Monday, February 1, 2016

Twenty Things I Learned in Twenty Years as an Author

Victoria Alexander
Twenty Things I Learned in Twenty Years as an Author
By Victoria Alexander

Hi, Mary Connealy reporting in but I'm letting someone else do the talking today. No, NYT Bestselling author, Victoria Alexander is NOT my guest today on Seekerville. But she is in my Omaha chapter of Romance Writer's of America and she gave this speech as the keynote at our January writer's retreat and I was just struck by every word of it being true. And counting the ten years I spent trying to get published, the list works perfectly for me, too.

I asked her if I could use it and she graciously said yes.

She sent me the list and added five more things, which are also true. But she didn't change the name of the list which is classic, funny Victoria. She said to call them Bonus Lessons.

And, Victoria said, a couple of them aren't really writing related they're more like LIFE LESSONS.

1. Publishing is a business and writing is a job.

2. Regret your mistakes but don't dwell on them, and don't dwell on those things you cannot change.

3. Keep moving forward.

4. There is no right way or wrong way to publish. There is no right or wrong way to write.

5. Be willing to try something new, embrace opportunity when it comes along, and now and then, take a chance.

6. Read.

7.  No matter how beautiful the aging cover model is, the product she is selling—with the secret formula developed by a top skin expert—is really not going to make you look like her or make you look younger.

8.  A fabulous writer is not necessarily a fabulous story teller.

9. Inspiration is everywhere you just have to be open to it.

10. Every book should be the book of your heart.

11. Use post it notes.

12. If writing doesn't get harder with every book, you're not doing it right.

13. Listen to legitimate criticism, ignore bad reviews, don't believe everything you read on facebook, Amazon, the internet.

14. A good editor is worth his/her weight in gold.

15. You probably won’t win powerball.

Click to Buy ebook on Amazon
16. Make writer friends.

17. Your agent works for you. You do not work for her.

18. Get everything—every promise—in writing.

19. Muster your courage and don't be afraid to move on when you need to. From an editor, publisher, agent.

20. Educate yourself.


21. Pick and choose what you do for free.

22. Writing is the hardest thing in the world.

23. Staying published is harder than getting published. Getting published is only the beginning.

24. Never miss an opportunity to promote your latest book.

25. The 2 best words in the English language are The End.

Mary again: What do you think? Do any of these ring true for you? Any additions? This list can be as long as we'd like.
Giveaway today, a signed copy of With This Ring? A Novella Collection of Proposals Gone Awry (my novella collection with Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings and Seekervillager Melissa Jagears) A signed copy of Lassoed by Marriage, a nine author novella collection that includes me and Seekervillager Rose Ross Zediker,
AND a copy from me of Victoria Alexander's Same Time, Next Christmas. It's not Christian fiction so know that, but I love her work.

Click to buy ebook on Amazon

About Victoria Alexander
New York Times bestselling author Victoria Alexander was an award winning television reporter until she discovered fiction was much more fun than real life. She has written thirty-one full length novels and six novellas. The Perfect Wife—originally published in 1996 and reissued in March 2008—hit #1 on the New York Times list.  Sixteen of her books are bestsellers hitting the New York Times, USA Today and/or Publishers Weekly bestseller lists and is a 2 time RITA award nominee. In 2008 she was the keynote speaker for the Romance Writers of American annual conference in San Francisco.


  1. I like #3....keep moving forward! Reminds me of that Disney Movie "Finding Nemo" where Dora sings "keep on swimming, swimming". Good life lesson for me, because when I hit a roadblock (trails, troubles or the like), I tend to want to stop. But if I don't allow God to work in whatever trouble comes my way, I can't move forward in Him. And if I can't move forward in Him, I can't grow. And if I can't grow, I go stagnant. See the vicious circle? So I just need to bend my knee in prayer when those times come so that God can work in my heart & move me forward!

    Please put my name in for the books! I really enjoyed today's post, I can apply many of them to my life :-)

  2. GAH! #12. If writing doesn't get harder with every book, you're not doing it right.

    I must be doing it right because I've scrapped my ENTIRE book a second time last night and have to start over.....clock ticking and everything in the waste basket.

    However, #10. Every book should be the book of your heart. Might fix it.....

  3. As a read, #6 and #10!
    A lot of those work for life in general...thanks Mary!

  4. Hi Victoria:

    My favorite is:

    8. A fabulous writer is not necessarily a fabulous story teller.

    Story tellers know how to get feedback and work an audience. They are always putting the needs of the audience first. They are not preoccupied by what an editor wants. The performance is the thing!

    I think all writers would greatly benefit by taking story telling lessons.

    I do have a problem with #4: "There is no right or wrong way to write.

    While I can't speak to the 'no right way to write' comment, I have sure found a lot of wrong ways to write. : )

    Did you mean there is no one and only way to write but that there are many ways to write right?


    P.S. Please put me in a drawing for any one of your Kindle books.

  5. My favorite is number 12. Although I love them all!!!

  6. Oh, where to start! What a great list!

    #6 is so true, but maybe because I've always said I'm more of a reader than a writer. People are shocked at that since I'm on book fourteen but really... I'm just a reader who is writing the books I want to read.

    Love #8. Makes me think of Twilight. NOT great writing. Undeniably great story telling.

    Throwing cupcakes at #10. Someone once told me that I couldn't take every book "so seriously". They're all the books of my heart and I take my heart very seriously.

    I actually teared up at #12. I'm glad it's not old age. Really glad. (Am I repeating myself? I do that now.)

    #14 Yesssssss.

    #17 should be pinned to every writer who joins RWA or ACFW or attends a conference or comes to Seekerville or... Most people don't understand this because of that weird little query process.

    #19 is the big one for me. All these are great but #19 can be the difference between hating your job and loving it. And since I quit a regular job I loved to make writing my job, I really, really, don't want to hate it.

    Love the bonus bits but I MIGHT disagree with #24. I've seen too many marketing fails in the writing community. Sometimes it's best just to be chill, IMHO.

  7. I love this list... I particularly like that she added #23... That staying published is just as hard or harder than getting published... because so many aspiring authors who still want a traditional publishing contract think that's the Willy Wonka of Golden Tickets...

    When it's more like the big toe of the foot in the door, and just the tip of the toe besides.

    And once you're in the door, there is a host of people willing to nudge you out of place. But if you L-O-V-E it... well, then, you just keep doing it!!!!

  8. Melissa, I hear you! Donna Mynatt sent a sweet meme around facebook this weekend, about what an author puts into a book.... The time, the energy, the research, the writing, the heart and soul...

    And it was so true. And if it's not right, we dump it and start again, but readers and editors don't see that part. And yet, it's crucial.

    Trixi, I love the "Just keep swimming!!!!" I use that all the time working with little kids... by the time they're big kids I morph to "Suck it up, Cupcake" OR.... "Pull up those big girl panties and move on..." OR... "GET OVER IT".



  9. Vince, we kinda have to be concerned about what an editor wants, don't we? They bought the book! It's theirs, now.

    And honestly, I've worked with so many wonderful editors this past two years, and their vision has been invaluable. I am honestly blessed.

  10. Great list! It certainly defies the idealism that writing is just a hobby. There so much to it beyond the actual pen to paper.

    Great giveaways, too!!!!! Hoping for a win!!!

  11. What a terrific list!
    "There is no right or wrong way to write." Amen!
    Love Post-its...especially the neon colored.

  12. Thank you for sharing Victoria's list with us, Mary! So many truths!

  13. I love this list, and your words encouraged me when you said it took you ten years to get published. My favorite is every book is the book of my heart because I fall in love with the characters of each story. I also like the encouragement to keep moving forward. Is that followed by a gentle shove or a swift kick to our rear end?

    Thanks, Mary!

  14. Yes! Many of these ring true!

    Especially the one about agents. I have a terrific agent now, but that wasn't always the case. Believe what Victoria says: Agents work for you not against you.

    And writing is hard!

    Mary, thanks for mentioning as an author in The Lassoed by Marriage collection!

  15. Mornin' Ruth:

    You're right of course about how important editors are. You don't have to read many Indie books to develop a new appreciation, as a reader, for the value of editors!

    It's all a matter of focus.
    Where do you shine your brightest light?
    On pleasing your reader or with pleasing your editor?

    To be or not to be:

    A corporate 'yes' man who can always please the boss or a story teller who always tries to please her audience first and any editors second.

    A great story teller is 'mindfully in the now'. A great story teller makes the narrator part of the story without trying to use artifice to hide the obvious: that someone is telling a story!

    That's why great story tellers are so well loved while great writers are well admired but often little read.

    Learn the art. Share the joy.
    National Storytelling Conference
    July 21 - 24
    Kansas City

  16. MARY,
    This is a good post. Thank you for sharing it. I can relate to just about all the ones pertaining to pre-published writers.
    Kathy B.

  17. And I like "book of your heart," because if it isn't it will show through. Especially for Christian writers.

  18. #12 == it does get harder -- because you've learned more and you realize what a book COULD be, but isn't. Yet.
    And/or you may be trying more ambitious things with your work.

  19. Really enjoyed this, MARY, thank you! Lots to consider here, although #23 nearly made me cry. Which brought me to my own top two writing lessons:

    #1 Try not to have more than one meltdown a day - it's difficult to type from the fetal position and tears are not good for the keyboard.

    #2 Pray. I begin with, “God is this really what you want me to do? I don’t know that I have what it takes to right fiction” - then I listen for that still, small voice and try to remember, “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.”

    Please enter me in the drawing, and thanks again.

  20. Hi Mary, Great post. Thanks so much for sharing Victoria's secrets. oops. I mean her list. Oh dear. I guess i'm not meant to be a comedian. ha ha

    Really like 12 and 23. I remember before I was published, thinking that once I got the call the rest would be a piece of cake. ha ha haha ha. Now that is funny.

    Happy writing everyone.

  21. Mary Jane Hathaway said "but really... I'm just a reader who is writing the books I want to read." I LOVE this. What a great concept.

  22. "Do or do not, there is no try"

    from the #toughlove Ruthy school of learning

    my favorites are #8, #12, #14, and #18

    #23 is just plain scary, but makes complete sense

    Laura Kestner - I am so laughing at your "Try not to have more than one meltdown a day - it's difficult to type from the fetal position and tears are not good for the keyboard"

    mostly because I can so relate.

    Hi Mary!!! Thanks for wanting to share this. So glad Ms. Victoria shared her secrets! I would love to win your Lassoed by Marriage collection.

  23. This is so good and so real, and it holds true for all kinds of writing. Thank you, Victoria and Mary!

  24. Speaking of "books of the heart," has anyone read a Julie Lessman novel lately? ;)

  25. Just so much truth here! Thanks, Mary, for bringing Victoria's timeless advice to us today!

    I think #21, "Pick and choose what you do for free," is good to remember. Doing some writing for free can be helpful in honing your skills and racking up some writing credits. But at some point you need to establish a value for your efforts, because if you don't, no one else will, either. That applies to writers as speakers, too.

  26. #6 - read. Probably because I love reading so much, and now I get to review books as often as I can on my blog! Which is a lovely way to combine writing and reading :)

    What number said a great writer isn't necessarily a great story teller? And YES!! to whoever referenced Twilight for that one. Not great writing (shudders), but pretty good storytelling style. Became several blockbuster movies somehow....

  27. Mary, lovely giveaway today. Count me in!

  28. Laura, I love the fetal position memo!!! SO TRUE!!!!! Oh my stars, this business isn't for wimps, honestly... you toughen your hide real quick... unless you run and hide, and we've seen lots of folks do that over the years.

    But I love it so much!!!!!

    Sandra, #23, RIGHT????? But here's the truth about that, the more established authors said that back when I was a newbie who thought I knew so much... but one only had to watch "sales", and names disappear to realize they were being honest. Getting in is great. Staying in takes rugged shoulders. Think ATLAS....

    Their honesty made it clear that when (not if) I got that call, I'd jump through the hoops to stay on the mainland. Hey, after 30 years of nametag and hairnet jobs, trust me: I can take orders and follow directions. I love getting a paycheck.

  29. Deb H, yes. Tina and I both use Yoda. The common sense of the situation says keep on keepin' on!

    Tough love works.

  30. Topical writing that appeals.

    Twilight is a great example. It doesn't make me shudder, LOL! But it's a great example.

    Dan Brown is another great example. His writing isn't strong, but the subject matter was and it invited the intrigue of mystery, a huge faith institution, secret handshakes and all kinds of Euro clues... so the adventure pulled the reader (and the money!) in, but the writing was shaky.

    Michael Lewis, just the opposite. Strong writing, amazing topics, several books turned into blockbuster movies, because he's a talented writer and a great story teller.

    I love the insider look at things through his eyes, it makes me treasure small towns, while giving me a glimpse at Big Business and how quickly people are pulled to the dark side.

    Vince, Michael might be what you're referring to, because when you sell millions of books and multiple print runs and keep a Big Five publisher in business, they probably give you some sway. We little folks??? Umm... Not so much!


  31. "7. No matter how beautiful the aging cover model is, the product she is selling—with the secret formula developed by a top skin expert—is really not going to make you look like her or make you look younger."

    Ain't that the truth!!!

  32. DebH - thank you, glad someone else relates :-) Fueled up on prayer and coffee now, and typing in an upright position. Going to be a great day!

  33. Oh, CONNIE--so true!

    But we can't seem to stop hoping!

  34. These are so fun! So much good advice. I love #10, every book should be the book of your heart. I think that's important. And I think that's why it takes me forever to come up with a proposal. I need to fall in love with the story.

    Get everything in writing is such good advice!

  35. Melissa, I'm sorry!!! I recently did that with a proposal that I re-read and decided was terrible. I started over.

  36. Kate, you're right! There is a lot more to a writing career. Stuff that we only find out as we go, I think.

  37. Oh, Mary, how FUN!!! I LOVED reading Victoria's list, especially these points:

    4.) There is no right or wrong way to write.

    YES, YES, YES!!! I got a little tired of everybody telling me to stick to only two POVS when I first tried to get published, but my heart said otherwise because I wanted to get inside other people's heads to give a 360 perspective, and multiple POVs helped me to do that. And, apparently, it didn't stop Revell from buying the series, so that was a HUGE confirmation that sometimes you have to write according to your heart and not the rules.

    10.) Every book should be the book of your heart.

    I couldn't agree more, although that sure takes longer ... ;)

    11.) Use post it notes.

    HA! I keep the post-it people in business!! ;)

    12.) If writing doesn't get harder with every book, you're not doing it right.

    LOL ... sooooooo true!! Except with my second book. It practically wrote itself in one month (480 pages), but after that? It was all downhill!!!

    Great post, Mare (and Victoria!).


  38. Connie Queen, YES!!!! Laughing! I still look like ME!

  39. "#12. If writing doesn't get harder with every book, you're not doing it right."

    Hmm. I must be doing something right after all because that one spoke to me big time :-)

    What a post! Thanks for sharing it with us Mary ... and Victoria.

    Nancy C

  40. These "BONUS LESSONS" are fantastic! Great reminder: 3. Keep moving forward. As a reader I really relate to 6. *wink*

    AS you keep writing from the heart, I will keep reading your amazing stories!

    Have a wonderful day!

    Please put me in the draw for the books.

  41. OH MY GOSH I AM SO LATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I AM SORRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    IT IS NOT MY FAULT!!!!!!!!!

    Honestly, My Cowboy Husband is preparing for an oncoming blizzard. Ten to twelve inches of snow starting tonight, all day tomorrow. Cold temps, high winds. All of our favorite things (NOT!)

    We are having baby calves. Four born already. Many more due any time. Or not!

    He's trying to out think the blizzard AND the pregnant cows....BOTH LONG PROVEN TO BE IMPOSSIBLE.

    So he has limited space in the barn and in the yard around the barn. Ten to thirteen cows is about all that can live there and normally that's plenty.


    (are you tired of excuses yet? Because the more of them I make the more compelled I feel to make more of them or more carefully define them)

    So three of the four calves and their mamas go across the road into a much bigger pen that opens to a harvested corn field. LOTS of food out there for cattle.

    BUT the cows can't be in there freely because the morons immediately take their babies, none over five days old, to the farthest ends of the corn field where they find a handy place for their babies to DIE IN A BLIZZARD.

    (My Cowboy has found himself named the 'Designated Thinker' of this group)\

    So he's got a small shed (AND I MEAN SMALL!) over there and a fence around it for reasons I won't burden you with because my excuse post is getting too long) So he herded the cow/calf pairs in there to ride out the storm.

  42. I clicked on my comment to post just because it was getting so long and I want you all to know I AM HERE!

    Anyway, three cow/calf pairs except we have FOUR calves but the fourth calf was two weeks just NEVER KNOW when they'll come.

    So she was a fragile little thing and honestly TOO SHORT (and perhaps just not quite bright enough) to nurse. So she (at good moments My Cowboy calls her half-pint...his names can deteriorate but let's ignore that in these politically correct days). So half-pint is now a bucket calf and she has to stay in the barn.

    Anyway, he's doing heaven knows what all to get ready for the storm and once in a while he hollers at me to come out and help.

    I'll bet you can't detect a ten minute break in this comment when he came to the door and needed something can you?

  43. Wild day and, keep in mind, it's a LOVELY day. Sun shining, little wind, decent temperatures.

    This is all to get ready for tonight and tomorrow.

    I just asked him what he was doing now and I heard 'move 'em up to ... somewhere... or maybe he said something else, no idea. I tend to not listen as closely as perhaps I should.

  44. Mary, I can't imagine dealing with a blizzard and babies all at once!! But I guess you do this every year. My solution???

    Move to Georgia! I'd love to have you as a neighbor. :) (BTW, it's 61 degrees right now. Not to make you feel envious or anything.)


  45. What a terrific list! And seriously, who chooses those cover models anyway for the anti-wrinkle cream?!

    I would add one. When in doubt, wait it out. I've also heard, when in doubt, leave it out. I prefer the waiting, though, because sometimes something is a good opportunity, you just need a little bit of time or information to know for sure. And sometimes, that something is a terrible opportunity, and a little bit of waiting will show you the truth and you can avoid it altogether.

    Mary, send that snow to Indiana. We're supposed to have a high of 60 tomorrow. My children think this is the worst winter ever, with snow pants and boots relegated to the closet.

  46. Yes, MARY, please move to the South. We need more beef in the Carolinas. This "pulled pork" business they call barbecue here is just . . . I have no words.

    We did eat at a great barbecue place last night, though, that had real Texas-style beef brisket--YUM! I'm having the leftovers for my lunch in a few minutes!

  47. Trixi, I have to admit I never found a NEMO connection in her list, she gave the keynote speech at a writer's retreat our Omaha RWA group had mid-January, but now that you say so, I see it.

    What I thought was 'a shark has to keep swimming or it dies'.

    But what that shark saying always meant to me was, not that WE have to keep moving or we die, but that.........IF THE SHARK STOPS MOVING FORWARD...IT'S A GOOD SIGN IT'S DEAD.

    And no this list has NOTHING TO DO WITH SHARKS. It's just one of those random thoughts I had while listening.

    PS I'm not a shark. I can stop moving for a while and NOT die. Still when it comes to writing, I really can't think of a time in the last ten years when I was not writing something. I take my laptop on vacation. And I usually get my 1000 words written daily. So, maybe I am a shark, but my hair is better.

    This comment is now going to end before I dredge up every stupid possible think I can say.

  48. Most people simply read your cow and blizzard comments. Not me. I copied and pasted them into a document to use for a story.

    Thank you to Mary, Ivan, cows and Mother Nature for this research opportunity.

  49. Gone again. Sorry.
    Warm water to make milk replacer in a bottle. My Cowboy comes in all dressed for the weather, including boots and yelled from the door for help. (as opposed to him having to take his boots off, then put them back on)

    Then he wants potato soup for lunch which FINALLY he wants something that's in my wheel house, you know?

    So back AGAIN!

  50. Welcome Tina. So glad our life and death fight can inspire you. :(

  51. Meghan you know, I used up a WHOLE BOTTLE of Aveeno Lotion and I still look- NOTHING LIKE JENNIFER ANISTON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  52. Melissa! HI NOVELLA WRITING BUDDY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    That 'if it doesn't get harder' line actually encouraged me, because it does get harder and i've been thinking there was something wrong with me.

    And whether or not there is something wrong with me aside........perhaps it has nothing to do with my writing.

  53. Marianne, I'm particularly fond of Every Book Should Be the Book of your Heart.

    I once listened to a really grief stricken authors who'd had a LOT of books published but the last one was 'The Book of Her Heart' and all she'd tried to do to promote it, money she'd spent, clashes with her publisher for not doing what she thought needed doing.

    I felt terrible for her. My advice when she asked for it?


    Mary 'Sympathy Queen' Connealy

  54. VINCE LOL, you've found a lot of wrong ways.

    I will tell you absolutely that the longer I write, the more I know this one to be utterly true.

    I talk to lots of writers and every once in a while someone will talk about how they write a book and I'll think, "I've never heard of such a thing."

    It's just true. It WORKS for her. And that's where Victoria's advice to try something new, take a chance, is good advice. Because we all have 'the way that works for us'.
    But take a chance, try a different way. You CAN still learn new tricks.

    I say that as someone who, the calendar confirms, is officially an OLD DOG.

  55. Tina, I honestly love #12. It gives me hope, because I find writing does get harder and I though maybe something was wrong with me. :(

  56. #2, #3 and #18 are particularly good ones for me. From one disappointing experience I'd probably add to the latter that even getting it in writing isn't always a guarantee, depending on the reliability of the writer. Still, moving on.... :)

  57. So many! Many of them can truly apply to many areas of life in general, except the ones about writing and publishing. Love #2, #3, #5 and #6. Read. Ahhh. Good one! And #15 is funny, but true!

  58. Mary Jane, see you go through the list and you think THAT ONE is true, then THAN ONE is true, then.............I loved the list.

  59. Ruthy, I know, I guess #23 is the one I hope people realize. That's more of a 'wish' that people would understand than most of them.

  60. I'm with Ruthy on loving editors.

    That fresh set of eyes, by someone who is very VESTED in wanting the book to be a success, because they paid for it and now have to sell it....well it amazes me how they are RIGHT.

    This is beyond just finding typos or leaps in logic that don't work. This is big picture editing.

  61. HI KATE! That's so true, especially when we are still aspiring. It's HARD to get people to take you seriously and it's hard sometimes to take ourselves seriously. It's hard to talk about and with writing it is a BIG part of your life that is just of ZERO INTEREST to the average person.

    Which is why I love #16, make writer friends.

    It does help so much to have people who get it.

  62. Jill the Post it Notes are just classic.

    We talk about Sticky Notes all the time amongst the Seekers. It's almost an inside joke.

    Asking for a Sticky....means Asking for Prayers. The prayers written and stuck to our computer as a reminder to keep someone in your prayers.

  63. Rollin', rollin', rollin'... keep them doggies rollin'.... keep them doggies rollin, Rawhide!!!!

    I am totally seein' my pal Rowdy Yates right about now.

    By the way, Mary's cowboy is like CUTER than Rowdy.

    He's possibly not cute today.

    You know I joke, but that combination of events in 2014 that brought that heavy snow October blizzard into the upper Midwest and plains took over 80,000 livestock lives they said. Cows taste good, but they're not exactly the sharpest tools in the shed.

    Mary has been my advisor on several cow books, including "Winter's End".... I love that she shares her knowledge with us.

    And her live excitement!!! (and she's right next door to IOWA and we all know there's a lot of bull going on in IOWA!!!!!!

  64. Hi Glynna. I was so grateful when she said I could share it. I promised to give her credit.

    We have a great local authors group in Omaha. (which is about an hour and a half from me so 'local' can mean many things). But I try and get there and fail far too often.

  65. Ruthy Iowa is of course this HUGE First in the Nation Caucus state and Nebraska is like 55th in the nation or some such unimpressive number.

    But Iowa is our neighbor and friend. So all the Omaha TV and Radio stations are INUNDATED with commercials.

  66. Jackie yes it took me ten years. I wonder now if I'd have lasted if ebooks existed.
    I might have gone nuts and started publishing them myself.

    My life would have been very different.

  67. Rose it's so fun to be in these collections.

    I've been in one with Ruthy and with Pam. Erica Vetsch. Lots more so I shouldn't have started listing them, but friends who now are in a partnership of sorts with me.

    I love it!

  68. Vince, I've always thought of myself as a Storyteller. But now I'm not so sure.

  69. kaybee I really like your ideas about #12. Very well said.

  70. Laura I love this.
    My prayer is always "God let my words be more than I am capable of on my own. Let them be worthy of the blessings you've given to me."

  71. Sandra LOL, never saw that 'secrets' comment coming. :D

  72. DebH, as I listened to Victoria give this speech I was struck over and over by "OH YEAH, THAT IS SO TRUE!"

    I loved the list.

  73. Thanks for stopping in Jane. It is so right on, isn't it?

  74. SARAH I think that's such a great example of 'books of your heart'.

    Julie comes back again and again to the story she wants to tell and yet she spreads them all over and uses different settings, unique characters, different places in history, including contemporary.

    She's doing such great work and it all comes from her heart.

  75. Myra I think that is so true.

    At some points you can do this if it helps someone somehow. But we have to be careful.

  76. Sarah if she hadn't put READ in there, it wouldn't have stopped me! :)

  77. Mary, what a great list Victoria put together.....all true and good advice, I'm sure. And how fabulous to be in the same RWA chapter.

    Number 12 scares me...."If writing doesn't get harder with every book, you're not doing it right." Trying to write my first book is hard enough.....I was hoping the next hundred would be really easy. But I can understand that a writer learns to improve the craft with each book written.....always learning, and wanting, to make the writing better.

    Laughed at the post it notes.....I have those stuck everywhere. Is there a preferred way to organize post it notes? I do like my story board.

    And yes, those TWO WORDS will be the of these days.

    Please enter my name for one of the great books. Thanks!

    With this blizzard coming, I'll be praying for ranchers and those who need to work and travel in the storms.

  78. Ruthy I might be getting confused about being a 'storyteller'.

    Now I'm not sure what I am.

    I think I'll go read a book until my head clears (or I forget this topic!)

  79. Connie Queen, oh yeah, I'm sooooooooooooo through falling for it.

  80. Victoria also gave this speech right before they drew that HUGE powerball winning ticket.

    I suspect she knew we all needed a dose of reality.

    I did NOT win powerball. I admit my chances would go up if I'd buy a ticket.

  81. But honestly, would my chances really go up all that much?

  82. Julie I've had a couple of books just pour out of me.

    But those are the exception, not the rule!!!!

  83. Nancy C, it's true. It does get harder.
    SAD but TRUE!

  84. Caryn...#6 is my favorite! The really FUN lesson!!!!!

  85. Meghan Carver I got my copy of Under Duress!

  86. Carol there are a lot of shady people in the writing world. Sorry you had a bad experience. :(

  87. Joining my prayers with Sherida's! Hope the weatherman is over forecasting! God bless those fragile calfs...and your Cowboy!

    Great list. Nodding on the writing getting harder, although for me, it's even harder to come up with a compelling story line. My current proposal is killing me...but, then I do write suspense. :)

    Also love seeing THE END! But then I have to say goodbye to the characters and I have a letdown of sorts and need time to clear the air before I dive into the next story.

    Who goes from one story to the next without coming up for air?

  88. Number 16 is so important! Make writer friends!

    On that note, let me add...

    Had a wonderful dinner last night with Janet Dean, who was driving through Atlanta, and Missy Tippens. The collective Seekerville ears should have been burning because we were saying sweet things about everyone and wishing we could all be together for a giant hugfest!

  89. Oh, Mary, my heart goes out to you and your Cowboy trying to save those baby calves!! We worked so hard to help our cows have a safe birth...and sometimes those momma cows made us SO mad...prayers are with you and your Cowboy!! (Last week on the way home from our ranch we were reminiscing about our winters up there...some good and some hard memories!)

    Loved Victoria's list!! As a non-published writer, I can't relate to several items on the list, like agents, leaving or finding agents or publishers, etc. But, I find #5...trying something new...embracing opportunities...and now and then, taking a be good long as one evaluates whether or not the choice leads to furthering the goal!

    #16...Make writer friends...I've been very, very encouraged by all my writer friends!! A wonderful community of like-minded, hard-working and challenging peeps!!

    #20...Educate yourself! Really, I think this should be #1 as a Life Lesson!

    I'll be sharing this fabulous post!! Please throw my name in the Stetson for the books! Thanks!!

  90. Hi Mary:

    You wrote:

    "Vince, I've always thought of myself as a Storyteller. But now I'm not so sure."

    In all seriousness, how you define 'storyteller' and 'writer' will play an essential role in how you view them as being different.

    I see a storyteller as performing before a live audience with a story in mind to tell. She is part of the story and does not hide the fact that she is there to tell a story. She may make faces and create sound effects to enhance the story telling but it is not an attempt to make the audience believe the story is really happening.

    Very important: the storyteller is always getting feedback as to how the story is being received. If the story is lagging or if it seems like the audience is losing interest (by looking at their watches or getting jittery in their seats) the storyteller will jump ahead in the story to a more interesting section.

    The same story can be told in many different lengths, for example, from 15 minutes to three hours. When you are paid to tell stories, you have to fit them to the audience needs and you have to keep them interesting -- even if that means you must edit on the fly.

    A great way to think of a storyteller is as 'a spinner of yarns'. I think Mark Twain would describe himself as a spinner of yarns. Now since I think you write a great deal like Mark Twain, I'd say you have very much of the storyteller in your writing.

    A writer on the other hand is more the 'novel shower'. She usually tries to hide the narrator. She is trying to show reality even if that means the reader must suspend disbelief. The writer does not get immediate feedback and may well leave it up the reader to skip over the dull stuff. Why have dull stuff? Because often it is needed to set up the good stuff. In the theater this is called 'stage business'.

    If you want a really great example of storytelling, read Sandra Leesmith's three southwest folk tales: "Cody the Coyote", "Hector Wants to Play", and "PERCIVAL THE NAUGHTY PRAIRIE DOG".

    All in all, storytelling is writing's base. I think all aspiring writers should take a course in storytelling and then go on to perform at the local library. Learn the craft by doing the craft.


    P.S. I'd love to know what Victoria thinks as she brought up the distinction.

  91. What great suggestions! I am not yet published, but one tip that stood out to me was:

    "If writing doesn't get harder with every book, you're not doing it right."

    I've seen a few published friends struggle with their books. I can see how the struggle improves the writer and the story.

  92. Debby usually by the time I'm done with a book, the next book has been revolving in my head for a long time, and I can't wait to start it. I often finish one and dive into the next, maybe not until the next day.

  93. Kathryn thank you so much for realizing that I will be drawing this out of a Stetson. Rather than a CAT DISH or a BAIT BUCKET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  94. I can spot a born writer child in a heartbeat.

    They react differently to things. Their expressions are different. They mull and reconnect, then mull some more.

    I could always tell which of my kids would write. There's one hold-out, but he's a natural and it will happen. Because it's born in them.

    But you can see this with other people's children, too. And with grandkids. It's so funny, and true to form.

    So the storyteller is born within genetically I think, and then we can hone it to what works best for us.

    And then there's the whole paycheck thing, which if you don't need money is a nuisance, but if you do need money, it's a total bonus! :)

  95. Vince I read your comment about storytellers and writers, very interesting and thank you so much for comparing me to Mark Twain, that's fantastic company to be in!

    If I have a chance I might ask Victoria about this. Just to see how she defines it.

  96. One of my standard comments on a contest entry when I'm judging is, "This is a great story but you could tell it better."

    So maybe that's part of it. You need a good story but TELLING IT WELL is the mark of a skilled writer.

  97. Jeanne I like that. It makes all the struggle seem like it's for a bigger purpose than just getting the book finished.

  98. Can you tell that I am so NOT a cowgirl. Make that calves! Yikes, where's Grammar Queen? I hope she didn't see my typo...and it was a typo. I know better, right?

  99. Ruthy can you really spot them?
    I'm not sure I can.

    To me there's just something about a writer, the simple ability to be alone. To be content alone. To SIT STILL for long periods of time.

    That's the basic skill for being a writer.
    To be happy alone, having imaginary conversations between imaginary characters.
    Not everyone can do that. Which is good...because it's not a very normal way to act.

  100. Of course, Debby, your fingers slipped. NOT YOUR FAULT!

  101. RUTHY, I agree about Dan Brown. Boy can he spin a yarn. Anything else, not so much.

  102. What a wonderful post!! I read it this morning, but didn't have time to comment until now.

    Number 3 has become my motto this year.

    Numbers 12 and 23 terrify me but not enough to make me stop trying to get published.

    Number 16 has been one of the greatest blessings that has come from this journey.

    Number 17 is hard to remember when you don't feel like you know enough about the business and you're afraid of looking stupid.

    I learned number 19 just a couple of months ago. It was a hard lesson to learn, but as a result, I was reminded that I am in control of my own journey.

  103. Rhonda great response to these tips. I agree with all of your comments. Probably most especially #17

  104. ALL of these ring true to me! Now if I can only remember them all. I'm printing it out in a large font and posting it above my desk. The second thing on my schedule is to buy Victoria's new book, and the third is to envy Mary C. for the incredible authors in her RWA chapter. Wowzer! I should be so fortunate. Please put my name in the hat for one of the delicious prizes.

  105. Mary, I'm pretty sure I can spot 'em...

    Maybe it's being around kids so much, for so long, but there's a difference.

    Of course if I'm wrong, you'll never know! :)

  106. are a hoot! I can see why I love your books so much :-) They say the mind of a writer is a scary place to be, perhaps that's where your shark analogy (as opposed to my fish one) came from? But I didn't know that if a shark stopped moving, it would that really true? I'll believe you since I KNOW you do your research, you must as an author, and you've never STEERED me wrong before...see the cow pun? I know, I know....I groan at my own jokes, it's ok if you do too!

    I've been SO enjoying your calf pictures on FB, the little buggers are so cute :-) May you have a healthy bunch this year & I'm sure your cowboy will keep 'em safe, warm & happy! As to interruptions, all is a part of life now isn't it?

    Also, I've been thinking about this all day....I'd like to add one more thing to this list. It's helped me tremendously over the years.....don't stop laughing, especially at yourself! Humor has gotten me over things in life faster than...well...a calf being born :-) Don't know if that helps or not, but I know it works for me....even if I have to sheda few tears first, and there are times like that too. Don't take yourself too seriously (there is a time/place for that) :-)

  107. Loved these! Victoria is a wise woman (as are all the Seekers). :)
    One in particular that jumped out at me was #3 - Keep moving forward. For me personally that applies not only to my writing but to my life. Now that I've got an empty nest (okay, it's been 5 years and I'm STILL struggling *sigh*) I've been reminding myself that I cannot turn back the clock and have my kiddos at home again--as much as I would LOVE that. So...I must move forward and do the things the Lord has for me in this season of my life (like writing!). :)
    Thanks for sharing this post, Mary.
    Hugs, Patti Jo

  108. Dear Mary, Thank you and Victoria for sharing these lessons, but I probably won't win Powerball?! Aw shucks. Seriously though this is a great list. I laughed and I nodded my head, and I even sighed knowing that truth is writing is hard.

    I especially like the keep moving forward (for one thing that applies to life and to writing, a great double whammy) and the advice to read.

    Fun post and one that rings true. Thanks.

  109. Barbara, I do have a great RWA group. Lots of hard working generous authors, traditionally published, small pub, indy pubbed and aspiring. But they all are full of energy and generosity with other authors.

  110. Trixi I just looked it up and the true answer is SOME TYPES of sharks will die if they stop swimming. Oddly enough, they DROWN, because the only way their gills work is if water is flowing through them, caused by swimming.

  111. Ah, the Empty Nest, Patti Jo.
    I was always a little bit afraid they'd MOVE BACK IN!
    But then I realized the very thought of it was their own personal we're all good!

  112. Hi Tanya! That was how it struck me as she gave her speech. I just kept thinking, 'Yep, that's true. Yep, that one is right on. Yep...."
    Through the whole speech. I wanted to speak up and said, "You know what else..." to add to her speech but then I thought I should probably just shut up and listen.

  113. Oh, Mary...we used to have a few head of cows (think maybe 20) but I remember that no matter WHEN those calves were due, too many of them came when it was blizzarding. I hope you and your cowboy weathered the storm okay.

  114. I love this post. It made me laugh, nod and panic a little bit. :) #23, yikes!!! But when you're a writer, you write. You can't help it. If you could do anything else, you would. :)

    Thanks for the words of wisdom, Mary and Victoria!

    P.S. I just finished reading Lassoed by Marriage and With This Ring? and enjoyed them both! Would love a chance to read Victoria's Christmas book.

  115. I appreciate this list so much. Each one is so relatable. As I was reading them I thought what great blog posts each of these points would make. Which is great because I always need fresh ideas for my blog. I'd add a point too.
    Find your own voice even if it turns out to be diffferent then your favorite authors.
    Please throw my name in the drawing.
    Cindy Huff

  116. Such a great list. I love #11 use post it notes! Such great advice. Please put me in for the drawing.

    Becky B.

  117. A great list! I'm learning many of them to be true. I think lately one of them was about considering how much you do for free. Thanks for sharing, Mary.

  118. So many items on that list work for non authors too.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  119. Aw, Sarah and Mary, GOD BLESS YOU both for your sweet comments -- they bless the socks off of me!! And, yes, unfortunately (from a productivity standpoint), EVERY book I write is a book of my heart. Sigh. I guess I got a whole library inside that CDQ heart of mine, but like a real library, too many are on the waitlist!!


  120. Great list! As a reader I can see this is great advise.I use post-its
    for reviewing. I tend to lose my notes if they are not attached..
    I'd like to be dropped into the hat, these books sound wonderful!