Saturday, June 29, 2013


Time is such an issue, isn't it? Writing a novel around family, work, friends, and everything else requires serious commitment. This is true whether we're polishing our best work or pushing through the sh**ty first draft.

Just ask Brad. When we were dating, he and I had this same discussion about balancing creative pursuits with family and jobs that pay the rent.

What? Brad Pitt and I never dated? And he has no idea who I am? The Brad in this picture might even be made of wax?

Details-schmetails. :)

My point is, this is not a new problem for novelists (or actors, I assume).

Whether I have a lot of time or very little, I try different approaches. Sometimes I find I'm most productive and happiest when I require a certain amount of words per day. That's how I wrote most of the first draft of my last completed novel. Sometimes I work better with a schedule based on time. This spring I was crazy-busy, and x amount of time per day worked best for me. I find time can be saved either way if I work on my manuscript almost every day because the story stays alive in me, and I don't waste time on re-entry.

How are you most productive?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Dozen Random Tips

Hellooo! Let me blow the dust off my blog. It has been a while, bloggy friends. Sometimes life gets in the way, doesn't it?

I recently put up a post I yanked down the next day because it felt too small after a long absence. I'd planned to put up a series of posts that were tips, random things I've learned along the way. Then I thought maybe it would be better if I made a list of a few things I feel are worth sharing. You guys can add to it! (The post I pulled down was about conference notes, so I'll start with that one.)


Dawn's List of Random Tips

1. Reread your conference notes every now and then. Whenever I reread the notes I've taken at conferences or in writing classes, it brings back gems I've forgotten. Also, the information sometimes hits me at another level if I read them later, as a more experienced writer.

We writers tend to spend lots of money going to conferences in order to hear the wisdom of successful people in the industry. Doesn't it make sense to reread their tips the way we reread craft books?

2. When I was working on my first YA manuscript (2004? 2005?), I was having trouble going deep enough in third person. I couldn't get my protagonist's heart and mind onto the pages the way I'd hoped. I decided to try first person. It worked! Soon, however, I realized it was a story I felt would be best in third person.

I rewrote my work-in-progress, switching back to third person. It was much better this time. I now had the depth I'd gained in first person. I ended up finishing the story in first, knowing I'd eventually switch it to third.

So... If you're wanting more depth and your story is in third person, try playing with it in first--even if you feel it should be in third. It's also an excellent writing exercise. It could even be something to try on just a scene or two--or a chapter or two. You'll probably get the hang of it faster than I did!

3. Create an agent spreadsheet. Whether you're querying now or you're on page six of your first draft, I suggest gathering information about as many agents as you can. You won't query them all, obviously, but you need to research many in order to figure out who might be a good fit for you. At the very least, write down the names of the agents or agencies you come across so you have a place to start when you're ready to research.

Note: Literary Rambles is an amazing site. So is Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog.

4. Don't take rejections personally. Seriously. It's business.

5. Join a critique group. Who doesn't want someone in their corner who will give honest feedback to help them improve?!

There are all different types of critique groups: online, in person, groups that meet weekly, groups that meet monthly, groups that share chapters as manuscripts are written, groups that only share completed manuscripts--so many types! Find what works best for you as a professional writer. Don't go because the treats are fabulous and the feedback is always, "I love it!" (Though awesome snackage is a benny. Tee-hee.)

Some people prefer beta readers to an actual group that meets regularly. There is no right or wrong here, people. Do what works for you.

6. If you write for children or teens, join SCBWI. Just do it. You'll be glad you did.

7. Find joy in your writing. If you're seeking traditional publication, there are no guarantees. You may find success in a matter of months, years, or decades. Or not at all. So find the joy. Hold onto what made you want to be a writer in the first place. It most likely wasn't the money or Ryan Gosling.

Hmm...Ryan Gosling.

Where were we?

Oh, yeah...

8. Don't forget to back up your work.

9. Read author/ex-literary agent Nathan Bransford's blog.

10. If you have a manuscript consultation, check your ego at the door. Then listen and write down everything you hear, whether you agree with it at that moment or not.

11. Everyone has lame writing days, the ones when the words won't come and everything you write sucks. So... When you have a lame writing day, forgive yourself fast. Otherwise, you'll have two lame writing days.

12. If we wait until we're published to celebrate, what a dull journey it will be. Celebrate your successes, large and small.

What tips would you share with new and/or experienced writers? Please tell me in the comments!