Oh, you got a book deal? Awesome. Really. (What to do with envy!)

You know what I’m talking about, right?

You work your tail off on a great story, your fourth amazing story, still unpublished, and while you’re piling up rejections, your friend, who’s written one (or even more) book lands a three-book deal from a major publisher.

You’ve critiqued her work. And yes, it’s good.

You’re just as good.

Your story is just as powerful.

And frankly, it’s not fair.

You’re trying to cheer her on; trying to smile and be patient but frankly, it hurts. And you think…what’s wrong with me? What did I do wrong?

That’s a little how to feels to be a Minnesota Viking fan right now. Because the Super Bowl is coming to town and we’re all supposed to put on our big girl pants and be nice to the opposition. Who are coming to cheer on their team.  And frankly, deserve to celebrate their team’s success.

Image result for minneapolis super bowl preparations

So I thought I’d talk today about envy. What do to with that dark little voice inside you that says, it’s not fair, and…what about Smead? (You get extra points if you get that reference)

Five ways to deal with envy in publishing:

  1. Acknowledge that the envy exists. You don’t have to be nasty about it—just…wow. I’m happy for you, but I’m envious. Take a breath, cheer them on, but allow for the fact you want it, too. Let it motivate you, and even encourage you. If it can happen for them, then it can happen for you too.
  2. Don’t compare (and drag the other person down in that comparison.) Whether they are as good as you as a writer doesn’t matter. You both have skill, clearly. But their time is now…and your writing journey will be different.
  3. Look at the big picture. If you’re a person of faith, it helps to consider that God has a timeline for you, too. For Christians, envy takes us out of the paradigm of trusting God for our future, and with our dreams. Regardless, publishing isn’t magic, it’s about hard work. Do the work, and your story will find a home. (and you might consider whether your personality/voice and stories are a good fit for indie publishing)
  4. What can you learn? If you’re getting rejections and your friend isn’t, maybe it’s time to take a good look at why. Unpack your proposal—is the concept relatable, timely, and a good fit for that publishing house? Is your story fresh, with solid structure and compelling characters? Does your voice draw in the reader?
  5. Turn your emotions to your story. Do you have a moment in your story where your character is defeated? (you should, by the way). Even a moment when others have succeeded, and he hasn’t? You have some emotional fuel now to add to that moment. (And by the way, these moments, for your character, create powerful character revelation and motivation, so seek ways to incorporate them into your story!)

It’s not easy to watch Eagle (or Patriot) fans come to town when you feel like you should be the one in the game. But when you remember that everyone’s dream is valuable, and that life is NOT a competition (although football is), and frankly, in the economy of God, there is room for the wild success of everyone, it’s time to say…

Congratulations.

I’m cheering for you.

And I trust God for my own Superbowl, someday.

Your story matters. Go, write something Brilliant!

 

Susie May

P.S. So…we are seriously considering making this year’s Deep Thinker’s Retreat the last one. I know—it’s a really hard decision. But with our staff’s publishing careers taking off, and expenses going up, it feels like we are at that place. So, if you want to join us for this epic, final year, there are just a couple spaces left. Your story matters—we’d love to help you reach the finish line. Check it out here: http://learnhowtowriteanovel.com/product/deep-thinkers-retreat-2018/

​Four ways to recover from a devastating loss (or rejection from a publisher!)

Last week I was going to write an inspiring email about how you just have to keep trying. That you don’t know when one of your stories is going to hit with a publisher. Something about how it takes the right person, the right story, the right voice, and the right moment to get the novel published, and how you just have to keep throwing the ball, hoping for a completion until you get it right.

Yes, I was going to use the Minneapolis Miracle as a metaphor.

Image result for minneapolis miracle

Today, well…today is a different story. A different metaphor. But maybe one that is just as important because big losses come more frequently than miraculous touchdowns and we’d better figure out how to handle rejection as writers if we want to be successful.

Image result for sad minnesota viking

EVERY author gets rejected. EVERY idea can use improvement. EVERY novel has revisions.

The key is to know what to do after the rejection/painful editorial letter/bad review. Here are four thoughts to upping your game if you want to push yourself off the icy turf and keep playing.

  1. Go back to the fundamentals. The most common rejection from a publisher is because YOUR STORY ISN’T DEVELOPED ENOUGH. You’ve written a very good rough draft, with a solid plot and interesting characters but there aren’t enough layers, metaphors, character nuances and change and you just don’t nail the ending. This is a great rejection because it means you just need to go deeper. Start with your character and figure out what he wants, and why—and when I say WHY, I mean go back to that Dark Moment Story in the past and examine who your character is at his core. Then look at your character’s journey. Can he do something at the end that he can’t at the beginning? What is the theme of your story? Are there any metaphors embedded in your story? Going back to the core and putting the story back together helps you see the holes you might have missed. (BTW, if you need help on how to do that, check out The Story Equation)
  2. Show, don’t tell. Another reason your story might not catch is because your voice isn’t grabbing the reader. Voice is personality on the page, but it also involves the way you wordsmith, the way you describe the world, add in dialogue and most importantly, show versus tell your story. Do you “tell the story between the quotes,” meaning more dialogue, less narrative? (here’s a rule of thumb—if you can say it, do! Nothing moves the story faster, or causes more tension than dialogue!) Do you show the emotions through action, storyworld and metaphor? Don’t tell us that someone is smart, strong and brave. Show us.
  3. Add in an original twist. Have you ever heard from a publishing house, “oh, we just published a story like that?” You need something in your author’s hat of tricks that make your story unique. I have traveled extensively, as well as have lived some exciting adventures, and I often use those experiences in my novels. And since I write epic romantic adventure, it works. What unique element do you bring to your stories?
  4. Write a fresh novel, not book two! It’s common for authors to finish a novel and think—I can write an excellent follow up story. So they spend the next year creating book #2. Sadly, they’ve just (potentially) wasted their time. No one will read book #2 if book #1 hasn’t been published. Find a fresh new idea and go to work on THAT story. Your first story might still be contracted, someday, but don’t continue down the path of the same defeated story line. *Note: If your publisher suggests that you REWORK your current novel, then do THAT. But if you’ve exhausted the opportunities for that story…move on!

And, just for the record, if you need to take a day off and binge watch The Crown, or Travelers, or even Stranger Things, that’s okay too.

Just don’t stay down. Because that icy grass can turn your writing joints stiff and achy. Get back up.

You’re still in this game.

SKOL forever! Oops, I mean Your Story Matters.

Go write something brilliant!

 

Susie May

P.S. If you feel like you’re stuck on a story that’s been rejected, or your writing has stalled, or even, you don’t know how to develop a new game plan, then our annual Deep Thinker’s retreat will get you up and going again! We have 3 spaces left—and it’s one glorious month away, in WARM and SUNNY Destin, Florida. Check out the details and join us here!

To Self-Edit or Not to Self-Edit by Nick Kording

 

To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

*          *          *

Be all my sins remember’d

I admit, I’m a bit of a Shakespeare nerd. I believe there is a line from one of his plays or sonnets to fit virtually every situation – even editing. For unpublished, unrepresented authors, you have to ask yourself, to self-edit or not to self-edit: that is the question. Albeit not as smooth as Shakespeare’s 35-line monologue in Hamlet, it is a fitting question every writer asks him or herself at some point in the process. No one denies the importance of editing a manuscript before submitting it to agents and editors. The question, then becomes, to self-edit or not to self-edit?

I wish there was an easy answer. There isn’t.

Depending on the editor, the cost for a thorough edit, providing feedback on the flow, plot and the structural elements can cost as much anywhere from $1,000 – $5,000 if you’re paying anywhere between one and five cents per word. Editors who provide this level of editing act as both editor and writing coach, providing feedback and questions geared at challenging you to reflect on essentially every aspect of the manuscript.

The result? Hopefully, a better manuscript. I would go as far as saying definitely a better manuscript if the author takes the editor’s advice, considers the questions asked and works at the revisions necessitated by the edit. After paying up to $5,000 for a 100,000-word manuscript, the manuscript should, at the very least, be better.

There is, however, a rub.

The rub is you, the author. Like everything else in life, you have a choice in how you respond to the questions and feedback of an editor. If you pay $5,000 for editing services but then disagree and disregard 90 percent of the advice, one of three things happened.

  1. The editor is not a good fit for your writing style;
  2. The editor is not a good editor; or
  3. You are too close to your work to receive feedback.

The first option happens. Sometimes an editor won’t mesh with your style. That is not the same as saying the editor doesn’t like the genre you write. The second is also a possibility, however, if you’ve done your research before hiring an editor, the first two options shouldn’t ever happen. A good editor fits your writing style because a good editor doesn’t suggest you change your style, but rather helps you improve your story within your style. The only exception would be if your style is to write grammatically flawed sentences and plots that make no sense whatsoever.

The third option is what I call lacking a teachable spirit. As a writer, receiving feedback is part of the job. You don’t have to agree with every suggestion or comment made to be teachable, but resisting the process, especially if you paid for it, makes no sense.

If you are thinking I didn’t answer the question, start over. To self-edit or not to self-edit: that is the question.

The answer is yes. It is also no. Yes, you have to edit your work, even after hiring an editor because editing and rewriting naturally result from having an editor give you feedback. Self-editing alone, however, is usually not a good idea. As writers, the story in our head will naturally fill the details when the story on the page falls short. Likewise, we will correct spelling, punctuation, and even plot holes in our heads without necessarily noticing them on the page.

There are those rare people who can edit their own work with no help – no huddle or critique group providing them with feedback. But, for most of us, those other eyes, especially ones attached to the mind of an editor by trade, offer advice we can’t or won’t give ourselves. Shakespeare might be one of those rare people. I, however, am not.

A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool. – William Shakespeare, As You Like It

~*~

Nick Kording writes contemporary and Biblical fiction with a touch of romance, as well as Christian living, Bible studies and devotionals. She writes for His glory because salvation is a matter of life and death.

Stalled in your writing?  The Benefits of a Quick Read!

I read a quote recently that said if you look at the state of your house, office and garage, that reflects the state of your inner being.

Hmm…I just came off a week of celebrations – my daughter graduating from college, my son graduating from high school – and the ensuing parties and houseful of guests.  All my adult children, plus extended family hung out at our house, playing games into the wee hours of the night.

The morning light revealed piles of coke cans, Doritos wrappers, blankets, shoes and pillows scattered around the family ottoman or kitchen table, the evidence of, well, fun had the night before.

We capped off our week with a hike up to a local waterfall, where we took a few minutes to sit down and reflect on the accomplishments of our graduates, as well as looked ahead to the future with hopes and dreams.

Amidst the fun of the game playing and cake-eating, the three hour hike afforded us with an opportunity to cherish the important stuff.

In the middle of writing a book, we can get caught up in the drama (and challenge) of writing, moving from one climatic event to the next. But somewhere in the middle we sometimes lose steam as we look ahead at all the scenes we must yet accomplish. Our progress begins to slow and suddenly we find ourselves standing in the middle of the room, looking at the debris, wondering how we got here, and how we might find the strength to continue.

It’s time to do a Quick Read of your book.

Reading what you have so far will charm you back into the story, into the big picture, and charge you with momentum to finish.  You’ll see what you have accomplished – and the reward of staying the course.

Here’s some advice on how to maximize your Quick Read:

  1. Don’t edit each scene as you go. If you stop to edit, you’ll find yourself suddenly reworking essential moments, slow your progress and you might even change something that will affect your ending.  Instead, TAKE NOTES on your story – outlining possible changes.  You might also highlight areas you need to pay special attention to later.  Remind yourself that you WILL go back and re-write, and give your story a deep edit when you’re finished.  Now, you’re just trying to reignite your inspiration.
  2. Keep an eye out for shallow (and unfounded) emotional responses. When you’re writing that first pass, you’re still getting to know your characters and their emotional responses. A second read through, after you’ve gotten to know them better will unearth deeper responses, more meaningful reactions, and add to your emotional layering of a scene.  Again, don’t rewrite it yet, but make notes on how you might react to this differently.  Then, on your editing pass, you’ll have a springboard from which to rewrite the emotions.
  3. Make notes on where you might need more storyworld, or perhaps even an additional scene. You might even find a redundant scene.
  4. Pick up plotting threads you might have forgotten as you’ve trudged through Act 2. Make a list of all the threads so you remember to wind them up at the end.
  5. Ask: WHAT DO I LOVE? I always ask myself this as I’m reading. What do I love about this book?  What character moments, plot twists, dialogue, prose – I go ahead and highlight it so I can remember why I’m writing this book, and I’m encouraged that yes, it’s a worthwhile venture to continue.  Seeing all those pink highlights is encouraging as I’m scrolling through my kindle, ready to start moving forward away.

Finally, doing a Quick Read of your book, especially while you’re busy with other events (e.g. family graduations!) utilizes that “non-writing” time and helps build your momentum for getting back on track after the party has died.

Life gets in the way of our writing – (or rather, writing gets in the way of life?), but you don’t have to let yourself get derailed.  Or, maybe you simply have lost your steam.  Stop writing, sit down and start reading.

You might just discover you’ve found your next favorite author.

Go! Write Something Brilliant!

Susie May