Okay, there is no mystery in this post, except the one I'm giving away two copies of!!! My newest Guideposts Mystery from the Savannah Secrets collection "Patterns of Deception"!
No mystery to my advice, whatsoever.
Zero. Zilch. Zip. Nada.
There are, however, layers of potential success, so let's talk about those today because if you go into this business with a full heart and a gentle soul and wide-eyed dreams of becoming the next Karen Kingsbury, J.K. Rowling or John Grisham, you may succeed beyond your wildest dreams.
Or you may miss seventeen very important steps, trip yourself up, fall flat on your face, and crawl away, sobbing like a two-year-old.
But the difference lies in those seventeen steps! (There aren't really seventeen, there could be twelve or eleven or thirty-two, I used seventeen solely for the purpose of syncopation with the word 'steps'. A long, multi-syllable word sounds even better when paired with a short, snappy word. Can you tell I've been teaching fifth graders all year? And yes-- before you ask the obvious-- I am, in fact, smarter than a fifth grader.)
But let's get back to the steps. Did you know that steps, while a basic form of architecture, are not easily achieved via wood/saw/concrete/stones/etc.?
Level steps are a simplified masterpiece of mathematics. If your angle for the step is slightly off, then the person going up or down feels that "tilt" and compensates. A good step is flat and requires no compensation. A good step needs to be weather-resistant. It needs clean lines, flat planes, and the same degree of "rise" (from step to step) to make it easy to climb and safe.
Listen up, Einstein! Your book has similar needs.
1. TELL ONE STORY (this was my first major mistake, thinking I was brilliant and all that and a bag of chips. You get the drift...) You can add a subplot or reflective story but it is very difficult to tell multiple stories in one book unless you're penning a book of short stories. Focus on the one story, like a spider focuses on the center of her web, then take avenues from that center.
2. KEEP WRITING (Your first book is probably junk no matter how much it means to you. There are exceptions to this rule. But that's why they're called exceptions, because they are not the norm. Toughen up, finish the book, let some smart folks read it (other writers or contest judges, critique partners) and grow a firm skin because just like not every baby is the cutest (although every baby IS THE BEST EVER) not every book is good.
3. WRITE MORE BOOKS.
4. TAKE GOOD ADVICE. (You will hear that not all advice about your book is good, and that's true. But having said that, if you have several people tell you it makes no sense for hero to do/say/act like this, then you haven't laid the groundwork for his actions. That's your bad, darlings, so go back and rewrite. If it isn't clear to the reader, it doesn't matter that you meant it to be clear... That means you have to edit/revise to make it clear and sometimes that means going back to page one and re-delineating your hero and/or heroine's reasons for living and/or being a jerk or a wimp or a whiner or a tough gal or whatever it is they are supposed to be. It all begins on page one.)
5. IGNORE SOME ADVICE This comes with practice and paying attention. I avoid jerks. I ignore them. If someone is inherently negative (and they are as prevalent in publishing, Christian or otherwise, as they are in life) I avoid them and not all negative people appear to be openly negative. You can often recognize them for the excuses they make about, well, most things. Like forever. Decades. When confronted with that advice, it's a consider-the-source moment. And quietly recede. But recognizing these people sometimes takes work on your part.
6. STAY OFF SOCIAL MEDIA Social media is a total time-suck. It's up to you, of course, but if you waste your ninety minutes of writing time every day by cruising Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or whatever, that was your choice to squander the time. Not for the good of mankind or your new career. Just... a waste pit of lost opportunity. Focus. Focus. Focus. Like a good fifth grader, you learn to allot your time, not put things off, and stay focused. The reason they teach this diligently in fifth grade is because:
A. Kids are old enough to comprehend it at age ten.
B. Kids are old enough to make a conscious choice and deal with consequences.
C. Kids learn from their mistakes.
7. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY (Here's the dealbreaker for so many wannabe authors. They don't want the real responsibility of writing every day, of making up stories and typing them out, of revisions and edits and marketing and they slip away, sometimes not so quietly, blaming all kinds of folks for all kinds of things and you know what? That's okay... This business is sometimes wonderful and often brutal and there are people who do not long for your success so if you don't personally long for it enough to take the heat, then it's okay to leave the writing kitchen. I mean that. Sincerely.)
8. BE GRATEFUL FOR EVERY OPPORTUNITY GIVEN You may not love each opportunity the good Lord puts before you. You may not appreciate what editors have to say, the rewrites and revisions, the phone advice, or the revise and resubmit letters you might receive, but even if it's not what you envisioned, remember that if you're working with a publisher, they call the shots. They want what they want, not necessarily what you want to write. Build a base and stand by that base once built, but don't be afraid to branch out and deliver as requested. You might find out you're not the know-it-all you thought you were. You might-- gasp-- learn something! :) And learning is good.
9. GET UP. One thing I know about this business and about life is that you will get knocked down. You may want to pout or whine or cry, and that's okay, but let's do the Eleanor Roosevelt thing, okay? Let's go into the bathroom, run the water, and gnash our teeth in there because whiny authors are a pain in the neck... although they are out there and a meany-pants like me just sighs and moves on and refuses (mostly) to engage in their drivel and I will tell you why: because they choose to be that way. You can choose to be that way, too. Or you can pull up your big girl panties, get back on the bike and learn to ride without training wheels because that's what the big kids do... and they don't gnash their terrible teeth, and show their terrible claws and roll their terrible yellow eyes without blinking once in public. Because. Gosh. That's dumb.)
10. BE GRATEFUL. EVERY SINGLE STINKIN' DAY
CAVEAT: This is the expected Ruthy rant about respecting your country, taking time to appreciate not only your God-given gifts, but each little and big opportunity that comes your way every day. If you woke up? NEW OPPORTUNITIES AWAIT. It's up to you. Consider this your warning that the rant ensues below.
You're welcome! :)
Gratitude should be a no-brainer.
Unfortunately that is not the current truth.
I look around this great country and I am constantly amazed by whining, lack of industry, laziness, lowered expectations and so many things that seem to fill mainstream media 24/7 today. I look at stories written and I may know that some of that story is actually untrue, but the story is written, edited and published as is because it follows a chosen narrative.... And lately that narrative is to mock, scourge, deride and besmirch our country, the kind of thing that is encouraged when often rich and power-hungry people want things to eventually tip in their favor. Encouraging discouragement in a populace is a very real maneuver, and golly gee whillikers, folks, what have we got to be discouraged about? Depending on your bar of measure, here's my take:
We have more material goods than is good for us. We are blessed with opportunity, jobs, income, health and amazing health care, but still we yearn.
Well, we're silly.
We should be like Mary, following that cross. Not whining. Standing strong for the faith we share and the life we have. Standing firm in faith, together.
My "bleeds red/white and blue heart" loves being patriotic. I love this country, this land of opportunity, the options, the choices, the chances we're given to be our best so understandably I cringe when folks go out of their way to bring it down because if you've read history (not Cliff notes, darlings) then you can see the parallels of creating dissent for no other reason than dissent itself and how it affects a nation.
So be grateful. If not for yourself, then your grandparents or great-grandparents who risked life and limb for freedom, not to have it squandered two generations later... but to secure your freedom.
From that spirit of gratitude may come great words!
Or maybe not.
But at the end of the day you won't feel like a jerk, you'll probably be nicer and maybe less whiny and that right there is a blessing to others. :)
So we bless them by appreciating our blessings. And that's a win for everyone!
Leave a comment below about pretty much anything and I'll enter your name into the drawing for one of these absolutely wonderful mysteries!
Multi-published, award-winning and really bossy author Ruth Logan Herne loves chatting up writing with all kinds of folks. She also loves God, her family, country, she bleeds red/white/blue and has been known to say the Pledge of Allegiance on the spur of the moment... and she thinks God is the coolest of the cool.
Friend her on Facebook, email her at email@example.com or stop by her website ruthloganherne.com... she'd love to get to know you when she's not growing pumpkins, making wreaths and running a very busy and fun pumpkin farm!