Precious Prose: A New Year’s Resolution

It’s about that time that we all start loudly announcing new goals for the year, letting as many people know what we intend so that we feel guilty if we don’t follow through (at least for a little while). This year I’m not promising to eat less chocolate (who would do something so silly?!) or work out more or spend more time with my family (though both of these would be nice). I have enough of those things, thanks. Instead, this is the year I will write more! I’m saying this loudly so the people in the back can hear me… In the next 365 days I am going to try and write as much as I possibly can. I’m also going to try and publish as much as I can.

To say I have big plans for this year is underestimating it by a thousand. I have huge plans; ginormous, great big dinosaur-sized plans.

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And maybe I’ll discover that I only have tiny T-Rex arms to accomplish these monster-sized plans, but I will try anyway.

I am lucky this year because I have the luxury of taking some time off of “work” and devoting myself to writing. I put “work” in quotation marks because I think writing is just as much work as any other job. Yes, it looks different from the outside. I won’t be going to an office. I won’t be sitting down to grade papers or plan lessons. I won’t be meeting with students or other professors. But I will still be working. Just like with teaching, there will be times I procrastinate, times I phone it in, times I’m unsatisfied with my product or wish I had more time to spend on one thing or the other.

But the point of taking time off from my “day job” is to WRITE. And, like I said, I have big plans. I want to train myself to produce prose that is good as well as fast. I want to write drafts in a matter of days or weeks rather than months or years. I want to write a helluva lot of words this year and publish as many of them as I can.

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And this is all in an effort to make my prose less precious to me.

Let me ‘splain.

As writers, we get attached to our words. We often get caught up in word count (see my previous post) and in getting things just right. We can linger over one word for a long time, wondering if it truly expresses all that we mean to say, and terrified that there’s another word out there that might do the job better than the one we have. We can linger the same way over sentences, paragraphs, chapters, worrying them until they are unrecognizable.

But lately I have been thinking a lot about improv, and procrastination, and the idea of splashing words on a page and handing them in. (Can you tell I’ve just finished a semester where I graded many many papers written at the last minute?) I’ve been thinking of deadlines and just getting things done, no matter how good or bad I think they are. I have a notebook full of ideas to think and write about. All genres, all styles, all lengths, all formats. Nothing is off limits this year. This time around, it’s all about volume.

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It’s not going to be easy. And I’m sure you’ll hear more from me as I push myself to achieve these big goals. But for the moment I’m excited and ready to take on a new year and a lot of new words.

What are your New Year’s goals, writing or otherwise? What do you hope to accomplish in the next twelve months?

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Dealing With Feedback and Critiques When All You Want To Do Is Duck And Hide

I recently had an experience that may be familiar to many of you. It is a moment we both look forward to  and dread.  When we get feedback and critiques back from contest judges, critique partners, beta readers, etc.  I have entered a few contests recently, and while I didn’t place, I did receive feedback and comments from the judges. I have also sent the first few chapters to two friends of mine, both of whom are published authors, and got comments and feedback from them as well. But surely I can’t be the only one who has such mixed feelings about getting feedback on your writing right? Continue reading

Lessons from my Students: PRO-crastinating!

The day that my students turn in their first paper of the semester I usually bring them some kind of treats and plan to watch a movie that class period. This is not just because I’m a fun teacher (that’s indisputable) but it’s because I realize a few things about how college students work. So when they roll into class bleary-eyed and clutching the biggest cups of coffee I have ever seen, I laugh and ask them a question: “How many of you wrote this essay within the last twelve hours?”

They laugh nervously, wondering if I seriously want to know the answer. But when I smile and say, “Come on,” then the hands go up. Occasionally, there is a student or two who has planned ahead and written the paper over the weekend. But mostly, my students look at me sheepishly as they admit that they’ve done the work the night before the due date. Continue reading

It’s Okay to Know Nothing

The  only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.
-Socrates

My name is Erica, and I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

Question 3So if I say this to you, your first reaction might be to look concerned and go “Awh, honey, that’s not true. You totally got this.” Perhaps in time, that would be true. As I age and gain experience in this crazy world of publishing, maybe I’ll start to feel like I understand a little bit more.
Maybe each attempt at starting a new book won’t feel like I’ve forgotten every single thing I ever learned about writing and I’m again sitting in my Fiction I class during my freshman year of college, being told that I need to “write what I know.” (To read my thoughts on that, check out here). I’d like to think I’ll suddenly receive some sort of grail-like knowledge about writing that will convince me I’m not a hack, but I’m pretty sure that won’t happen. Continue reading

What’s Your Measure of Success?

Here in the Tearoom we are all either self-published or aspiring authors. As such, I know we all think about “making it”. I mean, who doesn’t? In whatever field we’re in, whatever job we do, most of us have a dream of success.

I’ll admit to having grand fantasies of going on book tours and meeting adoring fans who’ve connected with my books in some personal way. I would love to sign books with a flourish and smile at the people as I shake hands and give hugs.

But these things don’t happen for many authors, much less self-published ones who are working on their own tiny budget and limited connections.

So what becomes the measure of “success” as an author? Continue reading

Helping Disaster Victims by Sharing Stories

Give us this day...This past week I celebrated my *mumbleteen* birthday. In all it was a glorious day of me doing absolutely nothing but exactly what I wanted to. That is to say, reading. I am not a watcher of television (though right now Lost Girl on Netflix seems to hold sway in the brief moments of “what do I do next” in my life). I also don’t subscribe to any news aggregators or websites of any kind. This leaves me blissfully free of any of the baloney political crap that seems to get my ire up in a big damned hurry. The downside, of course, is that it leaves me blissfully unaware of major events happening in the world and I must, sadly, rely on people notifying me, usually after the fact. Continue reading

Working for a Miracle – A Life Lived According to Herb Brooks

“I’m not looking for the best players, I’m looking for the right ones.” – Herb Brooks

Miracle

I have a not-so-secret love of sports movies.  The best ones combine real life sports stories with great acting and writing and become inspirational classics.  One of the absolute best examples of this is Miracle starring Kurt Russell.

Miracle is the true story of the 1980 USA Men’s Olympic Hockey team.  This was before the Olympics were made up of “dream teams,” and it was during a time when the Soviet machine trained athletes like they were soldiers. In fact, many on the Soviet hockey team actually were soldiers.  They’d been playing and training together for more than a decade.  They won nearly every game.  They didn’t just win.  They obliterated their opponents.  They were a shoe in for the gold medal every year, and the United States was getting beaten by the Czech B team.  The US Olympic committee wasn’t even looking to win a medal…and then Herb Brooks happened. Continue reading