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Monday, August 29, 2011

Family Ties

We’re back from a small break from blogging. Life has gotten crazy this summer, and I’m trying to check off all of the tasks I set aside for the last few months. Top of the list: get back to blogging!

This blog really is a family affair. Meredith and I are first cousins, and Kara is our aunt (even though she isn’t that much older than us!) That's a picture of us with our friend and mentor, Bonnie Hearn Hill, and Kara's daughter (and future bestseller) Kateri. Our cousin A.J. will also be posting here in the near future, and he just finished his first manuscript, a middle grade fantasy. We’re excited to get his (male) input and have him share his writing experiences.

So does writing run in families? The Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, come to mind. They made up the famous nineteenth century writing family who gave us Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights (one of my favorite books) among others. Charlotte was the first to have success, and the others followed. The Brontës are said to have been very close and developed elaborate stories in childhood.

I didn’t grow up writing with my family, I was pretty private and shy about my stories. But I was surprised and excited when I found out that so many of us were not only writing, but working on whole novels at the same time. And it got me to thinking, is creativity something that you are born with?

I think that no matter what, a writer has to have perseverance and stamina. There is a lot of rejection and it takes a lot of work to get to publication. With a writing family, there is a built in support system, and we have helped each other each step of the way. But I can’t help but wonder, is it in our blood—or something in the water?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011



A dastardly word. A word created to terrify writers everywhere, worldwide. It's a word that means, "Hey man. Take that gigantic 300 page novel you just wrote and wad it up into a tiny ball so that I don't have to waste my time by glancing at more than a page. Oh, and make it sound interesting. OH ANNND let it be a genuine sample of your writing ability even though you've never done anything like this, ever. And by the way? We really need you to crumple that ball even further because you need a few paragraphs for introducing the work and yourself."
We writers are artists. Introverted painters and actors. The silent velocity behind the entertainment industries. We can be frumpy, reclusive and nerdy! YES. However, being artists often makes us frivolous and silly. Creative and scattered. How can we be expected to be pithy?

Unfortunately, at the current moment, it can't be avoided if success is in order. Granted, there is an increase in self-publication because of the e-book world, but querying is still the way to go for the most part. So, we have no choice. This means we're signing up for surefire rejection and a lot of heartbreak. And tons of emailing and even regular mailing.

But it also means we're finishers. If you're in the query process, as painful as that may be, it means you've finished your work. That means you're a writer, in my opinion. Not just some goober who CLAIMS to be a writer but can't get past the fifty page mark because of a thousand excuses the rest of us could use if we so desired. (Time, kids, work, computer crashes, carpal tunnel, writer's block, motivation, etc, etc.) Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatevs. My aunt has five kids and she's got an agent. My other cousin is an attorney and she's querying.

So congratulations on finishing your novel, or whatever it is you're working on. I'm steering into the querying tornado myself. Commiting ego suicide as we speak. But it's all for the best. Either it'll be ready for the world and you'll be published, or it won't be and you'll revise. Nothing but positive, forward motion. I can't wait to get my first rejection, (the first of this particular work.
God knows I was rejected nearly fifty times for my past monstrosity.) and I can't wait to get the next after that. I mean, if the first cat who received it fell in love with it, that'd be great. But so would a magical publishing pixie who flies in like the tooth fairy and hides book contracts underneath pillows.

Godspeed, my writers. My lovelies. My contemporaries. My kindred spirits.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Give it the ol' college try.

I'm going to piggy-back off of Stacy's blog post about self-sabotage and the demon that is the white page. I too have been contemplating the reason so many people are unable to make it happen. When you describe yourself as a writer, I think people take it about as seriously as if you had said, "Well, I'd really like to run off and join a circus someday. Perhaps as a full-time elephant handler or bearded lady." They usually blink at you, tilt their heads to the side and say, "Oh, that's nice." (subtext: "You must have a rather tenuous grasp on reality, my dear.")

My sister hopes to be an actress and she gets a similiar reaction. It's almost as if you say, "I hope to jump really hard until I get to the moon."

The thing is, in my opinion, there are three things needed to "make it". You can be reasonably successful with one of the three, but if you have all three, you're a guarantee. You WILL be living in a nice house with an entourage and three Siamese cats and a purse dog named Lady Snickerdoodle who's described on her papers as a Maltese Yorkiedoodletzu.

1.) Talent. Yep, some published people don't have it. Lots of writers don't. I know what you're thinking. You've got have talent to make it, don't you? Hmm. Not really. Maybe some. I mean, you have to have the ability to string words together to make a complete sentence I guess. You also have to have concrete ideas. But let's face it, some writers who have stuff out there really kind of suck. I'm not going to name names, but I'm sure you've picked up a published book and gone, " twelve-year old Jersey Shore-watching cousin could do this." Whoever wrote the book simply didn't have the talent element to the three-part triangle that makes you something special.

2.) Timing. You might be a freaking genius with the best idea ever, but if the world isn't ready for it, then few people are going to bite. This is probably the most frustrating part because it requires patience and an actual business sense, which few of us writer folk really have. We like to throw it out there into the abyss and see what happens. J.K. Rowling made it because the world was waiting for Harry Potter. It had been a long time since a youthful fantasy book had really taken the world by storm. Also, the world might be tired of you. Stephenie Meyer wasn't aware that the world was hungry for more vampires, but she sure cashed in on that. However if you write about vampires now, cynics like me are going to start folding our arms and tapping our shoes. There will come a point when vampires will lose the spice. So you have to be on that perfect cusp where the world wants you badly and hasn't had a lot of things like you yet. If you write a fiction book about how a shellfish has an adventure between the threads of time, planet Earth may simply not be in the market for that kind of a thing yet. But wait. The shellfish will have their time someday.

[Accessibility goes with timing. If you write on a subject nobody cares about, then people aren't going to be interested. If you are so smart that nobody gets what the heck you're trying to say, then the waiting masses aren't going to beat down your door for an autograph and a mentorship. I don't care if you have a doctorate. Sorry.]

3.) Work Ethic. Some really talented people have an awesome idea that's going to seduce the masses. These same tormented artists also refuse to edit, revise, ask for feedback and go through the painful query process. This is a crying shame too because I'm positive that people have heaps of genius gathering dust on their desktops or taking up space on their hard drives and nobody will ever get to witness the magic because they just don't have it in them to undergo the grueling process getting published requires. Social networking, rejection, ripping your own baby apart to please enough people, selling it, marketing it, packaging it, bargaining for it, waiting in lonely corners at bookstores at the beginning when 2.5 people have heard and care about your work...the list goes on even after success. So people who are unwilling to consider this a job and therefore WORK to get there...will simply never get there. Nobody is handed success on a silver platter. Except Paris Hilton.

So there you go. That's my personal formula for ultimate success. You don't need all three to get published, but you need all three to be a successful writer with a legitimate career in the business. But again, this is in my opinion only. And as you know, opinions are like earholes...everybody has them but few use them correctly...or something like that.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Beating Down the Blank Page

“I can fix anything but a blank page.” –Bonnie Hearn Hill

There is much wisdom in this statement. How can you edit something that doesn’t even exist? You can’t become a bestseller without ever putting the words on the page. That statement might seem extreme, but it’s true. The hardest part of writing is getting something down.

Upon telling a friend recently that I had written a book and was currently in the querying process, she said, “I couldn’t possibly write a book. I don’t have the time!” Truth be told, I didn’t know whether it was a compliment or an insult. Why did I have time to do it, and yet she didn’t? Am I really as busy as I think?

Then I realized that self sabotage is a sneaky little devil. So sneaky, in fact, that you don’t even realize that he has snuck up and dropped a two ton sack of rocks on you, just like they do in the cartoons. Except that instead of a cloud of stars over your head, it is a cloud of doubt. And excuses. No time. It’s too hard. No one would ever publish it.

It was a good reminder to take some time every day to move forward on this journey. Because it’s way too easy to get caught up with life and make excuses instead of face down that little devil called self doubt. Suck it up, dig down deep, and get that story out you know you were born to write.

So, fellow writers, what is it that keeps you from writing? Is it fear of failure? My wish for you today and every day is that you beat down that blank page.

One page at a time.


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