I don’t just watch tv, tips for writing reviews part two

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Last week we talked about my job as a horror critic for Haunted MTL. And it turned out that I had more to say about the topic than one post alone could hold. So I’m back today with more advice for any aspiring critics. 

Whereas last week we talked about the writing of reviews themselves, today I want to talk about building a career as a critic. Because there are things to consider that I never thought of before I started writing reviews. Some are pretty common sense. Some, I wish I’d understood sooner. 

What are you going to write about?

When writing reviews, what you write about is as important as how you write about it. I can write the best review you ever read in your life, complete with witty quips, background information, and a detailed explanation of the content. And it doesn’t matter at all if it’s for a story nobody gave a damn about in the first place.

I find it’s worked well for me to specialize, but not strictly. I review just about all of the works of Ryan Murphy, for example. This allows me to compare and contrast his work, with a greater understanding of his career as a whole. Sometimes that means I’m hit with a massive load of work at once, like late in 2022 when The Watcher, American Horror Story, Dahmer, and Mr. Harrington’s phone all came out at once. Sometimes I have nothing Murphy-related to review, though. So I have a few sub-specialties. I review horror podcasts and true crime content.

However, this doesn’t stop me from reviewing other work. It’s based on what is trending, what is coming out soon, and what I think people might be interested in. 

(By the way, if you are a horror writer and you have a book you’d like me to review, hit me up. I am currently accepting arcs.)

Keeping a professional relationship with creators

In the last post, I talked about reviewing bad works. I mean, really bad. And yes, it is my job as a critic to talk about bad work. It’s my job to explain why it’s bad. It is not my job, nor is it a good idea, to tell the creator that their work was bad.

Occasionally, I am sent arcs and screeners for upcoming works. These are always met with a heartfelt thank you. I do not care if the work is bad. I am happy they thought enough of my reviews to send their work to me. And, as a creator myself, I always want to treat them as I’d want to be treated. 

If I don’t have the time, I’ll respectfully decline and suggest another critic from the site. If I do accept their work to review, I always make sure to send a follow-up email after the review is posted, thanking them again and providing them a link. 

I never give a creator unsolicited notes on their work. I certainly would never tell them that their work was bad. That is rude, unprofessional, and frankly uncalled for.

You’ll notice that I’m also not badmouthing any of the work here. That’s just in poor taste. I did my review, I don’t need to drag a piece all over the internet. 

The point is that I’m a professional. It’s important to keep a professional relationship with creators. 

Creating trust with your readers

More important than my relationship with creators is my relationship with my readers. People who read reviews are doing so for one reason. They want to know if a book, movie, tv show, or podcast is any good. Is it worth their time? Should they read or watch or listen to this one over another one? And I always want to give the most honest answer I can for that.

This is why I am upfront when I get an arc or screener. This doesn’t impact whether or not I like something, of course. And I’ll never lie and say I like a show that I don’t. 

I want people to know that I’m going to be honest with them. Even if I love a creator, I’m going to say if their work is trash. There have been some shining examples of bad work from good creators. There has been some work that I wanted to like, that I just didn’t. I am always honest about that. Integrity is essential for a critic. If you lose that, you lose your career.

I also don’t get into arguments online with people about content. Art is subjective as hell. Just because I liked something, even though I have very good reasons to like it, doesn’t mean everyone is going to. Just because I thought something was hot garbage, and I sure have very good reasons for that too, doesn’t mean someone’s wrong for liking it. Again, I am a professional. I need to act like one. Besides, arguing about art online is like getting into a shit-ball fight. No one has fun, no one wins, and everyone stinks. 

If you have any questions about critic work, please feel free to ask them below. I’ll be happy to answer them as best as I can. 

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Talking to People About My Writing

So, first of all, I have to tell you that I have the worst luck when it comes to computers. I swear, I can’t get through a draft without something bad happening to mine.

This time, it was my adorable, lovable puppy. He chewed through my power cord, thankfully when it wasn’t plugged in. I was able to fix it with some electrical tape, but that was only a temporary thing. If you’re reading this I’m back up and running now, because I can’t actually post anything without my computer. But as I write this, (in an email document) I’m desperately praying that my power cord comes soon, so that this posts on time. The moral here is, if you think you’ve fixed a power cord with electric tape, assume that it won’t stay fixed for long and order a new one right away. Also, maybe don’t have a puppy. (Kidding!)

Anyway, what I really wanted to talk to you about today was something totally different.

I want to talk about talking about my writing to other people, because it’s something that I struggled with, and still struggle with. Maybe it’s something that you struggle with too. Maybe we can learn from each other.

See, I have a hard time talking to people. I struggle with social anxiety, and it’s hard for me to talk out loud to people. I’m afraid I’ll be perceived as stupid, or lazy. This causes me all sort of anxiety when I send out query letters, approach book reviewers, post my stories here on PBW, and pretty much anything else that involves reaching out with my work.

Obviously, I have to get over this. Whether I end up going the traditional publishing route or the independent, I have to talk to people about my writing. But it can’t just be gotten over. Anxiety, much like the depression I fight with as well, is not something that you just ‘get over’. In fact, if you tell someone with a mental illness, even a mild one like mine, to get over it, there’s a good chance you’re an asshole.

Now, this might actually all sound like bullshit. I mean, it has to be. I publish two posts a week, am active on social media, and share at least two of my stories every month. I’ve published two books, sent my short stories off to editors hundreds of times, entered countless contests and have sent my my novels out to agents.

The truth is that I’ve come a long way with my anxiety. I’ve worked very hard, and still do just about every day. I’ve learned, over time, to find ways to combat my anxiety, and get my work out in spite of it.

One big thing I had on my side was that I’m not afraid of failing, just looking like an idiot. So a kindly worded rejection letter has never been a big deal to me. I wasn’t bad, other people were just better. I’ve also, every time I’ve ever sent a query out, just assumed that I was going to get a rejection letter, so that’s not an issue.

My biggest concern is that I’m going to be personally judged. Even my fiction also touches on my history. I worry that I share too much about my family, my personal failings, my life. Which is why, in a large way, I started this blog. It’s why I’ve always been very loud about when you could expect to hear from me. I’m scared of posting, but I’m way more scared of not meeting an expectation that I’ve told others to have of me.

Following other blogs that also dive into personal issues has also helped me a lot. I feel better about sharing my history when I see other bloggers do it. One has talked in depth about her divorce. Another has similar issues as me, coming from an abusive childhood. Reading their stories helped me. I realized that A. I wasn’t the only one who felt like this and B. sharing is good for both the reader and the writer. I thank God for the men and women who were brutally honest online, because it encourages me to do the same.

Some of it is just shutting down the critic in my head. Telling that part of my brain to shut the hell up. It can be hard, but if I repeat it often enough I get pretty far.

And this is why, my dear readers, I am constantly saying over and over, “I am a writer.” Because if I say it often enough, I can make myself believe it. So, when I’m stressing out over a query, I whisper it. When I don’t really want to press publish on a post, I say it out loud. And when I nearly cried over putting my books on Gumroad, I almost screamed about it. I am a writer, and this is what writers do.

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Why I’m Not A Journalist

I swear, this month has gone by so damn fast! I’m still convinced it’s actually March and someone’s punking me. I didn’t think I was old enough yet for the distortion of time to really set in, but I guess I am. Wish it would distort a little more while I’m on the clock.

Anyway, since I’ve spent the while month  talking about journalism, and how much I love it, you might be wondering why I’m not a journalist. I know it’s something I asked myself a lot when I first graduated.

In fact, I had a recruiter from SRU in my journalism class, who went into detail about how I, an already pregnant 17 year old, could succeed as a journalism student. There were grants, she told me, and child care options. I could do it!

I could have done it, and one thing I want to make clear to everyone is that my daughter wasn’t what held me back. Or, at least, not in a ‘I can’t do this thing I want to do’ way. My decision to not become a journalist came from a very personal place, and a lot of things factored into it. Some of those reasons, my ex wouldn’t have moved with me, my mother thought I shouldn’t, I was scared out of my mind, are stupid and should never have held me back. It took me a long time, a very long time, to realize the difference between a legitimate reason to not go after a career and a damned lame excuse. Those were damned lame excuses. After over a decade, I know I made the right choice, though, because of these actual reasons.

My kids come first

And that’s a choice I made. I could have been the kind of parent who brings work home with her, works long hours and has a well chosen caregiver who looks after her kid. Heaven knows that’s what most people think I do anyway, given the stigma of working moms. But I wanted, above all, to be able to leave my work at work. I wanted to have time with my kids, and be as much a part of their lives as I could, even though I didn’t want to be a homemaker. Professional journalists have a really hard time doing that. They work a ton of hours, and often have to do crappy things like work overtime, bring work home and travel. Quite frankly, I didn’t want that to be my life, or my little Monster’s lives. Please also understand that I do not blame anyone who makes a different decision than me. I know that there are lots of parents that are passionate about their careers and they spend a lot of time on them. They are not bad parents, they’re just different kinds of parents. God bless your path, whatever it is my friend.

Full disclosure! I do write at home, and yes it does take up mommy time. But if I have to drop it, I can. If family time is going to interfere, I can put my creative writing aside and pick it up again tomorrow. Could I do that for my journalistic writing as well? Yeah, sure I could. Blow off work for an evening and get up early to get it done. But, quite frankly, I would have had to abandon my creative writing, at least for a time. More on that later.

I have a serious political bias

If you’ll recall, last week I complained for a whole post about what’s wrong with mainstream media. One of my big problems was a bias that journalists can’t seem to avoid. But a journalist is supposed to try to avoid it.

I can’t avoid my political bias. Further, I don’t want to. I want to be very clear where I stand on any issue, and I cannot find it in myself to silence that. Creative writing allows me to be honest about my opinions without damaging my principles.

At some point, I knew that Journalism would become a ‘day job’ for me

I’ve worked on Woven for over two years. Yes, writing is my job. But it’s also my passion, my art, what I do to create something new for the world. It makes me feel accomplished. Journalism would have, at some point, become much like my current day job. I like it, but I’d rather be writing.

And this is what it really comes down to

I like being a story teller. I like writing about dragons and witches and magic. I like telling ‘what if’ stories. I like making worlds up and living there! At the end of it all, if I’m going to spend years waking up early and going to bed late, working in the seconds I’ve got between mommy stuff and my day job, then I need to have a constant, never ending driving passion. I have that passion for speculative fiction, and it has driven me my whole life. I have written for years without making a profit and in fact losing money on the deal. (That’s okay. Most small businesses lose money their first year, and most small business owners don’t plan on making a profit for at least five.) I wouldn’t have done that for journalism. I wouldn’t have done that for painting, the military, ballet, police work or EMT work. (All careers I’ve considered and rejected.) The only thing that’s kept me up at night, working in every crevice and second I can find, is my stories. I want to tell my stories, to however small of an audience I have. And, thanks to all of you, it’s not that small at all.

If it had just been one thing or the other, I might have pursued journalism. But it wasn’t my passion, and that’s why it didn’t happen.

I can’t say I regret it.

Would Your Book Pass The Bedchel Test?

Do you know what the Bechdel Test is? I only heard of it recently, which makes me sad as a feminist.

The Bechdel test, named for the cartoonist Alison Bechdel who came up with it in a comic called Dykes to Watch Out For, consists of three rules. If a movie didn’t follow these three rules, the character in question wouldn’t go see it.

  1. The movie must have at least two female characters.
  2. They have to talk to each other,
  3. About something other than a man.

I thought this was silly, until I made a chart of all the movies I like that don’t pass that test. I’d like to share that with you. If you don’t see a movie on here, please keep in mind that I am being honest and I won’t add a movie on here if I haven’t seen it. I also have not listed all the movies I’ve ever seen, I would  be here all day. This is a list of the movies I’ve watched over the past 12 months, that are fairly well known.

Movies that Pass

The Hunger Games

Catching Fire

Mockingjay Pt 1

Frozen (Disney got a win)


Star Wars, Episode 7


Descendants (I have two pre teen daughters, don’t judge me.)

Mona Lisa’s Smile

Scream 1,2,3

Paranormal Activities 1-5


Movies that don’t pass

Captain America

Iron Man 1,2,3


The Avengers

Independence Day

Star Wars, 1-6

All Three Batman movies from the recent trilogy

Jersey Boys

All the Indiana Jones movies

All the James Bond movies

All the Men in Black movies

Jakob The Liar

Patch Adams

All 7 Freddy Kruger movies

Star Trek, 2009

Star Trek, Into Darkness

Yes, Stan Lee can be blamed for a lot of list two. We all know he was a sexist asshat, despite being a brilliant writer. He’s still an asshat.

What kills me is this; why doesn’t every movie pass this test? Is it really that hard to have two women in a book talk about something other than boys? I had to add some movies that were specifically known to be ‘feminist friendly’ to fluff that first list out.

Why? Why is it really so hard to ‘include’ women, when we are fifty percent of the population? Why do more than fifty percent of movies fail this test?

Now, I like all of the movies on the bottom list, don’t get me wrong. But, ladies and gentlemen, hear me loud and clear;

Representation Matters

I’m not the only person who’s said it, and I pray I won’t be the last. To have just one woman shown as a real person instead of background eye candy, it sends the message that this is the exception. Sure, Black Widow is badass, but we sure got Pepper Potts reminding us how women really do live to take care of men.

And don’t tell me those kinds of movies don’t sell. We’ve got Katniss, who is freaking awesome, her sister who’s just as awesome, and Joanna, and President Coin. The cast is pretty balanced with awesome women and men. Seems like those movies are doing just fine in the box office.

As writers we don’t always consider ourselves part of the ‘entertainment industry’. We should, because a lot of those movies up there were books first. Even the ones that weren’t were screen written.

And so, as one member of the entertainment industry to another, let me ask you, would your book pass the Bechdel Test?

I’m an indecisive feather in the wind, and I need to stop it

I hold tight to many of my convictions. While I consider myself an open minded person who’s willing to consider others ideas, I am pretty much set on the big core values of life.

What I lack is any conviction when it comes to running my little business over here. I, sadly, am a fan of the trend.

I read a lot of business blogs, and I get some great ideas from them. And when you read a lot of business blogs, you notice patterns. Months ago, the trend was mailing lists, and newsletters. I didn’t have a newsletter at the time, and I didn’t really want one. With a few exceptions, newsletters are the things I get because I wanted some nifty thing that they were offering with the sign up. One exception I have to mention is Ninja Notes, from ByRegina. I love that. She puts a lot of effort into the posts she sends out in those, and I enjoy them.

I didn’t want to do that. I would rather put my best material here, where everyone will see it. I don’t run the same kind of business as these women I read about, for the most part.

But everyone was saying that I should totally do this.

And so I made a newsletter. About seven people subscribed to it. I wrote good content for it, and even included a market list for it, to give it more value. And I hated writing it, every month. It took time away from making content for PBW, and all of my other writing projects. It wasn’t fun for me. I was constantly unsure how it should be ‘different’ so I wasn’t just rehashing the content here. I hated promoting it, too.

But everyone was saying that I should totally do this.

Then I found this new blog, called The Middle Finger Project. And I read this post, about why you shouldn’t just do a newsletter because everyone else does a newsletter.

And that’s when I started feeling like a freaking idiot.

So I told you all that to tell you this. I was reading a different blog, and came across a piece about author’s websites. I was in the middle of the PBW revision at the time, so I was on that.

I came to realize, though, that I didn’t agree with any of the things this blogger was saying. They suggested that while it wasn’t terrible to post short stories or even book chapters on your website, what was the point? They also suggested that your website should be your calling card, a place to get information, not your full work.

But why should anyone buy my books if they have no idea if they like my stories? I buy books often because I love the creator’s website. I love the free stories and art they gave me on their site.

This advice was not for me. And yet, it made me question my whole business model!

Another piece of advice I got recently was to publish short stories in literary magazines to help promote your book. That advice was either given by someone who has never tried to publish anything, or who lives in a magical world where editors aren’t buried under manuscripts, horribly suggestive, and often have months long waiting times.

Now, I’m always open to new things, new experiments, and new ways to promote my writing. My word this year is Wonder, as in, ‘I wonder what would happen if I did this thing I’ve never tried.’ So I’ll continue to read my blogs, and try new things. But from now on, whether I stick with a thing or not is going to depend more on my personal results than what anyone else thinks my results should be.

How about you?


What Made My Life Rock in 2015

Wow, so Christmas is in three days.  My house smells nice, there are wrapped gifts under the tree, and I’m focusing the next few days on reading JR Tolkin’s Letters From St. Nicholas.  Also, coffee.  My monsters have one day of school left before vacation, and then we’re going to do all the awesome Christmas stuff we can in a three day span.  I’m trying really hard to focus on savoring the last hurrah of 2015 and not look forward toward 2016 just yet.

Because 2015 was an amazing year for me!  I am ending this year feeling so blessed and thankful.  I made a lot of strides, and a lot of healthy choices.  A lot of things that were totally out of my control went well, too.  So, instead of talking about what rocked this week, I want to share with you what rocked this year.

  • I finally started taking vitamins every day like we’re all supposed to.  I take a D and a B12 with my dinner break at the day job.  My seasonal depression isn’t knocking me out so hard, and I have more energy.  Also, I’m not getting colds as often!
  • Getting Sticky Fingers published was a huge thing for me.  Not only is it great to see my work in print, I got a chance to talk about Woven on Stephanie‘s amazing website.  I cannot tell you how rockstar it made me feel to be interviewed!
  • I am blown away by how much Buffer has helped me.  I have no time to drop everything and tweet four times a day, but with this I can take ten minutes a day and schedule tweets.  For any of you awesome people finding me because of that, thank you.
  • I finished two books this year, Broken Patterns and Days.  Broken Patterns is seeking an agent, and Days just needs to be illustrated and it’s going to be available!  Can’t tell you how amazed I feel that I actually finished both of them.
  • I finally got an Erin Condron planner, and it has totally been worth every penny! (Not an affiliate, I just love them.)
  • For those of you who don’t know, I got married last January!  And I’ve had a ton of fun (not really) teaching people how to pronounce my new last name.  (It’s Luttrell.  Pronounced Lu-trull.  It’s German, not French, and we have otters on our family crest.)  But I love being married to my amazing partner and best friend.
  • We moved into our first house.  It’s an actual house with a yard and a basement and a washing machine!
  • I’ve been using the bullet journal method all year, and it helps me so much!  Nothing gets done if I don’t write it in my journal, but it goes so far beyond productivity.  I am actually journaling my days, keeping track of my life while it’s going a thousand miles an hour.  This is a habit I have tried to form since I was 13, and am just now mastering.
  • Finally, if you’re reading this, you’re on my list, too!  I am still blown away, every day, by the fact that people come here and read the things I write.  Thank you so much, because you are a big part of what made 2015 one of the best years of my life.

I hope you all have a great holiday.


The Writing Life, July 21

Don’t forget to sign up for the thirty days, thirty ideas challenge. Time is running out, August is coming!  Click right here to sign up.  Hurry up, you’ve only got nine more days!

It’s been an interesting week. Just full of ups and downs, and big news things. Well, big to me, at least.
If you’re an avid reader, you might have noticed something missing on Saturday. I didn’t post a writing prompt. I did add one to Friday’s market, but I did not devote a whole day to it like I have done in the past.

Here’s why. As the one year anniversary of PBW draws close, I have been taking inventory, looking at numbers, and thinking on what I want to do in my second year as a blogger. Making a business plan, and whatnot. My goal is simple, have a 5% increase on all of my numbers (page views, visitors, likes,) over the same month of the previous year.

I realized something though, when I was pouring over my stats. Check This Out and Writing Prompt Saturday are not super popular columns. Worse, I don’t feel like I have anything left to say on those topics. So I have decided to discontinue those two them.

Going down to three columns a week is going to benefit me, but I also think it’s going to benefit the site. You see, I realized I haven’t done anything but keep up recently. Keeping up is fine, and all, but it’s not where I want to be. Now that I’m not spending all of my PBW time writing posts, I can finally get a start on some major projects I’ve had on the back burner for way too long. Another perk is that I can focus on quality over quantity.

What do you think? Are you sad to see these columns go, or more interested in seeing what’s coming next?

What Rocked This Week-

* I heard back from two of the short stories that were out. They were both rejected, but I sent them right back out.
* I downloaded Pandora onto my tablet, finally. It’s been a very musical week.
* Yesterday, July 20, was the second anniversary of the day I created Woven. To be more specific, it’s the day I wrote the character outline for the main character, a boy who weaves named Devon. I’d written a few books before this, but they’d either been dead ends or so bad I’d rather they never see the light of day.

When I first started Woven, man was I terrified. I figured it would be one book, if I could even manage that. I sat in the park of my little town, the one right across from the courthouse where a year and a half later I would marry my husband, with a marble covered notebook and take out soup from my favorite coffee shop. Back then, I was in a dark place. I wasn’t happy, wasn’t writing, and working way too much. I wanted, more than anything, to be a writer again. And so I had promised myself that I would write, just twenty minutes a day. Something, anything, it didn’t matter. I fed the birds the bread from my lunch and scribbled out a prayer on the page. I begged God to not let this story die like so many others had. I sat there, with a character breathing on my lap, and I was so scared to lose him.

Two years later, I am months away from a final draft of Broken Patterns. The second book, Starting Chains, is rough drafted. I’ve got thirteen more ideas to come after. If I ever questioned whether God answers my prayers, I don’t anymore.

What I’m looking forward to this week-

* I’m buckling down this week to get ready for my vacation next week from the day job. Got a ton of little last minute things to do, and we’re not even going anywhere.
* I’m right at the finish line on two big projects, and I am working more than I should to get them done. There’s something about seeing the end of the tunnel that just makes me want to run for it.

So what are you doing this week? Anything exciting?

The Writing Life, July 14

Did you sign up for Thirty Days, Thirty Ideas, yet? Do it now so you don’t forget!  Click right here to sign up!

My adventures this week included trying dry shampoo for the first time and introducing a new budgeting technique to avoid overdraft fees.

There are two reactions to what I just wrote; tell me more so that I may learn, and what the hell does that have to do with writing? If you had the first reaction, we will get to that. If you had the second reaction, I want to tell you why you should care first.

Being an indie writer requires a tight budget, a lot of confidence and a tight schedule.

And my new adventures, if they work, will save me up to sixty dollars a month, forty minutes a week, and make me feel more confident.

So, dry shampoo. I found this recipe on the awesome blog, Living Well, Spending Less. Now, I have super oily hair, which I usually either was every night or feel like a grease ball. My oldest monster has my hair. You would not believe the amount of times we have been late somewhere because I noticed, too late, that her hair or mine looked like someone had rubbed cheap pizza on it. With this dry shampoo in the house, though, my life is better.

* It is cheaper than shampoo, and now we use less shampoo. (Less water, too.)
* I save twenty minutes every time I’m not taking a shower I don’t need.
* I feel more confidant about how I look, and about my mothering skills.
* I smell like awesome chocolate.

As for my money saving tip, it’s pretty simple. I don’t keep track of my money, spend too much, and overdraft. So this week, I’m taking out the amount of money I know I can spend, then moving my debit card from my wallet, were it’s all to easy to retrieve, to my check book that lives on my desk. It’s simple, but I hope it will be effective.

So that’s what’s new in my life. How about you?

Things that rocked this week-

* Fail, my Mash story was way too long, and I couldn’t cut enough of it without hurting the core of the story. Win, I submitted it to Flash Fiction instead. There is no great loss without some small gain, I have always said this.
* Wal-Mart has their back to school stuff out. Fifty cents for composition books!
* I am so pumped about your reaction to Thirty Days, Thirty Ideas.
* I’m not lying, this dry shampoo is awesomesauce. I smell like chocolate!

Things I’m looking forward to this week-

* I should be finished with part one of the fourth draft of Broken Patterns. Okay, that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is to me. It’s a step towards being done with the fourth draft, and there’s only one more draft after that.
* I’m working on the rough draft of a new story, the second to last one for my short fiction collection. Eight stories down, two more to go. I’m really getting there.

Not a super exciting week. I’m working a lot over overtime hours at the day job to pay for some computer upgrades around the house. So it’s a head down, nose to the grindstone, any progress is good progress kind of week.

The Writing Life, July 7

One more day until the big announcement. Check us out tomorrow for all the awesome details for something really cool we’ll be doing in August.

So, on Saturday something pretty amazing happened. Yes, our country had its birthday and I blew up fireworks and ate greasy food and all that.

Way more important, to me, is that Paper Beats World reached 1,000 views for the year!

It has been eleven months since I started this little site, and I have had so much fun with it every day. I’ve learned so much, and gotten to meet so many awesome people. I can not thank all of you enough for reading, and sharing your journeys with me.

Honestly, I thought maybe three people would read this thing. So thank you all. I hope you get something out of reading here, and I hope to hear more success stories as the months go by.

What rocked this week-

* I finished my rough draft for Mash. The deadline’s July 15, by the way. Get on it if you haven’t started yet.
* I watched all eight Harry Potter movies with the husband and my monsters. I’m glad we finally did it, but that last movie was such a let down. Really, you span two books and you can’t even mention the whole back story with Dumbledore being friends with the second most evil wizard, or the fact that Harry had all three deathly hollows and got rid of all but one? Really?

What I’m looking forward to this week-

* Tipsy writer twitter chat tonight. That’s always a good time, hope to see you there!
* My super big, terrific announcement is tomorrow! Don’t miss it!
* My favorite show is starting again on Sunday. It’s Ray Donovan, on Showtime. If you follow me on twitter, you already know of my obsession.

What are you excited about this week? Looking forward to anything fun?

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The Writing Life, June 30. Letting some things go

Eight Days Until The Big Announcement!

If you’re a long time reader of Paper Beats World, or if you’ve at least been reading since April, you know that I swear off all contests and anthology submissions while I’m working on a rough draft of a novel.  My theory is that I only ever want one rough draft at at time.  Rough drafts are tiring, creative wise for me.  They’re also time consuming.  When I’m working on a rough draft, I want that to be all that I’m working on, except for my weekly blog posts.

That’s fine and dandy when my rough draft takes six weeks to two months.  When it takes me six damn months to finish a rough draft, like the last one did, that grinds on me.  I find so many cool contests, and come up with so many awesome ideas for the site.  So the whole time I was rough drafting, I kept a list of project ideas.  And I kept my eyes open for contests with long off due dates.

When I finally finished my rough draft, I kind of exploded.  I found so many cool contests that I wanted to enter, and I had three pages in my bullet journal full of ideas for special PBW events.  I always think I’m a machine, so I was sure I could do all of the things that I wanted to do.

Then I got promoted in the day job.  Then reality happened, and I realized that there was no way, no way at all, that I can do all of the things that I want to.

That’s a hard thing to realize.  When I want to do a lot, and I just can’t find the time, I do three things; lie to myself, make up crazy schedules in my planners, and guilt myself when I can’t do it all.

Thankfully, though, I managed to stop this downward spiral before it got really started.  Here’s how.

  • I started by figuring out exactly how long I thought each of my projects would take.  Then, I doubled the time.  I took out my planner, and looked at each and every due date for my contests.  Then I blocked out time to write my stories.  This give me a realistic impression of where I am, and what I can do.  This also means that if I find a new super neat contest, I know if it’s doable or not.  If I want to pick up a new contest. then I might have to drop something else.
  • I dropped two of my contests because I liked others better.  I’d rather write three great short pieces than six decent ones.
  • I looked through short pieces that I’d written but hadn’t managed to place to see of any of them fit the contest qualifications.

Most importantly though, was this.  I’d been working on a short piece for about a week.  The story was solid, and the contest good.  But the draft was snagged.  I realized that it needed a complete overhaul, and I just didn’t have the time.

So I put it aside.  Crossed that contest off my list, and moved on to the next one.  Because there’s always a next one, that’s the beauty of this field.  The internet is full of contests.  I’ve found at least two companies that exist to do nothing more than publish anthologies, and I wasn’t looking that hard.

It is so easy to think that every opportunity could be ‘the one.’  That’s a lie.  There is no ‘the one.’  Once you get a published credit, then you need another, and another.  One sale isn’t an assurance of a second.  So if I’ve got to put one opportunity aside, then that’s okay.  There’s always a next one.

This week, I want to challenge you.  Take a look at your to do list, and cross one thing off of it.  I don’t know all of you as well as I’d like, but I’m willing to bet that if you fine tooth comb your list, you will fine at least one task that doesn’t need done.  At least, not this week.

Always remember, if we try to do too much, you will do nothing well.

What Rocked This Week-

  • I found out that one of my short stories, called Sticky Fingers, is going to be in an anthology called How to Trick The Devil!  I can’t wait to see the anthology put together.  They’re still looking for submissions, if you’re interested.
  • I sent out a piece to the Imaginate contest I told you about a few weeks ago.  It’s always a rush to send something new out.

What I’m Looking Forward to Next Week-

  • First off, fourth of July.  I love that holiday.  Blow things up, eat greasy food, and drink some cold ones.  That’s my kind of holiday.
  • Today is the end of the quarter, and I’m doing my big, ‘what have I done in the last three months,’ review.  Remember, being a freelance writer is being a small business owner.  Got to check in, look into where I’m spending my time well and where I’m wasting it.
  • As you might have guessed, I’ve got a really exciting announcement.  It’s something I’ve been working on for months, and I am jumping out of my skin wanting to tell you all!

Have you signed up for our newsletter yet?  I’m pretty excited about it.  It’s all about walking the path to full time writers together.  Click right here to sign up.

I’m looking forward to a great week.  I hope you are too.

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