My new website is now up and running and the following blogs will be posted on it:
On Writing Thinking Aloud My Kitchen Table My Faith Zone
The new url is: http://vickihinze.com/blog
On Writing Thinking Aloud My Kitchen Table My Faith Zone
The new url is: http://vickihinze.com/blog
This is a no-edit zone…
In the race for topping the list in rankings, many authors are reporting dirty tricks being played against them. These tricks are purportedly playing out in a variety of ways and authors naturally are concerned about them.
Here are a few hard and fast facts:
When reports started coming in on this taking place, I did some research. It became pretty evident who was panning a book because it just wasn’t their kind of book, and who was panning a book because they had an ulterior motive. So the bottom line advice I have on this is to trust your readers.
Readers are bright. Some just won’t like a book. But they’re slow to post really awful reviews on books much less free books, particularly if they’re authors. Maybe it’s because they know the work it takes to write a book, or maybe they refrain because they know being destructive on subjective opinions is, well, subjective and destructive. Or maybe they’re smart enough to know that a book not suited to their tastes might just be someone else’s dream read.
The opportunity for errors abound in life, and of course, that extends to your career. How well you identify and define them, when you identify and define them, has a direct relationship on your ability to resolve the potential problem areas–before they become errors or mistakes that you must live with forevermore.
Unfortunately, we too often zing along, ignoring warning bells (or doing our part to resolve them and then relying on the next person in our personal chain to do their part without verifying that they have) and the window of opportunity to nip a potential challenge in the bud before it becomes a problem is missed.
A couple of examples: You submit your work to an agent, who supposedly is submitting your work. You don’t have anything verifying that, and later learn the agent hasn’t submitted at all. Whose mistake is that?
Well, the agent’s word that the submission is done should be (and often is) sufficient, but it happens too often that it isn’t to assume it. Reputable agents know their word is their bond. But if a formerly reputable agent fails to be honest with you, or fails to do his or her part, who pays the penalty?
The author. And the author loses the time and can’t reclaim it. Considering that the time can be a year or even more, that lost potential is nothing at which to sneeze. In the past year, I’ve been approached by five authors who have been in the center of this challenge.
The moral of this example: Verification is part of your job. Never work with someone you can’t trust. But even the most trustworthy person in the world is capable of human error. Verify. It’s your work, your career and part of your job to monitor the process closely enough that you know what is happening with your work.
Another example is one I’ve seen too often to count. And that is, an author is with a publisher, loses an editor and is struggling with an ill-fitting new editor. The author doesn’t want to leave the publisher but everything s/he is doing is being rejected. S/he can’t please the new editor.
It’s interesting to note that in these cases, the author is well aware of the challenge but so fears being at loose ends when changing houses that s/he willingly bangs his/her head against the proverbial wall, trying to please the new editor (which simply does not happen). Often this attempt to please goes on for an extended time–a year, two years, and sometimes longer. Time during which the writer’s doubt that s/he can produce a publishable manuscript grows and his/her confidence in her writing abilities dwindles.
The moral of this example: do not write to please an editor. Write the stories you must write. The ones that nag you, that wake you up in the middle of the night. The stories that haunt you if you do not write them. Those stories contain the magical element of enthusiasm and interest that permeates a work and infuses it with strength. It can’t be faked, and without it, publishing potential is crippled.
Look at it this way. You’re being rejected anyway. Why not be rejected on a project you’re crazy about versus one you’re writing to please someone else? At least if your beloved project is rejected, you’ve loved it. That can’t be said for the one written to another’s specifications.
There are two things we really need to look at closely in these problem area situations.
1. Warning Bells.
Regardless of by what name you call those warning bells–intuitive nudges, hunches, gut instincts, divine shoulder taps–they are early-warning indication systems. Ones that sound the alarm when something has tripped it, and to spare ourselves challenges that become mistakes, we need to perk up and pay attention, and then act on them. Even the best alarm system in the world only notifies. It’s up to the person notified to act to prevent loss and/or damage.
Bottom-line advice: Heed your hunches.
Fear is a mean taskmaster. It can cripple, debilitate, destroy. It has as much power as we give it–no more, but no less–and there is but one way to overcome it: courage.
You can run or hide, but fear will find you. You can play ostrich and bury your head in the sand, but when you do, your backside is exposed and up in the air, just a perfect target for getting kicked–and it will.
You’re going to face that fear whether or not you want to do it, so why not face it on your own terms?
It’s impossible to outrun, outwit or otherwise avoid fear (or any other merciless demon) when it’s in your own mind. Accept it. Unless you deal with fear constructively, it remains in you, it grows, and you’ll never be free of it. Enslaved is no way to live.
Bottom-line advice: Recognize fear but embrace courage.
It’s a special day. The day that I have the privilege of seeing my 30th project published (articles aside because I quit counting those after I hit 100).
Before the White Rose is a general market short story I wrote for the love of it. I didn’t write it intending to publish it. But I am thrilled Belle Bridge Books has. In it, three people who are at wit’s end and despairing all take action–and discover something they wished they’d discovered sooner.
For long-time readers, I wrote it as one of my Sunday book projects. Those I write for me, ignoring everything except the story itself. This one I wrote and it continued to nag at me. I wasn’t sure why, and I ignored it as long as I could. But it didn’t stop. So I pulled it out, read it again, and saw something of value in it. That’s when Belle Books got involved.
They’rereissuing many of my earlier works, and added a sampler of the three Seascape novels in Before the White Rose.
It’s a Kindle 99 cent exclusive. I’ve never done one of those in fiction, so I’m eager to see how it does.
Someone asked me this morning on Facebook when you stop getting the adrenaline rush on the day a new project is released. “You’d think it gets old after you’ve done so many,” she said. My response was this.
“If and when it does, and if and when I ever stop being thrilled to pieces about a new release, I’ll let you know. But I have the feeling doing so might frighten you.”
She asked, “Why?”
I responded. “Because as tickled as I still am, I have a feeling that won’t happen until I’m dead.”
Have to chuckle here because I am tickled. I do still feel that same rush I did on holding my first book in my hands. And I hope and pray I never stop feeling it!
The moral of the story (you, of course, knew there’d be one) is that if you’re not thrilled by pleasing aspects of your job, you’re in the wrong job. Look for that in which you find joy. Life is too short to settle for less.
An original, general market short story. Kindle 99 cent exclusive.
Includes bonus material: Seascape Series Sampler.
That’s the first three chapters on:
Beyond the Misty Shore (10/1/2011)
Upon A Mystic Tide (11/1/2011)
Beside a Dreamswept Sea (12/1/2011)
IT’S ALL ABOUT ATTITUDE.
Career field doesn’t matter, the type of challenge doesn’t matter, and the difficulty level doesn’t matter. For no matter what job you hold, whether the challenge is personal or professional, whether it’s a small challenge or a large challenge, it’s your challenge and that makes it significant to you.
No one escapes challenges. Not in their professional life or in their personal life. Even the person we look at and admire from afar who seems to have the perfect life, the perfect job, the perfect children, the perfect home, the perfect everything, doesn’t. That person, for all his or her blessings, still goes through hard times and struggles.
Some people seem to naturally handle challenges better than others. Some are deemed melodramatic because they overreact to the slightest small problem. What we must remember is that what we deem a small problem may be a very large problem to that person at that time. Because you see, challenges don’t happen isolated from the rest of a person’s life. They happen in concert with the rest of what’s going on in a person’s life. This no outsider can know. Think about it. Who knows what else is going on with that individual who seems melodramatic? Who knows what trauma, medical difficulty, family member challenges, or other drama(s) are playing out in that person’s life?
This is but one reason we shouldn’t isolate our characters in their challenges (or judge others and their reactions to problems that we see they are having). We only know what they tell us. And if they do tell us, quite often more is left untold than shared. True for people, therefore it should be true for characters in our books.
That not sharing all happens for a variety of reasons. One, sharing makes the person feel extremely vulnerable, or ashamed, or embarrassed, or overwhelmed. That person might also be in denial. And before you judge that—denial—understand that sometimes things happen that are so painful and hard to wrap our minds around (thus characters’ minds) we have to deal with them in degrees. Dealing with the weight of all at once is more than we can bear, and so we cope with a little bit at the time.
Remember, challenges and obstacles often have tentacles. They cause chain reactions. Other dominos to fall.
A woman contacted me who recently lost a loved one and wasn’t notified until after the loved one had been dead for over a week. For days, the woman refused to speak of the death, to acknowledge it, or to in any way express knowledge that her loved one had passed away. Some would say that was an odd reaction—and even one who didn’t say it, thought it… until the specific circumstances became clear. When they had, her reaction made perfect sense. Other tragedies were occurring at the same time in her life: fear for the life of another loved one, which raised a host of past challenges regarding loss that she’d not addressed and dealt with in a constructive way. All these things were dragged out and into the forefront of her mind, and each chewed on her while the others were strumming her emotions and making hash of her heart. She couldn’t handle it all, so she denied it all. And while her denial reaction might have seemed on the surface to be strange, it was her body’s way of coping at that moment.
The news cut so deep, and all the old tapes in her mind and unresolved issues, combined and body-slammed her. The impact created pain so intense she couldn’t handle it. Not at that time and not all at once. But in the days that followed, she absorbed, bit by bit, and she began addressing the smaller issues until finally she was able to handle the big one—that death.
People are complex. Memorable characters are too.
On a smaller scale, but significant to me since it was my issue, was something that happened to me recently. One of my publishers sent me galleys to review on an upcoming book. While they work in electronic form up to the galley stage, it is their company policy that galleys be done only in print. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem. But with my eyes and the challenges I have with the muscles, is a huge problem for me. So it took a little over a week to review the pages. By the time I finished, I couldn’t read a single line of text without the words jumping from line to line. I couldn’t control the muscles. It is now two days later, and the muscles are still swollen, my eyes are still swollen and aching, and while I can read on the computer again, I don’t dare try reading a page. So naturally, I received a second set of galleys on another upcoming project to review. I wanted to weep. But this is a project with another publisher, and fortunately their company policy doesn’t prohibit electronic galleys. So I was spared.
Let’s be real about this. I am extremely grateful I am not blind. I am extremely grateful I can see the faces of those I love and to function in daily life. I’ve had enough surgeries where I couldn’t see a thing for a week afterward that I got a healthy taste of suddenly losing your vision and it’s an experience I’m not eager to repeat. My vision is great. I don’t need glasses for anything and yet I do have limitations due to the muscles. That’s a fact.
So all this said, I have to admit that a part of me is very sad that I can no longer read words on the page without paying a heavy price for doing so. Maybe if I were not a writer, and I didn’t love books as much as I do, it wouldn’t impact me emotionally as much as it does. But I am, and I do, and it does. (Here’s where we take characters to memorable characters… in their reaction to their limitations…)
I’m impacted. And that brings me to a fork in the road, so to speak. I have to choose whether to be sad or to look at the bigger picture. (Neither is right or wrong, only different, and this gives the writer flexibility needed for diverse character roles.)
I choose to look at the bigger picture. While I can’t read physical pages without paying a high pain price for it any more, I can read to my heart’s content on the computer, on my Kindle, even on my phone. The print is sharper, bolder, and the size of the font can be adjusted to whatever size is most comfortable for my eyes at the time, and all require less muscle movement, which means less swelling and less tiring quickly. (Remember, everybody in the business suffers eyestrain!) How fast my challenges arise varies, depending on how tired my eyes are (tired muscles don’t work as well) and sometimes I have no choice but to just stop and rest them a while and then go on. That pause used to irritate me. Now I see the blessing in it. I work through story problems, deepen characterization; add new layers to plot, setting or new complications or resolutions. Pauses have proven to be beneficial things.
And that is the point of this post. Whatever your challenge is, you can focus on it and let it define you, your actions, maybe even your life, or you can focus on a solution to the problem, or an alternative that enables you to work within your limitations and surmount an obstacle. You can discover hidden benefits or waste your time cursing the interruptions. It’s your call to make.
You know, southern women are notoriously determined. Some say stubborn. I say practical. We accept that we’re going to get popped with problems. We’re taught from the cradle that you can rule it or let it rule you—it’s a choice. You make it.
My choice is to see that a problem is often an opportunity in disguise. If not for my particular eye-muscle obstacles, I would have been far more reluctant to accept the new technology of e-books, reading or watching movies on a computer, and certainly reading on a phone, which includes text messaging. I love the feeling of a book in my hands, knowing one is in my handbag—it’s always been an essential accessory! But because I had this opportunity/obstacle, I had a choice: Give up reading or embrace new technology. That the technology was there to embrace is such a gift. Imagine, the world of books being closed to you! Of course, I embraced the technology. Of course, I’m grateful. The world of books that I love is as available to me now as it ever was. And being the writer and reader that I am, how can I not see the blessing in that? (Note the significance is up close and personal to the individual. That’s essential in strong characterization that evokes empathy. If the loss/absence/denial isn’t core to your character, it can’t carry that kind of weight.)
So my question to you is this: will you see your challenges, in whatever form they might take, as insurmountable obstacles or as opportunities? Will your characters?
How you see them and your reaction to them will determine whether you consider them a bane or a blessing. The same holds true for your characters. Because whether it’s about them or you, in the end, it truly is all about your attitude.
© 2011, Vicki Hinze