Round 4

Final Round 3 #ROW80 Check-In

This is the end, the last day of the last round of 2013.  How did you do meeting your goals for this round and for the year?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  See you back again on the 6th!

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Lessons From A Failure: 5 Tipes To Help You Succeed in Your ROW80 By Shauntelle Hamlett

2013 hasn’t been a good writing year for me.

It started with me failing at the first writing challenge I set for myself:  30 Days of “One Question” interviews.

I accomplished 15.

The streak continued through two sad attempts at ROW80, an incomplete month of “bad poetry” and, last, only because it’s most recent, a half-finished pass at my own version of NANOWRIMO.  I even managed to fail at writing three longhand Morning Pages, a basic journaling challenge for even the most inexperienced writer.

Me and Zig, Cup Half Full Kinda People

So you might be wondering:  “What kind of advice can this woman offer me on succeeding at my ROW80 when she hasn’t even succeeded at her own?”

The answer lies in the words of a brilliant man—Zig Ziglar, the father of Self Help—who once said:

“If you learn from defeat, you haven’t really lost.”

I’m here to share what I learned over the course of the last eleven months, in hopes that you won’t have to make the same mistakes.

Five Lessons Learned the Hard Way

1)      Your body has a natural cycle; for the most successful experience, work with it as often as possible.

Discounting the endless hours I can spend watching Doctor Who reruns, I’m not a night owl.  I’ve never been a night owl.  So why did I ever think I could succeed at a daily writing challenge scheduled to write at the exact time I feel most likely to pass out into a stupor?

2)      Don’t depend on your emotions to fuel your writing.

In Sonnet 14, Elizabeth Barret Browning says, “If thou must love me, let it be for nought/Except for love’s sake only.” A few lines down it continues “For these things in themselves, Beloved, may/Be changed, or change for thee,—and love, so wrought,/May be unwrought so.”  Love and writing are very similar—at least in this.  It’s fine to write cathartically, but you still need to sit your bum down and put fingers to keyboard when all your feelings of heartbreak, anger, or sadness have dried up. (see Also – the fall of Alannis Morrisette.)

3)    Never put off for tomorrow what you can do today (a/k/a Shit happens, write anyway!)

I was 14 days into my NaNoWriMo challenge when I fell asleep on my keyboard.  When I woke up, it was already 12:01 AM, one whole minute past the deadline I set to reach my word count. So I went to bed. This was a stupid decision.  I was there, I already had a general idea of what I’d planned to write, I should have written anyway.

Instead, I went to bed. And when the same thing happened two nights later, I went to bed again. And the third time it happened, I went to bed, never to write another piece for my NANOWRIMO challenge this year.

Sometimes you fall asleep at the keyboard.  Sometimes there’s a death in the family (true story- see Also: Failing at 30 Days of One Question Interviews). You have to make up your mind to be flexible and KEEP. WRITING.

4)    Drink enough water (a/k/a take care of yourself!).

I live on the edge of dehydration because I NEVER drink enough water. I have been known to put off washing my hair for seven days at a time and we won’t talk about my inability to shave regularly. If I can’t prioritize getting myself a cup of water or cleaning my oily hair, is there any wonder that I can’t find regular time to do my Morning Pages?

Most of us don’t become writers because we think it’s going to make us rich and famous. We write because we have an innate need to create and communicate. If this is true for you, then writing regularly is an important part of caring for yourself. Just like you wouldn’t expect to only drink water when someone reminds you to do it, don’t wait for someone to give you permission to write.  Do it because it’s essential to your health.

5)    Your chances at success are proportionately related to your willingness to suck.

Have you ever done yoga? If you haven’t, let me tell you that “downward dog” is a lot harder than it looks. And “flowing” from one position to another is no piece of cake, even if it’s just downward dog to forward lunge. If you decide to try yoga, you have to get comfortable with the idea that you will suck at it for a good while and that’s okay. Any yoga instructor worth her salt will tell you that it’s the continual practicing while you suck that helps you get better,. I.e. the only yoga practitioners who win are the ones who are willing to suck.

Writing is the same way. When your inner critic starts yammering away that you’re a hack, that it takes you too long to write a sentence, that fifteen other writers have already said what you have to say and 300 times better than you ever could say it… well, you remember that every other successful writer started off a hack regurgitating words too.  You can only get better by continuing to put your fingers to the keys. As long as you keep showing up, you win.

That last part is the most important:  Keep showing up. No excuses. You’ll win.

~*~

Shauntelle Hamlett

It takes as long as it takes by Alberta Ross

It has been a peculiar second half of the year with various things happening to thwart my burning desire to catch up and meet self- imposed deadlines on myself.  Alas LIFE has different plans for me, and I am forced to bow my head (just an slight incline you understand:) before Life’s dictates.

One of the outcomes of this enforced delay is that I have spent more time watching television.  I don’t on the whole find much to watch and if I have a spare few hours I prefer to curl (manner of speech these days) with a good or indifferent book (prefer the first of course).  However, I have watched some very interesting programs, hidden gems I would probably missed in the normal way. One of which was an interview with Donna Tart.

I don’t know if any/all/ of you are readers of Donna Tart, she is one of my favorites, despite the scarcity of her work.  I read The Secret History in 1992 and The Little Friend in 2002 – a gap of a decade – what??   Didn’t she realize I had been waiting impatiently  to read another of hers:) now I hear her third has arrived, after another decade, The Goldfinch.  Ten years each in the writing.  When I saw the interview was on I couldn’t wait – ‘no interruptions’ I declared, as I settled down

So why am choosing this spot to witter on about an author who only has three books to her name? Why, because I and, I suspect many others of us, forget sometimes that it is not the speed with which we create our minor masterpieces; and they are, they are, let no one dissuade you, no not the speed but the quality of what we deliver.

Some authors do manage one, two or maybe three a year, others take ten, twenty years to write one.  Watching Donna Tart explain the details of her planning , research and writing relaxed my frantic

‘I’m late, I’m late’ White Rabbit moments. Not that I wish to wait a decade between books – at my age that is a luxury I don’t possess, but I do want The Children’s Tale to be a good read and if I spend too much time agonizing on how slow the writing of it is, I am not letting be a good read.

I personally like word count meters , like to measure how far I have progressed in a given day/week/month. However, those word count meters mean little if I just churn out words.

Self imposed deadlines helped ensure I began this writing life, however they make less sense when I have the habits and the confidence.  All they do is add pressure and stress unnecessarily.

I have also noticed that this extra time needed has produced more interesting layers to the story, better characterization.  There is time for research, time to re-arrange and develop the tale.

It doesn’t matter if the story takes time to be created, some creations take time. It is as simple as that.  Humans, being human, just love to fret and  we are so good at it.

A short while with Donna Tart helped to remind me that not knocking the WIP out in a year, and probably not in two years, is not the end of my world, the work is slowly but surely unfurling itself and one day (not even thinking of a date at moment:) it will emerge – I hope as perfect as a butterfly.

So I am saying that time is,  can be, as good as speed. Creating, from scratch, a new tale, new characters, new plots is to create a minor masterpiece, If we are lucky our offerings may become great masterpieces or even works of pure genius but I am content (at the moment:) with minor.

And masterpieces of any size or magnitude require the amount of time they require. So why tie ourselves into knots? Relax and enjoy the creation:)

~*~

Alberta Ross

Sunday #ROW80 Check-In

We are really barreling on toward the end.  I’m actually done with my Christmas shopping and just waiting for everything to be delivered.  Then there’s WRAPPING!  Somehow that feels way more overwhelming than usual this year!  But I’m still finding time for writing.  How about you?

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A Helping Hand by Dawn Montgomery

“Help me” and “I don’t understand” are two of the hardest phrases to say when you feel really passionate about your book and writing career. We have this strange idea that saying these words to other writers will diminish how they see us.

“I’m discouraged” and “I don’t think I can do this” are two others that drag you into the depths of isolation. You shut yourself down and wonder why you decided to do it in the first place.

I wish I understood why we feel the need to shut ourselves away from others, but everyone does it.

Everyone. Does. It.

I’ve been writing for almost a decade now and I can’t tell you how many times I struggled and stared at my computer screen with despair. That inner editor whispered so many times how much of a failure I was. A fraud. Faking my way through the first couple (six, ten, twenty-five) books would now catch up to me.

Here’s the deal.

That terrible voice in your mind is keeping you from doing something really important, something so necessary to your creative process that it cripples you. It keeps you from reaching out to the only people who understand…who actually GET it.

Writing is hard work. Staying confident while you do it is even harder. When you reach a part in your book where you’re second-guessing everything you write, it’s time to step back and think outside the box.

If an architect is concerned about structural material quality, doesn’t he/she consult with others? When doctors are unsure about a medical condition, don’t they consult one another or hit the books? As an elementary school student, didn’t you raise your hand to ask for assistance when you weren’t sure if you heading in the right direction on your work?

All other professionals do it. Chefs, athletes (or do you think they compete without coaching or training?), military members, CEOs, teachers, etc. So why don’t we?

Why is it, as authors, do we think it’s shameful to tell each other that we’re stuck?

A Round of Words in 80 Days is a fantastic community because you’re surrounded by other people who “get it”. If you’re struggling with a scene, why don’t you post a little bit about it and ask your fellow ROWers to help? Put out a call for some beta readers or a quick critique on plot?

That’s why we’re here…to help each other. If you’re concerned that your readers will lose confidence in you, there is the ROW80 Facebook group and many of your fellow writers have contact information on their websites.

You may get some bad apples when you go searching, but, in the end, you could end up with a tight group of critique partners who can help you see the forest for the trees. There may be your perfect match out there, the one person who “gets” the way you write and your process. They might be able to point out your reason for struggling in the second scene of chapter two was because you made your hero do something out of character or that the fight scene you’re struggling with can be solved if you two talk it out step by step (or act it out step by step, if you’re close enough to work on it that way).

Keep three things in mind when you do this.

  1. Staying positive will take you and your critique partners so much farther since it’s less draining on your emotional health
  2. All opinions are that…opinions. Take from it what will help and discard the rest. Truly. It should never hurt yours or their feelings if you pick and choose where to place their advice.
  3. Admitting that you’re stuck has nothing to do with your abilities as a writer. It means you’ve managed to write yourself into a corner and aren’t sure what to do next. The book before might have flowed like a waterfall and the one after may be a dream, but this book…right now…is what you need to work on. You’re not a failure. You’re human.

I hope this helps you feel a bit more confident about asking for help and admitting that while the story is all in your head, sometimes you need someone to hold the lantern while you stroll through the maze.

Good luck this quarter, ROWers. If anyone can do it, you can.

~*~

Dawn Montgomery

Midweek Check-In

We are officially hurtling toward Christmas.  You may now panic if you haven’t finished your shopping.  :raises hand:  If you’re going to be stuck in line, take a notebook and record some words while you wait!

If you are interested in sponsoring the first round of 2014, check out the FAQs and drop me an email at kaitnolanwriter (at) gmail.com.

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