Perseverance Is a Tricky Thing

Perseverance is a tricky thing. It means sticking with something you believe in, even if your goal isn’t in sight. It means having faith in what you’re doing and trusting that good will come of your efforts. It’s easy to celebrate in retrospect, but can be tough to stick with in the midst of a challenge.

 

A few years ago, I heard about a magazine called Verily, whose mission aligned with what I was trying to do with my fiction, that is, create content in mainstream media that is backed by solid values without being preachy.

 

I subscribed right away. I was bummed when, three issues in, they had to go to online-only. Still, I signed up for the daily email and read the articles consistently. I looked up the submission guidelines until I had them memorized. Finally I got the courage to submit a piece.

 

Prior to this, I had little experience with magazine publishing. With the guidance of a friend who did, and with confidence that the piece I pitched mattered, I sent in my article. There was a dance party in the kitchen (the best place in the house for such an event) when it was accepted!

 

In the following months, I continued to pitch. Not everything was accepted, but I got a good response from what was.

 

One night, I was talking with my husband, wondering how it was that some of the writers contributed so much more frequently than I was managing. I looked again at the site’s job board, but I’d never seen a posting for a staff writer or anything like that.

 

It was about this time that I committed myself to publishing two pieces per month with Verily. Two weeks later, I got a message from the editor who published my very first piece. She wanted to know if I would be interested in contributing regularly.

 

Would I?!

 

I waited thirty seconds before responding, as not to seem overeager.

 

In the three months since, I have learned so much about pitching, writing, editing, collaborating, and what works online versus in print. I am grateful to have an editor who is interested in helping me grow as a writer.

 

I have tried to make myself read the things I thought I should be reading, the places I thought I should want my work to get published. What they say is true, and the best fit for my work was what I was already reading. It took courage, confidence, and resilience to bounce back when I was rejected, but ultimately, I’ve found a great place to contribute my work and build some great relationships along the way.

 

Is there somewhere you’ve been dreaming of submitting your work? What’s stopping you? What steps could you take today, this week, this month to give it a shot?

 

P.S. Check out my pieces at Verily here.

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The Frightening Reality of Revision

Yesterday was Halloween, which means today is Day One of National Novel Writing Month. Having completed the challenge last November and CampNaNo in April, I’m not participating this time around. Instead, I’m engaging in something perhaps even more terrifying than trying to write 50,000 words in a short month with a long weekend: I’m editing my first novel for the jillionth time.

I have been working on this novel since my five-year-old was this big:

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They say the first novel is one to throw out, but I’ve been encouraged to keep at this one, and I’m glad I am. I made a bunch of large-scale changes when I finally revised it in September. I felt good about them as I wrote, and I was thrilled that I finished before the stroke of midnight on October 1.

But as this month has passed, I’ve grown skeptical. I haven’t allowed myself a single peek at the revision in thirty-one days. What’s really in there? Did it work? Did it fail? What still needs reworking? Will I be able to see it?

Now, I dive back in. I’m nervous, but I’m reminded how far I’ve come over the last four and a half years of working on this thing. I have beta readers waiting for the revision December 1, and I’ve set myself the reward of ordering a 2016 planner when the new revision is complete.

So today, my thirty-day challenge begins. Once I’m in it, I think I’ll be more excited than scared. But I’m going to have a bowl of fun-size Kit Kats by my side, just in case.

Return to Blogging

My late winter hiatus turned out much longer than expected. But then, it was a long winter—too much sickness, the passing of my grandmother, and more heavy snow than I would have liked.

But now we are here in spring. I have a beautiful little girl, whom my bigger boys love dearly. My first contraction came at our local library, which I hope says something about her interests as she grows. In the few weeks after she was born, I spent a lot of time in our rocking chair snuggling, nursing, and reading. A few of my favorite things, you might say, and good inspiration for new writing projects.

Currently, I am two-thirds of the way through a CampNaNoWriMo WIP that is pulling together a lot of ideas I’ve had over the last few years, as well as surprising me with a bunch of new ones. It may sound crazy to be writing right now, but life has slowed down so much since my girl was born that my brain has had a good deal of space to be creative. Must find a way to keep this up as she gets bigger!

Here on the blog, there are a couple of interviews on the horizon, one I hope to post later this week or early next. Freelance work is up and running, and my writers’ group is active and well.

This spring feels like a new chapter in so many ways, more than normal. I hope it’s that way for you, too, and that there are exciting pages coming your way soon.

Back to work!

Why Comp Titles Are Important

I love books. I love food. I love books about food—reading them, writing them, and, it turns out, writing about them.

One of the fun things about striving for publication is researching and reading comparable titles for an understanding of the marketplace. In my case, that means “foodie fiction,” books in which the characters or plot are heavily influenced by cooking, baking, or the restaurant industry. These are books I would read just because I enjoy them, but because I’m working towards publishing my novel, I get to call them “work.”

After my latest read, I thought I might give a submission to my favorite online magazine, Verily, a go. I’ve been dreaming of writing for Verily for a long time now, but hadn’t come up with quite the right piece. The submissions page for their culture section said they were open to round-ups of books, movies, or other media, which was just what I had in mind. This article was one I’d already happily done the research for, and writing it was just plain fun.

I’m thrilled to share the link to my first published piece outside of a blog: http://www.verilymag.com/grammys-2015-kanye-west-fifty-shades-of-grey-jon-stewart-kingsman/. Check out Verily’s weekly post, “While You Were Out,” posted this past Friday, February 13, and scroll down for “Foodie Fiction for Your February” by yours truly.

Every little bit is one step closer!

Now back to the rewrite . . .

How to Know You Married into the Right Family

At the start of the season, there was a special on PBS after Downton Abbey called The Manners of Downton Abbey. For those of us borderline obsessed with the show and hungry—after nine months—for as much of the Grantham/Crawley/everyone else world as we can get, it was magical. The historical expert for the show explained life in that time—how to eat, how to dress, and how to marry. As a millennial, I do almost nothing the way the people of that era did, but I remain fascinated by the rules by which they lived.

 

You won’t be surprised, then, to learn that I did not marry for status or land. And so, clearly, I’ve had to establish my own rules for determining whether I’d married well.

 

My husband and I have a whole lot in common: our values, our faith, our love for avocados, bacon, and ice cream. But while I spend my happy time in Word, he spends his in Excel.

 

This year, at Christmas, one of the writers among his five siblings—the screenwriter, as opposed to the songwriter—gave me this lovely card:

 

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and with it, a puzzle whose image was of bestselling book jackets. It was spot on, and so appreciated. But the gift was more than those two items: it was a show of encouragement, of motivation, of confidence that what I’m working on is worthwhile.

 

It wasn’t a tract of land or inherited artwork, but for me, it was proof enough that I sure did marry into the right family.

 

Who inspires you? Is there a creative person in your life who could use a burst of confidence? The little things make a big difference!

 

New Year’s and All That

Here we are, at the dawn of 2015. I must be intimidated by multiples of five, because that number feels so much more dramatic than 2014 did. It sounds like a Year Something Happens. And maybe it will be. Or maybe I need to take the significance of dates less seriously.

My family is young yet, and we are still establishing our traditions. On New Year’s Eve, I brought up the topic of resolutions, and was surprised to find that not only my husband, but also our four-year-old had something in mind. My husband has a plan to get more sleep, which I am totally behind. My son has resolved to play every day, but also to work . . . hard. Our two-year-old was on board for the playing part, but didn’t mention the work. Good goals all around.

My goals are more plentiful and strongly influenced by the nesting impulse of the third trimester of a pregnancy. I intend to complete a revision on my first novel in the next two months, before our next child is due. In September or October, I’d like to run another half marathon. And in November, I want to win NaNoWriMo again, this time with a middle-grade or young adult novel. In the meantime, I’ve compiled a sizable reading list, which prompted a satisfying bookshelf reorganization (see nesting, above). I want to edit my NaNo novel as well, but haven’t set a solid goal for that work.

I would love to see something I’ve written get published this year. But having experienced the process of submission and rejection last year, I am more comfortable with the time it will take to produce writing of real, honest quality. I am getting close; I am on the way. I hope that with more experience, my writing and editing will become more efficient, but I realize that will only happen with practice.

So this year is about continuing the journey I’ve been on for the last four years. Or perhaps better, the journey I’ve been on my whole life.

This year, I will read. I will write fiction. I will write cards to friends. I will edit. I will participate in my writers’ group. I will continue blogging here. I will keep building my freelance business. I will do what comes naturally and I will challenge myself. I will keep moving forward.

I will be a writer.

Sometimes Putting the Pieces Together Means Finding New Pieces

This weekend I sat down for a writing session, intending to write and write and write until it was time to make dinner (which, for the record, was a clean-out-the-freezer extravaganza of dumplings, fish sticks, and chicken tenders; I was a heroine).

 

I started, but quickly found that wasn’t where I needed to be that day. Should I stick with the plan or pursue spontaneous inspiration?

 

I opted for Door Number Two and opened up a bunch of older files related to my current WIP. I cut and pasted the bits and pieces that had taught me something about my protagonist into a new version of the manuscript. I was guided, in part, by sagacious notes from my writers’ group, who are patient enough to take a truly fresh eye each time I say, “This is more of what you’ve seen, except that it’s really different.”

 

I also took into consideration who this character is the more I think about her. I think about her every day, but there’s still so much I don’t know—that I won’t know until I’ve written a draft, edited a jillion times, and then sent off to readers. And probably not even then.

 

I am attempting to tell the story of an older woman’s entire life, and having lived not yet half of what she has, it’s a challenge. But little by little, she is coming through. I will never know everything about her, which takes some of the pressure off. Readers will add their own interpretations, and she will continue to grow. For now, I have to get down everything I can, and then try to make some sense of it.

 

If you read through the eighty pages the document consists of right now, you’d be lost in conflicting logistics, gaps in time, and inconsistent descriptions. The pieces have a thread running through them that I am starting to recognize, but a whole lot needs to be cut, moved, and rewritten, before the real story emerges.

 

Despite the amount of work that entails, I found myself energized at the end of my session. I am another step closer to the truth of this story. I can make better decisions with all the good stuff before me, and hopefully some of the decisions will make themselves. I’m finding my way to the next step in the process. I’m moving forward even though when I get to deleting and end up with eight of the eighty pages, it will look like I’m moving backward.

 

Paraphrasing some good advice I’ve read recently, this is a story I can tell, and I have no choice but to tell it.