Category Archives: Author’s Perspective

An End to New Beginnings…

I’ve really enjoyed this month’s Fictorians’ posts on new beginnings. As I am typing this, I am sitting in my newly finished basement, in the new house we built in 2016, and am about to head to the Superstars Writing Seminars. I’m also starting a new novel and looking forward to a new year.

Some of the posts I found the most interesting and helpful were those where the author embarked on a new direction after deciding a previous effort was not working out. Taking motivation from rejection, using a new start to rekindle a love of writing, taking a leap into a new genre… All of them were helpful and entertaining.

I hope our readers found them helpful. It was my deliberate desire to provide new writers, or writers who were dealing with difficulties and lack of motivation some encouragement and ideas.

I’d like to thank all of the Fictorians who posted, and would like to especially thank this month’s guest posters. As far as I’m concerned, you all hit it out of the park.

Now, on to Superstars!

Reset

Guest Post by Connie Schultz

This past year was a rough one for me; full of changes and growth and not nearly as much writing as I would’ve liked, I can sit here and tell you until I’m blue in the face that I did the best I could with what I had. But now I can show you. I can stick my money where my mouth is, and show you how worth it all of the challenges of 2016 were to me.

Behold the New Year’s mindset.

It’s got a sort of magic all its own, doesn’t it?

As I sit here writing this, the second day of 2017, bookstore attendants running around me (I can’t write at home—one of many things I discovered about myself last year), I can’t help but be excited by the idea of a new slate. And I certainly hope that this isn’t just me. Because this is more than just a time for me to prove that I can measure up to my goals and expectations for this year.

It’s your time to prove this to yourself as well.

As we step further into January, here are some ways to go about taking this new chance, and owning this fresh clean canvas we’ve all been given.

  1. Be Kind to Yourself

I’m still learning this one myself, to be honest with you. It’s hard, and more often than not I feel slightly dumb when I think about this, and then think about all the people pushing themselves to new heights, but this is a pivotal point to wrap your head around. It’s not easy doing new things, and growth takes time. How much harder will it be if you’re criticizing yourself every time you make a mistake?

  1. Set Aside Time Periodically to Make It a Habit

This is something you’ve probably heard several times, especially in regards to writing. J.K. Rowling once said to “be ruthless about protecting writing days,” and even if it’s just thirty minutes a day, or an hour on Sundays, I agree heavily that that is essential. Even if you have non-writing goals, be ruthless about protecting them. Write down what you want to complete over and over again as many times as it takes until you think about it so much that you’re dreaming about it at night. And then go do it.

  1. Never Give Up

Sometimes this is easier said than done. To keep going with a project idea when you just aren’t getting anything is hard. I’ve been there several times. It’s hard to not look down on yourself because you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. But sometimes the only way to get around something, is to walk straight through it. Don’t let yourself give up just because you run into what feels like a brick wall. Grab your climbing gear and start pulling yourself up, because sometimes that’s the only way to continue moving forward.

  1. Don’t Forget to Have Fun

Writing is meant to be an enjoyable act. It’s taking the weird in your brain and making it tangible for all the world to see. It’s giving the inner child in you as much candy as you dare, and letting them run. As much as it can feel like work at times, and as much as part of it is work, don’t forget why you love this. Because at the end of the day, that’s why all of us stick around. Enjoy yourself. Love what you’re doing.

As much as some this probably feels like a rehash of the same old advice you’ve read a thousand times before, I think it’s important to hear all of this again. Because we’re human, and humans tend to have difficulty remembering things from time to time. Especially the things that can sometimes be vital to our sanity. So I hope that as you continue this month, typing or biking or sweating or whatever-else-you-plan-on-doing away, you come back to this. And maybe you smile, or maybe you sniff and click out of the window. But you’re here for a reason, and I admire you for remembering that.

Happy writing. And Happy New Year.

An interesting thing I’ve noticed as of late, is that there’s a distinct difference between waking up one morning to the realization that you’re just one day closer to the end of the month, and waking up to realize you’ve lasted another full rotation around the sun. Part of it, I think, is the hype we silly humans place on it—New Year’s and New Year’s Eve parties are the next big focus after Christmas, and boy do they come fast. The part that gets to me the most, though, is that this is another chance to make things how I want them to be. And even more personally, to become the writer and author I so strongly want to be.

My name is Connie Schultz, I’m 18, and currently attending community college to attain my bachelor’s in journalism. I love fantasy and science fiction, but if the blurb on the back catches my attention, I will read just about anything. Eventually I would like to write novels full-time, but if I happen to write articles for science magazines/anything else involving science, I wouldn’t mind that either.

Some of my favorite things: J.K. Rowling, Brandon Sanderson, Star Trek, Veritasium, Philip K. Dick, Neil Gaiman, Stranger Things, and also dogs, chocolate, and orange juice.

When Crap Hits the Fan

A Guest Post by Karen Pellett

There are two major rules to being a better writer: 1) read abundantly (especially in the genre that you are writing), and 2) participate in critique groups.

In 2016, both of those rules went out the window and run over by a bus. And both for the same reason. Life happens.

Five years ago, I attended a conference at my local library with other writers where were guided in the art of critiquing. The group I was a part of clicked so well, that by the end of the day we agreed to keep a good thing going. Thus, C.R.A.P. (Creative Rockstar Author People) was formed. For the next four years, we met at each other’s homes, chowing down and glorious cookie pizzas and hummus while providing feedback on each other’s works in progress. Sometimes we laughed so hard my stomach hurt for days afterwards.

The beauty of C.R.A.P. was the individuals that made up the group: Betsy was a genius at snark, voice, point of view shifts, and story mashups, Jessica was a savant at description, plot gaps, and setting, and T.J. was the grammar guru, character flaws, and the one who ensured that we did honor to our male characters. Their feedback was incalculably valuable. Our brainstorming sessions enlivening. Their friendship immeasurable. And, they provided the perfect counterbalance to another critique group which I am a part of. My writing was propelled to higher levels as a direct result of being a member of these groups.

Then 2016 happened and our worlds were tossed about on the tempest of life. We lost one member to a move across the country. Another, changed jobs and had a new baby join their family. Two of us had family members diagnosed with cancer. As for me . . . well, let’s just say that I’m the magnet for insane life complications, so we’ll just skip what happened to me last year.

As a direct result, C.R.A.P. hit the fan and we stopped meeting. We planned on Skyping our meetings in a vain attempt to keep the group intact, but each time we had to reschedule. It took many months before I realized that since, we stopped I had not written anything new, nor had I read a single book for enjoyment. I still attend the other critique group, but always arrived with previously written works that needed drastic editing help. I was in severe writing depression and this other group was my lifeline.
But I missed C.R.A.P. They had become family.

So how do you replace family? You don’t. There will always be a place on my calendar the next moment we can all get online to meet. But I needed that counterbalance. I personally needed that second stash of writers to enhance and expand on the information gained from my one remaining critique group. I felt like an orphaned writer wandering the streets of literature town begging, “Please adopt me.” But my heart wasn’t in it.

Instead, it was time to start over; start fresh. Over the last few months some of my friends have asked me what to look for in a critique group. My advice: 1) you must be open to others criticizing your babies, 2) find a group with a blend of backgrounds and writing styles, 3) your partners should inspire and improve your writing, not tear you down, and 4) it is okay to say no thank you.

A successful critique group must work well together. But how are you supposed to know that if you have never worked with these individuals before? In talking to another critique member, we agreed on a plan. We sent out notices to those individuals who’d expressed interest in being part of a new group. As part of the selection process we requested that these individuals email submissions of their works in which we would read and provide feedback on. Then, we asked them to do the same for us. Afterward, we would make a group decision. Could work as a team for the greater good? If yes, then we have a new beginning for the new year. If not, then we would utilize our Get out of jail Free card and start the process over again.

Will it work? I sure hope so. Because writing is my therapy and my critique partners my support group.

Will I give up on C.R.A.P.? Never. I will never give up on family.

Karen Pellett:

Karen Pellett is a crazy woman with a computer, and she’s not afraid to use it. Most of her time is spent between raising three overly brilliant and stinkin’ cute children, playing video games with her stepsons, and the rare peaceful moment with her husband. When opportunity provides she escapes to the alternate dimension to write fantasy & magical realism novels, the occasional short story, and essays on raising special needs children. Karen lives, plots & writes in American Fork, Utah.

Reframing Failure

A few years back, I had a conversation about horses that changed how I viewed my writing career. A dear friend of mine was telling me a story about when she was teaching her son how to ride a horse. She had grown up on a West Texas ranch and wanted to pass that legacy on to the next generation. One day he was thrown by the animal and landed hard. My friend went to her son to ensure that he hadn’t been seriously hurt. Once she had confirmed that he would be okay, she stood over him in the dust and heat of the Texan summer. Her boy was on the verge of tears, but she didn’t try to sooth him. Instead, she told him that he needed to choose if he really wanted to know how to ride. If he didn’t, he could sit and cry, and that would be fine. But “cowboys don’t cry,” and if he really wanted that life he would need to show her how tough he really was. He’d need to stand up and go show that animal that he wasn’t afraid of it. He needed to take back his power, right now or not at all.

There’s a reason that the phrase “get back in the saddle” is a cliché for starting again after a failure. If you’ve never ridden a horse, you can’t know what it feels like to have a thousand pounds of animal underneath you. To feel the shifting of muscle and sway of the saddle as your mount walks. Or know the sensation of speed and power as the horse runs. As a rider, you are only in control as much as the mount’s training or your own skill allows you to be. All the while, you are aware that falling or being thrown can be a bone breaking, paralyzing, or mortal experience. For new riders, it’s frightening. And for good reason.

Most humans are programmed to avoid painful situations. Sometimes it’s something we’ve already experienced, and others it is simply the anticipation of harm that warns us away. While this instinct helps us survive, it doesn’t allow us to grow. We only develop as individuals if we are challenged, pushed to leave our comfort zones, and are forced to adapt. In doing so, however, we risk mental, emotional, or physical hardship. And no one gets through life unscathed.

Little did my friend know that when she told me that story, I was struggling with my own fall, just of a less literal nature. I had recently been rejected by an agent that I had queried a few weeks before. It wasn’t even a personalized rejection, but rather a form letter that was addressed to “Dear Author”. I was embarrassed, angry with myself, and ashamed of my failure. I was still lying in the dirt, hurt and wallowing. However, I needed to make a decision.

I wasn’t considering quitting writing. Storytelling was and still is my passion. I had been warned that rejection letters were inevitable and that I would need to develop a thick skin to being told “thank you, but no.” However, rejection letters have a powerful effect on us writers because they feed the part of our brain teeming with doubt. I was trying to decide what that particular rejection meant for me and my story. Did I still believe in these characters? Did I still believe that the work represented the best of my skills? Was the problem something in my query letter or my manuscript? I didn’t know and so was paralyzed by indecision.

My friend’s story reminded me that I was letting the letter have power over my actions and needed to show it, and myself, that I wasn’t afraid of it anymore.

And so, I decided to reframe my problem. Quite literally. I went to the store and spent about five dollars on a plain, black, plastic picture frame. I printed out the first page of the rejection and hung it on the wall in my office. I stepped back, looked at my framed failure, and told myself aloud that this was a step in the process. I would fail again. I would succeed. I’d hang each on my wall because I owned them, they did not own me.

In the years since, I’ve added many more black frames to my wall. However, I’ve also added a few silver frames, my wins. There aren’t many silvers in comparison to the blacks, but they would not exist at all had I not decided to move past my fear and self-pity to keep pushing myself to grow. Each time I look at that wall, I am reminded of what those failures taught me, and that I have persevered. Despite the failures, I am still writing, still submitting, and still growing. With enough hard work and determination, I will have my writing career. I just need to keep dusting myself off after each and every failure and choosing what I really want.