Y E A R N I N G
(To learn, to earn, to reach your goal)
May 1, 2022
Volume I, Issue 4
Copyright 1999 (C) Tracy Cooper-Posey
This issue's contents:
1. CURES FOR THE CAREER BLUES You're not alone!
2. SPOT CHECK Are your goals specific enough?
3. WOW! ... REALLY? Incredible fiction facts
4.. INTERESTING LINKS Weird and wonderful websites.
5. FIRST RITES A celebration of successes.
6. FEEDBACK AND SUGGESTIONS Your say.
Even in this far northern clime, Spring has finally arrived. It can be a heady time of year, one where writing goals and schedules can all but disappear under the onslaught of outdoor activities, barbecues, and long summer days.
If the idea of keeping yourself locked indoors for hours on end just doesn't cut it on beautiful sunny spring days, then consider taking your work outside. Return to the time-honoured practice of hand-writing your manuscript, find yourself a shady, pretty spot and settle down to write.
You may find the change of atmosphere will inspire you.
This month's issue is unusually lengthy, but I'm sure you'll find it unusually inspiring, too!
CURES FOR THE CAREER BLUES
You're not alone!
There's very few writers who don't feel at least a little bit deflated when they get a rejection. It's natural, it's normal.
However, have you ever suffered from a deep pit of depression where every aspect of your writing career seems to be stagnating and *nothing* you do makes a jot of difference?
Did you think you were the only one who gets these almost-cyclic periods of despair?
You're not alone.
Although career blues are probably more common amongst writers who are still struggling to sell their first book, blues affect even multi-published authors who are stuck in the current phase of their career, and the agony and frustration is no less acute and debilitating.
There are any number of causes for career blues. Rejections are just the symptom of underlying problems that contribute to those wild and bitter emotional bouts. The difficulty in getting a book published, NO MATTER HOW GOOD A WRITER YOU ARE, aggravates the process.
So next time you find yourself wondering why you ever bother trying to work in this heart-rending industry, treat yourself gently. Time is the ultimate cure, but there are ways to hurry the process along. The trick is to get yourself thinking positively about your career, your writing, and your goals.
Here's some ideas to help, next time you're threatening to chuck it all in and take up knitting:
Read how-to-write books. They're wonderful inspiration, regardless of your mood. After the first read-through you'll rarely read them for their advice on technique, although it does help to have those reminders. Mostly, their "do it this way and you're sure to sell!" message tends to re-ignite your hopes. Writers Digest books are particularly good at implanting this subliminal message.
Writing and selling (or just placing) a non-fiction article, or short story. It always helps to see your work in print. Just placing an article or filler in a local newsletter will do the trick, even if there is no money involved in the transaction. Adding the new entry to your writing resume gives you a little boost -- enough to turn around the negative thoughts that are plaguing you.
Re-examine and re-affirm your writing goals -- short term, long term,
and your life time ambitions. Confirm to yourself that, Yes, this is what
you want to achieve. Then take the next step: re-assess how you plan to
get there. Brainstorm for different ways to achieve your goals. Sometimes
a new strategy makes all the difference. For instance, you originally decided
you wanted to break into the romance industry selling to Silhouette Romances,
but you've been beating your head against that wall for so long now and
getting nowhere. So, if your goal is simply to "get published",
then perhaps your new strategy will be to spend the next year submitting
and writing books for Mills & Boon, instead. If your goal was "to
sell to Silhouette", your new strategy could be to try writing Silhouette
Desires or Intimate Moments, instead.
If you figure out another way to get there, it means you're bypassing the recent round of rejections. That helps a lot. And gives you the desire to get back out there and slug it out, as THIS time it might work.
Re-read all your old writing. This includes completed novels, partials, ideas, even fanfic. Once you re-connect with some of the passions and emotions that drove you to write those fragments and stories, it usually kick starts your drive to get back to the novel at hand.
Become a work-a-holic -- write for every hour you're not sleeping or working. A marathon writing session or two days of dedicated writing help turn your negativity around, as at least *some* good writing will emerge from all those pages.
Critique someone else's writing. This could be published novels or a writing friend/associate, or group member. Critiquing keeps you connected with the writing world -- which is a necessary thing when you're feeling negative because it's so easy to shut yourself off from all the networking, friends and contacts that go into making you a successful writer. Critiquing, when you're feeling negative, feels like the most unnatural and uncomfortable thing in the world to do, but do it. And do it with genuine effort. DON'T slaughter the other writers' work because you're feeling crummy. Find the good in it, and you'll find your own negativity turning around. Trust me, this one really works.
For every rejection submit two more -- either to the rejecting publisher or to someone else. Begin a flurry of submissions. While you've got other books and other submissions and queries out there being considered, it's not a totally black world. And there's always the possibility that one of the ones already out there will sell. Actually, having many submissions out there at the same time is a good policy at any time. As you continue to complete books and the number of them in your inventory grows, marketing and finding markets for them becomes an occupation in its own right. The more you have out there, the greater the odds you'll submit to an editor that likes your stuff.
Write fanfic (fan fiction). The chocolate dessert of writing -- it's pure, sinful indulgence that no-one else has to see, and you can have FUN with it. It's a no-pressure type of writing that KEEPS you writing when the last thing you want to do is sit down at your desk and write the next chapter of the current novel that now seems as appealing as yesterday's porridge.
The year after I settled down to serious, this-is-it writing, I won a national award with one of my novels. I sold that book this year. I won the award seven years ago. The second book I sold this year I wrote TEN years ago. Every book I submitted after winning those awards was held by editors for at least six months, and on one memorable occassion, for a whole year, while they fought to have the book bought. All of them reluctantly turned me down. Every agent and editor I approached raved about my writing, my style, my voice, my stories ... but no-one bought. Especially in the last couple of years, it became wildly, bitterly frustrating. I KNEW I was good enough to sell. I was doing everything I had been advised to do if I wanted to sell -- belonged to the right associations, did market research, submitted and submitted and submitted.... Still no sales. I went through cyclic bouts of depression (my husband clocked them at every six months or so) where I would wail about my inability to sell a book (I could easily sell anything else), I'd wish for a higher authority who would sit me down and tell me exactly what to do to sell. If they'd said "Press this button, and you'll sell," I'd have broken my thumb on the damn thing!
But there was no higher authority. And I learned that the path to publication is different for every writer. Read that sentence again. *Really* read it. If you're in the position I was in, and trying to find the magical solution that will get you a publishing contract, you're not reading it properly. There is no single solution to getting published. The way to publication is different for *everyone*. You have to find your own way. You can't do it the way your critique partner did it. It *won't work* for you. It's this unsavory fact that I kept tripping over for five years, and was the cause of my mini-depressions for the last three years. I kept looking for the easy path, when I should have been out there clearing my own path.
Two factors got me through.
a) Persistence. Persistence really is everything. You haven't failed until you stop trying. I never gave up writing, or the intention that I would someday sell novels, but a couple of times I gave up on writing *romance* -- and came back both times because that's the genre I prefer to write. Which brings me to the second one:
b) Know yourself and your writing. Don't write categories just because you've heard they're the ones that make the money or are the easiest to break into. (They are, but that's relative. Breaking into anything else is next to impossible, which makes the process of selling to categories look simple.) If you're not writing what suits your style, or what you really want to write, you're going to have a much harder time trying to sell it. Conversly, if you do write what you really want to write, be aware of exactly how marketable it is, and go with the markets that are going to give you a decent hearing.
SPOT CHECK -- Are your goals specific enough?
Do you know what you want from your writing? "To be published" or "to sell a book" are common answers, and so is "to make lots of money from writing". But they're pretty vague answers, and there's so many paths to those goals that choosing one is a major problem.
And how do you know if "being published" (to choose just one) will satisfy you? Wave a magic wand -- poof! You're published -- a 500 word short story of yours just got printed in the local paper. Monetary return: zilch. Fame or notoriety: Zip.
No, no! you cry. I want to have a *book* published.
Ah! Well, that's different. Poof! Here's your book on the bookshelf: *Two years in Katmandu; Confessions of an alienated housewife*.
Eeek! you scream.
And probably with justification. If you're reading this newsletter, you're already interested in romance writing, and the ultimate goal of "getting published" is to sell a romance book -- or the next book ... to someone. (Often, to *anyone* at all!)
This is where the true value of testing your goals appears. Ask yourself questions: Is being published by a small press located in the Outer Hebrides going to satisfy you? Or will only having a New York Times bestseller do? Or will you be wildly happy just to sell to Silhouette/Harlequin whether it sells well or not? Is selling well important? Is it the money you want? Or the fame? Or being able to write your own brand of romance?
What is the core of your goal? Keep forcing yourself to more and more specific details until you have the exact picture of what will satisfy you when you achieve it. Make your goals as concrete and easy to decide as possible. "Publishing a book that reaches the top ten of the WaldenBooks best seller list" is a goal you will know without doubt you have achieved, whereas "making lots of money" isn't specific. What is "lots", anyway? How will you know when you've got it?
Your specific long term career goal will shape all your activities and decisions. When your goal is this specific, figuring out ways to reach it is a much easier task.
Now is the time to formulate your long term goals. The next time career blues have you in their grip is NOT a good time to make decisions about where you want to go with your writing, because any decision you make will be based on negative emotions, not gut needs and wants. Changing your long term career goals while you're feeling so frustrated is the sneak's version of giving up. The path you choose to get there may change, but your overall direction should not.
WOW! ... REALLY?
"Many a young person tells me he wants to be a writer. I always
such people, but I also explain that there's a big difference between
"being a writer" and writing. In most cases these individuals are dreaming
of wealth and fame, not the long hours alone at the typewriter. "You've got
to want to write," I say to them, "not want to be a writer."
The reality is that writing is a lonely, private and poor-paying affair.
For every writer kissed by fortune, there are thousands more whose longing
is never requited. Even those who succeed often know long periods of
neglect and poverty. I did.
When I left a 20-year career in the Coast Guard to become a freelance
writer, I had no prospects at all. What I did have was a friend with whom
I'd grown up in Henning, Tennessee. George found me my home - a cleaned-out
storage room in the Greenwich Village apartment building where he worked as
superintendent. It didn't even matter that it was cold and had no bathroom.
Immediately I bought a used manual typewriter and felt like a genuine writer.
After a year or so, however, I still hadn't received a break and began
doubt myself. It was so hard to sell a story that I barely made enough to
eat. But I knew I wanted to write. I had dreamed about it for years. I
wasn't going to be one of those people who die wondering, "What if?" I
would keep putting my dream to the test - even though it meant living with
uncertainty and fear of failure. This is the Shadowland of hope, and anyone
with a dream must learn to live there.
Then one day I got a call that changed my life. It wasn't an agent or
editor offering a big contract. It was the opposite - a kind of siren call
tempting me to give up my dream. On the phone was an old acquaintance from
the Coast Guard, now stationed in San Francisco. He had once lent me a few
bucks and liked to egg me about it. "When am I going to get the $15, Alex?"
"Next time I make a sale."
"I have a better idea," he said. "We need a new public-
assistant out here, and we're paying $6,000 a year. If you want it, you can
Six thousand a year! That was real money in 1960. I could get a nice
apartment, a used car, pay off debts and maybe save a little something.
What's more, I could write on the side.
As the dollars were dancing in my head, something cleared my senses.
deep inside a bull-headed resolution welled up. I had dreamed of being a
writer - full time. And that's what I was going to be. "Thanks, but no," I
heard myself saying. "I'm going to stick it out and write."
Afterward, as I paced around my little room, I started to feel like a
Reaching into my cupboard - an orange crate nailed to the wall - I pulled
out all that was there: two cans of sardines. Plunging my hands in my
pockets, I came up with 18 cents. I took the cans and coins and jammed them
into a crumpled paper bag. There Alex, I said to myself. There's everything
you've made of yourself so far. I'm not sure I ever felt so low.
I wish I could say things started getting better right away. But they
didn't. Thank goodness I had George to help me over the rough spots.
Through him I met other struggling artists, like Joe Delaney, a veteran
painter from Knoxville, Tennessee. Often Joe lacked food money, so he'd
visit a neighborhood butcher who would give him big bones with morsels of
meat, and a grocer who would hand him some wilted vegetables. That's all
Joe needed to make down-home soup.
Another Village neighbor was a handsome young singer who ran a struggling
restaurant. Rumor had it that if a customer ordered steak, the singer would
dash to a supermarket across the street to buy one. His name was Harry
People like Delaney and Belafonte became role models for me. I learned
you had to make sacrifices and live creatively to keep working at your
dreams. That's what living in the Shadowland is all about.
As I absorbed the lesson, I gradually began to sell my articles. I was
writing about what many people were talking about then: civil rights, black
Americans and Africa. Soon, like birds flying south, my thoughts were drawn
back to my childhood. In the silence of my room, I heard the voices of
Grandma, Cousin Georgia, Aunt Plus, Aunt Liz and Aunt Till as they told
stories about our family and slavery.
These were stories that black Americans had tended to avoid before, and
I mostly kept them to myself. But one day at lunch with editors of Reader's
Digest, I told these stories of my grandmother and aunts and cousins. I
said that I had a dream to trace my family's history to the first African
brought to these shores in chains. I left that lunch with a contract that
would help support my research and writing for nine years.
It was a long, slow climb out of the shadows. Yet in 1970, 17 years after
left the Coast Guard, Roots was published. Instantly I had the kind of fame
and success that few writers ever experience. The shadows had turned into
For the first time I had money and open doors everywhere. The phone rang
all the time with new friends and new deals. I packed up and moved to Los
Angeles, where I could help in the making of the Roots TV mini-series. It
was a confusing, exhilarating time, and in a sense, I was blinded by the
light of my success.
Then one day, while unpacking, I came across a box filled with things
owned years before in the Village. Inside was a brown paper bag.
I opened it, and there were two corroded sardine cans, a nickel, a dime
three pennies. Suddenly the past came flooding in like a riptide. I could
picture myself once again huddled over the typewriter in that cold, bleak,
one-room apartment. And I said to myself, The things in this bag are part
of my roots, too. I can't ever forget that.
I sent them out to be framed in Lucite. I keep that clear plastic case
where I can see it every day. I can see it now above my office desk in
Knoxville, along with the Pulitzer Prize, a portrait of nine Emmys awarded
to the TV production of Roots, and the Spingarn medal - the NAACP's highest
honor. I'd be hard pressed to say which means the most to me. But only one
reminds me of the courage and persistence it takes to stay the course in
It's a lesson anyone with a dream should learn."
By Alex Haley
Slake: The Wall
Surf this site with trepidation! It is not for the faint-hearted. Once you get over the shock of it, you'll find some very interesting feedback directly from readers as to what they love and hate about romance....
A store totally devoted to readers. Almost as good as chocolate when you're down. Take your credit card.
Critique Partner Connections
Find yourself a kindred spirit here.
The Write Markets Report
For when you're next sending out a flurry of submissions....
Drawing on her twelve years experience in law enforcement, Maggie Price penned her debut novel, PRIME SUSPECT.
Maggie's fourth novel for Silhouette Intimate Moments, MOST WANTED, will be released soon.
Maggie's story of her first sale:
"I wrote the first three chapters of what was later titled PRIME SUSPECT in 1990, and entered them in RWA's Golden Heart competition. (Then, entrants weren't required to have their manuscript completed.) I had never attended an RWA conference, so when I made the finals of the contest, I had no clue it was a big deal ... until one of the editors judging the final round called and asked to see the completed manuscript. I didn't win a Golden Heart, it took me months to complete the book -- by then that editor had quit her job. For the following five years I took writing classes, wrote other books, signed with an agent and kept tinkering with PRIME SUSPECT. Silhouette Intimate Moments acquired the manuscript in July 1996, and a week later, PRIME SUSPECT won the Golden Heart for best romantic suspense."
Maggie's website can be found at: http://members.aol.com/magprice
FEEDBACK AND SUGGESTIONS
Is there anything you would like to see in this newsletter? Do you have an inspirational story regarding romance writing that you'd like to share?
Email me at mailto:email@example.com with your ideas and suggestions.
Keep any stories to 250 words, and cut and paste it into the body of your email.
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The editor is Tracy Cooper-Posey, who can be reached at mailto:email@example.com, or you can visit the website at http://www.sashaproductions.com