Today’s post is sponsored by Grammarly!
I use Grammarly’s free grammar checker because it’s more readily available than my mom. Just like with her, I don’t always do what it tells me, but it usually has good advice.
My mom has always been my proofreader. For creative writing and for school assignments, I like to have her look things over. She was an avid reader long before I was a twinkle in anyone’s eye, and she’s meticulous in her speech and her own writing.
There was no sloppy grammar in my house growing up. She’d be on it like lightning – and you wouldn’t have thought she was even in earshot.
Mom has high standards, which is part of the reason I was afraid to send her the first draft of my 2012 NaNoWriMo novel, once I had completed it. Rushing through 50,000 words in 30 days makes for a very rough draft indeed, and I was so burnt out after finishing it that I couldn’t even think about revising for a long time.
There were other factors, such as the less-than-favorable descriptions of my main character’s parents. I didn’t want my mom to get the wrong idea.
So, I sent the book to my sister. (Actually, I emailed her the file, to be clear.) I also printed out a copy for my husband to read. (He liked it!)
As much as I value Chris’s opinion, he’s never been as ravenous about books as my mom, my sister, and myself. He got into reading recreationally somewhat late in the game, and isn’t terribly keen on fiction anyway.
For that reason, I was really putting a lot of stock into my sister’s verdict on whether the book was any good. She was even more ideal as a candidate for first reader because she tends to really enjoy young adult fiction. She would know, if anyone would, if my book was a good fit for that category (as well as if it stunk). Thankfully, she’s a quick reader, so I didn’t have to wait long to hear her enthusiastically positive response.
Granted, she does like the Twilight books, so I took her opinion with a grain of salt. Ha!
For a while, it was top secret between Natalie and me that she got to read the book. I didn’t want to hurt Mom’s feelings. It actually took an entire year for me to admit to her that Nat had read it, and to offer to send her the draft (still quite rough). Of course, at that point it had been built up just from her waiting, so I was even more worried that she’d think it was super lame.
I did finally get up the nerve, and now Mom has read it and given me very relieving feedback. She and my sister both had plenty of good things to say about it, and I imagine Mom is working up a few suggestions to send me soon – both thematic and technical.
My sister wrote her thoughts directly on the copy she had printed, then she mailed it to me. She gave me real-time commentary on what the characters were doing, how my dialogue looked, and what her suspicions were of what would happen next.
That was a really great idea, and very useful. Once I get around to really chewing through the revision process, having her input and suggestions right there on every page is going to be an excellent resource.
I’m still working on the early stages of my 2013 novel. I decided to do things a little differently this time, and let my mom in on what I’m writing while it’s in progress. Shortly after I sent her my entire 2012 work, I emailed her what I had of my second book so far, to get earlier feedback. I’m planning to ask my sister to do the same thing. (She’ll read this, so saying that here pretty much functions as me asking, I suppose.)
The idea is to get suggestions while I’m writing, so that if someone has a really great idea, I can incorporate it and/or make changes before I get too far in. Also, being reassured as I go along that what I’ve got so far is worth continuing has already given me more confidence to push on.
I’m so grateful that I have this kind of support from really well-read, intelligent family members. I think I’m pretty lucky in that way. It’s hard to imagine being a writer who wasn’t also a reader, but it’s also hard to imagine being a writer without the encouragement of friends and family who are lovers of the written word.
I don’t know if I could have ended up as a writer without a family who loves to read. (Lest he get left out of this, you should know that it’s from my dad that I get my love of science fiction. He introduced me to Arthur C. Clarke and Michael Crichton.) I have been well-steeped in the literary world for my entire life.
With musical performance possibly tying for the top spot, writing is the thing I love most to do and seem to be best at. It’s a direct result of the book-filled, language-loving, grammar-respecting household I grew up in, and that was my habitat thanks to the people who brought me into this world and have helped me to get through it unscathed.
Getting published has become a primary life goal for me. When it happens — and mark my words, it’s going to happen — well, I bet you can guess whose names will be on that dedication page.
As a part of National Novel Writing Month, I tried to really immerse myself in all that is writing. My local library had a lovely display of writing-oriented books in honor of the month, which I thought was great.
I took a few things off the display on multiple occasions, and each time I returned, the empty spots had been filled with other books. I took some of those home, too.
I discovered that the library also has old issues of Writer’s Digest available to take out, so I availed myself of a few of those. Combining those things with all the email encouragement from the NaNoWriMo folks, and other internet goodies, I feel pretty replete with writing advice.
Granted, I didn’t exactly finish the month-long spree – oh no, far from it – but I participated, and something very good is coming out of it. With all the pointers I’ve been absorbing from various media, I feel more prepared to handle all that comes with writing a book and trying to force it upon the world.
One theme I keep seeing, over and over again, is the “online presence” thing. I see the value in it. I’m stubborn, though, and I want to do things my way.
So far, my way has not really included Twitter, not in any significant way. I’ve been a bit of a holdout. I also have been very anti-Pinterest all along. I never even set up an account… until this past weekend. I also don’t have a smartphone.
Part of the reluctance is just not really liking the particular M.O. of those sites, but I will admit that another part is fear of being sucked in. I already feel guilty about the amount of time I spend playing games on my iPad, checking my email, checking FaceBook, and generally being unproductive.
Twitter seems to be a big deal, though. How can I really justify losing out on the opportunities presented by a service used by such an incredible number of people, many of whom are readers and fellow writers? There are a lot of connections to be made, and it seems that those connections are increasingly being viewed not only as beneficial, but necessary to get ahead in this field.
So, okay. I started tweeting with more effort, started taking it more seriously. It felt awkward at first. I began to get the hang of it rather quickly, though, and started noticing how easy it can be to bring attention to yourself, your brand, or whatever you’re trying to show the world. The right tweet at the right time, directed to the right people, can bring startling results.
It’s an interesting thing that I’m still not entirely comfortable with, but dragging my feet about it isn’t likely to impress any potential agents or publishers. I might as well just get used to how things are being done now, and try to participate without getting pulled under too deep.
The lesson I’m learning is that writing isn’t much of a reclusive activity anymore. Why can’t I just sit in my dimly lit study, drinking whiskey and refusing to answer phone calls?
Oh, right. It’s 2013, and I live in the United States of Extraverted Overachievers. I have to interact with people, more than I might wish, if I want anyone to see or read my book(s). Again, I just need to get used to it.
Thus, I will try to embrace the tweet, write the blog post, post the Facebook update, and even pin the pin on Pinterest (although I’m still working on what it all means).
Be that as it may, fear not! I plan on maintaining my cantankerous, obstinate integrity. I don’t need no stinkin’ smartphone, and Lord help the poor sap who tries to come between me and my whiskey.