Those Terrifying and Beautiful Things Called Critiques

Published July 27, 2016 by Maggie Williams

I don’t think I’ve taken enough critiques in my life. I don’t know if this is my fault, or the fault of the people who have seen my work (mostly my fault for not seeking out actual feedback. It was so safe and happy in that little cocoon where friends and family only praised my writing).

I feel like the people who are not me that I can blame are my English teachers. Like, what the hell, guys? You’re supposed to mentor me with your constructive criticisms. You’re supposed to take my slightly-above-average writing and force me to make it fantastic. You’re also supposed to teach me how to not start crying when someone gives me feedback. And what did you do instead? Just be super nice and supportive all the time. Buttholes.

I experienced a real critique for the first time several months ago when an actual agent sent me tracked edits of the first three chapters of my second novel. Yikes. I cringe when I think about someone from the actual publishing world reading that train wreck. Now that I look back on it, it’s really no wonder she didn’t say anything nice about it. It was terrible. But that’s not the point here. The point is that I was ruined for probably a good three months after receiving her painful feedback. I was completely unprepared- I thought that everyone besides me would think that my work was infallible. Boy did I get a rightly-deserved slap in the face.

That experience, no matter how important to bringing me into the real world of writing, was not a great one. Because I had never really received any kind of criticism on my writing, it destroyed that book for me. There was literally not a single complement in the entire critique, so I was sure that I was doing everything wrong and I never wanted anyone to see my writing ever again. What a dark, naive hole I had fallen into.

It wasn’t until just recently that I found out how wonderful getting critiqued can be when it’s done correctly, using the sandwich method. (I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s sandwiching a piece of constructive criticism between compliments.) I kind of love critiques now. Or, maybe that isn’t exactly accurate. Reading the criticism bits, no matter how constructive, feels like being stabbed in the stomach with a tiny knife. “The critique partners send their regards.” I guess I should say that I love what critiques do for my story.

I’m fixing up my novella right now in the hopes of trying to publish it with a small press. And I’m honestly just fawning over the new and improved story I’m building. I love every change that I’m making, and I can feel the story strengthening like I’m funneling magical powers into it. Are these the bittersweet writing moments that I’ve been missing out on my whole life? I repeat- what the hell, English teachers?

Being a Grown Up Is Lame

Published July 20, 2016 by Maggie Williams

Just recently, I made a one-year plan (because thinking ahead five years stresses me out). It was an interesting exercise to lay my goals plainly in front of me like some kind of adult or something. I had headings like “Business Goals” and “Money Goals” and I don’t think I’d truly felt my childhood die until I made a bulleted list about saving money and building my resume. Freaking gag me. (But honestly, it’s very important and no matter how tool-ish you think it is, having some kind of rough outline of what you want is always a good idea.)

A majority of my goals revolve around writing and the career that I’m trying to build with it. The first page is the fun stuff like actual creative goals such as finishing novels and writing weekly blog posts (so far so good).

The next page is all research on publishing and marketing and self-publishing because I recently decided that the one thing that would combine perfectly with my hellish procrastination is being solely responsible for any work that I attempt to publish in the future. Don’t you foresee this going well?

The next page is about money and having a job. Psh, lame. Then academic goals, which includes the phrase “learn all the things”. And finally, we have the personal goals page, under which I simply wrote “Who has the goddamn time?” So you can see what my priorities are.

What are your long term or short term project and life goals? Do you have a plan, or do you just believe in allowing the chaos of the universe to guide you where it will? Let me know in the comments so I don’t feel like the only lame grown up.

Neglecting My Brain Child

Published July 13, 2016 by Maggie Williams

Sometime within these past few weeks, I became busy enough with incoming college freshman stress that I forgot that this blog was turning two years old. My poor, lonely little blog had to go through a toddler Sixteen Candles. Sorry for not remembering, buddy.

I suppose this should be a time to reflect on how this blog has grown and how much I’ve developed as a writer and how I’m proud of all I’ve accomplished. All of that is true on some level, but I honestly feel like I might have been holding this site back and that’s really a bummer for me. I love writing posts and seeing people’s responses to them. I feel like I always have something to say, but I haven’t been saying it on here like I should. So here, before my followers and the blog god, I am promising to write more often. Once a week, in fact, and you can hold me to that.

There you go, little blog buddy- hopefully that’s a good belated present for your second birthday. No longer neglecting you- what every brain child wants.

I Wrote a Shitty Wattpad Novel

Published July 6, 2016 by Maggie Williams

I have finally, finally really finished my second novel. I was previously counting it as my first, but I’m going to say that a truly terrible one on Wattpad was my first. This way, I can see at least some type of novel writing progression.

I worked on this second novel for four years. It was basically my high school project. I like to think that I learned a lot from this experience because I probably did. And though I wouldn’t call the novel perfect, or even good, at least it’s finished. And I have the perfect place for it- as a shitty Wattpad novel. I think at heart, that’s what I set out to write, and that’s certainly what it ended up as.

I feel a huge sense of relief and closure knowing that this book is finished at last. No more being upset at the dangling thread. Now I can burst into the streets and declare to random strangers that I finished an 80,000-word novel. Me. I did that. An eighteen-year-old girl who hasn’t even gone to college yet. It feels good, I have to say.

If you need to add a sense of accomplishment to your life, finish writing your book, even if you think it’s really bad. Because to me, writing a bad book feels like purging all the stupid ideas. It feels like finding your voice as a writer. Being able to actually finish things feels good on its own too. Maybe I’m not completely useless, and I can do something big with by life. Wow. What a time to be alive.

Things I Will Have to Accept About College

Published June 7, 2016 by Maggie Williams
  1. My degree is worthless. It is literally just a piece of paper. Especially considering what school I got this worthless piece of paper from, it will do next to nothing to help me get jobs.
  2. Writing is possibly the most useless concentration that I could pick. Any field of art, which is what this school is known for, would be.
  3. I am spending entirely too much money on student loans, or I will be. Considering my useless degree in my useless field, it is very unlikely that I will be able to pay back my loans without actually starving and/or becoming homeless.
  4. I will probably be homesick at some point, and it will probably be hard for quiet ole me to make new friends.
  5. I will most likely hate having a roommate.
  6. I will cry at least once my freshman year and want to quit.
  7. None of the above matters. I could die at any point during or after my experience at the school of my dreams, or worse- I could live a long time with the regret of never taking the big, scary, expensive step. I’m going to college not because I want to be traditionally employable when I graduate, but because I’m not done learning. My degree may be worthless, but my education will not be. I will not waste time on anything but the classes that will make my education worthwhile. And at the end, it will all work out. At the end, all the homesickness and loneliness and stress will be worth it. And if all else fails, I’ll just marry rich.

Winging It

Published May 31, 2016 by Maggie Williams

For the millionth time, I have decided to desert my first novel. But I, like, actually decided this time. Perhaps far in the future when I’m working a job that is not a career and sobbing into a pint of ice cream, lamenting to my five cats that I’m alone and drowning in student loan debt, I can revisit my first sad attempt at novel-writing and relive the glory days before my life took a turn for the adult. Maybe I can even try to fix it up when looking at it doesn’t make me want to shove a rusty fork into my cornea. For now, though, I have decided to let it wallow in its misery as I move on to bigger and (hopefully) better things.

I’ve been playing around with the idea for my new novel for a while now, and now that I’m officially a high school graduate, it seems like a good time to start it. And I’m knocking on so much wood when I say that it’s going really well. I’ve got two chapters down, and I have done surprisingly well so far with keeping the writing momentum going. Instead of watching eight hours straight of Critical Role every day (look it up, you won’t be sorry), I have found some hidden reserve of will power within myself to write. I think it might have something to do with my change in writing form.

For the first novel that I tried my hand at, I was under the impression that I had to plot everything out before I could write it. That’s what real writers do, right? Actually, no. Not all writers know every aspect of their story before they write it down (#notallwriters anyone? No?). As it turns out, I have been a pantser deep down all along. (Sidenote: Does that word make anyone else want to vomit? Starting a petition to start calling us buffalo wilds. Why? Because we’re winging it. [I’ll show myself out.])

I have found over the course of writing these two short chapters that I get too bored when I think of my whole plot at once. It sucks for me to get the creative plot thoughts out in one giant purge. It makes me feel like I have nothing to look forward to because the story is already there. Perhaps this is why the other book I tried to write took me two and a half years. The plot wasn’t complicated in the least- I was just bored and never wanted to sit down and write. But so far (knocking on all of the wood in the entire world), I look forward to writing this new story every day. And it’s a pretty damn good story, if I do say so myself.

So what’s new in your writing life? How are your projects going? Abandoned any novels lately? Will you sign my petition to change the term from “pantser” to “buffalo wild”? Let me know.

Seeking a Writing Buddy for the End of the World

Published May 3, 2016 by Maggie Williams

There are plenty of resources for finding people who write and would like to critique my work, and I know this. But since I am easily intimidated at the thought of becoming active on a new website, I’m not going to use any of those resources. Instead, I’ll stay in my own little bubble of comfort and put out a Help Wanted add via my blog.

I am looking for someone who is interested in critiquing a dark fiction novella with horror influences (it’s not meant to be horror movie scary, but maybe more like Room scary, if you know what I mean). It is the story of a girl who is trapped in a circus where humans are treated like animals, and tortured by the sadistic Ringleader who seeks to break as many of them as possible. If that brilliant morsel didn’t pique your interest, I don’t know what will (please love me).

If this position as my new and only writing buddy interests you, let me know. I would be more than happy to exchange critiques or maybe even just be around for joint sobbing during moments of intense doubt and fear that we are terrible writers and will never accomplish anything in life. Everyone needs one of those, right?

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