A Writer’s Cautionary Tale

April 30, 2008 at 9:54 am | Posted in agents/ editors, Bria, career, writing | 8 Comments

 

Since I began writing I’ve heard the horror stories.

 

I sent in a query and never heard back.

Such and Such agent/editor has had my partial for nine months and still nothing.

She asked for sample pages and responded eleven months later.

 

So, when I sent out my query and thought “I’ll have a week of and then can start a slow read of my manuscript to take care of all the little stuff,” I didn’t think this would be a problem.

 

Then it began – the request for partials came any where from one hour and forty-eight minutes to not yet (two weeks later and only on the snail-mail queries.)

 

I’ll admit it. I’m shocked. I had been programmed to believe that the publish industry moves like molasses from start to finish. Apparently, it starts like shooting the rapids and slows to a meandering river.

 

And then the real shocker – A request for a Full (note the capitalization)

 

Now, with all the little things to do, I’ve canceled every other aspect of my life I could: Dinners with friends, hearing speakers, going to the movies, reading.

 

It’s amazing how long the ‘little things’ take. Sure, each one really does take just a second or two, but how many are there? Are you sure you got them all? Did changing one make you go back to adjust another?

 

So, take this as a cautionary tale. Polishing should be done before Querying. I know they say that, and we all think — “But I’m going to have weeks, maybe months, before I hear back from anyone.”

 

Don’t do it.

 

Learn from me.

 

And Go Write,

-bria

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The Four Ps of Publishing

April 28, 2008 at 7:40 am | Posted in career, Jessica, motivation, writing | 3 Comments

Over the years I have heard similar advice in response to the ‘how to get published question’ and almost all of that advice boils down to some variation of the same four things, all words that begin with the letter P.

Preparationto put in proper condition or readiness. I have included a mention of ‘product’ below, but being prepared requires more than having written. It helps to have market research, business savvy, professional contacts, self-awareness, and a plan. Any and all preparation will help put you on better footing when confronted with THE CALL when it comes.

Persistence to continue steadfastly or firmly in some state, purpose, course of action, or the like, esp. in spite of opposition, remonstrance, etc. There are some people who find publishing gold straight out of the gate while others toil for years with mixed or no success. As Thoreau said, ‘Go confidently in the direction of your dreams . . .’ If publication is your end goal, may you persist and not be distracted from your goal.

Patience an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay. Anyone who has ever sat down to write a book knows that it is a process that takes time. And even if you are a quick, prolific writer, the wheels of the publishing industry tend to move at a slow pace. There are many things you can do to help during the interminable delays — keep writing (of course!), read, volunteer for your writing groups, mentor newer writers, devise and present writing workshops, research, treat yourself to a writer’s date, vent to your writing friends . . . whatever you need to do to keep yourself sane instead of running your imagination in unhealthy circles.

Perseverance steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., esp. in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. No matter how much joy writing may (or may not!) bring, writing is work . . . and is often hard work. And that’s just the act of fighting to sit down every day with the need to produce strings of words, coherent thoughts, and strong sentences. Pages and pages of what we hope is good, intoxicating, evocative prose. In the outside world, there lurks around every corner the villains of rejection, critics, naysayers, thwarters, bloodsuckers. I know of one writer who keeps a rhino (small, stuffed, animal) on his desk to remind him of the thick skin he needs to endure the sharp spears thrown in this business. But he stays steady on his course, determined to persevere and succeed. Which he does.

Do you have any other Ps you would like to add to the four above?

I would like to add two more Ps to that list . . .

Product – the best way to get published is to write and to have written. Write the best book you can, and, when you finish that one, start the next one. Keep learning and growing, but, no matter what, keep writing.

Professional. Nathan Bransford had an interesting post in the past few weeks on how personality counts in increasing ways in the publishing business. And while the product is what sells, having a complete and total professional package can only help you in the long run. As with any job search, you want to put your best foot forward. And I believe that placing your product with the right professionals is akin to finding yourself a new job.

Even with the four Ps (or six, or however many you would like to add), timing also plays a huge factor. I know I have said it before, but I believe that getting published is about having the right product in the right hands at the right time. But if you are doing what you need to do to get yourself published, I also believe that you can create your own luck. Keep minding your Ps and, most of all, keep writing!

-Jessica

Writing as a Career

April 23, 2008 at 11:58 am | Posted in Bria, career, writing | 2 Comments

Just like any career, a writing career should have certain parameters. And, also like any other career, starts out as a job.

Let’s take a look:

JOB DESCRIPTION: A standard job description has a list of duties, hours worked, who you report to, and who your “customers” are.

For example: Author: Works a set standard of 2 hour a day minimum, seven days a week. Her duties include: writing, editing, researching, synopsizing, querying, critiquing for CP, weekly CP meeting and other duties as needed. Author is her own boss as well has having a dotted-line reporting to CP.

MANAGER: The person you report to.

For example: Author reports to self to hit self designated goals with dotted-line reporting to CP to hit group goals and to be accountable for self-outlined goals.

Future supervisors: Agent and Editor.

BENEFITS: Forms of payment, monetary and otherwise.

For example: Author receives 2 Starbucks Venti Black Iced Teas for every week she completes her hours. At the end of project deadlines, there will be a large bonus as ascribed at the beginning of the project if target dates are hit.

VACATION: Time off from work.

For example: Between each large deadline, author receives one week off time (ie post-Fast Drafting, post-Revisions, post-polish, etc.)
Vacation time must be planned in advance.

SICK TIME & PERSONAL TIME: Unforeseen time when work hours are missed. This is at the discretion of your manager.

PERKS AND LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES: The company shall set aside $30 weekly for the author to pursue learning and professional opportunities.

Remember, like any job you need to like what you do and dedicate yourself to your tasks. Treating your writing as a job is the only way to make it a career. Act professionally, plan strategically and know where your going.

But most importantly, Go Write.
-bria

The Writing Train

April 21, 2008 at 10:15 am | Posted in career, Jessica, writing | 3 Comments

At the end of the week last week I went to an all-day workshop for things-related-to-my-day-job and I got the chance to listen to three really great speakers who clearly loved what they do, were well-versed on their subjects, and loved to interact with and share information with the 150 or so professionals in attendance. They were great and I learned a lot just by listening to them . . . but throughout the sessions I couldn’t stop from trying to see how I could apply their wisdom, not to my day-job, but to my writing life. Because although I was a fellow professional at that meeting, participating in the field for which I’d been trained, I really just want to stay home and write.

In that context, I want to point you to a blog post that Tess Gerritsen shared last week on The Sad Financial Truth About Writing. In it, she reported some statistics acquired from Novelists, Inc. (NINC) of a random sample of 100 of its multi-published members — they were asked if they could support themselves on their writing income alone. Please check Tess’s blog post for the total distribution percentages, but 52% of multi-published authors polled reported they could not.

So, there I sat on Friday as a representative of my work-a-day life (completely unaware of the numbers Tess had just reported) and I was trying to make connections between product placement and web 2.0 and 30-point-imperatives with my writing, and as I contemplated today’s blog post I decided to leave you with a short story and a thought.

One of the speakers I heard on Friday told a story about Albert Einstein, which I would like to paraphrase here:

While on a trip to America, Albert Einstein had booked travel on a train. He got settled into his compartment and the train shoved off. As the train rumbled down the tracks, the ticket-taker came to his quarters to collect:

“Ticket, please, sir.”

Albert Einstein looks for his ticket, a bit taken aback that he’s misplaced it. “I don’t have it.”

The ticket-taker recognizes him and says, “Oh, Dr. Einstein! I didn’t realize it was you. You don’t have to worry about your ticket.”

“But I must find it.”

“But, sir, I am not going to take it from you.”

They went back and forth like this a few times . . .

At this point, Albert Einstein is on his hands and knees in his compartment, searching for his missing ticket. He looks up at the ticket-taker and says, “Young man, my dilemma is no longer about the ticket. I need to find it to know where I’m going.”

The same speaker who shared this short story with us also challenged us to stop strategically planning and to start strategically thinking when it comes to our organizations and how we intend to function and stay relevant in our ever-changing environment. As intuitive as it may sound, planning and thinking do not always go hand-in-hand.

So, I don’t mean to imply that the 52% of authors who reported that they cannot sustain themselves on their writers’ salaries alone have not strategically thought about their writing careers. On the contrary — I can’t imagine being multi-published without having strategically thought about career building moves. However, now that I have had time to process my conference experience from two weekends ago and synthesize some of those concepts with the ideas I took from ‘my other life’ workshop, I confess that while I may have hopped on the writing train, I really have not given much strategic thought as to where I’m going.

I find this revelation exciting! The great news is that it’s never too late to create or change strategy. So . . . my to-do list now includes some strategic thinking in addition to becoming a better quality storyteller. I am going to do all I can to get my ticket ready and keep writing! Anyone wanna’ come with me?

-Jessica

Conference Afterglow

April 14, 2008 at 7:18 am | Posted in career, inspiration, Jessica, writing | 5 Comments
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It was a super busy, tiring, exhilarating, motivating, inspiring and all-around awesome weekend, as are most conferences I get the chance to attend. Meeting new and old friends. Learning new things. Stocking up on new books. Making new connections. Conceiving new ideas and approaches for my writing life. As I think through and process all the elements from the weekend, there are just a couple of things I thought I could mention in today’s blog post.

There are certain elements about conferences that are out of an attendee’s control. Venue issues. Technical glitches. Travel atrocities. Inappropriate colleagues. [Fill in your personal conference peeves here.] But what I have learned over the years is that whether you have a personally good conference outcome or a bad one, the end result is up to you. The whole experience is truly what you decide to make of it.

There have been times when just one workshop has made the whole expense worth my price of admission. I love those A-HA! moments of clarity or inspiration or new line of thought. This parting of the clouds is magic to me, and there were two things that came to me over the past four days that made me want to reorganize the way I thought about my writing.

The first came when a NYT best-selling author was talking to me about the workshop she was set to deliver and she said, ‘[This topic] is what I needed to learn to sell my first book.’ So many times I feel as though I have everything left to learn and I am not sure I can distill the many craft pieces down to any one thing, or at least a small, prioritized list of things that I really need to learn before I sell. But this woman and the time and advice she shared with me make me want to fill in those gaping holes. In struggling with the amorphous blob that is my writing life I mentally chastised myself for not setting up a much better strategy. I am excited to change that and figure out the top three things I need to learn to improve my writing, if not sell.

One other thought that took on new and stronger meaning for me over the weekend can be summed up in two words: Who cares? Please don’t misunderstand my meaning here . . . I think about those two words in the context of the book(s) I am working on and I think to myself, ‘Who is going to care about these characters and what is going on between them, for them, or to them?’ In my mind, the stories I have been trying to tell just are not as compelling as I would like them to be. Granted, I am still learning so much about the process, and, to add to my to-do list from the previous paragraph, upping the care quotient is another aspect of my storytelling that I want to enhance.

So . . . a whole weekend spent and only two parting shots to report?! I’d say that was a pretty successful weekend!

We would love to hear about any conference revelations you may have had – in recent or from previous years – that have helped you overcome any blocks in your writing path. It’s all about the ‘Keep Writing!’

-Jessica

Writer Burnout – Friend or Foe

March 12, 2008 at 12:39 pm | Posted in Bria, career, creativity, writer's block, writing | 14 Comments

This month we had two wonderful Honorary Heartlettes guest blog for us. Mary Buckham and Diana Snell inspired us all.

Throughout the week people wrote in with their struggles and thanked the ladies for their generous words. There was a common denominator through most of the issues – they were all caused by burnout.

While burnout feels bad, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Think of it as a catalyst.

Burnout forces you to look at what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.

Last week Jessica told me about a book she was reading and it dawned on me that I hadn’t read a book in weeks – everyone who knows me, gasp now. Typically I read a book each day and (when I’m not on assignment) I can read 2 a day and still enjoy my writing time.

But, with the Golden Heart finalists to be announced in 14 days, I’m in a bit of a panic. All the changes I wanted to make! All the editing that needed to happen! The proofing! The polishing! How will I ever finish?

Do nothing but write/edit/rewrite/edit/read/edit/polish/edit/polish. . . Burnout.

Burnout wasn’t on the list, but it happened.

This weekend I read two new books and one of my keepers. I watched a movie. I made some notes. I worked on my CP’s stuff. I started researching warriors’ castes and societies as war itself.

And the dreams started again – the ones that are so clear I have to get up in the middle of the night and write.

Burnout forced me to change my patterns and nothing but creative good came from it.

Treating writing as a career means knowing that, just like any job, you need to manage your stress before it becomes burnout. But once it does, just like any job, there are cures:

Look at your schedule – is it realistic, is it manageable, have you added unneeded extras, are you delegating (yes, your 8-year-old can unload the dishwasher.)

Are you beating your head against a wall – sometimes we call it “writer’s block” but it may just be burnout. Change your routine with one of Bria’s R’s:

 1. Research – sometimes research makes us look at what we’re writing about in a brand new way

2. Relaxation – it isn’t that you don’t have the time to relax, it’s that you don’t have the time to not relax. Writers are creative people and stress kills creativity – even if it’s one night off – relax and recharge.

3. Renewal – Beyond relaxation, renewal brings a freshness to your life and your writing. Think of relaxation as recharging a battery – great, but the life isn’t as strong or as long lasting. Renewal is buying yourself a brand new battery right out of the factory. Everyone’s is different. I gave myself a weekend alone in New Hampshire hiking (please, no lectures on hiking alone.) the time, the atmosphere and the activity brought me home excited to get to work again.

4. Remove Refuse – You heard me. Stop being so nice. There are people, activities and belongings that clutter your life and create a negative impact on, not only your writing career, but your life, your relationships and your joy. Get rid of them.

So, get out there, burn your burnout and then, Go Write.
-bria

Model Through It . . . otherwise known as Make It Work

March 10, 2008 at 11:16 am | Posted in career, getting organized, Jessica, writing | 2 Comments

I once worked with a woman who said, ‘I can juggle ten balls just fine but give me one more and I will drop all of them.’  Right now, I feel like I am juggling about fifteen. Some continue to stay air born, a few have bounced off the floor, but I just pick them up and push forward as best I can. It is a test of skill, patience, and mental and physical stamina to say the least. 

 

It feels a little like being back in college for me – after a while, you triage your priorities into the categories of what absolutely needs to be done NOW, what can come secondary, what is of least priority, and what it is that I either wish I could be doing or would rather be doing that will have to wait until the main priorities get addressed.

 

I have been in dire need of down time but have had to sacrifice most of my unwinding activities to address the NOWs.  Because of that, I missed the Project Runway finale (horror!) this past week and although I know who won and have seen clips of the collections online, I am still disappointed I missed the show.  Wednesday is my guilty TV night and oddly enough the catch phrases from my Wednesday night shows speak to how I am getting through this demanding rough patch. Whether it’s Tim Gunn’s, ‘Make it Work,’ or Tyra Banks’s, ‘Model Through It,’ the message is to work through the problems and get the job done.

 

Sigh.

 

So that’s where I’m at this week.  Suffering a little bit of burnout but putting the fatigue and stress aside as best I can to keep pushing to get the NOWs done.  The good news – once I get through the NOWs I have a fun writing project and a TBR stack I want to get back to!  So there’s my reward, which helps make this demanding rough patch a little more tolerable.  There is an end in sight!

 

Keep writing!

-Jessica 

What’s New in Publishing Blogs This Week

March 7, 2008 at 8:33 am | Posted in agents/ editors, Blogs, career, writing | Leave a comment

Those of you who have been with us for a while at the Purple Hearts know that Friday is usually Meg’s day to post . . . and if you tuned in last week you’ll know that Meg is taking a breather.  Bria and I are amping up our business-side-to-our-writing-selves and will look to use the Friday blog spot to share those links with you that we have found helpful in the various writing- and publishing-related blogs over the course of each week.

For our first week’s re-cap, we decided to share:

From the Book Ends, LLC blog, author Angie Fox shares the “Three Things I Had To Do In Order to Sell.” Check out Angie’s insight HERE.

Nathan Bransford, literary agent from Curtis Brown LTD, has a great publishing and book-related blog. One post this week caught our eye, namely the one in which he discusses just “How Long Does It Take To Sell a Novel?” To read Nathan’s post, click HERE.  

We loved this next entry from Pro Blogger because although the tips listed are tips for bloggers, the advice resonates pretty loudly for writers as well. To read, the “8 Lessons Bloggers Can Learn From Sony,” click HERE.

Bella Stander posts great advice on her blog when it comes to author promotion and publicity. This week, she shares the results from an author publicity survey she recently conducted with authors actively ‘out there’ making things happen for their books. To read some of those authors’ responses, click HERE.

And, yes, we admit to being biased, but one of our favorite blog posts from the week happened right here at the Purple Hearts when Mary Buckham and Dianna Love stopped by to offer advice, encouragement, and support for writers trying to “Break Into Fiction – What It Takes to Get Published Today“. To read their excellent post, click HERE.

And don’t forget, at the end of the day today (Friday), we’ll be drawing the names of two lucky winners for Mary and Dianna’s generous giveaway.

One winner will receive a set of 5 BREAK INTO FICTION™ templates from the highly successful Break Into Fiction™ Template Teaching Series (www.BreakIntoFiction.com).

The second is a critique of your query or cover letter to get you one step closer to a dynamite proposal package.

We hope you find these posts as helpful as we did.

Enjoy, then go write!

March Giveaway with Mary Buckham and Dianna Love

March 6, 2008 at 10:03 am | Posted in career, contests, writing | Leave a comment

We have two amazing women guest bloggging for us this week and offering some writer-life changing information. 

diannaphoto            maryphoto    

Dianna and Mary are offering door prizes! All you have to do is post to be entered in the drawing, both geared toward aspiring authors. The first is a drawing for a set of 5 BREAK INTO FICTION™ templates from the highly successful Break Into Fiction™ Template Teaching Series (www.BreakIntoFiction.com).

The second is a critique of your query or cover letter to get you one step closer to a dynamite proposal package.

Visit their post HERE to get some great information and enter for the contest being drawn on Friday. 

Business Partnerships for Writers

March 5, 2008 at 1:13 pm | Posted in Bria, career, writing | Leave a comment

I wiki’d business partner, it gave an interesting list of people (who as an HR business partner I don’t necessarily agree with) but it did give a link after the list to “business alliance.”

What a great phrase – it sums up (to me) what Jessica was discussing on Monday. It’s a step beyond a partnership.So I looked them up at dictionary.com

part·ner·ship -noun
1. the state or condition of being a partner; participation; association; joint interest.
2. Law. a. the relation subsisting between partners.
b. the contract creating this relation.
c. an association of persons joined as partners in business.

al·li·ance -noun
1. the act of allying or state of being allied.
2. a formal agreement or treaty between two or more nations to cooperate for specific purposes.
3. a merging of efforts or interests by persons, families, states, or organizations: an alliance between church and state.
4. the persons or entities so allied.
5. marriage or the relationship created by marriage between the families of the bride and bridegroom.

My 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Marsico always told us not to use the core word in the definition – apparently no one told Wiki that, so:

al·ly -verb
1. to unite formally, as by treaty, league, marriage, or the like (usually fol. by with or to): Russia allied itself to France.
2. to associate or connect by some mutual relationship, as resemblance or friendship.
3. to enter into an alliance; join; unite.
-noun
4. a person, group, or nation that is associated with another or others for some common cause or purpose: Canada and the United States were allies in World War II.
5. a person who associates or cooperates with another; supporter

These definitions really made me rethink my view of my working relationships with my writing partners. Am I bringing support they need? How formalized should that be? Are we merging our needs with our mutual goal of being published?

So let me ask you, when you’re building these relationships, are you looking for a partner or an ally.

Just like creating the Critique Partnership, move your writing partnership to the next level – a prethought-out plan that’s mutually beneficial and unfrustrating as possible.

But don’t forget what its all about in the ‘career’ side of writing career. Get off line and Go Write.
-bria

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