Thursday, August 14, 2008

Plan for Disaster? Plan for Success!

Morning, all! Ruthy here.

So, hey, who among us DIDN’T set up some kind of disaster plan after the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina, or the ice storms that imperil half of these United States from December through March each year? If record-breaking hurricane and tornado seasons, blizzards, floods and ice storms haven’t spurred you to having a disaster plan, let me just ask this:


There. Got that out of my system. Phew. Feel better already.

I bet most of us have back-up batteries, first-aid kits, bottled water, generators, coolers, etc. After a massive ice storm hit Western New York in ’91, we put a plan into effect that included adding a wood-burning stove for heat, a gas stove (burners still work without electricity), extra propane for the outdoor grill, batteries for the radio and kerosene lamps. Over a week without heat or electricity in the dead of winter with a houseful of kids taught us to be better prepared. Now we’re a ‘go-to’ house if electricity fails.

Which is GREAT, depending on who drops in, LOL!

A wise person plans for disaster.

Why on earth don’t we plan for success with the same muster?

Missy wrote a great blog yesterday on self-affirmation. Let’s take that one step further. Expect your success and plan for it.

We Seekers had an online discussion about inventorying work as an unpub. Varying opinions weighed in, but the consensus was: Have a backup plan and be ready to utilize it the minute an editor waves her hand, shakes her head and says, “I’m not interested in that, we just contracted a story similar to that with Camy Tang, what else have you got?”

And that’s it in a nutshell, Cupcake. What else have you got?

Former New York Giants running back
Tiki Barber did a car commercial highlighting his big break, that an unexpected door opened when another player suffered an injury, allowing Tiki the chance to show his stuff. His story would have sported (pun intended) a different ending if he hadn’t been ready to man-up and hit the turf.

Do you have an inventory of work? Are you a one-book peddler? Not for nothing, it’s amazing to have finished one book, and kudos to all who’ve done that. Now get back on the horse and start writing some more.

Every business requires back-up inventory and if you listen to the stories abounding in publishing, you’ll find that many writers had several books done and polished, possibly in different genres, before landing that first contract.

“Different genres?” you say, horror-struck at the thought. “But Ruthy,” you protest, “I’m a mystery/romance/women’s fiction/inspirational/historical writer. Why on earth would I have books in varying genres? The very thought frightens the bejeebies out of me.”

Acclaimed author Karen White offered this advice, “Write what you like. When they buy it, focus on that genre while you get established.” Sage words from a woman who started off with paranormal historicals that melded into Southern contemporaries which morphed into beautifully crafted contemporary women’s fiction.

Let’s name drop:

Nora Roberts has enjoyed a stellar career writing romance, romantic suspense, paranormals, single titles and numerous blends of all the above. Conversely, as J. D. Robb she has produced the successful ‘In Death’ futuristic cop series.

Meg Cabot writes children’s books, wrote the Princess Diaries and others as young adult offerings, but also writes adult romance under both Meggin and Patricia Cabot.

Sherrilyn Kenyon writes paranormals for St. Martin’s press and produces historicals for Avon under the name Kinley MacGregor.

“Well, Ruthy,” say you, brows cast up, finger wagging in my direction, (stop that, by the way. It’s annoying. What are you, a first-grade teacher? Sheesh.) “Nora, Sherrilyn and Meg can do whatever they want to do. They’re icons.”

Listen up, young Grasshopper, and you too may be able to walk the ricepaper one day.

Golden Heart winner Donna MacMeans ran the unpubbed contest circuit a few years ago with her funny historical The Education of Mrs. Brimley. Due out soon is her paranormal, set in historical times, The Trouble With Moonlight.

Was she a big name author?


An icon?

Not yet.

Is this a series?


Is she good?


Plan your success. Work to reach daily, weekly and/or monthly goals. Yearly goals. Do not give up, do not pass ‘Go’. This ain’t no board game, sweetkins, and planning for success is just as important as planning for disaster because what on earth are you going to do at that upcoming conference when Suzy Editor says, “No, thanks, been there, done that, what else have you got?” if you’ve got no ‘Plan B’.

Like Kit said in Pretty Woman, “Work it, baby. Own it.”

Hey. What works for fictional hookers can work for us. In a slightly different way, of course.


Ausjenny said...

sounds like good advice.

Ok we dont have a disaster plan here. but then we haven't had the issues you mentioned. Cyclones are on the west and eastern coast long way away, no river near by. It doesn't snow here.
our biggest threat would be bush fires.
we do have a couple of touches and plenty of candles (that happened after a major blackout about 20 years ago) we do have a wood fire for heating in winter so we are set there. but if we lost electricity we would suffer.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

' Morning, Jenny!

Yeah, losing electric is a bummer. We've grown pretty dependent on flipping switches.

And as long as I can keep people warm and fed, I can live without lights. But my computer????

Egads, Jen! Immediate withdrawal symptoms and they're NOT PRETTY!


Hey, we're trying a triple berry cobbler for our guests this morning, topped with fresh whipped cream. I'm expecting Ann to stop in with coffee. In the meantime, help yourself to the juice and water bar at your left. And can someone bring chocolate? Any kind, I'm in deprivation mode.


Ausjenny said...

Um Ruth the timtams are chocolate covered cookies with caramel and chocolate in the center.
I have to take an antibiotic now so the water will be good and have to have with food so timtams work.

Oh I would struggle without the computer too and tv and radio.
I would have to play solitare the old fashioned way!!!!!!!!!!

Oh i have Chocolate candies too to share.
(at 10pm i shouldn't have more)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, Jen, I know tim tams! You've brought them before. Pass the package, honey, and yes, definitely, share the chocolates too. We'll help you keep that youthful figure.

All donations of chocolate are welcome in Seekerville and on the Island.


Ausjenny said...

Not sure about youthful but Im happy to share and boy they are yummy. the aussie tradition is bite the ends off and then drink your coffee through the center like a straw im told its really good but I dont drink coffee. Ok the swimming heats are over for the night so I think its time for bed. (will have to miss the hockey tonight)

Janet Dean said...

Ruthy, excellent advice to plan for success with an inventory of manuscripts! I wish I'd written more before I sold.

I wouldn't recommend writing the sequel before selling book one or writing in a genre you dislike, but once you sell, having other manuscripts to run past your editor is a huge plus. So listen to Ruthy's awesome wisdom. She'll never steer you wrong.

Thanks for the chocolate, Jenny! Where's Ann? I need coffee!


Cat Schield said...

Great post Ruthy! And the timing for me is right on. After chasing my dream of being published in short contemporary for a couple years now, I've decided to switch my energy to fantasy both urban and traditional. When you're targeting one line at one publisher and the turn around is slow on submissions, what's a girl to do but keep writing. I have 4 books gathering dust while they wait their turn to be submitted.

Besides, switching up genres is refreshing and fun.

Julie Lessman said...

Ahhhhhh ... I feel like I just got a fix! I ask you -- is there anything better than vintage Ruthy in a blog that offers such sage advice? Fabulous blog, my friend!

I especially liked the "Pretty Woman" analogy ... but then I always have had a reputation for being a little "fast."

Ahem ... and I can honestly say that I took Ruthy's advice and had a Plan B in place when I was trying to sell A Passion Most Pure. I have several chapters of a contemporary LI written because by gum, if historicals weren't going to put my name on the cover of a book, I figured contemporaries just might. Different genres? Uh, yeah ... although scaling my propensity for words from almost 500 pages down to 200 is, for me, akin to scaling Mt. Everest. But you do what you have to do, right, Ruthy?

A plan for success? You bet. Because you don't get published without a manuscript ... and you don't succeed without a plan.

Jessica said...

You're hilarious. I'm feeling guilty now for reading the blog instead of writing.
Ouch. :-)
Great post and absolutely true. It's so fun to explore different genres.

Missy Tippens said...

Hey, Jenny, you Aussies did great in swimming last night! I'm so tired from staying up to watch the Olympics!

Ruthy, great post, as usual! My biggest regret was not having something else in the same genre to go immediately after my first sale.

So those who haven't sold yet, keep writing away! Then you'll be like Mary and have 14 books to offer as soon as you get that first contract!

Mary, fill us in on the number you sold and how quickly. It's mind boggling.


Myra Johnson said...

Sage advice, as always, from Her Ruthiness.

This week I've been updating my one-sheets to take to ACFW. With several completed manuscripts, I usually put 2-3 blurbs on each sheet, grouped by genre. One for romance. Another for romantic women's fiction. I'll probably do a third for a series idea (one ms. complete, the next 2 in development).

Must watch the goodies today and save room for hubby's birthday dinner tonight!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Hey, guys, great job on the cobbler! Three berry combos are to die for.

And where is Ann with the coffee? Drat and double drat, I should have called her last night but I was polishing my halo at choir practice while trying to decide how I should kill off the bad guy...

Here, I've got a fresh urn of Hazelnut Toffee coffee. Amazing aroma. Help yourselves.

Cat! Good to see you. Cat and I have played the contemp contest circuit this past year and I first 'met' her through a contest. Strong, fun, concise writer. I'd read your stuff in a heartbeat, Sweetcheeks. And I don't know if it's good to venture far afield, but for those of us that take a loooooooong while to get to the finish line, ya do what ya gotta do to grow as an author, so why not have some fun while you do it?

And Missy alluded to Mary's strong start out of the gate for Barbour. A lot of that strength came from having the presence of mind to have a backlog of work ready (or nearly ready) for when her break came. The whole Tiki Barber (guy is waaaaaay cute) thing.

And Madeline Hunter (historicals, wonderful author) had a significant backlog of books ready when the first contract came and had back-to-back books issued over a 12 month period. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know if you find someone who likes your stuff, he/she might just like MORE of your stuff.

Jules! I thought of you when I plugged in the "Pretty Woman" quote... Jules is the Seeker who constantly assures me it's okay for Christian women to have a strong libido. Of course she's an Irish gal as well...

And Myra...

Yup, go prepared, Cupcake. This could be the day, the week, the year. Can't sell something you don't have, right? Not legally, anyhow.

Cat, if you're still around or stop back, tell us about your new venture. And I've noticed that hints of paranormal and/or fantasy are creeping into all kinds of genres... That's so much fun. Not enough to be re-classified, but just enough to have 'elements', like the fairy component in Andrea Wilder's first book "FEARLESS", published by Dorchester.


Beth said...

Hello from MN! Beth Jamison here, Ruthy's newly married daughter. Let's be honest, I'm really just here for the food and to "listen in" on your wonderful conversations. You ladies are fabulous and I really enjoy reading your posts/comments.

Ru, remind me to have a disaster plan when I buy a house in NY in a few months. That's right, the New Yorker is saying good-bye to the midwest and is heading home with her husband! Woo Hoo! :)

Dibs on the tim tams! I haven't had them in years - and using them as a straw is definitely the way to go. I prefer hot chocolate to coffee, so you might want to give that a try, Jenny. Although the first time I used a tim tam as a straw I was drinking port - I don't recommend that approach. :)

Cat Schield said...

Hi Ruthy,

The new project is a fantasy with romantic elements. I like the challenge of worldbuilding. Main character runs afoul of an evil magician that steals her memories. She spends the book trying to get them back.

After the confines of writing short contemporary, I needed something I could go wild with. It's heading into its first contest this month. I can't wait to see how people react.

I'm not much of a baker, so brought a box of Godiva to share. Only the best for my friends at Seekerville.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cat, that sounds like so much fun! Good job, kid. Hats off to you for daring to be different.

And Godiva works for me. Pass me a truffle, please?

Mary Connealy said...

Before I got published I wrote EVERYTHING.
Well, mainly romance but every era, every style.

I would say, fundamentally, they were all romantic comedies. But historical westerns, prairie romances, sweet contemporary romances, police procedurals, gothics(there were pirates and a ghost and an ever growing body count), the oft-commented-on-but-never-to-see-the-light-of-day Demon Possessed serial killer (yes, it was a romantic must trust me!)

So I'm with Ruthy, write whatever appeals to you, entertain yourself. If you can't get an editor to buy one of them you might as well be having fun.

Then, when the editor steps up, you'll not only have inventory to sell, but you will gladly say, "Oh, yes, please brand me. That is my favorite style."

Anonymous said...

Hi, Ruthie--

I loved your post---and how appropriate. I just decided on the topic I'll be presenting to the GRW (Georgia Romance Writers) meeting in November and it's along those very lines. The title is "Writing From the Heart and Getting Away With It"---basically how to sucessfully publish the book(s) of your heart.

My first book was a time travel set in Georgia during the Civil War and written in first person. Yeah, dumb, huh? But it sold really well and was a 2-time RITA finalist. Would I suggest somebody writing something like that? Only if I thought that writer could do it better than anybody else. Yep, that's the secret--your book needs to be extraordinarily good to break rules. Be honest with yourself. Read great books to find out how THOSE authors do what they do so well.

Hopefully I'll find other 'secrets' as I prepare my workshop or it will be very short!

-Karen White

Janet Dean said...

Happy birthday to Jack, Myra!


Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

LOL! Love it, Ruthy and so true!

Great, no WONDERFUL post!

Janet Dean said...

Beth, welcome! Best wishes on your recent marriage. We saw the lovely pictures. You were a beautiful bride. The entire family looked awesome.

Hurry to New York before the snow flies!


Ann said...

Sorry about the coffee. IRL I had to open the restaurant this AM so I missed a lot.

How about some fruit smoothies? That's more of a hot summer night thing. Strawberry, lemon, peach, mango, guava or pineapple and something else that makes pina colada flavor.

As for preparedness, here we have a 35,000-watt generator for when we used to milk cows. Had to run a lot of equipment with it. We have noticed if we fuel up the big tractor, put air in the generator tires and especially line it all up at the utility pole ... storms will pass us by.

If we leave it all in disarray, we'll get slammed.

I do have another project, same genre, same family, 30 years later. I wrote the Civil War story then went back and wrote about their parents, which was fun. That helped fill in some holes in teh first story.

I'm also writing a romantic short story. I think it will be short. About a farmer who needs to relax. Drawn from life :-)

My WV is "rikbajy." I think I went to school with him.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mare, you are the epitomy of Seeker inventory success and your hard work and perseverance are an inspiration to all of us.

And Karen, one of my favorite authors, thanks for stopping by! Yay you! And yes, I sing her praises fairly often, not only because I know she likes someone keeping her tiara polished but because she's not afraid to tackle various styles and emerge successful. That's a mark of brilliance or just plain old common sense.

SHAMELESS PLUG TIME: Karen's most recent release (which Beth nabbed for her honeymoon... Yes, I said honeymoon... She took a BOOK, but at least it was a romantic Karen White book, so maybe I shouldn't be concerned. What do you guys think????)

... sorry, Karen's most recent release "Memory of Water" is beautifully done. I was completely blown away by the intricate threads of emotion she wove throughout the story. Karen offers her readers a wonderful work of art, skillfully crafted and told.

And Pam, hello! Good to see you here and thanks for the kudos. They're always appreciated. (Your check is in the mail, btw...)

RWR had a well-done article in the current issue which was semi-related to this topic. Entitled "When Bad Things Happen to Good Writers", the article cites being ready for ANYTHING in this career and it's true. Our job to expect the unexpected.

Kerrilyn Sparks (great gal, former LCRW girl who judged for the Barclay and has been a Ruthy cheerleader, God bless her!) is a prime example of stretching for success. Her delightful initial historical didn't garner her the additional contracts she wanted and needed so when she was inspired (by OTC medication, no less. Amazing what a little Nyquil will do to your inhibitions, huh?) to write a vampire comedy, she sat down and did it. Now she's laughing all the way to the bank, and deservedly so.

If an editor brands you, or needs you branded, smile, nod and say 'Yes, Ma'am'. (If it's a guy, I'd probably opt for 'sir' instead.)

And then write your butt off for them.

But until then, don't be afraid to stretch, keeping your options open and your backlog cupboard stocked, because you never know which work of genius is the one that stirs an editor to the contract table. And I want you ready when you get there.


Ruth Logan Herne said...

Ann, we covered the coffee, girlfriend. We're Seekers...

We've got your back!

And ain't it the truth about preparedness for storms! The first one you shrug off as nothing packs you a wallop.

Thanks for stopping in after a long and busy day. You rock.

And that farmer story of yours? Have you heard the new Luke Bryan song "I'm a Country Man"?

Total babe magnet, those country boys. I'm just sayin'.



Melanie Dickerson said...

So not prepared should disaster strike. I'd be the last person to know, too, since I never watch the news, don't have cable, and don't even have a cell phone.

Well, Ruthy, I tried to take your (and Mary's) advice about writing lots of books so I'll have them once I get published. But as it turns out, I'm slow. But I do have three. I'm trying to put the finishing touches on my second medieval romance in case the first one sells and they want more, and then I have my fourth book (my first was a contemporary that needs way too much work, and is a missionary story and, puh-lease, nobody does missionary stories in the CBA!) which is "prairie love" as my hubby calls it--the genre of preference these days--pretty close to being all plotted out and should be a breeze to write, once I get started.

Oh, yeah, I think about success all the time, Ruthy.




Especially on days like today when I actually had to GO TO WORK!

Tina M. Russo said...

Sorry I am late to the party.

Great post.

You are so right on, Rufus.

Don't wait around, just keep on writing.

Anonymous said...

What works for fictional hookers can work for us.

Well, let me just pause to wipe my tears. Deeply moving statement.

Uh......just in case, I think I'll go with the Anonymous option Blogger so kindly offers.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Ruthy, Great post. I'm sure you're already in bed so hope you will read this in the morning.

We do have a disaster plan. I keep supplies, water, gas, etc in the motorhome. well, to be truthful, its more laziness than preparedness. I just don't get around to emptying it. ha ha

And I am prepared with several manuscripts. Now that isn't planned either. I just keep writing and haven't sold any of them yet. sigh. But I'm keeping positive thoughts that one day they will see print and binding and will sit on a bookstand instead of my shelf. smile

Is there any chocolate left? I'm staying up much too late watching Olympics. I know what you're saying Missy. I can't bring myself to miss them after all the work these young kids went to.

Well we are in our own Olympics. Happy writing.

Donna MacMeans said...

A little birdie told me ya'll were having a great discussion over here on strategies for success so I thought I'd hop over.

Excellent post Seekers!

One thing you might not know is that I wrote two contemporary romantic suspense novels before I tackled The Education of Mrs. Brimley, my first historical. One of those was published recently under the name Donna Richards (Samhain). The thing about changing genres is it really helps to nail your voice. I write humorous (which doesn't necessarily go with suspense BTW)but I honestly wasn't aware of that until I did the historical. If you know the strengths of your voice - or your brand - it makes it much easier to pitch on the fly when those opportunities open up.

BTW, My Victorian invisible woman (turns invisible in moonlight, can't help it, just happens) is out now. It's a fun read.

Good Luck with those submissions. Remember you can't sell unless you submit!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Melanie, hey, girl!

Kid, three books complete AND doing notably well in contests is huge. A great beginning. And look at you, braving a new contemporary. You go, girl! Who said Melanie is shy? She's a writin' tiger, that's what she is.

And Tina, no party's complete until you've stopped in. I knew you'd be late. Dratted gainful employment.

And Anonymous, I'm glad I brought a tear to your eye, darlin'...

Good writing appeals to all the emotions and senses. Knowing my Pretty Woman analogy made you all ver klempt, well... Let's just say I'm with you, Sistah! :)

And Sandra, a woman brave enough to critique with me over the years! Yes, you've got inventory, we can empathize on that one. But no sighing. We're looking at this from a positive angle... We've got INVENTORY! Yay! Experience! A wealth of knowledge! Pass the chocolate, now!


Hooray for you stopping in to see us! I first came across your work in the Barclay contest. Andrea Wilder called to tell me about this great entry that had her in stitches the whole time. (We were judging different categories). She raved about The Education of Mrs. Brimley to the point of madness. I finally had to medicate her over the phone to calm her down...

Okay, SLIGHT exaggeration, but we followed that book through contests and into the print industry like proud parents. So happy for your success, m'dear. Well deserved and earned.

I saw the Samhain offering on your website but wasn't sure how that book fit into the whole scheme of things so I didn't mention it just in case it was a clandestine leftover from a former lifetime.
Romantic suspense, huh? I can totally see your humor in suspense, a kind of Remington Steele twist. How funny was that show?

Thanks for stopping by, giving me some credibility. ;) I can always use that around here. These Seeker women are a tough bunch.


Cheryl Wyatt said...

And remember Y2K? LOL!

I'll bet EVERYONE had their stuff backed up in Dec 1999. LOL!

Great post...