Aw, phooey

Aw, phooey.

The envelope arrived in the mail with the self-addressed label I’d affixed some weeks prior.  Inside was a nice tri-folded typed note that read:

“Thank your for submitting your book proposal to ____ _____ (unnamed publisher).  We have reviewed the materials and have decided that the book is not quite right for our current publishing program.”

What does “not quite right” mean?  Is it within a millimeter of being “right,” or a mile and a half?  And if a publishing program isn’t “current,” what is it?  An antique?  In the future?

It’s okay

Alright.  So I’m in a bit of a blue funk.  Know what?  I’ve decided blue funks are okay.  For a time.

If you’ve poured heart and soul into a manuscript and slaved long weeks over just the “right” turn of a phrase, agonized over pacing and rhythm, polished dialogue and plot to a bright sheen only to have “The Editors’ reject your magnum opus, there’s a word for the experience: disappointment.  Aka: Aw, phooey.

And that’s okay.  It’s okay to admit that something hurts when it does.

What’s not okay is to let it take you out for the count.  To get so discouraged that you give up.

The territory

The truth?  If you’ve been writing for more than ten minutes or so, you know that rejection letters come with the territory.  Don’t take them personally. And don’t let them stop you from doing what you were born to do: write!

Now, if “the editors” have specified how or why your latest sparkling masterpiece isn’t “quite right” for their “current publishing program,” listen up and learn.  Avoid making the same mistakes twice.

More often than not, however, such letters offer little or no useful advice in the how or why departments.  When that happens, you might:

– Submit elsewhere

– Rewrite and re-submit

– Rework a current manuscript for a different publisher

– Pare down a manuscript into an article or an article series and sell it to a magazine

– Set aside the rejected mss. and start something new

– Treat yourself to another slice of raspberry white chocolate cheesecake with double hot fudge

– Pack your bags and head to Tibet.

A win-win

Before you dive into that last one, try offering your writing skills to a non-profit.  Volunteer to write for and/or edit their newsletter and other publications.  This can be a great opportunity to network.  It may even turn into a paying gig.  If it doesn’t, you’re still building relationships, polishing your skills and helping someone.  It’s a chance to turn an “aw, phooey” into a win-win.

Have you received a rejection letter?  How did you turn it into a “win-win”?

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Works Every Time

Okay.  I admit it.  I’m totally blown away by the blog meisters who crank out four or five posts a week.  Even worse: those who post on a daily basis.

I’ll admit it again: I’m a teensy-weensy bit envious.

I mean, how do these folks manage it?  And manage to churn out interesting, informative, engaging and otherwise superlative posts day after day, week after week?

Where do they find the time? Where do they get ideas? When do they sleep? Do they own a cat?  (I also admit to some serious canine bias here, but that’s another story.)

I admire these folks.  Their dedication.  Their discipline.  Their lack of a life. outside the blogosphere?

It’s amazing.

A decision

I made a decision awhile back.  In case you haven’t already noticed, I decided not to be one of them.  Unless it comes naturally.  Flows like clear water over a precipice.  Warm honey out of a jar.  Common sense out of political candidates.  Well, you know what I mean.

And something amazing happened.  The less I stressed about blogging, the easier it became.  (Okay, so I’m easily amazed 🙂

Not that I don’t plow into writer’s block now and then.  That little curmudgeon seems to be the bane of all writers at least now and then.  But I don’t stress about it.

When the words don’t come – and sometimes they don’t – I bail.  Go for a walk.  Eat pizza.  Bathe the dog.  Pick daisies.  Watch Lucy and Ethel.  Count stars.  Call my sister three states away.  Listen to Puccini arias.  (Yes, really.)

Instead of forcing it, I disconnect.  Switch gears.  Do something different.  If I’m really desperate, I bake.

Give yourself a breather

Know what?  The muse returns.  She may be “MIA” for a day, for weeks or for longer, but given time, the creative little sprite comes back.  (When she does, I usually can’t get her to shut up.)

Taking a breather from writing can be like swapping out a dead battery for a fresh one.  There’s no sense trying to work off a battery with no juice.  Call that horse dead and find a new one.  Give yourself a break.  A chance to “power down” and recharge.  It may seem counter-productive.  But the renewed energy and vitality are worth it.

So if the writing muse has skipped town on you, be patient.  Disconnect.  Switch gears.  Do something different.  Take time to recharge.  (I wouldn’t necessarily recommend baking, but whatever works.)  If you’re a writer, the muse will return.

Works every time

One last thing.  When writer’s block hits, read.  Really.  Put down your pen.  Lock up your keyboard.  Pick up a book and dive in.

There’s nothing like nestling behind a good book with a great story – or even a mediocre one – to tempt the muse into returning.  I can’t explain it. I just know it works.  Every time.

What do you do to overcome writer’s block?  Share in the comments section.

 

***

If you’re struggling with writer’s block, here are some great reads to recharge the ‘ole batteries.  These aren’t how-tos.  They’re just fun and engaging.

Inkheart – Cornelia Funke

The Book of Story Beginnings – Kristin Kladstrup

The Road to Grace – Richard Paul Evans

What books can you recommend?

 

How to Build Your “Platform”

Blog.  Update.  Tweet.  Link in.  Build a platform.  Network. Get an agent.  Don’t get an agent.  Self-publish. Don’t self-publish.  Go E-book.  Go brick-and-mortar.

Anyone and everyone is singing the praises of social media, networking and technology these days, especially when it comes to “branding” or “getting your message out.”

 Spinning Heads

It’s enough to make your head spin.  But what do you do when The Experts (who are these people?) offer conflicting advice?  It takes time to wade through the Good, the Bad, and the Just Plain Ridiculous.

So let’s cut to the chase.

“Building a platform” means building relationships.  And building relationships means getting outside yourself and building up others.  Letting them “rise and shine.”

Here’s the secret to “building your platform”: it’s not about you.

Some ideas:

Rather than focusing on sales and marketing, focus on people.  Rather than seeing people as dollars on two legs, see them as individuals.  Not numbers.  Not blog stats.  Not followers, promotional tools or something you can use to make yourself look good.  But as living, breathing human beings with interests, opinions, pursuits, passions, families, in-laws, insecurities, ups and downs.  Some may even own a cat.  Nobody’s perfect.

Just like you.

And me.

Listen. Seriously.

So, instead of “plugging in” just to promote, treat people like people.  Get to know them.  Ask how they’re doing.  Listen.  Seriously.  Instead of focusing on yourself, give the other person a chance to have their say. Don’t step on the end of their sentences.  Don’t interrupt because you can’t wait to jump in and redirect the conversation to yourself.

Reach out.  Make a phone call.  Send an email.  Answer a question.  Give others the limelight.  Share links.  Retweet.  Repost.  “Like.”  Make others look good.

“Building a platform” can be summed up as “building up others.”  Or, as Jesus put it: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31.)   Amen?

How have you made someone else look good?  Who has done the same for you?  Share in the comments section.

Oh yeah – do you Wreal 8?

Rattlensnakes and Reunions

They say rattlesnakes strike fast.

Whoever said that never met your Aunt Bertha.  Or attended your last family reunion.

Remember how Auntie sidled up to you, plate heaped with potato salad and fried chicken, and asked in a conspiratorial whisper, “So, what have you published lately?”

A few minutes later Uncle Elmer button-holed you with, “How many books have you sold?”

Grinning like a Cheshire cat, Cousin Matilda chimed in with, “When will see your name on the New York Times Best-Seller List?”

Did you want to slug them?

Maybe you have sold something lately.  Maybe not.  Maybe you wanted to smack the relatives.  Put another way, maybe their questions were your questions.  Maybe they “rubbed you the wrong way” because they articulated what’s been eating at you: Are you a writer?

Most people equate being a writer with publishing credits, books sales, signings, a slot on Leno or becoming a household name.  Nothing wrong with any of that.  But do fame and fortune a writer make?

Another angle

Let me ask the question from another angle: What if you never land a fat publishing contract?  What if you never sell a million copies (or even a thousand) or attain “best seller” status? What if the only person who ever crows over your pixels of genius is your spouse – or your mom?

Are you still a writer?

Most people I know who aspire to “writer” struggle with insecurity.  Am I good enough?  Do I have what it takes to break into print?  Is anyone interested in my work?  Will it sell?  To whom, and how many?

Who you are

I’d like to make a suggestion here: it doesn’t matter.  Why?  Because a writer is someone who writes.  Writing is part of their personality, embedded in their DNA.  It’s who you are, not just what you do.

A writer is someone who writes because they can’t not write. 

I’m not saying you have to answer Aunt Bertha with a sparkling resume or respond to Uncle Elmer with, “a million.”

They don’t get it.

But if you’ve read this far, I’m willing to bet that you do.

So, are you a writer?  Then write.

What hurdles have you overcome in building your writing muscle or gaining confidence?  How can fellow writers help?

Helpful links:

You Are a Writer – Jeff Goins

How to be a Writer – Barbara Baig

Author Interview with Kathi Macias

Today we’re getting to know Kathi Macias, author of Special Delivery.

Where do you live?

Homeland, CA (midway between LA and San Diego but a bit easy)

*Tell us something about yourself.

Kathi Macias, author.

I was born and raised in Southern California (Ventura) and still live fairly close by (in Riverside County now). My husband, Al, and I met when we were six years old and grew up just a few blocks from one another, ending up as junior/senior high sweethearts. When we were in junior high I told him I was going to be a writer some day, so writing has long been my passion and my dream. I’ve been in the Christian publishing world (with a journalism background before that) for over thirty years now, with forty published books and many more on the drawing board. I also do a lot of public speaking, traveling across the nation (and beyond) to teach writing and to lead women’s conferences and retreats.

What inspired you to write this book/article/piece?

Special Delivery is the second of three books in the Freedom Series, a fiction trilogy based on human trafficking. I am known for writing issues-related fiction and was just finishing up my previous Extreme Devotion series about the persecuted Church when my publisher challenged me to consider writing the next series on human trafficking. I did some initial research and was stunned at how widespread and horrific it is, so I quickly agreed. The first book in the series, Deliver Me From Evil, is a finalist for the Golden Scrolls Novel of the Year Award.

How did you choose the title?

I wanted to use the word “deliver” in each of the three titles: Deliver Me From Evil, Special Delivery, and (coming in August) The Deliverer. It is important to me that, despite the dark topic of human trafficking, my readers will know that I’m focusing on the Light that shines in the darkness, rather than the darkness itself.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

There weren’t any because it was contracted before I wrote it. But I certainly ran into many obstacles in the early days of publishing. Though I had training as a writer, I didn’t know the ins and outs of book publishing and had to learn all that. Also, those rules have changed over the years/decades since I’ve been writing, so I have to stay abreast of changes—including getting agents and publicists and building a platform, none of which was necessary when I first started publishing in the ’80s.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I think I knew it from the moment I discovered words. I took classes in high school and later in college (journalism, creative writing, English, even drama to help with creating believable characters). I worked for next to nothing as a newspaper columnist in a tiny local paper and also doing “string reporting” (meaning the paper called me when all their “real” reporters were busy). I submitted articles to magazines, newsletters, anywhere I could (paid or not) to build my resume and credibility and experience. It took several years of that before I secured my first book contract, which came about because I landed a part-time, entry-level, low-paying, no-benefits job at a publishing house. It was a wonderful foot in the door!

Do you have any writing rituals?

Not really, though I do get up “dark and early” so I can have some alone, quiet time with the Lord before diving in. Because I live on the West Coast and my publishers and agent are on the East Coast, I have to be awake and alert by the time they’re in their offices and ready to work. I also do a lot of early morning radio shows back East, meaning I may be on the phone doing interviews at 4 or 5 AM my time. I do shut down fairly early, though—4 or 5 PM at the latest, with few exceptions—so I can have some quality time with my husband when he comes home from work.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book?  What?

This entire Freedom Series has opened my eyes to the horrors of human trafficking around the world. As a result I have become an activist in the movement to abolish modern-day slavery. I do radio and TV and personal appearances, speaking on the subject and challenging others to get involved, every chance I get.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would have caught the “marketing train” earlier than I did. It nearly passed me by, as I was from the old school where authors left the marketing and publicity to the publishers. Not so anymore, so I had to play catch-up and jump onboard before I got left behind.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

I love nonfiction Bible studies that REALLY challenge me to go deeper. I want the fiction I read to do the same. I’m not much on romances or beach reads (though I know a lot of people love them, and that’s fine). I like issues-related fiction (“fiction with a mission,” as my main publisher calls it). I call it “parables with purpose,” which is what Jesus used to confront and challenge and change His listeners.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

Book three of the Freedom series (The Deliverer) is done and will release in August 2012. In October 2012 my Christmas novel, Unexpected Christmas Hero (already done and dealing with homelessness in America) will release, followed by my new Patches of Courage Series, the first of which is called The Moses Quilt. (All of these are from New Hope Publishers.) It is a contemporary novel but built around a patchwork quilt that tells the story of the courageous and faith-filled life of Harriet Tubman. I have just completed that one, and it will release in January 2013, just in time for Black History Month. Then, in Spring 2013, Last Chance for Justice, part of the multi-author Bloomfield Series from B&H Publishers, will release (it’s also done). I am just about to start the next book in the Patches of Courage series, and it will be called The Christmas Quilt (releasing in October 2013). It deals with the issue of abortion.

*What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Be patient, be persistent, stay focused! This is a very tough profession, and many give up along the way. Take your time and hone your craft. Go to writers’ conferences. Join a critique group. Learn all you can and be disciplined to apply it. There are no easy shortcuts, so we must be willing and committed to doing our best and to representing our Lord honorably in all we do along the way.

Who is the perfect reader for your book? (Please do not say “everyone.” ;o) )

My primary readers are Christian women between the ages of 20 and 50, though older women and some men read them too. I also have a secondary following of older teens because I usually include at least one main character in my books who is somewhere between 15 and 20. I use those characters to challenge young people to rise above the average and mediocre and to believe God has called them to greatness.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

I would love it if they would stop by my websites, Kathi Macias, or Bold Fiction.  You can also find me at my blogs, Kathi Easy Writer Macias and the Titus 2 Women.