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Welcome to Mentor Monday!

ASK US ANYTHING!!!

Hello, everyone –

And welcome to the new vision for the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood! I’m Liz Talley and I’ll be your tour guide for …. drum roll please…..

Mentoring!

Yes, today we’re talking about the importance of having a mentor and offering some (hopefully) helpful advice. 

First, you may be wondering  WHO needs a mentor.

The answer – everyone.

I’ve written twenty-seven books and I still need a mentor. We all do. Whether we’ve written a paragraph or fifty novels, everyone needs someone to give advice, kick their butts, cheer them on, and basically be the one person in their corner who knows what it is like out there and can get her come out swinging anyway.

I know what you’re thinking – Ohmygosh! I don’t have a mentor!

That’s okay. No need to panic because mentors are everywhere. You don’t have to meet them for coffee every week. You can find them here. On Facebook. At conferences. In fact, we’re going to do some mentoring TODAY. Yes, today the Rubies are offering to be your mentor.

I do acknowledge this is like an advice column. I do not know how to get wine out of your carpet, but I might be able to help you with a writing issue. So hit me up…. Help me help you by telling me what’s up with your writing and how I can help you today!

40 responses to “Welcome to Mentor Monday!”

  1. Melanie Macek says:

    What do you do when the story gets stuck? I’m almost finished with the rewrite of a story, literally at the end where everything should culminate and be reveled and BAM! Brick Wall. How do you break through?

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    • Liz Talley says:

      Usually I talk it out with a friend. I have a few writer buddies who also write (different genres) and I ask them to meet for coffee or a walk. Then we play the what if game. It can be wild solutions or outrageous. But it usually gets the juices going.

      Don’t be afraid to backtrack and try a different POV or add an element. I’m not saying rewrite, but sometimes it takes a “What if she found ____?” And it changes the book for the better. Definitely sound this out with a friend or two, take a day to let it turn, and then take a fresh look at the story. And if you need brainstorming help, come on back here. We always have Rubies to help.

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    • Melanie, Congrats on reaching the end.

      I’ve been in your shoes, several times, and walked a mile or two at night trying to figure it out the problem. It happens. I’ve come to realize when this occurs that something is wrong in the plot line. What seems to be missing? Maybe adding a short scene, or deleting one, or moving one, or even changing POV can help.

      My last book, I put every scene on index cards and laid them out. Visually following the plotline helped. This is something I’ve never done, but we do what we must for our art.

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      • Melanie Macek says:

        Autumn, that’s what I think it is. This is actually the second draft of the story – a complete rewrite. I just hope it’s not that I’m losing the love of writing because of teacher brain. That would make me sad.

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        • Walk away from it a while. Maybe start a new project. My first book written was my seventh book published as Perfect Fall. It wasn’t quite right, but the bones were there and solid. Sometimes all we need is time to see what really can make a story great.

          Keep on writing, lady.

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    • Hi Melanie – usually what works best for me to is to step away from the story completely for a few days and come back after I’ve cleared my brain and can see it with fresh eyes. Often I’ve gone off track somewhere and the distance helps me see it when I read through from the start. I’m also a big proponent of talking it through with a friend – even if they don’t suggest anything, often the act of trying to articulate what’s bothering me will shake something loose.

      I’ve also heard writers say to write down ten different things that could happen next (or in your case ten different endings) – and tell yourself that you aren’t going to take any of the first five so there’s no pressure for it to be perfect, you just get those brainstorming juices flowing.

      I think for me, it’s about getting myself out of the mindset of thinking it has to be perfect. We put unreasonable pressure on our creativity when we’re going for flawless.

      I hope some of that might help! Good luck!

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      • Melanie Macek says:

        Vivi, I seem to have lost my community 🙁 Once I switched jobs and couldn’t be online during the day, I lost the link to a lot of other writers.

        I may have to try the list of different endings/scenarios. I also think I need to reread it from the beginning. Will give that a try over the next few weeks.

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    • Darynda Jones says:

      Yes to everything everyone has said! I, too, have to take a step back. I go for a walk or take a long hot bath, anything mundane that relaxes the brain and gets it working on the issue.

      And talking it out with friends and fellow writers helps SO much. Congrats on getting to the end! Woot woot!

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  2. Dawn says:

    Thanks for coming back! ❤️
    After a few rejections my confidence abandoned me. What are some ways to get it back? (Other than keep on writing.)

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    • Ouch, Dawn, that’s a tough place and we’ve all been there. Hugs.

      One thing that helps me is to go read the one star reviews from my absolute favorite authors – I know that sounds weird, but it reminds me that books that CHANGED MY LIFE BECAUSE THEY WERE SO FREAKING AWESOME are just books that someone else hated. There’s no accounting for taste.

      This business is so subjective and a rejection is NOT saying that you don’t have what it takes. It just means that you weren’t the right fit for that agent or editor at that time. If you’re going traditional there are SO MANY factors at play that have nothing to do with your skill as a writer. Are you too similar to what they already have on their list? Do they think that your book is really good but they aren’t the right person to bring it to market so it finds its audience? Did their marketing team just reject something because of a plot trope you’re using? Who knows? It’s a crazy business.

      And remember J.K. freaking Rowling got rejected a bajillion times. Your success is still in your future. Don’t lose heart.

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      • Kim Law says:

        OMG, that’s *exactly* what I was just typing out. I mean…my favorite books are AMAZING! How can it be that not everyone loves them? But that’s just the way of life. And not everyone likes our stuff, either, and that’s okay. And yeah, there are SO many non story/writing-related reasons that agents/editors reject manuscripts. SO. MANY!!! Maybe take a few days, read some really bad reviews and then reads some of you favorite books, and while reading the books, hopefully you’ll be reminded of *why* you wanted to write to begin with. And for me, being reminded of that why often releases endorphin-like feelings which lessen the I’m-a-loser feelings 🙂 Good luck, Dawn. I know that the ups and downs of the writing world aren’t easy. Hugs.

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      • Darynda Jones says:

        OMG this is so hilarious!!! And, yes! It works!

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      • Liz Talley says:

        I had a beautiful long comment written and somehow it was eaten. Looks like you have some wonderful advice. It feels good to know you’re not alone, doesn’t it?

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    • Dawn,

      This is an easy one. You must realize first that you’ve accomplished something millions of people think about doing and never do. You finished a book and had the guts to show your work to a professional editor/agent. You are a writer! Be proud of that rejection. It’s a badge of honor.

      Second, know that rejections, whether they come from industry professionals or readers is part of our world. Not everyone will get your style, nor should they. This world would be a bore if we all liked the same things. Or your story might have been rejected because there is a book very similar to yours already on the table, or it wasn’t something they felt they could market to their readers, or it needed more work. If there was advice, look
      hard at it.

      Whatever, congrats on your accomplishment. Be proud. Go read those great lines you wrote and send it out again.

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    • June says:

      Dawn, thank you for asking that question because I’m right there with you. I’m loving the responses!

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    • Darynda Jones says:

      Firstly, big hugs, Dawn. Rejection is so hard. It’s important to remember not to take it personal. Bottom line, this is a business. I have been rejected so many times. So. Many. Times. And now, after published books, 6 of them hitting NY Times, I still get rejected. My agent rejected about 50 ideas I threw at her. I was getting worried. Then we stumbled upon that one shining idea that hit her in the right place and my editor loved it.

      If anyone has given you any constructive feedback, that will help with your journey, but that doesn’t happen often when querying. Like others have said, this business is so subjective. It just takes one agent/editor to fall in love with your work.

      Also, yes, go read bad reviews. LOL!

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  3. June says:

    My writing has been so on again off again for so many years that I’m not sure that I can even write anymore. The fiery passion that grabbed me years ago has been doused so many times by life’s circumstances that I question if I’ve lost all creativity. I know that at one time I was a decent writer, and I’ve had several opportunities that I’ve let pass me by because of one reason or another. Writing used to bring me joy. The words used to flow. So, my Ruby Sisters, how do I get that back?

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    • Kim Law says:

      Geez, ask a difficult question, why don’t you 😉 And first of all, you are STILL a decent writer! I’ve read some of your stuff!! Your creativity is also still there, because you share it with me. But I totally get it about life. I think that you need to figure out how to do two things to bring that joy back. 1) Forget about any and all past opportunities you’ve let pass you by. They don’t matter anymore and thinking about them will just bring you down into the I-should-haves and what-ifs. So forget them. The slate is now clean and you’re just starting off with brand new brilliance! 🙂 And 2) You’ve got to believe and embrace the idea that YOU are worth the alone time it takes to get the words down. Your happiness and enjoyment of writing is worth it, no matter what other things aren’t getting done. The biggest, most successful authors always say that nothing comes before the writing. They get that done without letting all the other crap in life get in the way. And I think they manage to do that because they know that they deserve the time and ability to put words down. (They’re also better disciplined, clearly, or we’d all be able to do that, lol. But I think discipline takes time and the determination to get there. So that’s a #3, I suppose. Along with believing that you deserve to write, DECIDE to write. Decide to let that be that important to you…and don’t I sound all preachy? Oops. Sorry. But really, you’re worth it, June, so just let yourself embrace it and poo-poo on all the other crap in life! Hugs 🙂 )

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      • Liz Talley says:

        Decide to write. That’s wonderful advice (as are the others.) Sometimes we do have to forgive ourselves for missed opportunities, but the important thing is we become accountable to ourselves.

        June – do you have some friends nearby who are actively writing? Perhaps some chapter mates you can meet for coffee? I find my biggest help is an accountability partner who doesn’t let me wriggle out of my writing goals. I know you feel yours is a mental battle, but perhaps the best way to pull yourself from the doubt and dread is to make a new writing friend and actively work to ensure you’re writing and not overthinking the writing at that.

        Let us know how it goes, June 🙂

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    • Okay wow, that’s a big one. For me, I think the joy of writing and the “flow” tend to escape when I’m overthinking it, trying to make each word perfect and worrying about all the minutiae of the business side and whether or not it will sell before I even get a word on paper. I need to have permission to suck, to write something because I want to write it and not because I’m trying to make something “good.”

      Have you tried writing an id list? Jennifer Lynn Barnes is a genius goddess who talks about writing down the tropes and scenes and themes that get you every time – things that tickle your id’s fancy. Maybe jot some of those down and instead of trying to write a whole amazing book, just play with one of those “id” ideas and see where it takes you?

      Also – Everything Kim said x1000!

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    • Darynda Jones says:

      June, everything that everyone else has already said. Wow, the brilliance in this group is amazing.

      One of my favorite sayings ever is by Louis L’Amour. He said,
      “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

      If you need to talk, email me!!!

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    • June says:

      Thank you for all the wonderful advice. It’s easy to lose confidence when you feel you’ve been stagnant in your process. Decide to write and let the past rest is excellent advice.

      Amy, I’m in between DARA and North TX RWA and I’ve yet to go to a meeting. I can come up with a 100 excuses not to go, but not one good reason. I need to change that because you’re so right. I do need that connection.

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    • Gwyn says:

      I know exactly how you feel, June. So many restarts only to fall into another pit of unexpected responsibility or emotional turmoil.

      My problem is, somewhere along the way, I seem to have lost my ‘voice’. Back in the day, after reading one of my blog posts, I had a MAJOR agent ask a client who knew me for an introduction; she loved my voice. While flattered–and a tad overwhelmed–Hubble’s odyssey had just begun, so I never followed through.

      The last time I entered the GH–2014–comments included some saying, while they could find no fault with the writing, I needed to work on my voice; that I sounded like any number of wannabe authors.

      That hit me like a fist, but after rereading some thing, I must admit the truth of it. Something has gone missing. Uniquely stylized sentences that once came easily elude me.

      I’ve lost my edge.

      Anyone have a nice whet stone?

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      • Liz Talley says:

        Gwen – having emotional ups and downs in our life can really eat away at the magic of voice. I totally believe that. It’s very hard to know oneself (which is needed for voice) when one is spread so thin.

        Maybe instead of a whetstone, you need some fun creative exercises. Maybe one of those writing prompt books that just allows you to write anything in any voice you want. Maybe practicing with various “voices” can help you remember what your authentic voice is. Which could lead to a new story idea and a new adventure.

        Just start small and see where that takes you. We all know you have the writing chops, but everyone gets tired and needs fresh perspective. Fingers crossed!

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        • Gwyn says:

          Thank you for the suggestions, doll. They can, I believe, be winnowed into the limited time available to me now and, hopefully, jump start my AWOL voice. Once the cooler weather sets in, with most outside responsibilities on hold for a wee while, I will be diving back into the pool. That fist may have knocked the wind from me, but I hope to raise the main, finesse the jib, and sail on! Thanks for the vote of confidence. {{{Hugs}}}

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  4. Desiree says:

    A year ago I thought I was ready to jump into the deep end of the publishing pool. I’d done all the research, *thought* I had a solid MS, but when I started working on query letters… I’m not sure? I just got overwhelmed. Self doubt snuck in and took over.
    I went back to my MS but all I saw were glaring errors and mistakes. (I am NOT an editor by any stretch of the imagination) and in going back I’m afraid that I only managed to jumble the story more.

    What kind of advice can you give the chronically overwhelmed?

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    • Desiree – I so get this. I *hate* my book during edits. I’ve read it over and over again and it feels trite and stale and predictable – because I always know what’s coming. All I can see are the things I’m afraid are mistakes. And the more I mess with it, the more unsure I become.

      My biggest antidote to self-doubt is actually to share the manuscript with someone – someone supportive who will react as a reader rather than dissecting it as an author. For me, my first reader is my mom. She’s not a writer and honestly she’s terrible at being critical, but she’ll tell me when something is confusing her and she’ll highlight the parts she likes and put little smiley faces & hearts & “LOL”s next to them. Having someone else see my work for the first time and seeing their reaction to it can help me see all the things I did RIGHT rather than fixating on the things I did wrong. And having someone else point out the parts that confused her helps me focus my attention on the areas that really ARE problems and not just my paranoia talking.

      Do you have someone you trust who can read your book and talk to you about it afterward? And give you a pep talk when you need some extra courage to hit send?

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      • Desiree says:

        Thank you so much!! I have a couple beta readers that I use. One is a tad over critical and the others are at the opposite of the spectrum, so that can be hard. But it’s gotten me used to sharing my stories. Thank you so much for your advice! 😀

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    • Liz Talley says:

      Yeah, it’s really hard to see our work objectively and when we try, often that’s when the self-doubt creeps in. We can’t possibly accept that what we write is good because taking the next step (subbing the book) is really scary. We’ve all been there.

      I would suggest sending your manuscript out for a strong Beta read (as Vivi suggested) and perhaps even consider hiring an editor before you submit. The downfall is, of course, spending money on the edit, but it’s also an investment in yourself. In the end, you’ll feel more confident about submitting your ms and if you ever decide to self-publish, you’ve already done the first step in editing.

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      • Desiree says:

        I have actually be considering just going straight to an editor. Although I’m also considering spending money on a mentor now also!
        Hearing this helps me to realize that I’m heading in the right direction at least!

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        • Liz Talley says:

          I agree with Vivi that contests can definitely help with reader reaction, but when prepping to submit, where you have a one and done chance, I think spending a bit on a proofreader to make sure the grammar and spelling is spot on (and maybe catch any other mistakes) could be money well-spent. Even if he/she only proofed and edited a proposal (what many agents/editors requests and normally what contest request) could make you feel more confident about pressing send.

          Also, what Darynda suggested – buying critiques in auctions – is brilliant. That’s how I got my first recommendation to an editor. I bought a critique at a chapter contest, the judge (a fellow writer) suggested I send it to her editor at Harlequin and mention that she told me to send it. That editor became my first editor. She bought the book!

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    • Darynda Jones says:

      Yes, what Vivi and Liz said!

      I cannot gauge my own writing. Like, it’s impossible. I honestly, to the very depths of my soul, have no idea if what I’ve written is any good. It’s a “forest for the trees” thing. All I see are trees, and many of them are deformed or scraggly. I cannot see the forest. What the book does as a whole.

      I definitely recommend sending it to someone you trust but who will be honest with you. Also, many writing contests offer feedback. I’d stick to RWA chapter contests. Many are sketchy and scammy. At the same time, you want feedback, not a broken shattered soul. RWA chapter contests are USUALLY very good with constructive feedback.

      Best wishes and check back often with updates on how you are doing!

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      • Desiree says:

        It’s so awesome to hear that at least I’m not alone in this. I did send it off to the PNW conference contest last year and got some really GREAT feedback. Those feedbacks also came with the underlying “this is not ready for publication” which kind of added to the self doubt.

        RWA is a great next step though. I’ve been meaning to look more into that, so that’ll be my next focus.

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  5. Lisa Abraham says:

    I’ve written many book lengths stories across several genres. How do you know when you’ve proofed and edited your story enough to start trying to get an agent or publisher? I have family and friends who would be kind enough to read my writing, but unfortunately, would not give me the kind of feedback that I would need to change or make my stories better. How do you get a story ready for the world to see without having an actual editor looking over your shoulder?

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    • Liz Talley says:

      I would say getting a few beta readers would be a good first step. You can ask fellow writers and/or friends for reads. Yes, they may not come back with critical suggestions, but you will know what is working or what is not if you ask them to mark places in the MS that they enjoyed and places where the story jumped track.

      And then, I would suggest hiring an editor to do a proofread before you send the MS out on submission. It may cost you a $100 or so, but you’ll feel better about what you send out. If you don’t want to spend for the entire manuscript, you might see if an editing service provides a partial read through for the first few chapters.

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    • Personally, I wouldn’t hire an editor unless you were planning to self-publish (but then my cheapness is legendary). I would seek out contests (the Golden Heart is defunct but there are still a lot of smaller RWA chapter contests that provide feedback and even if you don’t final you can get some valuable input) – and if you do final your work might be in front of a final round judge who happens to be an editor or agent you were targeting. (Bonus!)

      I would also look for local writing chapters and writing conferences. The workshops can be incredibly helpful (even if it’s something I think I’ve got down pat I always pick up a useful tidbit) and you could also make connections with other writers who could turn into invaluable critique partners, who can help you evaluate when you’re ready.

      And (this may sound counterintuitive but) I would volunteer to judge contests. Seeing where other authors jump the shark is a good way of learning to identify those tendencies in your own writing. We’ll never be perfectly objective about our work, but I find that helps.

      Not sure if that helps or not, but hopefully it gives you some ideas. 🙂

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      • Great advice, Vivi. I loved entering contests for feedback.

        Lisa, Look for ones that give you critiques on opening chapters and synopsis. I think Valley Forge Romance Writers has great mentors in their group who judge the Sheila.

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      • Tamara Hogan says:

        —> And (this may sound counterintuitive but) I would volunteer to judge contests. Seeing where other authors jump the shark is a good way of learning to identify those tendencies in your own writing.

        I wholeheartedly second this advice. Judging contests – finding a constructive, productive way to explain to someone else what ISN’T quite working yet – has really helped me identify similar weak spots in my own writing.

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    • Darynda Jones says:

      Once again, I am late to the game. What everyone else said! I agree wholeheartedly, though I would also recommend hiring an editor, but that is the perfectionist in me. You just want dev edits at this point to see what is working and what is not.

      Betas are great, but most do not give you much that will actually help. You might ask your potential betas if they are willing to do just a chapter or two to see if you mesh. You want feedback but you don’t want your spirit broken or your creativity stifled. There is a fine line.

      I agree about the chapter contests and perhaps just paying for a critique. Good luck!

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