Discouraging Encouragement for New Writers

I recently got to message with someone who is just getting started with this whole writing thing. She had lots of questions, worries, and insecurities. About a year ago, my husband was thinking about writing a book he’d had in his head for ten years! He also had lots of questions, worries, and insecurities. I gave them both the same exact advice, but they reacted to it differently. My friend said, “Okay, good to know. That’s exciting. I can do that.” My husband said, “Nah. Nevermind.”

What was the difference?

Mindset.

So, if you are just getting started writing or are thinking about writing or dreaming about thinking about writing, I want you to put on your “Growth Mindset.”

Got it in place? Okay. Let’s go. I’m going to quote the most common concerns I here from new or aspiring writers and then answer with…

The most discouraging encouragement you will ever get.

Discouraging Encouragement for New Writers.png

I don’t know if I’m any good. I think everything I write is terrible.

Truth: Chances are good that you AREN’T any good…yet. Probably everything you are writing is deeply flawed and, yes, pretty terrible. But guess what? The vast, vast majority of writers start out that way. I don’t personally know a single writer who started out AMAZING! Is there such a thing as natural writing talent? Sure! Does it matter if you have it? Not a bit. Because even the people who start with “natural talent” start out terrible.

Think about learning to play the piano. I had a “natural talent” for music. Do you think I sat down at the keyboard for the first time when I was five and pounded out Beethoven? No! That’s ridiculous on its face. Writing is absolutely, 100% no different.

So you suck right now and you know it. GOOD! The worst writers are the ones who think they are amazing at it. The ones who never realize they are terrible. Realizing you aren’t a very good writer is important, it is what will propel you to actually work and study and get better. It will give you the motivation to revise and improve.

Ask almost any author about their first writings and you will get groans and laughs and eye rolls. It’s something we all go through. And even all those writers who are published? They still think they are terrible. They still write crappy first drafts. They are still learning and figuring this whole thing out. So get comfortable with the feeling. It will never go away completely.

Okay, so how do I stop sucking?

There are no shortcuts. Write consistently. Read widely and as much as you can. Get on writer Twitter. Read writing blogs and craft books. What would you do if your dream was to become an artist? Musician? Dancer? Do that!

Practice.

Learn.

Practice.

I can do that. But how long will it take to stop sucking? When is it realistic to expect publication?

That is a great question that I can’t answer because everyone is different. Some people publish their first books (the rest of us secretly hate them.) Some people don’t get published until their 10th book. Even the lucky first book people have mostly been working on their writing for years.

When I first started writing, I read a lot of “success” posts and realized that most people write 3-5 books before getting an agent or getting published. Most people work 4-6 years before hitting those “success” milestones. And being in the book world for the last few years has born out those statistics for most people. Even me! I got my agent almost 4 years after I started, with my second book. My debut will come out 6 years after I started writing.

There are never any guarantees, but I honestly believe it is really good to go into writing expecting at least five years of work before you see any results and planning on your first 2 books, at least, being practice books. And I don’t mean that you should query them or try to get them published, I think you absolutely should. You should use your practice books to practice querying too. I just think it’s nicer to be pleasantly surprised rather than crushed and disappointed.

So you are saying I should work really hard on something and then let people reject it? I don’t think my heart can handle that! That’s so scary!

Meh. You’ll get over it.

I know that sounds heartless, but you will.

Really. I’m not trying to blow off your pain. Believe me, I’ve been there. I have sobbed over rejections before. I’ve complained to friends and mentors and talked about giving up. That the pain isn’t worth it. But you know what? I wrote the next book and it was always better and it distracted my heart and that made the rejections hurt less. “Okay, you don’t want that book? That’s alright, I have something better coming down the pipeline.”

Actually, if you can believe it. You’ll get a little bit addicted to the adrenaline rush of querying and rejections and requests. You’ll realize that your book is not for everyone and that’s okay.

There will be bad days where you cry and eat chocolate and think about giving up. But there will also be good days where you realize that writing is important not just for the success side of it. That you are not your book and it says nothing about your worth. That there is always hope. That you are getting better. That you will just keep going!

Some days, rejections will roll off you. Other days, they’ll stink or even break you. But eventually, the pain numbs and you keep writing. You can not get published without at least risking rejection. So you’re going to do it and you will survive. Not only that, you will become a braver human being in general because of it.

So there you go. My discouraging encouragement. You probably do stink (I still do in a lot of ways.) You will probably have to put in years of work before success. You will get rejected and it will hurt.

But it will be okay. This is what it is to be a writer. WELCOME!
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Amanda Rawson Hill grew up in southwest Wyoming with a library right out her back gate, which accounts a lot for how she turned out. Her debut novel, THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC, will be published by Boyds Mills Press September 2018.

When the negative feedback comes…and it will

As writers, we love to hear all the awesome things people think about our writing. And while there is a lot of positive feedback (probably most of which we don’t ever hear about), there is also the opposite. We’re not perfect–and we certainly can’t please everyone–and people will have negative opinions and reactions they choose to share with us individually or with the world through a review or online comment.

I’ve had my fair share of negative feedback in my experience of writing articles. In a few instances, people have decided to not only complain about what I wrote, but also took personal jabs at me. The first time this happened, I was literally can’t-breathe-crying-in-my-closet. I’ve seen comments where I’ve been insulted, called names, and had people disagree with my stance. The most shocking times are when people go through my personal blog to email me and spread their negativity in a direct message.

I believe in the mantra “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Why do people go out of their way to be mean? I have no idea. However, as writers, we need to expect it to come so we can be ready for it. Also, there are times when what we perceive as negativity is actually a good thing.

You think it’s negative, but it’s actually constructive.

If you’re a serious writer, you probably have a critique group or partners who read what you’ve written and give you honest feedback. We may not always want to hear what they have to say. However, give it a few days to settle in your mind rather than getting upset. Think about what they said. Will it really make your writing better? If yes, do it! You may not always agree with what they said, and that’s okay too.

Rejection letters.

We’re all bound to get at least a few of these in our writing careers. Rejections hurt. Don’t take it personally. If you received feedback, read it and see if you think it’s valid. Sometimes, the rejection comes not because your writing is bad, but because it’s not a match with that particular agent, editor, or publishing house. Or, they may already have another manuscript they’re publishing that is very similar to yours. Make any necessary changes and submit to the next publisher/agent in your queue.

Comments from editors. 

When you get the “yes” from a publisher, it’ll go through an editing process, which often means revisions for you. These can feel like you’re doing it all wrong, but it’s actually a good thing (uh, hello, they still want to publish you!). Sometimes it’s hard to see parts of your writing that may not be working because you’re too close to it–maybe mentally filling in some of the missing key details. They may want you to take out a favorite scene or make some bigger changes. It can feel negative, but after you let it settle and work through the changes, you’ll see that it’s a great move for your writing.

Reviews from readers. 

The reviews you find online are simply someone else’s opinion. You may agree with it or you may not. Some may have a valid point about something they didn’t liked, while others may really be a negativity troll. Negative reviews hurt. You’ve put your heart and soul into creating a beautiful story, put it out into the world, and now you have readers being critical and harsh. If you can go without reading comments, that’s a great way to go, but it’s so darn tempting! Find a way to laugh it off or see it for what it is–an opinion. Not everyone is going to like what you write or how you wrote it. Some will be vocal about it. But, there will be people who LOVE what you wrote. You’re writing for them! Don’t let bad reviews derail your writing.

Don’t let the negativity get you down, but be ready for it. Some of it is necessary and constructive, but, as for the rest, take Taylor Swift’s advice and “shake it off.”

Above all, keep writing and improving.
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Wendy Jessen is the author of more than 300 articles—book reviews as well as family-oriented articles on familyshare.com. She somehow manages to do that with 6 spirited children ranging in age from 4 to 13 under toe. In the throes of writing her first book, she finds ways to procrastinate which usually involves scrolling through social media. Wendy often stays up way past her bedtime reading YA or other fiction. She loves kid-free date night with her husband, family vacations, and kids’ bedtime, aka, the human version of whack-a-mole.

Humor in Bad Situations

We are excited to welcome our newest contributor, Mikey Brooks!

Most people can look back on a bad experience and find humor in it. Like when I was in grade school and my shorts fell down in gym class exposing my nether-regions to half the sixth graders (girls included). At the time I was mortified, now I look back on it and laugh. The same thing goes with my personal path to publishing. When I was 21, I finished my first novel. I was so proud of my achievement and I knew that this book was going to be the next bestseller. I would soon buy a private island and retire at age 22 and do nothing more with my life except sip exotic smoothies on a beach somewhere—I couldn’t have been more wrong. Let me tell you why.

 
Back then I didn’t know the first thing about how to get a publisher or even what an agent was. Self-publishing wasn’t really around, except in the way of vanity presses which cost way too much for way too little. So I did what I thought was the right thing: I went to the library, got the Publisher’s Market book, and wrote down every address to every publishing house in the United States, then I took it home and sent my freshly printed manuscripts to every publishing house in the United States, regardless if they accepted unsolicited manuscripts or not (I didn’t know what that meant so I just played ignorant). Back then we didn’t have email submission so I spent a small fortune mailing those suckers out, but I knew it would all be worth it the moment they offered me my advanced royalty check. I sat back and waited for the offers to come in. 
Months passed and I continued to wait. Suddenly I was getting all these rejections in the mail and my dream of that private island began to fade. The real slap in the face came when I received a rejection from Harlequin saying, “nice book, but where’s all the sex?” I felt like I was back in grade school again—exposed and embarrassed. This was a children’s book and they wanted sex in it? I knew at that moment I didn’t know the first thing about writing, publishing, or anything for that matter. For me, my dreams of becoming an author were over. Poof! Goodbye, private island.
Of course now I laugh at how ridiculous it was for me to even send a publisher known for sexy books my middle-grade novel and expect anything but a rejection. I look back and see the humor in the situation and you know what? It helps. The one thing that every writer I have met, myself included, deals with is depression. We put so much of ourselves into our writing that when we get rejected it is a mortal blow to our souls. Darkness creeps in and soon we find ourselves in a rut filled with overeating on chocolate and wearing all black. 
The best medicine for rejection, disappointment, and depression is laughter. That’s no joke! Way too often authors get bogged down by the bad things that happen on their author journey. Rejections, bad reviews, harsh edits, and even more rejections—the list for bad things can go on and on. Try not to take those bad moments too seriously. Take a step back and try to find the humor in them. By finding something to laugh at, you will help move yourself both mentally and physically toward a brighter future. Just remember that things take time, especially when it comes to your author journey. After my crashing blow by Harlequin (I hope you did laugh at the stupidity of my story), it took me a good seven years before I even started writing another book again. Why? Because I refused to find the humor in the situation. It wasn’t until I really laughed out loud about it that I could move forward again. So take my advice and move at your own pace, dream wild dreams, but most of all—find humor in every bad situation.

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Mikey Brooks is a small child masquerading as an adult. On occasion you’ll catch him dancing the funky chicken, singing like a banshee, and pretending to have never grown up. He is an award winning author and illustrator. He has published five middle-grade books including the fantasy adventure series The Dream Keeper Chronicles. Some of his picture books include the best-selling ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures and Bean’s Dragons, which will be featured in an independent film releasing at the Sundance Film Festival. He has a BS degree in English from Utah State University and works full-time as a freelance cover designer and formatter. His art can be seen in many forms from picture books to full room murals. He loves to daydream with his four kiddos and explore the worlds that only the imagination of children can create. You can find more about him & his books at: www.insidemikeysworld.com

Why You Shouldn’t Get Disheartened by Agent (and Publisher) Rejections

Today I want to tell you a bit about my journey in connecting with my agent, because it’s definitely one of the most exciting by also most stressful and discouraging parts of a writer’s life. It’s exciting because, oh…the possibilities. After years and years of writing and editing and polishing our manuscripts to (we hope) perfection, the chance to finally delve into the professional world and reach readers is a dream that is too good to come true. Right?

 The stressful and discouraging part is the inevitable rejections. After all that hard work, the last thing we want to hear is that our manuscript is not perfect for our dream agent. With every “no,” it feels like the door leading to publication closes half an inch more. Before we start querying, we can almost convince ourselves that anything is possible, but once the “not for me”s start rolling in, the doubts can become insurmountable.

 But if you’ve gotten great feedback from experienced critiquers on your manuscript and synopsis, and you feel good about what you’re sending out, let me tell you why I think you should brush off those rejections.

THE SEARCH

When I was ready to start querying, I consumed every piece of advice I could feast my eyes on–and there’s a lot of it. One of the best pieces of advice I came upon was to research the agents I was querying before sending them a letter. It’s important for a few reasons. Yes, personalizing your letter establishes that you’re educated about the process, the agency, and the agent, and yes, you want to make sure you’re querying agents who represent work like yours. But it’s also important because you want to want to work with this person if they say yes.

And that’s one thing I think it’s easy to forget in our excitement to finally see our dreams become a reality–working with an agent is a mutual relationship.

When I was researching agents, I came across an interview for one agent who said she liked stories with “people being taken apart, the putting back together is optional.” Since I love tearing my characters apart and my fiction often has a darker tone, I was really hopeful about hearing back from this particular agent. Reading her interview, I just felt a connection. Our views on books and publishing lined up so much. I hit the send button with my fingers crossed.

THE WAITING

And then the rejections started to roll in. One after another after another. I was okay after the first few. I didn’t expect to nab the first agent I asked. But as they continued to appear in my inbox, I saw that door closing, inch by inch.

I won’t say it wasn’t hard. I won’t say there weren’t days I wanted to give up. But deep down I did my best not to let them shake me, because I knew that when an agent finally said yes, it would be the right one. I may have done my research and followed all the guidelines, but there’s only so much you can tell from a person based on what you read online. At the end of the day, only the agent knows if it’s a good match. You know what does tell a lot about a person, though?

The book they choose to write. The characters they create and the struggles those characters face. The nuances that come together in a way that is unique to the author and their individual experiences. A writer’s book is a road-map to their heart and if an agent connects with those things, there’s a good chance you’ll see eye to eye on other things, like editing choices, career goals, and the list of editors you’ll eventually send the book to. Just like readers who like the same book often have other common interests, an agent who loves your book is going to share similar values and ideas. When you work together, you’re more likely to have a shared vision.

THE CONNECTION

I’ve been with my agent for over a year now, and I can tell you that’s been the experience for me. That agent who loves characters taken apart read my book in three days, put me on Cloud 9 after our first phone call, and we’ve been in sync ever since. She connected with my attention to details and is a perfectionist like me. We both tend to work slower to allow the story plenty of room to become what it needs to be, with lots of discussions about it as we go. And being that we both are drawn to the intricacies of characters and their personalities, she has been a patient and understanding guide to me as I’ve navigated the tougher parts of becoming a professional writer.

Because of that, I’m so thankful for all the agents who owned up to their “not for me”s because if they hadn’t, I might otherwise be working with someone whose ideas about my stories and my career don’t quite line up with mine. Finding the right agent, was worth the wait.

So if you’re querying or you’re getting ready to, keep your chin up and keep these thoughts in mind when you start to receive rejections, as you no doubt will. Let those “no”s slide off your back and look forward to hearing from the right one. Or, if like me, you’re waiting for the right editor to come along, let’s remember these thoughts too.

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Jamie Raintree writes Women’s Fiction about women searching for truth in life and love. She is currently working on revisions of her first novel in preparation for submission to publishers. In the meantime, she blogs about her journey toward a well-balanced life and a career in publishing–her struggles and successes along the way. She lives in Northern Colorado with her husband and two young daughters and is a Workshop Coordinator for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.