Hey friends! Something cool is on the horizon! I partnered with amazing writing coaches — James Scott Bell, Mary DeMuth, Karen Ball, Erin Taylor Young, Tricia Goyer, Cindy Coloma, Erin McPhearson, and Allie Pleiter, to create an AMAZING book on how to have writing success called…well, Writing Success! It’s only 99¢ during PREORDER! (comes out October 27th!) Pick it up here!
Today, I’m excited to feature a guest post by one of the authors (and my great friend!) Mary DeMuth
Seasoned and nubile writers scribble notes while the lecturer shares her publishing expertise. Both a magazine editor and a creative writing professor, Sandra Glahn teaches the workshop “The View from the Editor’s Desk” where she extols the benefits of beefy verbs and pines for the demise of adverb overuse. She finishes her time with the writer’s group by asking, “Any questions?”
A woman in the back raises her hand. “You mean I need to go through all my past manuscripts and make the changes you suggested in your lecture?”
Sandra nods. “Yes, if you want to be published.”
“That’s too much work,” she says. She never returns to the group.
Writing isn’t for wimps. It’s an arduous adventure where writers scale an ever-increasing learning curve. For beginning to advanced writers, the question remains: What do you do with the new knowledge you’ve gained from that writing seminar, book, or lecture? Stop learning? Embrace your inner wimp? Push through and improve the craft? The following are four ways writers can react to learning new techniques and skills. Two ways coddle the inner wimp; two others kill him.
Embrace your inner wimp by giving up. Those editors and educators don’t know a thing about your genius! They can’t recognize stellar, winsome prose, or seize upon your raw talent. What do they know?
George starts writing, believing his second grade teacher to be a prophet. “You’re a terrific writer,” she penned across his summer vacation story in happy red ink. He’s coddled that affirmation all these years—something that’s hardened him to actual feedback. After several attempts to convince fellow writers of his abilities, he gives up. George stores his spy thrillers in a box in the garage, spending his days looking up his second grade teacher on Facebook. He’s embraced the wimp, lazing around the Internet, murmuring about what could have been.
Feed your inner wimp by submitting subpar writing. I call this the delusional, yet hopeful writer—one who believes she’ll break through by submitting, submitting, submitting.
Edna comes to writer’s group month after month, bringing the same story in increments of five pages. Although the group has kindly reminded her to flee passive voice and curtail her purple prose, she continues to stubbornly adhere to her ways. She submits faithfully to contests and the occasional publisher who takes unsolicited manuscripts, and she garners rejections aplenty. She never learns; it seems beneath her. She will never be published, but she is sure she will be. She feeds the wimp, preferring lazy writing with a kick of tenacity to genuine improvement.
Kill the wimp inside by grunting through your old drafts. If you’re wondering what the publishing process is like, take an old piece of yours and rip it to shreds in light of what you know now. When you sell your first book, you’ll experience the same kind of work—agonizing over run on sentences, discovering, then slaying, your pet words and phrases, killing clichés, cutting paragraphs and chapters that don’t propel the reader forward. It’s never too late to go back and fix things, but be warned: sometimes it’s better to let those stories and articles go. You could mire yourself in your inadequate past.
I’ve taken unsold articles, revamped them, and sold them. I’ve tried to resurrect my first (yet unpublished) novel several times, resuscitating my flabby descriptions and plot flaws, only to tangle myself inside the story, weary and unmotivated. I’ve killed the wimp by grunting through, sometimes with success, sometimes without.
Kill the wimp inside by forging ahead. When you’ve discovered your penchant for adjectives, instead of slaying them in the cobwebs of past documents, move boldly forward, writing clean, powerful sentences chock full of strong nouns and verbs. Sometimes it’s right to turn the page of your past body of work in order to construct better pages today. Give yourself permission to say goodbye, so you can say hello to great writing in the present.
Mayla wrote four good novels. During the process, she read writing books, attended conferences, and welcomed hard critique. She views her books as stepping-stones to publication, but she won’t resurrect them. Instead, she pens a new novel, armed with new expertise. The result? She’s a finalist in a prestigious first-novel contest, and an agent has requested the full manuscript. She has successfully killed the wimp by moving forward.
Place yourself in a writer’s group. Hear a lecture about strengthening your prose and take notes. Raise your hand. Instead of lamenting all the changes you’ll have to make now that you know better, simply tell the lecturer thank you, and vow to kill the wimp lurking inside.
(Did I mention that Mary’s Book: Th 11 Secrets of Getting Published is included in the AMAZING collection: Writing Success–6 books by 6 writing coaches for 99¢!! Preorder it here!)
BIO: Mary is the author of thirty books, including her latest: The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels. She has spoken around the world about God’s ability to uncage a life, bringing needed freedom to her audiences. She’s been on the 700 Club, spoken in Munich, Cape Town, and Monte Carlo, and planted a church with her family in southern France. Her best work? Being a mom to three amazing young adults and the wife of nearly 25 years to Patrick. She makes her home in Dallas alongside her husband, and two dueling cats. Find out more at marydemuth.com.
Connect with her at: (@MaryDeMuth, MaryDeMuth.com, Facebook.com/authorMaryDeMuth)