know if she or he is open to new clients.

I’ll say it again: Twitter is your friend. USE IT.

Third, don’t tweet too much. Less isn’t exactly more with Twitter but you don’t want to annoy your followers so much that they decide to stop following you.  Using apps like Hootsuite can come in hand because it lets you schedule tweets ahead. If you’re doing a pitch contest, taking part in #1linewed, or just trying to capture people’s attention in general—tweet with purpose. Sometimes that takes planning.

Fourth, and last on my list—stay professional. It can be so easy to slip into an Internet battle or have someone send you something nasty off of an innocent tweet. But this is supposed to be a tool. You don’t want your future agent to remember a heated battle you had with someone over different authors, politics, or current events and decide you’re not worth the drama. Remember that you are using your author Twitter account to build your brand.

Over all, there is an amazing writing community just waiting on Twitter. It’s how I met my agent, through #PitMad, and it’s how many can get connected with the publishing industry.

Sign up. Explore. Learn. And USE IT. Twitter might just be the outlet that leads to your book’s publication. 

 

Are you on Twitter? Let’s connect! You can find me here or #writerslifeapparel here.

 

 

This post was originally written for & posted on Stark Contrast Editing‘s blog. Make sure to check out Katelyn’s amazing new site and the services she and others offer. Plus, more posts by yours truly!

writing through the distractions

I am the worst at taking my own advice.

Here I am trying to write a piece about writing through the distractions–and I’m distracted. A load of laundry that needs to be put in the dryer, an appointment that needs to be changed, activities that need to be planned, books that need to be researched…

See what I mean?

Distractions.

writing through the distractions

We always have to-do lists, let’s be real. Even if you don’t write yours down or you’re REALLY good at not thinking about the things you need to get done, they’re there, lurking in the shadows of your brain.

And that’s just part of it.

Nowadays, there are more distractions than the things you need, or even want, to do. There’s Facebook and snapchat and Twitter and Instagram and, well, Google. The world is at your fingertips on your phone, computer, watch…you get it. There’s no escaping the distractions.

So how do we sit down and clear our mind to let words find form on pages so that we may follow through with our passion, our work, dare I say–our calling?

KNOW YOUR BEST TIME OF DAY

Don’t plan to write in the morning if you know you’ll be distracted by the to-dos, the planning, the emptiness of the day before you. Don’t plan to write at night if you know you’ll be too tired.

Plan to write (yes, plan) when you know you’re at your best. While creativity can strike at times we don’t expect, and in those cases we have to go with it, still have a time PLANNED in case other things cloud your day.

CLEAR YOUR MIND

Totally easier said than done. When that time you’ve planned finally comes, find a way to zone out. Whether it’s playing some music or baking before you write–do something to clear your mind and make way for those words. I usually make a list of what I still need to do and then bake while listening to classical music.

Yeah, I do it all, just to make sure I’m in the zone.

ACCEPT THE INEVITABLE

There’s no escaping the world. If you don’t turn off your phone, someone may call or text. If you have kids, one may bust in and throw off your groove. If you have roommates, they can be noisy or bug you. That’s just how it is. The important thing is to set aside that time, and if it gets interrupted, get back to it as quickly and the best as you can.

Writing is work. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Writing, revising, editing—it’s a cycle that we must go through, but you get something at the end.

You get to say:

“I wrote a book.”

And even better, someone else will get to read it someday. It’s a constant fight to get your words into the hands of your readers, but they will be so glad you did.

 

 

This post was originally written for & posted on Stark Contrast Editing‘s blog. Make sure to check out Katelyn’s amazing new site and the services she and others offer. Plus, more posts by yours truly!