7 Things Your Writer Needs to Hear

Hi! Colonel Shifty here, reporting with another list of tips for the people who care for writers.

Maybe your writer is shy, or passive aggressive, or just so darn busy drafting Book 3 in her series that she can’t manage to tell you what she needs to hear. Granted, some of these things she needs to hear from people in the publishing business (agents, editors, whatevs), but even if they come from you, a person who cares for her, they’ll still make her feel better/keep her from throwing her manuscript into the fireplace. (Throwing her book into the fireplace just might be the best thing for her…but she has to figure that out on her own.)

1. “Your turn will come.” Your writer may have friends who have published a book. Or books. Or maybe your writer has friends with literary agents, and he’s been desperately trying to find an agent to represent his work, and he’s having a really tough time hearing about how each of those friends had multiple agents fighting over him, and he’s happy for them, he really is. But he’s also feeling a little frustrated about his own place in the process. What your writer needs now is some cheerleading in the form of, “You will have your turn, and it will be glorious.” Because he will have his turn! And it will be glorious! (Please do not mention the possibility that his turn could be, oh, fifteen years away. Or more. He doesn’t need to hear that.)

2. “Take your time.” There’s no rush. I mean, obviously, your writer shouldn’t be dominating the Twitter feeds of her six followers, but she can spend some time taking a head-clearing walk or diving into book-related research. Maybe there’s a ticking clock of needing to get a “real” job once her baby starts school. That’s okay. She can still write. And rushing through a book doesn’t help anyone. She should enjoy it – otherwise what’s the point?

3. “Write the book you need to write.” Does your writer want to tell weird stories? Or super sad stories? Or historical fiction or paranormal romance about vampires? Is he drawn to something that might not exactly be marketable? Tell your writer it’s okay. If that’s the book he needs to write, he should write it. If he’s passionate about it, that passion will shine through. And maybe it won’t be publishable, but he’ll never know unless he writes the darn thing.

4. “Define your own success.” Publication isn’t the only way. Tell your writer that. If she’s writing, and she’s happy, that is a GOOD thing. Maybe her success shouldn’t be measured by things she can’t control, like the publishing industry. Maybe it should instead be measured by the progress she CAN control, like finishing a book, or learning more about a certain format (cough*verse*cough), or getting out there and attending a workshop. Some days this one writer I know defines success by whether or not she makes the time to sit her bootie down to write.

5. “Chocolate doesn’t have calories. Nope, none. Not a single calorie. Eat as much as you want.” No explanation necessary.

6. “It’s okay to cry.” Even if your writer is defining his own success and writing the book he needs to write and taking his time…rejection can still sting. A lot. Give him a day or two to get over it. Crying’s okay, as long as he isn’t short-circuiting his laptop keyboard with the tears.

7. “You want to leave me with our two young children for how many days while you attend a conference? Okay!” I’m sure you’re already supportive in this regard, in which case you may pat yourself on the back and help yourself to one of your writer’s chocolates from her not-so-secret stash. Your writer is taking big risks putting words on the page. An even bigger risk might be attending a writing conference and putting herself out there, learning new things, and totally leaving her comfort zone. Huzzah and hooray to the support network personnel (aka YOU) who are willing to step out of your comfort zone and let her have at it!

And finally, you may kindly point your writer to next week’s Guest Post by Me, Colonel Shifty, in which I list a few of the things your writer can be saying to you, her support network.

New to being the Support Network for your writer? If you need a tutorial on lingo from the publishing world, you can visit my Handy Dandy Dictionary.

8 Random Links

Some of the way-cool places I’ve visited in the past couple of weeks:

Clark Little Photography: some awesome photos of Hawaii sent to me by Pat Kahn.

Get Genrefied: Verse Novels: an introduction to verse novels, with some excellent recommendations both new and old. Pointed out by Helene Dunbar.

Legendary Surfer Woody “Spider” Brown: biography of a really interesting surfer, one of the big wave pioneers.

Conference Commandments: I plan on adapting this list of Veronica Rossi’s for when I go to the SCBWI Summer Conference.

YA Girl, Episode 1: Kristen Held‘s hysterically funny post on what happens when your characters really talk to you.

20 Awesome Examples of Literary Graffiti: I think I found this through a tweet by Scholastic, and I keep going back to look.

Manuscript Formatting and Prep Screencasts: an extremely useful formatting tutorial. I loved it, and realize this makes me look like more of a nerd than ever. Another one sent by Pat Kahn.

The Art of the Rewrite: Heather Anastasiu’s post at Adventures in Children’s and YA Publishing. I liked it so much I actually copied & pasted it into a Word document so I wouldn’t lose track of it (because my computer file system is so foolproof…ha).

18 Calming Things

If you have not yet experienced the calming, peaceful feeling of zen from summoning a calming manatee from a website found at, surprisingly enough, calmingmanatee.com, you should totally try it out. I love this site. It’s humorous and just one click gives me a little pick-me-up. There are, also, other calming things in my life, and this post is sort of the yang (or the yin?) to my post titled 14 Irritants.

  1. sleeping babies
  2. lullabies
  3. afternoon thunderstorms (sort of a paradox, but…yeah)
  4. couches
  5. blankets
  6. pillows
  7. purring cat
  8. silence
  9. shushing ocean
  10. velour sweatpants
  11. terrycloth robe
  12. best friend’s voice
  13. neck rub from husband
  14. Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food
  15. flannel sheets
  16. books
  17. The BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice

What do you find soothing?

2013 The Year In Review (with highlights from 2012)

Yes, I am writing this year in review A YEAR EARLY. The way I like looking at goals is as if they are already accomplished, because this helps train my brain to expect them to happen, to expect me to do what it takes to get them done. It works…most of the time. (I’ve noticed it only works on things that I can control. Not things I can’t control, like, say, the publishing industry or the lottery…this is me, refraining from making a comparison between the publishing industry in the lottery…but not really.)

In 2012, I read 75 published books, plus many completed manuscripts for writer friends.

In 2013, I’ve read about the same amount. Maybe fewer books, because more of my free time went toward writing.

In 2012, I revised a YA novel, drafted a YA novel, revised and submitted two short stories and wrote a third (as of now, still in its first draft). One of those short stories will be published soon. Trust me, y’all will be hearing from me once it’s available.

In 2013, I’ve revised a YA novel, drafted a new one and revised it as well, revised and submitted one short story, and drafted two more.

In 2012, I had a baby.

In 2013, I have not birthed any new children. I have celebrated the ones I have, and have vowed to keep my brood at two. Two is good. Two is manageable. Two means they haven’t outnumbered us.

In 2012, I spent a lot of time commenting on other peoples’ blogs and creating blog posts of my own.

In 2013, my internet/blog presence has been limited, with me commenting occasionally on other blogs and writing one blog post a week (with a few scheduled breaks).

In 2012, I compared my writing (methods and accomplishments) to others’. I compared myself to others and fretted about success.

In 2013, I have ceased to focus on what other writers are doing (beyond the necessary and very pleasurable act of market research through reading, and, of course, commiserating about writerly angst with close friends). Instead, my focus lies in improving my own craft and honing my own ideas of what it means to be a successful writer.

In 2012, I sought balance in my personal life and writing life.

2013 has been no different, except I’ve felt more balanced and more at peace with the fact that complete, constant balance is impossible.

In 2012, vegetables were accidental.

In 2013, I have formed the habit of including vegetables with both lunch and dinner every day. Even if “lunch” consists of a bowl of Doritos and one carrot. (The image above is a captured note from habitforge.com.)

And finally, in 2013, I have ceased to spend hours crafting appropriate conclusions for my blog posts. I would also like to hear what other people have accomplished in 2013.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Two Fridays left in December, and I’ll be wrestling kids into naptime spending time with family, so I won’t post anything until January. However, I wouldn’t want to leave you without cool blogs to read, so here are a few of my favorites (in random order). There are more on the sidebar of my homepage, so check them out, too.

  • inkscape – Melissa Jackson is a writer and critique partner who blogs about books and writing. She also just announced that she landed an agent – whee! Congrats, Melissa!
  • Writer Unboxed – Here you’ll find a wealth of writing inspiration, writing craft, and author interviews. Seriously great stuff.
  • Jamie Weil – Jamie’s a fellow writer who blogs about healthy living. I read it for a daily dose of health inspiration, humor, and heart.
  • Maggie Madly Writing – Whatever topic Maggie decides to take on, she does so with a mix of philosophy and care that I can’t help but admire.
  • PB Writes – PB Rippey’s posts are poignant and beautiful, often a prose-poem with delicious images and always humor. This one, about a squirrel, was one such post, although the one about the Swedish au pair with a taste for bikers left me in hysterics.
  • The Graceful Doe – Jo Hart writes kidlit for all ages. I got a kick out of reading her recent post about 12 x 12, in which she aimed to write twelve picture book drafts, one for each month of 2012.
  • Kris Aro McLeod – If instead of reading, you’d like to feast your eyes, head over to Kris’s blog. She’s a local illustrator who just began posting daily sketches inspired by whatever novel she’s reading. She recently finished Life of Pi and is currently on A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian. Here is one of my favorites.
  • YA Muses – This blog is full of awesome because it’s five of my favorite writers in one place – Donna Cooner, Katherine Longshore, Talia Vance, Veronica Rossi, and Bret Ballou. They share craft tips, book recommendations, angst, and inspiration. What’s not to love?
  • Reading is Delicious – A good pal of mine writes about anime, books, cons, food, and whatever else strikes her fancy. She presents her opinions solidly and intelligently and she has a keen eye for artwork and illustrations.

Also, totally unrelated, our Christmas tree came with a few stowaways this year. Arachnids, specifically Spiderus Terrifyus. My favorite. Z found a big spider the other day. Aragog lives! In our Christmas tree!

See you in the New Year! If I’m not eaten by spiders first!