Write every single day of your life

 

Photo cityencounters.blogspot.com

“You must write every single day of your life…You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads….may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”
— Ray Bradbury

Well? Stop looking googly-eyed at the quote and start writing… or lurking – you little book sniffer.

Top 10 things every writer can be proud of

Photo credit myrealmofimagination

 

 

Every writer goes through the same feelings of self-doubt at one time or another. Am I good enough to do this professionally? Am I sure this is the best my manuscript can be? Is my query letter an accurate snippet of what my book is about? Is my storyline clear? Is there enough conflict?

We beat ourselves up with a barrage of negativity that serves no purpose. But what about how stressful it is, you ask? Anything that’s worth doing is going to be stressful at some point. That’s unfortunately the way it is. We do have a choice however, on how we handle that stress.

If you want to look at it as insurmountable, that’s your prerogative. In case you’re feeling brave and want to step out of the dark-side for a moment, I’ve compiled a top ten list of things to be proud of. At first glance some may appear to be negative, but trust me anything can be positive if you allow it to be.

10. You received a personalized rejection on your query.

9. You received a partial request.

8. You got a few form rejections

7. You got a full request!

6.  You’ve made new friends in the writing community.

5. You wrote a kick-ass query letter.

4. You didn’t drop-dead on the spot from more rejection.

3. You sent out more query letters. (Take that rejection!)

2. You COMPLETED A BOOK!!!! (Then edited it, revised it, & pulled your hair out.)

1. You pick yourself up and do it all again.

You sound pretty darn amazing don’t you? So stop with the self-doubt already. You’re one of the bravest people I know. You put yourself out there every single day. Sometimes you get good news, sometimes you get bad. But you take it all in stride, handle it with grace and that’s something to be proud of.

You see that personalized rejection as a good sign. Heck someone took the time to write it and it’s not a form letter. Go ahead and smile over that. You deserve it. But you’re still saying, ‘I’ve got a bunch of form rejections too.’ If you never feel the sting of a form rejection, how can you taste how sweet a full request is?

I’ll leave you with an amazing quote by Shel Silverstein to fight those doubts away.

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

What are YOU most proud of? Let me know in the comment section or on Twitter.

Rules are for Pansies: by Guest Blogger Eileen Andrews

 

Photo provided by Eileen Andrews

 

Rules are for Pansies

Life is a series of uncertainties. We grasp in all directions for a guarantee of success to abate the panic. Religion. Horoscopes. Anything to tell us we’re making the right choice; that everything will be ok.

Writer’s are no exception. We scour the internet looking for rules or formulas that’ll guarantee our success. ‘Stephen King did XYZ; if I do the same, I’m guaranteed to get picked up.’

There’s nothing wrong with observing the success of others. But attempting to adopt their methods can have unforeseen consequences. One of these is a diminishing voice.

Let’s say for example Jane wants to write mystery novels. In her eagerness to guarantee success she looks at what her favorite author, Jack Doe, recommends.

“Start every book with a dead body,” Her buddy Jack advises.

Ok, so she decides she needs a dead body.

“Kill your babies,” Jack says.

Aha! The body is that of a dead baby!

Ok, that last one was a joke. But I think you see what I mean.

When Jane starts her book with a dead body suddenly the beginning of her plot is partially derived. She doesn’t know who her antagonist and protagonist are, yet she’s determined there’s going to be a dead body.

The main problem with adopting Jack’s advice is the reasoning behind Jane’s decision. Jane wants to be a successful novelist and see her creations reach the New York Time’s Bestseller’s list. Because Jack is on that list she assumes if she models his method, she’ll get there too.

The mistake isn’t in starting her book with a dead body. It’s in blindly following the methodology of another artist. When we don’t know why we do the things we do, it ceases to be art. Instead it’s simply imitation. The author’s voice has nothing to do with rules and everything to do with choices. What choices does an author make and why?

Let’s imagine your novel as a house. A beautiful Victorian mansion with fifty rooms. In this fantasy you’re rich. Enjoy it while you can.

Your novel is like a house. Potentially you can be in whichever part you choose. When you adopt someone else’s rules a room suddenly gets shut to you. Stephen King comes in and says ‘I never use basements.’ Ok, you figure you don’t need the basement. But then Jack Kerouac comes in and says he never uses the bathroom. Shit! You need a bathroom. But it’s Jack Kerouac so you’ll hold it. Eventually, in your search for guaranteed success, you realize every single room is discouraged by the advice you’re receiving.

Suddenly you need an exorcism to reclaim your house! In this case, reclaim your artistic voice.

Some of the best novels break the rules. Yet we cling to them in hopes that if we follow them exactly, we’ll slip through the walls and our novel will hit the publishing floor.

What makes us do this?

Fear.

Fear of rejection. Fear of mediocrity. Fear of failure.

I’m not saying forgo rules of all kinds. We all need periods and commas—ok, periods more than commas. The nature of putting words together to form sentences is similar to the nature of building a house. We all have the same materials, yes. But how we put them together is up to us. The decisions we make affect how it will look. This is what makes us artists and not simply carpenters.

Now if you want a carbon copy of your neighbor’s house, then follow the rules used by the builder. Go ahead; you’ll get exactly what you’re looking for. But your distinct voice will be lost.

The only rule an artist should adopt is this: We make the rules. This frees us to choose what we like and obligates us to toss out what isn’t working. For example Jane starts thinking about her characters and realizes a kidnapping would serve better, she is obligated to go where her muse takes her. If she insists on following Jack’s rule about a dead body she’s giving up her artistic freedom to choose.

Jane may soon find out kidnapping is her thang (gratuitous triple snap). She could develop her own rule: start by stealing the kid. Suddenly she’s found her artistic niche and people will notice this. She’ll stand out.

However, making your own rules doesn’t exclude learning from other writers. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel to maintain artistic integrity. The key is to knowing why a rule works for you. Knowing why the rule works and applying it in a unique fashion will put your stamp on it.

In romance there’s a rule where the hero and heroine must meet within the first few pages. Talk about limiting. Yikes! This rule was developed to keep a story moving and skirt loquacious writers around our tendency to expand on back story before getting to the action. It’s also useful when writing category romance; when there’s little space and so much to tell. There are dozens more whys this rule has been lobbed around as a rule of thumb.

Knowing why a rule works for some writers gives us the tools to make an educated choice. Will it work for our story? If your instinct says no, ditch it.

Be a rebel! Stand out! Don’t let your fear over what lies ahead paralyze you so much you cling to what others say ‘works’ for them. Remember, it’s about the process, not the product. If we can embrace the journey the destination will take care of itself.

Want to know more about Eileen Andrews?

Eileen’s been reading romance since the ripe age of 12 when her parents decided it wasn’t so bad as long as she was reading something. Hence began a misbegotten youth of skipping school, staying home all day in bed to read, then sneaking out and walking back in like she’d been in school all day. Of course, she’s now relieved her juvenile delinquency can now be attributed to market research.

Having spent time as a journalist, social scientist, and retail manager, Eileen is eager to create her own worlds and promises they’ll be much more fun than reality!

Be sure to keep up with Eileen on Twitter @EileenAndrews and check out her fantastic blog HERE! Thanks so much for a wonderful post Eileen, it’s a great message for writer’s to stay true to their voice.

How do you maintain your writing voice? Let me know in the comment section or on Twitter.

How do you handle distraction?

Today is just one of those days. After a round of afternoon yoga my chi is still at large. Time for option b…caffeine induced zen. Funny, that isn’t working either. No matter how much caffeine I ingest I’m not finding that zen garden today. You ever get like that?

I’m trying to figure out how my protagonist would handle distractions, which is throwing me into deeper levels of unproductiveness. Right about now she’d be throwing her arms up in disgust or taking a shot of Limoncello. While the Limoncello sounds tempting, I’m taking a break to write this blog to find out how you handle it all.

Photo credit John Vasko.com

So I want to know: how do you handle your online life, home life, (that’s right, the cooking, cleaning, dog-walking, litter changing, and laundry don’t take care of themselves) and your writing with all the distractions around?

Feel free to answer in the comment section or you can let me know on Twitter! I’m looking forward to your answers.

So… you think you’re crazy? Here’s a quote for you!

Photo credit hopelessromantic.com

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round heads in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
-Jack Kerouac

Keep being crazy, keep pushing the envelope with your work, and keep submitting those polished manuscripts to [well researched] agents! Anything is possible if you try, plus it’s #WW on Twitter 🙂

Happy Writer’s Wednesday everyone!

Because Jack London told me so…

Photo credit Britannica.com

Keep writing and keep sending query letters! Here’s why (and what Jack London has to do with it):

I know the road to publishing is oft times, bumpy, discouraging and can make quite the cranky writer from time to time. It’s human nature to shy away from rejection. Let’s face it, rejection hurts. The most important lesson I’ve learned during my quest for representation is this: keep trying.

Sounds simple right? Too simple. But it’s the truth, trust me. I’ve read agent blogs, blogs from other writers and many other articles where the advice was very much the same. In the beginning it was a hard thing to imagine. Why keep trying when I’ve been rejected before? How can I possibly catch an agent’s eye? The answers are glaringly staring at you. In fact, they’re waving frantically, trying to gain your attention writers. Keep trying.

The first book I wrote was a definite learning experience. I did everything I was supposed to. I labored over my query letter, I revised, shelved it, brought it back and edited it some more. (After of course doing the same thing with my manuscript.) I reduced the entire conflict of my story into that sweet spot of 250-350 words. By the time I sent it out to the first batch of (well researched) agents, I was feeling pretty good.

Then my first form rejection rolled in.

No matter how much you prepare yourself for rejection, it’s never easy and stings a little. I’m an eternal believer that the glass will forever be half full. After all, if your glass is half full you have less of a chance of spilling anything on yourself. So instead of wallowing in rejection, I researched more agents, picked up some books they’d represented and hit the pavement again.

I’d like to say that offers started pouring in one after the other, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. What did happen was something I didn’t plan for. Which was really strange, since I had been methodically plotting out each of my (writing) business maneuvers. I became engrossed with another story and got to work writing. Before I knew it my second novel was completed and I was already working on a follow up. The characters felt like close friends and the writing was coming along nicely. Of course I still had to edit and revise and rewrite and all that super fun stuff, but I was staying true to the story I was dying to tell.

I crafted my query letter, made lists of agents that represented my genre and sent out five letters. Funny thing happened this time around. An email came through asking for a partial, synopsis and bio. It was like walking through a dream.

Then a personalized rejection came across my email. They used my name, book title, quoted favorite passages and even commended me on my writer’s voice. Slight disappointment, but w-o-w all the same.

The next day I was staring back at my very first full request.

I did a quick fist pump, jumped around screaming (inside) like a giddy school girl and sent the requested materials. I was a professional after all. Out of the initial five query letters sent I received the following:

1 Partial, Bio, Synopsis

2 Personalized rejections that commended my writer’s voice

1 Partially personalized rejection

1 Full request

While I was insanely excited about the requests, I didn’t stop there. I continued to research agents, continued to send out more query letters and most importantly continued to write. You never know when your next great work will be told. A quote I read from Jack London stuck with me one day a few months back when I was feeling anything but inspired to keep writing.

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

That’s exactly what I did. I wrote on days I didn’t feel like it and amazingly the words still managed to flow. Try it sometime. I know you can do it too. Take the positives from any rejection you may encounter on your road to representation. It will add to your character and will be something you can look back on one day. Rejection may sting, but eventually you build a tolerance. The right doors will open for you as long as you keep knocking.

Keep writing, because that’s what Jack London would tell you to do. You’ll get there.

Photo credit giveagirlapen.com

It’s been a while…

Photo credit Fasteddie

Sorry it’s been quite some time since I’ve blogged. I’ve been working on a second novel and researching agents. I’ve also been buying and reading everything in the genre’s I’m interested in writing. So far it’s helped to keep my brain sharp and I’m able to edit a little easier. Revisions aren’t fun, but they’re a necessary evil. I’m going to try to post something here at least once a week, but please feel free to check out my column on Examiner.com

Once I send out the query letter for my new novel, I’ll blog a little more. Hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July holiday and a great start to your summer!

I know this is a short post, but I’m glad you stopped by. If you’d like to comment on what helps you write better, please feel free to do so. For me, I like reading more and listening to music. What’s your secret writing weapon?