Tag Archives: writer’s life

06 Aug

Writers Write: Banish Discouragement

Today, I am discouraged.

My trusty friend, ART AND FEAR, says this:

“. . .artmaking can be a rather lonely, thankless affair. Virtually all artists spend some of their time (and some artists spend virtually all of their time) producing work that no one else much cares about. . . The sobering truth is that the disinterest of others hardly ever reflects a gulf in vision. In fact there’s generally no good reason why others should care about most of any one artist’s work.”

Yes. that’s how I feel today, that no one is much interested in any of my work.
Ho, hum.
So, what?

Fortunately, ART AND FEAR goes on:

“The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars.”

On those discouraging days, these are words to cling to!


18 Feb

What Next? 15 Questions to Help you Decide Your Next Writing Project

I was lucky enough to get an Advanced Reader Copy of Chip and Dan Heath’s new book, DECISIVE: How to make better choices in Life and Work. You may know the Heath brothers from their previous books, SWITCH: How to Change Things When Change is Hard and MADE TO STICK: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. They are adept at taking massive amounts of research on topics with widespread appeal and distilling the information into something that can be used in daily life. In DECISIVE, they discuss decision-making and make it practical. Here, I have applied many of their ideas in a simple checklist: What manuscript should you write next?

Courtesy of the Heath Brothers amazing insights into the applicability of much research, these are practical ideas to help you make the best decision possible. If you want to know more, DECISIVE will be released on March 26, available now for pre-order.

You just wrote, “The End.” And you hit the SEND button. The manuscript is off to the editor.

What now? How do you decide on the next project?

Build a Career

An agent once asked this question: What is the next logical book for you in terms of building an audience that will support your career?

Do you see the criteria embedded in that question:

  • Build an audience
  • Support your career

Is that what you want? A career with a growing audience? Then, you probably need to stick with the genre of your first book, and turn out a second book that will appeal to the same audience. If you wrote a mystery and it sold well, write another mystery—different, better, but definitely appealing to the same audience.

But it may not be that easy. Maybe several genres interest you and you want to try something new. But that might risk your career, because you aren’t building a consistent following. How do you sort out all your ideas and commit to the next project? Here are 15 questions to ask yourself.

15 What Next Questions

  1. Don’t Get Trapped in Too Small a Framework. The decision is rarely one like this: Should I do Mss A or not? Instead, try to look at a range of options. Here are ideas that I have, A, B, C, D, and E. Which of these would appeal to the same audience as my first success?
  2. What else you could write in the same time period. If it takes you six months to write a novel, what else could you get written in that time period? What project deserves that time commitment?
  3. What if you couldn’t write the Mss you had planned to write next? What would you write then? For example, if you were planning a picture book biography of Shirley Temple and one was just published to great acclaim, maybe it’s not the best time for this story. So, pretend something similar just happened to your pet idea. What would you do then?

  4. Could you write the openings of several different manuscripts and THEN decide which one excites you the most? Multi-tracking sometimes allows the cream to rise.
  5. Look at the career of someone you admire and want to emulate. At a similar point in his/her career what was the next book published? Or, look at a musician or actor/actress and find parallels in their careers. For example, Sean Connery could have gotten stuck in the 007 role and never found his way to new projects. Instead, he has regularly “reinvented” himself by taking risky roles that led to an expanded career. Is it time for you to write that “breakout” book you’ve been planning?

  6. Looking over all the possible manuscripts and ideas—what has you the most excited? Which one are you scared to write—and therefore, will push you to write your best?
  7. Ask the opposite question: if you have been writing mysteries, what if your next novel was a romance? Is this the time to make a switch or not? Can you carry any of your audience over to a new genre? Is there a way to work more romance into your next mystery, so the transition isn’t total, but pulls in readers from both genres?
  8. Could you test new waters with a short story or a short ebook? Is there a way to TRY something new, without doing damage to your current audience? Once you decide on a new mss, you’ll have to commit wholeheartedly to write the best possible. But maybe you can take a couple weeks and try out a new market.
  9. Are you too attached to the status-quo? Your publisher wants more and more of this one type story and you get paid. But somehow, you feel your passions are lessened. At what point do you need to shake up the status quo?
  10. What would you tell your best writer friend to do in this situation?
  11. What are you passionate about? What are your core values? Does Mss A or B or C or D allow you to express that passion better?
  12. If you write this book and a year from now it fails(either not published or published to poor reviews), can you think why it would have failed to reach your audience?
  13. If you write this book and it succeeds, can you discuss why it would make your readers excited about your work?
  14. Do you set goals for your books? If this mystery doesn’t sell 10,000 copies, then I’ll try a different genre for my next project. Would a goal like that help you make the next career move?
  15. Are there deadlines for this project, or can you create a deadline? You’ll devote six months to this fantasy story, and then, you must write your next mystery.

You have a choice to make and the choice will affect your future and your career as a writer. What will you write next? There are no right or wrong answers, only answers that please you. You’re in control. I know–that’s scary! But that’s another post.

Hey, Chip and Dan–What will YOU write next?

07 Dec

Finding the Sweet: Dealing with Rejection

Finding the Sweet

Write what you want to write,
say the editors.
Write what you love,
say the editors.

I write.
I love this!
Well, say the editors, it lacks a plot.

I write what I love and
make sure it has a plot.
A good ‘un.
(Hey, I’ve studied Hunger Games,
and the Edgar winning mysteries;
I know a good plot
when I read it.)
I love this!
Well, say the editors, the voice doesn’t grab me.

OK. I write what I love and
make sure it has a plot and
make sure the voice is unique, compelling.
A good ‘un.
(Hey, I’ve studied the Newberys,
the Caldecotts, the Alexes,
the Sieberts,
the Edgars, and so on.
I know voice when I hear it;
and I know how to create it.)
I love this!
Well, say the editors, the plot
is great;
the voice
is great;
but I don’t really connect with the characters enough.

OK. I write what I love and
make sure it has a plot and
make sure the voice is unique and
make sure that the characters are connectable.
A really good ‘un.
(Hey, by now, I’ve read all the New York Time’s
Bestsellers, the National Book Award winners,
plus any other @#$#$@ novel
that anyone ever recommends.
I know a good book when I read it–
or write it.)
Hey, I really love this!
Well, says the editor, you got everything right:
plot, characters, voice–
but it’s too quiet.

Where, oh where is that sweet spot?
And how can I write something else
that I love,
knowing that
no one else will love it?
Where is that sweet editor?

A Sweet Spot.

18 Jan

Writers Need to Whine Sometimes

USUALLY, no Whining Allowed. But Today is a Legal Whining Day! Have at it!

Do you need to get your gripes out? 750Words.com bills itself as “Private, unfiltered, spontaneous, daily.”

One way that I use the 750 Words to think like a writer is to get rid of all the negative un-writerly thoughts.

Yes, I gripe.
I complain.
I #@$#($*#(*(.

Yes, indeed, it is cathartic to do this in a bold, unfiltered way.
Today, write 750 words and just get it off your chest.

With that out of the way, you can Think Like a Writer the rest of the day.

Just don’t get in the habit of doing this every day–that would be a wasteful way to spend your 750 words. But sometimes. . .

10 Oct

4 Ways to Battle Discouragement

4 Ways to Battle Discouragement

When you are so very, very tired of yet another rejection, when discouragement threatens to overwhelm you, what do you do?

Friends: One antidote is to stop writing and be with friends. Writer-friends are especially helpful because you can commiserate endlessly (read: complain) about how callous those horrible editors are, how short-sighted, how bad their taste in literature is not to recognize genius when they read YOUR mss. Second best is a DH, who’s been there through the worst of it with you and been there through the good (Thanks, D!) Mostly, you just need someone who love you and understands that these creative efforts are necessary for your well-being–even when you get rejection after rejection.

Past Successes: Yes, you have past successes. You have finished a story, maybe even a whole novel. Don’t look right now at the fact that it needs a big overhaul; just look at what you’ve accomplished! 50,000 words in a month! 3 picture book manuscripts polished and sent out this year. You’ve taken solid, positive steps in the right direction. Your cup is half full, not half empty! Look!

Get out of Town: This weekend, my DH and I went camping and hiking. Back to nature, where no words on a paper/computer screen make a difference. Here’s a couple shots from the Buffalo National River. One thing this does for me is remind me to look for small details. It fills my tank of sights, sounds, smells, textures, so I have something to put in my writing later. The shoe was at an old abandoned farmhouse. You may not like camping (silly you!), but sometimes you need a break, a change of scenery, a day off. Get out of town!

Earbie Campground, Buffalo National River. Click to enlarge

The view from Goat Bluff, near Earbie Campground. Click to enlarge

Shoe: found at Farmer's Farmstead, abandoned farm near Earbie Campground. Click to enlarge

Read Art and Fear

If all else fails? Read Art and Fear. It’s a book that I cherish as something that keeps me grounded. It talks about common fears that artists (they talk about painters and photographers, but it applies to us) must face as they work and publicize their work. We walk in a dichotomy of needing to create, yet needing to grow the audience for our work, so we can create more.

There have been days–when I receive a rejection letter after 14 months of assurance that a contract was coming–when all I can do is sit at my desk and cry. And read Art and Fear one more time. And turn to the computer and start to write because everything this small book says is true. I write because I must; and those who love me best know that I must. Discouraged? There is help. Read this book.

23 Sep

Read: Voice and Book Trailers

Sometimes I write for other places or other places talk about my books. Here are some links for your reading pleasure.

2012 Writer’s Market

This year’s market guide–the best in the industry–includes my article on Book Trailers. Based on my experience writing The Book Trailer Manual, the article talks about the pros/cons of book trailers, how to create them and options for the content of your trailers. You can see my book trailers on my YouTube Darcy Pattison channel.

Voice: A Conversation of Many

Author Bobbi Miller has put together a great conversation on Voice in this presentation: A Conversation of Many: What is Voice Anyway?
Besides my take on voice, read what these authors, editors and professionals have to say: Cheryl Klein, Kathi Appelt, Adam Gidwitz, Eric Kimmel, Nathan Brandsford, Emma Dryden and many more.

Reviews of Prairie Storms

Many bloggers are talking about Prairie Storms.

Have you seen the Prairie Storms September Coloring Page?

26 Nov

Living Life so Fiction Can Grow

For the next four or five days, I won’t write. I won’t look at a novel manuscript or a picture book manuscript or even think the word, “Revise.”

Just Breathe

“How important it is to take the time to read literature, to look at art, to go to concerts. If all parts of your brain aren’t nourished, you become really limited — less sensitive. It’s like food. You’d get pretty strange if you at ice cream all the time.” — Kent Nagano, orchestra conductor.

I plan to shop for groceries, cook, ride bikes, visit the art center, cheer for a Razorback football game (Arkansas v. LSU), and talk and talk and talk to friends and family.

And re-read my two favorite children’s books about Thanksgiving:
Molly's Pilgrim

Thank you sarah

Happy Thanksgiving!
See you on Monday!

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