My Writer’s Dear Diary

My husband gave me a beautiful journal for my birthday. I stared at its gilded cover and turned its pristine pages. “What could I possibly write that would be worthy of this elegant vessel?”

Then I knew. I would mark it up with messy, inky missives with scribbled-out words and splotches. I would paste pictures and memes only I might care about. I want its pages dog-eared. I want it to look used up.

It would be my sounding board, my ear to whisper in, my writer’s BFF.

My Dear Diary.

But I wouldn’t bother writing Dear Diary. It knows what it is.

What it is, is cathartic, therapeutic, motivating and inspiring—to me. It’s about my unique writing journey, filled with my cries and commentary, my personal tips and pep talks, customized for me.

Why every writer should have a writer’s Dear Diary:

  • Write with abandon. In my writer’s journal, sometimes my writing is careful and thoughtful, but mostly, it is not. And that is good practice. Too often, I find myself too cautious when I get a story idea and it takes forever—and sometimes never—to complete a first draft.
  • Be authentic in your writing. Writing for your eyes only allows you to develop that authenticity.
  • Conquer doubt, frustration and fears. Seeing them in writing helps you face them and deal with them. Let it out, and then give yourself a pep talk.
  • Celebrate your triumphs—and don’t be humble! For goodness’ sake, you deserve it! Brag about yourself in writing.
  • Discover your writing process. I write about where and when my ideas seem to pop up and develop. I have gone for more walks and cleaned the bathroom more often because, yes, these are when some of my best ideas come to me.
  • Be bad. Let yourself be snarky, envious, whiny. Frustrated by a string of no responses from agents? Envious because a writing friend sold her story? Let it all out. You’ll feel better. If you read it over the next day and feel guilty, you can always tear it out. But better yet, keep it. Those negative emotions are:
    •  Useful. Use that emotion in your writing. Maybe your anger produced some good lines a future character can use in a story.
    • Motivating. Someone once said: Envy is that feeling that is pointing us toward our destiny. You know what you want. Now figure out how to achieve it.
    • Revealing. Being real allows you to look in the mirror. Analyze yourself. Ask some honest questions. Why do you feel that way? What are you going to do about it?

There’s something so inviting about a blank sheet of paper. It’s just begging you to make your mark.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Writing in my writer’s journal is not one more thing on my writer’s to-do list. It isn’t a task, an obligation, or a discipline. It’s like that text you send to a good friend when you want to share some news or vent or just to talk. And who doesn’t need a friend like that?

Drive-Thru Edit: decades in numerals

You could write: I grew up in the 1970s.

You could also write: I grew up in the ’70s.

Unfortunately, too often, you see decades written with misplaced apostrophes.

This is NOT correct: the 80’s

Even worse: the ’80’s

You might see it incorrectly spelled on signs, billboards, in blogs, and even the news ticker on cable news. They made an oops.

Write on.

Drive-Thru Edit: When h isn’t an h

Words that start with h sometimes need an and sometimes need a

Both these words start with the letter h:

  • History
  • Honor

When you say history, you hear the h. So, you would write:

  • I am writing a history about the lumberjacks in my state.

The letter h is silent in the word honor. And that is why you write:

  • It is an honor to be here.

Typically, an is written before words that begin with a vowel or begin with a vowel sound.

But be careful of words that begin with u or o, such as: unicorn and one. Both words begin with a vowel, but the u sounds like you, and one sounds like it begins with w. So, you would write:

  • A unicorn
  • A one-time thing

Unlike:

  • An uninformed man
  • An on-and-off relationship

Write on.

A writing pep talk

… and Send.

Congratulations on sending your manuscript or your query to that agent or that editor. That was brave. Feel good about yourself and don’t let your mind go … you know, to the question. The question that will send you spiraling down that grimy, gunky drain of doubt: What are the odds? What are the odds I’ll get an agent, a contract, … even a personalized rejection?

I was perusing social media one day for inspiration and motivation and encouragement. So, imagine my alarm when someone in a writers’ Facebook group answered that question: “The odds are—”

Well, I’m not going to tell you what she wrote, but it was pretty awful.

The journalist in me wanted to demand verification and proof of such a claim. What are your sources? Who conducted the study? How many writers were surveyed? But I didn’t, because what if she did the math? What if she had the proof?

Nope. The me that lives in Unicorn and Mermaid Land scrolled past it. A couple hours later, I hit send on my latest submission to an agent.

Am I a math-denier? A hopeless, cockeyed optimist? Maybe, because what chance do I have at success if I let statistics and odds rule my decisions in the writing world?

I’m guessing the answer is … I’m not going to say, but it’s pretty awful.

The truth is, I’m not a math-denier. Maybe I’m a little cockeyed. I want to believe in serendipity, karma and mermaids. But actually, I put my faith in positive math:

Preparation + Opportunity = Success.

I see it over and over and over again. It happens every day. Work Hard. Believe. Persist. Have Patience.

And if one path gets you nowhere, find another.

Drive-Thru Edit: comma confusion

Proper use of commas will make your writing clear:

Example: Joe watched Estelle as she crossed the street and smiled.

In this sentence, Estelle is the one who smiled.

Example: Joe watched Estelle as she crossed the street, and smiled.

In this sentence, Joe is the one who smiled.

Example: I saw my father, the king, and George Clooney in the same afternoon.

In this sentence, the reader might think my father is the king. He is not, so:

I saw my father and the king and George Clooney in the same afternoon.

Write on.

Drive-Thru Edit: when to Italicize

When to Italicize:

Sound words: “Listen!” Thump. “Did you hear that?”

Foreign words: “Yes, I’ll have some wine. Ein bisschen,” said Grandma. But Grandpa always filled the glass.

Words as words: When you write the word embarrassed, remember the two r’s and two s’s

Thoughts: That guy is really creepy, she thought.

For emphasis: I didn’t say you should go. I said he should go.

Write on.

Writing life: patience is a virtue

Have you ever been stuck in the slowest checkout line in the grocery store? You’re slouched over your cart wondering if you’ll get home before your ice cream melts and the frozen shrimp goes bad. To make matters worse, the guy with the full cart behind you somehow made it through the next line over and is headed for the parking lot!

It might feel like you’re in the slowest checkout line in the writing world, too. Success seems to leap frog over you to shower its blessings on just about everyone else.

It might seem that way, but it’s not true. You’re on your own path, and you can’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. You can, however, do some self-analysis and ask yourself if you’re doing everything you can to move yourself forward.

These are some questions I’ve had to ask myself:

  • Am I writing enough?
  • Am I reading enough in my genre?
  • Am I writing in a bubble? Am I taking constructive critiques seriously?
  • Am I seeking out ways (webinars, articles, workshops, critiques) to help improve my writing?
  • Am I quitting on goals before I barely get started?
  • Am I rushing to submit before my manuscript is ready?
  • Are there other writing opportunities I can explore along with my goal of getting a book published?

Writing is a journey. You do have to set specific goals and map out steps to help you get to your destination. But don’t forget:

  • Sometimes stuff happens that is out of your control. But the things you can control? Focus on those.
  • Be realistic. No, the third time is not always – and possibly never –the charm when it comes to submitting your manuscript. Toughen up for a long haul. There are a lot of stories out there about authors who collected dozens and dozens of rejections before hitting bingo.
  • It’s not a race. It may seem like some writers have had a much shorter wait time to publication than you. It’s just not your time. Focus on getting your story right, not fast.
  • Be supportive and happy for fellow writers who grab a hold of the publishing brass ring. Let them inspire and motivate you. Say to yourself, “See? It is possible.”

5 ways to reinforce your writing goals

A new month, a new year, a future full of possibilities. Charge full steam ahead with those writing goals, and stay charged with some positive reinforcement.

  1. Connect with other writers.

Surrounding yourself (virtually or otherwise) with like-minded people is a great way to stay focused, motivated and inspired. Google writing groups in your area. Your tribe is waiting! These groups can lead you to critique groups, writing challenges, webinars and classes.

Critique groups and writing challenges not only provide support and encouragement, they motivate you to write with deadlines.

2. Be a follower on social media.

Join Facebook groups of writers or follow writers, agents, editors and publishers on Twitter. I’m not a fan of Twitter because of the political vitriol. I write children’s stories, so angry posts don’t typically inspire thoughts of unicorns and rainbows. However, I’ve gotten pretty good at scrolling past it all.  I also had to unfollow a “writer” who felt compelled to post numerous pictures of popping pimples. I mean, really?

Still, I often find encouragement and motivation on Twitter. It’s also a good way to stay current on the publishing world and discover submission opportunities.

Warning: Don’t let social media be a time suck. Limit your perusing so it doesn’t take away from actual writing time.

3. Read articles and books on craft, but also for inspiration.

Pat yourself on the back every time you do something to improve your craft. Never stop learning. But also, look for uplifting articles. There are plenty of success stories and how-tos and stick-to-it articles to keep you going. Find inspiration in blogs by authors.

4. Write what you want.

What if the market says dinosaur romance is hot, hot, hot? Do you really want to write that? Even if you could force yourself to write about amorous dinosaurs, by the time it’s ready, the market will have changed—hopefully.

Stick to what makes you passionate about writing. That is what makes your writing authentic.

5. Study books in the genre you are writing.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When I first heard this advice, it was given as a how-to-write tip. Of course! Learn from the authors who write the books you love. But also, take heart from the authors who write books that, well, you don’t love.

Think about all those books that made you go meh. They got published, didn’t they? Why? Because writing, like any art, is subjective. So, when I read a book that makes me go meh, I silently cheer. Your book doesn’t have to appeal to everyone—just enough someones.

The more immersed I am in the writing world, the more motivated I feel, and the more productive I am.