Welcome to what will hopefully be the first of the Annual Authoress’ Success Story blog tours! Those of us who have owed our publishing successes, at least in part, to the Miss Snark’s First Victim contests and blog have decided to come together and help cross promote each other’s work. Every day in the first two weeks of August, a different author will be posting an interview of one of our fellow Success Stories, so make sure to tune in to everyone’s blogs (there’s a list below the questions).
And now, I’ve got the great pleasure of introducing you to Elissa Cruz. By day, Elissa is a Super Cool Mommy to her five young children (and Super Cool Wife to her husband of 16 years). By night, she’s a Super Cool Secret Writer of middle-grade books. And when she gets an extra minute or two, she is one of many Super Cool Wizards behind the curtain at From the Mixed-Up Files, a blog celebrating middle-grade books. And because she isn’t busy enough, she is also Super Cool Co-Host of the weekly #MGlitchat on Twitter. More recently, she is the Super Cool Assistant Regional Advisor (ARA) for the Utah/S. Idaho chapter of SCBWI, too.
ELISSA IS OFFERING A 1ST CHAPTER CRITIQUE TO SOMEONE WHO COMMENTS ON THIS INTERVIEW (ESPECIALLY SINCE SHE THINKS THAT CRITIQUES ARE SO IMPORTANT.)
Q:How did participating with MSFV blog get you where you are now?
A: I came into the MSFV family a little later on my path to publication than many of my fellow Success Stories did. I was actively searching for an agent when a critique partner told me about the blog and the upcoming Secret Agent contest, and she thought I had a good chance of placing. I wasn’t sure if my writing was good enough yet, but I took her suggestion to enter and was pleasantly surprised when all the feedback was very positive. It was reassuring to know that my writing was on par with agented and/or published authors.
Q: You say that you love the revision stage of writing more than the writing stage of writing. Why is that? What’s appealing about it?
A: I’ve always liked the idea of making something better than it was before. Revision gives me the opportunity to take something that is merely okay or passable and mold it into something spectacular. I also think my love of revision has a lot to do with my background. I started out in journalism, first as the Editor-in-Chief of my junior high school newspaper, then as the Advertising Manager in high school, and finally the Copy Editor in college. I had to learn how to take my creative (read: flowery) language and mold it into that informative, inverted pyramid newspaper style of writing.
I found that I actually enjoyed manipulating the language to suit my needs. Yes. Even in Junior High. In fact, my favorite recollection of that time was diagramming sentences in my 8th grade English class. (I am not making this up.) 😉 I loved breaking them down and studying how each part could be used to create a new and different whole. I do the same thing every time I revise one of my manuscripts. And not just sentences anymore, but themes and character arcs and plot, for example, won’t escape my critical eye during the revision stage of a project.”
Q: Do you find that the analytical critical side of your brain gets in the way when you’re trying to do the creative writing part? How do you deal with both when you’re initially creating the prose? Do you rigorously plot or are you more of a pantser, and how does that affect your revising?
A: When I first started writing, I had trouble finishing anything because my inner critic had to be in control. I have dozens of unfinished manuscripts to prove it, too! I finally learned that, in order to get to THE END of a manuscript, I had to reign in the critic and let the muse take the lead. My inner critic allows this in short bursts, so I tend to write my first drafts very very very quickly–in most cases, it takes me no more than a week to get the first rough draft/glorified outline written. No plotting allowed during this stage!
But once the first draft is on paper, then my inner critic gets back in the driver’s seat and I plot the entire book (yes, the one I just wrote), and I flesh out the holes (of which there are many) and figure out what the real story is. Then I start on revisions to get what I call a “working first draft” written to send off to my agent and/or critique partners.
I should also mention that I tend to think for months, sometimes years, before I ever write a word of a manuscript. So, though it might sound like my inner critic is the one making the bulk of the decisions, my muse is more in charge than she lets on. 😉
Q: They say that a story is created when you write, and a novel is created when you edit. What advice do you have for those who are revising their novels for the first time?
A: My best advice is to find someone who can point out what’s working and what’s not, and really listen to his/her suggestions before you make any changes. Sometimes critiquers may not know why a part isn’t working, but just knowing that it isn’t working tells me I need to revise that section somehow. FYI, I have several critique partners who are also writers that I utilize during the bulk of my early revisions. That way we can talk about writerly things like pacing, character development, plot, etc, and I know I won’t bore them. This way we end up teaching each other about the craft of writing while we revise, which is an added bonus in my opinion. Once I have a book that I think is almost ready to go out on submission, that’s when I share it with my beta readers (non-writers who love to read or edit), just so I know it works for them as well.
Q: Lastly, how’s your experience on submission been? Can you explain to the readers what being on submission means, and what you do personally when you’re on submission?
A: Oh, the dreaded submission process! 🙂 To me, being on submission is the first time in the publishing process where I give up all control over a particular manuscript. That can be scary, especially when I’ve spent months (years) pouring my heart and soul into it, and I want to know exactly what my baby is doing at any given moment.
But I have to remind myself that it’s not a baby anymore–it’s all grown up now and I have to let it make its way out into the world. Whether it succeeds or fails, it’s out of my hands at that point, but I am comforted by the fact that I did all I could. So once a manuscript is on submission, I usually don’t worry (or think) about it too much. I’m getting better about being zen about the whole thing, anyway. Usually the first few days are the worst–the excitement just about kills me! Then I settle into a comfortable “come what may” attitude. And I get to work on a new project, too.
Visit the whole crew:
|Leigh Talbert Moore||@leightmoore||2-Aug|
|Monica Bustamante Wagner||@Monica_BW||9-Aug|
|Angela Ackerman||@angelaackerman & @writerthesaurus||14-Aug|