Tag Archives: publishing

ISWG – Diffusion, Best Sellers, and Strong Will

InsecureWritersSupportGroupPurpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! (Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG)

Alex J. Cavanaugh’s awesome co-hosts for the June 5 posting of the IWSG are Sheena-kay Graham, Suzanne Furness, and Laura Eno.

Everyone knows about rejection. Writers live it, in fact, all artists do. We all talk about that nature of what we do. The problem is no one, and I mean no one, but another artist understands what we do. The average reader thinks books appear through some bizarre act of diffusion from the brain to the page in their entirety and ready to sell. They believe every talented writer finds an agent immediately and sells their books quickly. They believe writers make a lot of money. They believe everyone with talent is on top of the Times Best Seller list.

Therefore, if you are a writer and haven’t seen that level of success, you are obviously without talent. I suppose in a way this is another form of rejection, back-handed as it is.

Like any job seeker, writers find themselves getting to the last interview and not making that final cut. Now, obviously talent took them that far, but to the outside world…nada. When the outside world assumes you’re a failure, it can be all to easy to succumb to their assumptions. It’s what has left many a talented writer behind. In fact, what really leads someone to publish is much different. Luck or strong will. The ones who publish easily had luck on their side. The others had to keep up the fight long after others fell.

As one of my favorite writers, Nancy Pickard, once said, “Show me a published writer, and I’ll show you a stubborn son of a bitch.”

As writers, those are words to write by.

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No, Not Armageddon

It’s not the apocalypse either. I missed my post yesterday because it’s the end of the semester, and I’m buried in grading papers and finals. Sigh. I’m also trying to stay on top of requested edits of The G.A.P. Project. I’m hoping you’ll forgive me and to assist with that: crazywriter

It’s how I feel, and I’m sure many of you share this emotion. How do you cope when it suddenly all becomes too much?

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Congratulations to our Kansas Jayhawks!

I couldn’t resist saying a big hallelujah! It’s never easy making it to the big dance as all the teams are so good. It’s a lot like publishing. If you ever get there, you deserve all the praise and celebration we can give you. Rock Chalk!

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My Writer’s Bookshelf

Writers have extensive libraries. It’s a part of who we are. We have books in the genres in which we write, books outside of the genre in which we write, research books, and we have how to books. We LOVE our how to books. Even when we should put them down and just write, we can’t pull ourselves from learning our craft from experts.

Every writer has a list. Books that touched them and sent them down a path of no return in terms of their growth as a writer. I’m no different. Les Edgerton quotes some of my favorites in his book, Hooked, so it made me think about my list, my top ten, as it were. Here are the first five:

On Writing by Stephen King: Brevity is probably the surprising aspect of this part autobiography/part book on writing King penned after a horrific crash nearly took his life. When you look at the average length  of  his works, this book’s length is a picture book next to an unabridged dictionary. Still, he is classic King throughout offering tongue in cheek humor and dead serious professionalism about the craft. He offers up his own work in draft form as examples of the editing process. If you’re not afraid of climbing into the dark mind of genius, this is a must read.

Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway: This is perhaps the most comprehensive how to book I’ve ever read. I read it my first semester of grad school, and she blew me away with her insights. It’s like a mini writing class. I especially love the organization of the book. She takes an aspect of the craft; for instance, characterization, and she talks about it. Then at the end of that section, she has several pieces which best exemplify what she’s tried to teach you. I never put this one away because I am always referring back to it. It’s doggy eared, highlighted, scribbled in and my most used book.

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas: This guy is the guru of agents. Not only is he a well-respected agent, a hot ticket on the conference scene, and a great writer, he appears to have unending energy. This book offers signposts for those seeking to find a way to make their novel break free of the pack and find success.  

The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose, and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great by Donald Maas: This is another great book to use for revision. I’ve used the exercises in it for my writer’s group as we do rewrites of our WIP. Some of my best writing has come from these pieces. If you want to find your way down to the core of your writing, this book is a great way to start.

Hooked by Les Edgerton: If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’m reading this book. I’m moving slowly – school year and I’m teaching six days a week – but I’m experiencing high levels of excitement from what I’m learning. Honestly, given the ADD nature of people today, you need to have everything on your side when it comes to your book. Getting the reader hooked isn’t just a good idea, it’s imperative. Read this book!

Next time I’ll provide the bottom half of my top ten. Tell me, what books are on your writer’s bookshelf?

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Blog Chain – Facing the Keyboard After Rejection

Like all writers I face rejection constantly. It’s as consistent as the bills. The question for those of us who do this is: How do you stay motivated at your most unmotivated?

For me rejection brings to mind torture devices from the darker paths of history. Put me in stocks. Pull out the thumbscrews. Chain me in the tower. Stretch me on the rack. Just don’t make me write when it feels like my dog writes better prose than I do. No offense, Moses.

Motivating myself to write when things are as dark as they can get is beyond difficult. It’s like hunting for a man after a painful divorce. Demeaning, devastating, deplorable. How do you force yourself to sit down to the keyboard after someone rips your work to shreds? The obvious answer is you sit your butt in the chair, and you do it because as a writer you have no other option. For most of us that’s true but it’s also true that each rejection makes it harder to repeat the process. .

It’s not like I enjoy being eviscerated. (And no matter how many times I tell myself it’s not personal, those words are mine and therefore, it’s very personal.) However, I can’t stop the voices in my head, and I can’t stop telling stories just because they aren’t perfect on the page yet or because I haven’t found the right editor or agent to read them yet.

In all honesty, sometimes the blistering criticism is accurate. My work is not done. And I’m not totally surprised by the criticism as some place deep down, I knew something wasn’t working. I wasn’t sure what, but I knew something was wrong. However, some of it is BUNK. A reviewer rushed, skimming rather than reading.  Or makes suggestions that aren’t helpful or fitting to the work at hand.

The issue for a writer before they pull out the thumbscrews is to figure out which criticism is worth pursuing and which can be burned in effigy or placed on the rack and stretched until shredded.

Unfortunately, you have to let go of the pain of the rejection first. Having a support system can help. My critique group provides that. They provide a balance for me. Honestly agreeing with the reviewer when the advice is right and telling me to ignore it when it’s off the mark. But mostly, by acknowledging that this is part of the process, and we all go through it as writers. A form of hazing to find who has the wherewithal to keep going in the face of constant rejection. That is what gets me back behind the keyboard and willing to keep trying.

What keeps you in the game? Check out Natasha’s blog to see what she has to say about rejection.

 

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Unhappiness

Nancy Pickard and Lynn Lott

A hero of mine, Nancy Pickard, co-authored a book called Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path. I’m reading it for the second time because like most writers I’ve hit a rock in the path, and I need guidance. According to the book, I’m at the unhappiness stage. Little overachiever that I am, I’m taking this one over the top.

I’m not unhappy; I’m flat-out miserable. No good reasons. Unless you count, multiple rejections balanced against only a second place win in a query contest, or my inability in the face of teaching six days a week to produce even the most mundane of drivel. Be thankful, I tell myself that you’re producing anything at all. At least you’re not blocked. Really? The only difference between a blocked writer and me is that they’ve acknowledged it. I’m in full denial and thus, keep plugging away at my drivel.

It’s been several years since I read it so it’s like reading it for the first time. The chapter threw me an epiphany with one line: “Unhappiness, to one degree or another, is where all creativity begins.” My YA novel is in revisions and by that I mean constant revisions, and I’m sick and tired of it. So, I’m taking a break while it is making the rounds and decided to start another one.

Unhappiness and creativity. I’m not quite to the newlywed phase of a work. Currently, it’s just scattered scenes with the characters as I get to know them. Which is why I’m still unhappy. I could stop. Quit. I tell myself that every day. Yet, I don’t. And I don’t perceive a time when I will. Because writing and the misery that accompanies it are as essential to me as eating right and exercising. Of course, when I’m in the zone, I don’t eat right or eat period sometimes. And my exercising becomes manic. I pound the treadmill because it opens up the doors of my creativity.

I highly recommend this book to every writer. Not only because it will validate every stage of the creative process but because it will remind you that for the pain and agony of the hard times, there is a wonderful place you will eventually arrive at. In that place, rejections are just slips of paper, and every word you write is a win.

Are you “unhappy” in your writing?

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Transitions

My district ‘transitioned’ this year from a three-year high school to a four-year. This means as a ninth grade teacher my job moved to the high school. We knew this would be complicated as any massive change is. For many of us, it meant a painful pay cut because of supplemental contracts  lost in the move. It has meant tremendous adjustments for everyone; teachers, administrators, students, parents.  This will be an ongoing challenge for the district. What does it have to do with writing?

Transitions are vital in writing and just as challenging. How well a writer does at moving the reader through a story will make a big difference in how successful it is. These shifts must serve a purpose. For our district, the reason was serious overcrowding. Each time a writer decides to transition in a story, she needs to first evaluate the purpose. Are you transitioning from one scene to another, from one chapter to another? Is it action or emotion? Do you want a chapter break in the middle of a scene? This kind of stark break can serve a specific purpose. Maybe you want a subtle transition from one scene to the next and an extra space from one to the next will give you that.

Perhaps a paragraph of narration that offers a hint of back story in the form of mystery will transition beautifully. Maybe action will be better? It’s your story to tell so you decide. But make sure you are asking yourself what best serves the interests of the story and the characters.

What are transitions like for you? Do find them easy to write or are they difficult to navigate?

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