Monday, May 26, 2008

Writing for Life...

"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time." –Thomas Edison (who reportedly had 10,000 failures before successfully creating the light bulb).

I'd been chatting with some of my writerly friends last week. We'd been dishing about our struggles and commiserating over the need for patience. There comes a time when the wicked truth descends upon every writer.

Writing isn't a hundred yard dash. Writing is a marathon. You have to stick to it. Page after page, scene after scene, chapter after chapter. Then comes the rewrites. But honestly, that's not where the real patience comes in. A vast majority of writers sincerely believe writing their book, THE First Book, is the finish line. Once written, the accolades will tumble in. Contest wins! The query will net 100% response! Agents will BEG to read the full! Publishing houses will start a bidding war! Ten days later, Bestseller List!!


On one loop, a troubled writer had received her first rejection and quite legitimately wondered if she should keep pushing forward or give up writing and stick with her established career.

One author responded with blunt-force trauma saying, in essence, if you have to ask then YES, Quit! Because unless you have not only the fortitude but also the determination, the passion, the absolute unrealistic stubbornness to WRITE-SUBMIT-WRITE until the day you are published, flee now while you can!


A noted author responded with her own personal story, which she graciously allowed me to repost for everyone here:

I wrote FIVE manuscripts before I sold, queried over 100 agents, had over 100 rejections, and never considered giving up. I often ask people when I speak, "IF you knew today that you would not sell, would you still write?" If the answer is yes, first, you're more likely to sell and second, you have the desire to write for the long haul, and perseverance is part of the publishing triangle (perseverance, talent, and luck.) Stephen King, John Grisham, Nora Roberts, and many other bestselling authors were rejected countless times. Most authors have been rejected. It's part of the business.

I had one agent request the full of my first manuscript and wrote back a one word response: SUPERFICIAL. Ouch. Yet, she was probably right. She could have been kinder. She could have said, "Your writing isn't strong enough for my list." But she didn't. I could have quit, but luckily I didn't because now I have 8 books on the shelves, a novella, and a short story, have one book in production, and I'm contracted for six more books and two short stories.

Every book I've written is better than the last. If you want to be a writer, you have to keep writing.

Allison Brennan TEMPTING EVIL 5/20/08

Write ON. *grin*

"If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody." –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Here's the thing. Published writers don't have a special key to unlock the doorway to success. They simply knocked longer and harder until someone opened the gosh-darn door and let them in.

Another thing to consider… The journey is damn important. I know the thought of being published is the dangling carrot that keeps our mulish self plodding forward, one page at a time. But I believe writing is more than a means to an end. I believe writing is an act of self-discovery. Each page you write is a testament to your strength, your courage and your perseverance.

"Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance." –Samuel Johnson

While much credence is given to those who can do everything from Dance With The Stars to Surviving on Bugs in this Reality-Show driven decade, few of those characters could ever accomplish what we do. We Write Books. THIS is our mountain. Everytime we complete another novel, we are planting a flag. Visualize those flags fluttering in the breeze and feel a tingle of pride because We Are Writers. Damn, but we're lucky.

And believe me I know, the trek grows perilous. The rocky path is a chore to climb and too often we pause wondering which way to turn.

"When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on." –Franklin D. Roosevelt

Try this for a mantra:

Success comes to those who persevere. I AM a success because I persevere.

Finish the page, the scene, the chapter (remember it's only a first draft). Edit your WIP until it shines. Submit until The Right Person opens the door. And remember, We Are Writers. And what do writers do? We Write!

Here's to another productive week... Go-go-GO!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Yup, We Gotta Have Faith...

"When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come to you. If your heart is in your dreams, no request is too extreme, when you wish upon a star as dreamers do."

--Music by Leigh Harline / Lyrics by Ned Washington

Faith is the light that brightens our darkest moments. We need faith to stay true to our vision no matter what.

I spent my wild high-school years in Orange County, California. I adored Hollywood but my true home was Disneyland. The enchanted land where magical dreams come true. Disney was an innovator, a pioneer and an unabashed dreamer who fueled his vision with a sense of optimism that would not be dimmed no matter how many clouds came his way. We have only to consider his fantastic legacy to realize just how far faith can take us.

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them." --Walt Disney

Ah, courage. Yikes. It's one thing to bask in the lovely fantasy of being a best-selling author, signing books (not to mention contracts!) and quite another to scrape up the courage to tackle each phase. The Dreaded Synopsis. The Horror of Endless Editing. The Revision That Would not Die. The Curse of the Unwoven Subplot. Each and every aspect of our budding career requires us to believe. To have faith. And to have the courage to tackle the inevitable fear that arises. We may chide ourselves for our procrastination, our innate talent for avoidance. Yet the issue is often deeper than we realize. We need to remember that it is SCARY OUT THERE. We are confronting the Great Unknown. Imagine your fingers are the shaking legs of your inner self, and you're pushing, saying, "Go ahead... step off that cliff. It'll be fine. Trust me."

Of course, it WILL be fine. But our quaking fears don't know that. Yet. That's why we need to keep going. We need to push ourselves a little bit further each time. Remember the first time you rode a bike? The wobble and pitch, the fear of crashing? The fear fades with repetition. Soon, we'll be steering through plot twists, changing gears with ease!

"If you can dream it, you can do it." --Walt Disney

Anything we want to achieve, we can. That's the crux of it. Action is the vehicle to make our dreams come true. It does no good to visualize without taking action though! You can sit on your lawn all you want, visualizing cut grass. Those blades will continue to grow until you get out the darn mower!

"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing." --Walt Disney

Hah! Aye, there's the rub, eh? There's a huge difference between wanting and doing. Discipline is required. Focus. Determination. Those darn books won't write themselves. Dang it. *heh-heh*

"When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable." --Walt Disney

No half-measures. No... "I sort of think that maybe I might just be able to write if the heavens open up and give me a sign and the weather cooperates and every circumstance happens just right. Maybe."

Say it. "I'm a writer." Believe it. Then make it happen. How? Writer's write. They persist. They push. They don't let up. Ever. Make it happen.

“Somehow I can’t believe there are many heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secret of making dreams come true. This special secret can be summarized in four C’s. They are: curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of these is confidence.” –Walt Disney

The four C's. Oooooh, this works well for writers, eh? Curiosity? You betcha. It's what drives us through our hours of research and our weeks of plotting. The greatest of all though… Confidence. Believe. You ARE what you believe. Remember, we're rewriting the old saying, "I'll believe it when I see it." *heh-heh* We now know that We'll see it when we believe it.

“Get a good idea and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it's done right.” –Walt Disney

Back to persistence. Yup. Plug away and keep the focus. We start with a cool premise. We type feverishly until we've carved out an incredible story. Then the hours and hours of editing. The critiques. The new revisions. The realization that a subplot needs to be expanded or doesn't work or drops off… and what the heck happened to the dog in Chapter Three anyway???

We begin with the barest wisp of an idea. And out of that tiny, almost imperceptible seed (to which we water, prune, weed, and add loads of s**t… er… Fertilizer *grin* ) a full-grown story blossoms. Amazing. Freaking amazing. Truly, it seems impossible, when we think about it.

“It's kind of fun to do the impossible.” –Walt Disney.

Yeah, Walt. I'm with you on that one.

Have a great week, everyone!
Dare the Impossible.
Dare to Dream.
Even more importantly, Dare to WRITE!!

What are you goals this week? Fresh pages? Editing/revision? Synopsis? Queries? Plotting? What is your minimum goal and your streeeetch goal?

My goals:

Weekly essay.
15-25 pages.
Finish planting.
Spring-cleaning *groan* in time for Memorial Day Weekend.

How's about you?

Remember if we can dream it, we can do it!! We Are WRITERS!!

Now…. Go-go-GO!!

--Chiron O'Keefe

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Power of Belief

"Every morning is a fresh beginning. Every day is the world made new. Today is a new day. Today is my world made new. I have lived all my life up to this moment, to come to this day. This moment--this day--is as good as any moment in all eternity. I shall make of this day--each moment of this day--a heaven on earth. This is my day of opportunity." --Dan Custer

Opportunity. What a lovely word. *smile* Two more I love: Optimism and Optimal. The letters OP nestle within one of my favorite all-time words: Hope.

Sometimes the business of writing—whether it be the necessity of revisions, the frustration of plot-points or the pressure of deadlines—can overwhelm our initial sense of joy. Leading us to forget what led us to being writers… The opportunity to write.

You know, one thing writers know more keenly than anyone is how words can be phrased to elicit emotion. How our choice of language can lead our reader to one conclusion or another. How even punctuation can alter the meaning of a sentence.

Consider this sentence:

A woman without her man is nothing.

Now, let's examine two ways of utilizing punctuation to completely transform the meaning conveyed.

1. A woman, without her man, is nothing.

2. A woman: without her, man is nothing.

Fascinating, Captain!

If punctuation can make such a dramatic difference, imagine what one word might accomplish. Yet in our fervent quest to select the right choice in our writing (bless you, sweet thesaurus), we often forget the impact our words have in everyday life. Not just in how we write, but how we think. Just for an experiment, read the next five sentences aloud, reaching deep and *feeling* what comes up as you speak.

"Today, I have to write five pages."

"Today I need to write five pages."

"Today, I get to write five pages."

"Today, I have the opportunity to write five pages."

"Today I write five pages."

"The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones."
--Chinese proverb

Being a successful writer isn't just about pounding out pages. The small steps we make in our approach to writing can be as significant as our productivity. And words have power. They really do. Words create magic, not just in our stories but also in our life. Let's try another sentence.

"I am a success."

*smile* Now, let's say it like we mean it! I AM A SUCCESS.

The same power that allows you to sweep a reader away into a world of intrigue or romance is at your fingertips, giving you not only the Opportunity To Write, but also the Opportunity To Succeed In Life. Often we forget we have this power. For all the care we exert in selecting the proper word to express our chosen emotion within a story, we forget this same power exists within our life. This is why I encourage us all, every day, to shout WE ARE WRITERS! Words have power. In our books and in our life.

"Some people dream of success... while others wake up and work hard at it."
~Author Unknown

This week, let's focus not just our minds but our hearts. Along with our goals of productivity let's forge a path to success with our thoughts. Once a day, every day, let's invest five minutes in focusing on our success. Feel it, breathe it, believe it! Five minutes where we imagine our life is exactly what we choose it to be. And consider this… Studies show that the subconscious responds to our beliefs as if they are facts. Read that over one more time. Take a moment to savor the thought.

Our beliefs influence our experience. Visualization has improved the performance of athletes as significantly as actual practice. The thought is astounding. Do you realize what this means? Success Comes To Those Who Believe In Success. NOT because positive thinking is cool but because Our Beliefs Shape Our Experience.

Five minutes. "I am a successful, published author. My books are popular and engaging. I love to write. Writing comes easily to me."

Select the words that give you a tingle and repeat them with passion. Tell yourself—for the next five minutes I will suspend any belief in what my present experience APPEARS to be, and believe fully in the reality I choose. I AM a success. I hold within my hand my published book.

Why not? As writers we grasp better than most the need to "suspend disbelief." And the power of initiating beliefs. *smile* Now's the time to Create The World You Want. On paper and in life.

Let's seize the moment and begin anew!

"Our ideals resemble the stars, which illuminate the night. No one will ever be able to touch them. But the men who, like the sailors on the ocean, take them for guides, will undoubtedly reach their goal." –Carl Schurz

"All that we are is the result of what we have thought. .... All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world." --Gautama Siddhartha Buddha

"If you can dream it, you can do it." --Walt Disney

--Chiron O'Keefe

Monday, May 5, 2008

Moving Forward--One Page At A Time...

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

This week's essay is inspired by all the writers I'm blessed to know. The quotes all come from the many inspirational comments left on my blog. For almost a year now, I've scoured the internet weekly, searching for extraordinary bits of wisdom to insert. This week I want to show what a treasure trove of brilliance sparkles within our circle of writers. I feel blessed and honored (and more than a little inspired) by the thoughtful comments left by others. Here's to our writing family!

I don't think any other career (besides acting maybe) requires you to keep practicing your craft even as the rejections pile up. Instead of looking at the pile of rejections and wondering "why," kick them up in the air and wonder "why not"?

Bravo! Yes, indeed. There's much uncertainty in being a writer. The temptation to slink back and question our career choice may be strong. For those of us who've faced endless revisions or repeated rejections a whisper may creep in… "Why keep going?"

Well, why the hell not? *grin* Just today I read on the RWA PRO loop of yet another author who has reached that glorious pinnacle. After twelve years of hard work and dedication (atta-girl), she happily announced her sale:

I just wanted to remind everyone that there is no secret to this other than never stop submitting and believing. It took me 12 years. It's taken some people less and some more but it can't happen at all if you stop submitting.Write what you love, I stick to that motto because it shows in your work, and keep plugging away.The end result is SO worth it!!!

Michelle Beattie, who has since sold 2 more to Berkley!


If we want to be writers, we must BE writers. That means embracing the craziness, the tears and laughter, the celebratory champagne and the consolation hugs. We commit to this career knowing that we Will succeed, as long as we keep our vision true and those fingers busy. Remember, nearly all "overnight sensations" work for years before they make it. Success requires effort yet the rewards are supreme… *pumps fist in air* Yeah, baby!!

And speaking of embracing the craziness:

My theory about writers is that we must possess a bit of nuttiness, otherwise our worlds aren't as zany as they should be. :) Lea Schizas - Author/Editor

Oh-so-true. Although not a fiction writer, the extremely talented Erma Bombeck leaps to mind. There's someone who snatched all that craziness into a big old bear hug. *heh-heh* And here's something pretty darn cool to consider. If perhaps you're not the type to splash in those puddles or maybe protest a scheduled development by slipping into a duck costume to waddle and quack for the cameras (hey, why not? *grin*), you can Create The Wackiest Character Ever. This is YOUR World. YOU Are Creating A World. And in this world, you, through your characters, can be anything freaking thing you want to be! If that doesn't get your blood racing and your fingers eager to write, I don't know what will. (Says Chiron, who's now considering just where she can stick that duck costume-wearing character).

After reading a cool L 'Engle quote, Cathy said:
BTW, Madeleine L'Engle not only made me want to write when I was a kid (and to swim with dolphins, fly with archangels, and fight evil on all kinds of levels... can we ever ask for more as a writer than to inspire that in a reader?) but the Hitchhiker series convinced me I was nuts enough to create a little magic and enjoy the ride.

Oh, yeah! There's the life for me (Chiron hums with a bit of Yo-ho-ho in her voice). Imagine how much fun it is to create characters who sprinkle a little magic dust on… hmmmm… how about a vacuum? Zoom, zoom, zoom and the modern witch flies high in the sky, cord trailing and bits of dust leaking from the bottom (dang, MUST remember to empty canister before taking off next time).

Let's all vow to embrace that wackiness within our soul and "enjoy the ride." Especially because:

Sometimes, when we are in the middle of a story, and the writing is tough, we forget the magic.-- Renee Knowles

We forget the magic and feel overwhelmed by the Grand Adventure Turned Nagging Task. We need to invigorate ourselves. Rekindle the joy. Rediscover the adventure. How to do that? One way is to step away from the computer or pad of paper, and re-enter the real world. Bask in the rays of sunshine or crack open the umbrella and revel in the drops of rain dancing around you.

We can and WILL finish our stories, edit our stories, publish our stories as long as we're patient and persistent. Taking a break may be the exact 'write' thing to do, *smile* so go ahead, take a moment and breathe.

I think the real problem is that we live in a rush rush society and want everything yesterday. I'm probably the most impatient person you could ever meet, and I'm slowly coming around to realize I need to slow down and smell the roses. Good things have come to me and will continue to come to me, WHEN the time is right. :) Debbie Wallace

Yup… we must temper our impatience and recognize each book is written one page at a time. Each query goes out one at a time. We must incorporate patience and trust, along with our persistence and passion.

Writing is one of the few careers that lets you tests the range of your emotions. :) I try to explore it when no one else is testing me. Angelique Newman

*heh-heh* I hear you, Angelique. If memory serves, such a choice was NOT available when I worked customer service. *snort* But what a marvelous, magnificent reality we embrace as writers. Scream, dance, whisper, rage, sob, laugh exuberantly, and love without restraint—all within the pages of YOUR story. Woo-hoo!

Maybe I'm biased but personally, I believe being a writer is the Best Damn Career there is. *grin* Just think of the magic you hold in your heart and the amazing opportunity to sprinkle that magic onto the printed page.

Yes, there is effort and plenty of struggle. Think of yourself as a sculptor, chipping away at a huge block of stone. Your mental muscles may ache but be patient, my writerly friend, because you truly are creating something magnificent. When you need a boost, reach out to your writer friends because WE KNOW what it takes, don’t we? And we also know… We Can Do It. We Are Writers.

Let's make it happen. I have so many great 'comment quotes', there'll be another essay (or more) devoted to the wisdom offered up by the writers we know. But one last bit of insight to keep us on track:

Always moved forward, don't look back. --Allison Knight

That says it all. One word, one sentence, one page, one scene at a time.

Thanks, Allison and everyone for such incredible comments!

Let's have another Fabulous and Productive Week! Kick the energy up another notch... Remember: We Are Writers!