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Make a New Year’s Power Grab

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, Guest Columns, What's New.

We all know writing is hard. But most of us also know that it isn’t really the writing that’s hard—it’s writing in the face of all the psychological crap around being a writer that’s hard. Multiply these everyday difficulties by the profound sense of powerlessness that comes with feeling like your writing career is in everyone’s hands but your own, and it’s a wonder anyone pursues a writing career at all. Sound familiar? If so, there’s a good chance you’re giving your power away as a writer.

This year is the year to take your power back. What do I mean by “giving your power away” as a writer? I’ll show you. Here’s a sampling of people and things to whom I have served my power on a silver platter…

GIVEAWAY: Alison is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: TJay91259 won.)

 

alison-delaine-writer-author        gentleman-til-midinight-cover-delaine

Alison DeLaine lives in rural Arizona, where she can often be found driving
a dented old pickup truck out to her mining claim in the desert. When she’s not
busy striking it rich, waiting on spoiled pets, or keeping her husband in line,
she is happily putting characters through the wringer. Her first novel is
A GENTLEMAN ‘TIL MIDNIGHT (Harlequin, Dec. 31, 2013). Publishers
Weekly called the romance “an engaging debut” while Booklist said the
story has “explosive sexual chemistry” with an “give-as-good-as-she-gets
heroine.” Connect with Alison on Twitter.

 

  • The agent whose response I awaited for months without working on my next project
  • The beliefs that made me absolutely sure I could only write at certain times of day under certain conditions
  • The editor whose comment about my pacing left me doubting my entire ability to craft a novel
  • The market, that summer I was sure I would never get published if I didn’t write about shapeshifters
  • The helpful freelance editor whose feedback I decided I must have before I could work on anything new—even though there were many weeks between each draft
  • The day job that left me resentful and angry because it took time from my writing
  • The idea that having an agent meant I couldn’t, shouldn’t, or didn’t have to take any more actions on my own behalf toward publishing

One common denominator marks all of these episodes: I stopped doing what I could do and instead put my fate in the hands of someone or something else. In many cases, I didn’t even recognize that there was anything I could do in the first place. Ever been there?

No matter where you are on your writing path, we’re all operating in an industry where many factors are beyond our control. But there are concrete ways to empower yourself as a writer, and here are three of them:

1) Write. You have control over when, if, and how much you write. No agent, editor, or one-star critic on earth can stop you. And I’ve begun to notice a pattern: When I write, I feel powerful. When I write, I feel like I am moving forward. When I write, I feel like my destiny is in my hands. You don’t have to have your eye on self-publishing for this to work. Even if you’ve taken aim straight at the Big Five, “doing the work” and watching the pages pile up is always in your control.

2) Ask the Tough Questions. Are there things you could be doing to be a better writer that you’re not doing? Yes, there are. What are they? Ask the hard questions: “If I’m totally honest, what part of my craft do I know I need to work on?” Decide how you’re going to learn it and work on that thing. “If I’m totally honest, what do I know this story needs but I haven’t been willing to tackle?” Figure out how to tackle it and change the story. I’ve found that being honest with myself about areas for improvement and taking control of my own learning led to important changes in my craft that, I believe, ultimately led to publication.

3) Take an Action—Any Action. Ask yourself: “What could I be doing that I’m not doing?” Make a list of agents to query. Actually send the queries. Enter a contest. Read a book about craft and put a new skill into practice. Jot down a new story idea. Set a goal for this week. This month. Make a small change to your writing schedule. Try a new motivational technique to see if it works. Or maybe make a bigger change. What is that one thing you’ve always known you would do if you were really committed to your writing? Make a deal with yourself to start doing it. Today. Aren’t you tired of hearing stories about the habits of successful writers? I sure was.

There’s no way to foresee whether 2014 will be the year that you finally land an agent, sign a New York contract, or become a self-publishing phenom. But that’s okay, because there’s plenty to do while you’re waiting. Figure out what those things are, and do them!

GIVEAWAY: Alison is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (UPDATE: TJay91259 won.)

 

Hook agents, editors and readers immediately.
Check out Les Edgerton’s guide, HOOKED, to
learn about how your fiction can pull readers in.

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
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17 Responses to Make a New Year’s Power Grab

  1. I completely agree that I feel a sense of power when I write, but also contentment and happiness. I know I’m on the right path when I’m creating. I split my time journal writing to my children as a history of their lives and I also write down any dreams as they provide many creative prompts. I have also been blogging for a couple years and have recently started a blog on my writer’s website and a creative blog that is in the works.

    I find that shifting the type of writing I do helps my imagination and ideas. But I still need to connect with agents and I will work on that. Thanks!
    Janine

  2. I completely agree that I feel a sense of power when I write, but also contentment and happiness. I know I’m on the right path when I’m creating. I split my time journal writing to my children as a history of their lives and I also write down any dreams as they provide many creative prompts. I have also been blogging for a couple years and have recently started a blog on my writer’s website and a creative blog that is in the works.

    I find that shifting the type of writing I do helps my imagination and ideas. But I still need to connect with agents and I will work on that. Thanks!
    Janine
    http://www.janinedetilliocammarata.com/index.php/blogs

  3. CynthiaAFortier says:

    Alison –
    Thank you for reinforcing what I am feeling in this new year – I have made a complete shift in the way I am working. In fact, the first change was to take ownership of the title WRITER – I never felt quite comfortable with doing so but that changed this year. And that has changed EVERYTHING!
    Thank you again for the wise words!

  4. Bret Gammons says:

    Wonderful advice. As writers, we must remember that there is always time to write, regardless of whatever else we must do. Working on publishing a finished piece? Write a new one. Bored on the subway? Write. Writing habitually is the hardest part of being a writer, yet it is the essential part.

  5. Angyliadd says:

    Thank you so much for recognizing such a huge problem… I absolutely love writing, and then when I get some kind of information from someone that makes me feel like I can’t write – either they don’t like what I’ve written, or they have some reason to believe that I cannot make it happen, somehow, everything comes crumbling down. Then I realize that it really has nothing to do with anyone else; writing is a bit like prayer. Prayer is between you and whatever God you pray to; writing is just you and your keyboard. The publication is secondary. And for me, the moment that I lose that feeling – I don’t think i’ll be a writer any more.

    Thanks,
    Julie

  6. littleface says:

    Thanks for this post and reminding us that we need to take charge and are the ones in charge of the actions or lack there of in terms of our writing. I know for myself that this rings true to what I’ve been working on so far this year. I try to have a look at every part of my writing – marketing my debut poetry collection, writing poems for the second, writing fiction, blogging, reading, reading other blogs, & more – and make a list of goals and tasks that I want/need to accomplish for each. Sometimes knowing what you need to do will help you to write new goals while knowing your goals can also help you understand what tasks you need to undertake.

    Best of luck to everyone & Happy New Year!

    Take care,
    eLPy
    author of “That Which Lives Within”
    http://www.littlefacepublications.com

  7. kim11568 says:

    “The day job that left me resentful and angry because it took time from my writing.” It seems that no matter what job I’m working, I use this as an excuse. And it’s a really, really bad one. There are numerous tales of writers not only working day jobs, but coming home and taking care of families and THEN writing. If they can do that, why can’t I? The “I’m SO tired” mindset has got to come to a screeching halt, and now!

  8. Cceynowa says:

    Way to take all my “excuses” away in one fatal sweep. This one in particular resonates, “The day job that left me resentful and angry because it took time from my writing” — thanks for the pep talk, and good luck in your future writing endeavors!

  9. TJay91259 says:

    Great advise Alison, thank you for your insights.

  10. KHager says:

    Great tips to start out for the new year.

  11. petunia23 says:

    I see than no one can make it happen for me, except ME! Excuses for not writing must be cleared from my writer’s brain – IF I really want to be a writer. And I DO!!! A few minor successes at contests does a lot to increase motivation. On top of that, this article of yours is the whipped cream on top of the yearning pie. Now my yearning is taking on more action. Thanks for the inspiration.

  12. KM Rider says:

    Wow…words that hit home, hit hard. Thanks for the a** kicking’ pep talk!

  13. pumpkinpok says:

    Thank you for the great tips and sharing your experiences.

  14. poetryinc says:

    Thank you for the words of inspiration. I like that part when so many things are out of our control, we should not stress about them, Just Write, Ask Questions and Do your own Leg work when it comes to writing. I have some of the same issues of believing everyone else, before me, a crappy job (but a job) and outside stresses. All it takes is a good idea and the ability to sit down and write.
    Trish

  15. Michelle says:

    I loved this, Alison! This one really stuck with me: “The day job that left me resentful and angry because it took time from my writing” This is how I feel EVERY SINGLE DAY. I feel like I just can’t get enough written to get anywhere and it’s frustrating and maddening and I want to scream. But I’ve decided that this is the year I’m going to put all that nonsense aside and WRITE my fingers to the bone. I’m going to make it if it kills me. :)

    Thanks for a great post! Happy New Year!

  16. vrundell says:

    Thanks Alison for your great comments!
    Writing is one of those activities that can sap your strength just as easily as it replenishes your soul. Any imbalance is liable to push one into the ‘untenable’. I know when I write/read/blog I shove too many other tasks to the side. But, if writing is my passion, and being an author is my goal, I have to be willing to clear my tasks and Make. The. Words.
    Best of luck with your novel, and thanks again for the pep talk!
    Veronica
    http://vsreads.com

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