New Things

I’m keeping this post short since I have a sleeping baby in my arms and limited brainpower.

Bartholomew is here! He was born at the beginning of June and life hasn’t slowed down since then. My in-laws came into town for a visit, followed by a family friend from Denmark. And now my toddler (Edgar) is sick. So not much happening in the way of writing…

But since it’s Camp NaNo again this month and one of my goals for the year is to write a short story, I’ve started a new piece. This one is purely for fun and I’m not going to show it to anyone until I’ve completely finished it. I’m excited about trying short stories again since I had an awful time with them in my creative writing class in college. I guess I’ll see what I’ve learned about writing since then!

In the meantime, enjoy these birds from my public library!

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Am I really ready for that feedback?

I think I’ve mentioned at least once or twice (or twenty or thirty times) that I took Brandon Sanderson’s creative writing class in 2016. At the end of the semester, he asked the 15 of us in the class to turn in 5,000 polished words that he would personally critique.

I was excited about getting that feedback. I felt like I’d learned a lot in his class and had really improved my writing. Now, I knew that I wasn’t going to amaze him since I’d already been getting feedback from him when he’d drop in on my critique group, but I wanted to impress him at least a little bit.

Well, the class ended that April and my wait began. I anticipated getting a response in December-ish since Brandon IS busy with big published author obligations. As Dec approached, I got antsier and antsier.

Nothing.

So I emailed his assistant in January. Brandon hadn’t forgotten me. He was still working on my critique between his other work, but don’t expect anything for a few more months. So I settled in for another long wait.

I took another look at everything I’d written in Brandon’s class and saw SO. MANY. FLAWS. I’ll be honest, while I had cleaned up the first 5,000 words of that WIP, I didn’t pay too much attention to it. I really did think that it was polished and I was trying to reach the high word count goal that Brandon set for the class. At this point, I knew that if *I* was seeing problems, Brandon definitely would.

So I got to work revising everything immediately following the section I sent him. And I was excited about my story in a way that I haven’t been in a long time.

Recently I got his feedback. And he said some stuff that surprised me and even more stuff that didn’t really surprise me. He pointed out flaws that I hadn’t really considered. And immediately I started brainstorming fixes.

When I shared his feedback with my family, they commented on how well I was taking it.

It’s because I was actually ready for it. I had distanced myself enough from what I sent him that I wasn’t looking for mild (or exhuberant) praise anymore. I really wanted to know what he thought wasn’t working.

How many times are we actually ready for constructive feedback versus hoping for a pat on the back and maybe one or two small things to fix?

I’m discovering that perhaps, at least for me, I’m not always ready like I think I am.

Camp NaNoWriMo – April 2017

Towards the end of last month, I had another “I’m a terrible writer because I can’t reach my goals and I’m never going to finish this book. I’m a horrible person” slump. I tend to set some pretty high goals for myself that I know if I just sit down and actually write, I can reach them​. Of course, I set those goals when I’m feeling pretty productive and optimistic and forget that Edgar is almost a toddler and Bartholomew is still on his way. Which, of course, means that in general, I do not have the ideal circumstances on a daily basis for reaching my theoretically doable goals.

Anyway, this particular round, I was reading some old entries from my 8th English journal. Pretty much any entry that was a free write was either about the novel I was writing then or about how I wanted to be a writer or editor. So then I had to ask myself whether or not I loved writing now as I did as an 8th grader.

And the answer is yes. But I am too caught up in trying to make it as a professional to enjoy it.

I told myself that for April, I had permission to write whatever I felt like writing. So that’s what I’ve done this month. I set a low word count goal for Camp NaNoWriMo and told myself to just write.

The first week or so I had to fight myself to write on any sort of consistency, but I counted my journal, brainstorming, actual story, etc. And then I found myself looking for a few minutes here and there to jot down ideas.

Tomorrow is the last day of Camp. I won’t reach my word count goal.* But I still won. I’m excited to write again.

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*Update: April 30, 2017

I actually did reach my word count goal today so I spirit-won AND won-won! Needless to say, I’m even more stoked about my writing progress this past month. It’s nice to know that I am capable of achieving​ my goals despite real life responsibilities.

Current reads: Paper Magician trilogy and Dragon with a Chocolate Heart

Yesterday I got an ARC (advanced reader copy) of Stephanie Burgis‘s The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart in the mail. I won it in a giveaway to her North American readers since it doesn’t come out here in the US until May. (Her UK readers got it in Feb.) This book is about a young dragon who wants to show how tough she is, so she goes out to catch a human and instead is turned into a human herself when she drinks some enchanted hot chocolate. Since I love dragons and am a *huge* hot chocolate fan, this sounds right up my alley. I’m excited to read it.

I actually haven’t read anything by Stephanie yet, but a while ago I saw the UK covers for her MG* series, Kat Incorrigible, and thought they were adorable. I’m a huge fan of historical fantasy so that series has been on my to-read list ever since.

In the mean time, I just finished Charlie M. Holmberg‘s Paper Magician trilogy. I first learned about Charlie when I listened to her on Writing Excuses. This trilogy is a Victorian-era fantasy where magicians are bonded to a material (paper, in this case). The main character, Ceony, is an apprentice to a paper magician when his ex-wife breaks in and literally steals his heart. Ceony creates a paper heart for him and then chases down the ex-wife to get his real heart back. The rest of the series is about what happens after that.

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I absolutely loved the first book! It’s clean and romantic and full of action. The other two books are also really good. The second book was a tad bit darker (but still clean) and the third  book had a lot more stuff happening that I wish Charlie had spent a little more time on. I definitely plan on getting the paper copies (I own the ebooks) as soon as I can. I’m also going to read other books by Charlie.

 

*MG = middle grade (typically readers are 8-12ish)

My other hobbies

I feel like lately I’ve only been talking about my writing aaaaannnndd….that’s probably true. So, I’ve been thinking about all of my different hobbies and which ones I can feasibly do at this point of my life.

I love rock climbcrw_3305ing, caving, and running, but it’s winter. And I live in the Midwest. A) It’s super cold. B) I have a little kid I’m NOT willing to take out into the cold. C) There really aren’t places that I can go rock climbing or caving in the Midwest. (Ok, there are like 2 places and both of those are over an hour away.)

My photography’s dropped off pretty heavily but I did manage to get some nice shots while I was in Switzerland. While I love looking at pretty landscapes, I get most excited doing action shoots. And Edgar* isn’t quite ready for those kind of adventures. Hopefully once it warms up we can take him camping before Bartholomew** shows up.

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Which leaves me with my other artwork. I LOVE painting. It’s something that just makes me relax. I haven’t had much opportunity to actually do much painting in the most recent years since I’ve been living in tiny apartments and whatnot. But now I’ve got a house! Which means I’ve got plenty of room to put wet oil paintings and not have to worry about them getting in the way or other people touching/smearing them! The other day I asked Nathan to help me brainstorm some ideas since I really would like to take my painting to a new level. So we’ve got a series idea for the study that we’re pretty excited about. (I’m not going to share it until I’ve actually done anything for it though.)

might start drawing again too, but I’m waaaaay more picky about my drawing than my painting for whatever reason, so it stresses me out more.

*Edgar is the nickname that my brother-in-law came up with to refer to our oldest while I was pregnant with him. (My oldest, not my B.I.L. Those tricky dangling modifiers.)

**Bartholomew, or Barth Vader, is coming in June. We’ll find out Barth’s actual gender here in a few weeks!

On Waiting

I had the extremely good fortune of taking Brandon Sanderson’s writing class earlier this year. Every week during the semester, I attended a lecture (available here) followed by a critique session with other students in the workshop portion of the class. Each week, Brandon would rotate between the 3 critique groups and critique our submissions.

Our April final was to turn in a 35,000+ word rough drafts that we’d written that semester and a polished 5000 word submission. Our grades were based on completion of the rough 35,000 writing and participation. Separate from our grade, Brandon was going to critique our polished submission. Fortunately, I knew that this was going to take a long time since I’d seen a comment or two on his twitter feed the previous December about his finishing the last one from the previous class. Unfortunately, I’m the last one (alphabetically) in the class so I’m still waiting to hear back.

Last night while we were re-watching one of the lectures, my husband was asking when it would be appropriate to follow-up with Brandon but since Brandon’s on tour again, I know it still might be a while.

In the mean time, we’re getting an idea of what querying is going to be like.

nervous

Daruma Dolls and NaNoWriMo

Not much has happened on the writing front the last few weeks by way of words actually written, but I guess that’s what happens when you have a teething baby.

In the mean time, one of my writing groups has cut back from submitting once a week to once a month for now. In some ways, that’s a bummer for me since I really enjoy writing groups and was using it as a motivation to actually write… in theory anyway. :/

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I also learned about Japanese daruma dolls. The basic idea is that you color in one eye when you make a wish/set a goal. When you get that wish or complete that goal, then you color in the other eye. I thought about getting one, but I know that’s just gonna be a thing that sits around collecting dust afterwards. So instead I printed off a picture of one and I’ll stick that in one of my writing binders with the draft of my current WIP (Work-in-progress). Maybe I’ll take a picture of it for the blog whenever I do finish writing.

And I’ve also been thinking about NaNoWriMo. I’d absolutely would love to complete all 50,000 words this November but that is looking like it’s going to be pretty hard to do with everything else I need to take care of. So, I’ll shoot for writing as many words as possible and if I do manage to get 50,000, then hurray! I did a successful NaNo! If not, then hurray! I still wrote!

 

Writing Groups

Right now I’m in two different writing groups. The first one is kind of a continuation of a previous writing group. (Some of those members couldn’t make it work right now, so another member and  I grabbed a couple of our friends and added them to ours.) The second one started from a Facebook group.

Last week was the Facebook group’s first meeting. We all sent each other copies of our stuff earlier and chatted randomly as we tried to figure out how to make this group work. A few minutes before the Google Hangout started, most of us had hopped on to work out technical difficulties. During our late night meeting, everyone was super friendly and gave some pretty decent feedback.

first-critique-group

The next morning we started discussing (via Facebook) how the previous night went. Two of our biggest concerns were 1) amount of time spent discussing and 2) genre-preferences.

1) There were seven of us in the group and it took us two hours to get through everyone’s submissions. We were allotted 5 min to read part of our submission out-loud, then the rest of the group spent approx. 10 minutes giving their feedback. This did not leave a lot of time for writers to ask questions. (I.e., there wasn’t any time.) Our solution for this issue is to meet twice a month and critique only 1/2 the group each time.

2) Three of the group members wrote romance. Three others (including myself) wrote some form of speculative fiction*. The seventh member wrote contemporary. Three members really didn’t read romance. One of them specifically said she has a strong dislike for romance. Some of the romance writers didn’t have a lot of experience reading/critiquing speculative fiction. Most of us were fine with this, but a couple group members need a little more genre-focused critiques. So, those members have joined another group that is more focused on their genre.

As for me, I’m trying to figure out how to balance writing for two groups while taking care of all the other important things in my life. Currently, I’m thinking that I might try writing short stories for one group and finishing my current novel for the other. The goal is that I’ll finish that novel either in December or January. Completing this year’s NaNoWriMo~ is going to be a HUGE factor in whether or not I can meet that goal.

So here goes!

*Speculative fiction is a broad category of narrative fiction that includes elements, settings and characters created out of imagination and speculation rather than based on reality and everyday life. It encompasses the genres of science fiction, fantasy, science fantasy, horror, alternative history, and magic realism. (Wikipedia)
~National Novel Writing Month: Write 50,000 words in one month (November)

My first writing contest

This week I was sorting through some totes that have been in storage at my parents’ house. Most of it was your typical memorabilia junk that everyone hangs onto–yearbooks, medals, old birthday cards, favorite stuffed animal. One of my favorites was a story that I wrote in 6th grade and submitted to a writing contest.

I remember I was so excited to find out about this contest in a magazine, so I knew it was a real thing. I carefully wrote my story, illustrated it, and told one of my classes about this contest. I wanted my story to win so bad. I even glued the pages together so it was like a book. Mom copied it and mailed it in for me.

Just look at that cover! Obviously a masterpiece. The rest of the story and artwork is just as thrilling. vanishingmare0018

Reader’s Digest still hasn’t got back to me.  I can only presume that my story was tragically lost in transit.