There aren’t really words to convey how I feel, so today’s post is brought to you by gifs.
This is how it feels to be an author on your book birthday:
Book birthdays are exciting.
Authors feel a bit too excited.
But you also know you wouldn’t have gotten here without help. A LOT of help. So you’re feeling a bit misty about all the supportive family members, critique partners, beta readers, editors, illustrators, art directors, and marketing people who made this happen.
So you spend the whole day just wanting to hug the universe and thank them that this amazing thing happened.
And at some point, someone will say something nice about your book. “Cute cover!” “Congrats!” “Can’t wait to read it!” Whatever it is, you feel overwhelmed that people care about a thing you made.
But if you write for kids, the best days are still to come. Every single time a parent tells you that their kid loves your book. Or shares a picture of a kid reading it. Or leaves a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Every. Single. Time, your heart will well up bigger than the Grinch.
At the end of 2017, I made a pledge. I challenged myself to review good books every month in 2018, particularly books that haven’t gotten as much love as I feel they deserve. I call it Kidlit Karma because I’m aiming to spread the love for books that I love.
April is poetry month, so today’s post features all picture books with outstanding use of poetic devices. I have divided them into rhyming and free verse poetry.
RHYMING PICTURE BOOKS
People often assume that picture books MUST be written in rhyme – not true!
People also often assume that writing rhyming picture books is easy – definitely not true!
I’ve published one board book in rhyme and have another one coming later this year. So I can tell you from experience that nailing down perfect rhyme and meter is no easy feat.
So when I see someone who has done an excellent job, I take notice.
Picture Book: SOME PETS by Angela Diterlizzi and Brendan Wenzel
This book is written in a snappy beat and short lines that will keep even young kids engaged. The language is rich despite only having three words per line. (And two of them repeat in almost every line!) The illustrations are funny and help to carry the story. Overall, this is a fun and bouncy rhyming picture book that will suit a wide range of ages.
Picture Book: TWINDERELLA: A FRACTIONED FAIRY TALE by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Deborah Marcero
Cinderella has a twin sister. Who knew? This clever take on the fractured fairy tale combines perfect rhyme and meter with a STEM focus on fractions. Poetry, humor, and STEM – bestill my nerdy, kidlit-loving heart. The most impressive part is that none of these parts were sacrificed for the sake of the others: the poetry is perfect, the story is lovely, and the math is accurate and amusing.
My last two poetic picture books are a little different. Just as people mistakenly assume that picture books must rhyme, they also assume that poetry must rhyme. If you don’t already love free verse poetry, I recommend reading these out loud. You’ll be a changed person.
Picture Book: SIT-IN: HOW FOUR FRIENDS STOOD UP BY SITTING DOWN by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney
I can’t help but gush about this book. First, the language is sumptuous and superb. So much so, that I would argue with the book description. This isn’t prose; it’s free verse poetry. But it’s also a true story well, told well. And it’s has a message that is important in any age. The two parts (poetry and true story) complement each other: the poetry brings in a sense of vibrancy and emotion that lets readers connect to the people in the story, their plight, and the power of their actions.
Picture Book: CROWN: AN ODE TO THE FRESH CUT by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James
Normally, I save my reviews for books that haven’t gotten much reviewing love. This book has gotten plenty of love, including enough awards that they have to arrange them carefully on the cover. But this is one of those books that’s deserves every drop it has gotten and then some.
You could also argue that this book is truly poetic prose instead of free verse poetry. This is one of those cases where the lyrical language is so strong, you’re not quite sure what you’re reading, but you love it in any case.
So go get this book. See why it won all the award and decide for yourself if it’s prose or poetry.
It’s a start. But if we’re going to reshape the kidlit community, we need more people acting to make that happen.
I’ve considered how I can contribute to #kidlitwomen and support my fellow female writers. My other great passion (besides writing) is science. In a former life, I was a PhD-track academic studying language and the human brain. So looking for answers naturally led to science and what it can tell us about this moment and this movement.
COGNITIVE DISSONANCE: Now what?
The recent revelations of sexual harassment in kidlit were jarring. (I wish I could say that’s it’s equally jarring to see how men have consistently been supported to the detriment of women, but many of us saw that one coming.)
It’s jarring partly because the view from the outside is a very loving and supportive community. And from the inside, that is the predominant experience. It’s one of the best communities I’ve ever been privileged to participate in.
But predominant experiences aren’t the only experience within our community. Some have experienced harassment, assault, and manipulation. Professional organizations have allowed this to continue for years.
Realizing that the mostly warm fuzzy community you love was also hiding predators is unsettling. Cognitive dissonance is the scientific term for this feeling. It’s the jarring sensation you get when you have two contradictory ideas. It’s like realizing your sweet uncle Bob, that always brought you the just-right book to shepherd you through the turbulent teen years, was also a hit man for the mob. It’s upsetting. It makes you question EVERYTHING.
You have two options:
Deny or downplay the new information that caused the cognitive dissonance. (“Uncle Bob would never do that!” or “But he’s a really nice guy.” or “He’s just been having a really hard time in his marriage.”)
Accept the new information and change your worldview. Taking apart your broken set of beliefs and putting them back together is a truer, better way. It’s uncomfortable, but in the end, it’s better. And it’s the only way to move forward.
Cognitive dissonance doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Reassessing is a necessary part of life. You might still care about uncle Bob, but given what you now know it would be plain stupid not to change how you interact with him.
So in this moment, when our view of the kidlit community has been flipped inside out, take a breath. Don’t resist the discomfort with a “no they didn’t” or “nothing is wrong” or “it’s not a big deal.” Resist the urge to defned or rationalize away what you now know.
Pause. Listen. Process.
Then let your worldview shift. Accepting and acting on this newly discovered reality is how we move on.
BYSTANDER EFFECT: How do I stop sexual harassment?
Ready to take action? Great! You’re determined to be a part of the solution and put a stop to sexual harassment. How do you do that? Let’s start somewhere a little easier.
Imagine you’re in a crowded grocery store – everyone is rushing to get food for the next big holiday. And in the middle of a crowded aisle, an older woman trips and falls. She’s sitting there, leaning against cans of corn beef.
You’re just as harried as everyone else – you’ve got food to buy, preparations to make, kids whining. Do you stop and ask if she’s ok? If she’s fine, you lose time, look a bit foolish, and maybe embarrass her. Lots of other people are there and none of them seem to be rushing to the woman’s aid.
Research says you’ll most likely keep going. It’s called the bystander effect – the more bystanders that see the little woman in the canned-meat aisle, the less each one feels responsible for her.
If you saw that same older woman trip on a remote mountaintop it would be obvious that you should act – no one else is around, and she has no other way to get help. But when you’re surrounded by other people, you don’t feel quite as responsible.
It’s often unclear if help is needed. The woman may just need a minute to regain her composure. Or she could have had a stroke. She might not be able to call out for help because of her physical condition in the moment. But if everyone is looking and waiting for someone else to act, then no one ever gets around to it.
There’s a really simple cure for the bystander effect.
Know that it exists and realize that people are unlikely to act.
Act on that realization.
It’s the same concept that underlies the phrase “if you see something, say something.”
Smile and say hi to the women. Maybe make a joke or tell an anecdote to put her at ease and relieve her embarrassment. “Sometimes I think they put ice on these floors.”
Then offer her a hand up. She may turn it down. She may gratefully smile back, take the hand up then finish her shopping. Or she may be unable to get up or unable to respond. No more ambiguity, call an ambulance. If you need help, single out a specific person in the crowd. Make it obvious that that person, yes, you in the red shirt are now responsible for calling the ambulance. Now you’ve broken through another person’s bystander effect, too.
Now imagine that instead of a feeble woman at the grocery, you’re in a crowded post-conference get-together. Lots of those lovely kidlit folk are chatting about their favorite topic – books! – while sipping wine. You notice a man putting an arm around a woman. She looks a bit uncomfortable but doesn’t pull away. Everyone else keeps chatting, unconcerned. She hasn’t pulled away or asked for help; does that mean she’s fine? Or is it like the lady in the grocery store where everyone is assuming someone else will act. Is she trapped by the social situation in the same way the grocery lady might be trapped by her physical situation? Anyone who has given in to middle school peer pressure knows that you can be manipulated by a situation or a powerful person, be they the popular girl, a schoolyard bully, or a sexual predator hiding among the kidlit sheep. Anne Ursu’s survey results were full of examples of situations where women did not feel they could speak out on their own behalf.
What to do? Like the lady in the grocery, if you see something, do something. Approach with compassion. Try to ease awkwardness and embarrassment. And if you sense a dangerous situation, get help.
If it were me, I would walk up and say “Excuse me, do you know where the ladies room is? Could you show me?” I’ve now engaged, I can better judge the situation. And I’ve given her a valid excuse to leave the situation on good social terms. She can choose to take the hand I extend or not. But if I sensed she was in real danger – like a man separating her from me, trying to pull her away, or preventing her from grabbing that metaphorical hand, I would be more direct. “You look uncomfortable. Do you need help? Would you like me to call someone?”
Would I be embarrassed? VERY. I would probably be beet red and feel like an intruder, but it’s important. If I misread the situation, they can laugh at me later. But if I didn’t….. I don’t want to be complicit through my lack of action.
So you reading this, yes you with the good intentions feeling uncertain how to proceed, step out of the crowd and act. Act when you see someone in need. Act even if you’re not sure help is needed. Act even though you feel embarrassed. Just ACT.
TEND AND BEFRIEND: How do I prevent sexual harassment?
Long ago, researchers found that people have one of two reactions to threat: fight or flight. So when you stumble into a bear in your backyard, you can either fight it or run away.
That research was based on men. New research found a wider variety of responses. They found that women, in particular, are more likely to protect their children and band together for group protection. Since scientists like rhyme as much as writers, they coined the phrase “tend and befriend.”
A single person may seem to have little power, but when those small actions are put together for a common purpose, they can effect enormous change.
So how can tend and befriend work for creating change in the kidlit community?
TEND: First, we need to protect the most vulnerable. That means protecting those that have already suffered sexual harassment. It also means creating protections for those who are more vulnerable such as women who may be harassed by a more powerful abuser. Or women of color who are doubly vulnerable. Acting in the moment is powerful and necessary. Tend to the woman at cocktail hour with the unwelcome arm around her shoulders.
BEFRIEND: If we want to effect large change and create a community where sexual harassment is not tolerated, we need to join together as a band of brave women and their allies. We are stronger together, so let’s use that power.
As a band of women and allies, we can push the gatekeepers of our industry to guard the gates and keep the harassers out. Agents, editors, conference organizers – we as a group should demand that all these people have clear policies and practices that protect us all. SCBWI has begun that process as have some agents. Perhaps others are doing it behind closed doors. But I won’t assume others will act, it’s too important. I will say something.
Throughout the month of March, many women and allies will be sharing their #kidlitwomen stories. Including many ways that we can work together to create a better community for everyone. I will be supporting those people by sharing their ideas and taking action. Be engaged on social media. One voice alone is quiet, many together is a roar that can’t be ignored.
YOUR MANUAL FOR MOVING FORWARD:
Listen and accept that something is broken within the kidlit community.
Shift your view to a healthier, truer one.
Decide to act.
If you see something, say something. Even if you’re unsure if help is needed. (Especially if you’re unsure.)
Support one another but especially tend to the most vulnerable in our community.
Band together and put all out small efforts together to create a big change in kidlit. A change that makes our whole community a safer place.
The #metoo and #kidlitwomen movements are much larger than I can address in a single post. I limited myself to only discussing sexual harassment and how to prevent it. But I could easily have talked about the culture that allowed the harassment to occur. Or about how the system promotes male authors at the expense of female authors. Or how the double-whammy of sexism and racism makes it especially difficult for women of color. Or the role that men need to take to help us reshape this industry into something safer and more equitable for all. I’m leaving those topics to others who are better equipped to speak to that experience. We’re a band of brave women, after all. We don’t need to deliver every message, sometimes it’s enough to pass the microphone.
My biggest 2017 goal was to get a literary agent. An agent will help me achieve my larger career goals by giving me more guidance, helping me produce the best possible work, and opening more doors.
So throughout 2017, I did all the things you’re supposed to do to get a golden ticket to the land of agented writers. I wrote a lot; I improved my writing through classes, webinars, and conferences; I read copious numbers of books; and I submitted widely but wisely.
I did all the right things. No agent.
Why? Because it’s true what agents say: sometimes the time isn’t right or the fit isn’t right or the stars just do not align in my favor. I came close, but it just wasn’t right.
I “failed” my goal despite having the most productive writing year of my life, despite getting a new book under contract, despite reading a bunch of wonderful books, and improving my writing craft.
Someone rightly pointed out that my goal was doomed from the beginning because it was a goal that was out of my control.
I can’t make an agent fall in love with my book. I can’t make the industry change to suit my writing style. I can’t demand that an agent with a full client list, make room for little ol’ me. All I can do is make myself the best possible writer and be ready when the stars do finally align in my favor.
So I flipped the perspective.
Instead of goals we can’t control:
I will get an agent
I will get a promotion at work
I will get a book deal
I’m dedicating myself to the type of goals I can control:
I will write, read, learn, and submit
I will exceed all deliverable goals at work
I will write daily
In the end, these things often amount to the same thing. Doing your best on the things you can control often leads to the outcomes you can’t control. I didn’t set a goal to have the most productive writing year of my life, but it happened because I aimed to write daily.
I didn’t get an agent this year. But I did set the groundwork to be the best writer I can be. In time, that will attract an agent. I just have to remember to keep doing the work and have faith.
When my stars align, I will be ready.
Check out this post to learn more about setting wise resolutions.
Every year I spend some time thinking about what I want my life to look like in the New Year. I know that my life is better when I spend time on the things that are meaningful to me. That’s why I make it a goal to write five days a week, why I try to read a bit each day, and why I carve out time to volunteer for causes I believe in.
The little things add up. This year I wrote more than ever before. I’m on target to read 500 books for the 3rd year in a row. And I’m proud of how much the charities I support were able to achieve.
Those little habits can be just as powerful for making positive changes in the world.
Money is easy to measure. It’s harder to quantify the small acts of kindness. A friendly smile to someone who is lonely, a willing ear for someone who is hurt, a hug for a child who is struggling – we can’t know the exact impact of these things. But these things are no less important.
Small acts of kindness, done thoughtfully and consistently, can have big impacts.
So I have been thinking: how can I harness this power of the small habits to create the kind of world I want to live in? I’ve been thinking about this in all aspects of my life. Here, I will talk about how this relates to writing.
I love to read. That’s not news, nor is it news that I am passionate about children’s literature.
In the last few years, I have taken time to recommend many books that I truly believe in. In true fangirl fashion, when I find something I love I just can’t help but gush about it. But it’s also one small way that I can help adults and kids connect with some of the amazing stories out there.
It’s also been a way for me to highlight overlooked books. These are excellent books but, for whatever reason, they haven’t gotten as much attention as they deserve.
In 2018, I want to take it a step further.
A good review is like a love letter to the author and illustrator. We rarely get direct feedback on our writing. We don’t speak to the people buying our books or see how they affect the lives of our readers, so we don’t get to see their impact. Unprompted, honest support of our work can mean the world to an author.
Reviews also have tangible positive effects for authors and illustrators. Leaving reviews on Amazon and Goodreads is one of the best ways to support authors. Books with more honest, positive feedback will show up higher in search results. They are more likely to be suggested as additional purchases or “books you may like.” That translates into more sales.
I’m already reading lots of books. I’m already evangelizing about great kidlit. But I’m not taking the small next step of posting the reviews. I’m not reviewing in a way that will best help readers reach those books. And I’m not sending my love and appreciation to the authors and illustrators who worked so hard to create those books.
I’m going to fix that.
The Kidlit Karma challenge: Every month in 2018, I will leave an honest, positive review on Amazon and Goodreads for a book I love.
The nitty gritty:
Once each calendar month I will review a book on Amazon and Goodreads.
I will only review books that I can honestly rate with 4 or 5 stars.
I will leave at least one paragraph explaining why I love this book.
To increase visibility, I will also crosspost my kidlit love letter on my blog and social media accounts.
I will use the hashtag #kidlitkarma to make postings searchable and to create buzz.
To have the biggest impact, I will reserve my reviews for books that have smaller numbers of reviews.
One book a month. One paragraph a month. It’s a small gift of my time that can have a big impact on others.
Here’s the thing: small acts build up more quickly when you join forces. Are you a writer, a reader, a librarian, an educator, or a lover of kidlit? You can spread the love, too.
Take the pledge!
Grab this graphic and proudly post it on your blog, webpage, or social media accounts. Let others know you’re going to make your world a little better, one kid book at a time. Post in the comments with your URL, twitter handle, etc. so we can see what great books you’re reviewing each month.
Tis’ the season for gift giving. It’s easy to know what writers want: a five-book deal at a top publisher. Barring, that check out these suggestions to help you find gifts for the writers in your life.
If you hang out with writers, you will soon learn that we love our caffeinated beverages.
Most writers don’t earn a full-time income from writing and may take many years to “make it.” Which means most of us write early in the morning or late in the evening and subsist on caffeine. Liquid motivation can go a long way to making the writerly lifestyle work around full-time employment and other life demands.
Or maybe there’s just something about a steaming cup of coffee that’s downright magical.
In any case, find out the preferred caffeinated beverage of your writer and go to town. Options include:
a sampling of teas
a really large bag of coffee
membership is a tea or coffee of the month club
Gift card to a coffee shop or tea house
Go ahead and spring for the good stuff. A really good cup of home-brewed coffee is a nice luxury at cents to the cup.
Things to put caffeinated beverages into/make them with
Again, writers like caffeinated beverages. So why not give them the gift of making a swanky cuppa at home. Or a fancy mug to hold that steaming cup of inspiration.
Aside from caffeinated beverages, comfort foods and drinks are also a good bet.
The path to success is paved with rejection and angst. The angst of showing your work to the world. The rejection when it’s not immediately accepted as the most amazing things since Harry Potter. The angst of wondering if you will EVER get published. The angst of worry when you finally are published. It doesn’t end.
Which is why, in addition to caffeinated beverages, writers are awfully fond of our comfort foods. Ferret out the comfort food of choice for your writer and then get creative. Common choices include:
Chocolate of the month or Wine of the month club
Like coffee and tea, a little splurge can go a long way. So skip the checkout chocolate bar and go for the Godiva.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer
must be in want of stationary
– Not Jane Austen
Ok, not as eloquent as Jane’s opening line about marriage, but it does seem true that writers love the physical tools of the trade. Even those of us that do our writing on a computer, still love the old-fashioned stuff.
A Fancy Pen (or two)
A good pen is a wonderful thing. I like to use pens as a tangible celebration of accomplishments. Like a bottle of wine, I find the price bump from “mediocre” to “good” is not too bad. But you can easily spend upwards of “that could have been a mortgage payment.”
Here are two pens that I currently own and love but won’t break the bank:
A nice notebook pairs well with those new pens your buying. If your favorite writer has not yet discovered the joys of Bullet Journaling, they will. Trust me. I give it a year or until they open an Instagram account, whichever comes first.
Whatever they’ll use it for, you really can’t go wrong with a nice notebook:
Three weeks ago, I threw out my back. It’s not the first time and won’t be the last.
I’ve been trying to convince myself that this is like a forced vacation. A chance to catch up on reading and Netflix.
I have, indeed, done a ton of reading. According to Goodreads, I’ve clocked an average of one middle grade or young adult book every two days. That’s great for my 2017 reading challenge, but the novelty has worn off.
So now that I can sit upright again (at least for awhile), I’ve been back to writing.
And with November on the horizon, that means NaNoWriMo.
This will be first year participating in NaNo – the challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in November. In my case, I’ll be writing a middle-grade novel, so I’m aiming for closer to 30,000 words.
Last year, I was hesitant. I had never written any fiction longer than a short story. I wasn’t sure I could maintain a story for that long. So I signed up for a NaNo account but never did much.
Then this summer, an idea hit critical mass. It had been simmering on my brain’s back burner for months before suddenly hitting a roiling boil. After some intensive brainstorming, the entire rough draft came together in about four weeks.
Rough draft is the key phrase. I knew from the get-go that I would need many rounds of revisions. I was not wrong. In my first pass of revisions, I had to backfill character motivations, add subplots, and make sure my characters were three dimensional. It’s a work in progress, but I can already see it taking shape.
I was not wrong.
In my first pass of revisions, I had to backfill character motivations, add subplots, and make sure my characters were three dimensional. It’s a work in progress, but I have hope that I’ll come out the other side with something people want to read. More importantly, I have confidence now.
So this year I’m embracing NaNo wholeheartedly. This idea has been simmering for a few months now. I’ve been itching to work on it. Now that other projects are wrapping up, I’m ready to stoke up the fire and get things going.
Plot twist: it will be my first historical fiction piece. It’s the perfect marriage of my love of story and my love of nonfiction.
I’m using the month of October to prepare (Preptober). For most NaNoers that means fleshing out characters, figuring out plot points, and the like. I’m doing all that plus having to research the real events and places where my novel is set.
Right now I’m neck-deep in research. I’m not quite drowning, but I do feel a bit seasick.
I just hope that by November, I’m back on my feet, literally.
Last week I signed the contract for my second children’s book with Ancient Faith Publishing. I bought a fountain pen to mark the occasion.
When I signed my first contract 3.5 years ago, they warned me that the next slot in the production cycle was a few years away. I had an inkling of how slow publishing could be. I started my writing career working with textbook publishers. I saw first hand how many people and how many hours go into each book. In the end, it took 2.5 years for that contract to become Goodnight Jesus.
Writing can be an intense business. Even big-name authors still get rejections.
On rejection: You only lose if you stop playing. You never get published if the mss. is in the drawer. Rewrite, make it better, send it out!
I’ve been working hard on improving my writing lately. And my first stop when I want to learn about anything is usually a book. Today I gathered up my favorite writing craft books from all the various nooks and crannies and I’m going to share them with you.
Writing Picture Books: A Hands-on Guide from Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul – If you write picture books, you need this book. I read this late last year and I could feel myself leveling up as I read it. This book covers the basics of writing for kids, so it’s a great pick for a newer writer. But I think it really shines for people who are less knew but still have a lot of room for growth. (Which is all of us, right?) The tools and methods she discusses for revision have become staples of my process. Seriously, this is the best.
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by Willian Zinsser – This book is in about it’s billionth revision and jillionth reprinting. This book is geared towards writing for adults, but the advice is just as relevant if you’re writing to kids. At the end of the day, good writing is good writing and this will help you get there.
Anatomy of Nonfiction: Writing True Stories for Children by Margery Facklam and Peggy Thomas – This primer covers everything you need to know to get started writing nonfiction for kids. It was a great book for me when I was getting started and it’s still a great book now that I have a few manuscripts under my belt.
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction by Lee Gutkind – This book is focused on a specific form of nonfiction writing – creative or narrative nonfiction. It’s nonfiction told in narrative form so the reader can step inside the story. Like On Writing Well, it’s geared for those writing for adults, but the techniques still apply when writing for younger audiences.
How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larson – When writing nonfiction you often send publishers a proposal rather than a completed manuscript. This book is everything you need to know to write a proposal. If you have no idea what I’m even talking about, this would be a good place to start. It’s thorough but written to be an easy read and includes lots of helpful samples from real proposals.
The Weekend Book Proposal: How to Write a Winning Proposal in 48 hours and Sell Your Book by Ryan G. Van Cleave – If you want a lighter version to get you started on your book proposal, this might be the book for you. The title is a bit misleading. That means 48 working hours. Maybe some people work around the clock on the weekend but I for one like sleep and food. Misleading title aside, it’s a really helpful book and would be fine for someone just starting out with writing proposals.
Books for authors ready to submit:
Once you’ve gotten your manuscript or proposal squeaky clean and ready to send out, you’ll need to figure out how to get it into the hands of the agent or editor of your dreams. These books are designed exactly for that. They’re updated every year to keep up with changes in the market.
I’ve just come back from an Illinois SCBWI Spring conference. The whole conference was themed around writing pitches. I got to sit down at a table with other writers and an agent while they gave me feedback on my work. Not only that, I got back an agent critique that was full of hard truths. Getting professional feedback on your work is both vitally important and…. well…. terrifying.
DENIAL: “No, you’re wrong. There’s nothing wrong with my narrative arc.”
ANGER: “How dare you! What do you know anyway?”
BARGAINING: “But I can leave in just this one part, right?”
DEPRESSION: “I’ll never get published. This manuscript is hopeless.”
ACCEPTANCE: “Ok, you have a point. I guess I’ll have to revise.”
For writers I would add one more step to the process:
6. EXCITEMENT: “Wow, this is so much better!”
This is what people mean when they say you need to have “tough skin” in this business. We pour our hearts and souls into our writing then serve it up on a platter for others to tear apart. It’s hard. Just remember that your work willbe better when you accept help.
Some people get to the depression stage and just give up. Finding flaws in your writing is not a terminal diagnosis. One-dimensional characters can be rewritten. Plot holes can be bridged. Stilted dialogue can be changed.
The only thing that’s terminal, is giving up. If you keep going and get to the other end of this process, your work will be much stronger.
This process works better the more times you do it. Every time you throw yourself into this process, you get a little better. So not only is your first manuscript stronger at the end, your tenth manuscript will start out stronger because of what you learned in the previous nine manuscripts. And by the time you get it to the end of the process, it will be a masterpiece that you couldn’t have dreamt of back there at manuscript number one.
If your thinking that subjecting yourself to this emotional turmoil more than once sounds like a writerly version of hell, let me tell you a little secret:
When you’ve been at it awhile, this process changes a bit.
5 STAGES OF CRITIQUE GRIEF FOR THE EXPERIENCED WRITER
DENIAL: “No, you’re wrong. There’s nothing wrong with my narrative arc.”
ANGER: “How dare you criticize my work! What do you know anyway!”
BARGAINING: “Well, what if I just keep this one part? This character is ok, right?”
DEPRESSION: “I will never get published. This manuscript is hopeless.”
ACCEPTANCE: “Ok, you have a point. I guess I’ll have to revise.”
EXCITEMENT: “Hey, this is going to be so much better. Yay!”
With time and experience, you learn to skip right over all the angst and get to the productive end of the cycle.
Ok, this is a simplification. Of course seasoned professional writers can get emotional when they’re getting feedback. They’re people, not robots, after all. But with experience these emotions aren’t so raw. And they can move to the good stuff at the end more quickly. After all, they’ve been to the other side and seen the fruits of this process.
So, take a breath. Thank the person for their time. Then go have some chocolate. In a day or a week or a month when the sting is a little less, you can sort out what’s valuable and use it to improve your work. The important part is to keep going so you can get to the shiny new manuscript at the end of the tunnel.
After this conference, I have a lot of feedback to sort through but I’m looking forward to the manuscripts that will come out of the other side.