Trust the Process

Trust the process” is a slogan used by fans of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, though it has since become popular elsewhere in sports and culture. Coined during a rough patch for the team, it basically means “things may look bad now, but we have a plan in place to make it better.” – The Urban Dictionary

So yeah, the Sixers looked bad last night, but this isn’t about basketball.

Writers have rough patches, too. Maybe your work in progress is stalled. A project that started out with great potential fizzled the further you got into it. Perhaps you wrote your plot into a an unfixable mess and have to trash the whole thing and start over. You know what? This is the process. Working through all of the ups and downs, the mistakes and the disasters only makes you a better writer on the other side of it. That is of course, if you stick with it and trust the process.

The other day, a friend of mine who has been reading through all the Bucks County Novels sent me an email. In it he praised the first three books, loved them, in fact. But when he got to the fourth book: Tainted Inheritance, he noticed a change. Sloppy editing, spelling and grammar errors, a plot that dragged. He actually said he was thinking: “C’mon, wrap this up, Meg.” And you know what? He’s absolutely right.

Tainted Inheritance is my NaNoWriMo book. It’s the primary reason I will never, ever write like that again. I was so tired by the end of that marathon of writing that I avoided revision and neglected to have it professionally edited. And the result is a substandard novel. Now to be clear, I do think the overall story is good, great even. I just need to clean it up and pass it along to my man Kevin for editing. But the fact is, I do not have hurt feelings or wounded pride at the critique of my friend and fellow writer. Why?

There are differences between having a reader not like your book because it just isn’t their taste and having them not like it because it was badly written. I am not going to rewrite my story to satisfy someone else’s taste. However, if a reader genuinely points out an inconsistency, a flaw with the concept or some other sort of error, I am more than willing to accept the criticism and revise accordingly or apply the advice to the next project. I try my best to learn from the experience. And ignore the people who are just negative because they are mean.

This is one of those cases where the reader gets it. Valuable criticism and feedback are gold for a writer. It only makes us better if we listen and apply. Trust the process. It always works.

Bogged Down In the Telling

Sometimes I forget to listen to the most basic advice. One of the best ‘rules’ of writing is to show and not tell. ‘Telling’ or over-explaining in fiction can really make the story drag. Twice now, I’ve lost momentum in my two works in progress and haven’t realized why. After enthusiastic beginnings and two great plots to develop, the stories became burdensome and I lost interest and joy. How does that happen?

Fortunately, in talking it over with another writer, it was brought to my attention that with my science fiction piece, I had been trying to ‘tell’ everything –that is to provide an explanation for every little circumstance that arose in the story. Granted, it is my pet peeve when I don’t understand ‘why’ something is the way it is, so I tend to lay out settings and background information logically. But a little of that can go a long way. Additionally, information can be woven throughout the story incrementally so as not to overwhelm [read: bore] the reader in the beginning. Besides, I’m already asking the reader to suspend disbelief in writing science fiction, so it only follows that certain aspects just can’t be perfectly explained –they just ‘are’ they way I’ve written them. And trying to explain everything just makes the writing tedious. I know all this, but I just didn’t apply it. Showing and not telling is more enjoyable for the reader AND the writer.

Happy writing and productive editing!

Header image via Pinterest.

Self deprecating humor, solid advice

I decided to revisit a post I wrote back in 2016 and update it a little bit. When I started blogging, I used a self deprecating title and tagline to catch the reader’s eye —advice from WordPress’ Blogging 101 course. It was fun for a while, but in time I chose to make the blog more professional and eliminate the silliness. The blog was called: Meg Sorick Writes Better Than She Dresses and the tagline read: “She tried to look picturesque but only succeeded in being untidy.” To explain, here is the post I wrote in 2016:

Have you wondered what the deal is with the tagline for my blog: “She tried to look picturesque but only succeeded in being untidy?” It’s a quote from Oscar Wilde’s “A Picture of Dorian Grey” and refers to Victoria, Lord Henry Wotton’s wife. In the scene from which the quote was taken, Dorian is lounging around at Lord Henry’s house waiting for him when Victoria comes in. This is how the narrator describes her:

“She was a curious woman whose dresses always looked as if they had been designed in a rage and put on in a tempest. She was usually in love with somebody, and, as her passion was never returned, she had kept all her illusions. She tried to look picturesque, but only succeeded in being untidy.” There’s more of it, but that’s the bit I like.

I imagine you all read the blog title and the tagline and think to yourself, “that Meg must be a mess.” Well, not true, mostly. For one thing, I rarely wear dresses. Skirts, yes. I can match them with a black t-shirt. My friends and family do roll their eyes at me though, because I tend to wear the same or similar things all the time. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to look nice, I do. Those fitted black t-shirts from H&M are very flattering. And no I’m not too old to be shopping at H&M. Not for t-shirts, anyway. Besides, I am also cheap.

I guess I don’t easily tire of wearing the same things. I’ve always said I’d do well in an environment where someone told me what to wear. Like the army or prison, maybe. Frankly, it sure makes getting dressed in the morning easier and faster. I will not be the reason you are late getting out the door. Nevertheless, I assure you I am not untidy. I just really find those lines from ‘Dorian Grey’ amusing.

When you think of a writer, what image pops into your head? The disheveled man or woman, still in their bathrobe, sitting at the computer with coffee stains all over their notebooks and crumpled bits of paper strewn across the desk and overflowing the wastebasket? If you write full time, work from home and don’t actually have to see people face to face, would it be easy to slip into that habit? I think it could be. My office is in my home but seeing patients prevents me from sliding down that slippery slope of not bothering.

Imagine what that would do to one’s self esteem after a while. Not getting dressed, not fixing your hair or putting on makeup. Who cares? No one’s going to see me… That’s just one step away from: “I’m not worth it.” I wrote a post in December about treating your writing like a job. Making time for it, being disciplined so that it doesn’t get shoved onto the pile of unfulfilled dreams. Let this advice be another aspect of that discipline: Take care of yourself. Get up and stretch, get some exercise. Come home and shower and make yourself presentable. Wear perfume, just for yourself. Put on makeup so that when you walk by the mirror you won’t be terrified (ok, that’s just me, you probably look fine without makeup). Guys – shave (or at least groom, if your a beard guy), ditch the sweatpants and put on clean jeans and a nice shirt.

Don’t let your writing space turn into a dump, either. Granted, when you’re in the middle of a project, a certain amount of clutter is inevitable but don’t let it get out of hand. Wipe up the coffee stains, empty the wastebasket and whisk the crumbs off the keyboard. Wait till you see how much better that feels. You wouldn’t get away with that if it was your desk in an office building, right? Pretend that it is.

Will these habits help me find inspiration? Cure writer’s block? Help me edit more clearly? I say yes. Don’t believe me? Give it a try.