Ten years in the Making: A Book Contract

contract

 

If you follow me on Facebook, you saw my recent announcement. I received my first book contract. It only took 10 years to get there. Oh, let’s not forget 20 rejections, many rewrites and several edits. Years of improving my writing skills through online writing courses and writing books.  Ten years of attending conferences. Submitting to magazines and websites with both success and failure. I’ve made the acquaintance of many writers, both newbies and seasoned pros. During my ten year journey I have added agents and publishers to that list of acquaintances.

Help others on the journey

I’ve written over a hundred book reviews and supported my fellow-writers anyway I can. I enjoy helping promote their books and sharing words of affirmation when they were discouraged. I have purposed to invest in others while I worked toward the illusive contract.

Keep learning

Actions such as joining critique groups, following writing blogs and reading a lot propelled me toward the goal of publication. This has been ten years of perseverance and determination. I’d confess “I am a writer” when I wanted to keep that proclamation to myself. Established writers encouraged me to learn how to use social media.  Then I started this blog, Writer’s Patchwork, where all these writerly parts are sown together into the bigger quilt of gaining a contract. (Clever play on words.)

Cindy's Editor's Choice Award-2

My award. I am so blessed.

Never give up

Anyway, the point I’m trying to press home is don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged and keep helping others in the industry. Keep focusing on your goal and over time you’ll get that book contract.

Come follow me

It will probably be a year before my novel will be available for sale. During that time, I will be posting the next stretch of my journey. Even though I have a contract, a mountain-load of work remains to be done before I see my book in print. I’ll share my experiences in hopes of inspiring all of you to keep going. And give you a glimpse into the process of contract to book shelf.

 If you don’t want to miss a post of my continuing journey, please subscribe in the right hand column.

 

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The Biggest Anchor Weighing Down A Writer’s Dreams

Today I am posting a blog I wrote as a guest blogger a few years ago over at Write It Sideways. Recent events in my writing life caused me to revisit the sentiment in the post. I know I am not alone and thought I’d share it here.

Large Anchor in front of Conderate White House in Richmond Virginia.

Large Anchor in front of Conderate White House in Richmond Virginia.

Have you ever heard a writer say “I don’t care if I ever get published.”
My answer to them (in my head anyway) would be, “You are such a liar.”
I know, because I have wanted to wash my mouth out with Whiteout fluid when I heard that very statement slip out between my lips
Writers who are serious about their craft want to be published. Writers who have a passion to share with others crave to be published. Authors don’t slave for years over their book to never have it see the light of day.
Let’s call it what it really is F-E-A-R.
We are afraid of being rejected. Who wants to spend hours working on something to get rejection letters? Be honest. How long did it take to get comfortable with any kind of criticism of our precious creation? My husband is a grammarian, and it used to aggravate me that he was so nit-picky. Really, he is a wonderful help with the editing process. But until I developed a thick-skin toward my work, he and I went head to head, point for point. Sending pages from my novel to critique services, editors and fellow writers for evaluation can be unnerving. All the red marks stung at first. Needless to say, without that editing my stuff did not get published.
Don’t Criticize my Baby
Our created masterpieces are our babies. Rejections stir our maternal instincts to protect our young. When we protect it, we suffocate the creative process and any growth our writing can have.
A line in the sand
Drawing the proverbial low expectation line in the sand—I don’t care if I get published—creates excuses for not pursuing publication. That low expectation in turn produces negativity. Mention an author you like, their opinion of them won’t be favorable. If you share a lead regarding a publisher or magazine, they have a horror story about the publication. Why? Fear encourages defending the line; out come the weapons of authoritative sneers. The line forces the fearful to take other would-be writers with them.
Fear of New Technology
Writers can be afraid of learning new things to improve their ability and expand their platform. I remember learning to use a computer. Once I mastered the word processing program, I was in heaven. No more carbon paper and retyping whole pages. As the word processing got more refined, I had to battle with the newest edition. Discovering how to use the editing application in word was freeing–although I still do print off a copy and red ink it. I find the editing program much more efficient especially when I turn it over to my husband for his comments, which can be eradicated with a simple mouse click. Obviously, I still have a few issues with his input.

Writers cling to Mantra
There’s also the declaration by some—whether I am published or not, I will keep writing. Really! Seeing your name in the byline and your article in print is such a rush that anyone who is serious about their writing will pursue publication again and again. Those who say they don’t care will quit writing. It is too discouraging to have no affirmation. I find that I have to switch from my novel to writing other things. I need that affirmation. While I wait to find a home for it and see my name on a book cover, I will write other things to keep my creative juices fueled.
Getting published is hard work
People continue to say that getting published is not their goal because it is time consuming hard work. All the research and contact making, query letters, book proposals, networking. Whew! Makes me tired just writing the words. That, too, is a fearful thing.
Publishers don’t get my unique style
I love to hear I have a unique style that traditional publishers don’t understand. My question to them (again in my head) is if traditional publishers don’t understand it, what makes you think traditional readers will? Again, I see fear as the main culprit. That uniquely gifted writer may be afraid it is too late to learn proper grammar and correct spelling. He fears if he hired an editor to do that, his voice would be lost.
Fear is the biggest anchor weighing down the awesome potential in many writers.
To lose that anchor that still tries to weigh me down, I read blogs like this. I am involved in Word Weavers, a critique group that helps me hone my craft. That group gives off an encouraging vibe that fuels me on. When I write something every day, fear can’t whisper the words that make me feel worthless. Entering contests is my way of telling fear–nothing ventured, nothing gained. I take classes and attend webinars. Attending conferences boldly slaps fear in the face. There I discover my story idea has merit and my articles have value. Most importantly, I say I am a writer. The more I say it–print it right on a business card—the more I can sense the fear diminishing and the confidence coming forth. Like you, I battle with fear; but it is getting weaker, and the desire to continue to be published is getting stronger.
What excuses have you made because you were afraid of rejection? How do you stamp out that fear?

Lack of Degree is not Equal to Lack of Knowledge

Since my daughter Pam has gone back to college to finish her degree, she has sought my help with her schoolwork. I never went to college so what would I know, right? At least that is how I felt. What did I have to offer my straight A student?  My daughter finds writing essays as enjoyable as white water rafting in a tornado. It has been years since she’s been in college. Her first term paper stress level turned into a panic-attack. She focused on her shortcomings and the strengths of the younger students in her classes. Asking me for help was an act of desperation, I am sure. She has exceptional study habits. However, Pam has seen the value I place on critique groups and input from others. I have asked her for her feedback. Her observations were always spot on. My example gave her courage to ask for help.

What I taught my daughter

  • Vomiting on the page

The first thing I shared with her was the vomit concept. Writing out everything you want to say on the subject no matter how lame. Once it is on paper, keep what works, correct what is needed and delete the rest. Implementing this one thing reduced her anxiety levels.

After her paper was written, she asked me to proof-read it. Being the intelligent woman she is, she resisted my suggestions. I smiled and walked away. Walking away gave her time to consider all the red marks on the page without feeling the need to defend her work. How many times during a critique had I resisted the suggestion of others? I would forget that they were seeing my work with fresh eyes and didn’t have all the background information that I did. Her final drafts never cease to amaze me.

  • Unnecessary words

Continuing our journey together as wonderful, intelligent college student and writer mother, I have encouraged her to remove all unnecessary words such as that and just. I introduced her to the find and replace button on the computer toolbar to save time in scouring her work for these kinds of repetitive words. We discussed using stronger nouns and avoiding adverbs.

  • Deleting sentences

Her essays at first were strong in the middle with weak openings and flat endings. Crafting better essays is often as simple as deleting the first few sentences or paragraphs and the last bit of the essay.

  • Oral discussion

Most of her papers are on things I know nothing about, but knowing the subject matter proved unnecessary to helping her craft her words. We have taken to discussing weak areas. As she verbalizes her knowledge of the material, creating the new sentence becomes easier. Peppering her with questions brings clarity. Inspiration comes from our shared dialog.

  • Use fewer words

Less is more has become my mantra for her. It is so easy to repeat a thought three ways in the same paragraph when one well-plotted sentences says it all. Sharing with her that two adjective rule helped sharpen her skills. For example if the subject was horrible and terrible (which have the same meaning) delete one or choose a different word such as horrendous. You reduce the power of your sentence with too many adjectives.

What my daughter taught me

It is such a joy to encourage my daughter in the thing I love and not be intimidated by the lack of a degree. This opportunity has encouraged me that what I know has value, too. Taking the imitative to grow my writing knowledge by attending seminars, webinars and conferences, taking online classes and reading writing craft  books has equipped me with  tools I can pass on to others.

Pam continues to maintain a 4.0 GPA, and her writing skills continue to improve. Working with her forces me to take a more critical look at each word I write.  Her trust in me has eliminated my feelings of intimidation. I have shared her emotional battle of comparison and am reminded to refocus on my writing goals instead. I will continue to learn, share and grow in my writing journey, and that is an awesome feeling.

How has sharing your knowledge of the writing craft encouraged your own writing journey?

Revitalizing Writing Time

Many people don’t believe that writing is hard work.  How hard can sitting in front of a computer for hours be? Speaking from experience, I sometimes get up from a marathon of writing feeling like an arthritic 80 year old.  I have been working diligently on editing my novel to submit again. Deleting, rewording and revising take time. Let me not forget to mention my articles and short stories, blog posts and musing. My neck and back ache, my legs scream from sitting so long. My wrists remind me they have worked hard, and my eyes blur from staring at the computer screen.  Week after week of typing exacts a high toll.

My job as a receptionist requires the same sitting position and typing. Add answering the phone and remaining cheerful for clients for eight hours a day, and exhaustion is a given. I’m drained of creativity. My housework goes by the way side as I sit and channel surf. Housework and I are not best friends, but to quote Scotty from Star Trek. “Captain, she can’t take any more.”  In times like these I need a new strategy.

A new strategy

I am a morning writer.  That’s when I am most inspired. My mind is more alert, and my body rested. However, days of receptionist duties drain my creativity and my body screams for rest.  My new strategy required working smarter, taking breaks and rearranging my to-do list. This is not an original idea.  After reading the same theme in a few other blogs, I knew it was time to change my ways.

What did I do

I broke up my writing with breaks. I started Tuesday (I am off on Tuesday and Wednesday) by cleaning my downstairs and doing laundry.  (The upstairs is for another day.) I played music and got the job done—even reorganized my pantry. I spent time reading my Bible (something that can get set aside.) All that before I spent a few hours editing. After lunch and a walk with my hubby, I went back to editing—did six chapters. Then I checked my e-mail (all 46 of them) and Facebook before preparing dinner. My day ended reading the last few chapters of a book on my Kindle.

What a difference

I accomplished more Tuesday than I imagined possible. So I organized Wednesday the same way. I slept in until 7 am. (I usually arise at 4:30). That was not by choice, my hubby didn’t set the alarm.  Once up I called my son in Germany. Hubby and I had prayer time and went for a walk before it got too hot.  I made chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and weeded the flower beds. (Actually I pulled out all the dead plants from the drought.) After a shower I checked my email (another 46. I joined a few new writers groups. *sigh*). Then I edited another 4 chapters.  I checked my email again (another 23 *sigh*) before perusing Facebook and adding comments.

Then I drafted a blog post and an article before thinking about what to prepare for dinner. The nice thing is I didn’t feel exhausted. I had the energy to clean the kitchen and relax with my Kindle for the evening. After work the next two days, I set small goals to accomplish intermingled with a walk and time to put my feet up.  Again I accomplished more than I expected.

Doing physical activity between writing times is more productive and less draining than marathon writing.  I accomplished more writing than during non-stop writing times. The additional benefits are my house is cleaner and my mind clearer.  I also discovered I can write productively after 2 pm. What a revelation.

 

What do you do to make your writing time more productive?

Why Attend Writer’s Conferences

Every time I attend a writing conference I am reminded of
why I write. My encouragement to every writer, no matter their age or
experience, is to attend conferences.  There is never a time in your writing career
that you evolve out of writing conferences.  It is a place to hone your craft and network with other like-minded people.

Basic reasons for attending

You gain knowledge of the business of writing through workshops and classes which cover a variety of subjects. Basic techniques for writing non-fiction and fiction books are usually offered. Classes are available on subjects ranging from writing articles to creating a stellar proposal. The opportunity to have appointments with publishers, editors and agents to pitch your story or idea is worth the price of the conference. Many of these editors, publishers and agents will not take any unsolicited submissions. But if you meet them at a conference, your pitch may garner you an open invitation to submit.

Networking

Conferences are a networking opportunity to meet other writers and be encouraged.  One writer might direct you to a particular publisher who is seeking what you are writing. Established writers may give you personal introductions to the professionals you are seeking appointments with. Fledgling writers ask questions of other writers and get the encouragement and direction needed to turn their scribbles into successful submissions. You’ll discover writers who live in your area or alocal writer’s group to join.

Encouragement

This is the place where everyone speaks your language. No one rolls their eyes when you say you’ve written a novel.  You can practice your pitch with other
writers before you pitch it at your appointment.  Most conferences have critique groups of your peers to help you improve your writing. Unlike Aunt Sally who loves everything you write, they can tell you of any red flags in your writing that need fixing. That kind of encouragement makes the road to publication easier.

The keynote speakers remind writers of their calling. A writer’s revival if you will, that helps each writer refocus. Rekindling the confidence that has been chipped away by editors’ rejections and life happens interruptions.

Lifelong Friendships

Every time you attend a conference you make new friends and
reconnect with old ones.  Writer friends add dimension to your life and open doors.  Becoming friends with publishers that may not be interested in what you are writing now plants your name in their mind when the publisher’s needs change.  Acquisition Editors change publishing houses, agents may open their own company. Having made their acquaintance puts you in a good position to become a client.   Writer friends share the link to your new book or article on their blog, website or facebook page.  Let’s not forget they are there
when you feel stomped on by life and misunderstood in the industry.

Budget attending one conference a year

Serious writers know this is an important business expense. Decide on the conference you plan to attend early and put money aside in your budget for it.  If your finances are so tight you can’t fit the cost in a monthly budget, apply for scholarships or grants. Conferences will offer a limited number of scholarships, either full or partial to attendees. Some offer work scholarships for locals who help with the preconference preparation.  Do a Google search for writer’s grants or reference the Writer’s Market Guide and the Christian Writer’s Market Guide to pursue grant leads. The e-newsletter Funds for Writers has grant information
in every issue.

Locate a conference near you

The Sally Stuart Conference Guide http://stuartmarket.com/Conferences.aspx
is a great resource for finding the conference that is right for you.