Oct 8, 2013

How You (and most writers I know) are Just Like Nicolas Sparks

While trolling the interwebs looking for advice on how to handle my agent “call”, I ran into this series of great post from bestselling Nicolas Sparks on how he landed an agent and ultimate publishing deal.

I highly recommend you read the series. But here is what I learned – Before becoming a bestselling author, he was a lot like you and me.

-        If you’ve received more than 20 rejections, you’re like Nick. -  He only had one offer from one agent. 24 agents said no, even those who had read the novel. The one agent that said yes was fresh out of college and never sold anything before.
-        Even successful writers don’t write the best query lettersCheck out his query letter for the Notebook.- I’m sure back in its day this letter was good, but as members of any of the query websites such as agentqueryconnect or querytracker would attest, this letter would most likely get a quick and tidy form rejection today.
-         If you have a day job and write whenever you can fit it in, you’re like Nick - Before he sold his novel, he had a day job. He fit writing in on the side, and his wife generously put up with him being a consumed writer. He writes five or six days a week. 
 If you have books in the trunk, you’re like Nick - He had two other shelved books before finally making it with the Notebook
 If you’re hoping for even a paltry advance for something you wrote, you’re like Nick. - The day he sold his novel he was hoping for an offer that would pay off his credit card or maybe let them get a second car. Instead, he was offered a life changing million dollars.

The moral of this story is one that gets repeated often in our world – even overnight successes aren’t really. They struggled just like you.

But they never, ever gave up the dream.

How many ways are you like Nick?

Oct 1, 2013

One Size Does Not Fit All

I am afflicted with what is referred to in urban slang as Jesus toes (no offense intended to my Christian friends), or, more clinically, as Morton toes, where my second toe is larger than my first. And not just by a bit. It is head and shoulders above the rest.

What this means in practical terms (besides the fact that if I ever lose a finger, I'm golden) is I am forever having to buy new socks (because sock makers expect girls' feet to slant) and that there are some high heels I can never ever wear, despite how much I covet them.

No one ever thinks that socks, beyond the basic sizes, are not a "one size fits all" item. People assume they are ubiquitous.

Similarly, people often assume that there is a one size fits all system for accomplishing big goals like writing the great American novel, losing weight or starting a business.

I had someone tell me yesterday that if I wasn't writing everyday, I wasn't serious about my writing.

To this well intended person I say - What a bunch of bunk! My foot will never fit in that shoe. And thankfully, after years of foot ache, I have learned that, and now, despite how tempting it sounds, I resist the slingbacks with the shiny buckle.

I'm sure you've heard it all before, too - You must write everyday. You must have a word goal. You must eliminate adverbs...

And it's not just writers who hear these things. Anyone trying to accomplish something, from starting a business to losing weight, will hear similar advice.

It starts innocently. When attempting a complicated new path, we naturally read everything we can, eager to not repeat mistakes of the successful people before us. Over time and the internet (because if you read it on the internet it must be true), that beginners advice becomes instantiated as a law.

But one size does not fit all. We are each built with different metabolisms, productivity and creativity engines and feet.

Whether you are on a journey to a smaller waist line or moving people with your prose, there is no one thing that everyone must do to be successful. Anyone who tells you otherwise is full of bananas.

In my post on how to stop your yo-yo writing diet, I noted the importance of having a system for fitting writing into your daily life, and that's something I firmly stand behind.

But your system and my system may not look anything alike. You need a system that will work best with your style, that supports your strengthens and curbs your weaknesses. For some people, even that won't work for them. They need to be free of the pressure of a system or plan to create well.

The key is to learn what shoes hurt your feet, or in this case, what writing adages do and don't work best for you.

The road to productivity and creativity is paved with self discovery.

So, for anyone who needs permission from the internet, here you go - You may not write everyday. You may not ever have a word count goal. You may be an adverb loving fool with Jesus toes who will never be able to wear the beautiful Manolo Blahniks.

Writer friends, what writing adages have you found most and least helpful? Post them up in the comments.

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