Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Progressive Checklist for Writers Part III

by Stephanie Morrill

Here you can find part one of the progressive checklist, and here you can find part two. And this time I decided to actually include the links - not just pretend I did.

So. You've learned at least the basics of story structure. You've written a first draft (and maybe a handful of false starts as well.) You've even edited your draft, and now you're sitting there wondering what to do now.

Step Four: Get Social

If you haven't already found a critique group or writing organization to belong to, now would be a good time to invest the $50 membership fee or whatever it is for your organization of choice. You can join one earlier, if you like, and there are certainly some benefits to doing so. Like getting feedback from professionals before writing 5 completely unsellable manuscripts. Or understanding POV rules before you've become so used to head-hopping.

There are also, in my opinion, some disadvantages to doing it too early. Like:
  • You get too educated for your own good, to borrow something Erica Vetsch once told me back in our pre-published days. She was having issues with a historical manuscript, and said to me, "I'm starting to think I've gotten too educated for my own good, that I just need to spend some time writing." As valuable as all those classes are that you take at conferences, you can certainly learn more than your skill level merits.
  • Too many voices are let in. I met my friend Susie a couple years ago when she had never written much more than a chapter or two. (This almost sounds like one of those fake stories you read in self-help books, but this is true.) Susie had a passion for her partial manuscript, which she took to conference. She had interest from an editor - yay! But someone else wasn't sure that publishing house was a good fit. And someone else thought she was locking herself in by tailoring the manuscript to them. And another person thought her book sounded better fit for a historical. And so forth. These were all well-meaning people who saw Susie's sweetness, saw she was a promising writer, and wanted to help her. But all the advice was confusing, and it was tough for her to discern the right path for her. (I almost typed "the write path for her" but thought that might be too cutesy. You're welcome on sparing you my corniness.)

When to join a group or seek out writing friends depends on the writer. But if you've written a full manuscript and you're interested in querying agents and such, a writers conference or organization is a great investment of resources.

It's important - no matter where you are in your writing journey - to remember where critique groups, writing organizations, agents, marketing, publishing houses go. Let's go back to the blocks. Here's a very unscientific, incomplete look at what builds you up as a writer:




Sometimes I've made the mistake of trying to add my critique group or marketing abilities to that stack. But where they really belong is as support beams.

Let's all use our great imaginations and pretend those support beams are actually doing something. Thank you!
As valuable as the right writing friends and organizations (and all the other "support beams" I could have taken the time to draw) are, make sure you keep in mind that they don't make you a writer - writing makes you a writer.

Step Five: Do it Again

So you've finished your book? Great! Time to write another one. 

In this case, practice doesn't make perfect, but it does make you a much better writer. Especially if every time you finish a manuscript, you take the time to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses, you will rapidly improve your skills. 

After reading through the progressive checklists, what do you think your next steps as a writer might be?

22 comments:

  1. I think maybe my "next step" would be just to write more and to continue improving my work.
    And hey--no worries about the support beams, links, and corniness. It's totally fine ;)

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    1. Always a good next step, Ms. Mind Reader (I was being serious when I told you I was going to call you that on here. *grins*)!

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    2. I knew you were, Kelsey. That's not the sort of thing you joke about. :D
      (Just so the rest of ya'll know, we know each other from somewhere else...pay us no mind!)

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  2. For me. . . Currently I just have to finish my first draft of this book. I'm getting pretty excited because I've almost passed the highest word count I've ever had. I'd call this my second manuscript, so hopefully it's better than the horrid first one.

    I loved your allusion to critique groups and marketing skills as support beams! That seems like just the right way to allude to them. And don't worry: You didn't sound corny to me at all.

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    1. Kelsey, I also just passed the highest wordcount I've ever had! Yay, and congrats to you!

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    2. Congrats to you, as well, Allison!

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  3. Curious - where does one find critique groups and writing organisations?

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    1. Maybe google "wiring organizations"

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    2. If you write Christian fiction, you can look into becoming a member of ACFW. And it's possible there may be a chapter of ACFW in a state near you.

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  4. I'm wondering what writing org would be right now for me, when I'm ready to take that step. I mean, yeah, I'm a Christian, but my books aren't really... Preachy, you know? Would I do better to look for a scifi/fantasy writers group, since that's my genre? Or just go for the general Fiction Writers of America, or whatever it's called?

    I've never been good at the marketing thing--I've had trouble getting both my blog and twitter noticed. :/ Which is probably why it's a good thing I'm majoring in business/marketing! :P

    Thanks so much Stephanie!

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    1. That is hard to decide. Have you looked on their website to see everything they offer? Youd probably want to go with the one that offers closest to what you want sling with the one that most affordable for you.

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    2. Good idea, Tonya. I'll compare and contrast and go from there! Thanks. :)

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  5. I love how to tend to show both sides of things Stephanie! For me, in the beginning I wanted to be in a critique loop bc I secretly just wanted to hear I was a good writer. But exactly like you said, the other people get into your head and if you aren't solid enough in your idea or your skills than it's easy to be taken down by anything other than "your writing is awesome!"

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  6. Thanks for the post! My next step is probably finishing my manuscript, but I also need to make a blog sometime. The thing is, I'd really like to write about how to write good stories and books (as well as my personally writing experiences), but I have no real credentials and wouldn't know what I was talking about.

    "Let's all use our great imaginations and pretend those support beams are actually doing something. Thank you!"
    Hilarious! This really made me smile.

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    1. That's what I've been doing so far as well. My blog's had 39 views from Russia in about a month. Yeah, business is booming. Or not. I mean, it's mostly for myself, but if someone else likes it, I'm happy. Now if only I could Lear n Cyrillic . . .

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  7. From Amo Libros:
    I think I may have to print off those pictures for my notebook...just to remind myself where everything goes, and that I don't need to do everything at once.
    Thanks so much for this post!

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  8. My next step is editing! Really editing. I've finished my manuscript (for the billionth rewrite, but hay, that's what I do) and I've just shuffled it off to my beta readers. But that's not a critique group. Do you have an recommendation for critique groups that might be good to check out? How do you go about finding good critique groups (and not spam-ish ones either)??

    And while I wait (I'm going to do the 6 weeks before I edit again!) I'm going to...keep writing! Another book! Why not?! :)

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  9. Thank you for all the helpful posts! They are so wonderful! I do not know what I would do without Go Teen Writers.

    I love the new header at the top. It is my favorite out of all of the ones so far!

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  10. I love this site, I have been reading without commenting for a while now. But this princess just had to chime in. I am Christian too! But, my books have God in them,but not preaching. So I am definetly confused about the whole writng org, thing. I have no idea! My big question that I have had for a while now is, do I use my age in queries or not? I don't know if it will cause the agents to pre-judge my writing or if it will interest them because I'm young (16). My book is different, it's a novella ( 11,000 words, all that needs to be said) and it's not really a genre or instert story type here story that has ever been explored before.It's different. That's why I wrote it. So, I read your post on queries and it helped a ton, but still unsure about that age factor. Thanks for such and informative website,God Bless you for all this hard work you put in. Do check out my blog ( I'll add you to my blogroll, once I figure out how!!) http://theprincesscooks.wordpress.com for recipes and stories from me the Teen Princess of Buttermilk Springs.

    - The Princess

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    1. That's a great question, Chef Princess :)

      The short answer is no, leave your age out of the query letter. And that's something I didn't understand when I was a teenager because everyone ELSE around me was impressed that I was 17 and had written a novel. I figured an agent would be too. And while they might think it's great that you're so young and you've written a book, it won't be something that makes them ask to see more.

      Helpful?

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  11. Oh, I always pretend to post the links, too. Don't worry Steph. ;)
    Hmm, a critique group? I don't know any writers, but three of my friends have read my finished maunscript (wow, it's fun to write 'finished manuscript'... although I accidently wrote 'published' manuscript just then... not yet!;)). Oh and I love the building block diagrams!

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  12. Oh, my word. Support beams? *lightbulb moment*

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