Managing Failure

Managing Failure

This post originally appeared on Almost an Author.

I’ve bumped into an old acquaintance again. It’s name is failure. Far too often I’ve kept company with this unwelcome guest.

Writers face rejection. It’s part of the experience. I need to remind myself of the nature of failure, and think about how to overcome the despondency it sometimes brings.

Failure is an opportunity to learn.

Growth isn’t easy.

In the midst of disappointment, it is difficult to see setbacks as opportunities. Missing the mark doesn’t feel like something to be happy about, but failure is one of the ways to learn and grow. If nothing else, the pain and suffering of failure illuminate the way not to go. It can be a gift, producing times of reflection and reevaluation, encouraging new approaches and different methods.  

Every challenge carries with it a risk of coming face to face with inadequacy, always an unpleasant proposition. But as much as failure hurts, stagnation would be unbearable.

“Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.”

C. S. Lewis

Failure is inevitable.

The thing about failure is, it always comes up. It does not need to be on a to-do list. It just happens.

Discouragement can seep in and hinder all of the best-laid plans, but it’s good to remember that there are bound to be bumps in the road to success. These encounters are no reason to stop trying. Failure may be inevitable, but it’s not fatal. It’s not even permanent unless it is allowed to be.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Winston Churchill

Failure is a sign of courage.

It costs something to compete, to be vulnerable. Sometimes it costs a great deal. Be brave. Dare to dream, to create. Step outside of the comfort zone.

Failing to reach a goal only happens when risks are taken. An even bigger failure is to never try at all.

“The greatest glory and living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s okay to take a few moments to acknowledge the sting, as long as the setback is temporary. Get up. Try again.

There’s beauty in the persistent rising after defeat.

How do you encourage yourself after a failure? Leave a comment.

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What Is YA and Who Reads It?

I gave the short answer: “When the protagonist is a young person.”

That didn’t quite satisfy. After all, scads of books have a teen as a main character, and those aren’t always categorized as Young Adult. A conversation ensued about various popular books labeled as YA.

It’s not as straightforward as one would think.

I thought I’d ask some YA authors.

“Young Adult readers range from age 13 up. Many of my readers are adults who prefer the “clean” nature typically associated with YA. Stories may feature mature themes, but do so without resorting to graphic sex or violence.”

Felicia Bridges, author of the award winning International Mission Force series

While Young adult novels are written for people between 12 and 18 years of age, about half of YA readers are 18 and up. Within the genre the categories include most of those that are found in adult fiction, such as Mystery, Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Sci-Fi, and more.

The protagonist is young, usually 14 to 20 years of age. The themes are relevant to teens and their experience. I think what defines the genre is the age of the main character, although coming of age novels for the adult market may also have a young protagonist, so that isn’t the only criteria.

“YA novels give insight into the issues teens are facing and the steps they can take to battle them. Sometimes those issues aren’t one the reader has faced personally, but viewing the struggle through a character’s life tears down judgments. And the world really needs less judgment and more understanding.”

Sarah Tipton, author of Betrayal of the Band, 2018 Carol Award Winner

Teens have a different set of problems they are concerned with, and this comes across in young adult fiction. Friendship, self-discovery, identity, and first love are all things adults can relate to, but these are in the forefront of teens’ thoughts as they navigate the turbulent years preceding adulthood.

Young adults are often idealistic and full of hope, and that is reflected in much YA fiction. It is entertaining and has all the feels. Some brings attention to issues we should take a hard look at and can foster understanding.

Recently I followed a conversation in one of my Facebook readers groups and was surprised at how many people suffer from literary snobbery and will not so much as crack open a young adult book. I think they are missing out.

Do you have a favorite YA novel? Share it. I’m always adding to my TBR list.

 

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#PitMad, NOLASTARS Spring Retreat, and Announcement

This coming Thursday, March 7th, is #PitMad!

PitMad is an opportunity for unagented authors who have complete novels. Writers pitch your novel in a tweet with appropriate hashtags. Agents search tweets for specific genres and if they like a tweet, the submission process begins.

If you’re on Twitter March 7th, please leave a comment or retweet my tweets to show your support at my twitter donnajostone. Likes are reserved for agents interested in my project.

I will be pitching all three of my finished YA novels. Last month I sent out a few queries for the first book in my series, but shifted gears with the intention of pitching all three at the next PitMad.

It’s a bit unusual to have three completed novels at the same time. The drafts were all finished around the same time primarily because I dictated them while I was waiting to recover from my cipro injury before I started editing. Hiring an editor was not an option for me at the time. My typing isn’t as good as it was before I got sick, but it is passable. Currently, I’m doing my best to reduce a 93,000 word manuscript to 80,000. I’m well on my way and hope to complete the edit before the 7th. It’s a pity I can’t take all those discarded words and put them on another project.

Besides editing, I’ve been writing synopses and working on tweets. Condensing an entire novel into a single tweet can be challenging. You only get 280 characters, including spaces and hashtags. It’s an excellent exercise in being concise.

NOLASTARS/RWA is having a Spring Writing Retreat Saturday, March 9th. Check it out. If you are local and are looking for a group, it’s a great organization. See how friendly we are?

 

 

In other news, this month I begin my new position as the YA columnist over at Almost An Author. Woot! My first Almost An Author post is scheduled to go up on March 21st. I’ll share a link on the home blog right here, so come back and visit, or you can subscribe to get posts in your mailbox, or visit Almost An Author.

Do you have any topics you’d like to see me cover in the blog? Leave your comments below.

Please consider signing up for the blog and/or my newsletter to keep in the know.

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How to Win a Novel Writing Contest

How to Win a Novel Writing Contest

I’ve got contests on the brain. There’s no point in entering unless you are in it to win it . . . except when you enter for feedback like I did. I wanted some uncensored examination of my work before I submit this book to agents.

Prepare

I’ve always wondered what the judges were looking for in novel writing contests and I had the opportunity recently to volunteer as a judge. The coordinator provided a score sheet and directions. I had not done a great deal of research into writing contests, but I have discovered many of the contests have their score sheets published.

It’s a good idea to look at the score sheets before you enter to see if your novel is a good fit and fulfills the requirements to score high. Score sheets are also useful for doing a self check of your manuscript before you submit it anywhere.

Pick the Best Contest to Enter

Aside from choosing a contest that fits your novel, here are a few other things I’ve learned along the way.

If there is a fee, make sure the contest are entering has a good track record. Even then, you may not get the feedback you desire. I was discouraged by the first writing contest I entered because the judges did not provide a great deal of feedback, and the comments I did get directly contradicted each other on two of the three evaluations! The third person gave minimal feedback.

The second contest I entered was not well known, but the entry fee was either nonexistent or negligible. I received valuable feedback from three different judges. Many contests keep the judges anonymous, but this one did not. in that contest I tied for third place. It was shocked to find myself in good company among the winners.

The contest should have multiple judges. Both of the contests I entered had three judges look over every manuscript. I prefer a contest that allows the participant to have information about the judges’ qualifications. This might help an inexperienced writer to know how much weight to give an opinion that feels off.

Best advice for choosing a contest to enter? Ask around.

Follow the rules

Whatever contest you choose to enter make sure you meticulously pay attention to the rules. If you choose to enter a contest without checking out all the boxes, you probably won’t place well.

Edit your work

Even if you’re entering a contest for feedback only, edit your work. Make sure you’re presenting the best manuscript you can. Use a spellchecker and a grammar checker.

Buddy Up

Have a critique partner look over your work. If you’re going to shell out your hard earned money for a chance at the golden ring, it makes sense to enter the best version of your work you can. Critique partners can help you polish that manuscript.

Learn From Feedback

Keep in mind that all the judges have their own particular areas of expertise and opinions. Even if you get contradicting advice as I did, chalk it up as a learning experience. Try to find the commonalities and take the information you can use to apply to your work. The judges spent time and effort trying to help the participants improve their writing. In every contest I entered, the judges have been volunteers. I appreciate the time and energy they give to the writing community.

Contests are about more than the big prize. Uncensored feedback is good. Perhaps painful, but good.

Don’t Take a Loss to Heart

Contests are funny things. There are a plethora of variables. Who you get as a judge is the luck of the draw. The score sheets may be slanted towards a criteria your novel does not fit into. An individual judge may determine that your novel does not fit into a specific standard while another judge may find it perfectly acceptable.

You can’t take negative feedback to personally. For both of the contests I entered I submitted  the identical manuscript but received vastly different evaluations. Which brings me to my last point.

It’s All a Matter of Opinion

There are certain parameters and requirements if you want to have your novel traditionally published, but in the end, follow your heart. If you have a story to tell, tell it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You only fail if you stop trying.

Keep writing.

Do you have any advice about entering a writing contests?

 

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Recalculating and Moving On Toward the Goal

It wasn’t the first time Rain had kissed a boy, but it felt like a first kiss, warm and tender with just enough spark, the hint of electricity letting her know she should be careful. She pulled back. The wonder on his face, the naked adoration, goose-pimpled her flesh. If he had told her in that exact moment she was beautiful, she would’ve believed him.

**************************************************************************

I hoped to have this first draft finished by the end of January, but guess what? I was so near the end I could practically taste it. It was right there. Then, in a flash of sudden insight, I discovered a fatal plot flaw. My main character’s inner goal was not quite enough.

 

 

This is frustrating. Back tracking is the pits, but I console myself with the idea that it will be a better story in the end. I know how to fix it. The solution came to me as soon as I recognized the problem. It will take time, though.

Another funny thing about this book is that the closer I think the end is, the further away it gets, like one of those telescoping scenes in a movie where the end of the hall stretches far into the distance. I am committing to get this draft done by the end of February. When the dust finally settles, I suspect the story will need massive cuts but I’m trying not to think about that. I lost two weeks to migraines, but still managed to crank out the words on the other days, albeit slowly compared to previous months.

The amazing Diana Sharples has been advising me, and I appreciate her so much! I was a bit scared to approach her when she posted looking for a reader for one of her current works in progress. I read her book, Running Lean while researching eating disorders for one of my previous young adult novels and liked it. Diana has five, yes five, books coming out this year. She is a busy woman. And she is fabulous. Check out her site here.

My To Be Read pile is growing to prodigious proportions, but that’s fine with me. So many good books and zero calories! Slated for this month’s Book Breaks, posted Wednesdays on Instagram and the blog, are When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen, The Secret Life Of Sara Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner, and Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford. I’m undecided about my fourth selection. If you have a suggestion, please post in the comments.

How are you doing with your goals for the year?

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Writing with Tears

While I wait to hear back after submitting my first book proposal, I’ve been working hard on a second book for the series. I did a character interview for this second novel some time back. Skimming through the materials, I got that little heart squeeze of emotion. Here’s a peek into what my character had to say about herself.

“You are only as good as your last failure. I hate fake, but sometimes, a lot of times, I am that fake person. Most of the time. I don’t know any other way to be. If I wasn’t what they wanted, then no one would be happy with me.”

My heart already hurts!

 

 

I am, once again, crying as I write a book draft.

I use my phone and dictate my stories, quirky though my iphone is at recording, because it is small and portable. This isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s the best I can do at the moment. I still struggle with writing by dictation. On the rare days that I find typing physically comfortable, words flow with ease. Am I the only writer who thinks through their fingers?

I am planning a series of three novels. They are not a continuation of one single story, but stand alone as individual stories of friends.The teen characters from my first young adult novel make an appearance in this second book. As the teens grow, paths diverge. For a time.

This second novel is a story about friendship, deep struggles, and learning to love yourself. This story is particularly difficult to write. My MC battles an eating disorder and poor body image, echoes of my own teenage years.

I got a pleasant surprise as I worked on filling out the plot for the second book. A character walked on for a bit part and took over the third book in the series! I love it when characters decide to show up almost fully developed. It only becomes a problem when they take over the whole story, but that’s another blog post.

Originally, I planned for the third novel to be the story of my aspie boy character’s foray into romance. Then his girlfriend came on stage and made the story her own. It’s the same story, but told from the girl’s perspective. Having a boyfriend with asperger’s  makes her already complicated life, shall we say, interesting. Only the barest of a skeleton for the third book in the series exists so far, but it’s coming along nicely considering I’m not even supposed to be working on book three yet.

The day to day difficulty lies with the project I’m supposed to be working on. Isn’t that always the way? But I am committed and slogging away. The stories must be told and cried over, even if I’m the only one to shed a tear.

P.S. The first book dealt with the grief of losing a parent while navigating the ups and downs of the teen world. The family dynamic including a  teenager with high functioning autism added to the story line. I cried buckets.

Are you working on any projects? What characters make you cry?

Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

#amwriting

 

 

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Pitching at A Writers’ Conference

I was ready. My book was finished, revised, and edited. My book coach encouraged me to go to this year’s writers’ conference and make an agent appointment, so I did.

I bought shoes, got a bad haircut, and actually ironed clothes. This was serious.

Months in advance, I did the research and prepared myself to meet a literary agent or publisher. I wrote a one sheet, printed my first four chapters in correct format, and had lists of questions to ask for the ‘extra’ time left over after my pitch. After reading about the available choices, I listed three, understanding I would get one of them. Since I registered early, I would probably get the first one I listed. In case I didn’t, I continued to read online a bit about each person so I could easily bring up topics to chit chat about. Pleased, I realized I had plenty of conversation fodder. I had this.

Then I got there.

Things were going well at first. Arriving early, I had plenty of time to spare. I felt fine, if tired. Sleep had eluded me, but no worries. Instead of sleeping, I listened to relaxing music and did deep breathing to Paul Cardall’s Be Calm. Who needs sleep? I’d faced bigger challenges on less sleep and succeeded. I could probably even get a blog post out of this experience like other writers do, sharing wisdom I garnered from the meeting.

Finding out I had three appointments threw me for a sec, but no problem. I had planned to meet with anyone, remember? I was prepared.

Another poor soul who was waiting to pitch her book looked as if she were about to come unglued. I felt bad for her. I traded business cards with the other writers in the waiting area. We reassured each other that we would be fine. This wasn’t so tough.

My name was called. Even though I had done my homework, I did not recognize the agent I was directed to. After a few seconds, it became apparent this was the one person in the room who I did not have an appointment with that day. No problem. We exchanged pleasantries and exited the room. It turns out I had been confused with another Donna. No big, I didn’t miss anything because I was early.

My actual turn came. I floundered at the beginning, but I was sure to find my footing soon, right?

Uhhhhh. No.

My brain emptied itself, thoughts completely scattered. My hands flopped around on the table as if I could gather those thoughts back somehow, but every coherent speck of intelligence was gone. Poof. I was tongue-tied, stammering. This from the lady who talks to people in the checkout line and has long conversations with telemarketers.

The agent was exceedingly gracious and kind.

I did not throw up or cry. I did not dump hot coffee on her. So that was good. As a friend told me, the encounter probably wasn’t as bad as a sharp stick to the eye.

I don’t know why I was so anxious, unless it was because my little subconscious was screaming, “This may be a pivotal moment and the next ten minutes is likely to have an impact on your ability to deliver the message God has given you to share with the world of suffering children and the timer is running right over there, numbers flying by.”

No pressure.

Now, I realize this was overly dramatic, but it was my subconscious whispering. It’s hard to reason with such a thing. Realistic Donna understands that my ability, or lack of, in any given situation is not capable of derailing God’s plan. I am simply not big enough to have that kind of impact. To place such importance on self displays an arrogant lack of trust and faith.

Ouch.

I made it through this rite of passage. No one was injured. And she asked to see my work. Maybe she will like it. All I can do now is wait and see.

In the meantime, I plan to trust in the process knowing it will all work out while I happily dig into my next project.

Onward.

Here’s a few pitching tips from Writer’s Digest and The Write Practice. All I can add is: Tell your subconscious self to chill.

 

 

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Keepgoingturtle

Writing Through Challenges

I’ve been fairly good at keeping my goal of writing every day. This has been a challenge. Adjustments were necessary.

The physical act of writing became too much. I have always been a person who thinks through my fingers, so to speak, which made writing fiction using speech to text challenging. It made me want to pull my hair out. To solve this problem I decided to switch gears for a bit.

There are times when you have to take a step back. To leave projects undone goes against my nature. It was hard for me to abandon my fiction long enough to figure out the best way to get words on paper, but it had to be done.

Over the summer I “wrote” the rough draft for a non-fiction book using my iPhone. There are oh-so-many bits of hard won knowledge I would like to impart to my children, or my children’s children, so I decided to make a record of my thoughts on education and homeschooling. This helped get me into the groove of transcribing thoughts without a keyboard or pen. It felt unnatural to write fiction using this method. Using verbal skills to give motherly advice was not an issue. I’m sure the kids will come to appreciate all those nuggets of wisdom someday.

Once the nonfiction project was drafted, I returned to novel writing and found speech to text a little more cooperative. It is still awkward and tedious, but I’m getting better at it. Practice makes perfect, or if not perfect, at least manageable. If only it would transcribe purposeful dictation as well as it records my frustrated, unladylike utterances.

And y’all, I have met new writing buddies! In any difficult journey, finding people who support you, believe in you, and cheer you on helps keep you focused on your calling. Go visit Linda and Rachel on their blogs and tell them “hey” from me.

I’ve found a couple of other writers who I hope to spend time with soon, sharing stories and sugar laden, caffeinated treats. I need my crit partners! Producing a marketable work takes support and help from many fronts, at least it does for this girl.

My writing coach, Sarah Hamer, has been wonderfully patient with me. I appreciate her guidance and support dearly. If you need a little help with writing projects, check out her site here.

It’s time to start considering the editing process, and with that in mind I am trying to outfit my writing space. I purchased an anti-fatigue mat to use with my standing computer desk. My standing desk is an IKEA computer desk we found on craigslist and adapted. I went by Office Depot and tried out the line of Serta computer chairs and was happy to find a comfortable chair. They even have a couple made for shorter people like me!

My eldest found a cool adjustable desk. Smartdesk moves from sitting to standing with the push of a button. It is on the wish list.

Now all I have to do is finish the last twelve chapters of the rough draft for the current rewrite of Nina’s story and I will be ready to begin edits. Right after I get some new glasses.

#AmWriting

 

 

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4 Tips On How Not to Plan a Writing Retreat

#amwriting donnajostone.comI have had fair success at getting words on the current WIP flowing. Not all of those words are kept, mind you. But then that is the nature of a first draft.

“The first sentence can’t be written until the final sentence is written.”Joyce Carol Oates

Committed to writing a certain amount on my novel in progress every day, I have decided to pretend this forced vacating of my home is a writer’s retreat. This fantasy would probably be easier to maintain if I had not brought my family, including our new puppy, along with me.

Tip #1 Don’t bring your kids or a puppy.

kayleeintroublesmall.

There are also the constant interruptions of new information about the home repairs which tend to get me sidetracked. The ongoing saga is a twisted version of a never ending story, reminding me of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.

Along the way to the discovery of where the moisture is coming from we found no leaks, but we did find out the home has what was referred to as “the pipe of the future” otherwise known as polybutylene pipe. This particular kind of pipe is no longer used because it is destined to fail. Check your pipes, peeps.

During the new water line installation, I was informed the hot water heater has been leaking. No word on the water damage from that yet.

After numerous consultations, it has been determined that the constant water collecting under the sinks is probably from condensation. This may be due to the vapor barrier being compromised when a neighbor’s dog got under the home. Or it could be because of improper site prep. They are working on it.

Tip #2 Leave your home problems at home and don’t answer calls.

Other issues will be dealt with as the summer progresses. The good news is, no mold in the walls as far as we can tell with mold kits and this handy snaking camera.

WIN_20150614_181226

 

Tip # 3 Don’t give up writing no matter what.

“Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.”               Red Smith

Meanwhile, I will keep busy scribbling away on the book when I’m not enjoying myself poolside here at my writing retreat.

Tip #4 Don’t forget to find JOY in the journey.

#amwriting

How are you reaching your goals? What inspires you? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment.

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Literacy Musing Mondays, Good Morning Mondays, Inspire Me Monday, The Book Nook

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Am Writing| A Persistent Passion

#amwriting  donnajostone.comFor the last few weeks I have been displaced, my thoughts scattered by events and summer schedules. On top of all the chaos that is typical of the Stone Clan, I have not been feeling all that great.

Some days it is a challenge to write. Most days lately. But it’s not like I can NOT write. It is what I do.

But boy, doesn’t life intervene? I need to refocus on my goal and make the necessary adaptations.

I may have mentioned accountability before, but in the past I joined a group whose members are dedicated to write at least 500 words every day. Every. Single. Day.

For me, that means a minimum of 500 words on my novel draft in progress, no matter what.

I’m struggling with this. I know many people find it easy to write the first draft, but not me. I am primarily using voice to text on an old HP tablet. I have been informed on numerous occasions it is so old it’s obsolete, but I feel a certain kinship with it. It took forever for it to learn to translate my accent into recognizable English and it still makes mistakes.

I also tend to forget what it was I was saying if my device doesn’t translate well the first time. When I go back to read a section of indecipherable text regularly leaves me puzzled as to what I originally meant to write. For a  time, I wondered if I needed to plot more to solve that issue, but I don’t want to over plot.

It is harder for me to write fiction using speech to text than to write blog posts, emails, or letters with it. Have you found this to be true for you?

And then there is the obstacle of my own self. In my first middle grade novel, I could write the main character, Nina straight out of the chute. She is plain looking, snarky, emotional, and has a quirky family. My new MC, Trish, is different. She is a blonde ballerina who always tries to be the good girl. Hmmmm. We do share some issues. I will get past her looks and personality to dig them out. I may not be a ballerina, but I am exceedingly persistent and will find the real Trish under all those blonde locks.

coffeegrinder

I may have to let some things slide a bit, what with the current craziness, work on the book, house stuff, and taking care of the family. But my 500 daily words on the novel in progress is one of my anchors. I know this is what I am called to do.

#amwriting

What’s your calling? How are you managing to answer that call while juggling life?

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