Sunday, July 7, 2013

How Thick Is Your Skin?

Last week, I was invited by my friend, Sue Bradford Edwards, to participate in this "blog hop interview." The idea is this: She sent me some interview questions, which I answer, and at the end I tag 3 other writers who will in turn answer the same questions on their blogs next week. Please check out Cynthia's answers to the questions at her blog, One Writer's Journey (  Feel free to leave a comment and tell her it's from me. 

~ How does your writing process work?

~What is the hardest part about writing?
~What scares you?

Because I try to break the norms...not be a rule a rebel...I'm going to combine three questions into soap box discussion:

Writers seem to try and group themselves as either a plotter or a pantser.  I'm somewhere in between.  Before starting a big project I jot down notes, either on paper or on the computer.  I write down scene ideas, setting notes, character notes, words I like and in the case of the novel I just started querying, historical details that I think will be relevant to my story.  Then I write all of those things on note cards and put them into groups and glue them on poster boards. I mount them on bulletin boards on easels or anywhere I can get them to balance in my office.  Then I start writing on paper.  I pretty much write scene by scene.  Having the posters hanging everywhere really helps me with this.  I always know where the story is going to begin and end, but many times my characters have surprised me as I'm going along. 

When I've finished a manuscript, I read it out loud to myself and do more edits.  Adding in needed details.  My mg novel started at 18,000 words and ended up around 35,000.

When I think I am ready for a critique partner to read for me, I put the manuscript  in the correct submission format, with headers, page numbers, etc. I just read an awesome article on how to prepare your manuscript for a critique partner or for submission on Theresa Milstein's blog. Please check it out.

The first time you hit send it can be really scary, heck it's always scary, but you build up  tolerance.
I'm always worried that the person who reads my words will think it is awful.  So then I read it out  loud a couple more times before I hit send.  

Remember, you can't take it back one you hit send, so you want it to be the very best manuscript it can be.  ALWAYS use spell check!

Then while I am waiting to hear something, I write something else. Right now I am working on a fable. 

When I get a critique back, I read all the comments and suggestions...then let them sink in.  Sometimes you get feedback that is pretty tough.  Responding to it right away is not the best idea.  I got a critique from an agent a few years back that made me really upset.  I sent her a graceful thank you and stuck it and my story to the side for several months.  When I went back to it months later, I could see what she was talking about.  I reworked the ms.  I've had great feedback and suggestions from both agents and editors since then.  Having a thick skin helps you get through those moments. I had to remember the agent was trying to help my ms...not insult me.  Now the ms is improved, I'm working on finding a small niche' home for it...just like the editors and other agents suggested. 

~Who are the authors you most admire?

My favorite Non-fiction writer Stephen Swinburne and for YA Scott Westerfied, and finally, for picture books, Tammi Sauer.

Thanks for stopping by and chatting with me. You guys are the best!

Please check out Sue's  answers to the questions at her blog,   Feel free to leave a comment and tell her it's from me.

In addition, I am tagging the following authors:
Eve Gall
Robyn Campbell
Lenny Lee

Please stop by these blogs next week for glimpses into three authors' worlds. 

PS: If you missed this awesome post on critiquing over at Theresa's blog please check it out.


  1. Developing a writerly thick skin is truly a must!! I remember my first ever ever critique (I was in a writerly forum and sent out my first three chapters to a really lovely children's author) and totally died when the feedback came. LOL!!! I swore to never ever ever ever write another story ever! But like you I saw the wisdom of the criticism when I wasn't so emotionally attached to the story YEARS later! LOL!

    Take care

  2. This was fascinating- loved learning your ins and outs of the writing process. I have so much to learn!

  3. I'm still working on the thick skin part. It really is hard, and I find that sometimes a crit partner will really dig at a specific part of my manuscript -- and I will keep pushing away her comments because it feels like she's *wrong.*

    I usually discover that she was right to pick on that part of the story, but what was striking me wrong was her suggestions for fixing it. A crit partner (or even an agent) can't always nail the correct way to fix a problem -- they can only tell you what's bothering them about your ms! The right fix is up to you!

  4. Yep, a thick skin must be worn at all times...sort of like a suit of armor preparing you for battle!

  5. You sound like a plotter to me... .

    It is hard to have thick skin. I am pretty good with critique, but sometimes certain things get to me. I think you advice is spot on. And you were so brave to wait a few months and take the feedback you received to make your manuscript better.

    Thanks for linking to my post!

  6. Interesting approach with the posters. And I have to concur re: a thick skin. Come up with your own fix for the problem area but definitely consider that something isn't working. And thank you for pointing people to my blog.

  7. Loved hearing about your writing process. I'm finally developing more of a thick skin. And learning to listen to my critique partner about the big things more.

  8. Theresa's post was fantastic!

    I'm developing thicker skin (conversations and emails with agents really does help!) but it's still nowhere near thick enough :)

  9. I never thought I'd want a thick skin, but that was before I started writing and sharing what I wrote with the world. Bring on the extra dermis.

  10. As crazy as it sounds, I'm forever grateful for the 175+ rejections I received from agents for my first book. You'd think I would have, but I never thought of giving up. I thought how can I make my query better? How can I make the book better? How can I not poke my eyes out with a hot poker after reading all this rejections? ;) I cried a lot, just ask my husband and at many times felt totally hopeless, but yes, I've got that thick skin now and it's helped me with far more than just my writing. I'm a different person and have learned a lot about myself. I wouldn't trade it for anything. ;) Great post, Ms. Mayhew. :)

  11. Thanks for tagging me but I don't think I can do this now. I'm working on developing a thick skin though. By the way, my name is Eve Gaal. Have a great day!

  12. Hahaha. Lenny is doing it. He didn't tell me. Mine is going up tonight. What with the chsos with Christopher I had to have help getting folks. My pal Cheryl asked the PB group on FB. I really want you two to meet. You will love her!!!!!!! She's a fabulous writer and person. XOXO

  13. I'm between a pantser and plotter as well. But mostly a pantser, but next novel I'm going to try being more of a plotter!

    Speaking of thick skin, I just got a scathing rejection for a picture book. I will take her critique to heart, but also remember everything is subjective.
    I got a scathing personal rejection for another pb a few years ago that Meegenius is now publishing this fall. So you must take everything with a grain of salt. You do want to see how you can improve your manuscript, but also keep what's important to you.

  14. Interesting post. I definitely need to get a thicker skin when it comes to my writing. : )

  15. THick skin. Definitely a must for all writers who are serious about getting published. :)

  16. I really enjoyed reading your answers to the questions. It's always so helpful to get a glimpse into how other writers work. Thanks for sharing! (Robyn sent me.) :-)

  17. Writers need thick skin to send their baby out there in the big publishing world.

    Great post!


  18. I'm like a rhino, I have a thick skin but very sensitive :)

  19. Hi Sharon .. so difficult being critiqued at anything - so I admire all writers and bloggers for that matter, especially those who are offering advice etc ..

    Thick skin - I've been adding to my layers in recent years ...

    This sounds like such a good project and I'll catch Theresa's post sometime soon ..

    Good luck to all of you - cheers Hilary

  20. I always love learning about other writers' writing habits. Thick skin is definitely a must for everyone who wants to work in this industry.

  21. Surely a thick skin never hurt anyone, but it's a necessity of any creative life. Enjoyed your post!

  22. I always wonder if I lose weight if I will also lose my thick skin.

    I can take criticism about writing and artful things...just not about things my kids or Grandlittles do.