7 Ways To Wreck Your Career

Unusual title, isn’t it? Choosing the negative instead of the positive.

But sometimes we have to hear the “what not” in order to grasp the “how to” in our writing journey.

We all make mistakes as we develop our careers, whether we intend to be full time or not. Mistakes are good. We learn from them.

But some can be costly.

Here are seven actions I think you should strive to avoid.

1. Genre hopping. Or, not deciding on a specific path. Over times, readers come to expect a certain kind of book from their favorite authors. I may be tired of a “Rachel Hauck” book, but my readers are not.

When starting out most of us would write for anything or anyone, and that’s a great way to get started, boost your publishing resume, but be careful you don’t spread yourself too thin.

I was blessed to have an agent in the beginning who kept me steered toward trade romance and chick lit. I also believe the Lord really watched over my steps. Several opportunities I wanted to leap at but the doors closed. Or I felt uneasy about and didn’t pursue.

In the end, I found all of the decision of “no” to be in my best interest. While other authors seemed to be surging ahead, I plodded along.

Early on I made several decisions to help my “brand.” To write stories primarily set in the south and to keep to the romance genre.

Yes, I had interest in other things. But I felt I was best suited to and drawn to chick lit and romance.

I sidestepped for a year and a half to write women’s fiction with Sara Evans but it was a strategic and calculated move.

Some genres are difficult to break into and it can be frustrating to “wait.” So you write in another genre instead.

Be wise about your choices when you do this. If your readers come to love you for sweet romances it might be hard to break into FBI thrillers.

How do you select a genre and working toward a brand? Figure out what you love. What books do you love to read? What movies are “must sees” for you? TV shows? What are you good at, an expert in? Do you have a ministry or platform that would support your fiction career?

Consider these elements as you put on your business hat to steer your career.

So, avoid the mistake of not finding your genre.

2. Flitting here and there and everywhere.

While it’s not always possible to stay with the same publisher or agent, do your best to find a “home” and stay there.

Yes, this can be a double edged sword. Sometimes we have to switch publishers and agents to grow our careers.

I did. But I made a mistake once in switching agents but God had my back. Which I’m grateful.

But I also made all of my switches prayerfully.

I also changed publishers, once, after much prayer, and sorta ended up back where I started. Which I found serendipitous.

But over all, your career and brand grow best when you stay put, so to speak.

Sometimes an agent or publisher will drop you, or situations come up where the relationship cannot progress, but do your best to build deep rather wide.

Watch emotional moves and decisions.

Get counsel. Seek the Lord. Don’t give into fears. Above all, don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought.

3. Indie Publishing too quickly.

Don’t rush. Do your homework and find out the best editors and artist for your genre. Find out where is the best place to sell your books and at what price.

Proof your work. Build your social media. Network with other writers.

Above all, learn the craft. Your critique group, family and best friends aren’t necessarily the best judges of your writing.

Again, pick your genre, strive for the highest level of writing, editing and cover art.

4. Ignoring social media.

I know we want to “just write books” but social media is very much a part of our world and now, our jobs.

Build your Facebook and Twitter presence. Engage in the conversation.

If you’re unpublished, follow other authors. Comment on their Pages or reply to Tweets.

Work on “being social,”on “sharing.” Get a bit of a network going with publishers and agents, and authors who tweet.

I know several authors who are waiting to be published and are keeping a good profile on Facebook and Twitter.

Be careful of what you post. No ranting or raging. You’d be surprised who watches and who sees.

Our community is a small one. Your name is your golden goose. 🙂

5. Not improving your craft.

I’ve been published ten years now and I am still working on my craft. Sometimes I get too frantic about it. But I want to always improve.

If you find you are making a genre change — which is possible, at the right time — sometimes you need a difference tone or voice to your work. A category romance has a different “tone” than a trade romance.

Keep reading, studying and improving.

It’s odd, but once you’ve been published for a few years, I think editors are looking for “more” from your work. They expect improvement.

So work on your voice. Work on your skill. Never settle.

6. Missing Deadlines.

Deadlines are tough. Hard to meet from time to time, but never impossible. Missing deadlines sets everything back. Publishers have more than our books to deal with and when we miss deadlines, we apply pressure to our editor and the editing staff.

Plan your time well. Be disciplined. Set your writing schedule and try to keep it. There will be days your writing falls short or things come up, and you can’t make your word count, but keep a schedule.

Missing a deadline by a few days usually causes no heartache but unless you’re award winning, best selling, big selling author missing deadlines can breed bad blood between author and publisher. Even if you ARE all of those things, missing deadline too many times can cause frustrations.

I missed a deadline this year. Well, actually, I made the deadline but the book had no ending. 😉 A combination of things, mostly a health issue, caused me to struggle with the book. My publisher and I agreed to push the book out two months to give my editor and me time to assess the story.

In the past, I’ve missed by a few days one or twice. Pushing back a Friday deadline until Monday. But I do all I can to meet my deadline.

Be a person of your word. When you sign your contract, you’re committing to those deadlines. If there’s a problem, speak up. If addressed early, deadlines can be moved before sales catalogs are written.

7. Envy, Jealousy and Discouragement

I think at some level these emotional attributes are the biggest career killers. Envy is wanting what others have. Jealousy is being possessive of what you already have. Discouragement is the combination of envy, jealous, insecurity settling in.

There’s nothing like being in the weeds of the work, drowning in words, to find yourself hit with a tidal wave of discouragement.

At that point, everyone and everything is better than you.

I thought I was a pretty good writer when I first started out until I didn’t final in any contest and had terrible sales. YIKES!

I was discouraged. But I determined not to let it beat me.

I also strive to fight any envy or jealousy. For every success another author enjoys, I enjoy my own. Or will. If I stay faithful.

I want, above all, to be Godly. To write for the Lord and please Him.

Paul says where there’s “envy and strife there’s every evil thing.”

Hmmm… so don’t let those negative things slip in. They do you no good.

Happy Writing!

Preparing For The ACFW Conference

successMany writers are gearing up for The American Christian Fiction Writers Conference held in St. Louis this upcoming September. I am one of them. In the last few years, I’ve learned new things and I’ve made new friends. Friends who understand there are voices talking in my head and I am not crazy.

Combine preparing for the upcoming ACFW conference with children going back to school, a husband preparing to leave town and a full-time job – well it can be a tad overwhelming. I still have hair. I really do, only slightly grayer this time around from last year.

I’ve been doing the things most of you probably are:

  • Polishing: Making sure my manuscript is in tip-top shape.
  • One-Sheet: Reading up on tips to makes sure my one-sheet looks the best with all the pertinent information.
  • Business Cards: Picture updated and new cards ordered in time to hand out at conference.
  • Organizing The Family: Making sure my food prep list is ready so I can cook all the meals before I leave. Organizing transportation for my kids. I know they would be disappointed if they couldn’t get to school because Mom forgot to arrange rides for them.
  • Riding An Emotional Roller Coaster: Feeling excited and nervous while at the same time wondering if my work is good enough.

Then I looked up. Literally. I follow another My Book Therapy member, Melissa Tagg and she wrote something on her blog that really impacted me. So much so, I printed it and posted it on the shelf above my computer.

Here’s what it says,

“What if we took the time to write on Post-it Notes words to reflect how we want to make people feel?”

“What if we were bouncing off our seats with excitement for the stories we’re living out each day? And what if acting on these what if’s meant the difference between a so-so existence and a focused, productive and a passionate life story?”

“How about you? What wonderful word(s) would you put on a Post-It Note for your novel…or your life?”

It reminded me of the reason I started this journey. I wanted to write stories that led people to a deeper relationship and knowledge of God. Somehow I got my wires crossed and started feeling like I was about to sink with the seemingly impossibility of it all. Instead I needed a reminder to recognize what a great opportunity I have while living this journey of life and writing.

I pray as you take the next step in your writing journey that you live each moment to the fullest.

When and if you start to doubt remember these wise words…

“And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.” Philippians 1:6

If you are attending the conference, I pray that each appointment be a divine connection and the favor of God proceeds you.


Alena Tauriainen

Social Media Minute—T.H.I.N.K. Before You Share On Social Media

I didn’t always enjoy social media. Before I spent time on the various networks I assumed that interactions there were at best, shallow, with little or no real-world value. I’d formed my opinions by listening to the comments and complaints of others.

It wasn’t until I actually took time to interact online that I discovered there were lots of things of value being shared. The people I’ve met and the skills I’ve learned through online connections have added so much to my life—professionally and personally.

Unfortunately, I’ve also run across my fair share of time-wasting interactions. These have run the gamut of spam sales notices to misleading articles. But even these experiences have been, in a strange way, valuable. They’ve helped me develop my own set of guidelines to keep me from adding to the worthless noise that clutters up our digital universe.

I think of these things as a series of filters that help me keep out any junk that might otherwise slip through. I call it my T. H. I. N. K. before you share online system.

Here’s how it works:

T – Transparent. I want to be transparent in all that I do. I don’t want people who interact with me online—through social media or my blogs—to feel like I have a hidden agenda.

H – Honest. I don’t even want to mislead anyone on purpose with something I share. That means I need to do my homework and make sure what I’m passing on is true. In addition, don’t want to build myself up as something I’m not, or present myself in a way that isn’t true.

I –  Inspiring. I want the things I share online to inspire others. I don’t mean I have to be the inspiration, but I want to challenge us all to do more than we ever thought we could.

N – Nice. This poor little word is, in my opinion, under-utilized. I would like to see it regain some of it’s strength. There’s a lot to be said for being nice. And I try to hold to that standard with every single thing I post online. I can say this for certain, out of all the things in life I’ve regretted, being nice has never been one of them.

K – Knowledge. I want to make sure I’m sharing actual knowledge online, not just noise. This means what I share needs to be helpful in some way.

This filter hasn’t watered down my online message.

Quite the contrary. My online focus is stronger because I take care to filter it. I can still share things that may be tough, I can teach others to do what I’ve done, and I can introduce my online connections to people and things I find valuable.

Now it’s your turn. How do you decide what to share online? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Two Key Things I’ve Learned About Writing Novellas vs. Novels

In the beginning there was the novel … well, at least in the beginning of my fiction writing career, there was the novel, and nothing but the novel.

And then my editor asked, “What do you think about writing a novella?”

And I said, “Why not?”

My first novella was You Made Me Love You. And I liked the process, even as I learned that writing a novel and writing a novella are two very different things.

And then I read a Facebook post where some people were discussing novel versus novella – you know, the whole choose one or the other. And I wondered why. Why does it have to be novel or novella? Why not enjoy both? Choose a novel when you’re up for a longer read, a more detailed story.  And choose a novella when you’re looking for something shorter, something simpler, but just as enjoyable as a full-length novel.

Here’s the first thing I’ve learned about novellas versus novels as I’ve begun writing both:

#1. Writing a novella doesn’t mean you do less prep work.

Yes, a novella has a smaller word count. Most trade novels run somewhere around 85 thousand to 95 thousand words. Novellas max out at about 25 thousand words.

And yes, a novella usually does not have a subplot. You just don’t have the word count to spare from the main plot. Rachel Hauck reminds me of this constantly when I’m writing a novella: It’s all about the romance. Period.

But even with fewer words and with “only” a plot, this does not mean you’re giving your readers an inferior story.

When I wrote You Made Me Love You, I did the same prep work as I do when I write a full-length novel. I hauled out a new copy of The Book Buddy and figured out my Story Question (Do opposites attract or combust? Yes.) And I worked on my main characters’ Dark Moments, Wounds, Lies, and Fears – making sure that I developed Black Moments for each one that mirrored the Dark Moments of their pasts. Did I plot out their Ds and their Ys in the Road? Yep, I did those too!

I’m working on my third novella now. Here’s the second thing I’ve learned about novellas versus novels:

#2. A novella’s smaller word count doesn’t mean that you skimp on story because a novella is not less than a novel.

A novella’s plot needs depth, just like a novel’s plot does. A novella needs compelling characters. Written well, and a novella will keep your readers turning pages … make your readers laugh out loud, or wipe away a tear, or sigh at the happy ending. A novella can be as memorable as a full-length novel. And romance? I managed to include a heady dose of romance in You Made Me Love You! You can do the same with suspense — just don’t think writing a novella means you can give your readers less.

Remember: It’s all about the story you write – not the word count.

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