Saturday, April 25, 2009

 

A Recent Re-Focus

This past week, I realized that my writing was all over the place; I was not using my time to the best of my ability; AND I was just not happy with my results. Am I ever going to finish this YA novel I've been working on for the past four years? Am I ever going to send out all those picture book manuscripts I have? Exactly what do I want to do with my writing career?

So, after a bit of introspection, I realized that I need to reassess my goals and to figure out a new game plan. I have a bit of writer burn-out, and this can be dangerous. Here are some questions I asked myself to discover where I want to go with my writing career. I thought I would share them with you in case you are feeling the same way.
  1. What is my ultimate writing goal? To be a book author? Freelance magazine writer? Support my family on my income? Enjoy a writing life?
  2. How much money do I need to make right now to help my family?
  3. Do I have enough regular writing jobs to make this amount of money?
  4. How can I best spend my writing time each day to reach the answer to question number one?

After answering these questions, I realized that

  1. My ultimate goal is to be a children's book author. I want to have several children's books published and do workshops at schools for children. This will incorporate my love of education with my love of writing.
  2. I won't disclose this amount, however, what I realized is that I can sub only part time instead of full time. This, of course, gives me more writing time. So, I need to write to make up the difference.
  3. Yes, I do. I am spending so much time on the freelance job boards and querying magazines that I am not focusing on my four regular gigs each month as well as a couple repeats that I have every couple months. This doesn't mean I won't check out the job boards once a week or read my Premium-Green issue from cover to cover, but I don't need to be on the freelance sites every day for every job.
  4. I need to stop querying so many national magazines and focus on my children's book work and my regular freelance work. I need to stay focused

I did all this soul-searching on a walk, which is really helpful (and good for you, too!). I've felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders ever since. Even if I had 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week to write, I could not have finished all the projects that I was trying to do before I became re-focused. And I don't want to spend that much time writing. I love writing, but I also love my family, reading, a few TV shows, walking, and scrapbooking.

Frankly, I've discovered there has to be balance and focus. I hope in a month or two if you ask me how it's going, I can still say how focused I am. We all concentrate on goals at the beginning of the year; but then after a few months, they often fall by the wayside, or we realize they were unrealistic. It's okay to take some time and reassess. It might be the best thing you ever did for your career!

Happy re-focusing!
Margo Dill

http://www.margodill.com/

http://margodill.com/blog/ (Read These Books and Use Them)

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

 

What Is a Great Critique Group All About?

I am a lucky writer. Not because I have had minor success in getting my work published, not because I have my own office to work in at our house, and not because my husband bought me my very own laptop and puts up with living with a writer. Yes, those three things are wonderful, but that's not why I feel like a lucky writer today. I am a lucky writer because I have a GREAT critique group.

Actually, since I have moved around a lot in the past seven years, I have been lucky to find a good critique group wherever I lived. But since I am currently living in East Central Illinois, working with this children's writers' critique group, and they are currently helping me with my young adult novel, I will focus on them. Plus if I blog about these generous writers, perhaps they'll even "love" my story instead of liking it. (Just a little cyber space brown nosing there.)

I want to share with you why my critique group rocks for two reasons. If you aren't in one, then maybe this will encourage you to find one or start your own. My second reason is there are a lot of critique groups out there, and they aren't so great. Maybe you feel this in the back of your mind, just like when you know there is something wrong with your main character, but you just can't figure it out.

The first thing I love about my group, which consists of seven writers, is we all write consistently, and we all care about writing. We meet every three weeks at a local Borders store, and each time, we have at least four stories or chapters to critique. Some groups have a dominant member, who brings hundreds of pages of their writing and monopolizes the entire meeting with their work. We don't have that, and we are very thankful!

We have a good mix--being children's writers, we are also lucky enough to have a male in our group. We have all ages, all life experiences, all different professions--as I said we are a good mix. We write picture books, short stories, articles, novels, poetry--you name it, we've wrote it, read it, and critiqued it.

We don't have a lot of silly rules. We established a few guidelines since our writing is so precious and close to each of our hearts. One is to make sure and say what you LIKE or even LOVE (which is much better than like) about the story before you rip it to shreds. Also, we try to ask questions about the writing or state things that we feel need to be changed in a delicate way such as, "If I was writing this story, I might have had Thelma and Louise drive off into the sunset instead of over the cliff, and here's why." In a non-constructive critique group, you might hear, "What were you thinking when they drove off the cliff? That was HORRIBLE. I would have never done that." And just for you non-believers out there, I am not exaggerating my previous comment. There really are writers who talk to each other like that. REALLY!

The best part about my critique group is we care about each other getting published. We want to make each piece of work the best it can be, and we even offer market suggestions to each other. We listen to the other person's desires. We bring in articles about writing. We go to writing conferences together or bring in information about a great conference we discovered.

Are you tired of me gushing yet? I just want every writer to have such a wonderful experience, and so I am trying to describe everything I can think of that we do.

So, although Thanksgiving is over, and everyone is probably tired of listening to each other go on about what we are thankful for, I have to say that one thing I am very thankful for and very lucky to have is. . .my critique group. If you have any questions about how we run things or how we got started, please contact me! (margo@wow-womenonwriting.com)

Margo Dill
www.margodill.com

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