If Meditating Pisses You Off, Try Connecting

meditating, a flower floating in a pondMeditating pisses me off. Mostly because I feel like I’m failing every time I go to quiet my endlessly active monkey brain.

However, I know that getting quiet and accessing that meditative state is one of the most fruitful and rewarding experiences we writers can have.

The other day, while wandering through the Huffington Post, I came upon this quote:

“Mindfulness meditation is a great technique to help improve creativity. It … reduces the reactivity of the reptilian brain, increases resilience, stimulates the neocortex, as well as improves emotional intelligence. All these assist in getting ideas flowing directly to your best creative thinking brain: the neocortex.”—Bianca Rothschild, Huffington Post

Let me be clear: I have deep respect for successful meditators. I aspire to be one of those awesome people who can sit on a cushion with legs crossed, palms up and go deep for twenty minutes or more a day. But somehow when I’m on my second inhale of breathing deeply my cat always seems to puke or a pipe burst.

Why Is It Essential to Connect to That Meditative State?

Artists and writers have long attributed their creative inspiration from being able to access this state. Many look to it as a form of otherworldly guide. Some call it the hypnagogic state, which is the realm between sleep and wakefulness, where both the theta and the alpha waves are present. (Hypnagogia comes from the Greek words for “sleep” and “guide”). During this state, it seems that the brain is more open to finding unique connections between seemingly unrelated ideas. Many studies have shown a strong link between the waking-dream state and improved problem solving and increased creativity.

The Beatles shared that many melodies from their songs, including ‘Yesterday,’ came to them in that state or in their dreams. Mary Shelly described the story Frankenstein as having come to her in a waking dream. The Disney Company adopted meditation in the workplace early on. After employees meditated, they noticed a marked increase in creativity. The painter, Salvador Dali, described that his surreal paintings came directly from his dreams. Dali called this state “the slumber with a key.”

Finding a Way to Connect

So, suffice it to say that getting quiet and accessing this realm is chock full of good stuff for artists and writers. But what if you are like me, and sitting down to mediate only pisses you off? How do you connect, download and access that state of infinite possibilities?

For me, I noticed that at certain times in my daily routine, a steady flow of ideas would show up. As I investigated further, I realized that the ideas would most often flow while gardening, taking a long walk, or making a slow-cook soup.

What was happening?

In time, I found that when I was going about the more calming activities of my daily life, I had unconsciously taken the pressure off. A level of peace was traveling through my motions. I was garden-meditating. I was cooking-meditating.

I was connecting.

If traditional meditation feels just a little beyond your reach right now, don’t give up on accessing that magical realm.

A Path to Connecting:

  • Pick an activity that you find calming. See if you can perform it just a little slower than usual. Allow moments of complete stillness within that activity.
  • While you are performing that calming task, ask to connect. Ask for the information you are seeking to be downloaded.
  • Allow the information to drop in. No matter how kooky or wild the information might seem. Just take pen to paper and allow it into your consciousness.

Other ideas:

  • Stay a little longer in bed. Juice that time between sleep and wakefulness. (Permission to sleep late.)
  • Check in with the sky. Cloud watch or star gaze. (Permission to look like an idiot on the street.)
  • Connect your body to nature with ongoing nature dates. Stick your feet in the sand, get wet in the ocean or hold gardening soil. (Permission to hug a tree.)

Connecting, going within, meditating, accessing the hypnagogic state—call your practice whatever you want, but do it regularly. For me, calling it connecting took the pressure off. It also allowed me to understand that I didn’t have to perform some magical ritual to experience that that rich realm of creativity. That realm was never very far.

If you want to try gaining some juicy tidbits from the slumber with the key:

Slow down, pay attention and ask the stars. And keep your notebook handy.

 

Photo by J A N U P R A S A D on Unsplash

Three Reasons to Write About Things We Don’t Talk About

The logo for the San Diego Memoir ShowcaseWhen we were brainstorming ideas for themes for this year’s San Diego Memoir Showcase, one theme kept circling back: Things We Don’t Talk About. People loved the idea, except for one cranky writer who came up to me and asked, “I don’t get it, why in the world would we want to write about things we don’t talk about?”

The question made me think. I didn’t have an answer at that moment, so I let it percolate until I realized that for me, there are three reasons:

 

  1. It feels like setting a big bag of rocks down that you have been unknowingly lugging around for years.

    I have to admit; I am sort of addicted to the feeling now. I love to “let go” of rocks before they pile up and become too heavy. One writer described her experience to me a few weeks ago as a weight off her chest—as if she could more fully take an in breath, and more fully exhale—for no other reason than she put down in words what she thought she would never share.

  1. The fear of people knowing your deep, dark secret—of judging you, and blaming you—it all sort of dissipates.

    The truth is, yeah, others may know, and so what?  We all have stuff we think no one will understand. Either they will or they won’t, but by facing the faceless monster, you are taking away the monster’s power. It’s empowering as you realize you don’t need to run anymore, you can stand in the light of your truth.

  1. You are speaking for those who feel they have no voice. 

    I can’t tell you how many times when a writer has taken a risk and shared his or her truth that someone comes up to them and thanks them. I hear sentiments like, “Thank you for putting my experience into words,” or “I had something just like that happen to me—I thought it was just me,” or “I feel less alone after hearing what you wrote.”

These moments are such full circle moments—we hide because we think we are the only ones with that kind of pain, then we share it—to realize just how many have experienced a similar kind of pain. By sharing what we are most afraid to share, we create community, spark healing in others while we heal ourselves.

For submission guidelines, click here. I if you have any questions, please contact me at Marnifreedman18@gmail.com. Please put Memoir Showcase 2018 in the subject line. I can’t wait to hear your stories about writing what you thought you could not.

Photo Courtesy of San Diego Memoir Showcase

First Draft Postpartum

an empty boat near a tiny island with crystal blue waterFinishing up a first draft? Here’s how to prep yourself for your emotional responses.

You would think that completing a first draft of your book or play or screenplay would make you feel giddy. And it might. And it should. I mean, you have likely been working on this project for months or years. You have poured out your heart and soul, struggled with the characters, scenes, dialogue, setting (etc.), and fretted over this word or that word. And finally, finally, you have a concrete stack of papers that have a beginning, middle, and end. You should want to throw a party.

But don’t be surprised if finishing up that first draft comes with a host of other emotional responses.

Let’s look at a few of the possible responses I have both witnessed and experienced within myself:

  • Unexplainable nervousness or anxiety
  • A desire to quit
  • A sense of emptiness or purposelessness
  • A wave of anger
  • An inexplicable depression

Why? Why? Why?

Many writers ask me if it is normal to have these types of reactions, then they wonder why they are experiencing them in the first place.

Normal—yes.  Why? Here are my thoughts:

Fear of Exposure

You are shifting from a very internal space, where you have existed for quite some time, to a more exposed, public space.  The thought of sharing your work might bring on unexpected fear or panic. You may be nervous about reactions you will receive.  You may wonder, is it good enough?  Did I just waste years of my life?  The imposter syndrome may even start to take over your brain.  Know that this is very normal. Try journaling all your fears to get them out of your body.  And don’t believe everything you think.

Exhaustion

Yes, you are most likely very, very tired. Take a nap.

Confusion About What Happens Next

It can be scary because in the first draft writing stage you had most, if not all, of the control.  Now you may not know what happens next, and that can be terrifying. Don’t worry; there are many Book Sherpas out there that can guide you; you are not alone.

So, what can help?

  • Allow Your Emotions

Be aware that you may tumble through a series of emotions and know that there is another, much shinier, side.  If you need to cry, do it. If you need to yell into a pillow, do it. If you just need to dance, I say dance. Get it out.

  • Pat Yourself on the Back

Force yourself to celebrate.  Don’t just pass through this marker. You did a ton of work. You deserve to sip a little champagne, do a little retail celebrating, or take that long bath you have been wanting to take. Snap a picture of yourself holding your first draft and post it on Facebook—allow your community to celebrate with you! Whatever helps you to mark the occasion, do it. (In our writing group we even came up with a first draft song to sing when members complete their first drafts).  Pat yourself on the back. It is a big deal.

  • Do No Harm

Depressive or anxiety-riddled thinking can lie to you. It may tell you that you are not good enough or worthy enough—or that you should just toss it all and start over.  Don’t believe everything you think during this period of mini-tumult. Don’t quit writing or stuff the manuscript in a drawer. The angst is temporary.

  • Get it Out of Your Hands

Give the manuscript to a beta reader, content editor, writing coach, or writing group member that you trust, then let it go for four to six weeks. Allow the reader(s) to do the read, and take your mind off it.

  • Look at Shiny Stuff or Bathe in Some Trees

Distract yourself. While your manuscript is in someone else’s hands, you may experience a loss of purpose or even more anxiety. It’s a great time to focus on your social media platform, create your website, open a twitter account, or start on a brand-new project—one that is very different from the one you have just completed. Or, better yet, get outta dodge. Go on a trip. Drive into the country. Nap, a lot. A sure-fire way to regain excitement and balance is to get out into nature for at least two days. You will see how much your myopic perspective changes by washing your brain with ocean breezes, swaying trees, and sunsets.

Congratulations! The Feisty Writer wants to celebrate along with you!  Send us your pictures of you holding your first draft to marnifreedman18@gmail.com.

The Books on Marni’s Floor

A stack of books on the floor in Marni's officeWelcome to a new, regular column here on Feisty.  Let’s dive right in. So, why are the books on my floor, you might wonder, and not on the bookshelf?

  1. Because I have run out of bookshelf space.
  2. I have found that the ones I am truly loving and chewing on and underlining like mad are often stacked on the floor of my office.  See, truth be told, even if I hadn’t run out of space, I find that I sort of love to be surrounded by my favorite books when I’m in my office.  Now, before you go sending me instructions about creating more space in my life or telling me I need more bookshelves, let me just say, I’ve heard it all, and I have a problem.  I buy more books than I can house. And I’m okay with it.

But all of this insanity can benefit you, my adorable reader.  Because I want to introduce you to these books on my floor, one at a time, in the hopes that you will fall in love as I have.

The Book: May Cause Miracles: A 40 Day Guidebook of Subtle Shifts for Radical Change and Unlimited Happiness by Gabrielle Bernstein.

For our first book, I am picking, May Cause Miracles.  Let me be straight about this—I didn’t want to like this book.  At All. And now my son and I are doing the 40-day program.

A Smidge About the Book: It’s a simple, 40-day plan for practicing the thinking in A Course in Miracles by Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford. In Bernstein’s book, each day includes a topic inspired by A Course in Miracles, a morning reflection, journaling questions, affirmations and an evening reflection.  It helps you to keep focused on the miracle-minded topic for most of your day, even if it’s just dancing around your subconscious.

Question: Hey, Marni—What the hell is A Course In Miracles?

Answer: A Course in Miracles is a book that was first published in 1975.   It has slowly-then-rapidly drawn a following for its powerful message.  If you go to the ACIM website, they describe it as a “unique, universal, self-study spiritual thought system that teaches that the way to love and inner peace is through forgiveness.” To learn more go to: https://www.acim.org/

Why I Didn’t Think I Would Like it:  I thought I would find it annoying, as in too-sweet-and-too-good-to-be-true type of annoying. I don’t know why, but I just thought—she’s not for real.  Plus, it seemed like a rip-off of Marianne Williamson’s book A Return To Love—which I love and highly recommend.  Williamson’s book is basically the same premise, reflecting on her thoughts about A Course in Miracles and her ten years of teaching it.

But since I am writing a book for female thought leaders who want to write their own books, I have been fiercely and ferociously studying successful books by female thought leaders.  So, there I was studying it. And then I started liking it. And then I started doing it. And then I got my son involved. And then we decided to do it together. And we are kind of loving it.

Why I Love It: If I had to boil down the message of the book I would say that we humans travel between two places in our minds:  love and fear. The book asks you to think about this concept in various ways, every day, and to consciously choose love.  Now I know this lesson. Or I feel like I should. So why do I forget it day after day? This book is basically a really good daily reset.

An Observation:  One thing I noticed while reading the book and doing the work—it wasn’t that miracles were happening out of nowhere.  It was just that I was actually allowing myself to create more miracles. Or I was allowing them to arrive. Before doing the work in the book I hadn’t realized that I had been sinking back into old lack and martyr thinking, which basically goes something like this: “Well, I can’t have that because…” The reminders in the book started to kick that old thinking in the ass. And I found a door that I thought was sealed shut started opening.

In fact, the experience has been so powerful that I am thinking of doing a 6-week class called “Journaling Through A Course in Miracles” based on Gabby’s book.  I can call her Gabby now, ’cause we’re old friends.

What are you reading that is rattling your bones, challenging your thinking or making you smile? Please share in the comments—I’d love to hear from you.

See you in the next edition of The Books on Marni’s floor 😉

 

Photo courtesy of Marni Freedman

Scared to Write the Full Truth About Your Family Members? I Hear You

The Power of AND When It Comes to Writing the People in Your Life

a woman with two faces on either side of her head

I’m going to write a sentence that shocks even me: 

My father was both a racist and not a racist.  

When I go to write about him, I find I can’t write one without the other. Writing about one would be only half the picture. It is only when I capture both that I capture my father.  

Let me explain a bit more.  

My father struggled with people of color. He also fought in the Civil Rights era. In 1964, he stood with a baseball bat outside polling places and made sure that black people were allowed to vote safely.  

He sometimes said disparaging things about Mexicans. Yet, at his funeral, the Mexican waiters from his retirement home came and cried over his casket. He had become their champion, sent them cards or money for college, and cheered on their victories. One of them held my hand as we placed dirt on the grave, and he said, “I will never forget him, he helped me see what I could be.”

But how can this be, you wonder? How can someone be both a racist and not a racist? Or a sexist in some situations and not a sexist in others? Or wildly selfish and also unselfish?

The reason is that we are complex beings who live in the real world of “and.” We travel in the light, and we travel in the dark.

In my experience, we are often afraid of the “and.”

We often have a hard time reconciling that people may be multi-faceted, contradictory, and complex because we yearn for simplicity. We yearn to understand, to have real and true clarity. We want our good guys to be good guys and our bad guys to be bad.

We hold people up in the public eye as good or bad, innocent or guilty, compassionate or cold, angry or calm. Then when we see the other side, we are shocked, saddened, or dismayed. Our worlds don’t make sense anymore. “But I thought he was one of the good guys…” I sometimes hear people say.

I believe the main reason we do this is because our own primal, darker side scares us. Maybe it’s because we have been ostracized, condemned, shamed, or shunned when we have shown these sides. Maybe it’s because we fear the consequences if we show these sides. Maybe it’s because we were never taught how to hold both parts of the self—the dark and the light—and be okay with the whole package.

I’m continually inspired by one of my bold and brave writers, Donna, who is capturing the complex picture of her husband in her new memoir. Her husband was a problem gambler who spent all of their money and ended up taking his own life. But, as we read the book, we see the full picture. He was a good man and a loving father. He was bright and hard working. He provided respite, sanity, and support in the places her family of origin never could. For many years, he was a strong partner and an excellent provider. In the end, he was both a gambling addict and a really good man.

Or Kelly, who writes about her drug-addicted parents who were always one step away from homelessness or jail, and who used their food stamps only on themselves while Kelly worked three jobs as a 16-year-old just to get by. Yet, when I read her first draft, I realized the book was a love letter to her parents. Free-spirited and full of life, her parents taught Kelly the joy of now. They loved her fiercely, danced with her, shared their love of nature with her and instilled a sense of adventure within her spirit that shines to this day. Her parents were both self-absorbed drug addicts and loving magic makers.

My advice?

Don’t shy away from the “and” of it all. I mean within yourself and your writing. If your dark side comes a calling, acknowledge it—give it a voice. You don’t have to act from that place, but allowing the space for it can be amazingly healing. You are not sick, twisted, messed up, or worthless because you have a dark side. You are human. And the chances are that if you start providing tolerant compassion to yourself, it might extend to others in your life.

And get this:

If you can appreciate the complexity of the human experience and strive to capture it on the page, then you will be offering your reader the nectar they have been most thirsty for—understanding that they are not alone.

When you capture a person or a character that lives in both the light and the dark places, just as your reader does, they will see a reflection of themselves, of their own human experience.

By writing in this way, you are lifting the veil that reveals that not one of us is truly alone—but in fact, we are all living in this complex, confusing, and beautiful land together.

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/3017747/

A Free Give-Away to Celebrate thefeistywriter.com’s 1st Birthday!

a goft box wrapped in blue paper with stars and a gold ribbonIt’s thefeistywriter.com’s first birthday, and what a year it’s been! So much fodder….

We are celebrating with a give-away: one free hour with esteemed writing coach, Marni Freedman, will go to a lucky new subscriber! Estimated value = $150!

The deadline to subscribe and win is Wednesday, November 15th at midnight. To qualify for our drawing for a free hour with Marni, click here to sign up. (If you’re anything like me, you will think this is a fantastic give-away and just what you need to launch your amazing story. You will want to definitely subscribe to win, but later, when your sink isn’t full of dishes and the dog isn’t barking and why is there a sock between these couch cushions?? But you will get distracted and forget. I’m sorry, the truth hurts. And I feel your pain! So let’s avoid this agony and click now to enter the drawing that will take your story to the next level!)

Here is what some of her clients have said about Marni:

“Marni is an amazingly empowering, perceptive, and inspiring teacher. She not only has tremendous insight and is a gifted editor, but she also can draw the best out of people. Before I met Marni, I was discouraged and close to giving up writing. I’ve worked one on one with her and also have been in her critique group for two years, and she’s helped me improve my writing tremendously — without her help, I’m sure I would have never finished my novel. Her positive attitude makes working with her a pleasure. I am extremely thankful to have gotten to know Marni and am lucky to have had her as a coach and mentor.”

— Tanya J, Author of YA Books for Horse Lovers

“I previously wrote in the form of freelance travel essays for newspapers and magazines, has been brewing between the pages of my journals for the last fifteen years. When I decided last January to write a memoir about my spiritual journey covering that same period, I knew I needed help not only in baring my soul and reliving some difficult moments, but also in taking my writing skills from their 1500-word essay comfort level to a 75,000-word manuscript. The way I think of it, Grace stepped in and offered warm-hearted writing coach/therapist, Marni, to my door. From the very first moment I met and sat with her, I felt that I could trust her both emotionally and professionally. With her, I felt safe being vulnerable and honest in writing my story—necessary elements for good memoir—and challenged to become a better writer—to tell my story in a way that would engage and interest my readers. Without ever putting too much of herself in the process, she showed me how to craft each scene as well as my overall story. She taught me the importance of thinking about memoir structure and necessary plot spots, how to experiment with different grabbers and how to allow some of the story to be revealed out of chronological order. I most appreciated that she never backed down. If Marni thought I could further improve a section or the overall structure, or if she sensed I was holding back on the emotional impact of a scene, she gently but firmly encouraged me to try again until my finished product delivered the impact and reflected the story I wanted to tell. Marni has been invaluable to me and I am filled with gratitude at my good fortune in meeting and working with her.”

— Mariah McKenzie, author of More . . . Journey to Mystical Union through the Sacred and the Profane.

“Bryan, whose brilliant prose had garnered San Diego writers’ awards and rocked the theater with laughter at his latest reading, suggested that I visit Marni’s Memoir Class. Bryan’s writing was well-timed and flawless. Why did he need a writing coach?

‘She’s great. Give her a try,’ was his reply.

So, I found myself sitting in her writing class. Her responses to other writers in the class warmed my heart.  Each student clearly needed a specific type of nudge, and I could watch Marni provide that push in the direction of relevance, of clarity or of imagery. Whatever was needed next, Marni could see it and suggest it.  So, I signed up with Marni, and not surprisingly, I am now sitting in my Writer’s Room, fully equipped with a willingness to write, and an enjoyment of the process. What made the difference between myself as stuck wanna-be writer and the happy, fluid composer that you now see before your very eyes?  In short, Marni’s magic. Marni is a licensed psychotherapist. So, instead of telling me yet another trick (you’ve heard them all: you must write in the morning . . . try writing in the evening, have a glass of wine, be sure to have a ritual . . . . the list goes on) Marni asked me questions that were specific to my stuckness. After meeting with Marni for five private sessions, I’ve now completed five of the nine chapters of a book that I’ve been attempting to conquer for over ten years. I’ve had the wonderful guidance of very good teachers, of published authors, of superb editors. They’ve all contributed enormously, but Marni has released the genie from the bottle. Marni manages to speak to the heart of what is wanted in the writer’s life. She’s great. Give her a try.”

— Phyllis, Author of From Conflict to Clarity

Marni in a pink hat working with clients

Click here to subscribe now and win a free hour with Marni to launch your story! Do something with all this fodder, would you please?

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/575400/ and Marni Freedman

Three Steps to Finding the Editor for You

Marni in a pink hat working with clientsAs a writing coach and developmental editor (some of you are already going – whaaaat?), I get asked this question often: What type of editor do I need?

I am going to give you my best advice as to who does what, or who is supposed to do what. But I will say right off the bat that many editors overlap in what they do. In other words, they may perform one or more editing tasks. This can all be highly confusing for a writer. Let me try to break it down for you.

Let’s start by walking you through the process.

STEP ONE: EDUCATE YOURSELF (Hey, Editor, what exactly do you do?)

STEP TWO: FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU NEED FOR EACH STEP IN THE PROCESS  (Hey me, what do I need?)

STEP THREE: INTERVIEW THE EDITOR OR WRITING COACH (Are you the right person for me?)

STEP ONE: Educate Yourself

Most people will agree that there are three types of book editors.  (As I said earlier, some may overlap in what they do.)

Each editor is needed in different parts of the writing journey. The first type is the developmental editor who looks at the big picture and the general substance. The second is the copy or line editor that looks at the nitty gritty before you submitty. The third is the proofreader, or the last point of contact before your work is born into the world (checks the copy in its entirety to make sure it is ready for publication).

Editor #1 Developmental or Content Editor – The “BIG PICTURE” Editor (Sometimes known as a writing coach.)

(This is the kind of editing I do, and I know it most intimately.)

A developmental or content editor (sometimes called a substantive editor) looks at the big picture. Many choose to work with a developmental editor before they begin the writing process (by that I mean the-words-on-the-page stage) to hone the idea and help craft the story. This type of editor sits down with you and looks at your idea, your dreams and goals, and your plan to execute your vision.

You may also seek out a developmental editor after you have completed a draft and before you start the query process, or if you have submitted and are not receiving the kind of response that you had hoped for. If you are receiving comments like “uneven” or “good idea but not well executed” or some version of “almost,” a developmental editor can be an invaluable asset to keep your work from ending up in the slush pile.

The developmental editor can do any or all of the following: assist you in creating and developing your core idea, plot, structure, characters, concept, outline, tone, theme, and general marketability of concept. In other words, they can help you develop the full plan (or story, or world) that you will use to write your book.

Once you have a first draft (or even a chunk of pages), a developmental editor can offer analysis and specific suggestions about the concept, plot, structure, characters, organization, style, flow, tone, and presentation.

For Fiction they look at:

  • Structure
  • Plot
  • Flow
  • Characters
  • Pacing
  • Core Idea or Premise
  • Description/Action
  • Theme
  • Setting and/or World Building
  • Dialogue
  • Scene Creation
  • Point of View
  • Writing Voice
  • Marketability and Fulfillment of the Genre (not all editors do this)

 

For Non-Fiction they look at:

  • Structure
  • Organization of Ideas
  • Voice
  • Theme
  • Style of Writing
  • Pacing
  • Tone
  • Description and Detail
  • Thoroughness of the Argument
  • Effectiveness of the Argument
  • Approach to the Thesis or Core Idea
  • Marketability
  • Target Audience (Are you giving them what you promised and what they need?)

Once the BIG PICTURE issues are solved, most of the time you can stay with your developmental editor and zoom in a bit on the material to check it out for style and flow.

With all of the above in mind, they look at the material and address questions like:

  • Is this material clear and understandable?
  • Does the information or story flow?
  • Does one idea support the next? Or, in the case of fiction, does the tension continue to build toward a climax?
  • Is the information presented accurately?

To improve the flow of the piece, they may write or rewrite sections, re-organize paragraphs, suggest changes to the order of chapters, and assist with introductions and conclusions of your material. They may also make suggestions as to places you can cut or trim or just get in there and revise any aspects that can improve the overall readability and clarity.

Some developmental editors get in there and assist with research, offer resources, and assist with the rewriting process.

Marni says: While most developmental editors assist with style and flow, some stop after the big picture and refer you to the copy or line editor for the paragraph and sentence structure issues.

Editor # 2:  The Copy Editor (or Line) Editor – or – what I call “The Nitty Gritty Before I Submitty” Editor

When most writers think of an editor, they think of this person. The copy or line editor dives in and makes sure the document is in order so that it can be presented professionally.  This is the last stop before submitting to an agent or publisher.

Copy editors will check and correct: spelling, punctuation, grammar, syntax, word usage (or over usage), consistency of style, and format.

The copy editor will read the draft as if they are a beta reader and offer notes or changes that will enhance overall clarity and flow.

A good copy/line editor will always try to respect the author’s voice and try to fulfill the author’s original meaning. In other words, your book should still say what you want to say, and it should still sound like you.

They may cross check your references, facts and figures, tables, quotes, infographics, and illustrations to make sure that the information in the text that points towards these is consistent and accurate. If they find copyrighted material, they may alert you to the need to gain permission for use. When completed, a copy editor will give you a manuscript that is ready to be submitted to a professional such as an agent or a publisher.

The Third Type of Editor is called a Proofreader or the “Are We Good to Go?” Editor

A proofreader looks at the formatted manuscript and makes the final assessment on how it looks. They pay attention to catching any of the errors or inconsistencies that the previous editor(s) or writers may have made (it’s hard to catch everything). They notice any typographical errors or any errors in typesetting. This editor looks at the last version that the copy editor and writer signed off on and they ask: Are there any discrepancies? Did the typesetter make any errors? How does the page look? Is the layout correct?

In my experience, some copy editors also offer proofing services.

STEP TWO:  What do I Need?

Here you want to ask yourself where you are in the writing process.

PREWRITING

If you are just starting out in the process and want some help developing your story or core idea, a developmental editor or a writing coach is a great place to start.

If you have a first draft and you are not sure what you have exactly, you may want an assessment or critique from a developmental editor.

With prewriting, you do not need the other types of editors.

AFTER 50 or so pages or THE FIRST DRAFT

At this stage, you can still work with a developmental editor. Since they do both assessments and reworking of the material itself, you want to figure out what you need. Ask:

Do I want a critique? (Where someone tells me what is working and what is not working and how to fix it.)

OR

Do I want someone just to get in there and fix what is not working?

Marni says: My advice is to get a critique first as it is less expensive and you may be able to make many of the changes yourself. You can always move on to the “just fix it” phase where you have an editor smooth it out and make it all pretty.

Once you are clear on what you want, ask your editor if they perform that service. If not, ask for referrals. (A good editor will have referrals.)

STEP THREE:  INTERVIEW THE EDITOR

Ask the editor what types of editing they do and be specific about it. (Don’t be afraid to ask questions, if they can’t take questions, they are not the right editor for you.)

Questions to ask:

What type of editing do you do?

How do you define the type of editing? As mentioned before some editors use different language—so it is entirely appropriate to ask for clarification as to what services they are offering.

How do you charge?

What will I receive as feedback?

How specific will your notes be?

How long will it take?

Do you have any testimonials or former clients I can speak to? (If this editor is a referral, you can skip this step.)

Can I speak with you if I have follow-up questions?

How would you like to receive my material?

Marni says: Each editor may have their own best practices for submissions. However, here are some general guidelines. Submit in a Word doc or rich text file. Your page size should be 8.5 by 11. 12-point font, double-spaced. One-inch margins on the top and bottom.

Remember that your editor does not need to be your best friend. One of my editors told me, “I’m not your best friend, I’m the best friend of the material.” You want them to tell you the truth. Still, it’s important to know if you tend to be pretty delicate with feedback.  If so, you may want an editor with a gentler touch so that you will stay in the process.

Overall, my advice is: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If this is your first experience with an editor give yourself time to become acquainted with the process and be patient as you stumble through it. Try to go with referrals from a trusted source. The best editors are known within their writing communities. Best of luck!

Photo Credit: Marni Freedman (She’s in the pink hat)

Confessions of a Memoir Teacher–The Beauty of Broken

a whole in broken glassThere Is a Crack in Everything, That’s How the Light Gets In” – Leonard Cohen

As a memoir teacher and as a therapist, I am privileged to see behind the mask that people tend to wear. On a daily basis, people from all walks of life, all ages and stages of the game, open up and share their true selves with me. And the gift of seeing so many true selves over so many years has changed the way I look at life, the way I see humanity itself.

“Why do you think people share all that stuff with you?” My son asked me once after I told him about a special class I’d just had where many students opened up and explored their deepest secrets in public and for the first time. And he had me stumped. I wasn’t sure why. I only knew that the more they shared, the more I saw their true beauty.

Not the “Facebook, I’m at Disneyland, just had a baby, look at my new puppy, we bought a new car, look at my promotion” kind of beauty. The “I’m scared after my divorce, who am I without my husband, I’m Bipolar, I’m addicted to pills, my dad never loved me, I’m scared to go to the next doctor’s appointment” kind of beauty.

As a person, I gravitate towards the “I’m trying to find my new passion, it hurts to risk, I’m scared to push myself further, I’m jumping in the deep end” kind of beauty.

To me, this is the real beauty of humanity. A kind of beauty that lives in the gray, yet in my eyes is fantastically and spectacularly multicolored.

The other day, while listening to a group member read her memoir, which is an introspective journey out of depression, I had an epiphany. The therapist in her story had stated, sort of matter-of-factly, that we, as humans, are all essentially broken. That being broken was just sort of part of the deal.

That flew in the face of the way I had been trained to think as a therapist, as an American, as a daughter, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. I’d always thought the goal was to work hard, earn, get more, be more–to eventually find my way toward wholeness.

Broken, in my eyes, had meant bad or less than.

But through this therapist’s eyes, broken meant human. Broken meant–just what is.

That night, I couldn’t sleep (and not just because our new kitten was attacking my toes). I kept thinking about the very concept of being whole. And the more I thought about it, the more I questioned it. I turned to the kitten, who may soon be named Mr. Apricot, and said,

“Mr. Apricot, this whole wholeness thing may just be bullshit.”  The kitten seemed to get where I was going, so I continued.

“What if wholeness and perfection are a bill of goods we have been sold along with the Cinderella myth?”

The next morning, I put pen to paper and wrote:

Every person I have ever met, including myself, is what I would consider broken. And what if I had been taught at an early age that that is the beauty of life? We are beautifully broken because we ache for something we don’t have because we are imperfect or slow artists because we lost someone or something because we have a dream yet unrealized because we fill with anger or angst or wish for yesterday. What if we are beautifully broken in a way that doesn’t need to be fixed?

And let me take it one step further, what if the broken places are where the fantastic growth stems from? What if we no longer feared falling, messing up, or failing because we knew these would all be opportunities to find what is most truthful and essential in our souls?

What if we were told that we are never going to have it all figured out, and that’s okay.

This doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t try to heal the hurt places. It means that you would know that perfection doesn’t exist anywhere at any time.

But what about hope, you ask? If I accept all my brokenness, won’t that make me lazy, won’t that mean I have no hope?

In my observation, I don’t see that happening. What I see is that when I work with a group of memoir students, and they begin to share their true selves with one another, their struggles and failures and losses, they experience more hope. They feel a connection with the community, they feel strength in seeing what they have survived. They feel empowered.

Healing, nurturing and loving ourselves, taking risks, pushing beyond bounds–hell yes, to all of that. I’m not saying to wallow in the brokenness. Instead, what if you let it be your personal disco ball? Dance in it, kick up your heels and allow it to surround you. Don’t fight it. This is your humanity talking. It wants to have a conversation with you.

So if you get to the part of your memoir when you are terrified to expose the broken parts, when you want to run and hide behind the old mask, remind yourself that broken is beautiful. Broken is where the light comes in. Broken is where we connect. Waste no more time chasing the concept of whole. Dive into your brokenness and disco the night away.

 

Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash

How to Be a Feisty Self-Promoter

man on hover board water craft flying in the airIsn’t your greatest wish to be left alone in your cave—to write out your words, the way they come to you, without noise or interruption? Then when you are done, all you would have to do is step outside your cave and drop your material on the doorstep. Then you could run back to your cave and shut the door.

Then, an agent would come along, pick up the manuscript and shout, “Brilliant!” and leave you a check just outside your cave door. Then this magic agent would get on her magic megaphone and share your masterpiece with the world, leaving you to go back to doing what you truly love: Working on the next manuscript.

We writers like to be in our caves typing or scribbling—alone. The thought of stepping out of the cave and calling out to the world, “Hey, I’m here!” can be truly daunting. When I ask writers about their take on self-promoting their material I hear questions like:

  1. Won’t I look like a self-centered narcissist?
  2. Won’t I annoy people?
  3. Shouldn’t I just keep my head down and not call attention to myself? Won’t people just find me ’cause they like my work?
  4. I have no idea how to promote; it’s not my area of expertise. Shouldn’t I leave it to the professionals?
  5. What if people say mean stuff?
  6. Won’t the publisher do all that? (No, sorry—heavy sigh)
  7. Do I really have to use social media, I mean how effective is it anyway?

Okay, I won’t lie to you.

People do get sick of humble braggers, general narcissists, and annoying self-promoters. If you are in a community of writers, you know that person. Every post, every tweet, and every pic are about them and their book. They seem to be in their own world—the one where only their book exists.

To become a Feisty Self-Promoter, your goal is to start building an authentic base of supporters, readers, and fans. People who love your voice will want more of it. So it’s perfectly fine to let them know where they can find you, or what you will be up to next! Think of feisty promoting as creating a solid and lasting relationship between you and your readers.

How to be a Feisty Self-Promoter:

  1. First of all, know it’s okay to have confidence in yourself and your material.
  2. Speak from your most authentic voice. Be yourself. Take risks. Let your real voice shine (even in posts—even in tweets.)
  3. Don’t engage the haters. Keep the tone of everything you do positive.
  4. Don’t make it all about you. Write about your readers—what they want, wish for, think about, dream about, etc.
  5. Get help from branding experts. You can spend (read: waste) a lot of time working on promotions that get no return. A few words from someone in the know can have a serious and lasting impact on your PR efforts.
  6. Mix it up, change the channel. Write about something else besides your work. Show that you are not about promoting you all the time.
  7. Tell good stories. This is a great way to promote without being annoying. Talk about your real process. Tell us the good, the bad and the ugly.
  8. Keep being visible—no matter what. Find your venues.
  9. Lift up other writers. Support your writing tribe. When someone else comes out with a book—help them out. Tell others, share posts, write a review for them, attend their launch, toot their horn.
  10. Tenacious consistency is key. Let go of quick results. Building a real platform, something solid, is well worth the time.
  11. Enjoy the process. Readers can tell if you are dragging yourself to the keyboard—or hate the promotion part. Find the parts that give you authentic joy. Then I guarantee that your efforts will resonate with passion. (And who doesn’t like passion?)

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/water-show-fly-airborn-raves-2092402/

How to Be a Feisty Rewriter

Woman holding sparkling orb in her handsNew writers simply do not understand rewriting (Sigh). It comes as a shock to most of them that their first draft will be far from their last draft. I get it. I’ve been there. I know it’s a bitter pill to swallow.

But once a writer has gone through the entire process of taking a first draft and making it sparkle, not only does the piece transform, but the writer transforms. They see how what was once “good,” can now become “great” or “amazing.”  And guess what? Rewriting, dare I say it, can become sort of addicting.

So, if you have completed a first draft and sent it out for feedback, we have two missions:

MISSION ONE:

Keep you from falling into the dreaded Lack of Rewriting PIT.

What is this pit of which I speak? It looks something like this:

  • Not rewriting from the first draft to the second (after getting notes on how much work it needs).
  • Not rewriting as many times as the piece needs. (“Okay, I will write it again, but just once more.”)
  • Contracting “But-I-just-want-it-to-be-done-itis.”
  • Not understanding that every writer—yes, EVERY writer— rewrites.

MISSION TWO:

Encourage you to embrace Feisty Rewriting.

Let’s go back to our premise for the series: Take the ego out and stay in creative motion.

Again—it may feel counterintuitive or nonsensical.

When I have discussed this idea with writers I often hear this type of thinking:

“Oh please, Marni. How on earth can I remove my ego if someone is critiquing my work? They are criticizing me!”

Let’s take a moment to look at that thought. I see writers blend the idea of “their work” with “themselves” all the time. But guess what? That is just the ego trying to lure you to the dark side of not moving forward and staying in delicious, creative motion.

Sidebar:

If someone is criticizing you and not your work, get out, not the right place for you.

If someone doesn’t want you to succeed, get out, not the right place for you.

But if someone is critiquing your work and they want you to succeed, stick it out.

The truth is that your ego may feel bruised. After all, you tried your best, and someone is saying it can be better. It’s okay to feel that “ouch.”

But wait for a second—it’s not the end of the story for your piece! Someone is saying it can be better. Isn’t that what you want? Better? You want to stand out from the crowd. You want to make headway and move your career to the next level. So better will be easier to work with, right?

If you have come along with me this far (congrats!) it means you are ready to become a feisty rewriter.

How to Become a Feisty Rewriter:

  1. Take some time after receiving notes. Remember: you don’t have to, nor should you accept all notes. Otherwise, you will be traveling in many different directions trying to please every note giver. Time to let the notes sink in helps. (No matter what anyone says, you are not in a race.)
  2. Look for the common areas of agreement. If you had multiple readers, where did they agree?
  3. Pay attention to lateral movement. What’s that? Remember that almost every critiquer will have something to say. Some critiques will make the piece better. Some will just be different, but not better.
  4. Decide which notes feel authentic for you and the piece you are writing.
  5. Develop a plan. Work with a writing coach, trusted mentor, or writing group to create a new plan of attack.
  6. Don’t be afraid of a page one rewrite. This is where you start cursing at me. It sounds horrid, I know.  But I have seen brilliance stem from many writers who took a step back, then approached their material with a new take or slant. None of it was wasted time. You can’t get to step two without step one.
  7. Reward yourself for staying in the process. (It’s a big deal!)
  8. Utilize your writing tribe to keep you on track.
  9. Remember that the process itself is part of the reward. Enjoy every small rewriting victory.
  10. Don’t let anything stop you, get in your way, or side track you from completing your next draft. You are a train in motion. And that is creative dynamism at its finest.

Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/search/sparkle?photo=iDW-R3fSuhg