Self Editing

Welcome to the never ending bane of your existence as a writer. Just kidding… sort of. Self editing is one of those skills that comes with lots, and lots, or practice. It’s very rare for me to meet a writer who loves the self editing stage. Still, it’s one of the most important steps in your story writing process. So, let’s start from the beginning.

You’ve completed a first draft (yay you!). Now what? Should you send it off to a beta reader? An editor? A publisher? Nope. Now it’s time to self edit that lovely but messy piece of writing.

There are so many different ways to approach a self edit. Some writers read the entire thing out loud and correct mistakes along the way. Some writer print it out and hand edit it. Others take it scene by scene. Still others will reverse outline it to see where the plot gaps are. What should you do? Where do you start?

On page one.

You had a story idea that you just loved. You wrote it all out. For weeks the excitement of the story kept you coming back to the computer until you finally typed “the end.” Sure, you know it has a few problems but ultimately how could anyone not love this story?

This is why self editing is so hard. This is the stage after the initial love affair with your story. It’s the time where that inner critic you’ve kept locked away in your mind gets a real chance to speak, and it can be frustrating and terrifying. But don’t give up. This is also the stage that takes a lovely story idea and gives it a chance to truly sparkle.

Start from page one, and go through it. Line by line. Don’t be afraid to recognize where the weak spots are, because this is just a draft. You can rewrite those weak scenes until they flow, but you have to be willing to really look at what’s on the page and not what’s in your head. You have to be willing to admit that maybe some of the writing techniques you’ve chosen aren’t doing what you need them to do. So pick up a craft book, or read a few blog posts until you have a better idea of how to wrangle those words. But most importantly, don’t give up! Keep going back and adjusting until you need a second pair of eyes on it, then send it off to your favorite beta reader and brace yourself for another round of editing. Because any story worth writing, is worth editing until it shines.

Happy writing.

Writing Conferences

Have you ever asked yourself if all those writing conferences or retreats are worth the price tag and hassle?

What if I told you that they were? What if I told you that they are a great place to make new writing friends? What if I told you that you don’t have to spend a fortune?

For the last couple of years, I’ve been a panelist at a southern convention. I’ve also attended AWP and plenty of other writing conferences and retreats. With that in mind, here are my two cents on writing conferences.

For a few bucks you can go from panel to panel and hear writing advice from some of the masters in this craft. They will talk about everything from the basics to the wildest parts of the writing. If you’re feeling brave enough, you can even raise your hand and ask them a question. Either way, it’s nice to hear that even the best writers out there struggle getting their words to do what they want. It’s a great place to restock your writing toolbox with new writing ideas and techniques.

These gatherings are a great place to make new writing friends. So many different kinds of writers, publishers, editors and agents go to things like this and they all want to meet you. All you have to do is walk up to their table and say “hello.” If you’ve got a book you’re hoping to submit, make sure that you come up with an elevator pitch. You never know when a publisher will ask you about your book.

Some of the more famous writing conferences and retreats can be pricey. Start by checking out your local writing resources, and branch out from there. Plenty of writing conferences work by volunteer manpower, so there is often an option to work a couple of shifts at the conference you want to attend in exchange for free admission to the rest of it.

Have any other questions about writing conferences? Leave them below in the comments.

Happy writing.

Creative Spaces

Have you ever asked yourself what a creative space should look like? Over the years my creative space has changed looks many times. Whether you have lots of extra room to set up the full setup or you’ve got a tiny amount of space to call your own, let’s talk about the kinds of things you can do to make your creative space meaningful to you.

Finally got my desk at the BankSimple offices.
  1. You don’t necessarily need a lot of room  to  call  your  own  to  establish  your  creative space. Sure, having loads of extra space to decorate how you wish would be awesome, but it’s not always practical. What you do need is some kind of routine that tells your busy brain that it’s time to focus on writing. You can do this by writing on the same couch cushion or spot at the kitchen table. The amount of space isn’t as important as what you use that space for.
  2. Set the mood for writing. If your brain can think about something other than writing it will. Try making a playlist of writing songs or picking a certain scented candle to establish the mood for writing. Use your other senses to establish a habit that tells your brain to focus. You can think about all that other stuff later.
  3. Are you an indoor/outdoor/at home/out of home writer? If you’re newer to the craft, you may not know where you best write at. Even if you’re a veteran writer, if you’ve hit a wall it might be time to try out different locations to see if your muse likes one location over another. Maybe you write best at home, but revise best at your favorite coffee shop. Whatever the case, don’t be afraid to change up the location.

Just as it’s important to establish good sleep hygiene by turning your phone off and lets thoughts from the day quiet down, it’s just as important to establish good creative space practices. Once you’ve established the habit of writing, it will be easier to sit down and get those words down on paper.

When the Words Won’t Come

You’ve sat down in your writing specific place. You’ve got the mug of whatever it is you like to drink. The door is locked, and the writing tunes are on. A new document is open and ready to be filled. But no matter how long that cursor blinks you’ve got no ideas. You’ve run out of words to write. Nothing is coming to mind. Now what?

First, you should know this is pretty common. When you’ve finished a draft, sent it off into the world to find a home, and sit down to write something new it can be tricky to come up with a new story idea. You’ve got some options, which we’ll talk about in a second. But for now let’s talk about that feeling of being uninspired. It’s not a fun felling to sit with. It makes you feel like the color gray, or like an empty paper bag. That feeling is a good thing, and here’s why. It means that your last writing project was full of emotions. It means that you didn’t hold back when you wrote your last piece of writing, and for that I hope you give yourself a big pat on the back. Way to go writing friend!

Now, let’s talk options. Here are some of my go-tos:

  1. Pinterest writing prompts. Sometimes you need to borrow a spark and you can find those in loads of places around the internet. If Pinterest isn’t your thing, try Google or any other place you can find a good list of ideas.
  2. Go read something. I usually pick up a literary journal or some kind of collection, be it short stories or poetry. You would be surprised at how many ideas you can get once you’ve read a couple of really good stories.
  3. Switch up your genres. Sometimes we get so caught up in writing in the same genre that we forget to stretch ourselves a bit and try something new. New is scary, sure. But new is also exciting and it might be just what you need to get your creative juices flowing.
  4. Not all writing time has to be spent writing. Don’t get out your pitchforks just yet, friends. A writer writes, right? Of course. If you want to be a writer then you have to write words, but sometimes a writer needs to be creative in a different way to recharge those creative juices. Maybe you need to go for a walk, or dust of that guitar sitting in your closet. Maybe you should pull out those water colors and paint a vase of daisies badly. Try being creative in a different way and see what comes of it.
  5. Type whatever comes to mind for 5-20 minutes. Seriously, even if it’s the grocery list. You would be surprised at how day to day stress can impact our writing. If our minds are focused on the stresses of daily living, then it’s going to have a hard time focusing on creating. So, empty out that brain of yours right on the page and give the creative some space to breath.

Don’t panic if you have a bad writing day, or a long stretch of them. Being a writing is a lot of hard work. It’s some good days mingled with the some bad ones. That’s okay. Take a deep breath, and don’t give up because the words will come back sooner or later when they’re ready.