Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Our Number One Fear in Life



I read an interesting article in Oprah Magazine. Dr. Phil wrote a piece on how we humans share one of the biggest fears in life: the fear of rejection.

He wrote that we all long to be accepted, and "We are at the pinnacle of life when we feel involved in the world, whether that means being part of a couple, a family, or a group of friends or colleagues. We want to belong."

Before I took writing seriously, I never really thought about the fear of rejection. But it was there. Fear of going on that job interview, knowing there was a possibility they'd choose someone else. Fear of submitting that offer on a piece of property, knowing the seller might laugh at our numbers. Even way back in high school, I remember that fear of walking up to a group, hoping they'd include me. (Heck, I still feel that fear in social situations)

But now? As a writer? Fear of rejection is ingrained into my daily life. It would be so nice if everything we wrote was loved by everyone. But no matter where we are in our publishing journeys, we'll always feel the fear of rejection.
  • The new author fears she doesn't have what it takes. She fears her skills will never be good enough.
  • The agented author fears her agent will not be able to sell her work. She fears that all the hard work to snag the agent was for naught.
  • The indie author fears her work will disappear among the digital shelves. She fears the gatekeepers were right.
  • The debut author fears her sparkling new book will fall flat. She fears low sales will stall a budding career.
  • The experienced, bestselling author fears she was a one hit or two hit wonder. She fears she'll never unearth that magic again.
Dr. Phil pointed out that successful people around the globe still fear rejection, but they don't let it hold them back. They take baby steps forward or leap with their eyes closed, despite that fear of rejection.

That's what I struggle with every single day. Feeling that fear of rejection, yet taking that leap anyway.

How about you, writers? Do you let the fear of rejection hold you back? Or do you take giant leaps anyway? Please share!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lacking Confidence?


I'm in the final stages of prepping my manuscript to be beta read by my trusted writing buddies. My friends know the basic premise of the story, because they've helped me with the query. But the actual manuscript has not been seen by anyone but me.

Guess what I'm lacking? Confidence.

You know that feeling, right? That feeling of fear just before you send that newborn story to have it critiqued. It's a scary step in the publishing process--but absolutely necessary.

*Deep breaths*

When I'm feeling insecure, I like to search for inspiration. Here are some share-worthy quotes about confidence:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. --Eleanor Roosevelt

It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not. --Attributed to Hanoch McCarty

We have to learn to be our own best friends, because we fall too easily into the trap of being our own worst enemies. --Roderick Thorp, Rainbow Drive

It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to. --W.C. Fields

Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right. --Henry Ford

I quit being afraid when my first venture failed and the sky didn't fall down. --Allen H. Neuharth

If you hear a voice within you say "you cannot paint," then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. --Vincent Van Gogh

Don't live down to expectations. Go out there and do something remarkable. --Wendy Wasserstein

A great deal of talent is lost to the world for want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves obscure men whose timidity prevented them from making a first effort. --Sydney Smith

Friends, do you suffer from lack of confidence when someone else reads your work? Does fear prevent you from sending it out? Did these quotes give you the confidence to send it out anyway? Please share!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Crutch Words that Weaken Our Prose




Are there certain words that you use too much? When you Wordle, does suddenly suddenly appear huge and dead center?

We all have our crutch words. The dictionary describes a crutch as "a thing used for support or reassurance." For me, crutch words are the easiest to find in my vocabulary when I'm writing a first draft. Nothing wrong with that.

But as we progress through drafts, we should trim as many crutch words as possible. I have a running list of words that weaken my writing. It's not that these words are never okay, it's just that they sometimes add unnecessary fat, and can usually be replaced with stronger words. When I run a search for these words, I spot areas in the manuscript that need tightening or clarification.

Here's a list that I've compiled, using multiple sources:

about
actually
almost
approximately
barely
basically
beginning
believe/believed
completely
down
eventually
feel/feeling/felt
however
imagine/imagined
just
kind of
knew/know
little
look/looked
mostly
much
nearly
only
practically
pretty
rather
realize/realized
really
remember/remembered
saw/see
seem/seemed
slightly
somewhat
sort of
stuff
suddenly
thing
think/thought
tried
understand

I usually weed out crutch words after beta reads, but before the professional edit. This time around, I'm doing it before the beta reads. That way my trusted readers don't have to suffer through reading "look" three times in the same paragraph.

Tell me, writers, what are your crutch words? Any I need to add to my list? At what point in the process do you search for weak words? Please share!


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Chasing Perfection #IWSG



Welcome, Insecure Writers! If you haven't yet joined this amazing group, what are you waiting for? Click here to sign up.

I recently heard a message about expecting perfection. Perhaps we strive for the perfect Christmas, with flawless family photos and a Martha-Stewart-worthy table setting. Or maybe it's the perfect garden (*sigh*-- hubby and I are unintentional tree killers), or even the perfect hair day (*snort* -- don't get me started).

As writers, we're often searching for the perfect word. And when we find it? Euphoria. It's so worth the effort.

I think chasing perfection is a good thing, as long as it doesn't stop forward movement. Searching for the perfect word is great, as long as it doesn't prevent us from writing the next word, and then the next paragraph. And when editing an entire manuscript, I think chasing perfection works in our favor, as long as the fear of imperfection doesn't paralyze us.

I recently read a brand new book. It was traditionally published by a big house, and hot off the presses. Guess what? I found two typos. No matter how many eyes scanned that book, and no matter how skilled the editors were, the book was not perfect. No book ever will be.

So here's my attitude: chase perfection, but don't be stymied by it. Realize that no matter what, it will never, ever, EVER be perfect. We can't catch something that doesn't exist.

What's your view on chasing perfection? Are you sometimes paralyzed by fear of imperfection? How do you handle it?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Perseverance and Conquering Fears: Lisa Gail Green's Journey to Publication


Guys, today I'm totally excited to have Lisa Gail Green here! She's one of my closest writing buddies and beta readers, and I'm so proud to announce the release of her YA novel, Soul Crossed. I've read Soul Crossed. It's amazing, and creepy, and thrilling. Check out this summary...

Josh lived a reckless, selfish life, so upon his death, escaping the eternal torments of Hell by assuming the role of a powerful, soul-corrupting demon is an easy choice. His first soul assignment doesn't seem too hard: the mortal Camden is already obsessed with weapons, pain, and torture. If only Josh wasn't distracted by Cam's beautiful friend, Grace.

Grace never expected to die violently at age sixteen, but now she's an Angel, responsible for saving a soul. She can already see past Camden's earthly flaws, so the job should be easy. If only that handsome, playboy Josh would stop getting in the way.

It's forbidden for an Angel to be with a Demon, so if Josh and Grace stop resisting each other, the results would be disastrous.

So, how did Lisa go from Super Mom to Super Mom plus published author? Let's find out!

Julie: Your YA novel “Soul Crossed” releases today (yay!). Can you tell us a bit about how you came up with the story idea? How much has it changed throughout revisions?

Lisa: Squeeeeeeee! Sorry had to get that out first. *ahem* The story started because I wanted a forbidden romance, so I thought, ‘what is the worst situation I can put my characters in?’ You can’t get much worse than an Angel and a Demon falling in love. Those are the kind of problems that I think make a good books. The rest kind of fell into place from there. In fact, one of my characters (I’m looking at you, Josh) did something I wasn’t expecting, which kind of saved the rest of the book for me plot wise. I love it when that happens!

Julie: You’ve persevered through a change in literary agents, and your publishing journey has definitely been a long and winding road. Can you give us a brief summary of your path?

Lisa: Hahaha! Yes, like many other authors I know I have changed agents. However, my current agent, Melissa Nasson works with my previous agent, Rubin Pfeffer! I have nothing against Rubin - he’s an awesome guy. We just didn’t make the best match for several reasons, things like my need/desire for an editorial agent and the type of books I write. I can say that it’s been quite the emotional roller coaster since I started though! And it continues to be. :D But now I embrace that. I love that you never know what’s coming and take delight in all the “small” accomplishments along the way, whether a kind tweet from someone or a nice review. I love seeing that my work made readers feel. That’s what it’s all about in the end, right?

But you wanted a summary of my path so here goes: Start writing with no clue, made the usual mistakes like querying before I was ready, joined SCBWI and learned as much as humanly possible about the industry, read, met great people like Julie Musil, read more, got an offer from Rubin and hit the ceiling/walked on air for several days straight (maybe weeks), started blogging and Twitter, met more awesome people, read more, went on submission, started getting rejections, got close, got more rejections, read, separated from agent, read, had a baby (#3 much younger than my others), was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and almost quit and — got a good doctor, got an offer from Melissa and THE OFFER from Samantha at FFF!!! Whew. Does that sum it up??

Julie: Soul Crossed was published by Full Fathom Five Digital. Can you tell us a bit about your experience with a digital only publisher?

Lisa: They’ve been AMAZING. I can’t stress enough how happy I am. They’ve made me one of their lead titles and have not skimped on the marketing, which any published author can tell you is beyond incredible. It’s all been electronic, but pretty much the same process as with any other publisher. I did edits with my awesome editor, then line edits, then copy edits with the copy editor, looked over the ARC, etc. I also love the particular way they handle the relationship contractually, but I won’t go into all that here. AND here’s the kicker — with FFF, since they have many arms, there are possibilities for more and in fact, we are doing a print version as well. I just don’t know the date of release yet. OH and one really cool thing with the digital publisher? They move so much faster than traditional ones. My sequel is due out July 1st!

Julie: What writing advice has resonated with you the most, and why?

Lisa: It has always been and continues to be: Write what scares you, which I first heard from my hero, Libba Bray. It hit me like an anvil. I had to keep improving and moving forward and the best way to do that, to challenge yourself and keep it fresh, is to go where you’re uncomfortable going. You can always revise later.

Julie: If there’s an author out there who’s doubting their writing abilities and is ready to throw in the towel, what “flick to the forehead” advice would you give them?

Lisa: Don’t do it!! If you quit, it is 100% certain it will never happen. If you keep trying, there’s always that chance. Also, that chance improves exponentially the more you improve your craft and continue writing. Look at me! I was about to finally give in, despite my habit of always encouraging others to never do that same and then IT happened. :D

Cool, right? Lisa, thanks so much for sharing your experience. We wish you the very best with your new series!

Friends, has your writing journey been a long and winding road? What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received? Please share!

Lisa Gail Green lives with her husband the rocket scientist and their three junior mad scientists in Southern California. She writes books so she can have an excuse to live in the fantasy world in her head. She likes to share these with readers so she's represented by the lovely Melissa Nasson of Rubin Pfeffer Content. She has a parrot but would most definitely get a werewolf for a pet if she weren't allergic.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Flight to Success: What's Your Own Inciting Incident?



Friends, today Karlene Petitt is here to share with us about her own personal journey to become a pilot and author. Her book Flight to Success: Be the Captain of Your Own Life is available now. Enjoy the inspiration!

Flight To Success is a journey we all experience. My journey began when I was nine-years-old and a friend said, “You can’t be a pilot. Girls can’t do that.” I stood with hands on hips and said, “Yes I can!” We argued. Game over, and I kicked my friends out of the house. But the challenge was on. I did not understand until years later, but that moment was my inciting incident. I faced the choice to take that challenge, or not. Fear, logistics, and many additional reasons as to why becoming a pilot was impossible sprouted their ugly heads.

Just like the protagonists in our stories we are all faced with those moments of decision—our call to adventure. These choices may present themselves in a challenge, health issues, a moment of inspiration, or perhaps dissatisfaction with the way life is and we want more. Something will happen in your life and you will be faced with the decision to accept the calling, or not.   

Then obstacles and challenges arrive—the time when the hero of any story must confirm their commitment. When the protagonists’ journey becomes difficult, do they quit or dig deep and press on? We all know that the greatest struggles, answered with dedication and perseverance, followed by success make the best stories. Isn’t life the same? 

You are writing your story—it’s called life and you are the hero. There will be challenges along the way—will you quit? You might get on the wrong plane—will you enjoy the journey and reschedule another destination at a later date, or complain? You might face a thunderstorm that will delay your trip—will you wait it out or give up? And when you achieve success and write that first book, will you quit or write another? 

Julie was gracious enough to enable me to share my most recent work with you—Flight To Success, Be the Captain of Your Life. What is this book about? It’s about taking control of your life and mastering steps to reach success. One reader said…

This is not book about flying; it is a story about life, and living life, and making the right (and difficult) choices. Flight to Success is entertaining, engaging, thought provoking, and not an easy book to put down. The highest compliment I can make is that I will buy another copy to give to my wife, mostly because I don’t want to share my only copy.” Jeffrey L. Roehr 

That little girl became an airline pilot. I’m also a mother, grandmother, wife, have earned two masters degrees, published two novels, and currently pursuing a PhD. Have there been struggles along the way? Of course—experience teenage daughters and you can check off the challenge box. I have also started over eight times; seven of my previous airlines are now out of business. The most recent challenge was bringing my passion to market while attending a doctorate program, and working. This book was essential. 

Flight To Success, Be the Captain of Your Life came about because I wanted something age appropriate for those students I speak to about fulfilling their dreams. (My aviation thrillers are of adult content.) I want to help and support our future generations to get on the right flight path for their lives. Thus, stories of my life and others’ lives found their way into the pages with real, inspiring, and motivational lessons. Included are secrets to success such as flight planning your life, listening and learning, and how to deal with fear, plus so much more. There are lessons that can help anyone from young to old achieve their dreams. 

Success is about how we live today, not what we did yesterday. It’s about living in the moment with purpose, integrity, and commitment. It’s about the journey, and extending a helping hand to lift another up; sharing lessons to help them reach their dreams. Success is about the Flight:

Fulfillment * Love * Integrity * Gratitude * Happiness * Truth. 

Dream. Believe. Achieve. 
Anything is possible. 

Enjoy the Journey! 

XO Karlene 

Karlene Petitt is currently an A330 international airline pilot living in Seattle. She is type-rated on the B747-400, B747-200, B767, B757, B737, B727 and A330 aircraft. She holds MBA and MHS degrees, and is currently working on her PhD at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Aviation, with a focus on safety. She has flown for Coastal Airways, Evergreen, Braniff, Guyana and Tower Air. She has instructed at America West Airlines, Premair, Guyana, and has also flown and instructed for a northwest airline on the 747-400 and 747-200. She has spent 21 years training pilots, and has been instrumental in training program development at multiple airlines. She is a mother of three grown daughters and grandmother of seven. 

Aviation thrillers: Flight For Control and Flight For Safety


Thanks so much, Karlene! You're truly an inspiration.

Friends, do you remember your own inciting incident? Were there obstacles on your personal journey? How did you handle them? Please share!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Writing lessons learned from SHARP OBJECTS



I recently plowed through SHARP OBJECTS, by Gillian Flynn. After Flynn's Gone Girl shot to the top of my list of favorite books, I realized I not only love inspirational romances. Apparently I also like dark, twisted dramas. Sharp Objects is definitely dark and twisted, but sooo good.

As always, I learned several important writing lessons from this book. Before I get to that, here's a little bit about Sharp Objects:

Fresh from her brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille Preaker's first assignment at her second-rate daily paper takes her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. As she works to uncover the truth, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims--a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

And now for my writing lessons learned. (Warning! If you haven't yet read "Sharp Objects," and don't want to know any plot points, STOP!)

  • When writing a murder mystery, add an unforgettable detail. Without giving too much away, let  me just say that there was a strange detail that included teeth. I swear, I keep thinking about those darn teeth. The author did a great job of embedding a disturbing detail in my mind.
  • Mystery solved? Not so fast! Just when I thought the mystery was solved, BAM! It so wasn't solved. The author messed with my head, including one last glorious surprise. This was a great reminder to me to not rest on a good ending. Consider a major twist in those final pages.
  • Downer of a main character? Show the reader why. In the opening pages, I could tell that Camille was a cynical downer. I didn't love her and I didn't hate her. I felt sorry for her, and was intrigued by her story. Once I met her mother, and other residents of her small town, I understood why she was who she was. The author made me curious about the backstory, but threaded it in slowly.
  • Paint the setting with "showing" details. The author never said Wind Gap, Missouri was a place worth running from. She showed us through the in-a-rut townspeople, the depressing bars, and the nasty gossip. I understood why Camille fled her hometown as soon as she could. (A quick Google search tells me Wind Gap, Missouri isn't a real place. True? Does anyone know for sure?)
  • Find a unique way to show your character's inner turmoil. Again, without giving too much away, I'll just say that Flynn used words in a unique, disturbing way to show Camille's turbulent past.
  • Consider an unhappy ending. However, genre really matters here. I've been frustrated with endings to Nicholas Sparks' novels before, because I want my romances to end happily. In a dark drama like this, and in Gone Girl, the unhappily ever after works.
Footnote: Gillian Flynn is also a master at metaphors.

Have you read Sharp Objects? How about Gone Girl? What are your impressions of these lessons learned? Any you've tackled in your own fiction? Please share!


Wait! Before you go...here's an announcement from Janice Hardy:

Looking for a Fun Kidlit Writers' Conference? Give Springmingle a Try. Springmingle '15 Writers' and Illustrators' Conference will take place on March 13-15, 2015 in Decatur, GA. 
This year's conference faculty includes: Giuseppe Castellano, Art Director at Penguin Young Readers Group; Karen Grencik, Literary Agent/Co-Founder of Red Fox Literary, LLC.; Elise Howard, Editor, Algonquin Young Readers; Bill Mayer, Award-winning Illustrator; Meg Medina, Award-winning Author; and Neal Porter, Publisher, Neal Porter Books, imprint of Macmillan Children’s Book Group. 
Visit their website for a complete listing of workshops.