Friday, December 16, 2011

Seekerville Guest Blogger Janet Lee Barton: Learning to be Flexible

Myra here. Please welcome my friend and former Oklahoma compatriot, Janet Lee Barton! I was blessed to have the chance to get to know Janet through cross-visits of our Oklahoma ACFW chapters. She’s a prolific author, a wise mentor, and an all-around lovely lady.

Today Janet brings her expertise to bear on one absolutely essential trait of a successful writer: learning to be flexible. Janet, take it away!


Janet Lee Barton
Oh, you may be finished with the manuscript—as it is right now.  You may have gone over it multiple times—had critique partners, family and/or friends read through it several times, too. Then you send it out. But it still doesn't mean you're finished.

You may have an agent or publisher interested in it, and even get an offer of representation or better yet, a contract!  But you still aren't finished.  In fact, you've only just begun.  And now is the time to learn to be flexible. In this instance and according to my dictionary, it means to be "ready and able to change so as to adapt to different circumstances or conditions."

For instance, you may be asked to change the title of your book. I can hear several gasps from here.  I've actually heard writers say they'll never change their title. But really, one should never to get too attached to a title—and especially not so much that you'd refuse to change it.  If you are in this for the long haul the chances of you needing to change a title are quite high.  But it is not worth putting your career on the line for, nor is it worth giving your editor the idea that you might be hard to work with. 

So make that change and get ready for the next one--because there will be more. Believe me—I know. You might be asked to change a scene, take out that favorite paragraph—the one you worked days to get just right. Or maybe you're asked to take out a plot line—or add a new one—what can possibly be better than the one you've been asked to take out? Or you might be asked to take out a secondary character you love, or all of the above. Yes, I can see that isn't what you want to hear.  None of us do. But it can and does happen.

Yes, sometimes you can ask to keep something in just as it is. But most times you need to think about it first. If the requested change is something you know your character would not do, or something you truly feel strongly about, you can say so—nicely of course. Then you and your editor might need to talk things through to get to a mutually satisfying decision. It can be done.

Learn what to stand firm on and what to give way on.  The most important thing to remember is that your editor wants to help you make your story the best it can be.  Sometimes your ideas on how to go about that differ, but you should always be flexible enough to listen to what your editor is saying, then think about it—really think about it—and see if the editor's idea might make for a better book.  I've found that most times they do, if we are flexible enough to take their ideas to heart and work with them. 

Janet Lee Barton was born in New Mexico and has lived all over the South. She and her husband now call Oklahoma home. She writes both Historical and Contemporary romance, and loves writing about faith, families, friends and, of course, falling in love. Visit her at

Janet’s current releases:

Making Memories

When Amanda Forrester moves to Oklahoma City to escape her matchmaking family, she has no intention of falling in love. But when neighbor Josh Randall befriends her, she finds not falling love is easier said than done. But what if a romance ruined friendship?

When Amanda’s family insists she come home for Christmas, Josh offers to go along to keep them from setting her up with every single man they know. He isn’t about to let Amanda fall prey to some back-home Romeo. Should he tell her how he feels?

Will this Christmas be their first for making memories?

This e-book is a WhiteRose Publishing reprint/re-edit of a Christmas novella and is currently available at all the online bookstores, just in time for Christmas! Order for your Kindle here, or for your Nook here. Also available at here.

I'd Sooner Have Love

Unable to give her husband children, Faith Anderson watched his love change to disappointment before he died in a riding accident. She's determined never to marry again, and instead plans to build a new life in Guthrie, Oklahoma, with thousands of other settlers who have rushed to the area.

But that was before she met Gabe Logan...

If the past were different, Gabe and Faith would sooner have love. But now they must decide: will they let fear of disappointment and rejection keep them from accepting the love God has placed in their paths?

Leave a comment on today’s post to be entered in a drawing for a copy of I’d Sooner Have Love.


Carol Moncado said...

Flexible is the story of my life these days.

Got a rejection recently*, but something s/he said made me at least think about the possibility of changing up a few things. Haven't decided yet whether to do so or not but I'm thinking about it :).

And with the holidays in full swing flexibility is totally the name of the game... We've already had one Christmas rescheduled and it would surprise me if that's the only one [or the only time for that one]...

I'd love to be entered!!!

carolmoncado at gmail dot com

*As rejections go, it was a good one :). S/he had nice things to say about my writing but a couple issues with a plot choice or two :D. I can live with that.

Lourdes said...

So interesting, I for one am very grateful for flexibilty if it keeps producing great books.

Thank you and thank you for the opportunity to win.


Vince said...

Hi Janet:

My blog quote of the day on Tuesday was:

“Stories written in stone are unlikely to find a home.”

That would work for today’s post. : )

I’m going to download “Making Memories” tomorrow. The price is right and I can read it before Christmas. I really enjoy Christmas novellas. I also want to read a story set in OKC. I’m in Tulsa and am in Myra’s old ACFW club. Are you going to come see us next year?


Melissa Jagears said...

I just read a MS for THE LAST TIME and now I am sending it out. But I actually, pretty please, want it to take a long time (if it isn't a rejections-which yeah, as odds go it will be) because frankly, my eyes are crossing on the story and I don't want to read it again for a good long bit!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Good Morning Janet,

Thanks for joining us in Seekerville and amen to what you said about getting a contract is just the beginning of the need to be flexible. We can all relate to that.

Carol, If the editor bothered to write suggestions, that is called a "good rejection" and several of us have been published because we followed up and made the suggested changes and resent the manuscript.

Melissa, I had a good laugh from your comment. I can so relate to your dilemma.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Flexible is clutch. Crucial. And I believe my editors know their line better than anyone, so if they want adjustments, Ruthy smiles, nods and says, "You got 'em..."

Because I worked for Greeks for eleven years.

Are ya' kiddin' me?

Working with editors who want the best for their line, their bosses, their authors????

Oh my stars, that's a Christmas present gift-wrapped by professionals and handed out with a paycheck attached.

How on Earth could that ever be bad?

I'm dropping off a HUGE monkey bread type breakfast pan of goodness.

Warm. Sticky. Sweet. Wet-naps are on the side, only around here they're really baby wipes.

They smell like baby powder. How can anyone not love baby powder scent???

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Janet! Thanks for the right-on post! I've never had my original title accepted. :-) My editors have asked for big and small changes, but I've found, like you, that their suggestions made for a stronger book.

The photos in your post made me realize I need to stretch my muscles too. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Carol M, I'm sorry about the rejection, but when an editor takes the time to give feedback, be encouraged! S/he had to see a lot of good in your writing to want to help you. That's a huge compliment!!


Carol Moncado said...

Sandra and Janet -

Believe me, I took it as a good rejection :D. It's the first one where I've gotten anything at all other than 'if you don't hear from us in x days we're not interested'.

Unfortunately, the plot point s/he had the biggest problem with is a key one, if not THE key one that 90% of the rest of the MS hinges on; without it, there's really no book :/. I have some ideas to possibly make it more believable to her/him, but I'm kind of of the mind to let it continue making rounds and if I keep hearing that then make the changes [which is really more adding in more rationale - but can't make it overkill either].

In the meantime... gotta finish Finding Mr. Write so I can send it out ;).

Andrea Strong said...

I think flexibility, coupled with a thick skin, will be key for me when I get to that point in my career.

I'm a pretty flexible person most of the time...I think.

Thanks, Janet, for the great post. And I definitely want in for the drawing. Just reading the blurb made me want to cry for your heroine.

andeemarie95 at gmail dot com

Jeanne T said...

Such a great post, Janet. At the stage of the "writing game" I'm at, I see a need to be teachable (still in process the first draft of my first ever story). I've been blessed with a wonderful mentor/critique partner who's helping me tons. She's already warned me to not hold too tightly to my title. I'm hoping that, as I continue on the writing journey that I will not hold too tightly to anything, except my desire to write a great story. :)

Carol, so exciting that you got feedback on your "good rejection." I hope all goes well as you make decisions about what to do with it. Sounds like you have a good plan. :)

Jodi Janz said...

I, for one, am thankful my title will be changed. I don't like the ones I come up with.
I know flexibility is a challenge in the future. If I get to the point of an editor at a publishing company I want to be easy to work with. Yet how do you balance that with a love for your own story and characters?
Thanks for the tips Janet. I will add them to my good advice file.

Would love to be entered for the draw of Janet's book. It sounds very interesting. jodi(dot)janz(at)gmail(dot)com

karenk said...

good morning.

enjoyed today's posting very much.

thanks for the chance to read a novel from janet :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Melanie Dickerson said...

So true, Janet! Great post.

My publisher changed the titles to both of my published books, so I haven't even given my latest three a title! I'm not that good with titles anyway, so I'll just let the creative people who know the market and do this all the time decide on titles! (Do I get a gold star for being flexible?)

Being flexible is really hard sometimes, but usually, if you can have the right perspective, it's not that hard, because you realize that what the editor is suggesting will make your book better and stronger. Sometimes it's just a matter of wanting the book to be the best it can possibly be. And sometimes it's a matter of trusting your editor, or learning to see your story or character a different way.

But there are times, as you said, when it's okay to say, I don't agree and here's why. It is your name that's on the cover of the book, after all.

Good points, Janet! God bless!

Jan Drexler said...

Hi Janet!

We should form a "Janet" club around here, don't you think? Between the Janet's disguised as Jan's (like yours truly) and the real ones, we could have some fun get togethers :)

Flexible - of course! I agree with Ruthy - when you're dealing with experts who have tons more experience than you have, you should jump at the opportunity to use their advice to make your book better...which is why I'm still in the middle of revisions. As I work through the editor's suggestions, I can see the book coming together in ways I hadn't thought of before. I love it!

Both of the books listed at the bottom of your post look wonderful - I'd love to win "I'd Sooner Have Love" (great play on words, too!), and I'll be heading over to Amazon to pick up a copy of your Christmas story.

Thanks for stopping by!

Donna said...

Thank you for sharing this with us today! It's a good thing to keep in mind AS we write, so we don't get too attached to any of our ideas (or characters).

I purchased Making Memories and can't wait to read it. My favorite stories are friendships that turn into love!

Please enter me for the drawing.

Janet Lee Barton said...

Thank you all for the great welcome and stopping by and leaving a comment!

Carol, if it's still making rounds, you might want to see what the other feedback is and then make your decision. Then take all the comments to heart and see what you can come up with. Best wishes for you!

Vince, thanks for downloading Making Memories! Hope you enjoy it! I would love to get over to Tulsa this year.

Melissa--I hope you get great news on that proposal. I think we can all relate to eyes crossing over a story. :)

Sandra thanks for the welcome.

Ruth, thanks for the comments and the monkey bread. I love it!

And Janet (Dean), I think we have Myra to thank for those pictures. Reminded my of how much I need to exercise, too. But they sure do fit, don't they? :)

Thanks Lourdes, Andrea, Jeanne, Jodi, Karen, Melanie and Jan for your comments! Andrea and Jeanne, keep that good attitude! Karen and Melanie, there has been a time or two, I've wished one of my title's had been changed. :)

Thanks again for all your comments!

Janet Lee Barton said...

Thanks for your comments, Donna! And thank those of you who've downloaded Making Memories! I hope you enjoy it!

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

Nice to see you here and loved the post, Janet It's so timely as I make suggested changes from a critique on a WIP. I'm thankful for the fresh pair of eyes from a published writer.I see what needs to be done. But hate to tinker with scenes that I've revised so many times and it's painful to cut others. This revising is never ending. Thanks for the good advice on being flexible and following up on suggested changes.

Diane Ashley said...

Hey Janet, Great post. Maintaining a professional distance from our work is often difficult--but it's essential. As others have mentioned in their comments, editors and publishers are fresh eyes and know the market. I try to keep that in mind as I work on edits because I want my stories to be read and enjoyed by as many as possible. Have a great weekend and a Merry Christmas! (loves_the_c (at) yahoo (dot) com)

Martha W. Rogers said...

If we're not flexible, we'll break under pressure. That's what my grandmother always told me. After so many years of rejection, the contracts are nice, but that requires flexibility too. Can't get away from it. Love your writing, Janet.

Julie Lessman said...

JANET!!! WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE -- it's GREAT to have you here today, and thanks to Myra for giving us the opportunity to learn one of the most VALUABLE lessons an author can learn. Just wish I had read this blog before my first book sold.

You said: "In fact, you've only just begun."

Oh, AMEN TO THAT!! There's just something about signing that contract that fills one with warm air, making us believe we "arrived" as a professional writer. They bought the story because they loved it, so surely they wouldn't want to change anything about it, right???

Every new author needs to change out of their pajamas and stop dreaming because change IS a given, and in most cases that's MAJOR change.

Your advice regarding the affection for one's title is SO dead-on. I remember praying with my prayer partners for a solid year after I sold, asking God to let me keep my titles because they were actual Scripture titles (and a Christian publisher wouldn't dare fool with Scripture, would they???) that were not only the major theme of the plot, but Scriptures that I wove deeply into each book. My agent tried to warn me that title change about 85% of the time, but I just figured I'd be in the 15%.

WRONG!!! Cried for several days after they changed my titles and with the first one, A Passion Most Pure, was worried sick after my teenage daughter said, "Gosh, Mom, will anybody actually buy a romance with the word "pure" in it???" I'm happy to say they did, and Revell was right, so FLEXIBLE is, indeed, an apt word, not only for the debut author, but every author out there unless his or her name is Stephanie Meyer, Nora Roberts or J.K. Rowlings!!

Thanks for your invaluable insight!


Linnette R Mullin said...

Janet!!! I'm already swooning over "I'd Sooner Have Love!" Definitely going on my wish-list. And so is "Making Memories!" Just added to my Goodreads wishlist. Please put my name in the hat. :D

Love the advice. Such sage words. Thank you!

Andrea Strong said...


I don't know what your working titles were, but I think the two I've read are perfectly titled.

The title thing may be a tough one for me. I imagine it would be hard, after knowing my story as "Give My Love to Rose" for however many years, having to call it something else. I love that title, and like Julie's, it speaks to themes I'm building into the story. I really can't imagine a more perfect title.

It's good for me to face early on that someday, someone is probably going to tell me it has to change. I'm sure I have plenty of time to get used to the idea.

I'm in a similar place, first draft of my first novel. I don't have a critique partner yet. That's probably because I haven't looked for one yet. :-/

I do have several good friends who would critique for me. But I'm sometimes overly sensitive to criticism. I'm sure CPs will hurt my feelings, not with that intention of course. But I don't want to my friends to hurt my feelings. That sounds juvenile, I know. But I know me, and that's me.

Janet Lee Barton said...

Thanks so much for your comments and insight, Pat, Dianne, Martha, Julie and Lynnette!!!
And thanks for the welcome to Seekerville, Julie! Its a favorite of mine and I was so excited when Myra asked me to blog!

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Well, it's a good thing my MS has NO title yet, so I don't have anything to worry about on that front! (I just call it "Silvergrass," because that's the name of the town it takes place in.)

It's great advice, though, to be flexible. I have had experience with editors changing stuff here in the newsroom, but I'm sure that's MUCH different than an editor changing something key in my story, my own baby. I'll have to remember that they are doing it for the story's own good :)

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, Seekervillagers! Arriving late after a full morning of catch-up Christmas shopping! I THINK we're about done--YAY!!!

Janet, it's so good to have you with us today, and your advice is right-on! So far at least, I haven't had to do any major title changes to my books, the biggest one being adding that little "Im-" to the originally titled One Perfect Christmas.

But I've sure had to deal with a few challenging plot/character/setting adjustments! Actually, when you get to that point--for me, anyway--it's really fun, because you know the story can only get better and better.

Carol, it does sound like you received one of those "good" rejections. The only risk you run in keeping it circulating to see if anyone else makes similar comments is the slight possibility that you wouldn't get a second chance with any of those editors/agents.

On the other hand, if you can convince them you took their recommendations to heart and have revised accordingly, doors might reopen for you!

Gwendolyn Gage said...

I can appreciate this, Janet. Flexibility is scary. We think our plot or scene is just so perfect, it could never get better (because the thought of facing a blank screen or piece of paper again is terrifying.)

But if we were creative enough to come up with something we like, we can certainly come up with something equally brilliant, if not better. :-)

Robin Patchen said...

Great advice, Janet. I think sometimes we can get so caught up in our myopic vision that we miss the overall story, and that's what a critique partner, and ultimately an editor, can do for us.

Linda Goodnight said...

Janet, you are so right. An author must be flexible to survive and thrive in the publishing world. It's not always easy to give up a title or a scene or even wording that you love, but unless the change compromises my values, I just do it and move on. A friend of mine, Shirley Jump says, "My words are not oxygen. I can live without them."

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Janet,

Great advice! I've already learned about being flexible from a lot of contests I've entered. I imagine it only gets harder from there!

Carol, I'm right there with you on the rejection issue! I just got one too. Mine was very brief but the reason was the ending of the book - the agent didn't like it. So now I'm trying to figure out if I should re-write the ending and try again or stick with it and try elsewhere! Sigh. I'm not good at figuring out the 'between the lines' stuff.

Guess that's all part of being flexible!

Love to be entered in the drawing.


Susan Anne Mason said...

Oops - left off my email

sbmason at sympatico dot ca

Myra Johnson said...

Sue, anytime an editor or agent takes the time to add a personal comment or critique to a rejection, consider it a positive sign. If the suggestion makes sense to you and looks doable, it never hurts to ask if the agent or editor would be willing to take another look if you make the recommended changes.

Aaron McCarver said...

Great reminder, Janet. We discussed title changes the other day. My first book went through three before it was finally settled. After everything was said and done, the last one was the best and the book made the best-sellers list. And what you said about an editor is so true. Everyone involved just wants the book the best it can possibly be as this just helps all involved. And Myra was right when she introduced you, you are a wonderful lady all-around!

Jeanne T said...

Andrea Strong--yea, another fairly new writer! :) I'm having fun with the process. I'm blessed with a dear friend who is also an author. She's given me great insight into my story and in helping me understand writing craft. I've tried to keep a teachable spirit when I meet with her.

I hope, when you're ready, that you get to work with someone who can help your story shine. :)

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, Aaron! Thanks for dropping by! I've heard so many wonderful things about working with you from Mary and other Barbour authors.

Boy, Seekerville has had some unusually quiet days this week. Must be the holiday rush keeping everyone busy and away from their computers. I can't believe how much we've had going on the past few days!

Janet Lee Barton said...

Stephanie, I try to think of my titles as "working" ones--it helps me not get too attached. :)
Myra, thanks so much for the invite. I'm about to go out and take care of some Christmas myself and I am nowhere near finished!
Gwendolyn, making changes can be scary, but actually, getting to the point where you look forward to making the story better is very freeing in its on way.
Robin, I think the secret is to realize that what we write can always be made better. And with a good editor's help, it usually is. :)
Linda, thanks for sharing--I think we should all have that attitude. And I love Shirley's words! They are so true--thanks for sharing them!
Sue, contests are a good start to helping one see the need for change. And yes, it can get a little harder. :)
Myra, that is good advice!
Aaron, thank you for stopping by and commenting. And thanks for giving us advice from an editor's point of view! It never hurts to hear those--especially from one of the best! :)

Anonymous said...


I'm learning that what you say here is so very, very true. Thank you.


Susan Anne Mason said...

Thanks for the advice, Myra. I did send an email back and asked if it was only the ending that affected her decision and if I changed the ending would she want to see it. But I've received no reply back.

I guess everyone is just very busy with Christmas so close.

Oh well ... Patience, along with flexibility, is another must have for writers! LOL!


Tina Radcliffe said...

Tina the pretzel checking in!!

Welcome to Seekerville, Janet.

What a great post...and you sure nailed it.

Linnette R Mullin said...

Well, Seekervillagers, I'm going to be mostly out of the loop for the next couple weeks. I will check in if I'm able.

I love you all and pray God blesses each of you this Christmas and in the New Year. Peace and grace to each of you - in your hearts and in the moments that make up your life. (((Hugs))) Love you! :D


Walt Mussell said...

Being flexible would seem to be suggested sometimes as it is a business, even though it's a joyous labor. Bottom line, though, is that the publisher does want to make a profit.

Anonymous said...

those sound like good stories - i'm a sucke for the 'pretend boyfriend/fiance to keep others away' theme.

ya'll may remembe me posting about my mom's brain cancer and going though hospice with her this time last year and March - now my dad's hospice nearing the end. the carcinoid finally blocked his intestine combined with already declining health -as the good ol boy east Texas surgeon so 'medically' put it 'i'm afraid i'd do you in' and it wouldn't be operable. it was risk it with the best prognosis being to die on a respirato or hospice and he said NO to the ventilator. I know he remembers how hard it was with mama but we all have to go somehow. this is affecting me even more than my mom's - maybe from all the ups and downs - he was about a week out of rehab from the chemo wiping him out and was doing great and we were so optimistic. they finally gave him enough stuff to calm him so hoping he and i can both get some rest.


Casey said...

Great post, thank you!! I'm learning to be more flexible in my life--something I have to continually master. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice and reminder, Janet. I've been babysitting my two year old grandson the past two days and I've been very flexible, lol. Hopefully, it carries into the writing when I get back to it over the weekend!


Missy Tippens said...

Janet, I'm so sorry I missed your post yesterday!! Great post. Believe me. I know about making changes! :)

Thank you for being with us! I promise to do better next time and stop by that day. :)

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas, just a reader in awe of all the authors here and your input on the post. I think I am a flexible person-I know how to bend.
I would be honored to be in your drawing for the book.
thanks for sharing
Paula O(

Janet Lee Barton said...

Thanks so much for stopping by, Tina, Walt, Susanna, Casey, Missy, LyndeeH and Paula! I hope I haven't missed anyone.

And Missy, no worries at all. I know how busy this time of year is for everyone! And thank you Seekerville for hosting me! It's been a lot of fun. Merry Christmas everyone!