There’s a saying that writers love to write, but hate to edit. There are reasons for that, and I covered them in my previous post on Feedback.
This month, we’ll be looking at what possibly goes on at the Editorial Table, instead.
A Huge Mess
If the place you’re submitting to has any form of reputation, you’re looking at an average of hundreds of submissions coming in a day. That also means a huge mess in the Editor’s inbox and on their table.
It’s not an exaggeration.
So do cut your editors a little slack, especially if they’re not handling the publication full-time.
At the same time, I’d say this gives all storytellers more incentive to submit their best work, correctly formatted - making your editor’s life a little easier goes a slightly longer way (after good content), trust me.
We can say and fantasize all we like, but deadlines are a reality of life - whether you’re a creative genius or not. Same thing goes with your Editors. With tight deadlines and book launches looming, Editors have a load of responsibility to get content out on schedule.
Content will keep coming, but books need to be released to make pay and rent.
At the same time, Editors are usually at this in-between situation where they want to spend time to make creator’s stories the best they can be, but also have to cater to the people who sign their paychecks - the publisher or clients. Therefore, when your Editors give you a deadline, chances are, it’s the best date they can think of so that the project’s schedule won’t be thrown off too much.
The Better Between Two Choices
Oftentimes, Editors find themselves in an unenviable position of having to choose the better between two greats. It can be due to the publisher’s budgets, market information, or just which one fits the anthology or collection better and it only had one slot left.
Putting aside the fact of some manuscripts really not making the cut due to the quality of writing, disregard of the publisher’s format criteria, or stories that are not aligned with the anthology’s theme, the Editor can be left with a case where you only have 12 story slots in this anthology, but 16 stories that made the cut.
That’s when it gets really down to the wire - Editors will be looking out for silly mistakes, the slightest loophole, or even which story seems to fit best so they can trim out the duplicates.
Therefore, it is common for Editors to say, “Sometimes, it’s not about the quality of the work. It’s about which work ended up becoming the best fit, instead of the best.”
As I’ve mentioned earlier, Editors have many deadlines to adhere to - on top of their daily work and follow-ups with more authors than they can handle. So to be brutally honest, many “can you please tell me why my manuscript has been rejected?” emails can go unanswered just because the Editor literally have no time to craft something more nuanced than the rejection letter received.
Regardless, do send in your queries - politely, please - if you have a burning desire to know how your manuscript did.
Just don’t feel entitled to an answer, and keep creating.
And that’ll be all from the Editorial Office (at least, some part of it)! Stay tuned next month for the next stage - Mediums (and no, not the ones you use to communicate with spirits).
You wrote your ideas, plans, and disciplined yourself to complete your story. So now what?
Given how saturated the creative market is in the local, regional, and international playing field, you would want your work to be the best it can be while still retaining your voice. And that’s when you enter the stage of Editing and Feedback - possibly one of the most important stages in your journey to creating and putting your work out there.
Just a note before we start: Note that I’ve said that this is one of the most important stages in your creative journey - that means there’s no guarantee that this will be the easiest or most enjoyable stage.
From personal experience, many questions on feedback lie with two main categories - Asking for feedback, and Receiving feedback.
Asking for Feedback
Perhaps one of the most important lessons I’ve received from asking for feedback is the fact that you have to work for your feedback. More specifically, people cannot give you good feedback if you don’t know what you’re getting feedback for.
So before asking for feedback, here are some questions or points to consider:
When do you want or need the feedback?
This is crucial - you don’t want to waste time, but you don’t want to waste anyone else’s time either. Thus, you’ll need to figure out the right time to ask for feedback.
Usually, I start asking for feedback during two major instances:
This helps so that I don’t fall into the “perfectionist” trap of never ever finishing because “it’s not good enough” - it won’t be until you decide that you’re done. Set a limit for yourself - one rewrite, then you’ll ask for edits or feedback, or I’ll consider this done and ask for feedback two weeks before submission deadline.
Also, give your feedback group a reasonable deadline - depending on how much detail you need and how long your piece is, usually I give about 1 week to 1 month for people to get back to me.
That way, you can get the help you need.
What do you want feedback for?
As mentioned earlier, you won’t know if people are giving you good feedback or feedback to consider if you don’t even know what you want feedback for in the first place.
“But Jo, this is ridiculous,” you may say, “I just want feedback on my story and the feedback I get is all over the place!”
Therein lies the rub - you want feedback on your story, yes. However, there are many aspects of storytelling that can be critique. Therefore, it is in your best interest to weed out maybe 2-3 main questions you’d like to ask your feedback group before sending your manuscripts to them for feedback.
Here are some examples you can consider:
Not your parents or grandparents. Unless they are professional editors. LOL.
Try to have a diverse group of people who you can ask for feedback from - teachers, mentors, friends, writer’s group mates, fandom mates, etc… - one of the best things you can do is to include people from your target audience into your feedback group.
An important thing to note - DO NOT pester your editor or proofreader friend to have a look through for free. Editors, copyeditors, proofreaders, or people in the publishing industry in general are very busy people, regardless of whether or not they’re your friends or you’re just a student.
Personally, if you’re just looking for a person to give you comments or answer your questions on how your piece reads, ask your friends or a mentor (However, like editors, do not expect them to comply all the time).
But if you’d like a professional opinion or a major upheaval of a long piece of yours, and you have no idea how to go about it - put aside some cash and hire a professional editor. Singapore-wise, you can take a look at the Book Council for a registry of possible partners or editors.
Before you start, please also note that not everyone in your feedback group is obligated to return to you with feedback, especially if you’re not paying them to beta read your work. So the first thing you’d need to do is to decide when to take feedback into account and start edits.
Personally, these are my criteria before I start my revisions base on critique:
Again, your criteria is up to you to decide.
Now, with all the comments coming in, the next question would be how to deal with them and apply them to your work.
First and foremost, here’s just a quick rundown on what criticism is vs. what critiques are - many tend to think they are interchangeable, but knowing the difference can help smoothen your editing journey.
One of the easiest ways to differentiate the two would be as follows: Criticism is negative connotation or comments which contribute nothing to the betterment of your piece. Critique is negative comments that help you better your creation, usually with suggestions from the critic.
As you go through more editing processes, you’ll have a better feel of which comments help the story, and which you can ignore. Note: For those starting out, it’ll be good for you to take at least 90-95% of feedback into consideration, especially if they are from your target audience or professionals. Remember, feedback is to help you tell the best story, not to affirm or stroke your ego.
After sifting through the comments, you can now start to organize them. A good hierarchy to sort them under can look like this:
And like all professionals - remember to follow-up with your critics or beta-readers: Thank them, clarify feedback, ask questions, and if they’re amenable, send them your edited version. Regardless, remember to thank the people who have helped you with your work!
BONUS: Giving Feedback
While this entire post is about working with feedback, it’s a little weird not to share a few tips on how to give feedback - just to give other creators an easier time with their works.
Tips for giving feedback are a little more straightforward. From a generic point-of-view, these have worked so far:
And before I go, here’s a technique I seem to find myself living by, especially after many sessions of this technique for feedback and workshopping working so well for me.
So far, I only know it to be called the “Workshopping” technique - a process introduced to me by Miguel Syjuco, while I was doing my Mentor Access Programme in 2014/15. It’s used in Creative Writing workshops in professional groups, including Columbia University (where Miguel learnt it).
Here’s how it goes:
It ensures that all participants are committed to helping each other out (if you didn’t bother reading the pieces, you won’t be able to help anyway), so whether you’re a veteran or are just starting out - you will benefit from it.
And that’s it for this month’s Stage of Creation post. See you all next month!
Alright - Idea’s down, your schedule is out, and you blaze through your first week. The second week passes and it’s a challenge, but you get there. The third week comes, you skipped a day - you need a treat, after all. And by the fourth week of the month, your project has been sitting in its status since you left it hanging in Week Two and you’re just staring at the screen until the next distraction comes up to ask for your attention.
Welcome to the treacherous ranges that form the Ridges of Creation.
One of the things that people don’t tell you about being a Creative is how heart-wrenching, boring, or frustrating the process can be. Sure, there will be bouts of inspiration and drive - the peaks of these ridges, but more often than not, storytellers in our personal circles will face a roadblock or challenge of some sort when they start creating.
So what can we do?
First thing you’ll probably need to is to figure out your particular mood or emotion before you started. Many will tell you that emotions will only get in the way of disciplined creation, but your emotional self will get in the way some way or another. In cases like this, it’ll be good to be self-aware before you sit down and then get frustrated over only writing five words after staring at the screen for hours on end.
After getting your mood and emotions in check, here are a few things you can get to doing depending on how the creation mountain is to you that day:
When you feel even that little smidgeon up to it:
On days where you end up staring at the screen because nothing is coming to your head, try these to either move your project along, or even to get that much needed spark to get over your current creation block:
Tips for Better Creative Sessions:
Whether or not you’re having a moment of Peak Performance or a Down Day, here are also a few tips to get as much out of your creative sessions as possible.
That’s all I have so far for the creation stage. I hope my last three posts (including this one) have helped with some aspect of your storytelling journey.
Thank you for your support and I hope you’ve managed to benefit from some of the information presented above. Stay tuned for the next stage, the first after you’re done with your finished product, a doozie - getting and coming to terms with feedback.
When I was hunting for planner supplies to get before my first trip to Japan, Midori came up as one of the few brands to look out for. Though I eventually settled for the Hobonichi Cousin, I decided to use Midori’s A5, grid notebook as a travel journal.
I’m not a huge artist or a sketcher, but this MIdori has served pretty well in helping me jot my travel memories. The three aspects that got my buy-in were the general feel, the grid paper, and the paper itself.
Note: My journal is a perfect-bound, A5, grid design pages, so what I like about the Midori notebooks will be based on my experience with this .
Firstly, the paper. The cream shade, smooth texture, and solid feel of each page makes writing in it a joy, regardless of the pen you’re using. Generally, Midori’s notebooks use Tomoe River paper, so it’s perfect for fountain pens and markers - quick dry, minimal seepage.
Secondly, the grid format within. If you’d prefer something more open, Midori has blank paper notebooks as well. However, I personally fell in love with grid notebooks and journals since I started proper planner maintenance because they were easy to organize and incredibly flexible for design needs. Whether or not you like boxes to keep your notes in check (I do) or just want to do everything from scratch, the grid format allows for a spectrum of uses.
Finally, the general feel of the journal. A5 and A6 are common sizes and so, easy to fit into commonly-available covers. That aside, the Midori journal is light enough to carry around, a great balance for my “cannot-really-write-on-tiny-journals” self.
That being said, I would recommend Midori’s journal or planner if you are looking for:
Apart from the MD Notebooks, Midori also produces various stationery, and is affiliated with the Traveler’s Notebook, which is a favourite of the Tiger. For more information about Midori, click here
Last week, we looked into getting the concept of your story or art down on paper. This week, we tackle the ‘sit-down-and-finish’ aspect of the process.
STAGE TWO: DISCIPLINE
You want to know the truth about my discipline? I get work done, but it’s not in the way teachers will be proud of. TL; DR - I suck.
But while I’m not going to pull out that 99% perspiration phrase, but in all honesty, no amount of inspiration will save you if you take no action. That being said, I’ve discovered a more nuanced way of getting into things other than just, “Shut up, suck it up, and just work hard without any complaints.”
On that front, I have found that discipline can be a huge challenge due to these four aspects. But here’s how I cope:
How do you work?
It’s simple enough. Yet, so many of us don’t really know our optimum working levels, or give statements like - “I’m always last-minute, I need the rush to finish everything well.” or “I’ll do things when I feel like it. My readers need to know that good things take time.”
Knowing how we work as creators, administrators, managers, the lot, can help with scheduling and the discipline to tackle your projects as they come.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to determine your optimal work routine:
Personal Assessment - How you create when you get to create.
Circumstantial Assessment - What do you have to work with.
From there, you can find and hopefully plug the gaps between your current situation and your most comfortable work environment. (Note: Realistically, you won’t have your ideal work environment all the time - but this can help alleviate matters, especially when you know where the biggest gaps are.)
Overwhelm and Distraction
I’m the kind of person who cannot relax until everything and everything is well and truly done. Also, Murphy’s Law is a good friend - imagine how many times you’ve found yourself in a situation where you face long periods of silence from your stakeholders, only to have all of them descend upon you with urgent matters on your busiest day.
I recognize that this is a problem, but as I took steps to curb this issue, I’ve learnt that overcoming overwhelm can lead to distraction. Instead, here are some steps I took / am taking now to help with my discipline:
Most importantly, please give yourself permission to rest. We are all humans, so there should not be this pressure to always appear as if you’re always working and never resting.
Also, a little goes a long way. When I’m too tired but feel like working on a project, I find myself gravitating to tasks which are time-consuming, but not difficult (e.g. panelling and inking, in the case of comic artists). That way, work still gets done, but you’re not over-exerting yourself.
For me, the solution was simple - turn off your WiFi, or go analog. I’m a huge RPG gamer and love my Netflix and Geek & Sundry, so I’d know that internet is going to be my best friend and my worst enemy, depending on the time of the day.
That being said, another way I do like to keep focussed is to allocate time for the tasks you want completed. A popular way is the Pomodoro Method -
I tend to pull a double Pomodoro and turn it into a Power Hour, with a 25-min session, 10-min break, and another 25-min session to finish it off.
During these sessions, set some rules for yourself. Mine are usually - No WiFi, no music or anything from the earphones, and no answering messages (unless they’re urgent).
And when you have your focus and rules in place - stick to them. The urgency and the time constraint can help you achieve more than if you were to just scold yourself into squeezing it into your schedule.
Schedule time - regardless of how little you can.
Most of us have day jobs, so dedicating huge amounts of time to your creative work may not be on the table. However, here are some pointers to what some of us do:
Bonus Point: When you’re working with others
BONUS - After going through some tips on how to get yourself disciplined and productive, here are also some bonus points for times when you have to play the role of team mate to others:
So there you have it! Some of my tips on maintaining discipline with your creative work. Here are (some of my favourite) other publications or blog posts that can help you with your motivation:
Thank you for your support and I hope you’ve managed to benefit from some of the information presented above. Stay tuned for the next stage of creation - we go into the Peaks and Troughs of Creation!
While I’m currently having a blast with my new layout and the 2018 Cousin, I wanted to give some credit to the Hobonichi Cover makers. As pricey as the covers can be, there are some aspects which have proved to be incredibly useful for me. Take a look:
When I got my first Hobonichi Cousin cover, I was sceptical - I already had another journal cover with pockets and such, why would I need another one?
But when I got to the shelves at LoFT, it didn't take that long to convince me.
Firstly, the covers have a nice feel, fitting plastic cover, and are rather hardy against water (especially accidental water damage) and scratches.
Secondly, most Hobonichi Covers feature the following:
And last, but certainly not least - Hobonichi knows how to engage artists and craftspeople to make things pretty. You can see the other covers for yourself here.
Moving forward, I’ll be looking and reviewing other journals we use regularly in bullet journalling, organization, or just plain diary entries. Covering other planners, I’ll also be featuring other brands used by some of my friends.
So if you’re as crazy about planners as I am, stay tuned for more journals to come!
Last year, I did a few posts under this section called “How-I-Dos”, which talked about getting organized and gave readers a glimpse into what is expected of us as creators, especially independent creators, in the industry, the community, and at events. The more I delved into this topic of Arts Management, however, the more I realized there’s a lot to cover.
Therefore, I’ve decided to combine a few good pointers I’ve gathered over the past half a decade or so in the industry and interview a few fellow storytellers in a series I would call, “The Stages of Creation”.
This series will cover tips and advice from the concept to the delivery of your story and its medium, taking us all one step at a time. I won’t be presumptuous to say that I know everything, but I’ll do my best to give all of you a different perspective when it comes to creating and managing what we create, as well as ourselves.
STAGE ONE: CONCEPT
I decided to start with the concept instead of diving straight into “Getting Started” because this is, perhaps, one of the biggest stumbling blocks many storytellers face.
“But I want to say so many things! The more I write, the more I tell, the more I realize I need this and this and this!”
So here are some pointers I gathered - tips I used to get myself moving:
Firstly, have some idea of what you want to do. Are you:
Secondly, ask yourself why. It doesn’t have to be some lofty idea or some “save-the-world” mission. Why are you creating or telling this story?:
And thirdly, remember - the most important aspect of the story, is the story. Like a birthday cake, embellishments won’t save a badly-baked, dry sponge cake. So know the story you want to tell, or at least, be okay with going where your story wants to go, at least for now.
*Quick Tip: If you continue to be plagued by ideas, with no opportunity to plant your feet and anchor, maybe you can ask yourself these three questions with regards to your story: 1) What does your character want? 2) Why can't they have it? and 3) Why should we care?
Before I leave you to the next section, though, know that half the time, authorial intent doesn’t really matter. Unless people read your work with the intention of extracting a message or with a critical mind, set on dissecting and analyzing your work, it’s safe to say that most read, watch, or listen for a good story.
Committing to Paper
Now that you’re done with your plans, it’s time to commit your story to paper. Personally, I use events like the 24-Hour Comics Day, National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo), and Camp Nanowrimo to get myself started on my first draft, but here are other techniques some of us use to get started.
Blank Paper Method
True to its name, it’s just setting a timer and on a blank piece of paper, writing down every idea, character, and their relationships with each other. After which, you look at what you have and try to put the pieces together - pretty straightforward. Remember, a messy canvas is easier to edit than an empty one.
One of the lessons I’ve learnt with researching for your story - it’s usually not what you think it is. As fun as research is, you run the risk of having confirmation bias when you’re not careful. While research allows you to read about or even experience the fun settings and adventures your characters go through, having it reach its full potential requires acute observation, deliberate listening, and then deduction after that. So do be careful if you like to do your “research” thoroughly first before starting on anything.
Rewriting & Reading
To paraphrase Stephen King, if you’re not reading, you’re not writing. I wouldn’t say “read more” is my one and only advice for writing better, but reading for fun is an important aspect of storytelling. And one of the advantages of “rewriting” or fan fiction, is that there’s no pressure to create something entirely new. You want a trigger or practice right? Why not try getting into an existing story and seeing how you can create your own take on it?
All of that being said, the most important thing to do when you want to create, is to create. So instead of talking about writing, drawing, or storytelling, know that your work will only exist after you put your pen to paper and start creating.
P/S - We’ll talk about creating the best work you can in the later posts. For now, just put pen to paper.
I don’t deny that I still stumble and find myself at a huge roadblock when it comes to creating something, especially a brand new project. However, I would say that the above steps have helped rather well. You can also check out how other storytellers get started on their projects with these other posts:
I look forward to seeing your creations.
Last year was pretty fun for me, planner-wise. The Hobonichi Cousin was a great canvas to paint on, and I got to experiment with a good variety of planner pages and uses. At the same time, #hobonichi365 gave me a few insights to what I should keep, throw out, and develop.
And all of these lessons, I’ve taken with me and included them into my Hobonichi Cousin 2018:
To sum everything up, my planner pages for this year will be pretty solid, including the following features:
And that’s it, really! I’ll be covering other journals and planners that my friends and I use here and there, so stay tuned for another year of organization and amazing planners!
Coming from someone who has huge difficulty maintaining personal Social Media projects and what not, I'm glad to say that #hobonichi365 has finally come to a close. And before I head into the new year, I thought I'd share some of my favourite photos from the entire year.
As much as I was expecting a good number of these pages to appear in my #2017bestnine, I'm kinda glad they didn't so that I could share them with all of you.
Thank you for 2017, now onwards to 2018!
After four months of categorizing my to-do lists on my daily pages, I figured it was something that was getting a little too restrictive for comfort. I found myself resorting to using rough paper to sort out steps before I wrote them in my daily planner (which was pretty much not the point).
Thus, I dove into a more minimalist approach with this current layout:
And so far, this has been working out fantastically - I can list things (which is just the way I like it), and keep track of the important details easily. The Journal / Notes section works pretty well too, as a space to scribble, note things, and engage in other activities.
Like my first attempt into drawing for InkTober (Here are my 5 favourites - incidentally, also my favourite breakfasts. Hehe.):
Hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Here’s to one more post before we go on to Hobonichi Cousin 2018!