WriterFairys

SPARKING WRITERS TO ENGAGE, EMBRACE & SOAR

I love my family and my teaching life, but sometimes they feel like they’re going to squash me. At the worst of times, it’s like people are grabbing chunks of me and carting them off, and at the end of the day, all that remains is a pile of vibrating nerves that no one else wanted.

All my life, writing has been where I run away to when there’s too much. It’s solitary, but creative and productive: at the end of it, I’ve created something. It’s personal and self-expressive even when it’s fiction. It satisfies something deep within me that can’t be soothed by any other means. It’s why my daily writing time matters so very much. Even when my writing feels stymied, it’s still a selfish little moment that is only about what I want to create. It really is a mental health release valve for me, even more than walking (and walking helps me immensely, too).

This past weekend I was lucky enough to get run away from my regular life for three days for a writer’s retreat. I spent those days in a lovely mountain house with six other writers, writing, talking, walking, reading. I didn’t make a meal, wash a dish, wash anything, or give ANY of my time to something that wasn’t about my writing life.

I’m discovering that short bursts of focused time like this are essential to my writing life. I can’t always take a trip and surround myself with like-minded folks, but at least during summer vacation, I’m fortunate that I can arrange a few days during which I am only a writer, during which I can bring the full force of my considerable concentration to my current creation and push the rest aside, just for a little while.

I send the youngest to camp or to visit Grandma. I tell my family that I’m off the grid. I cash in all those gift cards I received for teacher appreciation day on take out meals. I prep ahead with snacks and tea so I don’t have to go anywhere. I don’t answer the phone.

I don’t think I’d fare well if this was my life all the time. I am a writer, but I’m also a teacher, a mother, a wife, a friend, a sister, and various other kinds of human and even though I run towards introverted, I’m not willing to give up all my other loves JUST for writing. Even Emily Dickinson had people visit and wrote letters, after all. I do need and want people. I’m not really a hermit, even though the idea is tempting sometimes.

But as a respite, it’s wonderful to run away from everything else for a little while and give myself over completely to my life of words. May you all find a respite like this when you need it, an oasis that lets you refill your well and gives you the wherewithal you need for harder times.

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Samantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and a mom and novelist by night. That makes her a superhero all the time. Her secret superpower is finding lost things. When she’s not writing or teaching, Samantha enjoys time with her family, watching old movies, baking, reading, and going places. Her favorite gift is tickets (to just about anything). You can find her Menopausal Superhero series from Curiosity Quills on Amazon, or request it at your favorite independent (or big box) bookstore. You can find her online on her blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Goodreads, on the Falstaff Books page, or on Instagram.

The blank page is a writer’s worse enemy. How many times have we sat frozen, staring at a blur of white space? It amazes me to hear famous authors have suffered this fate. The whole “get back on the bike” analogy doesn’t apply, or maybe we get back on-write a few lines-only to fall off again as our pros halt to a slow leak.

I visited the Tundra last week. Alaska in all its majesty. Just the word Tundra creates a picture: icy cold, barren and brutally absent of life. Most writers, I believe, carry a whisper of their writing life with them, even when the rest of our brain and body vacation.

Outside Skagway, as the train climbed the Yukon route, I admired the coastal mountains, waterfalls tucked into ravines. We found little snow, only the dusting of cottonwood floating in the cool breeze. Western hemlocks, kelly green, filled the mountainsides. It was all breathtaking, the steam engine chugging upward towards the Tundra.

Twenty miles in, at the Summit, the terrain slipped away. Uneven rocks blanketed the land. But the Tundra wasn’t as I expected. Jagged white rocks reminded me of my blank pages waiting for me at home, waiting for life.  And as the train navigated the tight curves of White Pass the rugged slopes obliged. Pines filled the craggy land. Not upward but horizontal along rocks, dipping into shadows and snaking outward like hungry roots damned to survive.

As the locomotive looped and began its decent, in the distance the mountains opened and a slice of the ocean rested below, shimmering in sun.

The excursion left me awe-inspired and the writer in me, ever hopeful, came away with these thoughts:

  • My journey may not end as I imagine. By all means this doesn’t make it less fruitful. I’m open for what’s around the bend. Another route perhaps? Maybe steeper than I expected. Either way, I’ll enjoy the view.
  • I’m tossing my preconceived ideas of authoress to the caboose. No more focusing on the endgame, that summit, where we switch tracks from writer to author. Okay, I’ll consider bragging should I achieve the honor someday. Beyond that I’m not expecting my life to change anytime soon.
  • Writers, like me, grow like trees. Some of us grow upward, other’s outward, like the pines in the Tundra.  I plan to read many genres, even a few I dislike. I’ll see more plays, listen to classical music, paint and sculpt clay. Diverse exposure deepens our discipline. I want to stay hungry like the roots damned to survive.

In the end, what I gained aboard the train ride is a glimpse of a railroad built against odds. That’s me, I suppose.  Finding an agent is an uphill climb. Filling white space, a daily challenge. But I’ll keep chugging along, blowing off steam along the way.

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Pexels.com

WRITING FORMALLY vs FREELY

As a college professor, I wrote three successful textbooks and many scholarly articles. Quite frankly, I found academic writing to be tedious. Still, from the drafting, editing, redrafting and proofing, I learned the discipline to pace myself, accept criticism, and write clearly and concisely. 

Once retired, my audience and focus changed. Creative notes I had been jotting down for years burst into my “free time.” Write it all down! I encouraged myself. This is what you’ve always really wanted to do

LEARNING FROM EXPERTS

I attended writing classes for a year to provide the push I needed. In one class, the instructor asked what we were reading. Eight of the ten class members hadn’t read a book in at least five months. Writers should be readers to learn their craft: appreciating splendid sentences, well-wrought dialogue and concise but powerful use of words. We should be asking: how did the author do that?  How can I do that

One teacher rated a story I submitted an “eight out of ten.” So far, I’ve sent that story out 19 times and received 19 rejections. I keep trying because his praise sustains me. I can get it “right.” I know it!

AVOIDING FAMILY CRITIQUES

My sister-in-law asked me to critique a children’s book she’d written. Alas, it was a rough draft of a stereotypic story. To avoid telling her that, I assembled advice from experts to send her. These can help you more than I canwhen you write the second draft. She never wrote another draft; I suspect she thought writing would be an easy one-off.

My husband made his living as an editor, but I don’t ask him to read my stuff. It’s painful for him to be objective about my writing. The first and last time I asked him “to take a look,” he resorted to copyediting. Now I find beta readers. We are both still happily married.

READING REJECTIONS

I am told that, when the rejections include comments, that’s a good sign. I consider the editor’s words carefully.

  • I’d say, almost, but I think the story would improve with less dialogue that seems chiefly to take care of business and a few more abrupt transitions. 
  • This is a sweet story, generally well written, but it is missing an opportunity to explore more deeply the issues.
  • We want you to know, though, that we read your piece with interest and it was almost there. It made our short list. 
  • We are not accepting your submission. I know that stings. Maybe a little, maybe a lot… But please know that we appreciate you sending a small chunk of your soul every time you send something to us. It does not go unnoticed. Best of luck to you in the future.

That last rejection did take a chunk of my soul. After being mad, sad and discouraged, though, I filed the story for a while. I won’t give up because with each revision, I get closer to writing a better story. I am learning and improving. 

MY WRITING PROCESS

When I sit down to write, often I can’t get started. I sigh and stare at the monitor. Faulkner needed “tobacco, paper and a little whiskey.” I get a cup of coffee (my equivalent of whiskey) and a small snack (not tobacco). Then I shuffle through notes scribbled on scraps of paper and left wherever I happened to be when I had that “brilliant” thought. Most I end up discarding; how could I have thought this paltry piece of prose would blossom into anything? But some notes spark me and then I am lost in the writing for hours.

DISCOVERING MY NICHE

In 1946, sportswriter Paul Gallico wrote, “It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader.” Metaphorically, I bleed a lot. I have discovered that I seem to have a knack for sharing a memory that is both amusing and poignant. That has surprised me because I am a pretty serious person. 

EMBRACE THE EQUATION

In all, during the past three years I have written multiple drafts of 21 stories, including memoir, travel essays, narrative non-fiction and fiction. Only seven of those have been published, about 30 percent of my finished pieces (excluding all the drafts and revisions). Two stories won prizes so I have made a whooping $350.00. It is good that I didn’t expect to make a living as a creative writer. What I hoped for is what I achieved: purpose, enrichment and an opportunity to write creatively every a day.

By the way, what I’ve written for this online writing journal took eight drafts.

Judy Richardson lives in Richmond, Virginia. She has written numerous articles for academic journals and three textbooks. Currently, she is writing a narrative non-fiction manuscript about her many years of mentoring refugees. She has published in The Penman Review, The Persimmon Tree, and Lowestoft Chronicle, as well as in Stories Through The Ages: Baby Boomers Plus-2017 and Nuance, Anthology of Ventura County Writers Club, 2018

I was chatting to a woman I met at a party and I asked what she did for a living. She was in medical equipment sales and her voice became low and sorrowful adding, “I will probably do this the rest of my life.” What was she lamenting? I looked at her and said, “Never predict your future!” 

CAREER CHANGE

Writing had always been that “thing” out there that I believed was for someone else. I was a “business woman.” Who did I think I was writing a novel? I had stories to tell, but didn’t everyone? As my family fell asleep–even the dog–I put my fingers to work and finished my first novel, then my second, and now my third. I have written articles, a collection of short stories, blogs, and even a series of poetry that could fill two books. I succeeded at something I had always wanted but never thought I could do… become something different­–a writer. 

RE-INVENTION

I have been fortunate to surround myself with people who have reinvented themselves in their careers. Some because they’ve had to, others because they’ve wanted to. But the point is, life is not stagnant if you don’t want it to be. I have reinvented my career many times: marketing director, corporate sales, mother, garden designer, interior designer, and now, writer. I put myself out there, not knowing if I could do any of it. I had fear, reservations, insecurities. Who wouldn’t? But as I took on the challenges of career changes, I discovered a broader sense of who I am, what makes me tick, and what I am capable of. 

HALTED MOMENTS

After querying my first novel I realized I was one, little, tiny speck in the sea of sand that falls at the feet of agents and publishers. After years of writing and re-writing, critiques, failed submissions and hundreds of rejections (Yes, you read that number right!) I asked myself, “What the hell am I doing?” I panic I will never be good enough, published, read, or noticed. I worry someone will judge me as a loser. I may fail miserably! Then I sit back and realize, at least I’m trying! 

NO REGRETS

Despite what others may think, or laugh at, they will not be with me at the last breaths of my life when I say, “Did I do all I thought was possible?” I won’t predict my answer to the question just yet. Each day brings something new and challenges me. There are so many things I wish I could have done, should have done in the past; things that make you question yourself. For writing, I will not have regrets!

PERSPECTIVES OF SUCCESS

You never know how your life will turn, where it will take you, or what you are capable of. But what you must never do is think you cannot change your life or do what you really want to do. I do not regret that I moved into different areas and tried different things. I have loved the challenges and realize that I am capable of more than I had planned on. Have I been highly successful? Well, maybe not the way my husband would like–he would like to retire early on the wings of my success! (Sorry Honey!) But I took chances and that is a lot more than most people can say. For that I am successful! 

I hope the woman I met listened to my words and they gave her hope to realize that she has more in her than she thought was possible. Stagnation is only a rest stop, not the end of the journey. Don’t let fear stop you!

How I Turned Breast Cancer into a Writing Career

Autumn evokes warm memories for me growing up on the east coast.  Leaves change from green to crimson and bright yellow, delicious air brisk and soothing.

My perennial October joy ended abruptly in 1993 when I became that one out of seven women diagnosed with breast cancer.  It’s also when I noticed the color pink.  It was everywhere.  TV commercials, clothing, perfume, sports team gear… you name it, there was pink.  For the first ten years after my double mastectomy and a year of anguishing chemotherapy, every October brought back fear.

Pink reminded me daily of being in survival mode. The color represented nausea, sleepless nights, baldness, and I wondered if I’d live to see grandchildren born, if I’d have a recurrence. 

Then my compassionate and brilliant oncologist had a conversation with me.  I was dealing with “chemo brain.”  He kindly suggested I do things to strengthen my brain.  He suggested going back to college and taking math courses.  I laughed.  I’ve never balanced a checkbook. 

We chatted about things I love like travel and writing.  He asked about my favorite place to travel.  My answer was Italy.  His next suggestion was to enroll in a junior college and learn how to speak Italian.  That sounded fun.  But could I learn a language at my age?  Two weeks after that appointment, I enrolled in an Italian class at Orange Coast College.  I studied for 4 semesters and still take private lessons. 

Who knew breast cancer would lead to such an adventure.

At the next appointment, I had just returned from a villa trip in Italy with five women.  And that was it.  I knew I had to write a book.  I enrolled in a night class, joined a critique group, and finished my first novel. 

It took 8 years, a lot of rejections, an agent who took my book and then told me to change the setting to India.  (Because India was “in” at the time.)  I fired him.  I found a small press and published.  Out of that first book, I burned with a desire to write more.  Currently, my fourth novel is with my editor.

I have been able to make a consulting business out of my travels to Italy.  All because my doctor made suggestions, and I followed them. 

Pink no longer represents fear.  It represents joy.  Winners wear pink.

Breast cancer taught me how to turn a tragedy into triumph.  Now I speak Italian, write until my fingers tire, and travel as often as possible.  I’m always looking to learn something new, wanting my life to count, to be remembered as someone who faced adversity, survived, and lived life to the fullest.

When it’s my time to leave this earth, I have every intention of arriving at the grave in a pretty pink dress, skidding in broadside, thoroughly used up and loudly proclaiming, “Wow, what a ride.”

Before writing her first novel and current travel book, Janet specialized in self-help and spiritual guidance with articles on overcoming breast cancer, dealing with dying parents, and other life-changing issues. She has also published stories about the search for her roots including the poignant discovery of her grandfather’s journey from Italy to America.

Janet has been a teacher of English and History for gifted high school students, owned an editing and writing business, and was a co-owner of a large construction company. She is available for speaking engagements regarding her adventures in Italy and is available for trip planning to Italy…including suggested itineraries, hotel and villa recommendations, restaurants…and places to sit and sip and enjoy the Italian culture.

Rock bottom became the solid foundation upon which I rebuilt my life ” – J.K.Rowling

The bottom leaves few options.

Whether you’re starting a novel or stuck somewhere in between, consider yourself at the bottom. Daunting I know. And counter intuitive. Yet the bottom leaves only one direction. Up.

Underground tunnels often lead nowhere. Writing seems that way sometimes. I’ve found myself huddled over my laptop, moving in circles. I drift down a tunnel only to learn I’ve headed nowhere new.

The bottom line (see what I did there?) is you can’t sink deeper. Believe that. Then step up. Here’s how.

SEEK LIGHT

Creepy things dwell in darkness. For a writer this means negative thoughts, self-loathing. Worry mushrooms. Light awakens our muse. Find it. Begin by bathing in all five senses. Surround your writing space with sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.

In the article, It’s Just Common Sense: Accessing All 5 Senses To Enrich Research Insights, disrupters (the five senses) can access the less-conscious brain. They impact how we really experience and think about things. It also helps broaden the tools and the language that people can use to express their feelings and reactions.

My muses:

  • Lamp showers light on an inspirational picture: a watercolor of a blues bar, musicians playing.
  • Wine, if I’m in the mood. Or a hot tea. Write, sip. Repeat.
  • Pandora in the background. Maybe Michael Bublé crooning.
  • A leather-bound notebook. Book ideas. Smells of parchment.
  • A smooth stone, polished and weighty. I palm it, consider my next line. Like a pen in hand, my rock helps me think.

CLIMB

Where do you want to go next? Maybe you can’t see it yet. Views from above provide insight.  Problems, whether plot points, or revealing character arc, for example, require big picture views. The higher you climb, the less troublesome the issue. Think lounging by a pool and spying a bug. View the pool out the second-story window and the bug disappears. Recall the big picture. Review timelines, plot points, character sketches.

REROUTE

Linear thinking is one option. Amy Hempel, who recently published a short story collection, Sing to It, said she didn’t write the sections in Bluets in order.

“It rings true in the way memories come to us and how we experience anything. We don’t go through a given day in a linear fashion. At least I don’t,” Hempel said.

It’s okay to skip ahead. Maybe you’d rather write about the climax. Maybe another character’s speaking to you at night before you drift off. Often a secondary character exposes truth only they can tell you. Write your way. The way the story unfolds to you. Don’t be afraid to change a paragraph or two. Dump a chapter. I just did that and it improved the book.

As I wrote this, I was traveling through New Mexico. In that jag of I40, desert greets the highway. In the distance plateaus rise. Their flat crests rebuff the desert shapes below. Given the chance, I’d sit atop that firm foundation, view the desert floor from above. The clay earth is littered with shrubs, obstacles to seeing the big picture.

Wandering the bottom is futile. Step up and leave the view from the bottom behind.

THE UGLY TRUTH

Elizabeth Conte, Writerdeeva

MASTERFUL THINKING

Authors, like James Patterson and Stephen King, have gotten into the business of selling “their knowledge,” claiming they have the secrets which will make you a successful writer. Okay, they don’t actually promise that, but the assumption­ is well. Follow him/her and you, too, will be a well-known author!

NEWSFLASH! IT DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY

Masters writers are what we aspire to be. They make a lot of money, hold the valuable space in bookstores, get the big advertising dollars, and have access to interviews and talks across the country, if not the world. They sell a lot of damn books. They’ve made it! But, in this new age of publishing, where publishing houses are doing less and less, budgets are smaller, staffs thinner, the opportunity for a no-name author to get attention is remote. Well-known authors may offer courses on how to be the “next” Stephen King or Dan Brown, but do they instruct you how to become a success? 

REALITY IS UGLY

In the article, With Fewer Debut Novels Selling, What Do Editors Want To Tell Authors? , Publishers Lunch’s Michael Cader noted debuts were “way” down. He noted, in the weeks leading up to London Book Fair in 2016 there were 34 debut fiction sales, 37 in 2017, and only 27 debut fiction deals in 2018. The opportunity for new writers in traditional publishing is not growing. Writers are fighting for fewer and fewer spots.  

OPTIMISM VS OPPORTUNITY

I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t indulge in courses from best-selling authors. I’m sure they have a bundle of helpful advice. Master writers offer priceless experience and knowledge. Well, not priceless MasterClass will charge you $180 for a year’s access to learn from master writers like Dan Brown, Margaret Atwood, and Neil Gaiman. If you can fit it into your budget, taking courses that help you grow as a writer from people who have walked-the-walk and have proven successful should be a part of your repertoire. But I wonder if these masters of writing were in the trenches with debut authors of today, would they be so optimistic about their keys to success? Or would they give up because it is so damn hard?

DON’T SEEK PROOF… IT’S NOT THERE

I’m a hardworking, committed writer. I have pushed myself to learn everything I can about writing and the industry. I don’t know many who have kept up a passion for success as I have. If there was a roadmap–a mountain to climb, or a river to forge–that would prove me successful, I would have found it and done it. I would be shouting it off the rooftops to all my fellow writers to do the same. I want everyone who works hard, and is committed, to find their success. But I haven’t found the roadmap. I am not sure the masters of writing have “the” proven methodology to success either. Authors like John Grisham, J.K. Rowling, or Judy Blume hold keys to their success, and maybe are just as passionate to share with others. Their aspirations are noble.

FACING TRUTH

The truth is, nobody’s advice is going to work for you. In publishing, you have to find your own path, travel down it, and if it leads to nowhere, find another one, and another one, until you see a clearing. We are all looking for someone to tell us how it’s done. I honestly wish I had the answers. I can only offer my inspirational spirit and encourage you to keep writing because you love to.

KEEP GOING

Believe in yourself. That is what I do. I am not giving up. I am still searching for the opportunity. And when I find it, I’ll let you know. Maybe I’ll have my own Master Class.


I LEARNED THREE RULES of writing when I was a beginning writer. 

Rule #1:Writing takes discipline. It’s a job, not a hobby. To be an author, you need to dedicate X number of hours per day to your craft.

Rule #2:You don’t need to be inspired to write. If you stare at your blank screen (or page) long enough, the words will come. 

Rule #3:Organized writers produce the best results. You need to prepare your story before you begin. Outline, categorize, arrange your thoughts and ideas first. That way you’ll always know what comes next.

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

When I began my first book, many years ago, I didn’t know about those rules. My muse commanded me to write and I put down whatever popped into my head. There was no organization. I had no idea what would happen next. I only wrote when I had something to write. As time passed, each new idea began with love scenes. They were the most exciting, the most exhilarating, the most fun to write. Afterwards, I pieced together the rest of the story. Through it all I relied on my muse to guide me.

Eight years later I joined my first critique group and discovered a new world of writing regulations. Grammar dos and don’ts. Point of view preferences. The right way to use dialogue tags. After putting all the new pointers in place, I realized there was something else amiss. Something big. I was missing that wonderful tension that moves stories along. Oh, there were events and complications but the characters lacked motivation and depth. There wasn’t enough conflict.  

A class on plotting introduced me to the GMC chart—Goal, Motivation, and Conflict—and I learned how to create tension, how to pit characters against each other, how to force them to choose the lesser of two evils. It was glorious! Finally, the story had more than just juicy love scenes, it had flawed characters people cared about, imperfect choices, and stubborn emotions. And yet, the story was taking forever to write. 

FINDING WORDS WHILE FINDING MYSELF

My favorite authors published book after book, year after year. How did they do that? Why couldn’t I write that fast? The answer was obvious. I’d forgotten the three rules. I needed to plant my butt in my chair and treat writing like a job. So, I sat at my computer and looked at a blank screen. And stared. And stared. Nothing came. I read email. Still nothing. I ate lunch. Not a word. In desperation, I left the house, slamming the door on my way out, and went for a walk.

I was frustrated and angry. I hate wasting time. I hate being unproductive. I’d much rather read a book or watch a movie than stare at a blank screen. But I was trying to follow the rules. While I walked I muttered, and grimaced, and growled. After climbing the long hill and making my way down, I turned on the main road and ambled along. The sun warmed my back, birds chirped, a light breeze stirred the leaves on the trees. A beautiful day. I breathed deeply and smiled. My mood lifted, and I decided to enjoy being outside.

On the way back home, I stopped to examine a leaf on the ground and thought of my heroine standing beneath an oak tree, her breath in frosty puffs, a woolen cloak wrapped around her as she shivered in the cold. And just like that the scene poured in, complete with other characters and dialogue.

The truth is there are as many ways to write a story. There are plotters—those who organize, schedule, arrange, and have everything figured out before they start. There are pantsers—those who write by the seat of their pants, which means anything goes. Both ways work. I used to be a pantser and then I tried plotting. The trick is to find which works best for you.

IT’S A PERSONAL JOURNEY

Nanette Littlestone is an award-winning author, editor, publisher, and CEO of Words of Passion. She never knew she wanted to be a writer until she was over forty. But once she began, the ideas didn’t stop. She loves to explore relationships and is unceasingly curious about why people do what they do. The themes of her stories focus on love (what we always strive for) and forgiveness (what we always need). 

Writing is a discipline. I strongly agree with that. You have to be dedicated. You have to persevere. Stories don’t write themselves. But I refuse to stare at a blank screen. If I’m not inspired to write, then I don’t write. And, yes, that means it takes me a long time to finish a story. But that’s my process. It may not be yours. Writing is a personal journey. A journey that starts and stops with you. You are the one who selects the path of your characters and how that path unfolds. Let your heart guide you in finding the way that story wants to be shared.

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About the Author

Nanette Littlestone is an award-winning author, editor, publisher, and CEO of Words of Passion. She never knew she wanted to be a writer until she was over forty. But once she began, the ideas didn’t stop. She loves to explore relationships and is unceasingly curious about why people do what they do. The themes of her stories focus on love (what we always strive for) and forgiveness (what we always need). Her books include F.A.I.T.H. – Finding Answers in the Heart, Volumes I and II, the historical novel The Sacred Flame, and the contemporary sequel Bella Toscana. And a new book is in the works, a YA fantasy about healing the heart of the planet. In her spare time, she works with the Conscious Life Journal as Editor in Chief, managing authors and articles for this magazine that helps people journey into higher conscious awareness through the five stages of Mind, Body, Spirit, Integration, and Balance. www.wordsofpassion.com




A GREAT STORY… that is the driving force behind why most people write. Next, comes the inspiration, “I can do it!” Thus, a writer is born. All the excitement pumps through your veins as you tap away, in the wee hours of the night, not telling anyone you have the next Great American Novel. You imagine yourself giving talks to a filled room, readers’ eager faces staring, amazed how you moved them with your prose. You screech. A top-notch agent calls with news a major studio wants to buy the rights. Your dreams of success are realized. 

And then you get your first rejection letter. Then the next. Maybe ten more before you realize there is so much more to this writing gig. Welcome to jungle!

REALITY SETS IN & WRITERS GO TO WORK

The writing process is hard. But we get through it. We finish our manuscripts. We give it to beta readers to judge. We cry. We rewrite. We edit again, and again. We cry more. We take classes–maybe get a MFA. We go to retreats. Attend Seminars. We join writers groups and Facebook pages, read blogs and do everything to learn how to be a better writer.  Meanwhile, the rejections keep coming. We look for the light in the few words the agents honor us with, “I was intrigued by your premise, but I felt disconnected to your character,” or, “Your writing is lovely, but I just don’t know where to fit you in the marketplace.” Now what?

OTHER WRITING

One of the many ways I have kept my spirit alive in the publishing world is to write poetry and short stories. I pushed myself into the world of journalism and blogging. Yes, it takes me away from my manuscript, but I don’t say that with regret. It has made me a well-rounded professional writer. 

Learning different techniques, writing short, more succinct, to the point is a process. A going-back-to-school process! But, creating for a specific market or topic pushed my writing skills further. All benefiting my novel-writing by helping me gauge my own audience and choosing words more discriminately. More importantly, it has helped me be more technical with grammar, spelling and world building. In other words, I became more professional and skilled at writing words, versus creating just beautiful prose. 

BEING A PROFESSIONAL

Novel writing allows you to be sloppy–until the editing process. No one, and I mean all those lovely novels you buy in the store and hope to-be-as-good-as, created by authors you aspire to emulate, writes well–at first. They are sloppy too. Every writer needs editing. But as you travel down the publishing path, scintillating stories and pretty prose are not enough. They are a dime a dozen. You need to be professional. Every writer learns upon submission the “rules” of writing: properly addressing an agent, correct word counts per genre, formatting, and so on. They think, if the submission looks good and sounds good, they’ll be given a chance. But many “green” writers overlook technical writing. English Class-101 should not be wasted when writing. Yes, learning the difference between then and than, which or that, or who’s and whose, means something. Submitting a great story will soon be passed if the writing is not accurate. It will be the thing that separates the writers from the professional.

CAREER MYTH-BUILDING

At this point in your career you should not need another article on how to put words together that is cohesive and interesting. It should be second nature. But this is where many writers fail to reach beyond being a writer and becoming a professional writer. Stepping out of the novel writing, and into the larger world of writing from how-to articles, to ads for your local church’s annual charity event all require a skill set of writing. Learning to write for other venues and purposes helps build your muscle-writing strength. It makes you learn the rules of general writing, and become professional at writing.

CIRCLING BACK

After all that novel writing, maybe now is the time to write something different, and try other venues. Try submitting a short story to your favorite magazine. Online has opened up the world for writers to submit. Local newspapers, community magazines, industry blogs, or online journals are a terrific way to gain exposure as a writer, as well as add to your bio. Writing is writing. The skill set is different, but the professionalism is the same. Don’t be sloppy when submitting to other venues because it is a different kind writing. If you are a professional writer your words will still invoke connection, no matter how short, or what the topic. It is a great way to challenge your abilities, and maybe even learn something along the way to add to your true love–novel writing. 

 


Forty years ago, I wrote down three life goals as part of a seminar exercise. I only remember two of those goals: to have all my novels published and own a car that worked.

There was one problem. I hadn’t written any novels. 

I was a working a chapbook of my poetry at the time. The Last Thousand Years was published as a university prize. My poems appeared in small literary journals. I wrote fifty words at a time. Short poems with white space around words. 

The world of real work with deadlines and endless meetings closed around me. As a journalist and communicator I wrote news stories, features, press releases, speeches, position papers, and hundreds of poems. If you write, you know stories ping off every second-hand observation, every moment listening in on someone else’s conversation, every pop of an idea while you’re washing the dishes. Although I didn’t know it, I was gathering material. 

How is fiction created from personal experience? There was only so much I could say—like two sentences—about my life that would matter to anyone else. Where did the ideas come from that yielded a novel?

A novel needs desire, anticipation, conflict and epiphanies.

Even if I understood the three-act structure and how to build to a climax from studying Greek tragedies, how did I translate that to fiction? The goal I’d written decades before reminded me, there were novels lurking in my brain. 

Being a journalist taught me how to put more than
fifty words on a page.

The world of prose—with all its dependent clauses, its multiple lines of inquiry, editors cut from the bottom—opened to me on pages of newsprint and magazine spreads. If I’d become a journalist in the digital age, with its tiny screens and foreshortened stories, I would never have become a novelist.

Still, going from 50 to 800 or even 2,000 words was a huge leap to 70,000 words. I needed another stepping stone. I wrote essays and short stories. Little by little, I wrote a novel—the typical semi-autobiographical work of a novice writer. After several rewrites I sent it out to agents and received lovely rejection notes. They told me I wrote beautifully but they weren’t interested in my project. 

“Project?” I growled. “It’s not a project; it’s a novel!”

I tore the novel apart, salvaged what I could, and wrote more short stories. It’s easier on the heart to abandon 2,000 words than it is to let go of 80,000. Rejection makes each word seem worth less than it did when you typed it, but rejection is a constant part of a writer’s life. “You better have a rhinoceros hide,” wrote one kind editor who published a poem. 

I was still thinking about short stories when Cromwell’s Folly hit me full force as I was driving to the bank. I heard the beginning of that novel in my head as if the story were being told to me by someone in the passenger seat. I turned to look at the speaker, expecting to see Detective Sam Lagarde in his tan felt Stetson outback hat, barn jacket and corduroy slacks. He existed only in my imagination. When I got home, I typed down the words he said as fast as I could and waited for the next installment. 

Writers are stubborn, and persistent. We write because we breathe.

After years of reading Toni Morrison, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Barbara Kingsolver, the last thing I ever expected to write was a murder mystery. All I had to do was tap the keys. Cromwell’s Folly landed me an agent. And then a publisher. It still seems like magic. Three more novels followed in quick succession, an experience similar to having quadruplets complete with sleepless nights and lots of messes to clean up.

I am now waiting for my publisher’s edits and notes on a new women’s fiction novel, Blue Girl on a Night Dream Sea set for release in July 2019. [Sneak peek: To save her own life, Elena, a 21st century police commando, must save Hana, who has trekked across Bronze Age Lebanon to prevent a king from destroying her tribe. They’re stronger together. The problem is they’re 4,000 years and 6,000 miles apart.

While I’m waiting, I’m also completely revising a family saga that resists its confines, doing the final edits on a contemporary re-telling of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and polishing a novel involving a crotchety old woman preventing a young writer’s suicide and in return asks for a story every day as she’s dying. I’m also seeking a publisher for a novel told in linked short stories.

All those years ago my unconscious was prompting me to listen up. There are a lot of stories to tell. I’ll bet you have one, or two.


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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is GinnyHeadshot.jpgGinny Fite is an award-winning journalist who has covered crime, politics, government, healthcare, art and all things human. She has been a spokesperson for a governor and a member of Congress, a few colleges and universities, and a robotics R&D company. She has degrees from Rutgers University, Johns Hopkins University, and studied at the School for Women Healers and the Maryland Poetry Therapy Institute. Her three murder mysteries, Cromwell’s Folly, No Good Deed Left Undone, and Lying, Cheating, and Occasionally Murder, are set in the rolling hills of Jefferson County, West Virginia. Her newest novel, the thriller No End of Bad was released in June 2018. She resides in Harpers Ferry, WV.

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