Celebrate Your Accomplishments

Hey you! I see you! Toiling away! Biting your nails with worry! Not sure you’ll ever make it/do it again/finish that book/be successful. I totally get it! This writing thing is tough! It’s only for the strongest, most awesome people! Which is why you deserve a gold medal no matter where you are on the journey.

 

Celebrate YourAccomplishments

Here. I made you some! So stop moping and start celebrating every little thing!  (These are words I’m saying to myself as much as you.)

Got a great book idea!

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Started writing a book!

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Completed a first draft!

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Sent your writing to CPs or beta readers!

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Conquered the impossible revision!

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Polished your MS to a shine!

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Revised even after you thought you were done!

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Sent a query!

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Got a rejection!

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Got a request!

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Got a new CP or writing buddy!

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Attended a conference!

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Entered a contest!

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Pitched to an agent/editor!

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Got an agent!

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Revised with an agent!

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Almost emailed your agent seventeen times in one day, but restrained yourself to only two times!

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Went on sub!

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Got an editor rejection!

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Made it to second reads!

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Made it to acquisitions!

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R&R!

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YOU SOLD A BOOK!

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Revised with an editor!

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Survived copy edits!

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ARCs!

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Your book has a cover!

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Your book is on Amazon!

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First review from someone you don’t know on GR!

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First trade review!

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A starred review!

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Book launch!

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Survived people emailing you with the errors they found in your book!

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Started writing the next book!

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Amanda Rawson Hill grew up in southwest Wyoming with a library right out her back gate, which accounts a lot for how she turned out. Her debut novel, THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC, will be published by Boyds Mills Press September 2018.

 

Discouraging Encouragement for New Writers

I recently got to message with someone who is just getting started with this whole writing thing. She had lots of questions, worries, and insecurities. About a year ago, my husband was thinking about writing a book he’d had in his head for ten years! He also had lots of questions, worries, and insecurities. I gave them both the same exact advice, but they reacted to it differently. My friend said, “Okay, good to know. That’s exciting. I can do that.” My husband said, “Nah. Nevermind.”

What was the difference?

Mindset.

So, if you are just getting started writing or are thinking about writing or dreaming about thinking about writing, I want you to put on your “Growth Mindset.”

Got it in place? Okay. Let’s go. I’m going to quote the most common concerns I here from new or aspiring writers and then answer with…

The most discouraging encouragement you will ever get.

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I don’t know if I’m any good. I think everything I write is terrible.

Truth: Chances are good that you AREN’T any good…yet. Probably everything you are writing is deeply flawed and, yes, pretty terrible. But guess what? The vast, vast majority of writers start out that way. I don’t personally know a single writer who started out AMAZING! Is there such a thing as natural writing talent? Sure! Does it matter if you have it? Not a bit. Because even the people who start with “natural talent” start out terrible.

Think about learning to play the piano. I had a “natural talent” for music. Do you think I sat down at the keyboard for the first time when I was five and pounded out Beethoven? No! That’s ridiculous on its face. Writing is absolutely, 100% no different.

So you suck right now and you know it. GOOD! The worst writers are the ones who think they are amazing at it. The ones who never realize they are terrible. Realizing you aren’t a very good writer is important, it is what will propel you to actually work and study and get better. It will give you the motivation to revise and improve.

Ask almost any author about their first writings and you will get groans and laughs and eye rolls. It’s something we all go through. And even all those writers who are published? They still think they are terrible. They still write crappy first drafts. They are still learning and figuring this whole thing out. So get comfortable with the feeling. It will never go away completely.

Okay, so how do I stop sucking?

There are no shortcuts. Write consistently. Read widely and as much as you can. Get on writer Twitter. Read writing blogs and craft books. What would you do if your dream was to become an artist? Musician? Dancer? Do that!

Practice.

Learn.

Practice.

I can do that. But how long will it take to stop sucking? When is it realistic to expect publication?

That is a great question that I can’t answer because everyone is different. Some people publish their first books (the rest of us secretly hate them.) Some people don’t get published until their 10th book. Even the lucky first book people have mostly been working on their writing for years.

When I first started writing, I read a lot of “success” posts and realized that most people write 3-5 books before getting an agent or getting published. Most people work 4-6 years before hitting those “success” milestones. And being in the book world for the last few years has born out those statistics for most people. Even me! I got my agent almost 4 years after I started, with my second book. My debut will come out 6 years after I started writing.

There are never any guarantees, but I honestly believe it is really good to go into writing expecting at least five years of work before you see any results and planning on your first 2 books, at least, being practice books. And I don’t mean that you should query them or try to get them published, I think you absolutely should. You should use your practice books to practice querying too. I just think it’s nicer to be pleasantly surprised rather than crushed and disappointed.

So you are saying I should work really hard on something and then let people reject it? I don’t think my heart can handle that! That’s so scary!

Meh. You’ll get over it.

I know that sounds heartless, but you will.

Really. I’m not trying to blow off your pain. Believe me, I’ve been there. I have sobbed over rejections before. I’ve complained to friends and mentors and talked about giving up. That the pain isn’t worth it. But you know what? I wrote the next book and it was always better and it distracted my heart and that made the rejections hurt less. “Okay, you don’t want that book? That’s alright, I have something better coming down the pipeline.”

Actually, if you can believe it. You’ll get a little bit addicted to the adrenaline rush of querying and rejections and requests. You’ll realize that your book is not for everyone and that’s okay.

There will be bad days where you cry and eat chocolate and think about giving up. But there will also be good days where you realize that writing is important not just for the success side of it. That you are not your book and it says nothing about your worth. That there is always hope. That you are getting better. That you will just keep going!

Some days, rejections will roll off you. Other days, they’ll stink or even break you. But eventually, the pain numbs and you keep writing. You can not get published without at least risking rejection. So you’re going to do it and you will survive. Not only that, you will become a braver human being in general because of it.

So there you go. My discouraging encouragement. You probably do stink (I still do in a lot of ways.) You will probably have to put in years of work before success. You will get rejected and it will hurt.

But it will be okay. This is what it is to be a writer. WELCOME!
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Amanda Rawson Hill grew up in southwest Wyoming with a library right out her back gate, which accounts a lot for how she turned out. Her debut novel, THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC, will be published by Boyds Mills Press September 2018.

The Debut Author Pledge

It’s my debut year.

Deep breaths.

A couple months ago there were several twitter threads from veteran writers and writers finishing their debut year. They gave a lot of advice. They also gave a lot of real talk. Some of it was hard to hear. Some of it was inspiring. All of it, led me to my word for 2018.

Jubilant

I started writing almost six years ago and now I have a book coming out. Even three or four years ago, if you would have told me I’d be here, I would have called you a liar. And so with that thought in mind, I want to go into this very special year for me with the following pledge.

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The Debut Author Pledge

  1. I pledge, above all else, to do what is necessary to stay physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy this year.This means I will:
    • Look up from my phone and connect with nature, people, and myself.
    • Take social media breaks when needed.
    • Keep lots of healthy food on hand.
    • Take plenty of walks.
    • Stay away from sites, threads, and conversation that I know will feed my anxiety.
  1. I pledge to remember what I can and can not control and try not to beat myself up over things that fall into the second category.
  1. I pledge to speak up for myself if I am unhappy, confused, or concerned about anything. But then to be peaceful with whatever happens after I do so. (Remember Pledge #2.)
  1. I pledge not to worry about lists. If I’m on a list, great! If I’m not, oh well. (Again, remember Pledge #2.)
  1. I want to say that I pledge not to read my reviews, but I know that might be a hard one to keep. So instead, I pledge not to let my reviews go to my head. For every bad review I read that hurts, I will read a one-star review for a favorite book to remind myself that this is all subjective. For every good review I read that swells my head, I will read a five star review for a book I hate, to remind myself that this is all subjective.
  1. I pledge to make time for the things that make me happy. Hot cocoa, game night, long walks, snuggles, good books, knitting, swimming, cooking. Whatever it is.
  1. I pledge to celebrate every good milestone along the way. Even the tiniest ones. Because there is so much waiting and rejection in this business. I want to celebrate every bit of goodness.
  1. I pledge to not compare myself, my book, my sales, my publicity, etc. to other authors.
  1. I pledge that whenever I fail at pledge #8, I will remember the moments I thought this book would never see the light of day, and remember how lucky I am.
  1. I pledge to remember who I’m writing for and do my best to connect with them.
  1. I pledge to remember that even if my book only touches on person’s heart, it’s still worth it.
  1. I pledge to take one day at a time and not worry about things in the future that I have no control over today.
  1. I pledge to keep writing and creating.

So how about you? Want to take the pledge? What else would you add?

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Amanda Rawson Hill grew up in southwest Wyoming with a library right out her back gate, which accounts a lot for how she turned out. Her debut novel, THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC, will be published by Boyds Mills Press September 2018.

Favorite Books of 2017/Anticipated Books of 2018

It’s the end of the year, which means seeing how you did on your Goodreads Challenge! Did you make your goal? I set out to read 72 books, and have read 80 so far! I’m hoping to get in another five at least before the end of the month. Wish me luck!

Even better than seeing that “Congratulations” message in Goodreads, though. Is looking back on all the amazing stories you read in the last year and remembering which were your favorites. I read so many great books this year. Some were old classics, like A WRINKLE IN TIME and MATILDA. But most were released this year and those are the ones I want to focus on for this post. So without further ado, I give you my favorite books of 2017!

Paper Chains by Elaine Vickers.

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I loved Elaine’s debut, Like Magic. And her sophomore novel lived up to the quiet, gentle storytelling she wowed me with in her first novel. I loved the well-developed characters and the loving friendship between the two girls. The authentic feelings and worries around adoption were a welcome addition to MG lit as well.

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by Shari Green.

I read this book with my daughter’s homeschool book club. They all loved it. One girl declared it “the best book [she’d] ever read.” A book with a big heart all about family and the fact that everyone has a story. It also has a delicious cookie recipe at the end that has become my kids’ new favorite.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

I listened to this on audio and kept finding excuses to drive to the store or go on walks so I could keep listening. A YA Russian fairytale retelling without a romance (*gasp*). Beautiful voice and this quiet growing tension that slowly builds up until it finally explodes.

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

I’ve heard the term “book boyfriend” before, but had never really been able to apply it to any other character besides Gilbert Blythe…until this book. I loved the romance, loved the kick-butt heroine, and the different take on pirates. I absolutely CAN’T wait for the sequel to come out next year!

Alan Cole is Not a Coward by Eric Bell

This book is funny and heartbreaking. At times hilarious and heartwarming and then gut-punching. Really fun characters and a great message about self-acceptance. It definitely lives up to that fantastic blurb from Gary Schmidt.

The Last Namsara by Kristin Ciccarrelli.

A YA fantasy with dragons and stories as a weapon. This book was thoroughly engrossing. I couldn’t stop reading and I absolutely loved the dragons!

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Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling.

This is one of those books with a fantastic voice and a character you will never forget. A beautiful story about friendship with a positive, yet unflinching, look at disability.

Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry

Words can not express how much I love this book. The poetry is so beautiful. The story is wonderful and lovely. I read it with my 8-12 year old girls at church and they were all obsessed. Creates some great discussions about differences and being kind.

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The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle

I’m usually not a straight romance book person, but this one just sucked me right in. The questions it asks about neurodiversity and what makes us who we are was intriguing. I loved the relationship between the two main characters and the humor of Lily.

The Someday Birds by Sally Pla

If it seems like I read a lot of neurodeverse lit this year, that’s because I did! Though I didn’t plan to. This is an #ownvoices books with an autistic MC. It was hilarious and heartwarming. A summer, road trip book. Who doesn’t love those? It also included a sidestory about the Muslim genocide in Bosnia in the nineties.

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As an author with a debut coming out next year, I have had the opportunity to read some amazing books coming out next year. I can’t feature all of them here, but these are four of the ones I’m most excited about. (Some for obvious reasons. 😉 )

Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin.

Cindy is my writing twin, Pitch Wars co-mentor, and CP who I try not to feel insanely jealous of. Her writing is lovely and this book will rip your heart in a million tiny pieces and then sew it back together.

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Every Shiny Thing by Laurie Morrison and Cordelia Jensen.

This book is so ambitious for a middle-grade novel and it pulls it off beautifully. The story tackles kleptomania, privilege, social justice without ever becoming preachy. It poses deep and interesting questions to the reader and is told in a mixture of prose and lovely verse. I can’t wait to shove it into the hands of everyone I know.

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

This is a verse novel about the artist Artemisia Gentileschi and her rape by another artist and the subsequent trial that happens when she takes her charges against him public. It is breathtaking, unflinching, and heart-wrenching. It will haunt you for months, if not years, after reading it.

The Three Rules of Everyday Magic by Amanda Rawson Hill

Okay, okay. This is my book. I won’t talk it up to you. But I am totally excited about it hitting shelves next year.

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Lost Crow Conspiracy by Rosalyn Eves

I’m in the middle of Blood Rose Rebellion right now and already can’t wait for the sequel to come out next year!

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Amanda Rawson Hill grew up in southwest Wyoming with a library right out her back gate, which accounts a lot for how she turned out. She now resides in central California where she is a gardener, chemist, homeschool mom, Yosemite explorer, and Disneyland enthusiast. She writes middle-grade fiction and is represented by Elizabeth Harding at Curtis Brown LTD.

 

Reading Recs for Classics

I have a pet peeve. You know those articles that list great children’s books or quotes from children’s books? They are all over the place. And you know what they all have in common? The books they quote and feature are super old! Like decades old. It sort of feels like children’s publishing began and ended with Winnie the Pooh. Oh, and then E.B. White and Roald Dahl showed up and that was nice, but that’s basically it.

It’s a real shame because children’s publishing is putting out AMAZING books. Every year. Kids books today are more diverse and move relevant. They come in all sorts of formats and deal with big themes and ideas. They are works of art. Children’s books don’t play it safe all the time. The open up the world to their readers and more and more are addressing timely topics. Why are people still sitting here only talking about Judy Blume and Anne of Green Gables?

When I took my gripe to Facebook, I had several people ask for more recent books to replace the old books they’d been using. And thus began a group research effort. I crowdsourced on Twitter some of the most commonly read classics in the classroom and then asked for recommendations of books that could stand in for them, whether that be the same subject matter, or tone, or style.

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It was really fun and the list we came up with is below. While there is something to be said with having students read books that they will be expected to know, we also need to continue to expand that list of books and bring it into the 21st century with relevant topics and diverse authors and characters. You don’t have to replace every single “classic” with something new and modern, but it would be great if you could exchange out at least a few. Hopefully this list gives you a good place to start.

*Note* I have not read all these books myself. They were crowdsourced. You may disagree with some of them. That’s okay. Some might not match up age wise with what they are being recommended to replace. Use your judgement. But please try something new!

 

Instead of Johnny Tremaine, try some of these historical fictions:

SEEDS OF AMERICA and FEVER 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE by Mackenzi Lee

THE BLOODY JACK series (1700’s) by L.A. Meyer

THE CURE FOR DREAMING (1900’s women’s suffrage) by Cat Winters

STELLA BY STARLIGHT (1939 Segregated South) by Sharon Draper

MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON (1950’s Mississippi) by Linda W Jackson

Instead of Roald Dahl:

FLORA AND ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo

THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING by Catherynne M Valente

THE LAND OF YESTERDAY by Kristin Reynolds (releases July 2018)

THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE by Jennifer Maschari

THE AMULET series by Kazu Kibuishi

anything by Neil Gaiman

A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS by Lemony Snicket

ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY by Chris Grabenstein

THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY by Trenton Lee Stewart

THE UNICORN IN THE BARN by Jacqueline Ogburn and Rebecca Green

A DASH OF DRAGON by Heidi Lang and Kate Bartkowski

THE INQUISITOR’S TALE by Adam Gidwitz

THE SECRET HORSES OF BRIAR HILL by Megan Shepherd

THE BOOK OF ELSEWHERE by Jacqueline West

THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS by Claire Legrand

THE STRANGE AND DEADLY PORTRAITS OF BRYONY GRAY by Erin Latimer (releases in 2018).

Instead of Island of the Blue Dolphins:

anything by Joseph Bruchac

BIRCHBARK HOUSE series by Louise Erdrich

RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME and JINGLE DANCER by Cynthia Leitich-Smith

ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie

Instead of Charlotte’s Web:

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN and WISHTREE by Katherine Applegate

THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY by Jodi Kendall

ZINNIA AND THE BEES by Danielle Davis

THE WILD ROBOT by Peter Brown

Instead of WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS and OLD YELLER:

LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech

BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE by Kate DiCamillo

MY DOG SKIP by Willie Morris

Terry Lynn Johnson’s Sled Dog books,

PARCHED by Melanie Crowder,

WISH by Barbara O’Connor

RACING IN THE RAIN: My Life as a Dog by Garth Stein

WHIPPOORWILL by Joseph Moninger

THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO by Patrick Ness

CHASING AUGUSTUS by Kimberly Newton Fusco

Instead of Catcher in the Rye:

GIRL MANS UP by M-E Girard

Anything by John Green and Rainbow Rowell.

Instead of some Steinbeck:

OUT OF THE DUST by Karen Hesse

ESPERANZA RISING by Pam Munoz Ryan

AMERICAN STREET by Ibi Zoboi,

THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas

A SEMI-DEFINITIVE LISTOF WORST NIGHTMARES by Krystal Sutherland

I’LL MEET YOU THERE by Heather Demetrios

JUNIPER LEMON’S HAPPINESS INDEX by Julie Israel

Instead of THE SCARLETT LETTER or TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES:

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES by Mindy McGinnis

HOW TO HANG A WITCH by Adriana Mather

EXIT PURSUED BY A BEAR by E.K. Johnston

MOXIE by Jennifer Mathieu

Instead of the same ol’ American Lit Masterpieces by dead white guys:

BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson

ALL AMERICAN BOYS by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Really, anything by Jason Reynolds

ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE by Benjamin Alire Saenz

THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas

SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN by Jeff Garvin

AUDACITY by Melanie Crowder

INFANDOUS and WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF by Elana K Arnold

Instead of Dystopian like A Brave New World, 1984, or The Giver:

FEED by M.T. Anderson

THE CITY OF EMBER series by Jeanne Duprau

FIRST LIGHT by Rebecca Stead

LEGEND by Marie Lu,

THE SUMMER PRINCE by Alaya Dawn Johnson

YORK by Laura Ruby

UNWIND by Neal Shusterman

Instead of Lord of the Flies:

THE CASTAWAYS by Jessica Fleck

THE NATURAL WAY OF THINGS by Charlotte Wood

What contemporary title would you suggest swapping for a classic? 

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Amanda Rawson Hill grew up in southwest Wyoming with a library right out her back gate, which accounts a lot for how she turned out. She now resides in central California where she is a gardener, chemist, homeschool mom, Yosemite explorer, and Disneyland enthusiast. She writes middle-grade fiction and is represented by Elizabeth Harding at Curtis Brown LTD.

Protecting Your Heart For Writing

If you’ve been writing for a certain amount of time and told people about it, chances are you’ve heard something along the lines of, “How do you find time for that?” Or, “I’d write if I could find the time.”

Finding the time to write can indeed be a trick. But it’s probably not as hard as most people make it out to be. Bottom line: If writing is important to you, you find time to do it. You MAKE time for it. I’ve heard countless stories of people waking up earlier to write, or squeezing in a couple hundred words while they wait in the pick up line at school, or type on their phones while they breastfeed, or work during their lunch breaks. And most people seem to have plenty of time for social media and Netflix.

Really, when it comes down to it, I think it’s less about being able to find the time (because we can all find 15-30 minutes in our day if we give up one episode or one Facebook session) and more about having the EMOTIONAL ENERGY to write.

If you’ve been writing for a certain amount of time and told people about it, chances are you’ve heard something along the lines of, “How do you find time for that-” Or, “I’d write if I could find the time.” Finding .png

And let’s face it, writing requires a ton of emotional energy. The energy to imagine and create, to feel empathy for fictional characters, to step inside the shoes of someone else and walk in their story. Writing is an exercise in radical empathy. Add on top of that the emotional energy required to fend off imposter syndrome, self-doubts, and then the pain of rejection and writing can suck you dry. And if you’re trying to do it on top of being an emotionally available parent, a wholehearted employee, a loving spouse, forget about it!

In that light, I want to talk about what finding the time to write is really about…protecting your heart for writing. If you are not in a place where you can experience radical empathy, an expansive imagination, and dust yourself off after copious amounts of rejection week after week, then you are never going to feel like you’re able to write.

That’s not to say that in order to write you must live a stress-free life. Far from it. Just that you have to find a way to protect a piece of your heart for this journey. A way to refresh your soul just the tiniest bit before you sit down at your keyboard. And some nights you can’t do it and you write through the slog and stress. But isn’t it so much better when you’re writing with an open heart? So let’s talk about way to do that.

  • Rest! You need rest to create. Our society isn’t very good at resting, but it is a vital part of the creative process. We let our manuscripts rest between drafting and revisions. We need to make sure we are getting enough rest to write. If you consistently feel too tired to write, is there any way you can sneak in an extra hour of sleep somewhere during the day? Can you turn off the late night Netflix and go to bed earlier? Close the book instead of bingeing all night? Can you get a power nap in during your lunch break? Or maybe if you find an hour to write but are exhausted, take a 20-30 minute snooze for the first half and then write the second half. Maybe that seems counter-productive, but if resting makes you write more consistently then it’s worth it!
  • Back away from social media. No, you don’t need to give it up completely. But have you ever felt when you are on it too much that you are so connected to everyone else’s thoughts that you haven’t been connected to your own thoughts? You can articulate everyone else’s position and nod along and everything else. But have you sat in the quiet and really pondered your own thoughts? Some creativity thrives with collaboration. And some needs to bloom in the garden of our own minds. Your originality will flourish with a little less time spent in other people’s minds and a little more time spent in your own.
  • Find some time to sit outside and just be still. It’s amazing what just a little bit of fresh air and listening to the birds and watching the sunset will do for your psyche. Can you write outside? Perhaps you can begin every session with a few deep breaths at your window. Really try to ground yourself in these moments. I like to imagine my feet as roots sinking into the ground. Literally, grounding myself. Centering my soul in the moment.
  • Find the good. It’s been a tough year or two politically. And it can be so easy to get so caught up in the political merry-go-round and go from one outrage to the next and the next. And that’s EXHAUSTING! Now some people write books that maybe thrive with a little bit of anger spurring them on. I do not. While I don’t think you need to pull out of politics entirely (and indeed it is privileged to be able to do so) I do think it’s important to find a balance so it doesn’t consume you. I think it’s important to try and balance out the stories of fear and hate and injustice with good things. There ARE good things. Creativity is an embodiment of hope. You don’t write books for doomed world. You write them with HOPE. You have to feel that and have that in your heart before you can get it on the page. Where can you find hope in your life? Where can you see the good things that are also happening, even when the world feels like it’s falling apart?
  • Ask for help. Sadly, this is mostly for female writers. Ladies, you do NOT have to do it all. Your partner should be in the business of supporting your dreams, too. They love you, right? Those kids are their kids too, right? Figure out what you need help with in order to make writing possible and then gently ask for help. Tell them how important this writing thing is to you. Let them know that you’d like to do it for just an hour a day (or whatever time you find) and then let them know you need their help. Maybe you need them to take over the dinner dishes. Maybe you need them to take the kids on Saturday mornings. Maybe you just need them to understand that you’re not ignoring them if your nightly hang out sessions after the kids go to bed decrease from two hours to one. Of course, this conversation should be a two way street. Maybe it’s a good time for you to ask about your partner’s dreams and how you can help support them, too.
  • Stay away from the things that make it harder. These will change with the seasons. There was a time when I knew I couldn’t get on Twitter on Tuesdays and Thursdays because seeing the deal announcements hurt my heart so much. If that’s you, that’s okay. Maybe reading one more “How I Got My Agent Post” will break you. Then don’t read it. Have romance books lost their luster for you because all you can do is compare your book and it keeps coming up short? Switch genres for a few months for Heaven’s sake! Listen to those feelings and don’t be ashamed of them. Protect your heart.

Writing and publishing are hard. And so much of the work is subconscious, emotional, and unseen. Give yourself the space and grace to be able to pursue it in a healthy way.

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Amanda Rawson Hill grew up in southwest Wyoming with a library right out her back gate, which accounts a lot for how she turned out. She now resides in central California where she is a gardener, chemist, homeschool mom, Yosemite explorer, and Disneyland enthusiast. She writes middle-grade fiction and is represented by Elizabeth Harding at Curtis Brown LTD.

 

Ways to Study Craft

Right after I signed with my agent, I had a minor panic attack. Until that point, I’d always told myself that I loved writing and I always made time for it, but I’d convinced myself that I could walk away from it and think of it as a hobby. Signing with my agent made me admit that I was serious. Really serious. And admitting I was serious, meant that I needed to actually know what I was doing.

Because I definitely didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing.

And so it was AFTER I signed with my agent that I decided I should probably read a craft book. I picked up THE ANATOMY OF STORY by John Truby and started reading.

I don’t know if you’ve read THE ANATOMY OF STORY but it is DENSE! It’s so good and so full of really amazing information. But I could only get through a few pages before I had to put it down and let my brain take a rest. I still haven’t finished it but just reading the first half did wonders for my writing. (And yeah, I’ll finish it one day. I swear!)

I think really studying and analyzing story craft is so important. But it can feel daunting to do. And sometimes the resources people tell you to check out make no sense or they go against your rhythm. Sometimes, it’s all we can do to write, let alone study craft.

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BUT! You have to do it if you want to get better. So I’m going to talk about some ways you can study craft without getting an MFA or losing your writing time.

  1. Read a craft book. This is the obvious one. Maybe after you finish a draft of your new WIP, you can read a craft book while you let it sit before revising. There are so many different craft books. The dense ones like Truby’s. Short and snappy ones (I’ve heard great things about Take Off Your Pants!) The classics like King’s On Writing and the inspirational ones like Bird by Bird. Find one you enjoy! Or one that challenges you but in a good way.
  2. Go to the movies. For some reason, it is often easier to pinpoint plot devices in movies than in books. Maybe it is the visual aspect and the music that work together. But if you’re struggling with plot structure, I can’t recommend watching good movies enough. Pixar is a master of storytelling. Watch a Pixar flick to finally understand turning point, midpoint, dark night of the soul, and climax. Superhero movies will show you how to continually raise the stakes. Watch a chick flick to understand how to set up romantic tension. You get the idea.
  3. Read a book with a highlighter. I did this with Ally Condie’s Summerlost for the first few chapters (until I lost my highlighter and got so sucked in I couldn’t pause to stop.) But think about something you are struggling with and then go to a well-reviewed book in your genre and look for it, highlighting the passages that apply so you can see it and learn from it. With Summerlost, I was trying to see how humor is braided into a very heavy story to make it manageable for the MG reader. So I highlighted every instant of humor. It let me see how often it came up, but also how little space it took up on the page. It was super helpful. You can do this with show, don’t tell. Internalization. World Building. Backstory. Whatever it is you need to get better at.
  4. Go to a conference. I can’t recommend conferences enough. Size doesn’t matter. I attended a very small conference back in February and only attended one workshop and it helped me tackle a huge edit in my debut. You don’t have to break the bank. There are plenty of more regional and affordable conferences to go to. I personally love the Storymakers conference. Best classes and best price for any conference I’ve attended. The big national conferences can be good, but from what I’ve heard, they aren’t necessarily THE BEST. So don’t feel like you need to attend unless you really want to.
  5. Get on Twitter and follow your favorite authors and other writers. Writing Twitter is awesome and a lot of times writers will have really helpful threads on things you might be struggling with. Choose who you follow carefully if you want to keep it from being a timesuck. But there is a lot of really good FREE information on Twitter.
  6. Offer to do a lot of CPing and beta reading. Critiquing others work was probably the best thing I did for my own writing those first few years. Having to pinpoint what was working and wasn’t working in others’ stories allows you to come back to your story with fresh eyes and a better understanding of how everything works.
  7. Try to teach what you know. I’m a Pitch Wars mentor. And the mentoring process has forced me to nail down and be able to explain the parts of writing that can sometimes feel very fuzzy and ephemeral. I’ve had to think about it a lot so that I can put it into words instead of just feeling my way around it. That process has forced me to actually do a lot of analyzing and discover things about craft that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

So, feeling inspired to go study some craft? I hope so. What are some ways you study craft?

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Amanda Rawson Hill grew up in southwest Wyoming with a library right out her back gate, which accounts a lot for how she turned out. She now resides in central California where she is a gardener, chemist, homeschool mom, Yosemite explorer, and Disneyland enthusiast. She writes middle-grade fiction and is represented by Elizabeth Harding at Curtis Brown LTD.