Something happened in July that made me revisit nearly all my writing goals. In order to understand it better, I decided to write about it. This post is more for myself than for my numerous fans (!) but feel free to leave me a comment if you feel like it.
In July, I went through a phase when I didn't feel appreciated. I'm usually cheerful and smiling, but in July I was depressed and gloomy, following a major argument I had with my husband. To cope with the situation, I threw myself into writing and reviewing on my favorite website, writing.com.
What happened next is still a msytery to me. I listed seven coincidences I came across within a period of one month. At first, I didn't notice the connection, as it seemed to be a series of disconnected events. The only thing related was that everything happened on writing.com. I was a featured author on two different reviewing forums and on a reviewing contest. All together, I received 43 reviews, many of them detailed and encouraging, and countless thank you e-mails from people I reviewed. One of my stories was displayed in the drama newsletter. I was hand-picked to be a moderator on the ACE group. I received two merit badges from individuals I was reviewing.
It wasn't until I received my second merit badge and read the message that came with it that everything came together and nearly blew my mind. The message said: "For always being there with an encouraging word, a cheerful comment, and a welcoming smile. You are appreciated."
You are appreciated!
How in the world did all these people decide to show me appreciation exactly at the time I needed it most?
I had discovered a way to feel appreciated through writing and reviewing. A review doesn't cost anything and can make someone's day. The appreciation I receive in return is priceless. Receiving a review for one of my stories also makes me feel appreciated. Someone took the time to read and comment on my story.
I started reading and reviewing a sci-fi novel I had come across in July. I usually don't read sci-fi, but this novel was part of the seven coincidences, and I found another six coincidences while reading it. One character had my first name, another had my middle name. The character with my first name was reading a book I had started reading the week before. Two dates were mentioned in the first chapter, and both dates were significant to me. The novel starts with the exact same sentence as my YA novel. Weird!
Reading this novel rekindled my interest in writing novels. I decided to post the first chapter of four of my novels-in-progress. The reviews I received were encouraging, but also made me realize my middle grade novel I had been submitting was not quite ready for publication.
Gaining Confidence in Reviewing
I knew I would benefit greatly from joining a review forum, but something was holding me back. I had no confidence in my reviewing skills. I desperately needed detailed reviews to continue developing my writing skills and improve my existing stories, but I wasn't ready to commit myself to also review other people's work.
I took part of a fun, three-part contest in July. One of the challenges was called the Dunk Tank. Participants had to review five items from a featured author based on clues in order to dunk a staff member. This fun-filled challenge forced me to read and review some items I would have otherwise backed out of without leaving a comment, such as poems and dark stories. I found out that regardless of the quality of writing, I can always find something to say to help the writer improve. The contest moderator would then allocate gift points based on the quality of my reviews. The thank you e-mails I received from people I reviewed had a snowball effect and inspired me to review more items, even after the contest was over. All this combined helped me gain confidence in my reviewing skills.
Joining a Review Forum
In July, I was invited to join the ACE group and become a moderator. I became very involved in this group and met many new writers. One of them, Emerin, talked me into joining the "Let's Publish!" forum she was running. I joined her forum and posted some of my short stories. My interest had started to shift towards novel writing, so I also posted one of my chapters and received several detailed, useful reviews. Seeing my chapter, Emerin suggested I join the YA Novel forum she was also part of.
I hesitated. What if I don't like any of the novels I need to review? What if they all know so much more about writing that I feel like a total newbie? What if my reviews are not detailed enough? I finally gave in. Worse comes to worse, I could always back out of it. As it turned out, joining this forum became a turning point in my writing endeavors, which I will write about in another post.
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