Girls Write Out
Monday, November 14, 2005

ADVICE ISN'T A FOUR LETTER WORD

I'm the motherly type. Oldest of four children and the only girl, I learned early to nurture. It's as natural to me as breathing. I can't help myself about offering advice, as evidenced by the fact that I've been awarded Mentor of the Year two years running by the American Christian Fiction Writers.

Now I'm the first to admit I'm not always right. Unlike most men, I have no trouble saying I'm sorry or I'm wrong. But I have been down the road a bit and I'm fairly long in the tooth as an author. I've written 19 novels and 9 novellas and have learned a lot from my awesome editors, Ami McConnell and Erin Healy, so I do know SOMETHING. So I'm a little puzzled by the attitudes of some aspirng writers.

Since my rep as a mentor is well-known I get approached a lot by writers asking for advice. I would have killed for resources like we have today when I was first starting to write. I knew NO other writers and wandered in a wasteland all my myself. If some published author had been willing to offer me advice, I would have jumped on it! But I sometimes find that not only is the advice NOT appreciated, but some writers almost act mad when we published authors advise about writing guidelines, plot conflict, developing of characters, etc. At least we're willing to share what we have learned! I would have done anything to get my hands on that kind of information.

When you want to break in, you need to follow some set formats. Once you've sold, it's easier to break some of those guidelines if you feel strongly about something. But learn the basics first and don't blame us when we tell you the story isn't perfect or ready to submit yet. In most fields, you won't find people who are willing to help their competition, yet we're doing just that. And willingly. I LOVE mentoring young writers, especially when I find an eager student who drinks up everything I have to say. I've been lucky enough to help some of those authors find publishers, and it's primarily the writers ATTITUDE that makes the difference between being a published author or an unpublished writers. If you're willing to learn and stick with it no matter how long it takes, I believe you WILL be published.

The most exciting thing about the writing life is the opportunity I have to grow in my writing. I never want to think I've arrived and can never write a better story. Writers who aren't willing to entertain the thought that they might be--gasp!--wrong about how the scene is perceived are never going to get anywhere. One reason I've been thinking about the subject this week is I'm awaiting with bated breath my substantive edits from my editors this week.

I LOVE the editing process because it's an opportuntiy for me to learn. They're undoubtedly going to tell me I did some things wrong. And that's exciting because those suggestions will help me become a better writer. And that's what it's all about.
Colleen Coble  
posted at 11:48 AM  
  Comments (13)
 
 
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13 Comments:
At 1:37 PM, Blogger Robin Caroll said...

Well now Colleen...well said. All of it.....except, uh, you'd BETTER be putting me in the category of the aspiring author wanting to "drink it up"! LOLOLOL

You know, it's my opinion that this is one of the reasons more pubbed authors aren't as willing to help--hey, if my advice got snubbed time and again, I'd stop giving it to save myself some of the stressing! LOL

If I've learned anything in this crazy business is that there is ALWAYS someone who knows more about every aspect of this business than I do. The trick is finding out who, then LISTENING to what they say. Hmmm...you know, maybe I should work on that listening aspect thing! LOL

 
At 2:12 PM, Blogger Kristin Billerbeck said...

I just read a book by Fannie Flagg, and you know, it was a great story. But if she'd taken the time to get the craft right and not confuse the reader, it would have been EVEN better. And listen, I'm not Fannie Flagg, I don't have that luxury.

BTW, what are mens rashguards? I'm sure I don't want to know, but interesting post. I'd be anonymous is I was selling rashguards too, I suppose.

 
At 5:29 PM, Blogger Malia Spencer said...

Colleen, going to echo Robin here, very well said. I'm thrilled with all the help I get from everybody in ACFW. It's really encouraged me to keep at it instead of writing for awhile, getting discouraged and quitting for long periods. I've learned so much in the last year or so I've belonged to ACFW. It's really made a difference in my writing and attitudes.

Kristin, I haven't heard of any other uses for the word rashguard so here's what I know about it. Rashguards are those shirts surfers, body boarders or even swimmers wear in the water for extra warmth or sun protection. They aren't made of wetsuit material but more swimsuit. They have much more flexibility than a wetsuit. They are worn by males and females. I have a cute Roxy one myself. :) Hope this answers your question.

Malia

 
At 5:52 PM, Blogger eileen said...

Ahh, you awesome mentor, you speak truth to the masses! Thanks for all you do. And, like Robin, I'm lapping it up!

 
At 8:04 PM, Blogger Ron Estrada said...

Let me start out by saying, "I'm sorry, I'm wrong." Now, on to business. You're right, it is tough to take the criticism, and I believe that's the reason the vast majority of new writers quit after only a year or two. Men, especially, get hot when someone criticizes their work. Ask Robin how many times she's had to shoot an IM at me asking if I'm okay. It takes less time than it used to, but I get over it. And I know I'm better for it. If we're not getting negative feedback, we're not trying anything new, not stretching our writing "muscles." I drink it up now, and I hope, after I've published as many as you have, that I'm still drinking it up. The wonderful thing about writing is the wonder in it. It's like being a toddler, fascinated for hours with a column of ants. I live in Michigan and still stop and stare at a flock of geese or deer grazing in a field. I notice all the other people not noticing these things anymore, and I feel sorry for them.

Hey, I'm rambling. How unlike me. Thanks for your words of wisdom and support, Colleen. If you're pourin', I'm drinkin'.

 
At 4:46 AM, Blogger Camy Tang said...

LOL, I like what Ron said about pourin' and drinkin'. Thanks, Colleen, you're so great with your help for other writers.
Camy

 
At 7:53 AM, Anonymous Mike Ehret said...

Well, Colleen, you're not trying to force those pesky "rules" down our throats are you?

Just kidding! Shove those things down, pack 'em in, and tie it off because we need 'em.

Oh, also, I'm sorry I'm wrong. In fact, I'm sorry I'm wrong all the time. I'd rather be right. I'll try to be right more often. Is my gender redeemed yet?

 
At 8:43 AM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

I'm CRACKING UP at you guys. The I'm sorries and I'm wrongs are just spilling so easily out of your mouths. LOL I'm shocked. :-)

And I MUST say that the majority of writers I work with take the advice very sweetly. It does shock me when people get mad and argumentative about it. I can't fathom it. LOL

And just so you know, we published authors get it even harder than the unpublished. I just got my edits back yesterday. I'll blog about it on Thursday. LOL

 
At 9:16 AM, Anonymous Bethanie said...

i'm sure if i ever wrote anything worthwhile i would need a lot of help... i'd be grateful of it.

i like to waffle.. and ramble... a lot... (a lot a lot a lot).

 
At 11:32 AM, Blogger Robin Caroll said...

Take it sweetly? Hmmm....I don't know about that. Personally, I kick the sectional in my office, but then I try to take the advice and fix what's wrong!

 
At 1:58 AM, Anonymous julie said...

Seeing as I'm usually on the other end of the critique table, and seeing that I'm usually the one asking for advice, your comments took me by surprise. Rest assured, though, that there are plenty of mousey writers, like myself, who grab your advice and scurry away with it like it's the last piece of cheese. Sometimes we forget to say 'thanks' (for the cheese :-), so on behalf of all of us, thanks for your commitment to new writers!!! Seriously, I've never met you, but I have received a ton of help from established writers at various conferences, and I'm grateful! I just, finally, received a contract with Bethany House (yay!).

 
At 6:58 AM, Blogger Denise Hunter said...

Wow, Julie, congratulations! That's something to celebrate!

 
At 8:01 AM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

Julie, how awesome!! I'm thrilled for you!

 

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The Authors
Kristin Billerbeck
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.

www.KristinBillerbeck.com

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble writes romantic suspense with a strong atmospheric element. A lovable animal of some kind--usually a dog--always populates her novels. She can be bribed with DeBrand mocha truffles.

www.ColleenCoble.com

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter writes women's fiction and love stories with a strong emotional element. Her husband says he provides her with all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too.

www.DeniseHunterBooks.com

Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She has been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog, and well, chocolate.

www.DiannHunt.com

Hannah Alexander

Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.

www.HannahAlexander.com

 
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