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Happy Mentor Monday!

It’s that time of the month again…no, not that one! This one!

Mentor Monday!

Today is the day for questions! Like what do you do when you get struck in a scene? How long should you keep an agent not selling your work? How do I make my heroine more likable? Who is buying young adult fantasy? Why can’t I seem to get motivated?

Craft, industry, self-care….anything goes 🙂

Ready….set….fire away!

31 responses to “Happy Mentor Monday!”

  1. Cynthia Huscroft says:

    Okay, so what do you do when you get stuck in a scene or if it is dragging on unmercifully but you can’t seem to get out? How do you inject more emotion in to your characters without overdoing it? & yes, what if you just can’t get motivated?

    Thanks, thanks, thanks!

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    • Hi Cynthia – for me it helps to think of what changes in the scene, what the characters learn or accomplish. Once I’ve hit that note, I get out as fast as I can – it doesn’t have to be when the scene is “over” necessarily. I love something tantalizing that lures the reader into the next scene but isn’t necessarily the last word of the conversation. Sometimes leaving something that needs to be explained in the next scene will help me get started on that next scene too.

      That’s actually similar advice I would give on staying motivated – have something unfinished you want to write in the morning when you stop for the day so you’re eager to get back to it. It’s all about those little games we play with our brains to keep them engaged. Hope that helps!

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    • We definitely all find ourselves stuck in a scene from time to time. Sometimes I find changing the POV helps. I rewrite it from the other character’s POV because it might open up more internal struggle or hints to backstory.

      I also try to get past the scene as quickly as possible, like Vivi said. I find that if I hate writing a scene or it is boring, then the reader will hate reading the scene or find it boring. So I either cut it, while moving the crucial information that the scene was supposed to deliver to another scene, or I try to speed up the pacing. Dialogue speeds up the pacing usually.

      Motivation in general is such an individual thing. I like a daily word count goal to aim for, but for some people that is stressful and demotivating.

      And like Vivi, I try to leave a hint to what I’m going to write the next day. They say not to stop writing for the day at the end of a chapter, but to put one sentence in the next chapter to give you a clue as to where you should be going.

      I also try to think about my book and characters when I’m doing household chores or walking the dog. I take my characters, put them in the scene and then just try to get them to talk. Amazing arguments and sweet dialogue have come from those musings.

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    • Yes and yes! Everything Vivi and Heather said, Cynthia! I also like to play the opposite game. Take a moment and have a character do the exact opposite of what you or your reader expects. Where does that take it? Does it create a nice twist you can work with? Don’t be afraid to be bold or push limits.

      Good luck!

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    • Liz Talley says:

      Sometimes you have to leave a scene and come back to it. I’ve done that before, even though it was hard. I’m a linear writer so I write beginning to end. Sometimes a scene needs more rumination than you can give at the moment. It’s okay to let it stew while you move on, then you can come back to it during edits.

      As far as writing characters, I would focus on making them authentic and let emotion drive the scene. What is the purpose of the scene? Are my characters doing and saying (or thinking) what they should be thinking in the scene? Often when you come back during edits, you can souse out what you need. Sounds like a little distance might work best in this case.

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  2. Lydia Stevens says:

    How do you all deal with imposter syndrome? This one seems to be my biggest pitfall for self-confidence. I know where I was when I started this career, I know where I want my career to go and I know where I am now. I’ve made a lot of headway in terms of professional and academic pursuits, but I still suffer from the imposter syndrome because I don’t have an agent yet and I still want a larger publishing house but haven’t accomplished that yet either.
    I get in my own way with this and get frustrated. I know this industry isn’t a right now kind of industry, but as a writing coach and developmental editor, I get the feeling, am I really good enough even though people come to me because I haven’t achieved those two things in terms of career goals? Then part of me knows that isn’t true, it’s the imposter syndrome. I’ve dedicated years to school, the craft, and the career so I get frustrated I continue to feel like this.

    What do you do to reaffirm to yourselves, wherever you are in your writing careers to help overcome imposter syndrome? I still believe in myself to know as I always have this is the career I not only want but the one I am supposed to be in, but the nagging little voice of self-doubt even gets to me as much as I try to he perpetually happy and humorous.

    Thanks for your input! Hearing from all of you helps me stay focused every week

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    • Lydia – we have definitely all felt that insecurity or lack of self-confidence. Even with 21 books out, I still feel like (and am) a little guppy in this ocean of an industry. Reaching for goals is essential to moving forward, but those big milestones that we cannot control (like getting someone to sign us) can feel unreachable.

      I try to focus on the steps I can take that I have control over. If you are taking steps toward your goals, you are successful even if you haven’t reached a huge milestone yet. I keep a board where I track my little steps for the quarter, moving each item (written on a sticky note) to the completed area once I accomplish it. Seeing my progress reminds me that I am successful because I am still moving forward.

      You are right – this industry takes sooooo much patience. When I get caught up in “why am I not on a list” or “why am I still not bringing in the income I want”, I try to stop and remind myself that I love to write. That it is the joy of doing what I love that makes me a success. I know – easier said than done.

      Remember – if you are writing, you are a writer. If you are editing, you are an editor. We all still keep striving to improve and reach milestones, but you are not an impostor because you haven’t made it to your goal yet.

      And getting an agent is often even harder than getting published.

      A tool I use a lot in my life is a list of positive affirmations. My mother, a clinical physiologist used to use them to help battered women gain self confidence again, and she felt it was very powerful medicine. I used them while fighting cancer.

      A positive affirmation is a statement written in the first person present tense about something you want to be or happen that hasn’t yet. No negative words in it (no, not, un, etc). Example:
      I write everyday.
      I am published with XXX.
      I love writing synopses.
      I am a NYT best seller.
      I write wonderful, in depth characters.

      These are goals, but they are not always true yet, or I might not completely believe they are true yet, or I am trying to remind myself to do the affirmation more.

      You write them on a sticky for your mirror and say them out loud at least 2 times a day. Be sure to notify your partner or spouse or they might think you are telling them something (when going through infertility I would write I am pregnant, so yes, I had to tell my husband that it was just a positive affirmation!!).

      Please know that as long as you are taking baby steps toward your major goals, that you are successful. Every word you write, every submission you send in, every time you say that you are a success, you are moving forward and you ARE a success.

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    • Lydia, when you find the answer to this, please share it with me. I have yet to get over imposter syndrome. I am certain that every book is going to be my last. Le sigh…

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      • I just realized that is not going to help you in the least. I just write the best book I possibly can and hope for the best. I don’t know if that’s a real strategy, but it’s what I do.

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        • Lydia Stevens says:

          Haha, sometimes the reassurance that I’m not the only fruitcake short of a sugar-buzzed fly is all the encouragement I need to keep going! Writing isn’t a hobby for me. It never has been. If I don’t write, I get too restless with life. Then I write and feel better. Hence knowing this is what I am supposed to do with my life. I know it will happen eventually. I keep putting the work in. The alternative is not an option but occasionally my brain likes to play the what if it doesn’t happen game. Then I reach out to my fellow pen warriors and you all make me feel better about my brand of crazy.

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      • Lydia Stevens says:

        Aww please no! LOL. I love your books. I don’t think it is so much the writing. I’m aways going to write. I think for me it is more the freelance writing coaching I do. It’s my thought, “here I am telling people how to help their writing based on what I learned as an intern for an agent, but haven’t found an agent myself.” I sometimes feel like, is this just the imposter syndrome or is it my responsibility to share what I learned to help others, whether I have an agent yet or not.

        That’s just me getting in my own head I think lol. But I appreciate everyone’s advice. I look forward to these weekly posts from all you mentors!

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    • Liz Talley says:

      I think you’ve gotten some good advice – especially focusing on the positive. Being a writer means many days you are Debbie Downer and it’s hard to stay positive when you feel like you’re spinning your wheel waiting on something to happen. I KNOW. I do this even still.

      Everyone feels like an imposter and everyone knows what it means to feel like you’re not getting traction. I think the best advice I ever got was head down and write. You can’t control so much of your world but you can control what you do. Write your books and one day when success finds you, you’ll be ready to shine.

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      • Lydia Stevens says:

        Most definitely! I’ve been looking for a group for a while and I love how diverse everyone’s experiences are here and how unique each perspective is. It helps when I get in my own head and need a boost. The writing aspects also keep me on task trying something new every week. I thrive on the excitement here!

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  3. sue ellen turnbull says:

    The first manuscript I wrote as a pantser. I got to 80,000 words before realizing it had only moved about 25% into the story – a lot of wasted scenes. For obvious reasons, I now want to plot out the story, but I’m having a hard time figuring out where I want it to go. I know the basics but I’m having trouble with all the stuff in-between. Lol

    I’m so unsure of myself. I can see a great plot in other’s work but can’t seem to figure out what to do with my own.

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    • Sue Ellen, just so you know, I plot like crazy and I still do this. I will only be about 1/3 the way through my outline and at something like 75% of my word count. That’s when I panic. And yes somehow it still works out! It’s like magic! LOL.

      But, to try to be of help, I am a huge advocate for doing what works for you. Don’t mess with your process. But plotting, IMHO, does create a tighter, more focused book. I really like the way this writer explains her process. (See link) It’s not exactly what I do, but it’s a great way to plot and something I’d suggest trying. She breaks it down really well.

      Good luck!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fe3eodLF_Uo&t=1s

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      • sue ellen turnbull says:

        Thank you! The video is quite helpful. I had used Gwen Hayes’ Romancing the Beats to plot the romance portion (and I think it works great), but I was still having trouble with the in-between stuff. Even if I don’t use the structure completely as it was intended, I think this will give me a good starting point.

        Thanks again – and you’re books are magic. Whatever you’re doing, it’s certainly working for you.

        Sue Ellen

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    • Sue Ellen,
      I’m a total pantser. I had to cut out 20,000 words from my first book to get it published. Ugh! Being a pantser I’m always worried about pacing because I can go on tangents. So I found the screenwriting book, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder and fell in love with it. There is now a Save the Cat Writes a Novel too. I haven’t read that yet, but I’m sure it’s awesome. I created a beat sheet based on the first book and I try to follow it as I’m figuring out where I’m going through the book. You might want to take a look at it.

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      • sue ellen turnbull says:

        You know, I’ve almost purchased Save the Cat so many times but then I talk myself out of it because I already have so many books on the craft. Lol I guess I need to get one more. Oh . . . two counting the follow-up.

        Thanks for the input. You guys rock!

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    • Liz Talley says:

      I started plotting when I had to sell by synopsis. I didn’t always love it, but in order to sell a proposal, I had to know what the story was. So perhaps instead of outlining or plotting every turning point, you write the characters arc and then fill in what will take him where he/she needs to be. For example, if he’s a miserly scrooge who needs to learn the milk of human kindness, what will motivate him, what things must he encounter, what persons will move him. You will still have the freedom to “pants” a bit as you write, but you won’t wander off into an abyss and waste time and words on something that doesn’t progress your character toward the end goal of his transformation.

      Thanks for that video, D!

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      • sue ellen turnbull says:

        Thanks for the advice. I think I’m making this way harder on myself than it needs to be. You’re right, if I focus on the character arcs, it should make it easier to stay on track – or close to it.

        You’ve all given me great ideas! Now I just need to get to work.

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  4. Lydia Stevens says:

    I am curious about the question posed in the intro post Liz, specifically how long to keep an agent who isn’t selling your work?

    Best,
    Lydia

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    • Liz Talley says:

      Oddly enough, I just had this conversation with a friend who had an agent for over a year but nothing was happening.

      First, I would ask how you feel the relationship is going. Is your agent prompt to answer you, does he/she have absolute faith in you, are you feeling like he/she is doing the job you hired her to do? I think gut feelings count a lot in this relationship.

      Second, in regards to submissions is he keeping you informed of where and who he’s subbing? Do you have a plan for what will happen if you don’t sell that book? Is she “minding” your career and giving you help on a plan of action?

      And finally, is your agent messing with your story? Here’s where I have issues with agents. Sometimes they think they know what will sell (and some probably do) but they like to put their fingerprints on the story and that’s not really their job. Advising? yes. Rewriting your book? no. This was the issue my friend had (in addition to not hearing much or feeling much enthusiasm from her agent). She decided to part ways and re-examine her career and what SHE wantedfrom that career.

      It’s hard to know, and scary to cut ties with someone you long sought after. But if he/she is not doing the job, then how is that helping your career?

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      • Lydia Stevens says:

        This is interesting and something to keep in mind in the future. Thanks so much!

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      • Liz Talley says:

        Conversely, I have seen some writers in the partnership not do their job. So to be fair, it is a partnership and each must perform her role. I have a few friends who are so certain their book will sell that they don’t write anything else. THEY don’t have a plan and can’t move on to another book. So to be fair to agents, I wanted to mention that writers can’t expect magic. LOL. I mean, we can, but we also have to be realistic about the market. An agent writer relationship is definitely difficult to manage at times.

        Good luck with whatever you decide 🙂

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  5. Cynthia Huscroft says:

    I want to apologize for my short replies yesterday to all that chimed in with their stellar advice. I was short on time but it was no less appreciated.

    XO

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