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?