How to Write Smart and Southern: (It can be done, y’all.)
by Susan Noel Sands
There’s a prejudice Southerners face, similar to any group stereotype in the world. Much of it is fair assessment earned by those around us who have long given the South a ridiculous name: Think Jeff Foxworthy’s “Hey, y’all, watch this…
But with any measure of truth, there comes the good, bad and hilarious. The way a Southern writer deals with this in her books is by merging our main characters who are hopefully “above the din” with proper grammar and good behavior alongside Southern expressions, colorful secondary characters and small town antics we can all identify with in the most favorable and fun ways.
In our books, we take the best parts of what we know. In the South, family, faith, clean air and a slower pace are some of the best parts. Manners, gardens and fresh vegetables, space to roam, swimming in the lake on the weekend are all things that are part of the norm. Those are the good things.
As writers, we can’t spend our time differentiating drawls, but we should know what our characters’ speech sounds like depending on where they’re from. We should never write in non-stop colloquialisms. It’s far too hard to follow, and it’s the quickest way to dumb down your Southern story and lose readers.
So, how should you keep it Southern and not sound like a redneck?
Sprinkle the ma’ams, the y’alls, and the in’ to replace ing at the end of words. Use them here and there. Make your story charming instead of country. Show your characters’ intellect and smarts in their thoughts and actions, even if they don’t hold a traditional post-graduate degree. Have some fun by creating colorful secondary characters. Those folks are how you craft the Southern small town persona. Your main characters can’t be a couple of goofy red necks—no toothless wonders. They have to be better than that—prettier, smarter.
Here’s an excerpt from my debut novel, AGAIN, ALABAMA to illustrate this point:
“Hey, wait a dang minute. Don’t I know you from someplace?” The blonde’s candy pink nails suddenly wrapped around her wrist like a vice just as she turned to leave the desk.
Oh, crap. She’d been made. The girl’s head lolled around, as if tuning in her brain like an antenna to the right station. “Yep! I got it. You’re the one who caught Jessie Greene’s hair on fire. Girlfriend, that was about the funniest thing I ever saw.” To prove it, she hooted with such laughter that Cammie became concerned for her bladder.
Cammie smiled tightly at the airhead and disentangled her arm. She’d forgotten how quick folks in town were to reach out and touch a stranger, or in her case, a semi-stranger.
She turned to search for the elevator. It was bound to happen—especially here at a public place. Locals would recognize her and spread the word.
Thanks to Kelly for allowing me to yammer on her blog.
I would love to connect with readers!
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/susannsandsauthor
Blog: Sweet Home Alpharetta at susansands.com
Susan Sands grew up in a real life Southern Footloose town in Northwest Louisiana, complete with her senior class hosting the first ever prom in the history of their tiny public school with half the town chaperoning. Is it any wonder she writes Southern small town stories full of porch swings, fun and romance? Susan lives in Alpharetta, Georgia surrounded by her husband, three young adult kiddos and lots of material for her next book.
Comment on this question for a chance to win a copy of Susan’s novel! What are your favorite Southern books and movies, and/or Southern hero/heroines to go along with that?
The Writing Path
By Leslie Tentler
It’s sometimes said that authors start off as avid readers who begin to desire even more immersion into fictional worlds. Simply reading becomes not enough, so we begin to dabble in creating worlds of our own, daydreaming stories until finally we attempt the task of putting those ideas on paper (or these days, the computer screen).
For many authors, I believe this path is true.
As a child, I never planned to be a novelist, but I did have a strong imagination. And I also loved to read. My particular favorites were Nancy Drew mysteries. I’d learned the general timeframe in which new ones arrived at our local “Rose’s” – a discount retailer similar to Target or Wal-Mart in our small Southern town – and I’d beg my mother to take me there. Once the book was mine, I’d force myself to savor it as slowly as I could, not wanting that world to end. And when the book was sadly finished, I’d daydream about new plots for Nancy until another mystery was released.
I also became enraptured by Island of the Blue Dolphins, a bittersweet coming-of-age novel I no doubt read a dozen times. I’d imagine life for Karana, the novel’s heroine who survived alone on a desolate island for years, after she was rescued and what her return to civilization was like.
As an author, I realize that creatively, things haven’t changed all that much for me from those days of my childhood. The characters and worlds are now completely of my own creation, but I’m still getting little nuggets of story ideas, glimpses of heroes and villains, passing through my head. Germinating those ideas until they become fully formed novels takes a lot more work, though, and I do sometimes become slowed by adult fears like failure.
It was certainly easier when those stories in my head were just for me, when they weren’t being put out there for the world to see. It can be a little scary sometimes. But in taking the risk and putting my stories “out there,” I also experience the great joy of sharing them with others. There is nothing more elating than having a reader tell you they enjoyed your story, that they shared that same bond you feel with your characters.
While Fallen is a romantic suspense novel set against the backdrop of a tense hunt for a serial killer targeting police, there is also another story within a story. It’s about a once-happy couple torn apart by tragedy, then brought together again by circumstances and fate. It’s this – Lydia and Ryan’s story – that is at the book’s heart. Their journey took a while for me to tell, but I’m glad I finally have.
Question for Comment: If you’re a writer, have you ever thought about the “why” of it? What compels you to do what you do? If you’re a reader, what books from your childhood stuck with you the most? Leave a comment below to be entered to win an e-book copy (Kindle or Nook) of Fallen.
AUTHOR BIO: Leslie Tentler is best known as the author of the Chasing Evil Trilogy (MIDNIGHT CALLER, MIDNIGHT FEAR and EDGE OF MIDNIGHT). She was named as a finalist for Best First Novel at ThrillerFest 2012 for Midnight Caller, and as a finalist in the 2013 Daphne du Maurier Awards for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense for Edge of Midnight. She is also the recipient of the prestigious Maggie Award of Excellence. Her newest novel is titled FALLEN.
Leslie is a member of Romance Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, The Authors Guild and Novelists, Inc. A native of East Tennessee, she currently resides in Atlanta. Visit Leslie and sign up for her newsletter at www.LeslieTentler.com. She can also be found at www.facebook.com/leslietentler and on Twitter @leslie_tentler.
BUY LINK: Fallen is available in paperback and as an eBook: http://www.amazon.com/Fallen-Leslie-Tentler-ebook/dp/B00NQERJF6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415826113&sr=8-1&keywords=Leslie+tentler+fallen
Today we’re discussing a great topic: Rejections! Boo! Hiss! Every writer gets ‘em, every writer hates ‘em! But my friend and author Hildie McQueen gives us some great advice on dealing with rejection, so make sure you read her post and then throw your two cents in because Hildie’s giving away a 5 page critique, a free e-copy of her latest book, AND a $10 gift card to Amazon!
[And don't forget about my upcoming online class No Matter How Busy You Are, You CAN Find Time to Write! (Your tuition includes a free critique or phone coaching session with me.) More info HERE ]
By Hildie McQueen
It’s finished, your book, the story that you’ve worked on for months is finally written, rewritten, polished, edited and ready for submission to editors. You write the synopsis. Attach it and the manuscript to an email, close your eyes and hit ‘send’.
Weeks later after the third or fourth rejection, you drag yourself away from the computer and are not sure what to do next. It’s such a good story. No correction, it’s a great story. How can no one want to pounce on the opportunity to publish it? It’s inconceivable that intelligent publishers and agents can’t see the beauty of your story.
The truth is although it may be an amazing story, it’s not being picked up for a number of reasons. Most of them do not make sense, nor will they make you feel better.
I wrote a novel titled ‘Taken by Storm’ six years ago. It’s a great book. To this day I think it would do well, if it ever got picked up and a beautiful cover slapped on it. I spent a year on this book. After completing it, I pitched it to countless editors. Everyone asked for a full. Everyone also rejected it. After rewriting it and making the changes a couple of editors requested, I resubmitted it. Once again, it was ‘not the right fit’ for them, ‘at the time’.
It probably wasn’t. And here’s why. There are combinations of factors involved that affect a decision to whether accept or reject a manuscript. Hopefully after you read this, you’ll understand it a bit better and prepare yourself and your manuscript so that it will have a better chance of making it out of the slush pile.
Speaking of which. Slush piles are high. Skyscraper high. Junior editors look at a bulging inbox and pick an email at random. Based on what? Your guess is as good as mine. My guess is this. Name recognition and a catchy title. (More on that later). The junior editor then opens the attachment, reads the first page or two. If it doesn’t grab his or her attention, they reject it. If they don’t have the authority to reject it, they probably forward it to someone who does with ‘recommend rejection’ on the subject line.
If a story catches their attention, they fix a cup of coffee and continue reading. The chances of an offer are better at this point. They read the first chapter then skip to the fourth. Why? Because most people know the first three chapters of books are polished to death. The fourth however is the most ignored chapter of all time. Usually it’s a transition chapter with backstory or where flashbacks occur. If they like that chapter, the manuscript will probably make it through to a Sr. Editor.
Now let us talk about factors that will help your manuscript end up not only on a Sr. Editor’s inbox, but maybe even skipping the slush pile altogether.
- Meet the editor in person at an event and win them over with a killer pitch. Practice your pitch, be comfortable with it. Be excited about your story and convey that enthusiasm when speaking to him or her.
- Do your homework. Make sure you are aware of exactly what the publishing house is looking for. Know the word counts and their expectations as far as heat-level of love scenes and what they prefer in a storyline. Ensure that you speak to this at the pitch.
- Be an active participant in the literary world. Attend events, join a chapter, and join online groups related to your genre. Submit to contests and help run or judge them. Volunteer at events. If you can’t afford to pay to attend, offer to help with set up and organization, sometimes you’ll get invited to attend free of charge. I know this seems time consuming. It is. But it will pay off. I was bowled over when I met a very well-known writer; I mean she’s on top of every chart. She told me. “I’ve heard of you. It’s nice to finally meet you.” Of course I blubbered like an idiot and don’t remember what my reply was.
- The dreaded “SM”. Unfortunately it’s a necessary evil. Be active in Social Media. Just one. Choose one and participate daily. It’s not hard to update your status on Facebook in the morning and then check in at least once during the day. I keep it simple, with a weekly theme. Mondays something to inspire a fresh start, Tuesdays I post an excerpt (Teaser) of one of my books. Wednesdays are popular since I post hunks that day. You get the idea. I also like to post questions for readers and ask them to help me title a book or name a character. Readers love to be involved and little by little, you gain a following.
- Write an amazing book. It should go without saying that you should have more than just your best friend and your husband help you prepare your manuscript. I strongly suggest you join a critique group or ask a published author to critique for you in exchange for beta reads and reviews.
- The title. In my opinion the title is sometimes harder to write than the actual book. I love to get together with my non-writer friends and throw titles at them over a glass of wine. We’ve come up with some great ones. My first bestseller “Where the Four Winds Collide” came from one of these sessions. A title should be not just catchy, but unforgettable. I always ask people what they are reading. So many times, they can’t remember the title. That’s sad. One last thing on this, search for the title you chose on Amazon. You don’t want to have the exact title as four hundred other books.
- Scrap it and move on. Yes you read this right. If the story has gone to every editor on the planet and it still does not sell, it’s probably the wrong book for the time. Put it aside and begin with a new one. You should be writing every day anyway, so your second masterpiece should be started as soon as you finish the first.
- Editors reject good books for many reasons, so try not to take it personal. They reject manuscripts because…
- Too many in that genre in their inbox
- The opening is boring
- A repetitive storyline (they have twenty “heroine who moves back to her small home town” books in their inbox already)
- The heroine is not strong enough/too strong
- The Hero is over the top Alpha or too much of a Beta
- They are looking for something very specific (do your homework!)
Don’t give up, enjoy the craft and keep writing. What is out today will once again become popular and you can bring your story back out and either pitch it again or self-publish it.
As for my rejected story, one day I may take another look at ‘Taken by Storm’. I’m sure soon an editor will be requesting submissions for physic Greek FBI agents who can teleport to Florida and open a gift shop. I’m positive it will happen and when they do, I’ll be ready!
Question for discussion: How do YOU handle writing rejection? Leave a comment to be entered into the drawing for a critique of your first five pages from Hildie, an e-copy of A Different Shade of Blue, or a $10 Amazon gift card.
Author BIO: Hildie McQueen, www.hildiemcqueen.com)Amazon bestselling author of Western Historical, Highland Historical and Contemporary Romances; Follow Hildie on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HildieMcQueen
25 Tips to Help You Keep Writing
By Mary Buckham
You’re not alone!
Every writer can create a million reasons to stop writing, whether they’ve just started writing, have been at the process for a while, or are multi-published.
Here are 25 tips and words of advice that might make writing that next page, finishing that next manuscript, or contacting that key person who could help you, a little easier.
* An important question to ask yourself at the beginning of the month, the beginning of the week, the beginning of the day is “ Are the activities you are currently engaged in taking you where you want to go?
* Treat other authors as friends, not competition.
* Start associating fear (that shaking butterfly feeling in your stomach) as being something good. It means you’re moving outside your comfort zone and, while being a scary place, it also means you’re growing as a writer.
* Focus on what you CAN do not what you CAN’T do.
* Assume success with each project, then take the steps necessary to make that happen.
* Find a mentor. You don’t even have to know them to have them help you. I’m always asking, “What would Harlan Coben do?” when faced with something outside my comfort zone.
* Have patience with yourself.
* Celebrate your successes. This is a way of thanking the Universe for achieving them.
* Expect speed bumps. They don’t mean the road doesn’t exist, just that you might need to strategically adjust your course a smidge.
* Print out for yourself the reviews you want for your work. Then write to them.
* Surround yourself with other writers who are succeeding. With writers who will challenge you. Writers who are passionate about achieving something with their work.
* Reject the false comfort of security. It’s a trap that will keep you right where you are now. Sometimes that works. Most times it can stifle you.
* Learn from those around you—the good and the not-so-great ways other writers succeed or sabotage themselves.
* Be clear about WHY you are writing. Don’t confuse your definition of success with everyone else’s definition.
* Taking time off short term can sometimes be a better option long term. Stuck? Tell yourself you CAN’T write for a week. You might be pleasantly surprised at the results.
* Honor your own process, while being willing to try something and see if it helps. If it doesn’t, you learned something new.
* Ask yourself how bad do you want it?
* Treat yourself as you’d treat your best friend or loved one. If they were having doubts or a bad spell would you flog them?
* Every day do something as an author, even if you only spend ten minutes on your career.
* Writing is nothing more than waking up each day, remaining focused on the task at hand, and trusting that the result will take care of itself.
* Don’t assume you don’t know an answer. You always do. You just might not be asking the right questions to access it.
* Network, rather than ask for help from those in the publishing business. Networking is not a race. It takes time to build a solid network.
* Ask yourself “‘What are you doing that is working or not working?”
* Give yourself permission to fail. That’s when you learn something that can help you move forward.
* Have fun!
Here’s a recent quote I heard from an actor, not a story teller, but he gets what it is we all attempt every time we face a blank page:
“The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing, isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and soul-crushing inadequacies. And that’s on a good day.” ~ Robert DeNiro
What about you? Do you have a favorite quote? Words of wisdom? Insights you’d like to share?
USA Today bestselling author Mary Buckham writes the Amazon best selling WRITING ACTIVE SETTING series (in e-format and now in book form) as well as Urban Fantasy w/attitude. Love romance, danger & kick-ass heroines? Find it in her Invisible Recruits series: www.MaryBuckham.com or www.InvisibleRecruits.com.
Want to know how I lost 50 pounds in 5 months? I wrote an article about it here:
Prologue or no prologue? That is the question all writers face! Fortunately we have expert advice today on the subject. Anna Steffl, a wonderful author and past president of Georgia Romance Writers, tells us how to write a prologue that won’t suck. And she knows what she’s talking about! Anna finaled in the prestigious Golden Heart awards and she’s just released a novel, Seeking Solace, the first book in the Solace trilogy. It follows Arvana, the only Solacian capable of seeing the Blue Eye’s revelations, as she reluctantly leaves her cloistered refuge to seek a champion to wield a relic against the resurrected draeden.
Leave a question or comment for Anna because one lucky commenter will be randomly chosen to receive a free e-copy of Seeking Solace!
Prologues that Don’t Entirely Suck
Or, What Would George R.R. Martin Do?
By: Anna Steffl
The prologue has the reputation of a Norwalk virus on a Caribbean cruise ship—something to be avoided at all costs. But, sometimes you just need to bathe in hand sanitizer and risk the feta cheese on the buffet line because your tongue—er, worldbuilding if you write paranormal/SF/F—needs a little tang. I judge a fair number of paranormal/SF/F manuscripts in contests, and it is surprising how often I find myself telling an author that the work needs a prologue. Most of the time, it is to either heighten the threat or get overly intrusive worldbuilding out of the way.
So, if you need a prologue, how do you write one that sucks people in instead of sucking? I wrestled with this problem myself—hence the blog article. I needed a prologue for the exact reasons I usually counsel people to use one. Remember that two-headed-Norwalk-virus-breathing dragon of threat and worldbuiling? I needed one of those. At first, I used a diary entry as the prologue, and enough people liked it, and the partial, to final the manuscript in the Golden Heart contest. Alas, though that diary entry was a nice little bit of writing, it didn’t suck people in. Being a mother superior’s diary, it didn’t have the sexy and naughty bits that people read diaries for. And, the danger was just too vague. I had to scrap it.
After a dozen numbingly bad drafts, I bowed to common sense and asked, “What would George R.R. Martin do?” In Game of Thrones he writes a one-and-off POV character in an action-packed scene that introduces enough of the baddies to make you curious and a little freaked-out. He works in the backstory. Let’s all shout “Bingo!” Here’s how I started my prologue:
How the Tendrils Grew
Though he’d lost his senses of smell and taste a dozen years ago, Lieutenant Juvenot swore he could smell fear —and it made his mouth water like his once-favorite food, new pickles. He recalled the heat of the summer solstice and tiny yellow flowers peeking from a green mat of hairy cucumber leaves and tendrils. What a fine time in his life that was, before everything had been ruined. But now, in the snowy depth of winter, within a cast-iron pot so big five men could curl in its belly, was the promise for even better times.
His raiding party’s two light sleighs had flown through their escort regiment’s encampment and down the road toward him until they reined in the horses and stopped two hundred paces off. His mouth filled with pleasantly hot spit from the sight of his raiders unbundling four Sarapostan captives from the sleighs.
In the first couple paragraphs, you learn that there is a military aspect (lieutenant), something nasty is in the pot (because it must be bad-ass if you think it is going to change your shi**y life), it is winter, the society is low-tech (horses, sleds, cast iron) and fantasy (where the hell is Sarapost?), that Juvenot is a creep (he gets off on fear) and Sarapostans are his enemy. But, I tried not to be overwhelming with the fantasy elements. Let the characters and situation be the hook. From here, we get go straight into an unfolding scene that almost answers what is in the pot, why it won’t be there forever, and that shows the scary things that happen to the captives—which gives a warning of the larger havoc awaiting the world.
The editor really liked the new prologue. Then, a funny thing happened. Juvenot was such a good character that I couldn’t let him be a one-and-off POV. He returns in the next two books and became the source of tension that was missing in a section of the last book. Woohoo!
Full disclosure—another funny thing happened. The editor redlined the word prologue, a move that scared the s#$% out of me. What if people think Juvenot is the main character? He’s a creeper. They’ll wonder what the hell kind of book this is. But, she argued that since I use chapter titles instead of numbers, people will get it because of the title, “How the Tendrils Grew.” Plus, readers wouldn’t skip it, a depraved act that even I admit to committing when they suck.
There you go. Do you skip prologues? Have a troublesome one on your hands? Please tell. I promise I don’t have the Norwalk virus…not yet…there is that New Year’s cruise I’m booked on. I’ll spread it around after that.
BIO: Anna Steffl lives in Athens, Georgia, home of the New World gods of football and alternative music. She has held a string of wildly unrelated jobs, from frying chicken to one that required applying for a Department of Defense security clearance. She is a past president of Georgia Romance Writers and a Golden Heart Award finalist.
Today I’m thrilled to host a friend of mind, bestselling author Renee Bernard. I first met Renee back in 2007 when she gave me an interview for TIME TO WRITE. She gave some great advice for the book and in her blog post today, she gives great advice again, this time on how to create interesting and fun plot lines!
One lucky commenter or questioner will win a free audio copy of A Lady’s Pleasure!
Creating Fresh Plot Lines
By Renee Bernard
Hello, all! I know the smart guest blogger leads right off into telling about her latest and providing juicy hints on her next big release…but when Kelly said we could talk craft, I’m going to admit, I was amped. Then I was nervous. Because let’s face it, I think I could be decades into this journey and still see myself as more of a student than a teacher.
But I wanted to share the latest battle of the page as I like to call them on the off chance that it might help someone else with theirs. There’s a lot of advice out there aimed at character development which is always fun but today, let’s crack at plot lines. Because to be honest, I think it’s where a lot of less experienced writers struggle. That sexy hero comes to them in complete perfection and they can describe him down to his toes…but then he gets plunked into a story line that—well—is lacking.
A good rule of thumb is that if someone can see where it’s going, then you need to change directions. Here’s a fun game to play with a Very Trusted Critique Partner. Ask them to listen to your “pitch” or a brief description of your plot. If at any point they think they know what’s going to happen, they raise their hand. If they’re wrong, you get to keep telling them the story. If they’re right, and if they’re right repeatedly, and if they can see how you’re going to solve that big problem and achieve that HEA before you tell them, then take a deep breath and get ready to work it out with a re-write.
The last thing you want to put your name on is a story that is like the movie we’ve all been to, where in the first ten minutes, you know exactly what’s going to happen, few surprises, etc. (Remember? That movie where when you got up to go to the bathroom, you were really confident that you weren’t going to miss anything because there wasn’t anything to miss?)
This is Romance, we’re talking about. Every reader expects the boy to get the girl, lose the girl and then get the girl. We all have a fairly firm idea about what an HEA looks like and as a result, we can generally see them coming. If you let us!
Try not to let us.
Twist it. Turn it. Get creative. And when in doubt, let your characters point you in the right direction. After all, if you’ve got a villain in the mix, then let them give you some ideas of what a really good villain can do to ruin a hero’s day. Make sure your obstacles are substantial and when possible, as tightly connected to your main characters as you can manage. Turn the plot upside down and shake it. See what falls out and what sticks. Ask your secondary characters how it appears from their vantage point and see if they can’t make it more interesting for you.
(I’m sorry. Is it becoming a little too apparent that I have a lot of people in my head that I *gulp* talk to?)
Don’t be afraid. Readers want you to surprise them. Remember. You aren’t fast food cranking out the same meal every time. Every book is a feast to make us widen our eyes when we say, “Wow! I did NOT see that coming!”
But let’s open it up. Any questions? Seriously. Any. Even if it isn’t about plotting, I’m shamelessly thrilled to answer any and all questions you might have about writing, publishing, how to negotiate with the voices in your head so you can finish a book on time, you name it!
I will personally boycott all products made in Japan until this annual “traditional” slaughter of thousands of whales and dolphins comes to an end. This is barbaric.
Ambassador Caroline Kennedy publicly condemned the practice; please thank her for doing so at this link: http://dolphinproject.org/blog/post/support-ambassador-caroline-kennedy-and-the-dolphins
I am so happy to welcome today’s guest, Nicki Salcedo. I met Nicki years ago when I was a newcomer at an RWA chapter; Nicki sat by me, chatted me up, showed me the ropes, and was in general an all around great gal and class act. I came to learn over the years that she’s also an incredible writer; her first novel, ALL BEAUTIFUL THINGS was just released, and it’s wonderful (you can read the first chapter below)! You definitely want to get your copy today! In the post below, Nicki explains the dynamics of rejection/critiques and gives great advice on how to cope with it and use it to your benefit. Make sure to tell us your worst rejection story [no names, please] and/or the most encouraging thing that’s happened to you in your writing career because Nicki is giving away a 10 page critique to one random commenter! Comments can be left through Tuesday so make sure to check back on Wednesday to see if you’re the winner!
[Don't forget that my popular online class, No Matter How Busy You Are, You Can Find Time to Write! starts Monday, January 27. Class fee includes a free critique or phone coaching session with me: click here for more info.]
And now, welcome Nicki!
Turning the Other Cheek: Handling Rejection
by Nicki Salcedo
Have you ever been slapped across the face? Has someone ever told you that your shoes are ugly? Wanted to go to the dance with the cutest boy in school? What about your job and your writing? We face negativity all the time. What do you do when people discourage you and reject you?
Most people don’t have experience receiving criticism, but it is important to know how to handle harsh feedback.
You need to know where critiques come from, how to interpret and respond, and most importantly strategies to go on writing after meanest rejection. Most importantly you need to say, “I will never let rejection stop me from writing again.”
Who gives the critique and why it matters? “Whoever slaps you on the right cheek…”
At each stage of your writing career you are going to have to put your writing in front of people. Some will dislike your writing. You need to practice receiving feedback from the earliest stages of your writing career.
- Critique groups/Beta Readers. Network of peer writers or avid readers who help you in the initial stages of your writing. They can see the really rough drafts.
- Contests/Author critiques. Published professionals who analyze your work on a larger scale and know about the industry.
- Editor/Agent. Industry experts who buy and sell your novel.
- The public. Book reviewers, blogs can impact current/future sales.
The great thing about the first three stages critique groups, contests, even with editors and agents: You can fix things. The first three are getting your ready for the public. Learn how to respond to criticism early in your writing career.
How to take criticism? “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
- Check your emotions at the door. I cannot stress this one enough. Writing is business, not personal.
- Be prepared. Seek out criticism only when you are ready to hear it and plan use it to improve your writing.
- Value honesty. Hopefully you are soliciting feedback from a network of professionals who are trying to help you get published. With time you will be able to recognize good honest feedback. Even if it hurts.
- Don’t make excuses for your writing. What you write is what you write. Stand by it. Even if it needs revision. Everything we need to know about the story should be in the pages of your novel. Your rebuttal is your revision.
- Take time to evaluate rejection. Some editors/agents provide very detailed comments in their rejections, but you may also get a rejection with no comments? Did you consider genre or stylistic preferences of editor or agent? What about her/his workload and ability to take on new projects?
What types of critiques? Feedback usually falls into these categories:
- Grammar and technical. Spelling, punctuation.
- Plot. Goal, motivation, conflict, action.
- Stylistic. Voice, genre, dialogue, pacing.
- Marketing. How to make it more salable.
“I hated it,” isn’t feedback that can help you. Or it helps you know not to ask that person for feedback again. You don’t have to change what someone doesn’t like, but you need to understand what they are saying they don’t like.
How to respond? “If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.”
- Thank everyone. Your critique partners, authors, contest judges, editors, and agents. Anyone who takes the time to read your manuscript deserves thanks. Write the same cheerful thank you to the contest judge who gave your manuscript the lowest score in the competition.
“If you fall down, get up sexy.” – Sally Kilpatrick
- Read between the lines of the harshest critique and pretend you agree. A harsh critique may hurt at first, but it may also help you.
- Be skeptical of very positive critiques that offer no suggestions for improvement.
- Re-write. Words are meant to be re-written. You should expect suggestions for revision.
- Get angry. Don’t confuse turning the other cheek with turning off your emotions. It is completely natural to get angry or sad or cry.
- Ignore. This is very important for book reviews, but also for any rejection. Do not respond to negative reviews ever. (Ok, write a response, and then burn it!) If there has ever been a critique or review that has stopped you from writing, even for a day, put the critique in a box. Or forward it to your sister. Send it to me. Maybe come back to it later and consider the critique after you’ve gotten back to writing. Remember that very harsh/unhelpful reviews reveal more about reviewer than about weaknesses in your book.
- Write new words. Don’t stop ever writing, editing, or creating because of another person’s opinion. All critiques are subjective. Don’t write because you are seeking approval. Write, because you love it writing.
- Critique for other people. Learn to give constructive criticism to help you receive critiques.
Happy writing! Happy revising. “Never give up. Never surrender.” – Galaxy Quest
All Beautiful Things is my debut novel. A contest judge gave me a 28 out of 100 on this manuscript and said, “Your writing is terrible. It doesn’t make sense. The heroine is completely unlikeable and unrealistic. No one will buy this book ever.” Somebody wrote this on my manuscript! This same manuscript won the Maggie Award of Excellence and was a Golden Heart Finalist and is now published with Belle Bridge Books.
All Beautiful Things: Seven years ago, Ava Camden endured a vicious attack. She survived, but her face was brutally scarred. Now Graham Sapphire is determined to clear his brother’s name and win her trust in a desperate search for the truth.
Ava crawled onto the child-sized bed and pulled the covers over her face, pretending the quilt was a river above her. The patchwork calmed her breathing. In, blue. Out, white. There were thirty-six squares of blue and thirty-six squares of white. Sometimes she was hidden long enough to count each one. In the distance, she heard loud whispers and stifled giggling as her nieces searched the house. She always hid in the same place, and they didn’t go to her usual spot until last. They looked everywhere except where she’d be found. They enjoyed the art of seeking. But for Ava Camden there was a joy in being hidden.
It felt silly being a grown woman in a child’s bed, but her nieces expected her to dress up on command and hide so they could seek. She couldn’t deny them anything, because they were like her own children. When she thought of the future, she didn’t see a family. She saw a void resembling a hollow space in a tree. The rest of the world grew around her absence.
The approaching laughter allowed her little time for remorse or cynicism.
The girls climbed on the bed. This was their favorite part. When they uncovered Ava she was hidden again in the mass of her dark hair. The long twisted strands protected her from unwanted eyes when she needed it.
“I’m sleeping,” she said. Her nieces went back to loud whispers. They put a tiara on her head and smoothed the hair away from her face. The good side was revealed. The side with the scars pressed against the pillow. She knew that when she turned to face them, these two girls would hug her and say she was beautiful…
BIO: Nicki Salcedo is a graduate of Stanford University with a degree in English and Creative Writing. She is a member of Romance Writers of America© and a Past President of Georgia Romance Writers. Nicki is a two-time recipient of the Maggie Award of Excellence and a Golden Heart Finalist. She has four children, a husband, and a cat. Nicki thinks everyone should write. She loves connecting with readers. For more go to www.nickisalcedo.com. All Beautiful Things is now available.
Nicki is giving away a 10 page critique for someone who comments. She’d love to hear your worst rejection story, but no identifying information on the other person please! She’d also love to hear about the most encouraging thing that has happened in your writing career.
Get Over Your Fear…of Rejection
By Kelly James-Enger
I’ve been a fulltime freelancer for more than 16 years, and have taught at least 2,000 students during that time, many of whom have the skills necessary to write for publication. Yet a huge number of writers never send anything out. They’re afraid to submit work or to even to send a query letter to a target market. It comes down to fear: fear of being rejected.
Don’t fear rejection. Instead, expect it. Take the step toward publication, and you will get rejected. I guarantee it! So stop worrying about it. Instead, have a plan for what you will do when you get rejected. My personal rule of thumb is what I call the 24-hour rule. That means that when I get a rejection (and I have received more than 1,000 of them at this point!), I do two things within 24 hours.
First, I get the query out to a new market. I call this a ?resubmission, or a resub. Woman’s Day didn’t want the idea? No problem. I’d try Family Circle. Parents said no? Then I tried Parenting instead. If The Chicago Tribune rejected me, I’d try the Chicago Sun-Times. A pitch isn’t doing you any good sitting on your hard drive. As soon as you get a no, or you don’t receive a response, you need to get that query out to another potential market.
Second, and this may seem counterintuitive, I’d come up with a new pitch for the editor who had turned me down. I’d start this query by saying something like: Thank you for your response [note that I don't say rejection!] to my query about perfectionism. I’m sorry you can’t use the idea right now, but I have another query I’d love for you to consider. Then I would start my new query.
There were some instances where even multiple queries produced nothing more than a series of rejections. After a half-dozen of those, yes, it’s time to move on. But with many other markets, it wasn’t my first query that got me an assignment. It was my second, or third, or fourth. I didn’t give up, and eventually I got that assignment, and started writing for that market!
That’s a secret that most new freelancers don’t know and it hurts them. The fledgling writer receives a rejection, slinks away, and never querys that market again. Don’t be that writer! Give yourself a tight deadline. I like 24 hours but you can choose a timeframe that works for you and get a new query out to your original publication and resub your initial idea to another market within that amount of time. You’ll turn what was a rejection into two opportunities and boost your chances of succeeding as a freelancer.
When I have a good idea, I shop it around until I sell it or until I run out of markets to approach! I’m not joking. I had one idea that was rejected by nine markets. But the tenth one bought it. Had I given up at any point along the way, I wouldn’t have made that sale. So don’t let rejection derail you. Expect it, plan for it, and overcome it and you’ll be on your way to a successful freelance career.
BIO: Kelly James-Enger is a long time freelancer who has written for more than 60 national magazines. She recently launched her own publishing company, Improvise Press, which produces books for creative people who want to profit from their passions. The company?s first two books, Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets, and Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer?s Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition, can be ordered through any brick-and-mortar or online bookstore, or through www.improvisepress.com. Use the discount code, IMPROVISEPRESS (all caps, no breaks) for 20 percent off of your order.