Task #1: Please attach a second excerpt or piece of work for the group and me to critique.
Questions to ask yourself about your submitted piece for this week:
Do I think it is my best or do I know it needs work?
What draft, honestly, is this for me– from first spark to now?
Am I excited about my partners’ feedback, or am I dreading it?
Has it felt like an easy write or a challenging effort?
“I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.” -Stephen King
One of the reasons I love to feature very established literary titans in classes I teach, beyond the obvious writer hero worship, is their perspectives always reflect a sort of afterlife for younger writers and newer authors. They have made it through the muck. They know how to respond to criticism. They have mastered revision and publication processes. They have steady courting for their services and writing, as opposed to soliciting others for exposure, which takes so much time and toll considering rejection.
We would all love for this to be so miraculous we could just daydream and type all day, uninterrupted or not, and little elves or Fairy Godmothers come in to take our toil off to the masses who read us, spread our work, make movies out of it and pay our bills.
We would love to have a staff to handle our website, social media and blog posts–that weird “platform” and “branding” things authors today just stare “Wuh?” about. We want a marketing manager to remind people we exist, and a copyeditor to turn to. We want someone to assist us with our calendar and appointments: “Write at this time today,” or “You have a three o’clock with a revision of that story your teacher wants.”
This does not happen.
I repeat: This. Does. Not. Happen.
The healthiest writing spirit is one who is realistic about an important fact no one likes to talk about in our ethereal discussions of literature and encouraging workshops. That spirit faces this reality both before and after the writing is done, and learns how to work with this reality in order to be happy and carve out a special career they can love.
This is a business. This is an industry.
It does not matter if you send your stories and work to The Eckleburg Review through Submittable and wait for a response, or if you pay to attend writers’ conferences where you may get five minutes with an agent, or you have your M.F.A. in Creative Writing and go on the market to teach at a college. Beyond this inexplicable and glorious artistic performance behind closed doors, the ecstasy of feeling our imaginations unfold on the page or screen, sits a wall between you and readers of your imaginative creation. The only thing you have to knock down that wall is professional activity and some form of organized business life starting now.
Task #2: Gain Professional Savvy and Control
I explained I am not a spiritual guru. I am a spiritual person, but I know when to meditate and pray– and when to sit at my desk with spreadsheets, notepads, lists, stamps and whatever else is necessary to conduct organized activities for my writing life and career. And so should you.
A Writing Life vs. A Writing Career
Which one do you have now?
Which one do you want?
One of the lesser-discussed challenges of the very lucky published writer career is the number of people who constantly approach professional writers for on-the-spot career advice, professional resources, individual consulting and actual favors to pass along or edit their manuscripts. It makes sense to ask those who have been through it already, and writers are unlike other creative artists in terms of mixing with their publics. It is good to have dialogue with writers of all levels, however it is no substitute for business.
After my first book, I did listen to and take on such requests. The results for me were catastrophic. I stopped writing. I always had too much on my mind to do for other people and their writing. You have done the right thing to seek out affordable, formal substitutes such as The Eckleburg Workshops, a place where serious writers collect. It is best for you as a writer and me as an expert to have blocks of our life and time to get down to business, rather than sporadic and random attempts that usually go nowhere.
“Top 20 Rules for Writers” by Stephen King
“10 Keys to Writing a Speech” on Forbes
I want to encourage you not to put yourself in the position of leaning on authors you do not know and only meet fleetingly. Outside of M.F.A. program teachers, actual friends and acquaintances, and creative writing workshop leaders, most authors are so pressured to sell books and delight readers they are unable to add mentoring others to the list. Instead, arm yourself with the professional knowledge and savvy you should have as an actual participant in the writing world right now. You are a working author. You should treat yourself like any doctor, lawyer, nurse or teacher who has to read certain texts and understand a common lexicon as par for the course of the profession.
Even if you have no publication wishes and are too shy or busy to care to get a book published, your writing life craves attention and discipline. Supplement your discipline, motivation, and enjoyment with fraternization with writers via resources.
Do professional homework. It is important. We have publications, organizations, collectives and resources for every type of writer. I do not tackle specific genres in this listing I maintain for my followers on Goodreads and now here, however this is a general catalog of writers’ treasure chests you need to familiarize with. Everything I learned about agents, publishers, bookstores, industry news, writing discipline, contests, conferences and priceless support to writers usually came from one of these pools. If you know of and rely on others, please do share them in the forum.
Task #3: Write out the Writer Resources you use most often. Let the group know in the forum. Discuss your choices and why they work for you. How many resources have you investigated or sought out from the lists I gave you last week? I am repeating it for you below.
ORGANIZATIONS & COLLECTIVES:
Sisters in Crime
Kalamu Ya Salaam Listserve for Writers
PEN American Center
The Author’s Guild
Literary Freedom Project
Red Room For Authors
Gotham Writing Workshop
Writers Guild Foundation
Association of Writers & Writing Programs
Spirit of Writing
My Dreams Matter
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Ernest Hemingway on Writing
This Year You Write Your Novel
Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Pencil Dancing: New Ways to Spark Your Creative Spirit
The Jane Friedman Blog
The Poets & Writers Guide to the Book Deal
Writing the Blockbuster Novel
APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. How to Publish a Book
The Superior Person’s Book of Words
Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from New York’s Acclaimed Creative Writing School
Task #4: Read your colleagues’ work and make suggestions as if you were a publisher, magazine editor or journal reader. Really assume that pose. Look at your team’s work here from a professional and industry standpoint you will receive as well. Review your peer review tips below.
Kalisha Buckhanon’s novels are CONCEPTION and UPSTATE. Her writing awards include an American Library Association Alex Award, Friends of American Writers Award and Illinois Arts Council Fellowship. She and her work have been featured in Essence, People, Guardian, London Independent on Sunday, Mosaic Literary Magazine, Colorlines, BlogHer, xoJane, Michigan Quarterly Review, Hermeneutic Chaos, Winter Tangerine Review, Atticus Review and more. She has taught creative writing, humanities and English through PEN American Center’s Prison Writing Program, Kankakee Community College and many inner-city schools programs, summer arts camps and library initiatives. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sisters in Crime, with appearances for the group as an on-air commentator on Investigation Discovery Channel’s “Deadly Affairs.” Kalisha has an M.F.A in Creative Writing from The New School in New York City, and a B.A. and M.A. in English Language and Literature both from University of Chicago.