Archive for May, 2016

10 May

AskAuthors Blog Announcement

In AskAuthors,Questions Answered by MK England / May 10, 2016 / 0 Comments

I recently started contributing to a group blog called AskAuthors, which solicits questions from the tumblr community to be asked of the entire Pitch Wars class of 2015. There will be a question posted every Monday, plus additional questions asked by followers in between. It’s been a lot of fun so far! I love seeing how twenty or thirty different people respond to the same question. As the questions are posted on the Ask Authors blog, I’ll be reposting some of my own answers over here, sometimes with additional content.

We each answered a short questionnaire to introduce ourselves to the AskAuthors audience:

Name: M.K. England
Favorite Book: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Status: Agented, on submission
Primary Genre: YA Speculative
Super Hero Name: According to a highly accurate facebook meme, it’s Stardoom the Smiter of Mars. Pretty good, actually.
Superpower: Teen Librarianing like a BOSS
Three words to describe yourself as a writer: Caffeinated neurotic disaster

Make sure you visit the blog (and follow, if you’re a tumblr user) to see everyone else’s responses, too. The real value of this blog is the variety of perspectives, so ask us things! You can send an ask anonymously even if you don’t have a tumblr account.

Looking forward to answering your questions!

04 May

It’s Not Selling Out: On revising from feedback

In Drafting,Editing,Writing Process by MK England / May 4, 2016 / 2 Comments

Typically when something makes me angry, I’m tempted to immediately fight back with an extremely pissed off torrent of logic that overwhelms my opponent. Just ask my partner. I know it’s not the best reaction, so I’ve worked hard to chill out a bit and take some time to process my reactions before word vomiting all over everything.

But when something is still actively angering me a month later, I think it’s worth talking about.

Upon hearing about all the revisions I’ve done based on critique partner and agent feedback, two separate people have made comments that really stuck in my brain. I attempted to play it cool at the time and tried to brush the comments off, knowing they weren’t intended to hurt me. Both people were writers who were going through that awful period when you’re getting critiqued for the first time and learning to deal with the pain and aching pride. But months later, I still haven’t forgotten those words.

One casually asked, in a somewhat condescending tone: “So, you’re writing for the masses, right? That’s your goal?”

The other made blatant comments about “selling out” and how revising based on feedback makes it “not my book anymore”.

take a deep breathOkay, look.

If you are writing only for yourself and have no particular interest in whether anyone actually reads or enjoys your work, then perfect. Don’t revise. Don’t get others’ opinions. That is completely fine and valid and wonderful. But if that’s your goal, then don’t submit your work to others for critique. And definitely don’t be surprised that when you ask for opinions, you get them.

If you are writing with the hope that people will eventually read and enjoy your book, though, you must seriously consider reader feedback.

Here’s the thing. For me, the biggest part of being critiqued is making sure readers are getting the experience from the book that I want them to have. When I get feedback that the pacing in my first chapter is dragging, I don’t change it to “appease the masses”; I change it because I’m not evoking the feeling in my readers that I was hoping to achieve. I’m changing it because I’m not fulfilling my vision for the book. If my goal is to deliver a fun, fast-paced space adventure and I get feedback that the pacing is off, you’re damn right I’m going to fix it. That’s not what I want for my story. At the end of the day, it’s my book, and I want it to be the best book it can be. Revising based on feedback doesn’t make it any less my book. If anything, it makes it even more my book, makes certain that I’m accurately conveying what I’m trying to accomplish through my story. And yes, you know what? I do want to appeal to as many readers as possible because, for me, the goal of writing is to share the story with other people. That means doing what I can to bring readers in while staying true to the soul of the story.

But M, what if the story I’ve written is exactly as I want it to be and I don’t want to make any changes based on reader feedback? That’s fine, but you have to live with the fact that some readers—possibly most readers—won’t connect with what you’ve written. They’ll stop after a few chapters and never make it to that beautiful scene at the climax of the book that you so want them to experience.

But if they only gave it a chance! You need to give your readers a chance, too. If you want to share your story with them, you need to meet them halfway, invite them into your world. I’m not talking about changing anything critical about your story or watering down your style, language, or complexity. I’m talking about paying attention to things like pacing, cutting self-indulgent scenes that don’t serve a purpose, and acknowledging reader reactions to your writing as valid. Sure, you can write whatever you want—but readers can also react however they want. Again, it all comes back to goals, but if your goal is to have readers magically understand your artistic vision… good luck.

Maybe you will be one of those hole-in-one authors that gets it right without outside feedback. There’s always a chance. But don’t rely on being the exception. Put in the work. Grow that thick skin. Care about your readers.

Deliver the story you want to tell.

 

(I’ve written two other posts about critiques: On Receiving Critiques and Critiques and Cultivating Self-Awareness)

02 May

Spring Writing Bootcamp Goals

In Drafting,Goals by MK England / May 2, 2016 / 0 Comments

I’ve participated in the YA Buccaneers seasonal writing bootcamps on and off since spring 2014 and I’ve decided to participate in the Spring Writing Bootcamp again this year in hopes of distracting myself from being on submission. Time to refocus my energy on generating new words! So, here I am, publicly declaring my goals for May 1st through June 30th.

Bootcamp Goals

  1. Draft a new YA book. First draft wordcount goal: 50,000.

I have three ideas battling for supremacy, but I’ve been focusing my brainstorming and outlining efforts on a YA f/f contemporary romance novel. Last August, I went to one of my many annual fan conventions and walked into the con hotel to find myself surrounded by gorgeous women decked out in their finery. A fan convention and a beauty pageant in the same hotel? Obviously a meet-cute and whirlwind weekend romance waiting to happen. Can I write something that isn’t science fiction or fantasy? WE’RE ABOUT TO FIND OUT.

2. Critique my primary CPs latest YA novel.

My dear writing wife Lisen Minetti just delivered her latest manuscript to my inbox last night, and I am PUMPED to dive in and critique it. I’ll be setting aside lots of time during the first week to accomplish my first in-depth critique, and possibly another chunk of time late in June to read revisions. I love this project of hers and have been looking forward to reading it for months!

3. Be active for 30 minutes per day, five days per week.

Since I began writing seriously back in 2014, I’ve devoted more and more time to writing and writing-related pursuits. All of those pursuits involve me spending lots of time sitting in chairs, and my body is suffering for it. My health and energy levels have noticeably changed for the worse. All those days where I work from 8:30-5, then come home and write until midnight may make me feel like an awesomely productive writing superhero, but they do a real number on my health. My wordcount won’t drop dramatically if I take 30 minutes out of that time to go for a walk. In fact, it could even boost my creativity and energy levels.

Upcoming Pinch Points

I have several things on my calendar that may make my drafting goal a bit lofty, but hey, I’ve won NaNoWriMo for the past two years, so I should be able to do 50k in two months no problem, right? Right? Mid-May will be the New Jersey Library Association conference, which is providing me an excellent excuse to have a mini writing retreat with Lisen. June will be the American Library Association annual conference in Orlando, where I’ll have a peaceful hotel room all to myself to get some writing done in between conference sessions. I’m hoping the circumstances I’ve created for myself during these trips will mean I can still get some writing done and stay on track.

Tracking my Progress

I’ve tried lots of ways to track my goal progress over the years, but nothing seems to make me as happy as the combination of colorful star stickers on a calendar plus the wordcount tracker on storytoolz.com. Storytoolz makes a line graph as you input your wordcount each day, and there’s something so satisfying about watching that little line climb. But seriously, colorful star stickers. Who doesn’t love them? I’ll give myself a sticker for each 30 minutes of exercise, each critiquing session, and each 500 words written.

But M, you’re supposed to be a professional! Why do you need stickers to motivate you to write?

Fuck off, stars are awesome.

you got a star

What about you? 

Are you working toward any particular writing goals right now? Declare them for all the world to see in the comments. Let’s keep each other honest and motivated!