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7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Margo Kelly

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”where writers (this installment written by Margo Kelly, author of UNLOCKED) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent -- by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.

Margo Kelly is a native of the Northwest and currently resides in Idaho. A veteran public speaker, Margo is now actively pursuing her love of writing. Her critically acclaimed debut, WHO R U REALLY?, was published by Merit Press (an imprint of F+W Media) in 2014. Her second novel, UNLOCKED, was published by Merit Press in October 2016. Margo welcomes opportunities to speak to youth groups, library groups, and book clubs. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or her website.

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1. Rejection is part of the process. I had been in sales and marketing for decades when I decided to pursue writing. I knew there would be rejection, and I figured I’d be fine because I had grown a tough skin during my business years. The thing I didn’t understand before becoming published is the rejection never ends. Agents, editors, industry reviewers, and readers. Rejection can be quite cruel. As a result, some writers never read reviews of their published work. I haven’t mastered that skill yet. I still read them all. Not everyone is going to like everything. But when a story resonates with a reader, the effect is pure magic, and that beats every bit of rejection.

(What are overused openings in fantasy, sci-fi, romance and crime novels?)

2. Dejection is a choice. Once I understood rejection is a continual part of the publishing world, I learned that self-imposed misery is not a required consequence. When I read a bad review or when my agent tells me to try again, I’m disappointed. If I sink into that dark pit of gloom and despair, I cannot write. At all. And I really like to write. So I let myself feel disappointed for a limited time. I be the best depressed I can be: pajamas, Netflix, and ice cream. Then I remind myself that I love to write, and I get back to it. That’s where I find my joy.

3. Determination must overcome self-doubt. The question I often ask myself comes from a Tim McGraw song, “How Bad Do You Want It?” I can hear his voice singing the words in my head. Sometimes I play the song before a writing session. If I’m going to achieve my writing goals, my tenacity must be greater than my skepticism.

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4. Fellow writers can provide excellent moral support. One of the best things about the publishing industry is the people. Other writers are going through the same things I am, and being able to discuss issues with them has been a huge blessing in my life. Critique partners, agency siblings, and publishing siblings—these are some of the people with whom I’ve aligned myself. They bolster me up when I’m feeling dejected, and they cheer me on when I’ve received good news.

5. A great agency will handle the hard stuff. Every day I’m grateful to be associated with a skilled agent, who is backed by an agency with longevity and experience. Each contract I sign is reviewed and negotiated by my agent and the agency’s legal department before it ever reaches me. They do the hard stuff. Negotiating foreign sales and other sub-rights are handled by the agency. Instead of spending time worrying about any of that, I write stories.

6. Today is the day to write more. Even if only for a few minutes, I try to write something each day. Sometimes it’s a blog post. Other times it’s notes for a new idea or eighteen non-stop hours of revising. In order for me to keep the writing energy flowing, I will leave myself a note at the end of the day reminding me where start the next day. That little spark gets me back into the writing groove.

(Should you start your novel with a prologue?)

7. Celebrate each accomplishment. It’s very common for writers to worry about the next step, the next deadline, or the next idea. I’ve learned that due to the amount of rejection in the publishing world, it is crucial to celebrate each success, no matter the size or significance. I must be in the moment, share the news, and relish the achievement.

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