Discussion questions: What’s the oldest writing project you consider to still be in-progress? What makes a “real” writer? When it comes to feedback, what’s more important, quantity or quality? What do you do to “stay connected” to the writer within you on days you can’t work on your project, or can’t write at all? Random, I know, but it’ll make sense soon. Answer as many as you’d like in the comments.
This week we’re offering a Q&A with M.E. Solomon, a writer who recently published her first short story and is working on a novel in book coaching with WriteByNight coach/consultant Resa Alboher.
A few questions for discussion, drawn from M.E.’s responses:
1. What’s the oldest writing project you consider to still be in-progress? What is its status?
2. What makes a “real” writer? Are you one? If so, when/how did you become one?
3. Regarding one-on-one coaching vs. a writing group: When it comes to feedback, what’s more important, quantity or quality?
4. What do you do to “stay connected” to the writer within you on days you can’t work on your project, or can’t write at all?
QA With M.E. Solomon
Let’s start with the most fun and exciting stuff: You just had a story published in Teleport Magazine! Can you tell us a bit about “Doppelgäng’s” path to publication? Is it your first published short story? How did it feel to see your byline? How has being published changed your outlook, your approach, or the way you view yourself as a writer?
I initially drafted “Doppelgäng,” believe it or not, fifteen years ago. It’s gone through multiple iterative revisions (and a variety of submissions-and-rejections) before arriving to the version that was accepted to Teleport. It is my first published short story (though, as of this writing, it is now not my last or most recent acceptance).
Seeing my byline was an experience I didn’t entirely anticipate. Certainly, it was a great feeling, but you know what was even cooler? Seeing the story with a really neat graphic. The one that accompanied “Doppelgäng” was chosen by the editor – a great image by a graphic artist from Russia named Barandash Karandashich,
One doesn’t need the validation of publication to be a “real writer” of course, but it did impact how I see myself in that way. It also lit a fire under me to write more, to write more often, and to have more faith in the outcome. Perhaps counterintuitively, it’s made me think less about audience while writing and more about my vision or what I want to say. It’s shifted the desire to write from external factors to internal ones. Those were always there, but this has sort of re-focused the lens.
You’ve been in book coaching with Resa Alboher since May 2019. What got you to the point where you were ready to work with a coach on your writing?
I’d been working on my writing for a very long time. When a story wasn’t working, I’d tend to get discouraged and put it aside, which would lead to extensive blocked periods where nothing was ever getting completed. I finally decided it was time to take it up a notch. I’d taken many writing classes before, but I suspected that the personalized attention of a writing coach could benefit me, and it has.
How has working with a writing coach been beneficial? In what ways has your writing changed and improved since you began coaching? What are the challenges of working with a coach?
From my perspective, Resa deserves as much credit as I do. Resa has been resolute in her encouragement of my focus, even in the face of my own resistance. It has provided consistency, deadlines, and focus.
I prefer the individual attention a coach provides, without the comparison to others’ work that can come from taking group classes. I certainly like reading other writers’ pieces, but it takes focus away from my own, to the point where I lose sight of the path. Working with a coach keeps me on that path. It makes me accountable, gives me a deadline. Also, Resa knows so much more than I do about writing and about certain types of literature. She has read a lot and uses that background to help me stay centered on what is important to the story I’m telling. I learn so much from her.
My writing has changed in the sense that I am less judgmental of my own work, take more joy in the process, and am more patient with it. As a result, I’m able to get deeper into the story and the craft, which in turn has improved the output quality. It’s increased my confidence in the draft I call final.
I can’t say I’ve encountered challenges working with a coach, except to say that Resa challenges me to work more diligently and to stay with it. She suggests allowing for days when there isn’t room for writing but where you can still fit something in, just to stay connected to that part of yourself.
You’re currently working on a novel. Can you tell us a bit about it, or is it top-secret? Can you talk about the process of working on it with Resa? Does having a coach help keep you motivated and on pace?
I can tell you that the novel is a slight departure in tone from my stories. It is more of a thriller with some supernatural elements than it is horror, per se. It is fully drafted, from beginning to end, and I’ve gone through at least a couple of revisions, though it has a long way to go.
In terms of process – because the scope of a novel is so broad – we work on it in sections. Sometimes we’ll work on it for a couple of sessions, then stop for a while as I shift to a different piece, then return to it again. We’ve found that there are certain parts of the novel I personally like better so I work on those more, and as a result, there’s a feedback loop where the parts I favor less get neglected, and that’s what I really need to target. Because revising a novel is such a long process, it takes a lot of patience. With a coach I’ll finish it.
Do you have other stories out for consideration? Are you able to work on stories and the novel simultaneously, or to write a new story do you need to shelve the novel for a few days/weeks?
Currently, I have six stories out for consideration. I can work on stories and the novel simultaneously. My motivation for what I work on and when is fairly arbitrary. There is no real structure to that. While I have at times worked on them simultaneously, it is more typical that I’ll focus on one piece at a time or one format at a time (novel, short story, screenplay, etc.).
How did you get your start as a writer?
I have been writing stories since I was a pre-teen and won a school poetry contest as a kid. I’ve always liked the act of putting a writing instrument to paper – the feel of the pen on a page, favoring certain pens – in college it was those fountain pens with the ink cartridges – and then there has always been a curiosity about words. Even during long periods of not writing I still considered myself a writer, because ultimately the writer sensibility is about how one sees the world, not whether or not one is putting the proverbial pen to the proverbial paper. That’s just a bonus for everyone involved.
What are your future writing goals? What do you see as WriteByNight’s role in helping you reach those goals?
My primary goal is to finish the novel I drafted in 2013. Beyond that, my goals are to complete several more short stories that are already drafted and get them published. I also have other work – a couple of screenplays, a television pilot, and two other novels, one fully drafted and one partially – that I’d like to finish.
I do see WriteByNight’s role as integral to these goals. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with WriteByNight and Resa. It’s made a huge difference to have the encouragement and guidance of a coach who’s been a good match for me.