Monday, April 23, 2018

Dianne K. Salerni, Make Rejection Your Motivation to Grow

Make Rejection Your Motivation to Grow

We hates it, precious. We hates it.

Rejection stings. It undermines. It tarnishes every writing success you’ve ever had. That was all you had, it whispers. You already peaked, and it’s downhill from here.

And yet, we can’t quit writing, can we? At heart, we’re incurable story-tellers with the lives of characters pulsing through our blood. We can’t stop writing. But if we let rejection infect us, we’ll never break out of its cycle.

People say, “It only takes one yes” and “The business is so subjective.” These things are true, and remembering this might help you stop weeping and binging on your comfort food of choice. But it doesn’t help much when you face your next blank page. Since you can’t control the whims of the publishing business, you must take control your own journey as a writer.

I’ve experienced a number of rejections lately, including on a project I thought was a sure thing. Rather than keep cranking out similar stories and expecting a different outcome, I’ve taken a long hard look at my work and asked myself: Am I bringing the best I have to the table?

It’s not that these projects weren’t difficult. I swear, I tore my hair out over some of them. But I’ve come to realize that if I don’t learn something new and vital about the craft of writing in each and every story I write, then I’m not growing and learning as a writer. And if my works have been rejected, maybe it’s because that lack of growth is apparent.

One of the most common reasons for rejection—and the most puzzling for writers—is: I didn’t connect with your main character’s voice. If you’re like me, you’ve banged your head on your keyboard over that one. What’s wrong with the voice? What did she mean, she didn’t connect with it? How do I fix what I don’t understand?

Some of the things I’ve started to question about my own writing, especially as it pertains to voice, are:
  • ·       Am I choosing the right point of view for the story? Or have I defaulted to the point of view I’m most comfortable with?
  • ·       Have I given POV to the right characters? (Considering how my drafts change over time, have I recognized that a POV character in the first draft has lost importance as the story evolved, while another character has gained importance?)
  • ·       Have I delved deeply enough into character arcs and fully explored my characters’ emotional crises and eventual growth? Or have I simply skimmed the surface because going deeper makes me uncomfortable?

And, not directly related to voice, but looking at my projects holistically:
  • ·       Have I tried something new or stayed squarely within my comfort zone?

The last time I had a big book deal was when I left my comfort zone of historical fiction and ventured into urban fantasy. When I started that project, I didn’t think I would ever finish it. But I did. And now it’s a three-book series.

In the past year – in between the weeping and the binging – I’ve done my best to grow and learn as a writer. I’ve explored new genres and tried my hand with different points of view and verb tense. I took an old manuscript that came this close to selling and rewrote it, changing the POV and delving deeper into character emotions. I took POV away from a character who didn’t need it and gave it to a character who had more agency in the story. I outlined a book from start to finish – which is not something I normally do. And I started a project that is way out of my comfort zone.

I’ve decided to stop looking at rejection as a condemnation of my writing and start looking at it as impetus for personal growth.

Who wants to join me?

DIANNE K. SALERNI is the author of the popular Eighth Day MG fantasy series, described by Kirkus as “an exciting blend of Arthurian legend and organized crime.” The first book in the series, The Eighth Day, has been on state lists in Maine, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Minnesota, and Indiana. Dianne has also published two YA historical novels.  The Caged Graves is a Junior Library Guild Selection and has been nominated for reader’s choice awards in Vermont, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania. We Hear the Dead was the inspiration for a short film, The Spirit Game, which premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Five Reasons To Promote Your Book

Many writers detest promoting their books, but it’s a necessary evil if we want readers. Too many of us indies publish our books, promote them for a few weeks, leave them to flounder and then fade into obscurity. If you’re going to be writing for the long haul, there are at least five excellent reasons to promote your books.

It’s great for visibility. This is obvious and, clearly, the number one reason to share information about your work. People are busy and there are oodles of things vying for their attention. If you don’t put your book in a position to be seen, it’s a sure bet that after release day visibility will taper off and soon the rankings will blow up to a huge number.

2.   You never know who you’ll reach or who’s watching. It’s a good idea to have several graphics for your books that you can rotate on advertising platforms and social media. I’ve found many readers simply by posting my graphics in various places, on some kind of schedule.

3.    It provides a mind shift. Most of us are writing and promoting at the same time. The intervals we use to showcase our work puts our brain in another gear and gives us time for fresh inspiration to take root until we sit again to write. If you like playing with graphics, that’s another way to change your mental channel to another station for a while.

4.    It keeps your eye on the prize. Including promotion as part of your day helps you stay disciplined. It’s also a great reminder that your aim is to sell more stories. All of us would like to find our tribe of readers, and regular promotion helps us to gain traction one reader at a time.

5.    Promoting helps expand your knowledge. Indies have to know a little bit about a lot of stuff. I now know what promotional material works for me and what doesn’t. I know what time of day I can catch my audience,  I’ve found out where my ads do better, and I continue to read books that talk about the why and how of promoting and marketing.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned about promoting? What works best for you? Do you know you can swap/share promotional material with other authors to get the word out about your book/s? What can you do differently to promote your book/s?

Monday, April 9, 2018

Brad Herzog. The Curious Writer

I first met Brad at a bookstore event last year where we gave presentations to a group of writers. I loved what he had to say about his take on writing because it jived with mine. Well, of course, you love people who agree with you, right?

The next time we met, he talked more about himself as a writer and a publisher. I had to share his take on this business with IWSG members. I think you'll love it, even if you don't agree with it.

Take it away, Brad.

As a bit of an iconoclast—and as a longtime author and freelance writer—I tend to question everything. When the rest of the world is zigging, you’ll often find me zagging. In fact, I believe that’s my job description: Tilt your head at the world, wonder out loud, grab an unusual idea, then write about it.

So I tend to question clich├ęs about writing, too, including these:
*Write what you know (I prefer to write what I don’t know so that every fascinating subject is a mini-education for me).
*Don’t pitch it until it’s perfect (Nothing is perfect. Not even To Kill A Mockingbird. Rewriting is paramount, but it can cross the line into procrastination).
*Be disciplined (If a strict writing schedule works for you, great. But mood and motivation contribute to the strength of my work. When I force writing, the Force is not with me).

Still, I most question this: Brand yourself. Pick a genre. Stick to it. 

I understand where this comes from—the notion that a jack of all trades is master of none, that an agent or editor should be able to categorize you, that expertise is focused, and that success in a certain arena breeds more success. And yes, a great many mega-successful authors are nearly inseparable from a genre, whether it’s Stephen King or John Grisham or J.K. Rowling.

But King and Grisham also have written about baseball. And Rowling penned a novel, The Casual Vacancy, about social issues. They could write about anything they wanted, and that’s exactly what they did—expectations be damned.

So why can’t any author? Why can’t anybody gain the sense of satisfaction that comes from a bit of courageous experimentation? Why can’t it actually be viewed as a triumphant attempt, perhaps even a beneficial one? After all, we may think we know which genre lures us. We may think we know where our talents are best suited. But how do we really know until we dabble a bit?

I suppose I’ve made a career out of this.

In college nearly 30 years ago, I was a summer intern at Sports Illustrated for Kids, which (through its publishing arm) released my first books a few years later—a sports puzzle book, a couple of sports trivia books. Was that my destined path? Well, roads veer and fork. Now my list of published children’s books includes fiction and nonfiction, little board books for preschoolers and nonfiction collections for middle graders, rhyming alphabet picture books and co-authored autobiographies.

I’m not a genre-specific children’s writer. I’m a writer.

I actually began my career as a newspaper sportswriter who soon realized I was more interested in the human angle than the X’s and O’s. So I began writing magazine features—mostly about sports. But roads widen. I broadened my scope. A quarter-century later, my portfolio includes everything from Sports Illustrated to in-flight magazines, from stories about Monopoly and miniature horses to profiles of the Wright Brothers and Dr. Joyce Brothers (um, separately, that is). My first book for adults, The Sports 100: A Ranking of the Most Important People in U.S. Sports History, was a book about sports history. But really, it was a foray into cultural trends, business, media, gender, and race.

I’m not a sportswriter. I’m a writer. And that means I’m an historian, an observer, a commentator, a critic, whatever I want to be.

When The Sports 100 was about to be published, I found myself staring at an atlas one day. I noticed tiny little towns named after virtues—Pride (Alabama), Wisdom (Montana), Inspiration (Arizona). On a whim, in a Winnebago, my wife Amy and I decided to hit the road on a year-long, 48-state journey. “We’ll search for those attributes in those places,” I said, “and I’ll try to write a book about it.” The resulting book, States of Mind, did rather well (look it up if you want to read about its goofy journey involving Regis Philbin and Oprah). I’ve since written two more American travel memoirs in which I examine the big picture by visiting the tiniest dots on the map. It’s where I flex my writing muscles. I’m tremendously proud of the writing and the scope (if not the subsequent sales).

But I’m not a travel writer. I’m an author.

Of course, not every experiment pans out. I written a couple of manuscripts (think The Phantom Tollbooth and Where the Sidewalk Ends) that I truly love. Someday they’ll have covers and ISBN numbers. But not yet.

But there, too, I haven’t limited myself. Like so many writers, I grew frustrating with the publishing gauntlet. So I zagged again. I started my own little venture, Why Not Books, which has grown beyond my own books (ranging from a picture book about golf to a civil rights memoir) to publishing a couple of other authors whose manuscript and message resonated with me. And lots of things resonate, which is why I’ve created blogs about everything from 100 literary lists to the merger of place and prose.

But I’m not a publisher. I’m not a blogger. I’m a peddler of notions. I send ideas out into the world.

So if you’re focused on a specific genre, and that’s where you feel comfortable, that’s great. Embrace it. Ride it out. Have a blast. But hopefully, your motivations are internal. True writing comes from within. And as the great Walt Whitman contended, “I am large; I contain multitudes.”

If you’re a square peg of a writer, don’t try to fit yourself into a round hole of oft-repeated rules and arbitrary categories. Anyway, more likely you’re a squircle… a heptagram… or nonagon. If that’s the case, you have to create your own fit. In fact, why peg yourself at all?

To be curious about many things is human. That’s why we’re writers. And to dabble is divine.


Brad Herzog is the author of dozens of books for children, including W is for Welcome, a celebration of the challenges and accomplishments of America’s immigrants (Sleeping Bear Press, April 2018). He also has written a trilogy of travel memoirs, which the American Book Review deemed "the new classics of American travel writing." As a freelance magazine writer, Brad has been honored several times by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), including a Grand Gold Medal for best feature article of the year. As a speaker, he visits schools around the country and has presented a popular TEDx talk about “Catching Creative Ideas.” Along with his wife and two sons, Brad lives on California’s Monterey Peninsula.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Insecure Writer's Support Group Day and Upcoming Events

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts for the April 4 posting of the IWSG are Olga Godim, Chemist Ken, Renee Scattergood, and Tamara Narayan!

April 4 question - When your writing life is a bit cloudy or filled with rain, what do you do to dig down and keep on writing?

Upcoming events:

Are you following TheIWSG on Instagram? Here are the prompts for April:

There’s a Self-Publishing Conference coming up on April 14 and it’s free to register for it.

The IWSG anthology, Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime, comes out on May 1. Click on the link to go to the book’s page – pre-orders are open.

The IWSG Goodreads Group will be discussing Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need by Blake Snyder on May 23.

The next IWSG Twitter pitch event, #IWSGPit, is July 19! See that page for details. Some great success stories have come from the first two – it could be you.

Please welcome Shannon Lawrence to the IWSG Admin team!
Shannon will be heading up our newsletter.

We need co-hosts for the coming months! If you can co-host on May 2, June 6, July 3, or August 1, please leave a comment below or send us an email. It takes at least four co-hosts each month to keep up with everyone. Thanks!

What do you do to keep writing? What events are you looking forward to?