Tag: writing life

writing life

Survival Tips

The other day I was talking to a writer friend I’d lost touch with for about 20 years. We each shared stories of inspiring successes and heart-breaking failures and it occurred to me that there are a lot of highs and lows in this business. So I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors: How do you deal with the ups and downs? What are your survival tips?  This is what they said: Tracee: how to survive the ups and downs? I’ll take the ‘downs’ first and say it’s necessary to remember that this is a job, and like any job there are ups and downs. Some failures are private…. a flat scene, newly discovered plot holes. That these private ‘failures’ are in our heads doesn’t help and I think it’s necessary to have someone, or a group, to turn to and share the trials and tribulations and get a sympathetic pat on the back. Finding the right support person or group is important. Certainly someone who understands that while the failures are on paper, they are also real. Big failures, certainly those that are public, let’s say a particularly bad review, well, this is no different than losing a client at work, or […]

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How to deal with criticism (as a writer)

 This month’s issue of The Writer magazine contains my article on How to Deal With Criticism. I happened to be under a tight deadline for that article, and it was due right in the middle of ThrillerFest, but it didn’t matter because never has anything I’ve written come so easily. Do you ever just sit down and find words flowing out of you? Me neither, but I did in this case. Partly it’s because I criticize for a living. As a teacher at Gotham Writers, my job is to read through my students’ writing and give them helpful ways to improve it. Although I try to be positive, there comes a point when you have to note that the story would be better if it had a plot. For example. Then, as a writer, I receive criticism for a living. I write something and send it to my fabulous agent. She has a few suggestions. She sends it out to publishers. They have a few suggestions. Then there are the kind folk on amazon. If you can’t figure out how to deal with these suggestions, you’ll have a very short career as a writer. So I had A LOT to say in this article. Plus which, […]

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Trusting Your Gut

As a journalist and now author, I’ve had more than a dozen editors. The best ones finessed my writing and ideas, getting the best story possible out of me and my research. The worst ones used me as a living tool to tell the story they wanted in their voices. The former resulted in some of my best work. The latter in some of my worst. I strongly subscribe to the every writer needs an editor doctrine. But I also believe that every writer needs an editor that respects him or her enough to bring out the best in the individual author. Writers need the freedom to tell their stories the way that resonates with them. The editor can help focus an author’s ideas and tell him or her where they are losing the reader, where the characters are falling flat, where the scene isn’t translating, etc. But the editor shouldn’t use the writer to tell the story in his or her head. It won’t work. It will read as strained as the process of creating the story will invariably become.     

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Saying no

I am one of those people who says yes to everything, until one person too many asks and then I lose my temper and explode. Or whimper, anyway. Over the last few years I’ve become the slightest bit more assertive, but at the current trajectory, I should reach emotional maturity by time I turn 100. So I asked my Miss Demeanors if they had difficulty saying no. Robin: No (see what I did there?). Seriously, “no” is not a problem for me. My first instinct is usually to overextend myself when I get enthusiastic but I’ve learned to pick and choose quality over quantity. It’s better and healthier for me to put my passion and energy into fewer endeavors and knock them out of the park rather than risk half-assing something that will come back to haunt me. I’m perfectly comfortable “being the bad guy” for a moment rather than regretting a squandered opportunity for a lifetime. And, honestly, it’s rare that “no” makes me “the bad guy.” “No” doesn’t always mean “never.” It often means “not right now.” Tracee: I don’t have a problem using that particular two letter word. Part of this comes from years running large organizations highly dependent on volunteer […]

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I am in a waiting phase of my career. I’ve spent five years researching and writing a book, which I have turned over to my fabulous agent. She has said very flattering things about it, and now it is all in her hands. All I can really do is wait and hope and pray and drink. And talk to my dogs. Not necessarily in that order.  Of course I am incapable of sitting around doing nothing, so for me, the waiting period is actually a very productive time. For one thing, I’m reading a lot. I’m gorging myself on all sorts of random books. I just started reading (and finished reading) Mary Higgins Clark’s Where are the Children? That’s a master class in suspense right there. I also just read Allison Pataki’s book about Benedict Arnold. The reading takes me outside of my anxieties and reminds of why I love to do this in the first place. I’m also jotting down ideas. Not big things, because there’s no point in writing a whole new thing until I know where I am with this thing. But mind is percolating with strange thoughts, and some of them I’m turning into short stories. I love writing […]

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December brings many exciting things for me (and others), and one of them is the New York Pitch Conference, where I’ve worked for almost ten years. This is a 4 day extravaganza/endurance contest in which authors pitch their novels and memoirs to editors, receive feedback, and occasionally contracts. One of our success stories landed on the NY Times Best Seller list. My own first novel, The Fiction Class, was sold at the pitch conference (which was how I came to get a job there), and my second and third novels were sold by my fabulous agent, Paula Munier, who I met at the pitch conference. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s a truly magical place.    My job is to meet with a group of 14-18 writers, help them write their pitches, and then sit with them as they talk to the editors. This has taught me a number of things. One is, when speaking to an editor, you should never put your head on a table and cry. You should also not grab on to her hand and refuse to let go. But mainly it’s taught me that a good pitch can help you shape and sell your book. A lot’s […]

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Writing, Blogging, Editing and Reading–All At Once

The first book was difficult because I didn’t have a publisher. I spent hours each day writing it without knowing whether anyone besides my mother and husband would ever read my work. Without a deadline, I had to apply pressure on myself to get it finished, making up deadlines as I went along and justifying to myself why I had to stay up late or wake up early in order to make them. After it was done, I had to hold my breath and pray that my agent would be able to sell it. The anxiety was horrible. The second book was difficult because I did have a publisher. I had to write it while also tearing up chapters in my first book that my editor found boring or distracting. I had to rejigger secondary plot lines and beef up character arcs in between penning chapters for the second book. Essentially, I wrote two books at the same time. When book one was with my editor, I went back to book number two. When my editor gave book one back to me, I put down book number two to rework another chapter or review another copy edit.  While doing this, I also had to read the books in my genre and […]

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Getting In Touch With My Villains

 The other day, I lost it on my daughter. She had taken out a school library book for the third time and, for the third time, she’d completely and utterly forgotten where she could have possibly put it. The first time my six-year-old lost a library book, I was a good mom. I explained to her the importance of taking responsibility for her things, particularly things on loan. I reminded her of the designated spot in her room where the library books lived when she wasn’t reading them (this spot is not on her bookcase mixed in with the hundred books or so that she and her sister own). I found the book, buried in a toy box, and told her that I would pay the fine but that she had to help me Swiffer the kitchen floor to earn back some of the $5 fee. The second time, I was calm—albeit a little less so. Again, I pointed out the spot where she should keep the book when she was done reading it. This time, rather than dole out a chore, I took away a toy that was the amount of the fee and, since I couldn’t find the book, bought […]

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