Mary and Rick Roberts

Written Dreams’ First Annual Writer’s Retreat: July 28th-30th, 2013

Written Dreams’ Writer’s Retreat

The first annual Written Dreams’ Writer’s Retreat will be held at the beautiful Miscauno Island Four Seasons Resort in Pembine, Wisconsin on July 28th through July 30th, 2013.

The fee for the Retreat is $159.00 per author. Reservations are required, and can be made by contacting us by email at admin@writtendreams.com. The deadline to register is June 25th, 2013. The Retreat fee includes all Seminars, admission to the Socials/Book Signing Event, Snacks during the Seminars, and the luncheon on Monday.

When registering, please give your name and contact information. We will also need you to make your luncheon selection. Choices are: California Chicken Sandwich, Hero Club Sandwich, or Blackened Salmon Caesar Salad.

We encourage attendees to stay at the hotel. Most rooms have kitchenettes and are wonderful accommodations. Room rates start at $119., and are not included in the Retreat fee. Room reservations for the hotel can be made by calling (877)-324-5244, or online at http://www.thefourseasonswi.com/. A buffet-style continental breakfast served daily is included with the cost of the room.

The itinerary for the conference is as follows:

Sunday, July 28th

Arrive at Four Seasons Resort and check in at the Written Dreams’ table set up in the Main Lobby. Check in for the hotel is any time after 3 P.M.

6:00 P.M.: Social Hour. Come meet your fellow attendees in a relaxed atmosphere.

Monday, July 29th

Continental Breakfast is served starting at 7 A.M. until 9 A.M. next to the Lobby by the Front Desk.

9 A.M.: Welcome and Who We Are

By Brittiany Koren & Lara Hunter

 9:45 A.M.: Free Marketing, What It Is, and How To Get It

 Presented by Barb VanDeHei

 10:30 A.M. Break/Snacks

 10:45 A.M.: How to Design A Website to Increase Your Visibility to Readers

 Presented by Bill Koehne

 11:30 A.M.: Social Media for the Not So Social Author

 Presented by Lara Hunter & Bill Koehne

 Noon: Luncheon will be provided in the conference room.

 1:00 P.M.: The Joy of Independence: 7 Minutes to a Full-time Writing Business

 Presented by Virginia McCullough

 2:00 P.M.: How to Make Your Story and Characters Come Alive in the Minds of Readers

 Presented by Brittiany Koren

 2:45 P.M.: Concluding Remarks for the Day

             By Lara Hunter

 3:00 P.M. Free Time, Writing Time

 The Written Dreams’ staff will be available for questions/discussion.

 6:00 P.M.: Book Signing & Social Hour. 

             Please feel free to bring your books to sell and sign for other attendees/guests.

Tuesday, July 30th

Continental Breakfast is served starting at 7 A.M. until 9 A.M. next to the Lobby by the Front Desk.

9:00 A.M.: The Ins and Outs of E-book Publishing: What An Author Needs to Know

Presented by Lara Hunter & Kim Wickman

 9:45 A.M.: Utilizing the Under-utilized Senses, and How to Get It Down on Paper

 Presented by Barbara Raffin

 10:45 am :Break/Snacks

 11:00 A.M.: Missing Your Motivation to Write?  Here’s How to Get It Back

 Presented by Brittiany Koren

 11:45-Noon: Concluding Remarks by Brittiany Koren & Lara Hunter

                                We’re looking forward to seeing you there! 🙂

 

Photo Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort in Miscauno Island
Mary and Rick Roberts

Writer’s Wednesday: Award-winning Author Julie E. Czerneda on Writing Fantasy

I met Julie and her husband a few years back, when she came to visit Green Bay. It was a fun afternoon of laughter and stories. She is one of the nicest people I have ever met, and her novels and short stories are extraordinary! We are thrilled to have her with us today. Please welcome Julie E. Czerneda to The Editing Essentials.

Photo Copyright by Roger Czerneda Photography

Canadian author and editor Julie E. Czerneda transformed her love and knowledge of biology into science fiction novels (published by DAW Books NY) and short stories that have received international acclaim, multiple awards, and best-selling status. Know of her Clan Chronicles series or a fan of Esen the Blue Blob? Just out is something completely different, Book One of her new Night’s Edge series, Julie’s debut (and really fat) fantasy novel, A Turn of Light. There are toads. For more about Julie’s work, events, and treats, please visit www.czerneda.com or find her on Goodreads or Twitter @julieczerneda.

 

Leaping Toads or a Leap of  …?

In the fall of 2009 I remade myself. In a writerly sense. Not that I felt there was anything wrong with the original writerly me, but I was set to leap into my first full-length, no holds barred, give me dragons or no chocolate for you fantasy novel and, well, that would be different.

Should be different, in my estimation.

Elsewhere I’ve talked about building a scale model first and my research, but here I want to tell you more about how I changed the writerly me. For I did. An obvious place to start was my office. I like my office. I love my chair and clever footrest thingie Roger made me and all the rest. That said, what I could change, I did. Down came my wall collection (body parts were among them) and up went painted silk. (I can hear you laughing, Russell.) Away when the memorabilia from cons past — and bones — to be replaced with statuettes of dragons and horses. I’d had some of those since I was little, but they’d not been allowed in my office till now.  I refused to use any playlist from a previous work. And yes, it’s true. I wrote the first few thousand words by candlelight, said candles being red and held in dragon claws. Any notes? Done using a fountain pen I’d put aside to use for this book and no other.

Why?

I didn’t want to write fantasy like a science fiction author dabbling at it. I wanted to be a fantasy author. A real one.

Okay, and there was also the hilarious fun of it all — which it was, trust me. Surrounding myself with toads — and rose petals — and little white pebbles. Being able to shout “I don’t do dishes anymore. I write FANTASY!” never got old. (On my side of it.) I’d walk away from the writing at whim, because, yup, “I write FANTASY!” and that entitled me to as much whim as I wanted. Especially gardening whim, because, hey, I might find a toad. There was wine whim, when going over notes.

Cover art by Luis Royo (www.luisroyo.com)

Unlike my previous work ethic, I allowed myself to indulge in rereading favourite passages whenever I felt like it, which was often. Though I’d been ruthless before, now I deleted what I didn’t like without a care. Tens of thousands of words at a time. Pop! Gone. Looking back over my day-before word counts, there were weeks I’d write prodigiously yet have a negative sum. For some strange reason, I was happy about that. When I blew past my previous word length for a novel at less than half done? I did confirm that was okay with my editor, Sheila Gilbert, but really, I didn’t care. “I write FANTASY!” Muhhahhaaa With toads!

The result was A Turn of Light, of which I’m extraordinarily proud and fond. It’s long, lush, and full of my favourite stuff. And, in the opinion of those I trust to know, it reads as though written by a fantasy author.

Hurray! I’d remade myself!

Or had I?

Earlier this week, I read a very thoughtful review of Turn on Goodreads, where the reader (Karen) made this point: “Fantasy offers a writer the freedom to invent an entirely new reality, not dependent on the our (known) universe’s laws of physics and other constraints on our reality. But I think it also requires more discipline, too – the writer must then make sure that everything in the book conforms to the rules of the invented reality…Czerneda may have an advantage over some other authors going from science fiction to fantasy, because in her sf novels, she always creates aliens with a richly detailed, “invented” biology, and then bases their behavior and culture on the “rules” imposed by that biology. That seems to require a similar form of discipline.”

Oh.

I’d considered my science fiction writerly-self to be an impediment, not a help, going to admittedly silly extremes to shed old habits. Hindsight being a lovely thing, I realize now what I actually did was use my training as a behavioural scientist on myself. I created a stimulating work environment and approach for this particular story, as I’ve done far less consciously for each and every one of them. As for the science fiction? The attention to detail in worldbuilding Turn is no less or more than I’ve given to Survival or Beholder’s Eye or Reap the Wild Wind or any other.

It seems I’d simply given myself permission to have blatant fun on the job. It shows in the work. A leap indeed and one I’m glad I made.

Cover art by Matt Stawicki (www.mattstawicki.com)

Now it’s your “turn,” fine folks. The science fiction writerly-me and the fantasy writerly-me, apparently the same person after all, are here and happy to answer your questions.

Giveaway: Post a comment or question today for Julie on the blog to win a copy of A Turn of Light.

Thank you, Julie, for being our guest today. Julie will be checking in throughout the day, so please feel free to post a comment or question for her. Thank you!

 

Mary and Rick Roberts

Writing Exercise: Lessons From the Past

This week I’m sharing the writing exercise I am currently engaged in, and finding it very fun and helpful…though word of warning: self-discipline is involved or you’ll end up simply reading a lot of good stories.

A particular interest of mine is the American homefront during World War II, which among other things, coincided with the end of the golden age of magazine fiction, a time when virtually every magazine had at least one story in it. Also, many women’s magazines and general interest magazines had five or six, often with a complete short novel included.  (Those were the days!)

Over the years, I’ve collect many magazines from the late ’30’s and ’40’s, and while I’ve read them with pleasure, I’d never really looked critically at the fiction they contain. So, as I’ve been reading these seventy year old stories and taking them apart, what am I learning?

First, that many of the stories revolve around one single moment in time and are relatively plotless; for example, the breaking off of an engagement and the reactions of the three characters involved.

Second, most of the stories’ characters are expertly drawn with a few simple details.  I’ve been amazed at the authors’ ability to create someone we all know while avoiding a stereotyped character.  Whether it’s the man or woman who stands in the corner during parties, or the man who always has an answer (that everyone knows may or may not be correct, including himself) or the woman whose reaction to anything is always perfect–not sincere or genuine, but perfect. These authors know how to create a character quickly and simply.

Third, most of these stories offer knowledge about something as well as a story.  A wonderful story dealt with a traveling bee wrangler, a young man who traveled around the country with a hundred bee hives following the flowers. The author not only uses the symbolic opportunities the bees provide, she also educates her readers on how the bees are handled and moved from place to place.  (Who knew bees don’t like the smell of leather?)

These stories are not written by people whose names you would recognize. These are not the folks whose work has been collected on library bookshelves.  But these writers know how to write and reach the reader immediately, and they are well worth studying.  If you don’t share my interest and happen to have seventy year old magazines lying around, back bound issues are often available through public library inter-library loan systems or online.  These literary craftsmen and women are skilled, fun to read, and capable of teaching us quite a lot about the craft of writing. Enjoy!

Mary and Rick Roberts

Writer’s Wednesday: An Interview with Award-winning Author, Karen Wiesner

I was given Karen’s book, First Draft in 30 Days a few years ago by a friend, and it’s still one of my favorites to guide authors through the novel-writing process. So, recently when I found out that a mutual friend of mine also knew Karen, I was excited to get in touch with her about sharing her wisdom on writing. Please welcome Karen Wiesner to The Editing Essentials!

Karen Wiesner is an accomplished author with 96 books published in the past 15 years, which have been nominated for and/or won 125 awards, and has 28 more titles under contract. Her books cover most genres of fiction, children’s books, poetry, and writing reference titles. Her previous writing reference titles focused on e-publishing, book marketing, and setting up a promotional group like her own, Jewels of the Quill, which she founded in 2003. The group produced two award-winning anthologies, edited by Karen and others, per year from 2005-2011. For more information about Karen’s fiction and many series, consult her official companion guide The World of Author Karen Wiesner: A Compendium of Fiction. If you would like to receive her free e-mail newsletter and become eligible to win her monthly book giveaways, visit her websites: http://www.karenwiesner.com  or  http://www.falconsbend.com .

WD: What drives you to write more books, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction?

KW: Not writing simply isn’t an option for me. I have to. It’s as vital as breathing. Even if I’d never gotten published, I would always write if for no one else but myself. Nonfiction, I admit, I write for others, not so much for myself. I realize there’s a need for this crucial information, and I’m happy to provide it for any author who requests it. Having it in book format is convenient and profitable, lol, but whenever anyone writes to me asking for advice, I respond. To me, it’s a way of giving back to all the generous, experienced authors who helped me along the way.

WD: How did you become involved with the group of writers that make up Jewels of the Quill?

KW: I founded the group. In 2003, mass market publishers shut out new authors by rolling out a new requirement that went almost across the board for all of them: no submissions without an agent. My frustration was pretty intense, so I started brainstorming a way around this. Jewels of the Quill started out as a group of authors who would “agent” other authors, allowing us to submit each other’s material under the umbrella of being agents. In the midst of this, I realized how satisfied I was with the electronic and small press publishers I was working with. So the group decided that instead of banding together as agents (what seems like a bit of a silly concept to me now), we would band together as authors and promote in a group setting…safety in numbers. I wrote a book about how successful the experience has been. Leading to your next question…

WD: How do you market your own works? What have you found successful?

KW: See my book The Power of Promotional Groups, which teaches authors how to jumpstart their careers by advertising in long-term, affordable ways within the safety and strength of a promotional group. These groups of authors accomplish together what few can do alone: they share the cost of long-term promotion and market their releases individually and as a group. No other book currently on the market comprehensively explains how authors can set up a promotion-specific group. Promotional groups offer authors the means to gain focused, irresistible promotion—indefinitely!

WD: What was the inspiration for writing your non-fiction works— First Draft in 30 Days and From First Draft to Finished Novel {A Writer’s Guide to Cohesive Story Building}?

KW: Both of my Writer’s Digest books, First Draft in 30 Days and From First Draft to Finished Novel {A Writer’s Guide to Cohesive Story Building} work together perfectly, and those who have read and used both methods say the same. Used together, they really are like a well-oiled machine focused on productivity, high-quality and unending momentum. One thing From First Draft to Finished Novel really targets is the importance of working in stages. I can’t stress how crucial this is for all authors. In an ideal situation, a writer goes through the following nine stages to get a finished novel:

 

  • Brainstorming
  • Researching
  • Outlining
  • Setting aside the project
  • Writing the first draft
  • Setting aside the project
  • Revising the first draft
  • Setting aside the project
  • Editing and polishing

(Incidentally, between my two books, I cover every single stage in-depth and step-by-step, so each aspect of writing a book is detailed from start to finish.)

A few words about why “setting aside the project” so many times is crucial: I believe a book is best if you give it time to “breathe” between these stages. Whatever fears you had about whether the story is working will dissolve after you’ve set the project aside for a good amount of time because it’s as if you’re coming into the work brand new. Allowing your projects to sit for a couple of weeks—or even months—will provide you with a fresh perspective. You’ll be able to evaluate if the story is really as solid as you believed it was when you finished it. All writers get too close to their outlines or manuscripts to really see them objectively. Distance gives you that objectivity and the ability to read your own work like you’ve never seen it before, so you can progress further with it. Another reason for setting projects aside between stages is that writers always reach a point where their motivation runs out, and they may simply want to get away from the story as fast as they can. Who wants to write a book you’ve just spent weeks or even months outlining? Who would want to revise a book you’ve spent weeks or months writing? With every single book, I get to rock bottom and I’m convinced that if I ever see the manuscript again, I’ll tear it to shreds. Setting it aside between the various stages the project goes through really gives me back my motivation for it. I’m always amazed at how much better I can face the project again when I haven’t seen it for a couple weeks or even a month or more. I fall in love with it again. The next stage in the process becomes easier, too, and that helps my writing to be much better.

Also, the more books I have contracted, the more I seem to need these breaks in-between stages. I need breaks even when I feel a project is working beautifully. If I put it on a back burner for an extended period of time (as long as I can possibly allow and still meet my deadlines), amazing things happen over the low flame. By the time I return to it, I find myself bursting with new ways to fix any problems I couldn’t resolve when I was too close to, and sick of, the project, and this also allows me to see more of those connections that make a story infinitely cohesive in terms of knitting your characters seamlessly to the plot and setting.

Another reason for working in stages is that I’m able to start brainstorming on upcoming projects sometimes years in advance. When it’s time to work on that project, I’m just raring to go. I have a ton of ideas and the motivation to get them all down will carry me through the outlining like a breeze. Because I’ve always got multiple books going at one time, each one in a different stage of the process, I’m constantly brainstorming on the projects in the back of my mind, analyzing them for any weaknesses and coming up with ways to improve them. That’s so crucial to the overall strength of your stories.

The most important reason for working in stages is because each of those steps is a layer that is added to the book, a layer that makes it stronger, richer, and—I have to say it—more cohesive.

The only way to stay on track with your writing career is by working in stages and allowing yourself to come into each of them completely fresh and eager to add another layer to the project. On my website, you’ll find a page that includes my annual works in progress and accomplishments: http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/WIP.html

I encourage listeners to visit this page because you’ll really see how well these methods work.

In an average year, I outline, write and revise 5-10 novels and novellas, and I follow the annual goals you’ll see on my Work in Progress page. All of these are done in the stages I mentioned before. This year, I’m working actively on eight separate projects (with the greatest of ease!), each one in a different stage in the process. I love that I’m never doing the same thing in terms of outlining, writing and revising projects. I move from outlining one book, to revising a different one, to writing something altogether, layering and building and developing each book into something wonderful that I could never get if I wasn’t working in stages.

Using my own writing methods, everything in my career is planned well in advance, and I keep tweaking my schedule to make it as productive as it possibly can be. Most people think that I must work 24 hours a day based on my productivity. That’s the really amazing part of this whole method. I don’t have to. Working in stages, using an outline and goals, I work from eight o’clock to noon on weekdays and I can take off every weekend and most of the summer and yet I’m constantly moving forward. At this time, I’m working about a year ahead of my releases. In other words, I’ve already completed all of my 2013 releases and I’m deep into 2014 contracts.

Look for my next writing reference release from Writer’s Digest books coming May 2013: Writing the Fiction Series: The Guide for Novels and Novellas

What are the common pitfalls in a crafting a series, the best ways to get organized and plan it? The purpose of How to Write a Novel Series is to cover all things that need to be taken into consideration when writing a series and provide a one-stop resource for the who, what, where, when and why of this monumental endeavor. This helpful guide will give writers everything they need for creating their fiction series from dealing with story arcs and keeping things focused to characters, consistency, organization and more.

WD: What is the single most piece of advice you’d want as a new writer just starting out that you have learned the hard way?

KW: Actually, my advice is in multiple parts. I don’t believe there are absolutes in writing. There are so many writing trends, and I admit I find most of them silly. If anyone tells me when writing Never do this or Always do this, I immediately take a step backward. There’s only one rule in writing: If it works for the story, go with it. The only rules are the ones you enforce yourself. Don’t let anyone else tell you differently.

In the same vein, I realized early on in my career that there was little that a publisher could do for me that I couldn’t do just as well for myself. I’m a polished writer so I can make sure every book I turn in is the highest quality (and ensure that my editors hardly have to do anything at all for me) so in that way I’m my own editor. It requires dedication and commitment to my goals. I can’t blame anyone else if I’m not disciplined. I’m responsible for my own success (or failure) in that way. I can create my own, gorgeous covers. I can market my own books better than anyone else (though I love it when a publisher helps). Ultimately, I’ve even published my own books and the result is comparable to (in some cases, better than) any publisher I’ve ever worked with. My point is that an author is responsible for herself from start to finish. When I realized that, I knew I could make the rules, write my own ticket. I never expected that early in my career and it’s difficult to give up that perk now to work with a publisher who wants to control every single aspect of the work. I love working with a publisher who trusts me and can see my vision instead of the other way around.

So my advice to any author: Make your own rules and always be responsible for yourself in every aspect of your career.

Giveaway: Karen is giving away 3 autographed copies of From First Draft to Finished Novel {A Writer’s Guide to Cohesive Story Building}. Winners will be chosen from those who leave a comment to this interview on the blog.

Thanks, Karen, for being our guest today! If you have questions or comments for Karen, she’ll be with us all day. Thank you!

Mary and Rick Roberts

Photo of the Week: Look Closely

Ewww. Gross, right? What the heck is that?
Copyright © 2013 by Brittiany Koren

Look closely at this photo and tell us what you think it is. I will give you one clue. It is not vomit. Is this something your main character would find? Is it something you would add to your story? How would you describe this substance? What is it? What is your opinion? Share your thoughts with us, and be creative! 🙂

Mary and Rick Roberts

Writer’s Wednesday: Award-winning, Best-selling Author Lawrence Block

I’ve been a fan of Lawrence Block’s writing for several years. I first discovered his short stories while I was working for Marty Greenberg. Then, I discovered his novels…and I’ve been hooked ever since! Because he has written such inspirational non-fiction on the craft of writing, we’ve also included an excerpt from his book, Spider, Spin Me a Web that we thought you would you enjoy!  Please welcome Lawrence Block to The Editing Essentials!

Lawrence Block has been writing award-winning mystery and suspense fiction for half a century.  His most recent novels are HIT ME, featuring Keller, and A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF, featuring Matthew Scudder.  Several of his books have been filmed, although not terribly well.  He’s well known for his books for writers, including the classic TELLING LIES FOR FUN & PROFIT, and THE LIAR’S BIBLE.  In addition to prose works, he has written episodic television (TILT!) and the Wong Kar-wai film, MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS.  He is a modest and humble fellow, although you would never guess as much from this biographical note.  www.lawrenceblock.com

WD: How did you discover writing fiction?

LB: When I was around 15, I discovered reading fiction—Steinbeck, Farrell, Wolfe, etc. And I decided this was what I wanted to be when I grew up.
WD: Was there someone in your life that supported or influenced your writing early in your career?
LB: I got some encouragement from a high school teacher.
WD: Has your family always supported your writing?
LB: Yes, always.
WD: You’ve written a lot of award-winning books. Do you have a formula? Or, are you just lucky? 🙂

LB: Just lucky.

WD: What’s one tip you’d give to every new writer out there just starting their career as a writer?

LB: Don’t expect too much. “Each writer has to find his own way to write his own story. Each writer is a stranger in his own strange land; how then can I presume to guide you through a country I myself have not visited?

The writer of fiction is a spider. Drawing upon his inner resources and shaping them with his craft, he spins out his guts to trap his dinner. There are no blueprints for the novel, for the short story. However well the spider may serve as a totem animal for fictioneers, there are fundamental differences between the weaving of webs and the spinning of tales.

…Writers, whatever they write, are apt to find the spider an apt totem. Indeed, I’ve learned that writers of all sorts have far more in common than one might suppose. And, too, the distinction between fiction and nonfiction has never been that clear-cut, and has grown increasingly blurry over the years.

In fiction, traditionally, the writer wants us to believe that he has made the whole thing up. In nonfiction, he wants us to believe that he hasn’t. Both weave much the same sort of web, and out of the same inner stuff.

I think it takes courage for any writer, novice or veteran, to begin a piece of work. Every time I start a book or story, every time I spoil a clean white paper with my own poor words, I am performing an act of faith. I’m hoping and trusting that my ability will be equal to the task at hand, or at least that it will not strand me unpublishably short of my goal.
I’m also hoping and trusting that my inspiration will not fail me. I never have the entire work in mind when I begin writing. Books and stories grown on the page, plots and characters are born in the process of writing. No matter how well I prepare, no matter how detailed an outline I draw up in advance, every book will be a happening, a spontaneous event. And I can’t change this. I can’t open the parachute until I’ve stepped out of the plane, and if it won’t open–well, all I can do is pull the cord and pray.
It takes courage, I believe, to do the very best one can do–at writing or at anything else.”
Excerpt from the Preface and Chapter 29: Take Courage of Spider, Spin Me a Web. Reprinted with permission by the author. Copyright © 1988 by Lawrence Block.

Thank you for being here today, Mr. Block. If you have any questions or comments for him, we’ll be sure to pass them on. Thank you! We hope you enjoyed it. 🙂

Mary and Rick Roberts

E.Tip of the Week: When an IP Lawyer Is Important

Recently, an author emailed me about our editing services. She was interested in revising the novel she had sold in the 1990s, and writing a sequel to it. However, what we discovered about her contract with her original publisher was mortifying.

I won’t go into the details of her specific situation. However, I can not stress enough how important it is to know what rights to your work you as an author are signing over when you sign a contract with a publisher. Not only that, but learn about who you are signing the contract with for your books. Are they a reputable publisher? How do they treat their authors? Do they sell their books on their website?

If you’re not familiar with legal jargon, ask your family lawyer to put you in touch with a trusted Intellectual Property lawyer. If your family lawyer doesn’t know one, contact us at Written Dreams. There are several IP lawyers we know of, and we’ll point you in the right direction.

Mary and Rick Roberts

Writer’s Wednesday: Award-winning Writer Laura Resnick on Obstacles

Today, we’re excited to have Laura Resnick as our guest! Please welcome her as she shares with us about her writing experiences.

Laura Resnick is the author of the popular Esther Diamond urban fantasy series, whose releases include Disappearing Nightly, Doppelgangster, Unsympathetic Magic, Vamparazzi, Polterheist, and the upcoming The Misfortune Cookie. She has also written traditional fantasy novels such as In Legend Born, The Destroyer Goddess, and The White Dragon, which made multiple “Year’s Best” lists. She began her career as the award-winning author of fourteen romance novels, written under the pseudonym Laura Leone. An opinion columnist, frequent public speaker, and the Campbell Award-winning author of many short stories, she is on the Web at LauraResnick.com.

 “Crap”

by Laura Resnick

Like many writers, there are days when I have trouble concentrating on my work because of crap. And overcoming this problem is crucial for maintaining a writing career—which is about writing story after story after story, after all.

“Crap” is the word I use for an obstacle placed in your creative path by outside forces. And it’s a bitch.

Crap is when water starts pouring through the electrical fixtures on your bathroom ceiling from the apartment overhead, for example, and you can’t get a maintenance guy on the phone for two hours. Crap is when most of your time and energy are consumed by trying to straighten out the chaos caused by identity theft. When the 2-week renovation job on your kitchen turns into a 6-month long nightmare followed by a lawsuit, that’s crap.

Which is not to say that crap is always petty, bureaucratic, or even deliberate. It can be a very serious, painful matter. It’s not uncommon for people to have trouble writing when they’re getting divorced, when caring for a sick or injured loved one, or after a bereavement. I think most editors respond with human decency when a writer is struggling to deliver a book or short story in such circumstances; but if an editor or agent responds like an insensitive jerk to such news, that would be an example of more crap.

A friend of mine who’s a writer and a psychologist says that sometimes you just need to give yourself permission not to write for a while. That doesn’t always go well with our release schedules, our financial needs, and our work ethic; but there’s no productive point in beating yourself up if some crap is just so overwhelming that, for a while, all of your creative energy is sucked up by dealing with it.

Crap is egalitarian, of course: it screws with people in every line of work. And every line of work has its own kind of crap. As writers, we deal with our vocation’s uniquely aromatic crap.

Rejection is perhaps the single most common form of crap in this profession. It doesn’t seem to get any easier to shovel, no matter how many books we sell along the way. Additionally, getting dumped by a publisher or an agent; seeing your book eviscerated by reviewers; discovering that due to publisher screw-ups your novel was released with 10,000 words missing; going a year, two years, seven years without a publishing contract; discovering that you’ve been plagiarized…

These are all typical examples of writer crap.

Unfortunately, crap is like death and taxes; it’ll always be around, there’s no escaping it. No writing career is ever free of crap. The key for the writer is to develop habits and strategies to keep working despite crap, rather than crawling into a deep hole and staying there because of it.

One technique that I’ve practiced (with varying degrees of success) in order to protect my creativity from crap is compartmentalization. There’s book time, and there’s real time. In book time, I try to shut out the world, to leave it outside the door while I work. It’ll be there when I stop working, eager to resume its noise; but if I can define this space as a place where it’s not allowed to intrude, then I can keep writing.

My friend the psychologist says another useful strategy, particularly in the face of rejection, is to remember not to buy into someone else’s perceptions of you or your work.

A great example of this: I know a writer who once delivered a novel that an editor declared unacceptable, unpublishable, and “unsalvageable.” The author believed in the book and wanted to see it published, so she spent a year doing multiple revisions rather than give up on it, while the editor kept making emphatically negative comments about the results. After encountering a final, no-further-discussion refusal to accept or publish the novel, rather than sink into a black hole of tail-chasing despair, the author wrote a replacement novel. Thus she maintained her profitable association with that publisher. (Luckily, though, the difficult editor resigned around the time the author delivered the replacement book).

I asked this author how she had managed not only to keep steadily revising the “unsalvageable” novel (which sold the following year to another house in a very good deal), but also to face the daunting task of immediately writing a replacement novel right after this confidence-draining experience.

She admitted to the moments of doubt and anxiety that we all have, but said, “But at heart, I knew I was a competent writer no matter what a volatile editor told me.”

In other words, she didn’t let that editor’s perceptions screw with her belief in her work. Thus she maintained enough confidence to protect her creative flow and keep writing despite the demoralizing, year-long experience described above.

I learned the hard way that another key strategy for protecting creative health is to eliminate destructive influences from your professional life. I dealt for several years with an editor whose unprofessional behavior I found so stressful and damaging that, by the time I finally put my foot down and flatly refused to keep working with that individual, I was suffering, for the first time in my life, from multiple stress illnesses: insomnia, indigestion, heartburn, intestinal trouble, chronic migraines, facial ticks, muscle twitches, and a weird psychosomatic pain on my left side that made typing almost impossible. And within 48 hours of my getting the news that I had been reassigned to another editor…all these symptoms miraculously disappeared, as if they had never existed. And they have never returned.

In retrospect, I only wonder why I let things get that bad before drawing the line. Who needs that crap?

Thank you, Laura, for being with us today! Please feel free to post a question or comment for Laura. She’ll be with us all day. Thank you!