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Writerly Roundup – October 2017

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Our Writerly Roundup blog series features a curated collection of articles on the craft of writing and the creative life that we don't want you to miss.


41 Insider Tips for Winning NaNoWriMo 2017, Reedsy (@ReedsyHQ)

November is National Novel Writing Month. It’s a time when many writers settle in for the winter, ready to get to work on that novel. NaNoWriMo is an organization that encourages writers to connect and share the creativity throughout the month. Reedsy is back this November with a great guide to working your way through NaNoWriMo, and it starts with your feelings on the idea in your head.

If your primary goal is to win NaNoWriMo, you must LOVE the book you're writing. "Write the book you love, not the one you think you should write," says Nathan Bransford, author of the Jacob Wonderbar series. "If you’re creating something you aren’t head-over-heels in love with, you’ll peter out before page 50. Make something you'll be proud of for a lifetime."

The piece contains multiple mini-chapters that offer traditional and non-traditional writing advice. For example, you might want to reverse-engineer your story. Perhaps you’ll want to create a detailed outline before you begin. And when it comes to setting aside time to write, you don’t have to be the rise-at-4am writer to get things done.

If you can’t block off a few hours each day, write in several shorter 'sprints.' "All you need is two 15-minute bursts of writing each day," says editor Lindsay Schlegel. "Sit down, do it, and move on. Don't worry if you don't write enough words the first few days. The creative juices will start flowing, and you'll make up for it by the end. For me, NaNo is about building discipline and learning your best practices as a writer."

You’ll find tips on creating characters and writing dialogue.  And there’s a section about that dreaded foe: writer’s block.

“NaNoWriMo is all about getting words on a page, so keep going no matter what," says Dylan Hearn, author of Second Chance. "Never look back, don’t edit anything and if you get stuck writing a scene, stop, make a quick note of what you want to happen and then move on to write something else. You can always go back and finish it off later."

If you’re going to write a novel this November, the authors also remind you to be kind to yourself. Writing a book is hard work!


Yes, Your Submission Phobia is Holding You Back, Michelle Seaton (@michelledseaton), The Review Review

Each month I try to include one wake-up-call piece, and here it is for your uncomfortable reading pleasure. Let’s be honest: you need to up your submission game, don’t you? I certainly do, and Michelle Seaton knows it. She’s been teaching for years and has seen it many times.

In 12 years of teaching…I’ve learned three truths about students: 1. They don’t submit enough, especially the most talented ones. Read that sentence again and then ask yourself how many times you’ve submitted something in the past year. Yeah, I thought so. 2. Many of my most talented students never submit anything. This makes me crazy. 3. The students who publish most often submit constantly, as though it’s their job, or their final year on Earth. And guess what? It works.

So why are we holding back? Are we purely lazy or too busy with our jobs and families to get things out the virtual door? No, says Seaton. It’s because we lie to ourselves about why we’re holding back. One of these lies tells us that rejection is a judgment.

Rejection is all powerful. You think rejection is proof that you have no talent or that the work is no good. Actually, the only thing a rejection proves is that you sent out your work. Good for you. I suggest you collect ten of these and then reward yourself.

Seaton offers a much-needed reality check. If you don’t submit today, she says, don’t believe for a second that you’ll submit tomorrow.

I will submit this story soon, when it feels finished. No you won’t. For most stories and essays there is no moment when it will feel good enough. Submit before you feel ready. Like, today.

Read this a few times. Tape it on your wall or the bathroom mirror. To quote Seaton, "Are you still reading this article? Stop now and start submitting."


Five Stages Of Grief For Writers When Dealing with Negative Feedback, Floyd Cheung, Cleaver Magazine

Floyd Cheung is serious when he talks about grieving for a rejected piece. I think we can all relate: sometimes rejections bounce off our skin, and sometimes they burn right through our chest and hit all the sore spot. In such cases, Cheung relates to the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). The author created a flow chart to express how he works through his writing process and incorporates negative feedback.

With rejections, we occasionally get a reason but more often receive a simple "no, thank you." In the case of a revise-and-resubmit, we usually get advice on how to improve. Denial is typically my first reaction, and I might tell myself, "My work was so good. It was the result of significant effort. This negative feedback must be off-base." Depending on the critic’s tone and comments, I may or may not experience anger. If so, I might complain, "This critic is wack. He or she must have a personal grudge against me or this kind of work." The first crucial juncture for me occurs here. I must ask myself, even if I’m feeling angry, "Is the critic right?"

The author moves through the stages of grief with each rejection, and as he does, he considers the time spent in each phase. Denial gives him time to ask himself if the piece is satisfactory. Bargaining allows him to address the balance between under- and over-revising the work. In the depression stage, Cheung may decide to drop the project for a period of time or altogether. This progression provides us an opportunity to consider our own writing and how we handle this same rejection. Finally, we all hope to come to acceptance.

When I’ve decided that a particular work is worth revising, I arrive at a sense of acceptance. I might engage in self-talk like this: "There’s actually some truth in this criticism. It comes from a source that wants to help me improve my work, even if his or her tone could have been kinder. Let me engage with this feedback seriously. The hard work of revision will be worth it." At this point, I have kept faith not only in myself but also in the project, and I reenter the cycle of writing, revision, and getting help until I am ready submit again.

It’s easy to get lost in a rejection, and it’s even easier to be so close to your work that you fail to notice what’s happening to you. When we can see both clearly, we can make the best of our negative feedback.


Scary Literary Fiction for People Who Hate Horror, Emily Temple (@knownemaily), LitHub

Finally, with Halloween just around the corner, LitHub brings you a list of creepy fiction.

…you may have consulted our list of works of literary horror you should read—but then, what if you hate horror? Even literary horror? What if blood and guts and ghosts are just really not your thing? What can you possibly read in this spookiest of months? Well, as it turns out, there are plenty of very scary novels in the literary fiction section. Some of the books below are existentially disturbing, some morally frightening, some simply sickening—in that good way, I mean, the way that keeps you turning pages, holding your breath, checking the locks at chapter breaks—but none are typical horror novels, though some do have supernatural or surrealist elements.

If traditional horror isn’t for you, you may find something equally eerie on this list. Temple uses words like "unrelenting," "bleak," and "deeply disturbing." You’ll see familiar names like Kafka and Cormac McCarthy, as well as new ones. I noted The Handmaid’s Tale on the list, and that book unsettled me as powerfully as any Stephen King novel. So enjoy this spooky list, if you dare.

Have you read a frightening piece of fiction? Tell us about it in the comments.



Laura Jackson Roberts is a freelance writer living with her husband and their young sons in West Virginia. She holds an MFA from Chatham University and writes humor. Her work has recently appeared on Matador Network, in Brain, Child MagazineVandaleer, Animal: A Beast of  Literary Magazine, DefenestrationThe Higgs Weldon, and the Erma Bombeck humor site. She writes a regular nature column, Valley Views & Varmints, and has recently finished her first book of humor. Laura is a former blog editor for Literary Mama.

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