Write like no one’s judging

When I sit down at the keyboard to continue on my current work-in-progress (aka WIP) it feels great to write like no one’s judging. It allows me to pour my heart out and focus on exactly what I think should happen in the book. Will every reader love it? Will ANY reader like it even a little bit? Readers are much too subjective, as they should be, to allow that to be part of my writing process.

I will never be able to please every reader, editor, publisher or agent. And if I let that be my priority, I’d never be able to finish a book I’d started writing.

And so, when I started work on my most recent book, I didn’t ask myself if anybody out there would be even vaguely interested in an ‘I Am Sam’ meets ‘Romeo and Juliet’ story, I simply gave myself permission to write about two teens who ditch the conventional idea of what love is, and fight for their personal ‘together forever’ dream, no matter what.

Thus the idea that even an ‘un-charming’ Prince is loveable came to life in my mind. I’ve always been a fan of the underdog and have one in every book I’ve written so far. Those are the types of books I enjoy reading most too. No wonder then, that I put my characters through the wringer to get what they so deeply crave. As the story moves along, I do my best to make it bittersweet, heart-wrenching, painful … then make it worse, for the characters. Their sacrifice, their battle, their impossible mission is worth it in the end.

 

Live … and Learn Through Contests

Writing contests can be an amazing tool to use in bridging the gap between writing and getting published. They can, as a matter of fact, be an amazing way of meeting that editor, or agent, who can take an unpublished writer into the realm of those published.

The Write from the Heart– Harlequin Heartwarming Contest is an excellent example of such a contest. This clever contest invited writers to submit the first page of their manuscript to Stage 1 of the contest, with clear, concise guidelines available online to all ‘contestants’. Participants selected to move on to Stage 2 of the contest then had a set amount of time to submit an expanded synopsis and the first three chapters of their manuscript to the editors. Authors selected to move on to Stage 3 of the contest then had the opportunity to submit their full manuscript to Harlequin Heartwarming. Each author submitting their full manuscript is then to receive a personal mentorship with a Heartwarming editor. This mentorship could last up to six consecutive months and could end with an offer of publication.

What an amazing opportunity for any writer with a manuscript that fit the guidelines of this contest! It takes guts to reveal what we’ve written, to anyone. It takes courage to enter a contest, since the whole point of entering means being judged. Not all contests are equal. The possibility of receiving feedback we don’t quite agree with, or that hurts, is certainly there. Reputable contests do come with a silver lining for all participants, if the feedback provided is constructive as opposed to harsh and merely critical.

Live and learn; keep writing; and let constructive criticism inspire you to realize you can do better if you persevere.

 

 

My advice is … to get some good advice from those in the know.

There are so many websites and blogs available for writers, both published and unpublished, that it gets hard to choose which ones to follow. Too much good advice gets confusing, and the wrong advice is simply detrimental.

One of my favorite blog style websites is http://writerunboxed.com/ and one of the many standout contributors to this blog is the well known writer, agent and president of the Donald Maass Literary Agency, Donald Maass. His highly acclaimed books on the craft of writing have opened my eyes to a deeper understanding of what makes a novel work. His posts on the Writer Unboxed blog teach me that the small stuff in my writing makes all the difference.

The July 2, 2014 post by Mr. Maass addresses the idea of infusing scenes with “the point of view character’s fundamental, underlying and (as yet) unmet need”. He leaves us with two questions that can deepen the urgency of what’s happening to the protagonist in your book: What’s your protagonist’s underlying inner need? How is it infused in the scene you’re working on right now? All this must be done without mentioning this inner need or making it too obvious, basically showing, not telling.

Sounds easy to do, but it’s not. Unless we, the writer, know exactly what our protagonists underlying inner need is. Food for thought and another great piece of advice to strengthen any work in progress.

When opportunity knocks …

I’m inspired by other writers, their successes, their failures, their experiences and the generous nature of their willingness to share how their own writing journey has gone. Recently successful writer Kate James shared advice she’d received from several other writers who’d inspired her. In brief their most important messages included: believe in yourself, keep writing, and persevere no matter what. When I wrote to thank her for inspiring me, she kindly made me aware of a Harlequin contest I might be interested in. Not only was the Harlequin Heartwarming ‘Write From the Heart’ Contest an amazing opportunity for me, but Kate took the time and effort to mentor me on how to make my initial submission the best it could be. I’ve made it to Stage 2 of the contest and hope to advance even further. Sure, I’d love to win, and hope I do! But most importantly, when opportunity knocks … answer it!