It’s important as an author to have fresh pairs of eyes look over your work once it’s completed. Other people see things you might miss, even though as authors we can be the most critical of our work. When I’m re-writing a book for instance, I have someone beta-read for me to make sure I’m not missing plot points, or to make sure I don’t have parts of the story that should have been deleted still in there!
Beta-readers are important because these are people you trust that are fans of the genre you write. They will be able to tell you what they liked, what they felt fell flat in your book, and give you good suggestions because they read so many books in the genre. If you don’t know any readers of your genre, I’m sure you know someone who loves books. An avid reader will be able to do the same because they know what makes a good story flow for them while they’re reading.
A critique partner differs from a beta-reader in that your critique partner is usually another author you trust to read your work – someone you know will give you good advice on plot points, editing, character development etc.
When I joined a writer’s organization, I met a lot of great authors at a conference and some of them became my critique partners for a time. Now that I’ve been published for a few years, I use beta-readers more often than critique partners, mostly due to the fact that I’m not a new author anymore, my confidence at being able to write a good story has increased, and I have great editors I work with on a regular basis with my publishing house. Nowadays, I want to know if a reader feels anything is missing for them, and I take their feedback and feel out how or if I want to change anything.
I get asked a lot to critique people’s work, and unfortunately these days my answer is ‘no’ for the simple fact that my writing schedule is busy. I do critique samples when I host workshops. My advice to authors is to join groups in-person or online. Be open to constructive feedback. It’s difficult to have someone be critical of your work, but if you’re serious about being good at what you do, you need to be able to hear what others have to say about what you’ve written. Be wary of people who tear down your work. There is a difference in constructive feedback and picking apart everything you’ve done.
I recall the first time I hired an editor to edit one of the first books I’d ever written. It came back with so many red track-changes that at first I cried! Then I saw what she’d done, and I knew I could learn. I encourage everyone to love what you do, but step back and let others help you make your manuscript shine. Be open to how others view your work because there is so much to learn, and another perspective gives you a fresh view of what you’ve done. You do not have to always agree with a beta-reader or critique partner, but more often than not, if these people care about you, they will want you to become better.
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As part of the pro series, A Novel Creation, I welcome author Lorette Moore to my blog today to discuss what she’s learned in the publishing industry.
When do I find time to write?
This is a short post to go with the short video! I find time to write whenever I can. It might be a half hour here or an hour there. If possible, I try to write every day. I also give myself permission to have a break now and again if I’m tired. I can’t do everything all the time or I will get burnt out. If you are an aspiring writer, all it takes is minutes a day. Set goals for yourself to reach a certain word count on the piece you’re working on. A little every day will go a long way. Find writers groups to join, or organizations to help you with information you might need. If it is important to you, find a way to practice as well as make your dream a reality.
Short and sweet! More books coming from me in the next few months, so if you haven’t, check the books page to see what I’ve got available now, or eXtasy Books site.
On my Facebook page, I’m doing one live video per week, answering questions that I get asked on a regular basis. I will answer them briefly here on my blog as well, and post the link to the video. The blog post won’t be verbatim, but answers the question in written form too! If you have a question for me, please PM me on FB, or fill out the comment form on my site here.
Last week’s question was: Do I ever get discouraged? If so, how do I deal with it?
Short answer – yes. I get discouraged from time to time. I think every one does. I’ll admit that depending on what it is, I may need a good cry. There are times when low book sales, or lack of time to write, or I’m tired, or any number of things may get me down. Sometimes seeing other people’s successes makes me feel like I’m not where I want to be. Maybe I feel like I’m taking too long. Or I’m trying so hard and not getting anywhere.
This may be the time when I look at my goal and adjust my plan. I don’t let something get me down for long. I choose to move forward by doing the things I love. I love to write, so I make time every day if possible to do so. I exercise. Martial arts is a great way for me to be physically healthy and blow off some steam. By focusing on my breathing, and what my body is physically doing, I can help realign myself with what I want in my life. I choose to reach out to my friends. Whether they understand my particular situation or not, good friends will be there to pat me on the back and tell me I can get through it and keep going. Often, I’ll take a break from social media just to reconnect with myself, my kids, and my friends in person.
The important thing is to not let it keep you down. Staying at the pity party too long won’t help you move forward. We all have to take time out to deal with things that life throws at us.
So, share with me – how do you deal with discouragement?
Begin the new year by changing the story of your life by learning to write the novel in your heart!
**Please note this is a THREE workshop series. Participants may register for all or for the workshop(s) of their choosing. A discount applies when registering for all three. These workshops are for beginners or more experienced authors, fiction or non-fiction.
INVESTMENT: $40 for 1 workshop
$110 for all 3 workshops
Payment may be made by eTransfer, PayPal, cash or cheque. To register, please email or call Kellie: firstname.lastname@example.org or 204-996-0440.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Workshops tend to fill quickly and are capped at 15 participants. A $20 deposit for one workshop, or a $45 deposit if registering for two or more will be required to hold your spot. Deposits are refundable only in case of emergency.
LOCATION: 1016 Marion St. Winnipeg, MB (Back addition with the Ancient Design sign in the window)
DATES & DESCRIPTIONS:
Saturday, February 11, 2017 – 10:30am-12:30pm
Stuck on a plot point? Experiencing writer’s block? Have a great idea, but not sure how to begin? Author’s in all stages of their writing ask me how I overcome these obstacles all the time. In this workshop we will focus on discovering the blocks to our creative process, and how to develop our process in order to keep creativity flowing even when our process changes over time. Participants examine the question: What IF? And learn how to apply it to their storytelling to begin an outline for their first short story or novel.
Saturday, February 18, 2017 – 10:30am-12:30pm
SEVEN POINTS TO PROPEL YOUR WORDS INTO CREATION
Participants create or strengthen an existing outline of a short story or novel using seven plot points. Discover how this simple outline tool can be used to plot a novel or short story, write a synopsis, and ensure you’ve got everything you need to bring your story to life, as well as pitch it to an agent or publisher. Participants will leave the workshop with a working outline of their book.
Saturday, February 25, 2017 – 10:30am-12:30pm
POLISH ‘TIL IT SHINES!
In this workshop, authors will develop their editing toolbox, learn how to use the five senses to enhance their story scenes, and discuss publishing options for their finished product. Authors are encouraged to bring the first two pages of their book to begin the editing process. Discussion on the publishing process will continue, and we will focus on what to do once you’ve polished your manuscript.
Visit the Facebook Events page for updates and postings! Hope to see you there!
(c) Kellie Kamryn 2016
When you become aware of old patterns, and take steps to break those patterns in your life, there are many contrasts to contend with. The pull to follow the old way is strong as you find yourself surrounded by people shouting that there is “only one way” to do something. Then you find others, those who quietly speak about the same things you do, or share mutual interest. They remind me that I’m not really alone, and that perseverance to what I know is true for me is important.
I love working as an author and a voice actor. I love practicing martial arts and gymnastics. I love teaching all of these things to people. As I find myself in a transition, there are days I am terrified at the direction my life is taking. It’s not because I’m unsure of what to do, it’s because I am sure of it, which may be the first time in my life ever. EVER.
People ask: “Why are you terrified?” Well, isn’t the very definition of terrified being absolutely thrilled and scared for your life at the same time, yet you can’t turn back because you’ll never know how it will turn out? And you’ll only be terrified a single time, for once you’ve taken the ride, no matter how many times you choose to go on it, it will never be the same as it was the first time you did. (Okay, don’t quote me on that definition as I’m not Webster’s Dictionary.)
When I talk about what I do, when I teach—no matter if it’s writing, voice acting, or martial arts and gymnastics—I am excited. I can see the way it all fits together in my life. Yet, transitioning to make it all work the way it will work best for me is scary. Why? Because I’ve never done it before, and leaving the old behind in favor of the new, that which absolutely fills my soul with passion is the very definition of terrifying. At least to me.
And yet, I cannot leave it undone. I must follow the path even though it may be long, or winding, or uphill. Perhaps it may snowball downhill sometimes. Or it could be smooth sailing. (Now I’m off the path and into uncharted waters. See? You never know where life will take you.) My point: I do not know. But I want to find out.
And as my best friend told me: “Sometimes you get busy climbing your personal mountain, and feel so alone. Then you break a threshold, and stand at the top, daring to look about. Then you realize how far you’ve come, and all the other mountains there are surrounding you. And you see everyone else climbing their own mountain, and you learn to love your journey along with everyone else’s. In time, you look up and realize you have more of your own mountain to climb. So, you let everyone have their path, and you follow your own.”
(Well, his story went something like that. Let’s not call it a direct quote, but it’s what I took away from it that’s important to me.)
At some point, perhaps we have to stop listening to those shouting from their own mountaintops. They have their own unique perspective, and while some of what someone else says has value, it may be laced with fear, self-doubt, and despair. That is their mountain to climb—not yours. Take those things that trigger your own negative feelings, and use them to shed light on what is weighing you down on your climb. Shiver and shake off that which holds you back from going higher.
Many people have been quoted as saying something like the following, and I give props to whoever said it originally. Here it is with my own spin: Sometimes we fear our own greatness, and what we are capable of doing, so we tell ourselves we cannot do something rather than face the fear that is perpetuating our suspension. Then we let others tell us the same until it is so engrained in us, we believe we actually believe it.
Finding it, letting go of it, is no easy task. Until I can explain the mechanics of that, you’ll just have to believe me. In the meantime, love yourself fiercely and with all your might. Believe in you. Do that which terrifies you, and ask yourself why it does.
Learning to love my own journey, no matter how difficult helps me appreciate not only my own, but others as well. I’ve been terrified before, and yet I did what I knew was the right thing for me. This time is no different, and yet it is a different set of circumstances. And when I look back at where I was, and where I am now, perhaps it’s not so terrifying after all.
But don’t quote me on that.
Once upon a time, I was a competitive gymnast…
These days my inner gymnast is disguised as a mom of four, author, narrator, and all round good person. I can still perform cartwheels, handstands, round offs, flips on trampoline, and the splits, which make the guys at the training gym groan. (Mostly because I think they have to learn something they find difficult that I learned a long time ago. Or perhaps they’re thinking that whoever the man sleeping in my bed is—he’s a lucky bastard. And really, most nights it’s my youngest son whom has woken from a nightmare, so no hanky panky there. But I digress…)
During a conversation with a friend, I told him that I wasn’t interested in achieving physical perfection. He said I balked at the very idea because of the experiences I had as a gymnast. And you know what? He was right.
While I never developed an eating disorder as some of my comrades did, I had experiences that shaped the way I negatively saw my body, and exercise in general. When I was thirteen, a coach told me and my parents that I needed to grow my hair long and get contact lenses so I would look “pretty” and this would help boost my career as a gymnast. Notice how none of this had anything to do with my physical abilities or gymnastic talent. I received the message that in order to be successful, I had to be beautiful, and clearly, according to others, I did not measure up. I judged myself by the standards of others, and found myself lacking.
At the age of thirteen – well see picture above. In the span of a year, I transformed myself by growing my hair long, and getting rid of the glasses. And it worked. Suddenly, I had all sorts of validation from friends, to fellow gymnasts, coaches, and boys at school. I was beautiful, therefore, I would be successful. Right?
Fast forward a few years to when my career ended. I didn’t make the Olympic team as most thought I might, even though I worked hard. Plagued with injuries, I wondered if I’d even aspired to that. So many wanted me to “make it”, I lost sight of what I wanted. At that point, I felt I’d let down everyone in my life who had tried to make that dream a reality. Talk about carrying guilt.
In university, most of my gymnast friends became fitness competitors, and some girls joined our ranks because they wanted to be like the “beautiful gymnastics girls.” I kind of feel sorry for the image we portrayed, as if by being “one of us” you were automatically cool. An image is just that—a fantasy we portray to the world because our inner world doesn’t measure up. And that’s how I felt for many years.
Upon graduation, you’d think that with my physical education and kinesiology background, and my overachieving ways, I would once again strive to be the epitome of physical perfection. The fact now I have cover models and fitness industry professionals for friends, perhaps I should strive to achieve the outward appearance of physical fitness I feel modern society is obsessed with. To be honest, I used to. After the birth of my first and second children, I did manage to get back to a good weight for me. I worked out hard and ate right. When I found out I was pregnant with our third, while elated at the news, a part of me was upset that I would have to go through this all again, only to achieve my goal weight afterward. Talk about pressure, guilt, and anxiety all rolled into what should have been a beautiful experience. (This is covered in another article.)
After being diagnosed with post-partum depression at the same time as being told I was pregnant with my fourth child, I decided to give up the quest for physical perfection. After a life time of seeking validation outside of myself, I chose to go inward and love myself exactly the way I was.
After the birth of my son, I stopped exercising as if I was exorcising the Devil himself from my body. I chose to start loving every inch of me just the way it was, even though according to my doctor, I was thirty pounds overweight. I carried that weight for a reason. I was insecure, I wanted people to love me, I was anxious, and most importantly—I didn’t love myself.
Over time and with emotional healing, I learned to love me—every stretch-marked inch, both lopsided small breasts, my great calves and muscular shoulders, my soft belly my youngest calls my “squishy”, the roll of skin left over from the C-section, the near-sightedness of my green-hazel eyes, my smile, cute feet, jiggly thighs, curvy hips, and flat butt.
This isn’t to say I didn’t exercise at all. Over the past few years, instead of being obsessed with physical perfection, I learned to listen to myself. I found exercises that were gentle yet effective, I took up martial arts, I stretch every day, and I cut out all sugar from my diet for a few months. I learned that I didn’t have to kill myself through exercise to be healthy, and that physical perfection doesn’t mean you’re healthy in mind, body or spirit. And if loving myself means that I eat better, exercise more, and I happen to achieve what the outside world deems as a “nice body”, then so be it. A “perfect body” isn’t something I’m striving for. Being healthy is.
Once I stopped seeking validation for myself from other people, I learned to love ME. In fact, I like that my body is not “perfect”. From time to time, I put on a bit of weight, but this is usually at a time in my life when I’m feeling insecure or anxious about something. I know that with time, and when I go inside to discover the source of my insecurity, the weight will drop when I no longer need my “squishy armor” of protection.
Earlier this year, I was asked to “play up the pretty” in order to sell my books. I had mixed feelings on this because I want readers to read my material because they like it, not because of the way I look. I realize that a “package” sells a product, which is obvious from companies who mass market products from supplements, exercise equipment, teeth whitening agents, to romance books. Sexy to me is a state of mind, not necessarily what I−or anyone else−look like on the outside. Sexy is an attitude. While I choose to post nice pictures of myself for covers and social media, I also portray the real “me” as much as possible in my articles, and through what I post in public forums.
I told this story to my oldest daughter who is now sixteen. I want her to love herself for who she is, not for what others think she does or doesn’t look like. I want the world to love her as she is, and that will only happen if she loves herself first. Society in general likes to tell us that if only we did this, or used that, we too could be successful and loved and beautiful! And I’m here to tell you that you already are. Every inch of you. But don’t take my word for it—discover it for yourself, and reach what I call a healthy state of imperfection.