Writerly Update: Lessons Learned

It has been a little while since I updated on my writing ventures, so here we go.  I’ve been learning some interesting lessons recently as I’ve navigated this weird and wonderful writing world.

1. Go with the Flow

I am still sorely disappointed with my progress or lack thereof on The ManWhore Chronicles. I’ve jotted ideas, I’ve added a few scenes here and there, but I haven’t done any serious work on the novel in a few weeks.

The truth is, I’m still struggling to get all the writing I want to do done in my very limited time. There’s the book. There’s ideas for stories and essays that pop into my head almost every day. There’s this blog.

So I’m going with the flow. There’s a fine line between cutting yourself too much slack and giving yourself breathing room, but I think I’m finding it.

My short stories and other projects are not wasted time. They are making me a better writer. They are building my credentials as a published author, and when I DO finally finish the novel I’ll be very glad I have that in the bank. Most importantly, I’m enjoying the hell out of the process.

So rather than beat myself up over how slow the book is going, I’m giving myself “gentle nudges,” but also patting myself on the back for the projects I am finishing. I’ve learned that kicking myself too hard gets me down to the point where I just give up. And really, as long as I’m writing and getting better, what purpose would that serve?

So the motto these days is “go with the flow, as long as SOMETHING is flowing.”

2. Don’t Count Yourself Out

Early last spring, I submitted a short piece to a well-known publisher for one of their books. I hadn’t heard anything. It was something I had written with this as a “target publication,” and I really had no other plans for the piece. So with no burning desire to do anything else with it, I just chalked it up as a loss and moved on to the next thing.

A few weeks ago, I popped into the publisher’s web site and saw they were accepting submissions for a new theme. It dovetailed beautifully with an idea that had been stewing in my mind for a while, so I got to work on the piece. I wrote it over a weekend and then, since I had time before the submission deadline, set it aside for a few days. I like to put projects on the backburner after a first draft and then revisit them with fresh eyes when deadlines allow it.

I was excited about my new piece. I feel I’ve grown quite a bit as a writer in the months since I submitted something to the publisher the first time, and that the new piece reflects that growth. So I started the workweek feeling inspired and encouraged that I was getting back on the horse and trying this publisher again.

Midweek, I received an email from them. I was in the middle of a crazy meeting-filled workday, and my head was in a million places. When I saw their address and the subject header, I thought “wow, they’re writing back to me about the new piece already? That’s either really good or really bad …”

Then I gave myself a mental slap in the forehead. I hadn’t even SENT the new piece yet, so why would they be writing to me about it? Sometimes it takes my brain a little while to catch up with my life.

So I opened the message, and learned that the piece I’d submitted months and months ago was a finalist for the publication. I won’t know if it makes the final cut until sometime in the spring, but apparantly it has already managed to jump over several hurdles. I had already counted it out, because I am still learning the ins and outs of this process. Every other publisher I’d submitted things to around the same time had gotten back to me with a “no thanks” or an acceptance. So I just assumed too much time had passed and they were one of those that didn’t send out rejections.

I’d counted myself out, and I was still in the running. This one is just a marathon rather than a sprint.

I’ve had lots of other writerly things going on too. I’m working on a piece for a contest for a local literary magazine. I love the way it has turned out, and will take it places regardless of the contest outcome. It is in its “incubation” period and the deadline is the end of the month, so I’m doing my editing over this Thanksgiving break.

My short horror story will still be out soon in an upcoming anthology. Publishing was originally slated for early November and has been slightly delayed, but it should be out by Christmas. The editors have been wonderful about keeping in contact with the writers every step of the way, letting us know what to expect. From them I have learned wonderful lessons about how committed and professional editors deal with these types of situations so that authors don’t worry.

I’ve polished the second piece for the publisher my many-months-ago submission is a finalist for, and have sent it off.

Lots of irons in the fire. Two things I feel really need more attention are,

– The novel, but I’ve said that already.

– Revisiting some of my existing short stories that have not yet been published and were rejected by their “first try” markets. Some could probably just be sent to markets that are better fits “as is,” and others may benefit from some critiquing and/or reworking.

As far as this blog goes, I’ll be wrapping up “Finding Thankfulness” with one more post this coming Tuesday. Then we’ll move on to December and “Home for the Holidays,” a series of humorous Christmas memoirs with a dash of this and that thrown in for good measure.

Overall, I had lots to be thankful for this Thanksgiving as far as my writing goes. What about you? What are your top priorities at the moment? Any new successes to share? What projects need more of your attention? Do you follow my “go with the flow” approach when new projects sway you, or do your force yourself to stick with your original plan?

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About hawleywood40

Writer, Steelers Fan in Baltimore, Frequent Visitor to the Shot Fairy
This entry was posted in Creativity, Fiction, Writing, Writing A Novel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Writerly Update: Lessons Learned

  1. L.S. Engler says:

    I’m totally a follower of the going-with-the-flow approach, especially lately, as I have a lot on my plate and sometimes, some pieces just are working better than others! I know I do want to dedicate more time to brushing off the dust on my short stories and start submitting again, so I’m just taking a few days to kind of just do what feels right and seeing which projects jump out as the ones most wanting to be worked on. It’s a good way to ensure that you’re attention is being used to its best, rather than trying to force something that just isn’t going to cooperate.

    Great post today, and so timely! I was just feeling a little bit of doubt over the easiness I’ve been taking things lately, but I think this helps confirm that sometimes you need to recharge, regroup, and rework your method, and great things will usually happen!

    • hawleywood40 says:

      I really do believe that sometimes our best work comes when we turn our attention to what is “calling us” rather than what we had previously decided should be the priority. There’s a reason our minds want to go where they go, and sometimes those reasons are inspirations that shouldn’t be ignored.

  2. Catie Rhodes says:

    Pam, great lessons and congratulations on the short story becoming a finalist in that publication. How completely cool.

    As for the Man-Ho chronicles, maybe your brain is just waiting for the right inspiration. Sometimes a novel (or idea) can stagnate, and, then, bingo. You see or hear the right thing, and you know what direction it needs to go.

    Good luck on all of it.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Thanks Catie! I do have a lot of ideas for where to take Man-Whore, and have been making lots of note and watching them slowly come together, sort of like working your way throug a maze. A lot of it has just been also wanting to do so many other writing-related things, and following my need to have some finished projects and credentials to my name that, quite frankly, don’t take as long to achieve. I am hoping that when I feel I’ve satisfied my yearning to have a little bank of success stories to draw on, that I’ll be able to put more focus into finishing this much bigger project.

  3. My goal was to have 2 books ready for Amazon by Oct.31. I missed my deadline. One is finished, edited and the cover is designed. The second one is giving me fits. The ending doesn’t work and I’m still trying to figure out what will. I took a little time off but need to get back on it again. My goal is now the end of Dec. and this time I’ll have it done!

    • hawleywood40 says:

      That’s an ambitious goal, Diana! Cover design or choosing a good designer is something I know nothing about, and am not even sure where to begin. I know I’ll get there when the time comes, though. Sometimes a little time off to gain fresh perspective is exactly what we need. I have faith that you’ll meet your December goal!

  4. Show me a writer who hasn’t missed a deadline or given up on a project, and I’ll show you a valid entrant for a liars’ contest. Guess we all need to grow up, but I’ve enjoyed being a child for 68 years so far. Why change now?

  5. tsonoda148 says:

    Hi Pamela. Sounds like you’ve got it all together. And the novel will happen. I’m a bit jealous of all your projects…but of course, I wish you every success!
    I’m about 2000 words away from finishing up with NaNoWriMo. I can’t believe I’ve written almost 50 K words. Boggles my mind. And? The novel will not be finished at 50 K. And why? I have no ending. That’s a bit of a problems I guess. So wish me luck. LOL Have a great weekend!

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Wow – 50K words – now I’m super-impressed! Endings are my biggest struggle. I’m always happy with what I’ve done with the storyline and where things have gone, and BAM! Just can’t seem to get the ending to do it all justice, at least in my own mind. I”m hoping it’ll be different when I finally get there with Man-Whore! Good luck – I had a great Thanksgiving weekend and hope you did too!

  6. tsonoda148 says:

    In other news, I have bestowed an Award upon you and your amazing blog. You are deserving of so much more, but this is all I got:

    http://terrisonoda.com/2011/11/26/liebster-award-and-nano-winner/

  7. Patti Kuche says:

    So excited for you on having the forgotten piece accepted as a finalist!!! Enjoy your flow!

  8. A finalist in a major publication is a noteworthy accomplishment. Bravo! Keep us posted. And keep working on those other projects. I have a feeling I’m going to be saying “Yes, I knew her when…”

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