Tuesday, September 27, 2011


My chicken is delusional.

She hides all day in her nest box, cozy under her perch. She won't come out in the yard to scratch and peck unless we drag her. What's she doing down there?

She THINKS she's sitting on eggs. But she's not. All her eggs are in my refrigerator, waiting to be made into breakfast. Even if we let her keep the eggs, she hasn't spent time with any roosters. She could sit there the rest of her life and no chicks would hatch.

But the worst part is, she's entirely stopped laying.

There was a stage of my writing career when I was like my chicken. I brooded over my first manuscript for ten years, picking at it, making little changes, polishing the prose to perfection. At the time I was sure it would hatch into a bestseller, but now it's obvious to me that I was delusional.

The worst part was, I wasn't coming up with any new stories. I poured all my writing energy into that one manuscript. Sure, I'd get story ideas, but I wouldn't take the time to develop them and write them. I was content to sit on one project.

That was until I went to my first writer's workshop. Day one, first thing the teacher said was, "How many of you have been writing the same book for seven years?"

It was ten years in my case, but I raised my hand with the others.

"I want you to go home and put that manuscript in a drawer. You need to work on something new."

How could he say that? He hadn't even read my story! How did he know it wasn't going to hatch?

It was the best writing advice I'd had in my entire life. I put that old manuscript away and wrote something new, and I couldn't believe how much better it was when I gave myself a fresh start.

So now, three years and three full manuscripts later, I'm feeling more productive. But I still have to fight my brooding tendencies. Here's my plan:

1. Get out of the nest box. Go to conferences and workshops. Participate in my local SCBWI. Read lots of books, fiction and non-fiction. Go to lectures. Keep up on publishing industry news. Don't let myself constantly say, "I haven't got time for that, I need to be writing."

2. More eggs. It's been way too long since I submitted a short story to a magazine, and the only contests I've participated in were associated with writing workshops I've attended. I need to do better. I should make myself write a short story between every draft of the novel I'm working on. Maybe I'll even do NaNoWriMo this year.

I know that some people have the opposite problem - they have a hard time focusing on a single project long enough to get it ready for submission. But as for me, I get TOO focused. I hide in my writer cave and let everything else slide, and then I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes time to reimmerse myself in the quest for publication.

So if you're a brooder, what do you do to stay in the writing game?


  1. HA! This is great. Love the analogy. :) Rah for getting out of the nest box and mingling! I'm going to an SCBWI retreat next week--can't wait!

  2. OMG the picture and that first line slayed me!

    But as for being a brooder...well I'm more like the chicken with its head cut off, running from project to project! So probably not much help there.

    Short stories are great if you can do them - you get through the rinse-repeat cycle much quicker. I tried them and decided I'm definitely a novel writer; shorts just aren't my thing.

  3. Thanks, Carol. Have a great time at your retreat!

    Sue, I admire your energy and versatility. It'll pay off.

  4. I am so your chicken most of the time. Thanks for reminding me to lay some more eggs and get out of my nesting box. :)

    Awesome post.

  5. Hi Rebecca, you must be a good writer, because I was doing chicken research (I need a photo of a chicken sitting down from behind, got any?) and when I got to this post I started reading!

    Plus, I saw the "Pirates, Fishermen, Writers, and Other Professional Liars Welcome" and I felt the need to write. I'm an illustrator, that counts, right?

    1. Hi Diana! Great to have you on board. Yes, we have two illustrators on the crew here at Scribblers Cove, people who draw things that never were and never will be, but look mighty fine here and now.

      If you need a reference photo of a chicken's backside, I'll run down and snap you one. What's your e-mail?

    2. Thanks Rebecca! That would be lovely, my e-mail is: diana.g.toledano @ gmail.com

  6. I should make myself write a short story between every draft of the novel I'm working on.

    I re-read this post when Diana's comment came through and I was just telling myself this yesterday!! Not that I need more projects, but that I want to try my hand at shorts (again) now that I've got a reason (and a way) to publish them. :)

    1. Y'know, I never held myself to that resolve, but I have resolved to draft brand new material for at least one hour every day. No matter what else is on my writing schedule, I set the timer for 60 minutes and spew out words until the bell rings.

      Don't know if what's coming out is any good, but I feel great!


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