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You work your tail off on a great story, your fourth amazing story, still unpublished, and while you’re piling up rejections, your friend, who’s written one (or even more) book lands a three-book deal from a major publisher.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


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/

Redefining Success at the ACFW Conference

NOTE: This post was first published in 2012 on the ACFW blog.

A writing friend of mine is attending the ACFW conference for the first time this year.
She is excited … and nervous. Right now, “nervous” rules the roller coaster ride of her emotions.
The biggest virtual hill she’s facing? The 15-minute appointments with editors and agents.
Writers alternately covet these appointments – the whole “Please, oh please, let me get an appointment with Editor A or Agent B” prayer. Or we dread the thought of those 900 seconds – the whole “I know I won’t remember a single word of my elevator pitch!” angst.
If you’ve ever attended the ACFW conference, you’ve ridden the same writer’s roller coaster as my friend because at one time, you were a conference-newbie too.
We’ve got a few more weeks until we descend on Dallas and I don’t want my friend worn out emotionally by a bunch of “what ifs” before she walks off the plane and into the waiting humidity. So I tossed her a lifeline.

Here’s what I told my friend: She’s already succeeded.
How can this be true when she’s barely practiced her pitch? When she’s still editing her one sheet? When she’s not even started packing for the conference?
My friend has succeeded because she is attending the convention for the first time.

Yep. That’s success if you define success – i.e achievement, accomplishment – as any sort of forward motion in your writing goals.
Last year, my friend wanted to go to ACFW, but she couldn’t. This year, it’s happening. Success.
And that’s not her only step forward.
Last year, her manuscript wasn’t complete.
This year? Finished. Oh, sure, she’ll need to polish it some more. We always do!
Last year, she had no opportunity to pitch her manuscript.
This year? She’ll have appointments – she just doesn’t know with whom yet. And even if she decides to decline those opportunities? There will be other people ready to fill those 15-minute slots, so they won’t go to waste.
Appointments or not, my friend will attend workshops, learning more about her craft.
Forward motion? Absolutely. And forward motion equals success.
During all of this, she’ll meet other writers, building relationships with people who “get” her, which is some of the best kind of forward motion (aka success) a writer can ever have.

What other successes happen at the ACFW conference outside of the 15-minute appointments? And even if you’re not attending the conference, what success have you achieve this year as a writer?

[Tweet “Redefining #Success at the 2015 #ACFW Conference by @bethvogt #writer”]


Writing When You’re Sick and Tired … and on Deadline

You’ve heard the term “perfect storm,” right?

Just so we’re all on the same page, let me define it for you: a perfect storm is a particularly bad or critical state of affairs, arising from a number of negative and unpredictable factors. (Emphasis mine.)

Another definition for a “perfect storm”? My life. (Again, emphasis mine.)

You all are laughing now, right? Well, chuckle away while I describe the perfect storm gathering around my writer’s life:

  • I meet one deadline … and immediately face another one. Living the dream, people. Living the dream.
  • I develop an ache in my shoulder, which I ignore because, really, there’s no reason my arm should be aching. I mean, it’s just another ache to go with my aching (post surgery) back and my aching (post fall) ankle … but the ache gets more intense. And did I mention that it’s on my right side? My writing arm/hand?
  • I burn the proverbial candle at both ends — and try to figure out how to borrow someone else’s “candle” so I can meet my second deadline because I’ve already “adjusted” this deadline once. (Adjusted is a nice word for talking with my agent and saying “I am not going to meet this suggested deadline.” Thankfully, my agent and editor agree with me.)
  • I take time off from writing my novella to
    •  write back cover copy
    • do second round edits on my novel
    • write my regularly scheduled blogs
    •  wave at my family
    • continue to ignore my house.
  • I lose a day and a half  to a migraine.
  • I travel to a writers retreat in Monterey — which, yes, is fun. And I tell myself I will write while I’m gone. And I don’t. Not a word.
  • I come home from Monterey — and promptly get sick. Very sick. No writing. Not. A. Single. Word. For four days.
  • Finally, I am writing again.
  • And on my fridge is a jury summons. By the time this blog post goes live, I will know whether that part of the storm has blown past me or not. ( I did get “the call.”)

These are just some of the elements of my “perfect storm,” also known as my writer’s life. I don’t have the time or the word count to tell you every last detail of my life these past few months — and that’s not the point of this blog post anyway.

The point is this: We are writers. When we are on deadline, we write when we are sick. We write when we are tired. Some days it all comes crashing down on us and we crawl in to bed and say “Tomorrow … or maybe the day after that.”

But we figure out a way to make it work. We figure out how not to quit. I have a very understanding husband and family who don’t expect a whole lot of me when I’m on deadline. I also have friends who pray for me and bring me little gifts of encouragement — like Sonic Cherry Limeades and Hot Tamales — when I’m on deadline. That’s how I make it work.

What about you? How do you battle the storm?

[Tweet “Writing when you’re sick and tired and on deadline @bethvogt #writer”]

Persevering Along the Writing Road

“What appears to be rejection is most times God’s protection. Move forward trusting that God has a better plan for you.” ~From Your Beautiful Purpose by Susie Larson, author 


No one likes waiting.

And yet, waiting is inevitable for writers.

No one likes rejection.

And yet, if you’re a writer, you’re going to be rejected. Let’s face it, if you’re breathing, you’re going to be rejected.

There are times when this journey along the writing road seems to be nothing more than s-t-r-i-v-i-n-g. I’ll spend an entire day — or a succession of days — trying this and that and the other thing, hoping to ensure success. Trying to figure out how to get around the “Do Not Enter” sign blocking my way.

  • Have you ever stared at your computer screen, pondering how to phrase an email just the right way so that an agent would finally respond about a manuscript you sent weeks ago?
  • Have you ever celebrated a friend’s success — yeah! you got a contract! yeah! you finaled in a contest! — and then flopped across your bed and wrestled with the “why not me’s”?
  • Have you ever written and rewritten your novel, submitted to an editor, endured the waiting oh so patiently … and received a “no, thank you”? No matter what the reason — if you got a reason — you’re rejected. You’re hanging onto your writing dream, standing outside a door marked DO NOT ENTER.

This is when we have to remember that God is in this. When all the dreaming and all the hard work isn’t getting us anywhere — this is when we have to remember that God knows exactly where we are. He sees us when we’re standing in front of that closed door. He can hear us banging on it. When we get a no instead of the yes we were hoping and praying for, we have to trust that God has a better plan for us — even if that plan includes not being published now. Or a year from now.

True story: A few months back I got hit with some discouraging news. I walked to my bedroom, turned on some favorite worship music, and got on my face before God. And I wept. And then I told him this:

God, you’ve allowed me to live my dream. And I thank you for that.

And if you want me to fail at my dream, then that’s okay too.

Later, I got up from my slightly soggy carpet and left my room with peace and confidence, knowing I can trust God with where I am now as a writer. I can trust him with where I go, whether I run into wide open doors or some Do Not Enter signs. It’s a daily, sometimes hourly, choice. I can strive and try to make things happen — thinking it’s all on me and my efforts — or I can trust that God is protecting me when he says yes and when he says no.

What helps you persevere along the writing road?

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