Hit Me Baby, One More Time: The Art of Rejection

You think the last rejection you got was bad? Well, yeah, it probably was.

Rejection sucks no matter how you think about it. Some people put a positive spin on it, declaring each rejection is one step closer to a yes. And they’re right.

Other might look at rejection as spirit crushing. And yeah, they’re right too.

Let’s face it, no one likes being told their work doesn’t measure up or in publisher/agent speak, it’s not a good fit, whatever that means. It hurts. At the very least it gives one pause, evaluating their career choice. Which I honestly have to say is not the brightest, wealthiest, worthwhile path one could take.

I bet no one has ever told a doctor, that kidney you're putting in me...well, it doesn't quite fit. We're going to pass on the transplant. But good luck on your future endeavors.

Throughout the writer’s career rejection is a constant. Even the bestsellers get rejected. As an added bonus, once a book hits the shelves, readers start to review it. 1-star ratings appear.

How does a writer face so much rejection and not throw up their arms, screaming, “I quit!”?

Surprisingly a number of writers do quit. Finding the price far too much. Others, like me and you, continue with our delusions. Mind you, our delusions might not be all that deluded after all. Every rejection is one step closer to a yes. Every review, as painful as it might be, means a reader found reason enough to comment.

Recently I managed to get reviewed and rejected within an hour of each other. I considered quitting, giving up on my bestseller dream. Then I remembered why I do this. It isn’t for the fame, for the money, for the yes. It’s for the words on the page. The stories in my head. I write because it gives me pleasure. It makes me happy.

That’s the true art of rejection. Facing it. Accepting. And finally moving on.

How do you deal with rejection? Or poor reviews? What steps do you take to get over it?

Conference Workshop Preview: 25 Things I’ve Learned Going from Pre-Published to Multi-Published

Since I typed the END to my first manuscript to the release of my 10th traditionally published book on August 15th
(The Assassin’s Kiss,if you’re interested) I’ve learned so much about the business and industry we’re in. Some good. assassins_kissSome bad.

In September at the RMFW Conference I’ll be facilitating a workshop on the things I’ve learned, but in the meantime, I’ll spill some BIG INDUSTRY SECRETS.

Like I know any.

But I do know the struggle--the ups and downs, the roller coaster of signing contracts, marketing, failing and getting back up.

If you didn’t already know, I hold a record of specific distinction around town. I amassed over 1,000 rejections before I sold my first book.

So trust me when I declare, this business is all about patience. That’s my greatest advice. The slow and steady wins this race. Write. Work hard. Submit. Grin and bear each rejection. And celebrate the hell out of each victory.

25 Things I’ve Learned Going from Pre-Published to Multi-Published

Friday, Sept 9th 4-4:50pm Durango Room

Last workshop of the day! Margaritas welcome and very encouraged.

Do you have any burning questions about going from pre-pubbed to multi? Or better yet, any advice for the journey you’d give a new writer?

BrownCoats, Scooby Gangs, & Muggles Unite

Do you wonder what happened after your favorite character’s happily or not so happily ever after? If you’re like me, which I hope you aren’t because two of us in this world would be dangerous, this question keeps you awake at night.

What happened to Inara and Mal? Did they ever…bow, chicka, waaaa, waaaa. Will I ever find out what happened to Zoe after Wash’s death? And River, what happens to River? What was their next adventure, and why the hell did FOX ruin everything by cancelling the show into the first season? I will forever hold a grudge.

Yes, I’m obsessed with Firefly. I recently rewatched it, taking careful notes of things the story didn’t answer. Now you’re probably asking yourself, what do I care about Julie’s madness? That or, what’s the meaning of life? (I’d give you the answer, but I’d have to kill you right after).

So here’s why you, as a writer, should care about my crazy. My obsession is a great example of leaving your readers wanting more versus giving the reader what they crave, as in answers. So are you a Tale Tease? (I call dibs on the copyright). Do you leave your readers wanting more? Or do you resolve any lingering questions?

I’m not sure there is a right or wrong way. For me, as a reader, I want to know it all. As an author, I like the mystery element. Though one must make sure to resolve the main plot points.

What say you?

Even a Monkey Can Write a Bestseller: An Easy Formula

Write Me!
Write Me!

Did that headline get your attention? Did you instant click in to read the rest of the post? Or did you scoff, throwing your hands in the air, saying “there is no formula to a bestseller.”

When I read the PW Weekly article, What Makes a Bestseller? Two SMP Authors Say They Know the Formula. I opted for number 2. Not literary, you weirdo.

Then I read more. Could it be true? It looks like they did the research, reading and studying over 20,000 manuscripts.

The formula (according to the research provided in the PW article):

  • Three acts
  • Everyday language
  • Show don’t tell

I bet you read the above, and thought, like I did, crap. I already know this. It’s the advice of every writing instructor. Of every workshop. Of every writer I know. Find me a writer that doesn’t believe in everyday language, and I’ll show you a reader who fades into obscurity. Sure, the article uses bigger words and is written by people who’ve actually hit the bestseller list by using that formula, but the content is the same.

This is nothing new to us.

So why aren’t I a bestseller?

Because NOT every book can be, whether it follows this formula or not. There is something to be said for luck in our business. It’s who you know, and when. So let me add to this formula, two things. Write more. And know the players. Be they agents, editors, or book reviewers. Know the game as well. Know how to publish.

See you on the bestseller list. Remember who gave you the formula to get there. No, it was me. Not the PW article. Dang it!

Do you have other means of hitting the lists?

Feeling Cozy: Avoiding F-Bombs & You

I’m a big fan of f-words. Though I try to limit the number of them, both in my books as well as in real life. F-words Funny gorilla with red sunglasses celebrating a party by blowing a striped hornhave power. Even if you don’t use them, you must understand the beauty of a great insult. Or a stream of f-words blurted when one stubs a toe.

I recently judged a contest, and was surprised to see the number of writers who agreed with the use of the f word. Oddly I found myself turned off by a few that didn't fit the tone or seemed over the top. Yes, me. Does that mean one shouldn’t use the f-bomb for fear of turning off a reader? Heck no.

F-bomb away.

But know that words have power.

Take said for an example. Writers use it to dialogue tag for reason. Invisibility. Use a word too much and it loses its power.

That being said, I’ve recently started writing a cozy mystery my agent requested. I wasn’t sure I could do it. Wasn’t sure I had a voice for it. Turns out the cozy fits my style quite nicely. I get to research, which I love, on top of that, my cozy is about whiskey, so I also get to drink.

I’ve found it easy enough to avoid the f-bomb, as well as a few other choice words I would normally use. Where I’m coming into trouble, and I’d love your advice, is in toning down the snark. I’m naturally snarky, and it comes through, perhaps too much, in my narratives. Though it works for my previous characters. Not this one though.

How do you keep yourself out of your words? And what’s the acceptable amount of f-bombs dropped in a novel?

 

 

 

Character Flaws: Heil Hydra

***Before I get into my post, I wanted to acknowledge the lives lost on Sunday. My heart breaks for Orlando. 

 

For those who aren’t nerds like myself, you might not be aware of the recent issues surrounding the Captain America

Star vector shape

comic. Apparently Captain America is a double agent. He’s a hydra operative. Hydra are the bad guys, Nazi really. Good ole Captain’s sudden outing as part of Hydra has the nerd community up in pale arms (you know, because we never walk in the daylight, sort of like vampires but without the sparkle).

Now don’t stop reading. This isn’t a commentary on the Captain America clusterf***k. I want to discuss responsible character actions. As the creators of characters, we have a responsibility to our readers. Heck, JK Rowlings admitted she shouldn’t have killed Harry off.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t kill off your characters. I’m merely saying, if you decide a character needs to die, make sure it’s true to the story. That’s what has people angry. This goes against EVERYTHING Captain America is, was or will be.

I can think of a million (okay, maybe a few less) ways to write one’s self out of the Captain America controversy. He could be a triple agent for example. Really a good guy all along. Yet if you kill off a character, like Harry, you’re pretty much screwed for the next book.

If you feel like being done with a character or storyline, I beg of you, give it a happy ending. My greatest reader fear is Robert Crais will kill off Elvis or Joe (if this is a shared fear, facebook Robert Crais and beg or bribe him not to do it). I also worry about Harlan Coben’s  (@HarlanCoben)Win character (the finest example of loving an anti-hero).

I’m a wimp who can’t take it when my fictional heroes die.

Everyone should live happily ever after, damn it.

And yes, my nickname is Pollyanna.

 

How do you feel about the controversy surrounding Captain America? And for you non-nerds who actually see sunlight, what say you about killing off a character to end a series?

Yee Shall Not Judge or Should Yee?

Recently I’ve struggled with writing, publishing and the whole caboodle (yes, caboodle is an actual word though it shouldn’t be). I am not complaining, not in the least. No really. I swear

My issue is a matter of self-doubt. Which is my problem and mine alone. Or so I tell myself when caught whining to uninterested family members or friends. Nobody cares about how hard it is to publish or gain new readers. How the deck seems stacked against you. That is, nobody but your fellow tribe members suffering similar self-doubts and annoyances.

I love you guys!

While I am not turning this into a whine-a-thon (yes, again an actual word according to word), I wanted to preface my post with the above.

My post is about judging. Not being judgey (Caught me. Not a real word, but a good one that should be). I’ve long judged contests for various organizations. Every time I’m asked it brings up this issue of self-doubt. Who am I to say if a submission is good? Or more importantly, what it is about said submission that makes it worthy of a high score?

Yes, I’ve gotten books published. People have read them. Some liked them. Some didn’t. But I’m pretty much a hack. It was a fluke. 9 times over. I won’t ever see another word in print…

See how self-doubt derails me? It makes me feel unworthy of making simple contest judgments.

And they are simple. It’s about engaging me as a reader, not as a writer. The writer in me has a list of do’s and do nots. A bunch of reasons for every writerly action, and the consequence of opening a scene with the weather. But the reader in me doesn’t. I like certain styles more than others, sure. But any voice can engage me. Every well crafted scene can make me gasp in surprise.

I might have points to make for the writer, things I’ve experienced in my own publishing journey, but those are asides. If a writer opens with the weather, and makes me a believer in the reason for it, I, as a reader will be just fine.

Do you judge contests? If so, do you feel differently? What about critiquing? Do you read as a writer or reader? And hell, let’s open this up to self-doubt. What’s your greatest downfall when it comes to self-doubt?

Is My Middle Looking a Little Fat?

Bite me, for any of you who answered with an automatic yes.

Scruffy middle aged man in his underwear with flowers and candy for Valentines Day, puckering up for a kiss. Isolated on white.

To those who didn’t, whom I still like, yes, I’m talking about that soggy middle we all have to suffer through at some time in our careers. Until this book, the damn one I’m currently trudging through, I didn’t believe those who whined about their middles.

Then the middle…came and look at me now….

So I was whining, I mean, discussing this phenomenon on facebook the other day (yes, instead of writing) and I had a few interesting ideas for how to lose the baby fat:

1)  Kill someone or something. Get blood on the page, and a lot of it.

Aside from the obvious, that writers are a bloodthirst lot, this idea does indeed have merit. Action, whatever it is, engages the reader. Especially if who you choose to kill is someone already important to the reader. Honestly, there is nothing worse than two characters doing nothing. And since my characters have had lots of sex already, I might as well kill someone. Watch out, sidekick best friend.

2)  Go off to an exotic port of call.

I’m talking metaphorical, unless you’re writing the next version of The Love Boat. In other words, take the characters out of the familiar and drop them somewhere you as a writer haven’t gone. I tend to get stuck in one type of story, usually with a murder spree, which isn’t going to work in this contemporary romance, so I need to push my edges, find out what else I have up my sleeve. Oddly enough, it’s fluffy bunny and your card…(This would be where you go oooohhhh and ahhhhhh).

3)  Drink whiskey.

This happens to be my favorite option. However, I will admit, it doesn’t help you firm up that middle. It just makes it easier to stay on your diet of crappy words. Okay, scratch this one. It’s a Band-Aid, not a real fix.

4)  Step back and evaluate.

It’s about the middle when a weird thing happens to me. For a brief moment, the haze of delusion lifts and I see my writing for what it is. Junk. I’m a terrible writer. Just look at all those split infinitives and dangling modifiers. Who wrote this crap…? Oh, right. It was me. I wonder if there are still any openings for professional mourners available? I have a feeling self-doubt and fear are driving my middle depression. Therefore, I must take a step back, and evaluate the actual story. Is it as bad as I think? Probably not. Have I taken a poor turn in plot? Perhaps. Now what do I need to do to fix it? By taking a realistic look at what needs to be done, I help lift myself from the middle and toss back on my rose-colored glasses (the special ones that say I’m an okay writer).

5)  Stop being a wussy and write.

This is my best practice. Throw it on the page. It might not make the revisions, but the only way out of the middle is to write until you hit the end.

 

How do you avoid the middle sag? Word crunches? I’d love to hear your ideas.

The Art of Writing Bad

Some might say I’m the perfect candidate to write about writing bad. Which is just mean. The rest of you are most likely judging me for my grammar. And not silently either. Yes, I said writing bad instead of badly. But I have a reason for my abuse of the English language.

Other than those I normally use, which is…did not, you big dummy.

Anyway, I am talking about the art of writing a bad guy. A violent villain. Any antagonist worthy of Hannibal Lector. Admit it, that movie totally creeped you out. But it wasn’t about Hannibal, but how he was portrayed by Anthony Hopkins. The tiny characteristics that made your skin crawl. The fava beans line, so perfectly delivered that even now, whenever you have a bottle of chianti, you have to say the line.

How does one incorporate these nuances in a bad guy? (Please note, my use of guy/he is in the universal sense. Women can be bad guys too. So no emails).

The perfect bad guy.
The perfect bad guy.

First, make sure he has just as a compelling reason for his actions as your protagonist. Nothing worse than a mad scientist with no reason for being angry. Even if you don’t use this reasoning, make sure you know what drives him. What drives him will influence his every action, down to choice of weapon. Say your bad guy is a woman scorned who is after revenge on her lover. Chances are she will either poison him or choose an up close and personal weapon (i.e., icepick).

Next, every action must be viewed via that motive and background. A mad scientist likely went to university, so the use of slag would be minimal. Bigger 50-cent words. Dresses with a little more care or dresses like a complete slob. Either way, the decision is based on his background and motives.

Mix in real evil. The kind of evil that makes you cringe. Make them the worst they can be, based on their motives and background.

And finally, give them a satisfactory ending. Think terminator. Arnold’s sinking into the smelting pot, one mechanical arm holding the chain. Just don’t kill them, make it count. Give their ending the same power you give your protagonist. The only difference between the antagonist and the protagonist is perspective. You owe your good bad guy that much.

Any other advice for writing bad guys? Scars are always a nice touch. One over the eye.

Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About Your Readers

As a writer, we research. It’s what we do. We research settings. Disorders. Things that go bump in the night. Urban and suburban legends and the occasional garden gnome murder spree. We know what the height of fashion was in 1723 and who wore it best. We know our guns. Our poisons. And the quickest way to a man’s heart, which is usually a knife and not food as we’ve always heard.

We KNOW this because we’ve researched it.

Okay, maybe not the last thing, but the rest of it.

So what do you know about the/your reader?

The being a general reader in your genre, and then more importantly, the reader of your books. How old are they? What do they do for a living? How do you gain more of people like them and keep those you have?

Now many authors might not care, but not you, you smart and very attractive author. You know that the reader is the very reason you publish books. Without him or her, you might as well daydream, and avoid those pesky plot holes and dialogue tags.

The best way to research who your reader is and where to find them is by asking your current ones. I have a survey on my monthly newsletter. I can change it depending on what sort of marketing I’ll be doing and what burning questions I have about my readers. This works two-fold, I get promotional insight and I also invite my readers to engage with me.

It shows that I am genuinely interested in them. In who they are and how we can interact. Basically, I am totally nosy. If you aren’t or you don’t have this kind of time, which is fine as you can still gain the insights you need, I suggest sticking with the more generic version of demographic stats each genre has on the reader. Just google Romance reader statics and you’ll find plenty of info.

We have the how, but what about the why? How does knowing what platform a reader prefers will sell more of my books? If you’re self-published the answer might be apparent, publish to that platform. If you’re traditionally published, it’s a little harder to see.

According to Nielsen data, Amazon holds a 61% share of the ereader market. Now you as an author don’t have much say in where or the platform your publisher chooses. But you can use this information to limit your marketing scope. Why not try placing ads targeted to your reader demographics on a Kindle? I don’t suggest it though, as another stat comes into play. Most people aren’t reading on the ereader itself, but using an app on a mobile device. Wasted ad dollars, all found out because of reader research!

See, I saved you a few bucks right there.

I hope you see the value of reader research and will become a fellow stats geek with me, as I hate to geek out alone.

What type of reader research do you do? How have you used it in the past? I have plenty of ideas, so let’s talk readers!