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

5 Steps to Taming the Writing Ego (When You Get Harsh Feedback)

Wrecking Ball hitting brick wallOn the one hand, as a writing coach and teacher, I ask students to go to their most vulnerable place, to reach deep down in their soul and risk everything they’ve got. Otherwise, their writing voice won’t sound authentic and most likely—they won’t get noticed.

As writers, we simply have to risk, and risk often.

On the other hand, I ask students to take said risk-filled material—in which they have possibly exposed themselves in a very personal way—and put it up for review.

It’s sort of an insane process.

Passionate, vulnerable, emotional writers + critique = not so great recipe.

In fact, this recipe often leads to shutting down, lack of listening (hearing the feedback) and sometimes meltdowns and tantrums. In my experience, no one wants to work with or be around a TTW. (Temperamental-Tantrum-Writer.)

The critique process has been going on for thousands of years and is vital to the writing process. You simply can’t know what you have communicated until you get out of your brain and hear how others are experiencing your material.

So how do you use the critique process without stomping your feet, going insane (or pretending you don’t care) so you can actually benefit from it?

I have five steps for you:

  1. Do your best to recognize when the ego is at play. You can train yourself to recognize when the ego is popping up. Just recognizing it is an important first step in taming the damn thing. (Ego thoughts can sound like: No, they are wrong, how could they say that to me? They just don’t get it. I am being attacked here. They are stupid. If only they read other pages, they would get it. This is unfair. I’m getting out of here.) When you recognize the ego taking over your brain just breathe in and out. That’s it.
  2. Recognize WHY you are receiving feedback. To get better. You are putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation to grow. That’s the bottom line.
  3. Switch hats. Today’s writer must wear many hats: the creator, the editor, the promoter, the marketer, etc. It’s vital to realize that when you are receiving feedback, you should not be in your creator-writer space. Put the editor hat on.
  4. Do the “Two Minute Rant, Take a Walk” method. Yep, it’s just what it sounds like.

⇒ If you are alone, rant to your pillow, or write out all of your angry thoughts. Get it all out. Get out the most childish tantrum-y thoughts you got. Then take a walk. Don’t respond. Take as much time as you possibly have before responding. You want to respond from your wisest self.

⇒ If you are in a group, it’s a little harder. You can rant inside your unhappy brain. But then, you might miss out on valuable feedback. When in a group, I suggest postponing the rant. Keep the editor’s hat on, don’t argue back no matter what and take notes. Even if you don’t agree: take notes. When you calm down, you will want to remember what was said.

  1. Let it go for a few days. Approach the material when you are fresh. Allow the critique to settle in. Don’t start writing thinking you will fix the problem in a few minutes. Often, you will need to come up with a new approach.

The good news: it does get easier! You do get acclimated to the process and stop taking it all so personally.

 

The Feisty Writer’s Guide to Tackling Your Fears

People on scary carnival rideWriting Task Terror Challenge

 Being the feisty coach that I am, I want to encourage you to start to tackle your writing fears.

“But how, how, how?”  you ask. “They are my fears; I can’t just conquer them. I am filled with writing anxiety. I am scared to reach out to an agent. I can’t submit to a contest, go to a networking event, or travel to a different city to pitch my story!”

 Yeah, you actually can. I’ve watched many a timid writer transform into a fierce writing lion in action. And I have a plan. It’s easy, and I know you can do it.

 Do one writing task per month that terrifies you!

 Let’s take a minute to talk about what you may be avoiding:

 Sending a query letter. Sending your 12th query letter. Making a cold call. Writing a book proposal. Pitching an agent. Signing up for a conference. Submitting to a contest. Applying for a writing job. Reaching out to a writing mentor you respect. Attending a class. Finding a writing group. Completing your book. Taking a manuscript out of the drawer and showing it to someone. (add your own here)

 Now let me break down my little plan for you in 4 easy steps:

Step one: Make a list of things that you want/need to get done in the next six months to reach a writing goal. Include the things that you really don’t want to do, or that freak you out.

Step two: Grab a calendar. Pick a day of the month (say the 15th) and make it your Writing Task Day.

Step three: On that day (for example, Oct 15th, then Nov 15th…), for six months, perform a task that you would normally shy away from.

Step four: Put it out of your mind until the next month.

Important: What matters is staying in creative motion and putting yourself out there. Don’t become attached to the outcome. I once worked with a client who had submitted her book for a year. Ready to quit, she said she would only submit one more. Well, three submissions later, she found her perfect agent. Had she quit at one more, her career would never have blossomed. Letting go of the outcome allowed her to keep moving.

 What you will notice: The first time will be the scariest.

 Then, you will find that:

Being bold is addicting!

 Why? Because you will realize that what has been holding you in its grips so tightly–telling you that you can’t do it, well, it no longer has a hold on you.  

 And the more you get out there, the more you will have successful experiences. Failures too. That’s just part of it. But the successes will happen–and they will happen because you stayed in creative motion.

 Send us an e-mail with a pic of you doing the thing that scares you the most!

 

Photo credit: http://nos.twnsnd.co/image/149083312733

How To Be A Feisty Submitter—The Mustard Factor

grey-poupon-mustard-coupon

Let’s go back to the feisty writer premise we introduced in my last blog  Your job as a feisty writer is to:

Take the ego out and stay in creative motion. 

 Nowhere is this more important than in the submission process. Submitting to an agent, competition, or contest can be scary. It’s the moment of judgment. No more dreaming, plotting, editing, or shaping. Your submission will be followed with a clear “yes” or “no.” Having been on both sides of the game, I get it. I’ve been both the “submitter” and the “decider.” I’ve learned a lot being on both sides. But, to be honest, I have learned the most as someone who has had to judge the work of other writers.

Here’s what I can tell you that I have learned as the “decider.” 

There are a certain amount of pieces that rise to the top–these we will call the finalists. 

 They are finalists because they are well written, have strong concepts and unique voices, and are polished.  (You want to hone your craft until you find yourself in this arena. There is no short cut, just consistent joyful work on your craft.)

But, when looking at your pile of finalists, you are facing a crop of good stuff.

How do you decide on a winner?

The honest answer is that it’s subjective. Why one piece hits me and rises to the top is extraordinarily personal and sometimes unexplainable. And often it comes down to the mustard factor.

 What is the mustard factor, you ask?

 Well… 

I was in a room with a group of movie producers, and we were in the process of casting.

All day long, actors came in to read for various parts.

Two equally talented actors came in for the same part. The first actor auditioned before lunch. He was on point, funny, and we were all impressed. Then lunch came, providing us with gourmet hot dogs with gourmet mustard. Said mustard got on the head producer’s tie. It happened to be an expensive silk tie he loved. And that put him in a bad mood.

Then…

In walked the second actor. 

And guess what, he was awesome. On point, funny, and we were all impressed. (Maybe he was even a smidge more awesome than the first actor.) But, the producer who was making the ultimate decision was in a bad mood because of his damn soiled tie. No amount of talking it through could convince him that the second actor was as good as the first. 

So the first actor was hired. From that point on, we referred to the subjectiveness of the deciders as “the mustard factor.”

Now don’t get me wrong–you still have to be awesome to get to that round. You need to be a finalist. So work your craft like mad. But don’t take every or any hit personally.

How to Be a Feisty Submitter

1.     Make submitting part of your weekly or monthly schedule. Put contests or agent submissions on your “to do” list. (Go to Hope Clark’s fundsforwriters.com for awesome submission info.)

2.     No need to talk about submissions with anyone, just do it.

3.     Refine, refine, refine. If you are seeking an agent, keep refining that search or rewriting the query if you get feedback. 

4.     Submit to the same competitions even if you are rejected–especially the ones that offer feedback. Take the feedback. They will be impressed with your tenacity.

5.     Run your own race. Do not compare yourself to anyone. Focus on improving your track record of submitting.

6.     Live by the question: Are you better at submitting now that you were in the past? (Keep improving based on your answer.)

7.     Reward yourself for submissions, not for wins.

Photo Credit: goo.gl/images/q6EStg

How to Be a Feisty Writer

Cowboy on Bucking BroncoIt’s not easy to be a writer. Writers are often plagued with heaps of self-doubt and loathing, so much so that it can be debilitating.

But there is a cure.

And it can be summed up in one sentence: Take the ego out and stay in creative motion.

Now I know that is easier said than done. In our culture, we are rarely taught to remove our ego from, well, anything. But for writers, this is not only a vital idea but a healthy survival skill. The reason is that there is no exact path to predict when success or even acknowledgment will arrive. And, in my humble opinion, writers give up way too soon, before they have had any time to gain traction. Any writer, especially a new writer, will encounter rejection and general knocks to the head. They tend to take these knocks so seriously that they are filled with pain, depression, anxiety, lack of self-belief. But really, it’s all part of the process. So how to keep moving and enjoy the process to boot? Adopt the feisty writer attitude.

A feisty writer is one who is always in creative motion, working toward their dream tenaciously, no matter what. They don’t travel along a lot of highs or lows; they just keep on with their craft. I personally have been feisty writing for so long that I may take it to an extreme. Recently, I had a play run in Chicago, and it got great reviews. Or so I heard because I didn’t read them. Don’t get me wrong; I was overjoyed to have them. But I’m no longer in the game for the highs or the lows—for the outside accolades. I’m in it to be a writer. So, in a way, I’m unstoppable because nothing anyone says, good or bad, can stop me. (This doesn’t mean I don’t take critique—every writer needs a healthy critiquing and editing process). It’s just I know the path I’m on and it’s no one else’s business to tell me if and where I belong. It’s up to me to define it for myself.

How can feisty-ness work for you? Here are some guidelines:

  1. Write every day.
  2. Don’t look for your writing to determine your self-worth. If it took a writer ten years to get recognized, should they spend the decade hating themselves? (No)
  3. Be in motion. You are a train that is constantly moving, creating, thinking, dreaming, churning out material.
  4. If someone tells you that you can’t do it, look to see where you can improve your craft (learning and growing as a writer is unending). Use that input as fuel. Then answer back: Just Watch Me.
  5. See rejection and failure as part of the rites of passage.
  6. Believe in yourself even when faced with a stupid rite of passage.
  7. Find your writing community. I can’t stress enough how important this step will be for you. A good tribe can keep you going even when you want to stop.
  8. Dive into the joy of what the moment brings you. Don’t miss all the amazing moments in search of outside praise.
  9. Never give up. Never ever ever ever ever. Just keep coming back. The world will notice. Eventually. And in the meantime, you will be doing what you love, surrounded by a tribe you love.

Photo Credit: New Old Stock: Cowboy on a Bucking Bronco nos.twnsnd.co/post/128035620901

Freakin’ Courage

freakin-courage-image

Lately, I’ve been thinking about all the freakin’ courage it takes to be a creative person. And especially to be a creative person that puts yourself out there.

Every day, in fact, I walk writers through their fears. I hear sentiments like:

“Who am I to write a book?”

“Why would anyone want to read what I have to say?”

“What makes me think I can make money at this?”

“Am I good enough, talented enough, whatever enough, to do this?”

“Can I live my dreams?”

We writers face these battles daily.

We are faced with thoughts that threaten to take us down. And maybe they do take us down. Maybe for a week, a year, a few years. But in my experience, most of us get back up. Despite all the fear, the passion is greater. We just feel too alive while writing to stop.

And therein lies the secret to a writer’s courage: Your passion is greater than your fear.

Your passion will always win.

But if you ever forget, if you ever dive into your fear and it seems you might get lost there, know you have a community. Reach out to me. I am totally serious here. Write me an e-mail. And I will remind you.

Much love,

Marni

Photo Credit: View from top of roller coaster looking east. VPL 12276   06/14/32  Photographer/Studio: Leonard Frank Studio  www.vpl.ca/historicalphotos

Welcome to The Feisty Writer!

Ummm, what is it exactly…

A New Blog for Feisty Writers Everywhere

What does it mean to be a feisty writer? Is it for me?

Well…

  • Are you ready to take your career into your own hands?
  • Are you looking for ways to improve your craft without being bored out of your mind?
  • Are you looking for new techniques that will actually get you to the page?
  • Are you seeking a writer-tested-and-approved method to complete your novel, memoir, screenplay, or play?
  • Are you a severe procrastinator with a fierce inner critic?

 

Guess what?

We are your tribe.