To All the Writing Projects I Left Behind

You changed me. I’m sorry I couldn’t follow through.

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I’m not the kind of person who gives up easily. Who walks away without looking back. Who lets things go without accepting the weight of regret and carrying it with me begrudgingly.

But the more time I spend writing (it’s an embarrassing amount of time, let’s be honest), the more I learn that it’s more harmful to hang on to something you’ve outgrown than it is to say goodbye.

I’ve started — and finished — many big and small writing projects since I started on my quest to “become a writer” (ha — whatever that entails, I still don’t know).

But I’ve also abandoned many, many stories. Not because I wanted to. But because I knew in my heart it was time to let them go.

This is for you — the stories I left behind.

The characters I created, fell in love with, and touched for the last time.

The prose that shaped me, defined me, moved me to tears. Erased my shame, my regret, and my uncertainty.

When a writer stumbles upon a story, that story becomes all they can focus on. Given time, it begins to unfold in their arms. Like magic, it transforms from a simple idea into a complex plotline that becomes harder and harder to walk away from the more time the bond has to form.

And yet … sometimes that bond is no longer good for the writer. Breaking it simultaneously breaks their heart. But they’re better for it. Eventually.

I didn’t leave because there was something wrong with you. I left because you were not meant to develop beyond what you had become.

Some stories will forever exist in fragments, large sections of them unwritten. That is the way of creation. Many things are fully grown when they’re over. Many things are not.

You changed me. I’m sorry I couldn’t follow through. That I made a promise to raise you and make you into something that could thrive without me … only to stop before time allowed that to happen.

If I could come back to you, I would. If I could fulfill those promises once and for all, I would do it in a heartbeat.

But the thing about stories is that there comes a point when an author can no longer grow alongside them. They have already, by the time their stories have ended, grown beyond them.

Just because I left you does not mean I will ever be able to forget you. Though you might not know it, you have inspired so many of the stories I have begun telling since then — and more I will tell in time. You may not have made it to the final draft. But walking away from you means that many other stories can.

It’s impossible to forget something you’ve created. Not completely. You are still as much a part of me as the blood in my veins. You are mine, always.

Unfinished as you are, you still mean the world to me.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Rejection Doesn’t Justify Your Decision to Quit Writing

Rejection is painful. But is it really a sign it’s time to give up?

Sometimes I look back and wonder what might have happened if I’d been less stubborn. And it reminds me that refusing to quit has saved me more times than it’s harmed me.

If I’d quit submitting essays to magazines when I was 15, I never would have published one at 16.

If I’d quit blogging after the first year — when I’d gained two subscribers and only one of those subscribers read my posts every two weeks — I never would have developed Novelty Revisions into what it has become almost 10 years later.

If I’d given up on my dream of being a writer when I didn’t get picked to write for my college newspaper during my freshman year, I never would have landed the internship that inspired the study that eventually led to my first full-time writing job.

When we’re told no, our first instinct is to just say, “OK, fine, forget it.”

But that’s an impulse driven by anger and frustration — not one inspired by logic. After taking time to really think about it, you might realize that rejection isn’t even close to a good reason to stop trying to “be a writer.” In fact, it’s actually the best reason to KEEP TRYING TO SUCCEED.

In every rejection, there is a lesson. In every lesson, there is growth.

Maybe you won’t get published in the same magazine that rejected you, hired by the same company that said no, or rewarded for sticking with the thing you thought would drive the majority of your future success.

But that does not mean that success will not find you. “Making it” as a writer does not involve following one straight path. There are so many side roads and dead ends and forks along the way that it’s impossible to tell where you’re even at in your journey until something Big And Exciting happens.

You just have to keep wandering around, writing as much as you can, doing the best work you know how to do, until it leads you somewhere worthwhile.

I firmly believe that persistence will always land you somewhere better than you thought you’d ever end up. Granted, I only have my experiences to rely on, and I’m not necessarily the most “reliable narrator.” I’m just one person, and I’m a stubborn, hard-headed perfectionist. I don’t quit because I can’t stand it. Even the thought of it makes me feel sick.

But think about it. If you just gave up every time something in your life hadn’t worked out … would you be where you are today? If you hadn’t given up on something you to this day regret leaving behind, would your life have turned out differently? Better?

Don’t give up on something too soon just because it’s hard or painful or you don’t know where it’s going.

Instead, go after it harder. Sometimes we think we know the best way to achieve something when it turns out there’s a much better way. We’ll never find it if we simply walk away and never look back.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

12 Times It’s OK to Put Writing Aside for a Minute

Sometimes it’s OK to take a break.

1. It’s the end of a long week and it can wait.

2. You’ll write it much better in the morning.

3. You just got a formal rejection and you need a second to breathe.

4. You need to focus on a different part of the publishing process, such as querying or editing.

5. You’re unwell. Mentally, physically, emotionally, all of the above.

6. Your family needs you.

7. A friend needs you.

8. Your fur/human babies need extra love.

9. You have to study/finish a project/focus hard on something for the time being.

10. A Big Life Event has become your temporary priority.

11. You just finished a big writing project and want to give your brain a rest.

12. You’ve been working hard. You just need a break. And you deserve one.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Why You Feel Blocked (and How to Fix It)

Why does this keep happening to you?

You’ve felt it.

The struggle that is trying to do something as simple as type words, but they won’t come.

Make sentences, but they won’t make sense.

Tell stories, but they somehow seem wrong.

I don’t like the term “writer’s block.” I think it’s used too often to give writers an easy out when they don’t feel like writing.

But that’s not to say I have never felt creatively “blocked.” Oh, I have. I do right now. It’s taken me an hour to write this much on just one blog post.

Why? Well, that’s a little personal. But I can tell you how I’m dealing with it.

It’s a combination of strategies. Walking when I need to clear my head. Playing with my puppy when I need to laugh. Turning off my computer and spending time with a book when I need to free myself from the weight of the world for a little while.

Different tips work for different people. Some find it helpful to take a walk, listen to music, or simply step away from their screens and work on something else for awhile.

Others need to take more drastic approaches, forfeiting their writing time so they can rest or take care of more pressing issues making them unable to focus on their work.

But most of the time, what you do to relieve yourself of this frustrating feeling is less important than figuring out why it’s happening in the first place.

The bottom line is, if you’re feeling blocked, there’s a reason. And it doesn’t always relate directly to what you’re writing. Often times, the specific project you are working on has nothing to do with your “brain drought” at all.

This is why I encourage writers not to give up so easily on their works-in-progress. The problem might not be what you’re working on. It might be something that’s going on at work or in your personal life that’s merely getting in the way.

If you can figure out what’s “triggering” your blockage, that’s at least one place to start. I know what’s been bugging me all week, and at least knowing the cause has helped me push through my not-wanting-to-do-any-writing moments and get my work done anyway.

But what if you can’t work through it? What if it’s something ongoing that doesn’t have a temporary solution or easy fix? If that’s the case, it might be in your best interest to take a writing break. There is nothing wrong with putting your writing aside to deal with Life Things.

Just always remember that you can come back. You will come back. If you’re a true writer at heart, you will find a way back to your craft. No obstacle can keep you away form it forever. It’s as much a part of you as your blood. You cannot thrive without it.

Feeling blocked can be the result of something simple. Or maybe the solutions aren’t all that simple to find. What’s most important is that you’re honest with yourself from the beginning. Is it the project — or is it you?

Knowing the difference can save a lot of writing projects from unnecessary abandonment. And it could save you a lot of guilt and self-loathing, too.

Don’t give up on the project. Give up on the struggle. If writing just isn’t happening, shift your focus. Take care of yourself. Your family. Whatever it is. Straighten out your priorities. Reorder them if you have to. You will find a way to fit writing in. It will always find a way.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

This Is What the Ending to a ‘Perfect’ Story Looks Like

Perfect.

You’d think deciding how to end your latest work-in-progress would be easy. Tie all those loose ends together, pen one final scene, and you’re done! Right?

Except it’s not that simple. Because sometimes, being in complete control of your writing means you often find yourself drowning in possibilities. Which is not as glorious as it might seem.

In the end, they live happily ever after.

No, wait. They don’t. That’s more realistic and relatable. Right?

Maybe the story doesn’t actually end there. Yeah. It keeps going. Happily ever after … after.

But what if the ending is supposed to be dark and leave the reader feeling like they’ve had their hearts ripped out and stomped on? Maybe that’s …

No. Not that. That’s too much.

Guess what?

There is no such thing as a perfect ending.

It’s not possible to write a story that pleases everyone. That won’t spark some sort of criticism. That will leave every reader satisfied when they finish the last page.

When you write, you have to write for the masses. And sometimes, it’s much easier to handle this overwhelming fact by just ending the book the way you want to end it because you’re the author and you make the rules.

I often know the endings to my books before I know how they begin. The fun part, to me, is figuring out how the reader gets there.

Worry less about making everything “just right.” Remember that this whole writing thing is supposed to be, you know … fun. You’re probably overthinking this way too much and you don’t even realize it.

I see this happen with way too many writers. They get so caught up in having everything perfectly aligned before they start writing … and then they never actually start writing. Because what’s in their head couldn’t possibly come out as perfect on paper.

It’s not supposed to. That’s why. It’s called. A draft.

For now, end the story the way you feel it should end. If you ever change your mind, you can go back and change the ending, too. In drafts, nothing is set. Nothing is final.

For now, worry about finishing. Writing that ending. You never know — it might turn out to be the exact way it was supposed to end all along.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Here’s What I Do When I Can’t Focus But Need to Write Anyway

Focusing is hard. That’s normal. Maybe.

Some things have happened in my personal life recently that have made focusing on my day-to-day work very … challenging.

It’s all good things. I just haven’t been able to overcome my distractions lately as easily as I usually do.

But it’s not like this hasn’t happened before. I used to struggle with focusing on a daily basis. But then I got a home office separate from my bedroom, and life improved tremendously.

But location doesn’t matter much — you might have a chair, a specific corner or place where you write best. That’s your writing space. It calls to you. Or, some days, you have to drag yourself toward it and force yourself to stay there until your work gets done.

When I’m having an atrocious focus day and can’t afford to do less work, I shut out as many distractions as I can. I give the dog a bone, put my phone on do not disturb mode, put on my noise-canceling headphones, turn on instrumental music if I’m in the mood (sometimes I need total silence), and turn on Cold Turkey (which blocks specific preset websites like Facebook and BuzzFeed) if I’m really having a tough day.

And then … I write.

I know it doesn’t seem like it’s that simple, to just put your hands on the keyboard and make words happen. But you know, it’s funny … when you block out everything else around you, suddenly, writing isn’t actually as difficult to dive into as you thought.

And in those moments I can’t block everything out like that? I just do my best. I accept that some things are just going to take longer. That I’m going to have to take some breaks when I don’t want to and might waste some time even when I have it to myself.

In reality, you’re going to have good writing days when you’re hyperfocused and (almost) everything gets done. And you’re going to have unfocused writing days when you can’t stare at one screen for more than 15 seconds and nothing makes sense and you’d rather just not do anything at all.

When you accept the life of a writer, you take in the good and the bad. The easy and the challenging. The productive days and the days that seem wasted. There are no absolutes here. There is only balance.

If you can block out your distractions — yes, even the ones in your mind (that’s up to you) — do it. If you can’t, take your time. Some days, what matters most is that the work gets done and it gets done well. No matter how long it takes.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

Is This Why You Want to Quit?

Why are you so quick to give up?

“I quit.”

You’ve probably said this at least a few times throughout your writing life. You might have actually done it once or twice (or a dozen times).

You quit. You gave up. Or, at least, you’ve wanted to. You’ve thought about it.

Why?

Do you face the temptation to give up because you’ve realized writing is no longer your passion?

Do you want to give up because you’ve found something more rewarding?

Do you want to quit because you don’t care about what you’re writing anymore?

Or do you want to quit because it’s hard?

Because writing IS hard. Stopping or avoiding something you’d rather be doing so you can write is unpleasant 95 percent of the time. Getting something started is a challenge like no other. Finishing a writing project is a feat many hopeful writers never master.

Sticking with something from beginning to end is something many don’t have the focus or patience to do. Many people are so worried about everything they do being perfect that they talk themselves out of doing what they want in favor of something safe and judgment-free.

Telling stories is hard. You don’t always know where they’re going, whether or not you’ll have to rewrite something you’re currently working on, how long it’s going to take before you feel your time has been well spent — if at all.

And it takes a lot of time. Like, way more time than you think it will. You spend a lot of time staring at screens deep in thought. The further you dive into a story, the quicker time seems to pass. No one else around you is going to understand that. Writing schedules are weird, and if you aren’t consistent with them, it becomes even harder to jump back in if you’ve stopped writing for a while.

But are any or all of these things worth quitting for? I know not everyone is built to withstand the unpredictable ups and downs of a career or even a serious hobby in writing. And there’s nothing wrong with writing for yourself, or for fun, without the pressure that comes with making everything you publish public.

There are just a lot of people who have great potential, but give up before they give themselves the chance to reach it. I don’t want that to happen to you. I want you to give yourself time to succeed, to learn to face the waiting and the rejection and the pain that ultimately comes along with being a writer.

If you can, don’t give up. Don’t quit because it’s not as easy as you thought it would be. Nothing ever is, really. If writing weren’t a challenge, it wouldn’t be quite as rewarding when our hard work finally pays off.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

How Do You Know If You’re Doing This Right?

How do you know? Really.

Have you ever had one of those days?

You know the one — that sunrise that comes too early; the sunset that seems to take an eternity. Everything you try, you can’t seem to get right. No conversation ends the way you want it to. Even silence and solitude make you feel guilty, not restored.

There’s too much time to think about what you’re supposed to be doing — and whether or not what you’re trying to do is even pushing you in the right direction.

How do you know if this writing thing is even where you belong? If you haven’t “made it” by now, is it too late? Are you doing something wrong? If you are, what does the “right” thing even look like?

How do you know if this hectic life is meant for you?

The problem is … you don’t.

You don’t know if you’re writing a blog post that will go viral or a story that will sell millions of copies. You don’t know if you’ll pitch or publish something at just the right time, if you’ll end up emailing the right person on the right day, if the thing you wrote that you aren’t proud of will turn out to be the best thing you’ll ever compose.

You don’t know. But that shouldn’t stop you from writing anyway.

This road is uncertain. You can do all the “right” things, all the things the writing experts say will make you successful. But those things don’t guarantee your success. Your fate isn’t determined only by your actions. As much as you might hate to admit it, a lot of successful writers just get lucky.

So what do you do to increase your chances of “making it”?

You write.

You write even when you don’t feel like it. When you don’t think it’s any good. When you’re afraid other people will judge or criticize it. When you’re tired. When you’re sad. When you’d rather give up.

How do you guarantee you’ll never succeed? By not writing. That part, at least, is simple.

Maybe there is no “right.” Maybe there’s just persistence and determination and a refusal to give up until you start down a path that leads you to the right place.

Just keep going. For now. Because on those days it doesn’t feel like any of it is worth it, chances are, it is. You just don’t know how yet.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

What Makes Your Readers Relate to Your Writing?

We’re all a bit self-centered, in the sense that we want to feel like we’re being spoken to directly.

Whether you realize it or not, the stories you likely enjoy the most are the ones you can relate to on a personal level.

Sometimes, as a writer, you also unintentionally write stories that hit close to home for your readers. Eventually, you learn to do this intentionally.

My blog started out as many personal blogs do — filled with posts merely summarizing my day-to-day life and venting about the emotional roller coaster that was high school.

At some point I figured out that if I could weave these experiences into a reminder or lesson that anyone reading could learn from, a lot more people seemed to enjoy my posts.

So now, even though I try to talk about myself less and focus on my readers more, there’s a reason I haven’t taken the “I” point of view out of my blog. A site meant for writers, after all, should be written by a writer who understands firsthand what this unpredictable life entails.

It doesn’t matter what kind of story you’re writing, whether it’s straight fiction or an editorial feature or some hybrid of a few different genres. Stories are about people (or subjects with human-like qualities/emotions/thoughts) and have to be about those human-centric things we all can sit back and go, “Oh yeah, been there, survived that.”

All stories, in some way or another, are built on the foundations of human existence. We have all experienced what you’re writing about or have reacted to what you’re writing about in a similar way. What makes a reader connect to your words isn’t that they know you personally, but instead that they understand your perspective on a level deep enough that feels almost intimate.

This is why writers’ stories tend to get better the longer they write. It’s not that young writers (I don’t know if I can call myself one of those anymore … don’t mind me, just having a minor quarter-life crisis over here) aren’t capable of writing good stuff. They just … haven’t usually seen a lot of the world yet. They still have a lot to learn. And if they’re anything like me, they keep writing as they grow and learn and change.

The more you experience, the more you understand the elements of characterization and circumstance that capture the heart and attention of a reader. When it comes down to it, we’re all a bit self-centered, and we want nothing more than to feel as though a story is, in its own way, speaking directly to us.

That’s the key that unlocks the secret of good storytelling. Spinning webs of prose that make people feel understood. Appreciated. Heard.

And it all starts with you. The mantra “write what you know” holds up when you’re writing from your own experiences. You know what it feels like. So when you write from that vulnerable perspective, other people will feel it, too.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

12 Statements Every Writer Needs to Read Out Loud to Themselves Today

“My work matters.”

1. I wrote a thing today. That’s pretty cool. I did that.

2. I might not be totally confident but that doesn’t mean I’m doing a bad job.

3. Every writer starts out struggling. And keeps struggling. Probably.

4. My work matters.

5. Rejection means I have more to learn.

6. I’m not going to take that comment personally.

7. I’m proud of what I wrote. That’s what matters most.

8. All this work will pay off. Eventually.

9. Everyone gets discouraged. It’s normal. I’m OK.

10. Today, my best is good enough.

11. Tomorrow will be better than today.

12. I am a writer. I’m doing OK. Things will only get better from here.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.