(*Warning: Author has the tendency to seek patterns in life and wax philosophical about them.*)
What is an important part of a satisfying romance? Pacing.
What is a key ingredient in making a story suspenseful and thrilling? Pacing.
What can make or break an author? Pacing. And knowing one’s limits.
Years ago, one of the most valuable lessons I learned as a newbie romantic suspense writer was how to use pacing as an effective tool. I had to kill my darlings—to delete paragraphs, sometimes even pages, of backstory and description that bogged down the story. It wasn’t easy to cut these hard-won sentences. I liked them. I’d nurtured them. But I had to admit, leaving them in the dust increased the power of the story.
Sometimes we have to let go of things that seem important in order to be stronger.
But pacing is also a factor in an author’s career. The pressure to increase the quantity of books can be enormous. But it’s the quality of books that builds readership. How does one pace oneself to achieve maximum potential and still stay sane? That’s been a very real question for me this past year.
On the writers’ loops, blogs and conferences, there appears to be a constant hum of, “You must have a backlist and produce several books a year to keep your readership happy or your career will wither away.” Logically, I know not everyone is producing more than a book a year, or even one book a year. Likely, there are only a few writers who can keep that pace and still keep their lives together and their readers happy with good quality. Today, I’m releasing my fourth book in just under three years, and I still don’t feel like I’m doing enough. (And some days I don’t feel quite sane.) But I’m doing all I can. And I need to stop and recognize that before the joy is gone, or before I burn out.
So I’m killing my darlings and saving myself. What darlings? Those beliefs I harbor that could end up breaking me. It may be time for a new belief system—one that’s framed in a positive way.
I can write a book (or less) a year and still be a successful author. The important thing is that I’m living life, and writing when I can.
I am on my own path. That author, over there, is on her own path, and those journeys can look different.
I give myself permission to simply write new words or edit old ones today, without spending an hour keeping up my social media sites.
I can take tonight off to enjoy my family, rather than work.
I can be a productive person without being Superwoman.
If it comes down to saving myself (and my health) versus producing more books, I choose myself. I’d rather kill my darling misconceptions than lose myself in the process. Sometimes we have to let go of things that seem important in order to be stronger.
What beliefs (or darlings) do you need to kill off to pace yourself better and stay healthy and sane? Extra points for re-phrasing that belief in a positive way.
And…to celebrate my release day, I’ll be giving away a digital copy of DARK DEEDS to one non-Ruby commenter, so please share your advice and/or experience below.
Dark Deeds (Mindhunters, Bk 4)
Dark Deeds Blurb:
Walking away from sexy Detective Diego Sandoval was one of the toughest things security specialist Becca Haney ever had to do. But her past is a direct threat to his future, to the career he’s working so hard to rebuild. Now, with a witness from a horrific case implicating Diego, Becca must decide whether to listen to her head or her heart.
Diego is a big-city lawman used to cracking the hardest cases, but he’ll never understand why Becca ended their passionate affair. When he’s assigned to help keep her safe from a human trafficking ring, he’s determined to stay by her side and learn about the woman behind the passion—scars and all.
But Becca has another admirer. Known only as “the Fan,” he believes he’s the perfect partner for her—and he’ll kill to prove it. When the stakes are raised in the killer’s deadly game, Diego will be called upon to save lives—including Becca’s.
Anne Marie has always been fascinated by people—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling. Her passion for understanding the human race is now satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and award-winning author of romantic suspense.
Truly. I’ve tried being witty. I’ve tried joining conversations. I’ve tried book blurb tours, giveaways, blogging six ways to Sunday, and going to reader conferences. I’ve bought book marks, reader trading cards, given away books, giftcards, and a kidney (okay, not an actual kidney but lots of heart-shaped things). I’ve advertised, helped host Facebook parties, given away raffle baskets and done everything else but tap dance to sell books (and I’m willing to do that if I can find some tap shoes to fit me). But the results are always the same. My book sales are…oh, I can’t even say it….average.
So what I really want to say is JUST BUY MY BOOK ALREADY!
But that would be crass. That would turn people off and then my name would be blacklisted as “one of those authors.” You know the ones – they constantly tweet their reviews and links. Their signature line is eight miles long (with links!) and they slyly slip things in about their books in other people’s posts. Basically they do everything they can but shove the book in your face and beg you to buy it.
Sad thing is, I understand that desperation because sometimes I want to say the hell with it and just post “You people need to buy my book because I want to go to another conference this summer and need some money.” Too honest? Yeah, I thought so.
And there are times I want to tell people to NOT buy my book. Like reverse psychology will work the same way it did when my kids were six years old and I’d say things like “Don’t you dare put this toilet seat down” or “I bet you can’t run get the mail faster than I can.” By the way, those challenges no longer work on 14 year olds. They give you that blank stare than could kill pretty flowers and baby’s smiles. I figure if I say “Don’t buy this book. Nothing to see here, folks” maybe readers might get interested enough to check it out for themselves. But I know that won’t work any better than chasing people with nail files and bookmarks.
I feel like I’ve tried everything I can think of to sell my books (outside of setting up outside the Barnes and Noble, yelling “Come try a real book, whydontcha?” which could possibly get me arrested).
So what should I do?
I already know what you gals are going to say – shut up and write another book.
And that’s pretty good advice. You see, there is much about the world I cannot control (which drives Virgos like me nuts!). I can’t control what readers think, I can’t control how much promo Harlequin will give me, I can’t control distribution, shelf space or foreign sales. I can’t control whether someone will pick my book to review, how many people like me on Facebook or how many people enter my raffle copter. I can’t even control my damn covers. BUT what I can control is my writing. I can control my characters (or try to), I can control my reading a good craft book (rather than watching The Bachelor) and I can control the amount of time I spend with my butt in the chair and hands on the keyboard. That’s it.
Can’t make people buy my book, even if I want to shout on Twitter, Facebook, blogs 1,2,and 3 and from the parking lot of the Barnes and Noble BUY MY DAMN BOOK!
Because I don’t control the universe. Which is sad because if I did we’d all be a size four with perky boobs, gorgeous hair and Matthew McCognaughy, Brad Pitt and Henry Cavill (take your pick) giving us a foot rub…and we’d all be reading my newest book. See? Now you wish I were in charge
So here’s the premise of this whole post – don’t try to control the world. Just control what you can do (in the comfort of your own home…or Starbucks). Focus on your writing. Make it stronger. Make it tighter. Take it to the next level. Be a good friend to other writers. Don’t steal their thunder. Don’t whine (I don’t take my own advice sometimes). Don’t put the writing off. Control what you can control - which is how you put your story on the page.
That’s it. That’s all I got. (and in case you didn’t get it, this was advice to myself, too)
FYI, I do have a RUBY RELEASE this month and I’m adding the blurb and cover in case you’re interested in doing my will. When I snap my fingers you will go to Amazon and buy the book. 1…2….3… (okay, okay, I didn’t hypnotize you. Add that to the things you shouldn’t do to readers)
What are some promo Do’s and Don’ts that drive you nuts?
His Forever Girl
This forever is off to a rocky start!
Meeting Tess Ullo is definitely a sign life’s improving for Graham Naquin. After their spectacular night together, he knows there’s a lot more to explore between them! Good thing he’s aced the interview that will bring him home to New Orleans, his young daughter and Tess.
Closet writers break my heart. Any reason a writer keeps their writing a secret is just wrong, unless the writing is extremely personal and not meant for other’s eyes. I was a closet writer.
There are many reasons why writers remain in the closet and the Rubies have had discussions concerning them. At some time or another, many of us have faced the road-blocks that kept us from being us.
Some writers think they haven’t read enough books to be considered a writing expert. In their minds, if people find out they write, they must’ve read every single book ever published. I’m here to tell you that I’ve never read Huck Finn, War and Peace, Fifty Shades Of Gray or a zillion other classic or best-selling books. Does that confession make me less of a writer? I think not.
Being shy, it can take years for some people to join a writer’s group. A long, long time ago, when the internet was young and a thing called dial-up was used to connect to it, writers actually went to public meetings to connect with those of like minds. Walking into a meeting can be daunting to a wall flower. I know because I’m an introvert. The internet and the ambiguity it provides, has made it easier for some writers to connect to others, but not all. They remain in the background, unsure of themselves. To them, I say, “it’s always the quiet ones who make the biggest impression when they’re ready.” Rest assured most writers are genuinely nice and more than willing to help other writers in any way they can. You only need to be serious about the craft to be considered a writer by them.
A closet writer might feel they don’t know enough about the craft and until they know all there is to know they remain in seclusion. I’m not sure if there is anyone out there who knows it all. Well, maybe King, Patterson or Nora. Only they can answer that question. The point being, the majority of writers will openly admit that they don’t know everything and that they learn something new all the time. Join the club that strives to be better at their craft.
My writing sucks. It very well could, but are you the best judge? You’ve read and studied and wrote and edited. Now it’s time to trust yourself and share your work. If a critique offers constructive advice, weigh it, and then accept it or not. In the end, it’s your story. There is no greater joy for a writer than when a reader enjoys your work. The only way to know that joy is to share your gift.
There are those who really, really want to be a writer but struggle to do the work required. Writing is hard work and takes a huge amount of time. Completing a work is possible a word at a time. Commit to the work, or perhaps another hobby would be better for you.
I’m fortunate. I’m a writer who has had the support of family and friends for many years, but that wasn’t always the case. I once was a closet writer. I was told that my dreams of becoming a published writer were stupid and thus I hid my passion. Now, when I read the notebooks I filled during that time, I cringe at the darkness that shadowed my life.
One day, I finally broke and said to myself, “This is my life and I don’t want to look back and wonder what if I’d taken one step. Would my dreams have come true?” That was a year of change for me on many levels. It was a hard trial but through it I learned I had the support of many family members. I read craft books. I joined a writer’s group. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I attended conferences and workshops. I found more support through my writer friends. I met the man of my dreams and he became my biggest supporter. I will love him forever for letting me be me.
Life doesn’t give us do-overs, but it does give us second chances. Take the step toward being you.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
(from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran)
Today is release day for one of my best projects ever. Dear Daughter #2 is leaving for college.
Someone asked my husband a couple of months ago what it felt like to wait for the release date of my debut book. He said, “It’s like childbirth. It’s painful, it takes too long, and then suddenly it’s over and what now?”
I’ve shared this post with y’all last year, but it can’t hurt to hear it again. If you’re like me, you struggle to sit down with your work in progress during the busy, busy holiday season. So I thought it would be fun to share some coping strategies once more. I’ve added my 2 cents worth for 2013 near the end. :) Happy Holidays, everyone!
It’s December, and we are currently knee deep into the annual holiday season. As women, we are usually the ones responsible for the planning and plotting that goes into holidays, even if they aren’t being held at our house. The same is true for me—I do the planning, my hubby does the inviting (usually without telling me until the last minute). We end up with a house full of family and friends who eat, talk, laugh, and play games all Christmas day. That’s after a month full of other parties, family celebrations, gift buying, etc. Something I enjoy with a heart full of gratitude.
But all this partying makes it tough to get any writing done. The list of things to do can extend to infinity sometimes (or at least feel like it). All this extra party planning can really cramp my writing style. I’m sure even you non-writers find time short during this busy season. So what’s an author to do? Here are a few tips: 1. Up your word count on the days you CAN write.
I know this sounds like it will take even more time, but when you do get uninterrupted writing time, do your best to up the amount of your goal. My usual goal for weekdays is 750 words, but for December I’m aiming for 1250. This way, I can manage a few days off during the month without guilt or getting really behind. So push yourself to do more, and enjoy your reward later. 2. Take it One Small Step at a Time
It can be overwhelming to sit down and face a 1000 word goal, but how about 250 words? Oftentimes, I don’t write my whole goal in one sitting. I can’t, because I have very few uninterrupted chunks of time in my day. So here’s how I approach it: During my morning break at work, I plot out the scenes I’m going to work on that day. Then on my lunch break (30 minutes) I type on the Alphasmart. I also have 1 hour set aside for writing directly after dinner. I try to keep that sacred (doesn’t always work, but I try).
Then thirty minutes while the kids do homework or clean their rooms or 30 minutes while the hubby watches a television show. Just 30 more minute before bedtime, then I can sleep. You’d be surprised how much easier it is to tackle any large project in smaller steps. 3. Be Prepared
For plotters, this is much easier. But it is also doable for pantsters too. Before putting down your pen for the day, take a few moments to write out the first few sentences of your next scene. Make sure your notes on the coming pages are complete and you have a decent map for where you are heading. This will make jumping into the next session much easier (no staring at a blank page wondering what the heck you were thinking to have them break into the warehouse so soon…) and your writing will flow more quickly from the start.
I find a To Do list essential for big projects and my writing is no different. This way, I can see how much time I have, then jump into whatever task I have time for, without worrying I’ll forget what else needs to be done. 4. Utilize the Buddy System
Find a writing friend who needs to accomplish as much as you do at this time. Vow to keep each other accountable. Daily emails require you to send in those totals, even if the sum is 0 (and embarrassing enough to force your hands to the keyboard). Set up times for write ins (getting together for the sole purpose of writing—bookstores are great for this).
And don’t forget a reward. Plan an outing to get your nails painted or a massage when all the hard work is done. A night out to dinner with some girlfriends. Or form an accountability group where everyone pitches in $10, and the top three performers during the holiday season get to split the pot for After Christmas shopping! This will give you a tangible reward, other than the relief you’ll feel when you see all those words on the page. Addition: New Thing I Learned in 2013
One of my goals in 2013 was to learn to enjoy life in the midst of chaos. I have a full time day job, write at least part time, have 2 kids and a very supportive husband. I felt like I worked from the moment I forced myself to roll out of bed in the morning. About halfway through the year, I realized I wasn’t really LIVING. So I’ve tried different approaches to try to remedy this. Here’s 1 for the holidays: Don’t feel guilty when you aren’t writing. I know it sounds counterproductive, but guilt is only going to bog down your writing, not help it in any way. When you are at a party, or chillin’ with your family, enjoy it. Don’t spend it feeling bad about what you’re not accomplishing. Oddly enough, when you get back to the page, you’ll be MORE refreshed and productive without all that negative emotion hanging around. So there’s my 2 cents worth for this year! My hope is that you’ll be able to be as productive as I hope to be this holiday season. We’re all busy. I know that. But you can still manage something (this is me giving ME a pep talk here). So tell me your best advice for getting writing (and other holiday tasks) done during this busy time. (because I need all the help I can get!)
Thanksgiving is the time of year where the concept of thankfulness is visibly front and center.
By personality and profession, I’m a problem-solver, instinctively attuned to recognizing, and then correcting, problems, exceptions, deviations and anomalies. Sometimes I need a reminder to break out of problem-solving mode, and consciously acknowledge the things I’m thankful for. Thanksgiving gives me that reminder.
Things I’m Thankful For, in no particular order:
Good health: For those of us living with chronic illness, the concept of good health is sometimes a day-to-day thing, but all things considered? 2013 was a pretty great year. I barely met my insurance deductible! Speaking of which: I am thankful to have health insurance.
Modern medicine: Every time I grumble about how many sticks it takes for me to have blood taken, I try to remember that had I been born even a decade earlier, I likely would have died during my teen years. I’m thankful for butterfly syringes, with their small-gauge needles!
Employment: I survived yet another round of corporate layoffs – oh, excuse me – “limited restructuring.” In this economic climate, I feel so fortunate to have a job that challenges me, and a regular paycheck, when so many equally capable people don’t. And did I mention, yay health insurance!
Family and Friends: They may not always understand me, but they always have my back.
Democracy: I feel fortunate to have been born to parents who live in a democratic society, where, within the scope of the laws of the land, I can say anything, do anything, be anything. As someone who lives some aspects of her life outside prevailing cultural norms, believe me I don’t take this for granted.
Last but not least…
READERS!! This year, I reconnected with the joy and exhilaration I felt when I wrote my very first book – before I sold and writing became /gulp/ a job.
Thank you to READERS everywhere, who give writers yet one more reason to listen to these voices in our heads, and to push our words out into the world.
10/31/13 Update: Thanks to everyone for stopping by! Our randomly selected winners are: Autumn and Amanda! I’ll be in touch, ladies!
True story: Last summer at the RWA conference, just as I was about to leave the hotel room for my first ever Literacy Signing, my lovely and talented cousin, Cara Connelly, proudly took a photo of me and sent it to family back home. Our dear aunt—who’s my biggest supporter and unfailingly honest—immediately texted Cara back.
Something along the lines of: “Tell Annie she needs to amp it up a little if she wants to make it as a romance writer. Good grief, she looks like a schoolteacher. She’s got to WORK IT.”
Cara jumped to my defense—sort of: “LOL, I know. But I think she might be showing a *little* cleavage. Will try to get her to put on some red lipstick at least.”
Me (grabbing Cara’s phone): “Will everybody please stop hating on my classic cardigan and sensible heels?!”
Geez, you’d think I was dressed like a nun or something. Wait, never mind.
I guess the point is, I seem to be missing the risqué romance writer gene. I don’t like drawing attention to myself or taking risks. My life, in general, is distinctly un-scandalous—and I like it that way.
But when I’m writing (or reading), it’s a completely different story. In books, the more scandal, the better—and my second book, ONCE SHE WAS TEMPTED, has plenty!
Everyone thinks Miss Daphne Honeycote is the sweet, innocent younger sister, but it turns out that she’s been hiding a shameful secret. Two, actually. Because she once posed for a pair of risqué portraits, and if they fall into the wrong hands it will mean ruin for her and, worse, for her beloved family. (You see, kids, this kind of risky behavior can get you in trouble!)
Anyway, I thought it would be fun if there was a way for risk-averse people like me to experience the thrill of posing for a scandalous portrait without actually, you know, getting naked. So, I created Daphne’s Scandalous Portrait Generator. Just answer the five completely innocuous questions below to find out what your portrait would look like. I dare you to give it a try!
Also, since my book releases today, I’m going to give away two copies of ONCE SHE WAS TEMPTED to random commenters (U.S. only, please). Now, go get your portrait!
What are your passions? Writing has been one of mine since my 2nd grade teacher published my Christmas story in the local paper. Eventually I became a mom and my priorities shifted to include my growing family. I became supermom, ready to turn frowns upside down with my arsenal of homemade puppy-dog-face cookies and castle cakes. Other interests crowded in, but for the most part, family and writing remained my top passions in life.
Castle Birthday Cake
Two and a half years ago I was given a third. I woke up in a hospital room to the words “it’s cancer” and life thrust me onto the most brutal topsy-turvy rollercoaster ever imagined. Teal ribbons, weekly chemo infusions, pills, doctor’s appointments, mouth ulcers, CT scans, shedding of ALL hair, a mailbox filled with get well cards, casseroles, flowers left on my doorstep, pain, panic, “who will you play with in heaven, Mommy, if I’m not with you” became my life.
When I first saw the chemo ward at the hospital, and all the bald, tired people hooked up to beeping machines with bags of drugs snaking into their bodies through various tubes, I cried on my husband’s arm. “They look dead, and I’m going to be one of them.”
What I didn’t realize at the time, but discovered quickly, was that those people are warriors, battling with everything they’ve got. I was proud to get to know them and to become an Ovarian Cancer Warrior, fighting for my right to live and be a mom, daughter, friend, and wife, fighting a beast that stalks women silently.
OC is the deadliest of the GYN cancers as it is the hardest to detect. I was diagnosed because I happened to mention some pelvic pain and mild bloating to my general practitioner when I went in for a possible broken hand. So I was diagnosed at stage IIc with a 70% chance of living 5 years. If I’d waited a couple more weeks, it could have easily moved to stage III with only a 20% chance to survive 5 years. So early detection of these whispered symptoms is crucial to survival.
Suddenly I had a new passion. My husband and I started the SHOUT Against the Whisper campaign with a mission to educate women about the whispered symptoms of this terrible beast. So…I have three passions in my life: writing, my family (although I’ve retired my supermom cape), and OC Awareness/Cancer support.
Me & my Highland Hero
One thing we can do, as passionate people, is to blend our passions together in a way to enhance each one. But doing so must be done thoughtfully.
My third book was about to release when I started chemo. Part of me wanted to scream “I have cancer; buy my book!” But the sane part of me knew that wasn’t appropriate (unless perhaps I was writing cancer books, which I plan to do BTW).
I swore to God, the universe, and to my friendly kale juicer that I would use all my talents to educate and help save women if they would keep me alive to do so. I am a public speaker and I write, and I plan to use my skills in any way I can to spread the warning, not just because I swore back in those grim days, but because I’m genuinely passionate about not letting cancer win.
So in the back of my books, I list the whispered symptoms. When I do book signings or workshops or interviews, I give out symptom cards and ask for articles to list them. This type of cross-promoting is very appropriate.
However, this doesn’t always work in the reverse. When on the chemo ward, if someone was reading a romance, I would tell them about my books, quietly and in conversation. I donated some to the ward. At my OC Awareness events I might give away books for collected donations to OC Research or Education, but it is a minor part of the big push of alerting women on how to save their lives. Every time I try to cross these two passions in my life, I must be thoughtful, because promoting my writing in the face of suffering can come across as crass and just plain wrong. Which can completely turn people off to your work, something that should be avoided, obviously, at all costs.
Some passions hit around the same level on the emotional/life importance barometer and can be intertwined easily. If you are passionate about wine and wine features in one of your books, touting your book to wine lovers, on Twitter or FB or in person, can be appropriate after you’ve set up a friendly relationship with them. You still must remain thoughtful so as not to come across as only being an advertisement, but the promo is less tricky than trying to sell romance books to someone who is fighting to stay alive.
Healthy Mom Again!
I am now finished with 15 months of chemo and am getting my life back in order, though I will never be the same. I’ve learned too much, felt too much, to be the same. Actually I think I’m better for the experience. In some ways cancer has connected me to readers. One woman wrote to me after reading the acknowledgments at the end of CAPTURED HEART where I detail out the symptoms. She was an OC survivor herself and thanked me for putting the symptoms out there in the world. I think she will be a reader of mine for life now. Sometimes there is cross-promo between very different passions, even passions that fall on very different levels. But it is something that cannot be forced.
So when you take stock of your life and your own passions and interests, do think of ways to use them to help promote your writing, but please remember to do so thoughtfully. What ways have you been able to cross-promote your passions?
Bloating, Pelvic Pain, Feeling Full quickly while Eating Less, Urinary issues.
Other symptoms may include fatigue, constipation, pain during intercourse, menstrual issues, indigestion, and back pain. If you have a symptom for 3 weeks or more, see your GYN for a pelvic exam.
If something feels abnormal, a trans-vaginal ultrasound and a CA125 blood test should be ordered. If you have a mass to be removed, your #1 way to survive if it is cancer, is to have a GYN Oncology Surgeon remove it.
It’s often said that writing can be a solitary business. And it’s true. Unless you have a ghostwriter, this is one job you can’t delegate to others. We cleave ourselves from the rest of the world in a quest make the scenes playing in our heads come alive on the page. Occasionally we might venture out to conferences or critique groups, but for the most part, we are…alone.
But no writer is truly an island (I know – another cliché. I’ll stop soon.). We need a companion. Someone who’ll listen without judgment to our rants about rejections or bad reviews. Someone who reserves the right to remain silent when we’re up against a deadline. Someone who’ll give us random cuddles, especially if it’s cold or there’s a stray dog roaming outside…
Yes, that someone I’m talking about is a cat. Felines are wonderful writing companions. This fact was not lost among authors like Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs, and Hemingway. (Check out the Writers and Kitties tumblr page.) Contemporary authors Haruki Murakami, Neil Gaiman and Stephen King are notable cat guardians, and cats can often be found slinking in and out of their pages. Figuratively, of course.
Sigmund Freud once said, “Time spent with cats is never wasted.” My two cats’ snores, purrs, meows and mere presence have the power to inspire and comfort. When those critters fall asleep on my lap while I’m typing, I’m loath to get up. So I keep writing – it’s a win for my productivity.
Not every cat is always up to the role of “wonderful writing companion.” Mine demand to be fed at precisely 7am and 6pm. The claws really come out if these times are not observed. Pinklepurr and Possum view laptops not as my most treasured writing tool but as a warming device for their tummies. If I let them outside, they’ll want to come back in immediately, and vice versa. Possum likes to play with whatever stationery I require at that exact moment. They even have their own blog, Twitter account and Facebook page. (I’ve had to put a stop to all that because supervising their online activities is a huge time suck…). But all is forgiven when they settle back into my lap and gaze up at me with a look that says, “Mum, do finish writing the damn book and feed us at 6:00, m’kay?”
Do you have a four-legged writing companion? How do they help or hinder your writing process? Ever been tempted to give your pets a starring role in a book?
The following post is actually a blast from the past. On occasion, I look back and see how far I’ve come on this writing journey. Recently, I dug up this post—my first on the Ruby blog, and probably my first blog post ever—which I originally posted waaaaay back on October 6, 2009. That was before I was published, when I was still shopping my Golden Heart manuscript (which was published by Carina Press in September 2011.) I was shiny and new in so many ways, and have learned much on this journey, but I think the message of succeeding through perseverance and finding a supportive community is still relevant.
(And, as an update, I served 4 years as President of my local chapter and don’t regret a moment. During that time I sold three books. My two terms ended eight months ago, but during those years, I grew so much, and made lasting connections I treasure.)
“Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!” No doubt about it, the craft of writing and the world of publishing can be a scary business. But…
You are not alone.
I can’t tell you how many times I have to remind myself of this. Daily? Actually, some days it’s hourly. Yes, my friends, we’ve chosen a career fraught with rejection, self-doubt, downswings, and loneliness. But as I travel farther down this yellow brick path – sometimes skipping happily along, and sometimes dragging my feet with every step – I’m meeting all kinds of people. Their paths may be different, but they intersect or even – at times – run identical to my own.
I am not alone.
I discovered this when I became more involved in my local chapter, setting up a plotting group in my home so that I could get to know people on a more personal level and making friends that I know will always be there for me when I stumble. I rediscovered this when I finaled in the Golden Heart and found a whole group of sisters I never knew I had.
So what do you do to counteract those down periods when you’ve received a rejection, are immersed – or drowning – in self-doubt, or just feeling isolated? Just as Dorothy had her traveling companions on her journey, we have friends, critique partners, and organizations to help us out on ours. So…. What would Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion say about the challenges along our path?
Scarecrow, my brainy friend, scratches his head and looks at the odds. “There are a lot of writers out there. But you won’t succeed if you don’t continue to submit. Persistence is the key.”
“Yes, but how long must I persist?” I ask. (Okay, it was more of a whine, but still…)
“As long as it takes,” he says simply, that drawn-on smile never faltering. “You never know when your manuscript will land on the RIGHT desk at the RIGHT time. In the meantime, keep developing your craft, editing your work, and sending it out. And listen to your writing friends when they say, ‘Don’t give up!’”
Tin Man, my sensitive friend, smiles at me softly with a sympathetic tilt of his head. “You have a lot to give as a writer. It’s a calling, otherwise you’d be able to set it down and walk away. Besides, you’re writing the book of your heart, right?”
“Psshaw,” I say, jaded. “That was four manuscripts ago. Now I’m searching for the book of my dream editor’s heart.”
“But there’s no way of knowing what that will be,” Tin Man points out, taking my hand as we continue down the yellow brick path. “Don’t lose the love for your craft. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, why do it? And,” he adds, “I suggest you join a writers group, where you can give back to others. There’s joy in that, and the passion of others is addictive.”
Tin Man was right. It was in joining my local chapter, and stepping forward to be their president when they needed one, that I found deeper and lasting friendships and found a common passion. I rediscovered the “heart” of romance writing. And I started to enjoy my craft again.
“Cowardly Lion, I know you feel my pain,” I say to the next friend along my path. “Every time I lick that envelope to send away a submission, my heart quakes. Can I stand the rejection this time?”
He straightens to his full, furry height, hands on his hips and stares me down. “You know the answer to that. If you are rejected, you will survive. You always do. Be brave.” He leans down and grins. “Chocolate helps. And friends do, too.”
And finally, there’s Toto. Can’t forget him. I carry him with me everywhere in my little basket, my constant reminder of the quiet love and comfort that’s waiting for me at home. Not everyone has a Toto to turn to when times are scary and confusing. When the people who should love and support you the most step on your dreams, who do you turn to? It’s my hope that you’ll find a group of like-minded people – writers, critique partners, Ruby Sisters – or that you start one of your own. Trust me, there are others out there like you, sometimes lost in Kansas, twisting in the wind and just looking for home.
You are not alone.
If you find yourself feeling alone, join your local RWA group (or if you already belong, volunteer for a position to become more active and get to know your fellow chapter mates). Or, offer to help judge a writing contest. Cruise the internet for writer resources or loops you can join. Or, just take your writing with you and get out of your lonely surroundings and into a bustling coffee shop or library, where you can see that other people exist.
One of the best things I ever did was say “yes” when my local chapter asked me to be their next president. Was I worried about the additional workload and the fact that I’d never (ever!) served on a board before, let alone as president? Heck, yeah. At the same time, I’d volunteered to help my online chapter with their annual contest. I didn’t know what I was in for there, either. But saying “yes” opened so many doors for me. I’ve met so many amazing writers, discovered several new resources, and discovered I am not alone. (And, if you happen to believe in karma, I must say that my career has grown by leaps and bounds this year – my first request for a full from an agent led to signing with that agent, and was followed soon after by a Golden Heart nomination and win. I’ve been very blessed, and can’t help but wonder if what I put out into the universe is coming back to me in some way.)
You are not alone. We are on this twisty, winding path together, and the emotions at the peaks and dips are universal. Am I scared? Yes. Thrilled? Yes! Confused? Oh, yeah, sometimes. But I’m still going forward, one step at a time, and I hope you are, too.
Are you feeling alone on your path? Who (or what) have you encountered along the way that helps push you to take that next step when you need a gentle shove? Tell me about your journey, and your traveling companions.
Anne Marie has always been fascinated by people—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling. Her passion for understanding the human race is now satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and award-winning author of romantic suspense.
She writes to reclaim her sanity.
Anne Marie publishes the Mindhunters series with Carina Press and is currently hard at work on some new projects. Find ways to connect with her at www.AnneMarieBecker.com.