Penmonkey Evaluations

I like Chuck Wendig’s idea of doing an annual evaluation of myself as a writer to see how I’m doing (see his blog post survey for more info)…  So, I’m going to take a stab at answering the survey questions, below:

What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

I mostly write sci-fi / fantasy stories and, based on feedback from workshops and my critique group, I think my greatest writing strengths are: creating unique and interesting worlds, creating characters people care about, and slowly revealing what’s going on (the opposite of a massive backstory and world encyclopedia dump at the start of a book).

What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?

Finishing things. I am terrible about finishing things. But since that maybe doesn’t count as a storytelling thing, I’ll give you another one…

Sometimes I forget that the reader can’t see what I see inside my brain. It’s hard for me to remember that what the reader knows and what I know are two different things. So I get feedback and then I have to go back and add details and descriptions without damaging the pacing.

How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?

I’ve finished one (short) novel draft. But I’ve not actually finished anything to the point where I feel it’s “polished” and ready for submission. My goal is to have at least one finished and polished novel ready for submission by October. Why October? Some agents I want to query close their inboxes in November / December. Also, I want to start something new in November during NaNoWriMo.

Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)

It takes the time it takes.” Most of that post is him telling his story of how he got where he is today. However, the last bit, where he talks about how a writing career isn’t a short game but a long-con really helped me. On the one hand, I know it’s going to take a lot of work to get where I want to go. But, on the other hand, I’m constantly getting frustrated when I feel like I haven’t made enough progress. I try to remember this advice when I start freaking out about how I didn’t meet the milestone I wanted to meet (like not having my novel done for Pitch Madness) because life got in the way (as it does). As long as I’m making progress, as long as I’m moving forward, I’ll get there eventually because it takes the time it takes.

Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)

“You’ll never make any money as a writer. You need to be practical.” Yeah. I get it. Starving artist and all that. Get a real job, etc. But don’t ever give this advice to someone who loves to write stories (or sing, or act, or dance, or make any kind of art…). Just don’t. Instead, give them the tools they’ll need to support themselves and the encouragement they’ll need to pursue their dreams. Specifically: time management, organization, business and finance (or sales and marketing). Encourage them to keep writing (or making art) AND have a back-up plan, something that will put food on the table and a roof over their head.

One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

Get on Twitter! Connect with other writers, with agents, with editors. Listen and learn. You don’t have to actually tweet. You can tweet when and if you’re ready. But don’t miss out on learning how to use this resource. It’s a gold mine of information about the publishing industry and will help you feel less alone when you’re sitting at home, alone, writing. Just remember to shut it off and write, too.