Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Steps to Being Published by Bronwyn Storm

When I was an unpublished writer, struggling not just to see my name on the cover of a book, but also trying to navigate the choppy, seemingly ill-charted waters of writing and publishing guides, getting myself into port—finding that glorious harbor known as ‘contracted writer’ seemed a mythic journey. I felt like a lost sailor, tossed and battered by unreliable crafts, lead astray by ill drawn maps, and everywhere I turned it appeared, “there be monsters.”

It was the unknowingness that drove me the most crazy. There are no true writing schools, no certificate you can hold in your hand and say, “Let me into these hallowed halls, I deserve to be here.” Writing isn’t like medicine—there aren’t ivy covered buildings where you go, learn the tools, do your apprenticeship, then set off on your own. And worse than not having a building is the fact that writing constantly changes. By the time I bought a book on ‘how to write’ from my local bookstore, it was already out of date.

What was I to do? What is any writer to do?

Well, a few years and several contracts into this non-traditional industry, this is what I’ve learned:

1) Be humble. You don’t know everything and your writing isn’t sacred. If it is, put it in a drawer. If you give your story to ten people and four of them have the same issue with your undeveloped characters or unusual plot, FIX IT. As soon as you utter the words, “Yeah, but” or “Let me explain,” you’ve confirmed the story is faulty. If you have to draw diagrams, the problem isn’t the interpretation. It’s you. Or more precisely, the writing. Go back. Fix it. Get them to re-read it. Keep doing this until the story is smooth and developed.

2) Take criticism like an adult. Editors and publishing houses have years and money invested into knowing their demographic and streamlining the stories that work. Just because they reject your story doesn’t mean they reject you. The story doesn’t work for their house. Sure, go ahead wail. Call them names, whatever soothes your ego, because that’s what it is. Ego. Grown up writers take the rejections, read them over. If the suggestions make sense, they edit and either resubmit or move on to another house. If they don’t make sense (and they may not. Stories are subjective and we all bring our personal biases into it. They’re suggestions may not make a lick of sense. Editors are editors, they’re not all-knowing gods). Professional writers do not send hate mail or argue with the editor. That just confirms the editor made the right decision in not accepting your work.

3) Write. True writers don’t talk about writing. They do it. Consistently. You don’t have to devote five hours or shut the world out, but figure out your bare minimum then stick to it. I have a friend who says, “Half and hour a day. That’s my writing time.” Another one has an eight page a day routine. As long as she gets those in, she’s golden.

4) Surround yourself with people who support you. I owe a great deal of my success to the people in my life who just didn’t say, “Good for you, wanting to write,” they followed up, took it for granted that not only would I write, but publishing was a ‘when it happens’ not an ‘if it happens.’ Find those kind of people in your circle. If they’re not there, find a new circle. Writing is hard enough without having to justify and fight for support.

5) Network. Find other writers and make friends—they’re not only a great base for support and knowledge, it’s just plain fun to get together with people who share your passion.

6) Stay on top of the industry. Even if the books are outdated, there are universal constants to writing: tight plot, developed characters, great description, lots of emotion. Find books that teach these skills. Read them, re-read them. I have a list of my favorites and before I start writing any new story, I re-read those books. They remind me what I need, what I’m aiming for.

Writing is hard, unforgiving and not for those seeking an easy path or guaranteed riches. If that’s why you want to write, put down the pen and go try something else. But if you’re writing because there’s a story dying to come to life, then grab that pen and hold tight. And when you get those rejections, your inner doubts tell you to give up, hold it even tighter. Write despite the fears, write to spite those fears and breath into existence something that’s all yours.

Good luck and happy writing!

Bronwyn Storm

Reprinted with permission. Bronwyn Storm is a super-hero in training—hey, one day being a klutz will be a superpower…if she doesn’t break anything vital in the meantime. When not tripping over her feet, she writes for The Wild Rose Press and plays butler and cuddler to her four furry boys. Check out her website www.bronwynstorm.com and drop her a line, she could use the excuse to stop petting the dogs and cats.

© 2008 All rights reserved.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed by the guest blogger do not necessarily reflect those of The Deadly Vixens.

9 deadly screams:

Sierra Wolfe said...

Great post, Bronwyn. Are there any specific writing books you'd recommend?

Sarah Mäkelä said...

Thanks for the great post, Bronwyn! I'm so glad you could join us. Excellent advice.

Molly Daniels said...

Okay...I think Bronwyn just answered my question about resubmitting. It IS allowed, when you've made changes that the rejecting editor suggested? I just assumed that once you've been rejected by the publisher, you move on to the next. Or is that only when you get the form letter?

Gracen Miller said...

lol, Molly, I'm like you. I thought one didn't resubmit to the same publishing house after being rejected even if they gave detailed instructions on how to improve the storyline. The rejection did not say "send it to me when you're finished making the changes and I'd love to read it again," so I read between the lines and heard, "Good luck eslewhere". lol

Bronwyn, I would agree with you on surrounding yourself with support. However, not such an easy thing when your husband of 16 years is the non-supportive one in the family. Strangely enough, my mother-in-law has turned into my greatest advocate even though she's not read my books (she despises romance of any genre). Just hearing her say she believes in me makes me feel special.

Everything else was great advice as well. I espcially loved the concept of not just saying you're a writer, but actually doing it! lol I struggle with forcing myself to write. It's so much easier to let life, husband, kids, and everything else get in the way. We need to make more time for ourselves and I'm going to struggle to do that everyday for at least an hour doing what I love most....creating lives.

Thanks for blogging with us, Bronwyn. It was an honor and a delight to have you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Everyone! Glad the post was helpful--I'm not normally that serious (lol, or that concise, come to think of it), but after five years of writing, those are the things that really struck home with me for what helped me (and others) be successful in this very competitive business.

I heard that 85% of people never finish the book they're writing, so if you actually have written a book/story, you're already in an elite group and should give yourself all due credit...

Sierra, here are the books I love:
James N. Frey (not the Million Little Pieces guy): How to Write a Damn Good Novel. He actually has a few books (The Power of Myth; How to Write a Damn Good Mystery) and they're all damn good reads. :P
On Writing - Stephen King
The Comic Toolbox - John Vorhaus (he wrote for The Wonder Years)
The Weekend Novelist - Robert J. Ray

I also re-read some of my favorite books to remind myself of why I love them, how the author uses the plot and words to create a realistic world...

Molly, I'd only re-sub if they asked me to...

As for support, Gracen, I'm so sorry your hubby doesn't help, but thrilled to hear your MIL does. I think writing is such a non-traditional field and incredibly hard to break into that people need all the help and support they can get. As for the naysayers, ignore 'em and remember, you have a choice. You can be on your deathbed, never having pursued your dream, or you can be on your deathbed saying, "I gave it my best shot."

Writers are people who write. Whether you're published or not, it's just semantics. If you're a writer, you're a writer. End of story, as far as I'm concerned.

Thank you so much for having and hosting me, I loved being here.

Anonymous said...

Writers are people who write.

You got it, sister. :) Great interview!


Molly Daniels said...

LOL:) My MIL hasn't read my books either, but when book #2 came out, she told anyone who would listen that her daughter was published:)

Thanks...my WRP rejection said (I think!) to submit again, and definitely other works. I'll dig it out and reread it! Same for my EP rejection last week.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Bronwyn! I have some of the books on your list; I'll have to go look for the others. . .


Sonja Foust said...

Thanks for the inspiring post, Bronwyn!