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Writing As Resistance

Posted by Rachel on May 17, 2017 in action, characters, current event, emotion, inspiration, plot, teaching, writing |

Since the feeling of helplessness regarding the state of affairs in our world continues to bother a lot of writers, I thought that’s what I’d talk about this week on my li’l ol’ blog here. This isn’t specific to any one problem or any single annoyance *cough*CheetoThunderfucker*coughs* since I feel like this could be applicable to many different situations we face.

The world and our lives aren’t perfect, but as artists, we definitely crave the desire to have an impact on our surroundings that might help move society in that direction. Inch ever closer to the elusive goal. But we may also feel as though our mode of helping is trivial and slow in comparison to other methods. Perhaps that’s true, but I argue it is also the most effective form of helping the world progress. That’s right, writing helps change lives and save lives. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again and again until everyone believes it.

Writing is resistance and although it may take months or years for your story to get out there, it’s purpose will prevail and continue to push for a greater tomorrow. Even more awe inspiring is that your story will ultimately outlive you and although you might be writing about an issue now, it could help people decades or even centuries later.

So if you’re frustrated with something, anything, about how people think, behave, or how society functions, write it in a book. I know this is sort of preaching to the choir but sometimes we feel addressing something sensitive or controversial might be an express route to failure when it’s far closer to the opposite. Think of all the greatest stories you’ve ever read. I’ll bet the aspect they share in common is that they called out something about life that you hadn’t seen talked about elsewhere before.

Maybe it was a bit of a risk, a little controversial at the time, or maybe even still to this day but it made an impact, didn’t it? You valued that story above others. These exceptional books took a chance to highlight the troubles the saw in the world not only to educate readers but get people thinking, to help people find a path to change.

And right now, in the depths of a lot of societal darkness, using your writing as resistance is a process that will not only help you through these tough times, but will help someone else on the other end of it all, too. Fight back, resist, tell it like it is. Don’t be afraid to write the hard books, and these certainly are hard, but the world has enough fear, your job is to give it hope.

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Value of a Conference

Posted by Rachel on April 17, 2017 in best of, current event, travel, writing |

Tis the season to be con’ing!

Between spring and summer, the writing world fills with many extravagant events near and far. Conferences for Adult lit, for Kidlit, for illustrators, and educators, for librarians and bloggers. Conferences everywhere!

These writerly festivals are expensive investments, there’s no doubt about that. So for everyone who has never been to a conference, the biggest question you’re facing likely revolves around: is this conference worth the money?

There are several factors to consider. Travel expenses, hotel expenses, and tickets to the con are the basic payments you will likely need to make. Attending a conference close to home will reduce these costs while attending one further away from where you live will increase your spending. It’s a lot to consider.

Is either extreme worth doing? What about those in-between? Or the big name conferences (YAllfest, RT, BEA, etc)?

All of these are valid questions, but I think it’s most important to focus on what you’ll gain from attending.

Connections: Holy book fun Batman! You’re at a writing conference! So are a bunch of other wordfolk! Without really trying you’re going to connect with a whole host of different people from the industry. Writers, editors, agents, readers, etc. Chat around, make impressions and you’re likely to stick in people’s mind for later when you tweet/query/sub/etc.

Resources: There’s bound to be somewhere you can buy books at this event. Seek them out and you’ll find things to help with your craft, to read in your genre, read outside your genre, learn from other authors, and many other forms of book knowledge.

Inside Information: Get yourself to the nearest panel. Trust me. These tidbits come from industry insiders and may help clear up misconceptions or concerns you might have had that would have otherwise gone unexplained. While there’s plenty to learn from books and peers, sometimes that extra level of publishing expertise is invaluable.

Friends: While everyone attending is theoretically on a business trip, conferences are also a great way to meet new writer friends! They might spring up from the most random conversation or a chance seating arrangement. The people you meet might becomes CPs, betas, or all around friends. They might even be the people you end up going to other conferences with!

Undoubtedly money is a factor and can make or break your decision. If you can’t afford a conference but want to attend, there are some scholarships floating around. However you get there, in some way, large or small, these conferences will help move your writing career forward so do your homework and find one (or more!) that work best!

If you’ve been to a conference before, which one was it? Would you recommend it to a friend? Please share 🙂

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Why I Write

Posted by Rachel on March 20, 2017 in emotion, musings, writing |

There’s this part of me that’s never been okay. It’s a slice of my identity that can shapeshift and grow without any water or sunlight. Sometimes it disappears, fading into my skin, becoming a dormant killer inside my bones. It’s this parasitic cluster of cells my body can’t fight off. I try but it’s no use, it’s there and I can’t remove it. My depression and I have developed this symbiosis of sorts. I exist alongside it, and it within me, waiting for when it can overtake my soul, devouring me inch by inch.

I think it may have started as a bean I choked on as an infant because I can’t remember a day it wasn’t there. Over the years I’ve managed to live with it, ignore it, keep it out of my mind. But it circles, prowling and waiting for the right time to strike, the right moment to infect everything.

When it first ran it’s course, it wasn’t just a small part of me that wasn’t okay. That part became my whole. That once tiny grain of doubt multiplied and grew across me, turning me against myself. And the worst part of the process was when I wanted it to consume me. When I wanted to stop trying to force it into it’s small, forgotten shape. It was then I reached the depths, when I was tired of existing and there wasn’t an ounce in me that gave a shit anymore.

At some point in this tug of war I found a mirror, a reason I didn’t need to feel so alone, a reason for the beast inside to shrink and fade. Someone who made me believe life could be more than a constant shadow. Someone who was fighting, too. Together we could keep the sun out during even the darkest of nights. Together, our tiny seeds would lose their roots and the not okay part of us would be just a memory. Not okay would be something for other people, not us. And for a time, I forgot every hint of how it had been to feel not okay.

So what do you do when they prove you wrong? What do you do when they go away? When their belief in you goes up in smoke? You become that small part, just as I did. I transformed into the shapeshifting glimmer of who I used to be. I welcomed the infection, knowing I could not fend it off anymore. After all, if my mirror couldn’t see me, if I was translucent and undetectable, the definition of nothingness, how was I supposed to believe in anything else?

So I sealed my hope for happiness into a box and buried it deep inside, somewhere I couldn’t reach. A place where it could never hurt me again. I locked it in such a way that only my mirror could open it. That treasure, that possibility of never feeling not okay was a dream I kept for myself. A dream we didn’t share. I thought if I could be seen again, if I found my reflection somewhere else, that the infection inside me could be kept at bay. What I failed to realize was you only have one reflection.

So I often find myself wondering, what if I’m never okay? What if the only times I’ve felt okay didn’t actually matter? What if they were illusions of okayness and nothing more? Clearly this isn’t something to outrun or outwit, it’s there for life no matter how much I wish it wasn’t. I swallowed it years ago, when it first became me, and I cannot regurgitate it.

Once again I’m reminded of it’s poison creeping through my veins, darkening everything until I no longer believe light exists. This is where I turn everything on it’s head and get back to writing, because words are the only thing that keep me feeling kind of okay. It’s why I write. To stay afloat, to let my box of hope run free across the page, to convince myself maybe there’s a way to be okay without my mirror looking back at me. I have no idea if that’s true or not, but it’s the medicine I use to tether myself to reality. It’s how I cope with a place where my solution no longer believes in me and maybe never did. I don’t know and that’s the worst of it all. Never knowing.

I’ll be the first to admit I live for these illusions, but at least they’re not delusions I convince myself are real. At least they’re not lies I’ve wrapped around myself so tight I can no longer see the truth. My writing is a looking glass to the future, or the past, or somewhere else entirely. So I keep typing, keep fighting, the only way I know how. And sometimes I write for fun and for the joy of world-building, storytelling, and the magic of words but sometimes I write to survive. To forget that there’s a part of me that will never be okay.

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Now What?

Posted by Rachel on February 27, 2017 in audience, characters, discovery, editing, how-to, outline, planning, plot, reading, review, structure, writing, writing tips |

The End.

Now what? After you’ve finished writing and readers have reviewed your work, it’s time to evaluate the next step. The feedback you’ve received and the criticism of your project will probably be a whole host of things that cause stress and anxiety. Mainly: how do I know what to fix?

Interpreting these notes comes down to three simple things

  1. Can this improve my novel?
  2. Do I agree with the assessment?
  3. What can I learn from this?

A lot of the feedback might be straightforward changes that don’t require much reorganization or revision but others may need additional research, a change in the plot or character, something much more involved. Whatever the feedback might be, try not to have a snap reaction of disagreement, but rather be open to what your readers are suggesting and evaluate everything at face value.

Go through the notes and first ask yourself each question, following through to the answer and then subsequent questions. Even if you disagree with a comment, you should take it into consideration, ultimately trying to understand what there is to learn from the suggestion.

When evaluating feedback, you need to be self-critical and objective which in the world of subjective stories can be a tough skill to master. However, there will always be the element of subjectivity so keep that in mind to identify outlying reader comments (ie- suggestions no one else picked up on) and focus on the most pertinent issues.

For example:

A reader says your pacing is off in the middle of the book and the story drags.

Ask yourself, will this feedback improve my novel? Let’s say you say yes – especially because (hypothetically) many readers have told you the same type of thing.

Secondly, decide if you agree with the assessment or not. And you can disagree, but this step is only to highlight your bias not decide if the reader was right or wrong. For the sake of this example, let’s say you agree…the story drags.

Now decide what you can learn from this. This step is crucial because it will allow you to properly reflect and plan for the story’s future as well as your own. Perhaps you discover that while you excel at introducing ideas and wrapping them up, your middle connections, as well as development of plot and characters, tends to be lacking. Not only do you know what needs to be edited, you can also focus your development of craft on these very topics.

Create your edit document, or adjust the one you’ve been working on to include new fixes. I suggest organizing this document in a Beginning, Middle, and End format – arranged by chapters or sections may work better for you. There’s no right way to edit so do whatever is best for you but be sure to include all comments you plan to revise and keep an open mind as you plow forward into the next round of writing.

Focusing on how the feedback can help improve your story will also improve your abilities as a writer. View the criticism as an opportunity to learn; use the information as fuel to become better. That’s why I love hearing what readers have to say, even if it is a bit nerve-wracking, because it offers a chance to develop your skills. So absorb all you can and use this time to grow!

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