Monday, July 23, 2012

The Writing Ride & Rate Your Story - testimonial from Donna Martin, RYS Fan

After spending all weekend at WHISPERING WOODS, an intimate writing retreat led by Rate Your Story Judge Jill Esbaum and children's author Linda Skeers,  I've returned with a 'ready to revise' mentality.  It's the same mentality that many authors often express after receiving a free critique rating from Rate your Story -- and it's a mentality anyone who wants to be published must be able to launch themselves into (over and over and over and...well, you get the point).

When we revise, we often wonder (draft after draft) if we're truly making our manuscripts better, and ultimately publishable.  For some, having Rate Your Story confirm or deny that suspicion is an irreplaceable service (at RYS, you can send revisions of the same story up to three times).  Today's post is by one of the many writers who feel that way.

Please welcome, Donna Martin!



 Thank you RATE YOUR STORY! 
 By Donna Martin

Beginner writers like to think they know what they are doing. But they don’t. It takes knowing the rules of the writing world to create something which has a chance of becoming published, and novice writers simply don’t know where to start. I know, because I was once one myself.

I made all the foolish, amateur mistakes in my work when I started writing “professionally” in January of 2011. I had been writing for more than 40 years, but kept it hidden from everyone, even friends and family, until a series of dreams forced me to face the realization writing was in my blood to stay. I began to write every day and bought every book on writing I could find.

I participated in Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) challenge in October of 2011 and ended up with 45 ideas, but had no clue where to go from there. Then I read about Julie Hedlund’s 12 X 12 in 2012 where I was challenged to turn those ideas into actual manuscripts. But even then I wasn’t sure what to do with my completed stories. I wasn’t part of any critique groups (something ALL writers should be involved in) and had no publishing connections where I could seek expert advice on improving my writing skills. I was free floating and it was frustrating to me. I knew I had the desire to succeed but desperately needed guidance.

 One day I stumbled across a website talking about being able to submit picture book stories to professional authors and others in the publishing business for feedback. Rate Your Story was the first group I had come across to provide a rating score tied to the strength of the story while giving pointers on how to improve as a writer, and it was a FREE service. I gave it a try and submitted a story. That first story rated a 5 out of 10 and the judge’s advice gave me insight on how to finally start tightening my writing skills.

I continued to submit stories and each time the judge’s feedback gave me valuable tips on areas I could improve. Then one day I received my rating on my latest PB submission. It was a TWO! While I was ecstatic, the perfectionist in me wanted the ONE rating which indicates my story is ready to send out into the world to find a home. I had never really thought of resubmitting my work before but once again I used the judge’s advice to sharpen my story and crossed my fingers as I resubmitted. My final rating? Not one but two ONE ratings from two different judges!

I will always be grateful for the wonderful support and advice I receive from the professionals at Rate Your Story. Not every piece of advice makes sense the first time I read it. The first time I was told my story wasn’t “child centric” enough, I had to Google the word to find out what the judge had meant. Sometimes I receive a suggestion, which might alter my story in a way I wouldn’t feel comfortable with doing. While the advice is free and comes from a professional who cares about my growth as a writer, in the end the story is MY creation and I have to own the decision where it may lead me. I’m just glad Rate Your Story is along for the journey for I am certain the ride would not be the same without them!

Donna L Martin has spent many years hanging out with her cat, Tommy, and perfecting the worlds of her imagination. She writes engaging children's books, middle grade adventures, and young adult novels. When Donna is not training for her Master Fifth Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo or helping run her martial arts school in Tennessee, she is working on her latest writing project. Donna is an active member of SCBWI Midsouth and participates in a variety of online writing communities including 12 X 12 in 2012, PiBoIdMo, WANAtribe, and Children's Book Hub Facebook groups. You can connect with Donna through her website (www.donnalmartin.com), her blog ON THE WRITE TRACK (http://www.donasdays.blogspot.com), Linkedin page (http://www.linkedin.com/pub/donna-l-martin/39/87a/b4a), Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/#!/Donasdays) or through email at donasdays (at) gmail (dot) com.

Comments are open!  And don't forget to join us on Wednesday for a guest post from Mira Reisberg!

25 comments:

  1. YAY, Donna! That is very inspiring!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Corey, for your kind words. I sincerely believe I would not be as strong in some of my writing skills if it weren't for the RYS group. I stumble, I fall, but they help me back up and put me back on track...;~)

      Donna L Martin

      Delete
  2. Great article, Donna! We've all been there, thinking we had it together as beginners. Even with a real, live critique group, RYS is a great reality check.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Genevieve. Yeah, it's comforting to know as a beginner writer that others had some of the same questions...possibly made some of the same mistakes...somehow it doesn't make me feel so dumb...or so alone...;0)

      Donna L Martin

      Delete
  3. I agree with Corey, how inspiring Donna. Thanks for sharing and congrats on receiving two ones. Wahoo!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jennifer! Now if I can convince some agent or publisher that my story is worth publishing...lol...

      Donna L Martin

      Delete
  4. Yay Donna! Great post too!
    Thank goodness for RYS! A Great group of talented people!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kathy! I recently sent a story to RYS and received a FIVE. I worked hard on revisions and resubmitted it...only to receive a SEVEN on the second version. Either I changed it too much or it really isn't going to gel as a picture book for me...lol...

      Donna L Martin

      Delete
  5. Donna, thank you for a wonderful post! I know we've connected in several areas...but reading your testimonial made me realize how much in common we have. :) I appreciate you sharing your writing journey...it mirrors mine in many ways...I've written picture books for decades, but it was only when I connected with Susanna's PPBF and Julie's 12x12 that I began to "get serious" about writing for children. I just got my first submission to Rate Your Story back...and even when I thought at first glance that the "3" meant "not so good", I was still excited and happy to have the feedback and the constructive suggestions.
    I, also, have to find a critique group...as well as attend some conferences...I know they will help me get where I want to go. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Vivian for your kind words. It's unbelievable how much I have grown this past year and a half, due in part to the wonderful people at RYS!

      Donna L Martin

      Delete
  6. I'm so glad you have benefited from RYS, Donna...congrats on your "1" rating! I am looking forward to submitting more to them in the future. It's a valuable resource...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Jarm! I can't wait until submissions to RYS reopen in August!

      Donna L Martin

      Delete
  7. Well done for being brave enough to pursue your dream - I look forward to hearing about the progress of your 'One' rated story!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awww, thank you Ramona for your kind words. I hope to continue to grow as a writer with the help of great professionals like the volunteers at RYS!

      Donna L Martin

      Delete
  8. You've come a long way, Donna! Wow, writing for 40 years... I hope you finish your YA book for the agent, and she accepts it! Great post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Tina, for your kind words. While I wrote for 40 years (poetry, essays, stories, etc), I didn't begin writing "professionally" until January 2011 so I'm a relative newbie to the industry...;~)

      Donna L Martin

      Delete
  9. Great post, Donna. I can't wait to see what happens with your story. I'm so glad you are following your dream and encouraging others along the way. You're an inspiration, lady!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awww, thanks Pam! I try really hard to help others when I can and if my journey helps others to prevent making the mistakes I have made, then I'm glad...

      Donna L Martin

      Delete
  10. I am a closeted writer. I may open the closet door one day. When I do, I know you will be on the other side of that door. I have witnessed your growth as a writer and am so proud of you. You clearly HAVE done your homework.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awww, thanks Janet! You were a talented writer way before I came along...guess that makes you OLDER? ;~)

      Donna L Martin

      Delete
  11. Donna~I really enjoyed your post! It is very inspiring and you hit on so many great points that highlight the journey of writing. Congrats on your 1's!!!!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Penny, for your kind words! My next struggle is learning how to select WHERE to send my PB manuscript in order to get it in the right hands for viewing. But I'm sure I will learn the ropes with the help of all the wonderful people in this writing community...;0)

      Donna L Martin

      Delete
  12. Great post, Donna!

    I think the most important qualities of successful writers, next to innate ability, is a willingness to accept criticism and the determination to work hard to improve. You're living proof of that!

    Congrats on your two 1's!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awww, Lori, you are too kind! I do not mind working hard at something I love and WHY would I be silly enough to turn down wisdom from the pros? ;0)

      Donna L Martin

      Delete
  13. Congratulations Donna on your 1's Rating. Go You! Gosh, I had no idea we are so much alike in our thoughts and our writing journey, although you are a lot braver than I am. Such an inspiring post.

    ReplyDelete