Friday, September 5, 2014

Fueled From Within: Shan's thoughts

Stephanie here! We're SO excited to have Shannon Dittemore joining us as a regular blogger on Go Teen Writers. Not only do Jill and I love Shannon's beautiful stories (her prose is so poetic and lovely, I've been guilty of crossing from admiring to jealous a time or two) but we love her heart. Shannon will be here on Fridays, and we just know you're going to wish there were more Fridays in a week!

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a focus on youth and young adult ministry. For more about Shan, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 
 
My friends! I'm so happy to be part of the Go Teen Writers team. You have absolutely no idea how big a deal this is for me. I have the utmost respect for Steph and Jill and for every single teen giving this writing thing a go. Chatting books and writing with young people is quite possibly my favorite thing ever. Except, maybe, Disneyland. ;)

OKAY! Enough of the mushy stuff. Let's talk words.

Did you know that writing advice (like every other kind of advice) is not one-size-fits-all? It's not. Some things that work for me might not work for you. And (shock!) some of the strategies that work for Stephen King or JK Rowling or Ted Dekker might actually hinder your process. 

Over the next several Fridays, I’m going to continue a series I started over on my website. I'm going to share some of the most recycled writing advice out there, and I’ll get real with you. I’ll tell you why it works for me and why it doesn’t. And while my experience with someone’s words should neither deter nor encourage you to try them, I hope it will at least free you from the idea that all writers write in the same way. We don’t. We are unique and that adds to our value, both individually and as a creative whole. 

This piece of advice has been all over the internet lately and it comes from Dr. Steve Maraboli. A confession first, I know very little about this guy, so please don't assume I'm endorsing him or his work. But what I do agree with is this statement right here:


So, here's a very personal, very honest, very true story. When my debut novel, Angel Eyes, was on its first blog tour, I thought I'd be the kind of author to read every review and chat with readers about all their likes and dislikes. And for a few days, I was. I was amazingly social about my work. 

And then I got my first 3 Star review on Goodreads. Yeah, I know. It wasn't even a 2 Star that did me in; it was that mediocre, lukewarm three. Know what I did? I crawled into bed, under the covers, and I cried. I was on a very hard deadline for my next book and yet, for days I was stunted. This reviewer had climbed between my ears and taken over. I'm sure she didn't mean to. I'm sure she thought those three stars were more than fair. But they sent me into a tailspin. 

I wondered, was my stuff just okay? Did it speak to anyone at all? Why didn't this girl get me? What should I have done differently? Maybe if I send her a cookie, she'll reconsider.

Do you think less of me yet?

Now, since then, my books have had glorious endorsements by authors I admire and readers I've never met. They've also been reviewed negatively by some. Which was something, I knew, from the VERY beginning, was going to happen. We all connect with different things in fiction and sometimes, despite an author's best intentions, we don't connect at all.

It's humbling to tell you I hid from words, but I learned something under the covers that day. Something I hope never to forget. 

I had allowed the opinion of ONE reviewer to suck away every bit of my motivation. Sad yes, but wait, it gets worse. If this mediocre review could shake me like that, it meant that all those lovely, 5 Star reviews also meant more to me than they should have. 

I was depending on the good response of readers to propel me forward. I've since learned that waves of reviews are not to be surfed. They can turn on you at anytime. Bottom out. Leave you high in the sky groping for something, anything firm to hold onto. Reviews, reader feedback, passionate endorsements. These are a lot of things, but they're not a solid foundation to build a career on.

Writing to please others is a slippery slope and one that is guaranteed to knock the wind out of you again and again. But if you write because you are fueled by an internal flame, because something in you pushes you forward, you've got a good shot at turning this writing hobby of yours into a sustainable habit.

So, why do I write? I write because I love stories. I write because sometimes those stories won't leave me alone. I write because, as hard as it is, sitting in front of my computer, frolicking through made-up worlds is so much more fun than a real job. And I know, I've tried!

I write because I have something to say.

Tell me, why do YOU write? What propels you forward?

58 comments:

  1. So excited for the Friday posts!!!! Welcome to GTW Shannon!!!!!!! :D

    I write because I want to do what God's gifted me with. I write because I hope to encourage and bless people with my work. Finally, I write because it's something that I really enjoy to do. :)

    I do depend on what people think, and that is something I need to work on. How do you go from depending on opinions to...not?

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    1. It's a fair question, Emma, and I think the answer is practice. And that sucks a little bit because it means you'll have to take a few shots before your heart understands it has other reasons to write. It's a tricky balance between taking critical feedback and using what you can to improve and ignoring the slights of others. The more you deal with reader response, the easier it is to pick out the valuable stuff and use it for what it is. The other junk, you just let be. Truth? I've learned that reviews are not the place to find writing advice. I have critique partners and editors for that. People I trust. People who are good at what they do and who want the best for me. That's where I go to grow.

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    2. Yeah, I understand. :) That's good advice, thank you so much!

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  2. Welcome Shannon!!!! :) We're glad to have you!

    I write because some(a lot) of the stories I want to read haven't been written yet. I write because I love it, because it's something I'm passionate about. I write because, if i don't, i will have so many stories, scenes, and characters in my head that i will be officially insane, instead of just unofficially. ;)

    I'm one of those weird random few who needs people to read her stories in the beginning. Every once in a while, I have to send it to a friend to critique. It motivates me to write more, and it helps me know what things I need to fix.

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    1. Hello, Krissy! I'm the same way with my writing. I have gone a few weeks without writing before (usually because I need to focus for school and exams) and usually by the time I'm done I have so many stories and characters chattering in my head that I can't concentrate on anything!

      I'm also someone who needs a few people to read my stories as I write them. I have two awesome friends who read all my rough drafts as I'm writing them (Google docs can be great for sharing like this!). They are wise enough to know not to critique my writing while I'm still in the middle of the manuscript. They wait until I ask for their critique before they give it, which is super helpful. Knowing they are reading it and waiting for the next piece does give me that extra boost when I'm struggling to write. It is also really nice when I get stuck to have two people who have read the entire manuscript already to help me brainstorm.

      I'm glad I'm not the only one with these quirks! :)

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    2. Good for you, Krissy! AND Tricia! All fabulous reasons to write. And I think critique partners are crazy valuable. Especially when they care and have your best interests at heart! Keep writing, girls!

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    3. *violently hugs Tricia* I LIKE THIS ONE.

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  3. Interestingly enough, one of my blogger friends recently asked whether I would rather my books be loved now or to be considered a genius only after I am dead. It brought up some concepts to consider. What would you answer?
    Like Krissy and Tricia said, there is something incredibly motivating about knowing others are reading your writing. You can at least pretend that they are waiting eagerly for your next installment. Sometimes it pulls you out of mediocrity as you try to be worthy of their good opinion. And, like Krissy said, sometimes the feedback (especially the constructive criticism) shows you the flaws that you couldn't see on your own. I feel like my writing has improved by leaps and bounds since I joined the blogging world.
    But, back to my blogging friend's question, I eventually answered that I didn't care. I am not famous at the moment...and still I write. If I were plunged into fame...still I would write. If fame abandoned me...still I would write.
    Even so, I admit it would be hard to write, unloved and unappreciated, your whole life and to die thinking that you were never good enough. It would be much easier to plug along in obscurity if only you KNEW that you would be considered a genius after you died. ;)
    Thank you for the thought-provoking post, Shannon. It was encouraging. I am glad you have you installed as a regular writer here!

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    1. And STILL you would write! Love that. That's how you know you're cut out for the task ahead. Come what may, the words want to be written. And as to your question, there is something thrilling about the possibility that my stories could survive me and inspire others after I'm gone, but there's no guarantee is there? I think we write the stories we're given. Beyond that, it's entirely out of my hands.

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  4. I write because my character's stories would run through my head whether they're put on paper or not. And it makes me feel less crazy to have an outlet for the ideas. :p

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing this, Shannon! This is something I need to remember. I write because God gave me a passion to weave stories and I have the duty to carry out this gift. =)

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    1. I totally want to high-five you right now. :)

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  6. A warm welcome to "Go Teen Writers", Shannon! I'm very glad you're here! :)

    I LOVED this post. :) This was both true and well-said, and thank you for sharing this with us. Is it just me, or when someone disagrees with something you've written, etc., it feels sort of like an attack on you as the author?

    But yes, this was so awesome. :) I write for the King, wielding the dedicated pen for Him. I write to help win others for Christ and help others to closer fellowship with Him, praying that God will use my pen to help others. And last of all, I write because I love writing.

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    1. It can absolutely feel like an attack. But I don't think that's always the case. I think that when reviewers pen their thoughts on a book, they are often processing the emotions and the journey and they're trying to convey some sense of what it was like for them as they read. It's insanely hard to let someone's opinions belong to them and them alone. As writers we think it's our duty to carry the readers response with us. But it's not. We said our bit when we told the story. I say, let it be. No need to explain. They'll connect or they won't.

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  7. Welcome, Shannon! :D

    I post my stories a few places online, and when I don't get a response, it can be as disappointing as getting a negative response. Thanks for reminding me that those responses aren't why I write. :)

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    1. OH! I know! I don't know if you're querying your stories yet, but let me tell ya, this is good practice for that. Agents aren't too concerned about a quick reply. There's a reason publishing is called the "hurry up and wait" industry.

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  8. Welcome to Go Teen Writers! Like many above, I write because I love it, but also want to be a witness to people. I've given one three star review...and I felt slightly freaked out about it when I got to the part where you crawled into bed... (It wasn't any of your stories.) I actually gave it some thought of how many stars to give it, and though I liked that particular story I felt it wasn't as well written as it should've been... I also have a two star review before...I feel a little guilty about it but that story really wasn't good...great, now you think probably think I'm a terrible person. Haha! Usually I try to avoid give reviews to books I didn't enjoy (if I was given the book for the purpose of writing a review, though...)
    Anyways, welcome and I'm glad you are here!

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    1. I don't think you're a terrible person! NOT AT ALL! Three star reviews are REAL. That response is real. I love how you said you want to be a witness to people because that's it, isn't it? Regardless of the review we're given, we have to trust that some of what we write--the important stuff--will stay with readers.

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  9. Welcome to the GTW team, very exciting to get inside from another author!

    I love this post and the insights you shared. When I just started writing (fanfiction) i was writing to ge those nice comments in, if they didn't...I couldn't motivate myself to write on. At all. I still kind of feel like that now and then, but motivated enough I can actually push myself forward now and I'm very happy with that feeling when it hits in.

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    1. Keep doing it! Keep pushing yourself forward. Write through the icky stuff. THEN you'll know you can. And doing it will get easier and easier.

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  10. You know, I can't actually say why I write. I write because words flow from my fingers and onto the keyboard. Maybe I'm the only writer that feels this way. I am not a published writer. Maybe someday I will be, but I'm glad that now I am not. Because I am in my teenage years, which should become joyous to look back on and why fill them with pressure pressure pressure? I write because I love to. It is something that God has gifted me with and I want to use it to His honor and glory.

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    1. Fabulous! I do think your teenage years are perfect for reading and honing your craft and writing different things and reading and reading and reading! You're in a great, GREAT place.

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  11. Great post! I can already tell I'll be hunting for your books pretty soon. It used to be that I'd read books, adore them, and google the author's names to see what they had to say about writing, but now that I hang around online writing communities I read posts, adore them, and google the author's name to see what books they've written.

    I write because I like writing, mostly. I also like having a cool hobby to share in ice breaker games. But I write stories -middle grade - that I'd like to give to my younger self. My current book has the theme of not needing to prove yourself by human standards to be valuable, like that verse in 1st Corinthians about not being judged by human courts or judging yourself because God is the ultimate judge (Note to self: Know complete verses before you write themes around them...), and one I'm sort of planning in my head has the theme that you don't need to be Different with a capital D to be God's unique creation. They're not this preachy in story form, I promise!

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    1. Keep preaching, girl. I love it! The world needs more awesome middle grade! I wish you tons and tons of luck.

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  12. Shannon!! It's so good to see you here! Love this post. I write for so many reasons but mostly because I enjoy it and can't imagine doing anything else. Also, I want to use my writing to help advocate for important issues and spread the truth.

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    1. And those reasons will help you immensely as you're propelled forward. Bravo, friend. It's lovely to see you over here too. We need a group hug or something!

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  13. Welcome to Go Teen Writers, Shannon! I'm just propeeled forward because I love to write. There are all those great authors out there with wonderful books to read, so why not try to make a great story of your own?

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  14. Hey Shannon! Warm welcomes from the Go Teen Writers community! I love to write because I can be consistently inspired by nature, encourage others to write, and create my own unique writing style! Most importantly, however, I want people to feel something when they read my work. I hope my writing can make them daydream or reminisce to a memory from their past. Maybe even impact their day! I also always get a self-satisfaction while writing too, whether it's stories or poetry and the sensation is almost like pure magic, which never ceases to disappear. Plus, I would love to become awesome author in the future. I even started my own writing blog a few months back because I thought there weren't enough writing blogs run by teens! ;)

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    1. Good for you! I love this whole taking action thing. Writing is very like magic. I agree.

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  15. Welcome, Shannon! I can't wait to read some more of your posts! This is a great post. Two years ago, my school had a program in which students could submit a short story and the top twenty stories were chosen to be critiqued by a professional writer. The students also got to go on a field trip to a festival with workshops and a critique meeting. My short story was chosen and I had a great time at the field trip. However, when I got my critique I was pretty devastated. There were some good things that the writer said about my writing, but of course there were also a few suggestions. Instead of focusing on the good things and then considering the advice, I was just really sad about it. Luckily, I brushed myself off, realized that it was great advice, and learned how to better take a critique.

    Just like you, though, I'm still writing. I write because it's something that I've always loved to do and it is my dream to become published one day.

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    1. I'll tell you something, Ana. Every writer I know has been there. Every single one. We've all had to swallow critique we didn't like. I'm glad you're still writing. Very, very glad.

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  16. Welcome, Ms. Dittemore! This is a timely post, as I'm writing a literacy narrative for school based on this very concept. Writing enables me to grapple with questions and emotions as well as allows me to communicate convictions and convey truth. (Realizing that fiction is a communicative tool was really an epiphany for me!) If this makes any sense, I feel like I've been given this story. I didn't come up with it; it was just there, needing to be written. Since this is the story God has laid upon my heart, I have to communicate it, by His grace and empowerment. The need to write my novel has carried me through some harrying places when I was ready to abandon it. Even on tough days, though, I love writing and the joy of discovery that comes along with it, as the words begin to spill out of my mind and my fingers stumble to keep up.

    Thanks for the inspiring post and the thoughtful and candid insights into your own writing journey!

    Sophia Zervas

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    1. Bravo, Sophia! You sound very grounded in your writing journey and solid on the WHY. I agree with you too. Stories are dropped ever so wonderfully into our hearts and it's a privilege to pen them.

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  17. I write because I feel like God has given me these words to tell his story. And because I love to write.

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  18. I write because I love it and the ideas keep flowing :) Attempting to finish up my novel and getting out there soon... And welcome to GTW by the way :D I know you'll like it here a ton!!

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    1. I'm so excited to be here, Kyra! THANK YOU! Keep LOVING the craft, girl.

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  19. I write because I love it, because it's a way for me to order my thoughts and use my creativity (as far as I have some of that) and mostly because I want to tell things and to inspire people.

    arendedewit.blogspot.com

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    1. There's this quote that says, "I don't know what I believe until I write it." Your response reminds me of that.

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  20. It shall be fun to have you here!! And love the advice...so true.

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    1. THANK YOU, Keturah! Hey, have you read the YA book, Keturah and Lord Death? I LOVED it.

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  21. Welcome! It's nice to have you :) I'm quite sure that if I ever publish anything and I get a bad review the same thing will happen to me. Hopefully I'll be able to deal with it like you did. One can hope.
    I write because I have to. I really do. There's this horrible itch inside of me that doesn't let me go until the words are down on paper or on the computer, so I need to indulge it or else I'll go absolutely mad.

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    1. You're not alone in that. Many, many writers write because they must. Keep it up.

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  22. Yay! Huge welcome! So excited to hear from you on Fridays now! :)

    ...Okay, I'm going to take a moment and fangirl a little here, because I positively adored your series. You just kind of brought an...awe to me through the stories. It was fascinating to think about all those parts of the spiritual world and the battle around us. It seriously did change the way I think. I still have two quotes from Dark Halo (which I read maybe a month and a half to two months ago) on my whiteboard. The one that I repeat to myself the most is where Jake says to the prince, "It wasn't your promise to make." Or...something like that, I forget the exact words.

    Okay! Enough of that, haha! :) Thanks for sharing and welcome again!

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    1. YAY! I'm so glad you enjoyed the books, Amanda! I'm quite partial to Jake myself. He was a favorite to write. He does get all the inspirational lines, doesn't he?

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  23. Welcome to GTW!! This was an awesome post, and I *can't* wait to hear more from you in the future!

    I write because I have stories I want to tell, voices in my head :), and because I just love to write. It's something I am very passionate about.

    I love this particular quote from your post, "I write because I love stories." I'm writing that one down somewhere.

    Again, welcome!

    ~L. Marshall

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    1. All this passion for stories! I can so relate! It really will take you far.

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  24. Welcome, Ms. Dittemore! I look forward to reading more of your posts. :) What you said about writing advice not being a one-size fits all thing reminds me a lot of what artist Mark Crilley always says when he's teaching in his videos. "This is A way, not THE way." Even though he's talking about art, I think it fits writing, too.

    I write because I love telling stories, and I love creating characters. I think I'd go crazy if I couldn't do that anymore!

    ~ Kayla

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    1. Good for you! A passion for the craft will take you a long way!

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  25. Welcome! I write for the same reason I read: to understand. People of other races, genders, sexual orientations. People with different beliefs, backgrounds, hopes, and dreams.

    Will Shannon be joining the FB group?

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    1. Yes, Shan is a part of the FB group!

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    2. I learn so much about myself through my own writing as well. Good answer. And yes, I'm in the FB group. My FB name is Shan Dittemore. Tricky, I know, but I botched my other account and blah, blah, blah. You know.

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  26. Late here, but welcome!!

    I write because I just want the ideas inside me to come to life. I don't have a gift for writing nor a burning passion for doing it — not the same excitement and enjoyment I get from drawing, even when I draw badly — but I have a drive to become better at it. So that's why I write! ~Adina

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  27. Thank you! And good for you, girl! Perfect reason!

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  28. What an incredible and encouraging post. Thank you so much!

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  29. Loved this article! Thank you for posting.

    I write for many reasons. For one, I love working with words...putting them side by side in a particular pattern so as to make them most effective and most beautiful. I love the English language and language in general, and working with it gives me a sense of joy and delight...most of the time.
    Second, I want to let others know how I feel about things. Not just my close friends, whom I can speak to, but people around the world. I want to let them know what I think, and challenge them to think through their own opinions. (Which is also the reason I love the internet. :P)
    Third, there are people in my head...real people, with back stories, families, dreams, talents, crushes, etc. And I can't just let them stay there. Writing about them makes them yet more real...more accessible and more memorable, as well.
    Finally, I write because I can't help it. I have a passion for writing that I feel for very few other things. I love it, and life would be pretty boring if I couldn't do it for one reason or another.

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