Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Moral of Support

I acquired something very, very valuable recently: a crit group.

When I started writing my first novel, I talked about it to a few friends. I had a couple of beta readers and one fantastic alpha reader. But what I didn't have were writer friends. And by that I mean writer friends who weren't related to me or married to me or otherwise friends with me. People who would give me the hard facts about my fiction. People whose brutal, honest feedback about my work would really help.

That's not to say my alpha-betas weren't helpful. They were A-Mazing. But if the book was bad, they were going to love it (and me) anyway ... and I'm sure they wouldn't have had an easy time telling me it sucked. So what I needed were people who'd be as impartial and pitiless as the agents who will (hopefully) pick my manuscript up from the sludge pile. Agents who don't know me, don't love me and certainly won't love my book just because it's mine.

Aargh!! What to do? In a city of a million people, you'd think it'd be pretty easy to find a writers' group, but It. Is. Not. I googled writers, writing, writing groups, writing conferences, writing workshops. I pored over social media and discovered jillions of other people like me out there who struggle with this writing business (get it?) on a daily basis. But I had a hard time finding writers who were nearby.

Eventually, I did find a few. It wasn't a google search that did it. It was plain and simple word of mouth ("You're a writer? Oh, my neighbor's a writer, too. You should meet her....") and good ol' coincidence ("Hey! I didn't know you'd be at this party....") Finding them has been all I hoped it would be. They, too, are A-Mazing.

And now, through another chance encounter, I finally have a bona-fide critique group. (Woo-hoo!!) We met at a 12-week writing workshop that took place last fall at a local university. The professor was awesome, very encouraging (and I know that's not always the case, so I consider myself super lucky to have worked with him). And the students, now my critique partners, are talented writers and critics. Our work isn't similar - in fact, our group of seven writers represents seven different genres - but we all have similar goals.

We also have another thing in common: We need each other! They'd been floundering out there alone in this writing thing, just like me. We had our first non-workshop-related meeting this week, and it was A - wait for it - Mazing. We critiqued two manuscripts, and the critiques were honest, brutal, merciless, helpful. Exactly what I need as I get ready to step off the ledge ... ahem ... I mean, query a manuscript.

Photo credit Phillip Hagerman

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Goals in Focus

A writer friend of mine posted recently on Facebook that instead of resolutions, she’s come up with a “theme word” for 2012. I thought that was a pretty fantastic idea. Resolutions are meant to be broken, but a one-word theme equates to a goal that can stick with me throughout 2012. My theme was pretty easy to come up with:

FOCUS

I was so, so, so all over the place in 2011. Most weeks, I had something on my calendar every single day and every single night. I wasn’t home to hang out with my son, I wasn’t home to cook family dinners, I wasn’t home to write. Career-wise, things were much the same. I started the year as an interior designer by day, novelist by night. As the year progressed, I became a full-time freelance writer and I struggled to manage my paying projects, let alone find time to work on my (as of yet) non-paying fiction.

This year, I want to focus on what’s important. And for me, that’s two things: my family and my fiction. Of course I still have to work, and I have to do a great job for my paying clients, but if last year taught me anything, it’s that I have to prioritize. Prioritize my time, prioritize my goals, prioritize my life.

I have to FOCUS.

And when it comes to my fiction, I have a new goal to focus on: submitting queries. Yep. The time has come to get off my laurels and begin sending out this book I’ve been slaving and obsessing over for nearly two years. Is it ready? Yes. No. Maybe. It’s as ready as I can make it, and I guess that makes me ready for the next step. And now for another goal: I’m going to chronicle the journey here. The good, the bad and the really, really bad.

Yikes. Wish me luck!