Friday, January 16, 2015

5 totally awkward situations you'll only understand if you are new to the work place

Let's face it: we grew up in a different era than our parents. While they were paving the way for the release of the first computer we were learning how to use the cell phone (and it had actually gotten smaller than the size of a brick). So it's not surprising that when entering the work place a few common practices left us scratching our heads.

1. Not knowing how to use a fax machine. Wait, wait wait. So you're telling me I have to use a phone number and this giant machine to send a receipt to the customer? While I'm fumbling with this thing that's beeping at me I could've scanned it five times or better yet sent the digital copy to the customer via a little thing we "Millennials" call the good ol' email.

2. Preferring email or text over actual voice-to-voice phone conversation. You mean I have to actually call him to ask him to email me the invoice?

We are so terrified of voice-to-voice interaction though I'm not sure we even fully understand it.

3. When you're the only one who can format a PowerPoint slide and become the go-to for "deleting" a picture or "moving the logo down." Your older coworkers look at you like you've just animated a feature film.

4. You dread being asked to "drive" the sales meeting, meaning you sit behind a computer and click the slides forward all the while trying to decipher whether the manager's pause means she has finished talking.

Nope. She wasn't. Go back.

5. Not knowing how to operate an intercom and continually forgetting to dial 9 to "get out." What does this even mean??

Did I miss anything? What awkward situations have you experienced when you were new to the work place?

Friday, January 2, 2015

New Year, New Start

During the last couple months of 2014, I decided to take a bit of a breather. Sometimes when you're trying so hard to finish a project or to make something happen (like get an agent, for example) it begins to feel as if you're banging your head against the wall. It's nice to take a step back and allow myself the time to reflect on what I'm trying to achieve.

I don't just want to land any agent and I don't just want to write any kind of book. I want my writing to mean something to someone and I want to find an agent who believes in me.

During my hiatus I also had the time to do a lot of reading, which seems to appear on my list of resolutions year after year. I just finished reading the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth and can't say that my mind has truly let go of that heart-wrenching ending yet: the sign of a really great book.

So for this year, I decided to make a list of Writing Resolutions. I am going to avoid being overly ambitious and focus on realistic goals that I not only can meet but have a strong desire to. Here we go:

  1. Finish the rough draft of my second novel - I'm feeling much more inspired after my break and think I've found a solution to the lull I'd been facing in pace. 
  2. Go back and edit my first novel (again) - I recently made a revelation, which I'll be sure to post about, which resulted in the almost gut wrenching decision to dust off the book and make yet another edit. I think it'll ultimately be the best decision for my first baby if I want her to ever start walking.
  3. Read at least 12 books this year - It probably doesn't sound very impressive, but I find that one book a month is much more realistic and kind to myself and my schedule.
  4. Complete 24 writing prompts - I don't really do this anymore, yet it always brings me back to that raw creativity I often crave. I see so many interesting prompts on Pinterest and save them for that rainy occasion when I want to write yet have no motivation to work on my existing project. This year I aim to make it a habit to sit down and do a prompt twice a month.
  5. Blog - I find that blogging is best when you're inspired, which is why it's hard to put a set number on this one. However I am going to devote myself to it at least once a month. 
And finally, though I really wish I could've topped off this list at 5 because the number seems so much more rounded, my final resolution:

6. Do something out of my comfort zone - Whether it's writing, reading or otherwise, this year I'd like to do at least one thing that doesn't make me entirely comfortable. It's so easy to fall into the same patterns and routines year after year. We make lists and then forget them. This year I'd like to have that one thing I can look back on in years to come and know that I made the most of 2015. 

So that's it for me. Anyone else have any Writing Resolutions?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Rejected Rockstars: Great Writers Who've Gotten the Boot

"Why you gotta be so rude?"

Just for fun, and because we all need a little pick-me-up every now and then, I've decided to compile a list of amazing authors who've seen more rejection than a lot of us who are just starting out in the querying process. 

In the beginning, each and every rejection (or lack of response) can feel so personally brutal. I find that it helps to defer to the greatness of writers who have already blazed these trails. I find their stories so inspirational because they were able to continue submitting their work time and again, even after people told them that their ideas sucked. 

Doing this research made me more convinced than ever that persistence and self-confidence are probably two of the most important traits that a writer can have. So without further ado, my picks for rejected rockstars:

1. Carrie, by Stephen King - Rejected 30 times.
2. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer - Rejected 14 times. 
3. And to Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street, by Dr. Seuss - Rejected 27 times.
4. Meg Cabot - Rejected so many times she can no longer lift her bag of rejection letters. 
5. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger - Rejected 25 times. 
6. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett - Rejected 60 times. 
7. The Notebook, Nicholas Sparks - Rejected 24 times. 
8. Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling - Rejected 12 times. 

Lessons learned: Whether the rejection comes from a literary agent or publisher, it goes to show that people have opinions and tastes that do not necessarily reflect the vast market that is out there waiting to read your book! So keep trying. Believe in yourself and keep count of those rejections! One day you may also be a reject turned rockstar. ;)

Sources: If you'd like to find more rejected rockstars, look at these two awesome sites.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Memories of a newspaper staff writer and why I learned to bite

You know the saying, her bark was worse than her bite? Well let me tell you something. When I started writing for my student newspaper's Arts & Entertainment section, I was eager to jump in head first. The only problem was that the ideas I was pitching either weren't accepted by my editor or once I'd finished writing them, they got rejected for the print version. I was like a little yapping dog who wanted to play, but no one would take me seriously.

Don't get me wrong, a few of them did finally make it to print, and I did understand that the A&E section had a huge space issue. Most of it usually went to the "hardcore" news, not so much what movies people were watching that weekend. But when I started to analyze the pieces that were making it into the paper, I realized that most of them were written by a select handful of writers who had more...bite... than I did.

What I mean by that is they had this sort of sharp wit and sarcasm that I felt that I was lacking. They didn't simply recap or praise the student production of Hair, they tore into it! They threw in every zinger they had in them, even if it meant actually insulting people from time to time.

I started to wonder, if I'm going to get myself noticed around I need to start biting?

Soon after I pondered this, I was asked to recap the VMAs. That was the year that Britney Spears had her "comeback" and Russell Brand made his debut in America. I remember thinking, how am I going to set my voice apart? As a result, the piece I ended up with was little more than a string of insults that I felt were witty and clever enough, but I didn't actually mean.

In truth, I felt a little guilty about some of the things I was saying. Sure, they're celebrities and they've seen their fair share of criticism. But to me, it was about more than that. It wasn't me. I'm really not the sort of person to put others down, and my preference will always be to praise rather than ridicule. Even if that does mean a slightly less interesting news article.

The funny thing is that my "zinger" wasn't even published in the print version and shortly after that, I did get a few of my pieces in -- ones that weren't laden with unnecessary criticism!

In the end, I learned that some dogs aren't meant to bite. Some are just meant to curl up on the couch and cuddle with you...and tell you you're awesome. Because you are.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Writing Goals: September

I've seen a lot of writers participating in this monthly goal challenge and thought I'd weigh in. Not only is it fun to share, but declaring your goals publicly keeps you somewhat accountable as well.

This month I'd like to get 1/3 of the way through the first draft of my novel.

Is it a lofty goal? I'm not sure...I've known other writers who seem to be able to write an entire draft in a weekend flat and sometimes I feel a bit on a slow side. However, since writing is not my full time job I feel that 3 months is a decent goal for me. Since some writing days are much more productive than others, this allows me those occasions when writing day are disturbed or completed thrown out the window. Hey, life happens. 

What's your September goal? I'm also very curious to know how quickly everyone else writes. Is 3 months for a first draft reasonable?

Collected Works Blog Link Up-September 2014

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Writers: How to Drive Yourself Crazy in 4 Simple Steps

We all need a little crazy sometimes, right? Well fear not. I've compiled a list of easy to follow instructions that will get you well on your way to that mini meltdown. Let's get started!

1. Set an unrealistic deadline - Why give yourself enough time to finish that project? Take that deadline and cut it in half right now! Five chapters this week? Make it ten! After all, how do you think those "overnight" success stories happened anyway? With a big cup of coffee and an all night writing session, that's how!

2. Put pressure on yourself - The more, the better! Focus on that unrealistic deadline and squeeze your creative juices dry trying to accommodate it. Let the stress flow through you, my friend.

3. Compare yourself to others - Why are there so many writers out there making great money while you're still stuck on revising your first novel? Wonder to yourself why other writers tweets are so much wittier than yours. Why not just change yourself, so you sound more like them!

4. Doubt yourself - If someone says your writing sucks, believe them. After all, they know exactly what they're talking about. Aunt Sue may be in pediatrics, but she reads a lot. Take every review and every criticism word for word and let them sink in until you inevitably figure out that writing's just not for you. Hey, we're not all cut from the cloth!

So remember...

Keep that chin down & stay cynical - The world is telling you that books are dead, people don't read and the success rate for writers is abysmal. So why even try? Just give up, already. Save yourself a lot of heartache and more importantly, a lot of work. Lie back, sip a mojito and enjoy your newfound time.

Oh, so you're not looking to drive yourself crazy? Well this is awkward...Alright, just do the opposite of everything I just said.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

On Characters: How to flesh them out and keep them organized

When I wrote my first novel, I still had quite a bit of learning to do. I consider the entire process one big educational experience. When I wrote my first draft, I didn't feel like I knew my characters very well. As a result, some scenes were difficult to get right. Reactions and dialogue didn't seem genuine.

For the second draft, I decided to go through the process of fleshing out the characters and as one would imagine, had a much easier time writing after that. The experience taught me that writing without fleshing out one's characters is like marrying a stranger. You just don't know what you're getting yourself into.

For my current writing project, I decided to start on the right foot. Not only did I want to get to know my characters, but I knew that I needed to keep this information organized.

Main Characters: I did some research online and found several character worksheets. They usually vary a little bit, but I took from them what I needed. Most character worksheets include things like first childhood memory, character's biggest secret, pet peeves, etc. A lot of this won't go into the book, but it helps you to get to know the characters and create better dialogue, reactions, etc. To stay organized, I keep a worksheet for each separate character saved on my computer in a file folder.

I consider my "main" characters any individual who experiences growth throughout the story. Obviously there will be certain characters that pop in and out and don't necessarily need the same treatment. That brings me to...

Secondary Characters: For these smaller roles, I personally don't feel that a worksheet is really necessary, though you do need to make some decisions. At the very least, you need to know last names, ethnicity, hair and eye color, and a basic cultural/education/financial background.

Once I've figured out all the details for each character, I write the most important ones on flashcards. Sometimes when I'm writing I can easily forget certain details. The flash cards are a quick, easy reminder when I need them.

Now that I've got the characters under my belt, I'm well on my way to my first draft. I'll keep you all updated with my progress. So far so good!