Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Peer Pressure...and Writers

Just like hypothetical jumping-off-bridge-parties and giving in to the (horrible) skinny jeans trend, the modern writer faces peer pressure daily. With social media and electronic interaction, writers are more connected than ever - and more likely than ever to derail their own success by giving in.

Here are a few common scenarios to consider:

Are you hanging with the wrong crowd?

Has your critique group become more of a social circle? Are the members getting published, or only offering positive "I love it!" feedback instead of constructive advice? What about your social networking friends - are they starting to rant and rave and be negative and bash all the things you THOUGHT you wanted in your career? These people will drag you down. I realize it's not easy to break up with a critique partner or group or stop speaking to a fellow writer, but if you are in any of these situations, you sure as heck better do something to counter-balance it. Join a new group that can offer what your other can't; balance negativity with inspiring posts and optimistic writer pals. Wallowing in the negative isn't going to help you get ahead, so make sure your peers aren't holding back your path to success.

Are you wanting what you don't have just because "everyone else" has it?

Never measure your success based on another author's resume. No two writing paths are the same - and that doesn't make the end destination any different. Looking to the success of others to dictate what you should and should not have is just going to hurt. Set goals for yourself, and don't change those goals or celebrate meeting them any less just because it's not as good as someone else's - i.e., if you want to be published, don't beat yourself with a stick because you were published...but not with your FIRST BOOK AND A SIX FIGURE DEAL like so-and-so did. Enjoy and work with YOUR publishing path; don't wish it was someone else's.

Are you listening to "know-it-alls"?

Everyone has an opinion on publishing. Chances are you've had at least one person tell you to just self publish, or most definitely be on a zillion social sites, or submit to twenty different contests, or turn your book into an erotic giant fairy story because THAT'S what's hot or - or -  It's easy for others to tell you what to do. But you have to do what's best for YOU and your career, YOU and YOUR book. If you only have time for one social media site, don't worry about spreading yourself thin - focus on what works for you. If you want traditional, then go for it. If you're writing historical but that's not what's hot, don't force yourself to write contemporary. Just like getting medical advice from your cousin, who TOTALLY thinks that mole you have is cancerous because Aunt Bertie TOTALLY had the same mole and had cancer vs. your doctor, who says it's fine - any advice given should be weighted with the experience behind the words, with only your career interests in mind.

Do you hesitate before saying "I'm a writer" because you don't think others would call you that?

I've heard of writers who won't consider themselves a writer if they're aren't actually published, or who won't celebrate a good review as a win or even a contest win as the most fabulous news ever because it's not quite what you SHOULD celebrate (which is a book deal or a six figure deal or hitting a list), or who won't say they're published because self-publishing isn't REAL publishing. Bull. You celebrate your wins, no matter how small, and you live up to what you ARE, not what you think others think you are.


I know it's hard to stand firm in your own writing path, especially when that path is long and tedious. And I don't mean to imply that adjusting to a changing atmosphere (such as deciding to self publish vs. traditional) is giving in, if YOU made that decision based on what YOU want and is right for YOUR goals and YOUR path.

But making a decision based on fear or giving in to pressure or changing your views on your journey or your writing based on negative influences is only going to interfere with your success. Be proud if you have the courage to do what's right for your writing and your career, even if that means being different from "everyone else."


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Love/Hate Wednesday

LOVE

When authors follow instructions.

Most notably, submission instructions. I get plenty of submissions directly in my personal email, and guess what - just I like I state in the right sidebar on my blog, I delete them (after making sure they don't say "requested" or "conference" or "referral" anywhere of course). I am always shocked, too, how many people submit to my query box after a conference...when I give them my card and say to send directly to me!

I get it. There's lots of rules. Lots of things can go wrong. I don't hold it against anyone when they don't do things exactly right; but most absolutely do you stand out when you do. Or at least not inspire a frowny face. You don't want your submission to inspire a frowny face, even if that isn't held against you, right?


HATE

Competing with critique groups.

I think critique groups are incredibly important for polishing up your manuscript before you send to your agent or on submission. But I'll be blunt: I don't give a fig what your critique group tells you about your manuscript. If I'm telling you "this has got to go, I can't sell it like this" I absolutely hate hearing back "well my critique group says they think it's fine."

I'm not saying by any means that my word is final; I'm always open to collaboration on edits. There've been plenty of times an author has come back to me and said "well, I'd like to keep this for xyz reason." Because of course, if there IS a reason, it may be that other parts of the manuscript need to be tweaked in order to understand it. But that is a conversation I want to have with you, as the writer - not with your critique group!

In other words: don't use your critique group's "voice" as an excuse not to make an edit. If you don't like a suggestion, explain it in your own words. And if you trust your critique group's judgement on the marketability and edits needed for your manuscript above your agent's...well, there's a bigger problem to address: why?

But that's a can of worms for another post. ;)