Want to cling to your writing dream? To keep on writing, no matter what? Debut author Patricia C. Lee, who could be dubbed The Queen of Persistence, offers advice that’ll help you keep plugging.
Pat, who lives in Ontario, Canada, has polished her prose for 20 years -- even though rejections were a harsh reality in her life. Again and again. She received more than 120 rejections on DESTINY’S PAST alone, but she pressed on and her hard work, at long last, has been rewarded. DESTINY’S PAST was published in June by Crescent Moon Press.
(That's not a typo -- 120 "no thanks" responses, not just a mere 12.)
When I asked Pat about her arduous journey as a writer, here's what she shared.
"The hardest part about being a writer is the Self-Doubt. The constant bite of this emotion can wear away even the staunchest of hearts. The reason I kept at it was because I enjoyed it so much but I also knew, deep down, that I could write. It is a gift, just like being adept with numbers, singing, acting, having a knack with children. I also believe each of us has a gift. It may not be anything flashy, but the key is to define it and then hone it. That’s why I kept writing for so long, to hone what I was given. And I will continue to do so – always."
That’s quite a statement of faith. If you’re not as sure of yourself and your writing as Pat, here are 13 tips to help along:
- Persevere. This also can be another word for stubbornness. We all know what perseverance means but you have to practice it, too. I think the publishing business is harder to get into than the acting business. You have to be "The Little Engine That Could.’ Never, ever give up. There is nothing worse than looking back later and saying “I wonder if. ...”
- Communicate. Yes, writing is a solitary craft but that doesn’t mean you have to hole up. Join a writer’s group, or create your own. Or, if you’re not into groups, find another person who writes and see if you can make a friend. You don’t have to stay local – go virtual. Thank goodness for the Internet. There are so many writing groups online that you don’t have to worry about getting to a meeting or even getting dressed up. Stay in your PJs and chat online. Most importantly is to ‘get out there and talk.’ I met a fellow writer a few years back and besides becoming friends, we also give each other a ‘shot-in-the-arm’ when needed. She’s been a Godsend.
- Mutate. No, I don’t mean get blasted with radiation and morph into another X-Men character. You need to grow a thick skin. Rejections hurt, no doubt about it -- whether in writing or personal life. In writing you cannot take it personally. It will cripple you. Doesn’t matter if it’s from judges in a contest, an agent, or a publisher, the rejection is just ONE PERSON’S OPINION. Once I began looking at it that way it helped me a lot. These people don’t know you from Adam. To them it’s strictly business.
- Gamble. Now, don’t be spending your last dollar on the slots. Enter writing contests. As many as you can. Some are free, but a lot you have to pay a small entrance fee. It doesn’t matter if the first prize is money or not (though, that sure helps). It’s the recognition that counts, and it looks good on your writing resume. When you query agents or publishers, it grabs their attention. When entering contests, remember the ‘front-line’ judges are volunteers from local writing chapters. They may not necessarily read the specific genre you write and their comments may not be the most encouraging. Keep it in perspective – it’s just one person’s opinion.
- Read. All agents and publishers say the same thing. Read, read, read, and then write. Meaning, if you’re writing horror but truthfully you’re a closet romance junkie, then that’s what you should write. Anything else will come across as false. Publishers can spot it right away. And you never know – you might have a knack for writing inspirational, intrigue or western.
- Sacrifice. What are you willing to let go to get published? Time with friends? Family? Because that’s what it takes. You have to write every day (well, maybe take a day off once in a while.) It needs to become part of your daily routine. Schedule it. Even if it’s only a half-hour, slip it in somewhere. For me, I gave up sleeping an extra hour and a half. I get up at 5 a.m. and head into work an hour early so I can write without interruptions.
- Perspective. How do you look at the concept of writing? Is it a hobby, something you enjoy to pass the time? Or is it the end-all to be-all? There's absolutely nothing wrong with writing as a hobby, but if you want to get a book published it may not be enough. It has to be almost an OBSESSION – the first thing you think about when you wake up and the last thing you think about before you fall asleep.
- Support. There's nothing better than having the support of friends and especially family. Are they willing to step up to the plate to help you realize your dream? There's no way I could have gotten published without the love, encouragement and faith from my husband. It’s why Destiny’s Past is dedicated to him. But if you can’t find the support close to you, then join a writer’s group, either locally or online.
- Learn. Go to workshops. If there isn’t one nearby, make one. I lived in one place where the closest city was a two-hour drive away, and it didn’t have workshops every year. So, with the help of another writing friend (see the tip about communicate), we created our own workshop. We were fortunate that an award-winning author was willing to come and all we had to pay was her gas and accommodations. Was it a lot of work? Definitely, yes. Did it pay off – you bet. I learned a lot from her. And I made more writing contacts to boot.
- Proliferate. It may have taken you years to write your first book, but you can’t rest on that laurel. Once your first book is the best it can be and you’re sending out query letters, start the next one. And make sure you mention in any subsequent query letters how many novels you have completed. It shows the publisher or agent you’re not a one-hit-wonder -- that you're in it for the long haul. I’ll never know for sure, but I like to think one of the reasons Crescent Moon Press selected Destiny’s Past was because I told Crescent Moon it was part one of a trilogy and I had almost finished the first draft of part two.
- Abstain. It’s not what you’re thinking. Once you’ve finished your book and have done at least the first and/or second edit, step away. For at least a few weeks. Take a breather. Go out with friends. Then, go back to the book. You’d be amazed that the book you thought was perfect has a big gaping hole in the story you didn’t see before. It’s like reading it with fresh eyes.
- Luck. There is no getting around this one and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Getting published has a lot to do with luck. Don’t get me wrong -- you have to have a good story and be able to put sentences together, but it can boil down to how the person reading your submission feels that day. Your hero’s name could be the jerk who just dumped her. Or your heroine could remind the reader of a best friend or sister. Yes, the front-line readers are told to be objective but you can’t deny feelings – they're human nature.
- Dream. I’m not sure if this is the most important or not, but it’s the one thing that kept me going. Getting published was a lifelong dream, one that I wasn’t willing to let go. Having a dream gives us a reason to get out of bed in the morning. It gives us hope because you never know what tomorrow may bring.
Pat and I hope these words encourage you. If you’d like to know more about Pat, you can find her several ways:
Footnote: Pat is willing to offer a free e-book copy of Destiny’s Past if people leave a comment and an e-mail address. We’re both betting you’ll enjoy her book.
Destiny’s Past blurb:
No-nonsense medical examiner, Kelly Richards, relies on the familiar comforts of science and scalpels to get her through the day. So when a not-so-dead guy who claims he's from the past lands on her autopsy table, she considers calling the men in white coats to escort him to a padded room. But Jarek's old-world ways and hot gaze trick her heart into falling for him—a mistake she swore she'd never make again.
When Jarek, Prince of Leisos, discovers someone he trusts has been slowly poisoning him, he travels to the future in search of a cure. Driven by vengeance, he enlists the help of an impudent scientist to return him to his time. Caught between his growing desire for Kelly and the need to expose his would-be assassin before he strikes again, Jarek must either forfeit his ticket home or lose the only woman he's ever loved