Monday Challenge: This Goes On Your Permanent Record

“Have you found the words yet, Microscope Girl?” “Not yet, Hanging Over My Shoulder People. Will you back the fuck off?”

In a bit of shameless thievery, I’m taking today’s challenge directly from the pages of Terrible Minds, Chuck Wendig’s blog. If you’re not reading it, you really should. There’s a lot of solid advice in there, between the swearing.
Last week, he posted the Penmonkey Evaluation, a series of questions writers can answer to get a feel for where they are and maybe where they’re going. I’ve answered below as well as in the comments on the original post. After you’ve done your own evaluation, post it in the comments here/on the original. And read through the comment stream on the original. It’s always interesting to see where other people are in this business.
So, Monday Challenge: Go here (or check the questions below) and answer the quiz. Be honest; there’s no benefit to lying.

Penmonkey Evaluation:

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

Breaking your heart. Making you feel for those characters and the godawful situations they get themselves in.

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

Conflict resolutions. I can get people into bad situations, but getting them out? Ehhhhh.

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

Finished four novels. One was a learning project which will never see the light of day; two have been edited and are being submitted; the last is currently being rewritten from the ground up.
Short stories? I dunno, maybe a dozen. All have been submitted, five sold.

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

“[S]topping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.**” -Stephen King

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

Most of the advice I’ve been given hasn’t been overtly bad, just not for me. The only two that really stick out as bad bad are less advice and more opinion: 1) “You must write in complete silence” from some article I read a million years ago. I love music and can’t imagine writing without it. It gets me through the aforementioned hard parts. And 2) “You should try writing something serious” from someone who didn’t approve of my love for genre fiction. I think my response was to laugh, but it was a long time ago and I can’t be sure. Again in the words of King, when it comes to memory we all stack the deck.

f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

Be brave. The world is full of shit that will stop you: naysayers, doubters, your own fear and apathy.  It’s up to you to put on your stomping boots, dig in your heels, and fight back.
Oh, and write. Don’t forget to do that part.

*Man, it was hard to do this one without feeling like an arrogant douchecanoe.
**Though I usually do my shovelling from a standing position on account on my giant drafting table/standing desk.

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5 thoughts on “Monday Challenge: This Goes On Your Permanent Record

  1. Ah, Douchecanoe, one of my favorite words. Sometimes, the best advice I’ve been given, and have given; by writers and non-writers and to both is the following: Introspection is the best way to learn who you are, and to answer the questions that have been eating away at you. Looks like you’ve got a great start.

  2. a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?
    I think my characters come across as believable, and I’m pretty good at dialogue. This is based on comments I’ve had from others as well as my own opinion, which is pretty hard to give on a question like this without sounding like a giant a**.

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?
    Plot, plot, plot. I have a deeply ingrained aversion to detailed outlines, and sometimes that just makes plotting akin to trying to put an octopus in a bottle.* But you do what you gotta do.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?
    Three novels totally complete; one published, one in submission, one about to be self-pubbed. Under contract for another one. Numerous others in various stages. Short stories, I’ve sold maybe two out of every three I’ve written. I think I’m doing pretty well at finishing and submitting.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)
    Write to the end, then go back and fix what needs to be fixed. Finishing that first draft is just so unbelievably key to everything else.

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)
    That there’s really no market for what I write (fantasy and science fiction). That was from a grant officer. He’s already been proven wrong, but it was disheartening at the time.

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?
    Don’t rush to publish or self-publish. Your work is worth the time and effort it takes to learn your craft and get it right before you let anyone else see it. And don’t take a bad contract just because it’s offered. Your work is also worth finding the right home for it.

    *Not that I’ve ever done this. But the writer’s imagination…

  3. a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?

    Fully interlocking stories. I have a pathological need to make sure all the story elements are as neatly woven as a friendship bracelet.

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

    Middles. The temptation to write ‘Once upon a time blah blah bippity blah The End’ is strong.

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

    5 books (3 making the rounds, 2 need more drafts), 20 short stories (11 sold, 5 making the rounds, 2 need another draft, and 2 have hit a wall), 7 short films (2 produced, 1 in pre-production, 1 optioned, 3 twiddling their thumbs), 5 features (3 making the rounds, 2 need another draft), 3 television pilots (1 paid for by show creators and making the rounds with networks, 2 twiddling their thumbs), and 9 TV episodes (2 given as gifts, 3 fixed broken shows and kept me from burning down TV studios, 4 are writing samples)

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

    If you want to make it, it’s not necessarily about being a great writer. It’s about being persistent.
    – My instructors at the VFS Writing Department
    (I know it’s true every time I see a lousy book/movie/TV show and I remind myself of it every time I get into a rejection letter funk.)

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

    Don’t stop writing if you don’t know where you’re going! Push on! It doesn’t matter if it’s crap, because you can always edit it later!
    – The Entire Internet
    (There’s a reason they tell you not to wander around when you’re lost in the woods – you’ll either kill yourself or set yourself up for one hell of a long walk back to civilization. Take a five minute break and break out your goddamn compass, idiot.)

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?

    Submit all the things! Send them to every place that seems even remotely like a good match. They can’t say yes if they don’t know you exist. The worst thing they can do to you is say no, which just means it’s time to pick a new place and repeat. No biggie.

  4. a) What’s your greatest strength / skill in terms of writing/storytelling?*
    Plot – good story ideas and tying everything together. I’m generally happy with my ideas and I can usually see the whole picture in my head – my difficulty is getting it all down on paper!

    b) What’s your greatest weakness in writing/storytelling? What gives you the most trouble?
    Finishing bloody anything. I get bored of an idea far too quickly and want to move on to my next idea before giving the previous one time to develop.

    c) How many books or other projects have you actually finished? What did you do with them?
    Finished three short stories, started six novels – finished none; all are in various states of play – from totally archived, to still (in theory) on the go. Nothing published as yet. Also written a great deal of poetry. All finished; of varying quality.

    d) Best writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. really helped you)
    Write even if you feel you have nothing to say. Write every day. Even if you just end up writing a list or a diary, write something. Muscles that aren’t exercised, atrophy. (Interesting that this is very similar to the worst advice given to a previous commenter – I guess everyone works differently).

    e) Worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? (i.e. didn’t help at all, may have hurt)
    Plan your characters and actions on a timeline/chart a la Rowling. Works excellently for her – works like a finger trap for me – a kind of OCD about detail kicks in and I CAN’T STOP PLANNING to start writing. So no, this doesn’t work for everyone!

    f) One piece of advice you’d give other writers?
    Get on with it. Be antisocial and live in a mess if you need to, but write. There are a million other things you COULD be doing, but they are all just ways to avoid seeing if you really are as good as you hope. So stop making excuses, shut up, get your pen out (or your keyboard) and get on with it. At this point, you really have nothing to lose! And this advice is really for me – I don’t feel YET that I’m in a position to be advising other writers!

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