Say “No Fear” to Rejection

Rejection. No one likes it. But dislike isn’t the same as fear. Let an author school you in how to say “No Fear” to rejection.

The road to a published book is paved with rejection letters.

Nowadays, make those rejection emails.

“I enjoyed reading your story…but the team has decided not to move forward with your novel.”
“We appreciate the chance to read your work, but unfortunately, the work is not a fit for our list at the moment.”
“Best of luck finding the right publisher for this work.”
“We’re going to pass, but we wish you the best of luck on your publishing journey.”

These are all taken from rejection letters I have received within the past ten months. There are more, but after reading one, they all ring with the same tone.

In the early days, I cried whenever I read a rejection. Maybe I stuffed myself with dark chocolate. Or perhaps curling in the fetal position with the covers over my head soothed my battered heart.

                                                      What I didn’t do was stop writing.

Not since deciding to “do this writing thing” for real.

I’ll admit that the beginning of this year, I was battered by all the rejection. It seemed like every open door slammed in my face.

Maybe I should stick with writing short stories and novellas. Perhaps I didn’t have the skill to craft a novel that would engage readers from the first line to the last.

Doubt wormed it’s way into every writing session.

Why am I even doing this?

And that was the right question.

Be dauntless, my friend. When the doubts seep in after rejection pulverizes you, seek your personal motivation.

Why do I write?

Because I can’t stop writing. I was born to do it. I’ve been making up stories since I learned to read and write.

“You don’t have to publish everything you write,” a published author friend of mine told me. “Some stories are lessons.”

True, but do the published authors of the world still need those lessons? Can they spend months on a project and then throw it aside?
I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to write only those stories which will find a home in readers’ hearts.

   So post them on your blog.

I rejected the inner voice without a second thought.

Maybe I should have listened. All those months hammering out the GATES OF ASTRYA series only to have four manuscripts hanging out on my hard drive. More months creating a rocky world of dragons, and DRAGONS AWAKENING isn’t fit to circulate in the world of readers, if rejection letters are any indicator.

Be dauntless. Why did I ever choose that word?

Because fear wants to defeat me. It hopes to silence the storyteller, keep the truths my characters discover from shining into the world.

Sorry, Fear. As this quote says, writers persist. Rejection makes us stronger.

In the spirit of sharing emails from publishers. Here’s one I got recently from my friends at Roane Publishing.
“Thanks for sending along the 2nd installment in your series so quickly. Roane Publishing would be pleased to offer a contract to publish it. Congratulations!”

Who wouldn’t prefer this sort of email about their creative endeavors?

If I had given up on this “whole writing thing” when I read the first hundred rejection letters, I wouldn’t have ever made it to the point where I would here the golden words “we want to offer you a contract.”

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one or more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. Those reviews are the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

How Small Goals Got Me Published

It’s that time of year again. The end is in sight and us type-A types start thinking about setting goals (or making resolutions) for the new year. Setting goals got me published.

It sounds trite, I know.

“If you want something, plan how to get it.”

Don’t dream it, do it.

And a million-and-five other sayings that are straight from the lips of Zig Ziglar or some other motivational speaker.

But take it from me, setting goals is the first step to reaching your dream.

I know because I’m living my dream. And setting small goals and working step-by-step plans to reach each one got me where I am today.

And 2017 is the year these same planned goals are going to get me a traditional publishing contract. And an agent.

Make them Small

A publishing contract is a BIG goal. Which is why I didn’t get it the first year I was writing full-time.

Now that I’m three years in to this full-time author gig, I’m at the place where this is an attainable goal. Finally.

But I was pretty discouraged the first year when I went after this goal and failed to attain it.

These were the small steps I planned to reach the goal:

1. Write an amazing story

2. Edit the heck out of the story

3. Research agents

4. Learn how to write a good query letter

5. Query all the agencies that are a match for the manuscript

6. Get a publishing contract

And I did steps one through five…for three separate novels.

And I still don’t have a publishing contract for a novel. In fact, I’ve never even gotten a request for a full manuscript from an agency.

That’s why I set smaller goals for myself. Goals like:

  • Scour short story submission calls
  • Write short stories for these calls
  • Edit each story to polished perfection
  • Submit. Submit. Submit.
  • Sell some short stories

And I have reached that goal four times.

In fact, I’ll have a novella published in February by the first publisher of a short story I submitted. Better yet, I have two sequels in mind to continue the story of that novella that the publisher wants me to submit once I get them written (and revised and edited).

Big goals are hard to reach, so when you start down a new path, set small goals.

This is the same for changing your eating habits, losing weight, beginning an exercise regime or learning a new hobby.

If the goal is too big, you will fail to reach it. Then you might be tempted to give up.

And a quitter never lives their dream.

Plan the Baby Steps

Once you’ve imagined a goal for yourself, it’s time to make a plan.

Don’t think a sketchy outline will help you reach your goals. You need a step-by-step plan of attack if you want to succeed.

And I don’t mean big, general steps. For example, if you want to lose 20 pounds, your steps could be:

  1.  Find a eating and exercise plan you like
  2.  Figure out the menu and exercise calendar
  3. Follow the Plan

Oh-kay. How do I find a plan? How to I plan the meals or exercise? And are there specific steps to following the plan?

These broad, vague steps are a recipe for failure. Seriously, it’s like saying if you stir flour sugar, eggs and vanilla together with a cup of butter you’ll get cookie dough.

When you sit down, think about your plan in the smallest of steps. For my traditional publishing contract (that I’m landing in 2017), here are my baby steps:

  1.  Outline a story idea
  2. Write character sketches for the main characters
  3. Write the first draft
  4. Write a rough synopsis
  5.  Research the setting
  6. Get input from a writer who has traveled to this place
  7. Rewrite the story
  8. Edit this draft
  9.  Send the manuscript to three-five beta readers
  10. While betas are reading, research agents that fit the story & my ideal
  11.  Comb beta suggestions for great input
  12. Revise according to suggestions
  13.  Re-read looking for holes
  14.  Edit chapter-by-chapter
  15. Polish every sentence
  16.  Craft an amazing query letter
  17.  Polish the synopsis
  18. Send queries to the first ten agents on the list

Some of these steps are fairly broad. Break them down further if it motivates you to check off a step. You can make writing each chapter a separate step if that lights a fire under you.

Small steps climb the ladder to your goal.

Reward your Success

Human nature loves rewards.

Seriously. If you tell me I can have a small piece of dark chocolate after I run a 5K, I’ll be tying my running shoes on.

The key is to find rewards that motivate YOU. Maybe it’s buying a new outfit. Or going to dinner with a friend. It could be a weekend at the beach.

Small accomplishments should have small rewards. Bigger accomplishment = bigger reward.

I’ve been telling my husband that as soon as I sign the contract for my novel and get a hefty advance, I’m going to buy myself an Audi Q5. That’s a huge incentive for me.

Whenever I see one of these sporty CUVs on the road, I remind myself, “Just get a book contract with a decent advance and that is yours.”

What goals will you set for yourself in 2017? Do you have a plan to reach them? What reward would inspire you to work through the tough times?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.

Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

Already read one or more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.


		

Captain America: Is it all about the Bromance?

Opinion_Cover

Captain America is the ultimate super hero. I’ve said this before. In detail (you can read about it here).

That’s why I was a little offended when some people claimed Cap was dumping on the world in order to save Bucky.

It was bad enough when they claimed Cap didn’t have a real reason for neglecting the treaty. You know, the Sokovia initiative that 117 countries in the UN had agreed would govern future missions of the Avengers.

These naysayers assassinated Captain Rogers’ character because he turned on his “team.” All because protecting Bucky was more important than anything. Cap forfeited his good name and reputation all in the name of bromance.

I disagree. Cap wanted to help Bucky, sure, but it’s all about freedom with Captain Rogers. It always has been. Ever since we met him before World War 2. Back before he was an “enhanced” human.

I blame the storytellers for this misunderstanding – or misrepresentation, depending on if you’re #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan. They didn’t do the best job laying down out the cause and effect bread crumbs.

Why did Iron Man, a guy who flouted authority at every turn, suddenly change his mind? Why did the team captain, a known rule-follower, stop following the status quo?

Motives

Iron Man’s change of heart was linked to his encounter with the grieving mother in the basement of MIT.

Thousands of people died in the combined alien attacks the Avengers defended against. Why did this one boy’s story suddenly make Stark rethink his attitude about accountability?

Bring in the end of his relationship with Pepper. He says himself that signing this treaty is his last ditch effort to win her back. Because he can’t stop putting the suit on. And that has nothing to do with saving the world and everything to do with self-redemption. He said as much to the woman at MIT.

He tried to use the boy’s death to motivate the other Avengers to sign the treaty. This was no different than General Ross’ replay of the destruction caused by their former battles.

Cap_IronMan_CivilWar

Even before Iron Man and the General come calling, Cap is watching the news. He was appalled at the destruction in Nigeria (a mistake). However, he realizes the goal and purpose of the team is bigger than that.

Is Cap calloused about the collateral damage? I don’t think so. He understands the principle of commanding soldiers in every offensive. Innocents will die, but you can limit the number of casualties by eliminating the mastermind criminals.

“You can’t bring them back.”

The biggest contributor to Cap’s change of heart toward the “new rules” proposed by the government is Agent Carter’s death. Specifically her words about compromise resonate with Cap. “Compromise where you can. Where you can’t, plant yourself like a tree.”

Cap couldn’t compromise on using his abilities to protect the masses. This isn’t news to anyone who’s been following the franchise. In the first Avengers movie, he told Director Fury something similar.

Captain America’s done being used by politicians to further their agendas. He wasn’t sad to see S.H.I.E.L.D. fall. They had too much control and wanted even more. Their presence was infringing on the right to freedom and justice for Joe American.

The irony: in choosing not to sign this UN proposal he falls into the machinations of the evil mastermind central to Captain America: Civil War.

Manipulations

There’s no doubt that Cap was distracted by the thought of helping Bucky. We saw this in the beginning when the virus-stealing terrorist mentioned his name.

That fact is how the vengeance-seeking villain manipulated the situation. He had “studied” the team, and especially Cap, for a year. He knew Bucky was his “weakness.”

And he used that to move the Avengers around the chessboard of his evil plot.

Emmo manipulated the system to force Cap’s hand. Cap had to choose “follow the new law” (which he never agreed to do) or follow his principles. Would he let the authorities gun down an unconvicted man? (Face it. We all knew Bucky had to be innocent since he was in Bucharest while the UN was bombed in Vienna.)

Cap felt it was his duty to bring Bucky in because he would have the best chance of doing so without collateral damage (and isn’t that was the muckety-mucks were supposedly screaming about?). He went to Bucky’s apartment with the intention of taking him to the authorities.

Image from Marvel-movies
Image from Marvel-movies

Would he have protected a perfect stranger with the same vigor? I would say yes. Because that is who he is. He’s the defender of the weak, protector of freedom and upholder of justice. Even though the filmmakers have tried to paint him in a different light in this movie.

Another reason Emmo chose to frame Bucky was because he needed the information about the other winter soldiers. The fact that he knew Cap would feel compelled to protect him, even if it meant going against the rest of the team, was an additional bonus.

The logic behind Emmo’s knowledge is another shortfall in this film. How did he know about the Starks’ murder ahead of time? The video footage was an essential part of guaranteeing a fight between Tony and Steve.

On my second viewing of the movie, I did catch how Emmo ordered breakfast from Russia. This insured that room service would discover the dead psychiatrist thus alerting the Avengers that everything had been a set up.

But the power-jealous authorities won’t see it that way. And that’s why Captain America had to step outside the law to deal with this villain.

Is my infatuation with Cap blinding me to this bromance-inspired revolt? I don’t think so.

What do you think? Were the motives for Tony and Cap realistic? Do you think Cap would have signed the treaty if Bucky wasn’t in danger?

Starting Something New

Maybe it’s the way the tape holding the cotton ball in the bend of my arm pulls whenever I type. I even give blame credit to the golden sun making patterns on the porch outside my office window.

Starting a new project brings out the best – and worst – of my natural tendencies to procrastinate or run heedless into crowded streets. Not sure there is a “best” when I put it that way.

I don’t chew my nails. Even if I did, I’m not fretting about what’s next for the novel I’ve placed into the capable hands of six beta readers. That isn’t keeping me from getting words on the page in the newest Scrivener file.

I tried to come up with some short story ideas, but everything fell flat. This idea that came to me during November 2013 while I was writing blog posts for the church blog kept resurfacing.

It’s a fictionalization. I’ve decided a journal style will give it the most impact. This means writing in first person and a boatload of research.

Where to Start

Some people would load up by researching the time period and setting. That derails my creativity and puts me in a black-and-white frame of mind. If it helps spark your enthusiasm for the project, start here.

I started in the middle. This isn’t my usual method. Generally, I write the first scene and the last scene. Go back to the beginning and work my way toward the ending I’ve concocted.

That doesn’t seem to work for a fictionalization. Yes, creativity plays a huge part in the writing, but the basic story outline is already written. Shouldn’t this make things easier? One would think.

Since I’m using the Bible as my major resource, I started by reading the passage of the scene I wanted to write. I began with the marriage at Cana (I told you it was in the middle). I read the story several times.

Now to bring it to life. I closed my eyes and imagined how my point of view character, Mary, would have felt. Why was she there? How did she discover the wine shortage? What do her snippets of conversation with Jesus and the servants tell us about her character?

It’s not that much different than when I create a fictional character. Except I have to be true to the facts people already know.

It would be easier just to make something up. Why am I writing this again? *sigh*

What to Avoid

As with all my projects, I have a spiral notebook. The first page shows the family tree of Mary. Beneath that, I have her and Joseph’s family tree. Here again, the historical documents I’m using have only a small amount of information.

It’s difficult not to run off and research every little thing. If you want to get actual words written in the story, avoid this temptation.

Yes, I had to pull up a Jewish calendar and figure out what dates certain events might have happened. After all, how will I know what season events happen if I don’t know the date?

Even this tempted me to run amok. There were hyperlinks to descriptions of different festivals. Some of the information about the structure of the calendar piqued my natural curiosity. I steered clear of these obvious traps.

Don’t get stuck in any one scene. I know tons of research awaits me. My rewrite will require thousands of words added expounding on cultural items. I put an asterisk or a parenthetical reminder where I know this information is needed. Keep moving forward.

I’ve had to skip around. Some stories (like the birth, shepherds and wise men) are so over told, I will need to be especially primed in order to write them with original flare. For now, those scenes are blank folders in my Scrivener binder. I know they need to be written and when the time is right, I will tackle that hurdle.

Do I want to use them as an excuse to bog down? Sure. Now is when I have to use the tough love principle.  If I want to keep moving forward, I must say recognize distractions and swerve to avoid their pitfall.

When only a kick in the posterior will do

Everyone needs a day off. Most days, we can spare an hour for sitting in the sun on our deck. What we can’t do is allow respite to become laziness.

Sitting in the sun is a perfect time to read a craft book or reflect on the next scene in the story. Making notes in the notebook is always in order and can be accomplished anywhere.

I’m yawning after only writing 1,000 words. I can choose to take a nap. If I want to get more writing done, taking a walk around the block is a better choice.

Discover your personal warning signs. There are patterns when avoiding work is in question. Do a personal intervention. When my brain gets mushy and begs for a nap, I give it a dose of fresh air and exercise. If that doesn’t work, I put the daily word count goal in front of my face.

“As soon as we reach that,” I tell my wavering writing persona, “you can take a nap (read a book, check Facebook).” You know the rewards that spur you forward. Shamelessly bargain with yourself using these weaknesses goodies.

I didn’t feel like writing a blog post today. I had no idea what to write about. Rather than checking out images on Pinterest (looking for inspiration, of course), I started typing. This is the end result.

It might not be the best thing I’ve ever written, but it beats a blank page.

What advice do you have for starting a new project? What sort of bribes do you use to reach your daily goals?

Graduation Day

High school graduation - 2009
High school graduation – 2009

June 15 at 10:00 am, the commencement ceremony begins at Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls. The stadium teems with parents, grandparents and friends.

I have a tissue (or four) ready.

My oldest son sits on the field below us. Since I didn’t attend my graduation ceremony (traveling to New Hampshire wasn’t as important as going to Germany), I’m living vicariously through him once more.

Even while the speaker gives motivational and inspirational advice, I know Tanner is thinking ahead. The younger we are, the less we live in the moment.

After an interminable amount of time and a seemingly endless list of names, he shakes the President’s hand and grasps his diploma (not really; they pick those up later, but symbolically he got that certificate). His four-year journey through higher education is ending.

Now real life begins.