Remember to Exhale

I spent the last five days in Florida.

Exhaling two very busy months. Inhaling time with my husband as we celebrated his birthday. Reading fantastic books (James L. Rubart’s The Long Journey to Jake Palmer, Rachel Hauck’s, The Wedding Shop, Betsy St. Amant’s (with Katie Ganshert and Becky Wade) To Have and to Hold) and an exceptional book byAllen Arnold, The Story of With: A Better Way to Live, Love & Create.

We also did some fun stuff. Swimming in the ocean, jet-skiing, SCUBA diving. Experiencing life.

 

I’ve discovered that the busier I get, the more I need time to just breathe. To remember my WHY. To hear my thoughts, as well as others.

We need this in our stories as well. In writer’s terms, we call them scenes (fun) and sequels (breathing). Or Action and ReAction Scenes. Those places where the characters slow down, look back, respond to what just happened and consider their choices. AKA, regroup.

And, right in the middle of the book, we need a moment of WHY. (James Scott Bell explains this in his fantastic (short, and inexpensive!) book called Write Your Novel from the Middle.) It’s that moment when your character takes a powerful and realistic look at himself in the mirror. It’s this moment–it’s what he sees–that motivates him to continue the journey. Maybe he sees his inadequacies. His failures. Maybe he sees what he WANTS to be.

Hopefully he sees that to get where he wants, he need to change. Grow.

But he won’t get there without a moment to hear his thoughts. To ponder his WHYs.

To exhale.

If you’re stuck in a story today…or in life, GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION to exhale for even just an hour. Take a walk. Sit on the porch and listen to your thoughts. (and do it without your phone!)

Make a delicious meal and savor it with a loved one.

You don’t have to go to the beach to exhale. (But admittedly, it helps.)

But, you do need to do it if you hope to write great fiction.

(By the way, Bethel Football won their game Saturday!)

Your story matters. Make time to hear it.

Go! Write something brilliant!

Susie May

P.S. THE STORY EQUATION is now up for PREORDER on Kindle! Are you struggling with HOW to put a story together? So was I…until I discovered that you could plot and write an entire book by asking ONE question. It all unfolds from there–and I show you how (and all my secrets). Preorder now: out October 11!

“The Story Equation is pure genius.” — Randy Ingermanson, author of Writing Fiction for Dummies

Keys To Handling Rejection

Hi Everyone,

It’s been awhile but I’ve experienced tremendous growth since the last time I wrote.

You see, I got a rejection letter. Yeah, and the email came through on Valentine’s weekend. Needless to say my husband was at more than a loss.

Can I just admit? I took some time to cry and wonder why in the world a successful businesswoman in her own right would ever subject herself to this crazy publishing world?

We all process things differently. I did your standard sit-in-shock cry and—in typical me fashion—said a prayer and went to bed. Everything always looks better after you sleep on it, right?

I woke up, and the email was still there with a resounding “pass.” After wallowing for 24 hours, I sent off an email to my mentors and went back to my day job—the day job in which I put in fourteen hours, on Valentine’s weekend. (Are you feeling sorry for my husband yet?)

Here’s the reply I got back from one of my mentors: “Best rejection ever!”

What?

You got it. It’s exactly what she sent me via email. And you know, after my mouth hit the ground and I stared at the screen awhile, I saw that she was right.

Perspective, people. Perspective.

I wrote my first book, went to conference, got contracted with an amazing agent and submitted my work. I had accomplished something. I went back and re-read the rejection letter—and while I wasn’t jumping for joy, it could have been a lot worse.

Then I got my second perspective check. My agent said, “No = next opportunity.

So, I dusted myself off and started plotting a new story to be ready for the next opportunity.

I learned four important things that weekend:

  1. Allow yourself time to be upset, but move on. In that short twenty-four hours, I had friends praying and my family surrounded me with love and hugs and the ceremonial offering of Blue Bell Ice Cream.
  2. Pick your friends and mentors carefully. If I’d sent that email or contacted “certain persons,” they would have killed my dreams. They would have enjoyed saying, “What were you thinking?” Choose your friends wisely. Listen to the right voices.
  3. Get out of your head. You are your worst critic. Don’t live there. Get out and move on.
  4. Redefine no to yourself. No = next opportunity.

Oh, and I should tell you that my husband showed up at my work with a steak dinner for two that night. Yep, I will keep him.

So tell me, what wisdom have you gleaned from rejection letters?

Don’t Let ANYTHING Steal Your Writing Joy

I’m a member of several writing groups, and I’m always amazed at the different reactions people have to similar situations. For instance, one writer might leave a critique session in tears, questioning whether or not the call to write was real. Another writer might have just as challenging a critique and leave energized because she now has the insight she needs to improve.

I’ve begun paying attention to the way the writers I respect handle this writing life. I’ve noticed that even though life gets hard at times, they never lose their writing joy. I’m trying to take deliberate steps to guard my joy of writing and not let things and/or people steal it from me. Today I’d like to share what I’ve discovered with you.

Things That Steal Our Writing Joy

  1. Being a One Way Writer. By this I mean that we’re only happy when things turn out one way. We want things a certain way and in a certain time-frame. Truthfully, it’s the writers who are flexible that retain their joy in this business.
  1. Being Unwilling to Let Go of Expectations. This one word can derail us for months, or even years, if we let it. It’s fine to make plans, but we can’t hang our hope—or our joy—on expectations.
  1. Not Learning to Roll with the Punches. Hard times will come in this business. Landing a book deal and/or an agent is tough, and rarely happens quickly. When we have those two things, life can still blindside us. Contracts are cancelled, editors and agents move on without us. We’ve got to pick ourselves up and get back to writing, no matter what happens.
  1. Always Looking Backward. If we dwell on the way things used to be in publishing, we’ll always be miserable. Not because things were always better, but because we think we remember them being better. Whether they were or weren’t really isn’t the point. What we need to do is learn what we can from the past and then keep our eyes firmly forward.
  1. Chasing Trends. It’s tempting to tailor what we’re writing to what’s currently popular with publishers. But that’s a dead end road. There’s always something new, and it’s just not possible to pull out a crystal ball and write to what’s going to be hot when it hit the market.
  1. Listening to the Negative Voices. There are two types of negative voices—the ones that live in your head and the ones belonging to those around us. I believe it’s the ones inside us that are the most dangerous. For one thing, they’re much more brazen. They say things that we’d never speak out loud. But if we let others also talk us out of following our dreams, they can be dangerous too. Take constructive criticism, but don’t let the negative words bring you down.
  1. Giving in to Fear. No matter how much we achieve as writers, we’re still fearful. We’re afraid of failure, of ridicule, even of success. But those writers who keep their joy are the ones who continue on in spite of the fear. They even get stronger because of the fear they overcome.
  1. Perfectionism. We want to strive for our very best. But we need to understand that perfection is out of our grasp. Perfectionism can keep us from submitting our work for publication, and it can even keep us from writing. Aim high and always keep learning, but be willing accept the best you can do.
  1. Not Writing. I truly believe that if our purpose in life is writing, and we don’t make time to write, we’ll be miserable. I know so many people who want to write, know they’re called to write, and yet let everything else squeeze out the time to write. They are some of the most stressed out folks you’ll ever see.

10. Forgetting the Reason You Started Writing in the First Place. We can get so caught up in the chase, that we forget why we entered the race. For me, God made me a writer. I process life through words. When I hit hard times and good times, one of my first actions is to record it, process it, and cope with it through writing. When I return to that, no matter what else is going on, everything falls into place.

15 Things Successful Writers NEVER Say

Writers are an odd lot.

I can say that, because I am one. So I speak from experience, not judgment. Like all creative people, we tend to feel things more deeply, reacting poorly to criticism.

We also have no perspective at all when it comes to our own creations. Because a lot of us begin writing as a hobby, we also seem to have a lop-sided view of the publishing industry.

So today, I’d like to clear up some common misconceptions and share some things that successful writers never say.

  1. Uh…I guess…uh…I write. So…I suppose that makes me a writer…sometimes. CUT. IT. OUT. If you are serious about writing, even if you don’t get paid, you can call yourself a writer. So repeat after me. “I am a writer.”
  1. I’m a much better writer than the majority of the published writers out there. This is for the small percentage who don’t have trouble telling everyone, “I am a writer.” Some of you believe you know more than everyone else. I hate to break it to you, but you don’t.
  1. Sure, I don’t need to write today. I’ll go to lunch with you. Successful writers make spending time putting words on paper (or a screen) a priority. If we want to be taken seriously and have our time respected, we must set the example.
  1. I don’t need to read books. I’m a writer, not a reader. Besides, I don’t have time to read. I am not kidding. I’ve actually had writers tell me this. We need to spend time reading, and reading widely. Read outside your genre and learn what works and what doesn’t.
  1. I don’t need an editor. I have a sharp eye and can catch anything I need to in my writing. Yes, many of us do have an editor’s eye. That’s a good thing. But that is NO substitute for an editor. We are blind when it comes to our writing. We see what is supposed to be on the page, not what is.
  1. I can’t afford to attend conferences. I know conferences are expensive, but they’re also vital to moving forward in your writing career. There are a lot of ways to fund a conference—from asking for money from family and friends instead of gifts for holidays, to writing small articles for pay and saving that money. Conferences do three MAJOR things for writers:
  • They provide a place to learn the latest industry standards and techniques.
  • They provide a place to network and talk to writing professionals, like editors, agents and published writers.
  • They provide a place to network with other writer.
  1. I decided to self-publish because traditional publishing just takes too long. I’m glad to say that self-publishing—when done with professionalism—is now a respected option. Beyond that, there are a lot of good reasons to self-publish. But using self-publishing as a short cut is NOT a good reason.
  1. I don’t have a target audience, everyone loves what I write. Every book has a primary audience. Yes, there are books that a lot of people enjoy. But if you write to a specific audience, you’ll have a much better finished product. Not to mention the fact that book stores will know where to shelve your book.
  1. The rules don’t apply to me. Yes, I’ll be the first one to agree that there are exceptions to almost every single rule you ever hear about writing and/or publishing. BUT we can’t look at ourselves as that exception. Follow the rules and let the exceptions be a wonderful surprise if and when they happen.
  1. The first part of my book is just information the reader needs, the story starts on page 70 (40, 60, 90, etc.). I really have lost track of the number of times I’ve had an author say this to me. Here is my response. If the story starts on page 70, that’s where your book needs to start. Trust your reader, and trust yourself, and skip the background information.
  1. I’m not a marketer, I’m a writer. If this really is true and you absolutely refuse to market your work, then be prepared to pay. You’ll have to hire someone to market your book because marketing is a joint partnership between the publisher and the writer. That’s just the way publishing works today.
  1. The publishing industry is dying. No, not really. It’s definitely changing, but it’s not dying. There’s a difference. Learn to adapt with the changes, but realize books and people who write them aren’t going anywhere.
  1. I already have a book contract, I don’t need a literary agent. Now you need one more than ever. There are those who will argue this point, but here are my thoughts. Because of the rapid changes in publishing, contracts are brutal. You need someone in your corner, advocating for you. After the contract, you still need someone to help with possible (really probable) hiccups in the publishing process. If you don’t like your cover, or the copy editor isn’t doing a good job, your agent can be the bad guy and go to bat for you. This makes it possible for you to stay on good working relations with the publisher.
  1. I don’t need to work on social media until after I have a contract. This is another that makes me cringe. Editors and agents award book contracts based on a lot of things. Now days, one of those things is whether or not an author has solid online presence. The lack of a presence may not always keep you from getting a contract, but it will affect the way you’re viewed by prospective buyers. Smart writers build an online presence while they’re working on a book, so everything is in place when they begin pitching.
  1. Published authors don’t need to take classes or read books on writing. Successful writers know there’s never a point when you’ve arrived. Lifelong learning isn’t just a buzzword, it’s vital to stay current in the publishing industry.

Even though I slanted a lot of the points toward books, all are equally applicable to writers of shorter works. These are things that I believe you’ll never hear a successful writer say. I’d love to know what you’d add to this list. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.