Make a New Year's Power Grab

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.)
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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.)

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