Monday

Oh no. Writer's Block. Mine.

I am currently working on an article about various small press editors for the next edition of the CWIM (Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market) guide for Writer's Digest. It's suppossed to be 1500 words. I have 117. I've had between 90 and 120 words for some time now, all in the first paragraph, all rewritten multiple times. The usual tricks for writer's block don't seem to be working. Things like:
  1. Never removing your fingers from the keyboard, just keep typing until your character starts doing something interesting or back in line with the plot.
    (Not real applicable for nonfiction, and I don't think my editors would appreciate it if I started inventing plot lines for them.)
  2. Writing down everything that comes into your mind regardless of it's relevance.
    (Although I'm sure my rather random passing thought about going back into time and trying to explain blood types to Sherlock Holmes & Watson and the relevance for forensic investigation is fascinating, it seems kind of inappropriate for my article.)
  3. Not rereading what you wrote but continuing writing.
    (I tried this for the second go at my intro paragraph. For some reason every sentence except the first started with "After all,".)
So, I have instead opted for asking for help. I'm trying to describe what people who have never met them think of editors. Now, I realize that for many of you this might take you back a bit, but I would like everyone to pretend that you are once again an unpublished, unseasoned author at your very first writer's conference who has discovered that for some reason you've been seated next to an editor at the conference lunch. In a phrase or three separate words, describe how you feel. Then, describe again in a phrase or three separate words how the generic editor appears to you. (I don't mean physically, rather things like intimidating or approachable or evil incarnate or divine luck, that sort of thing.)

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Congrats on being asked to write up something for the market survey. I am sure your writer's block will be gone. If I may be so bold as to suggest some additional remedies:
1. Don't write linearly. After all, there is no plot in nonfiction, so there's no reason you can't write the conclusion first, and then write something in the middle, then skip to something near the front.
2. Go for vignettes. You (as in Madeline Smoot) are very good at bringing examples to life, so put in a few examples to illustrate your point. You can always cut them later if need be.
3. Yes, keep your fingers on the keyboard, but write something else. Perhaps your subconscious needs some release, and tomorrow or the next day you will get your Aha! moment. (That's how I avoid writer's block. If I'm truly stuck on something, I just work on something else).

Okay, now on to the task at hand:
How I feel: panicked, nervous, excited. (I think that see-saw of, here's my opportunity versus I don't want to blow my chance by coming on too strong)
How the editor appears: A human. Gosh darn it. Just another human who wants to and deserves not to be harassed by people, but gosh darn it, it's not my fault this person may hold the key.
Hmm... boiling it down... it's an exciting, nerve-wracking conundrum?

Hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

That’s easy. I thought that all editors were one step lower than God. Really. I thought they were above petty human concerns and must have some kind of special, esoteric knowledge that allowed them an exalted place in the literary establishment. There are days when I still think that.

Gaylene Wilson said...

The first time I met an editor at a conference and had ten minutes to chat, my mind came up blank. I didn't know what I didn't know, so I wasn't even sure what to ask.

Yat-Yee said...

Since I am still unpublished, I don't have to pretend. :) The first conference I went to, I stayed away from the editors because I felt intimidated and knew that if I tried to casually make small talk, it would come out wrong and they'd be as uncomfortable as I would have been.

At another time, a workshop that is smaller and more focused on craft, there were two editors. One was very gregarious and therefore very easy to talk to. The other one was very quiet. I thought she seemed very observant and could to tell a lot about the writers in attendance just by the way we related to one another. I felt too self-conscious to say boo to her during most of the workshop, since I wasn't in any of her groups. Just after the last session, I thought my self-consciousness was becoming ridiculous and went up to her to thank her, and she started talking to me and asked me what I was working on and listened carefully. Something about the unassuming way she spoke put me at ease. She asked me to send a sample to her. (I have since sent a few different versions so there is potentially a good ending from this story.)

So I was putting up barriers between the editors and me simply due to their positions. I am sure they are as different from one another as people in general are. I just didn't want to do something stupid because of over-exuberance or drivenness as I am apt to.

I'd probably be less tensed in the future.

B.N.Lippy said...

I knew I'd be meeting an editor the next day and I was sick all night. When I finally met her it was around noon and I was so light headed from the lack of food I thought I'd pass out. I was immediately put to ease by her sweet demeanor and even able to enjoy lunch.

Before- overwhelmed, inferior, preschool.
After- comfortable,relaxed, freshman.

B.N.Lippy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mindy said...

I felt like I was in middle school and sitting next to someone I had a huge crush on. I didn't want to open my mouth in case I said something stupid, and I was very careful with how I ate my lunch. No elbows on the table. Napkin on the lap. I listened to everyone talk to her, and didn't say a thing. I guess the good part was I didn't have to worry about talking with food in my mouth! Later, when I had my manuscript critique, she was very easy to talk to, and liked my story. She didn't end up buying it, but she gave me a good critique letter, and I revised based on her suggestions.