Girls Write Out
Wednesday, November 09, 2011

See the pelicans? I took this over the weekend. Not related to writing, but isn't it pretty?

We've all heard the stereotypical advice:
Write what you know.
Read what you write.
Don't write to the market.

I'll tell you one piece of advice that I think trumps all others: When given advice, LISTEN to what works, throw out what doesn't.

I think in my years as a writer, the one thing I've seen in authors who don't get published year after year is their EGO! This is not a business if you have a big ego. I've heard people who think they're going to be famous. Please. A real writer is about the words. The promotion is usually a painful necessity.

I met a woman the other day who cannot shut up about her writing. She went on and on about her successes and her meeting famous writers, etc. when she's never been published and she has an author of 40 books in front of her. Did she ever ask ONE question? She did not. She knew it all.

The topic of her book is really depressing (cancer) and it's about cancer in a narcissist and how the heroine is victimized by him. Had she asked, I would have told her, your heroine better be likable because even if he is a narcissist, people don't want to see him die without repenting. And they don't want to see the heroine as a victim when she could have walked away for her own health. That makes her a stupid doormat. No one identifies with the stupid doormats. The strong, willful doormats? Like Melanie in "Gone with the Wind" or "Jane Eyre" -- YES!

I've written forty books. I don't know it all. Don't pretend that I do. The more I learn, the more I realize I have yet to learn. So if you haven't been published in a long time, maybe it's time to consider the fact that you're not listening to professional advice that's given to you. Just maybe.

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posted at 6:04 AM  
  Comments (8)
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At 1:18 PM, Blogger Timothy Fish said...

I’m sure I have no room to talk. I suspect I come across that way, but my sister is the only one with nerve enough to say anything.

But as someone who doesn’t have 40 books to his name, let me say that it seems to me that the industry conditions people to be like the woman you described. Rule #1 is that you don’t ask someone what they think of your story, because they don’t have time to tell you. Rule #2 is that you must have an elevator pitch. Rule #3 is that you must stand behind your work, even when no one else will. Rule #4 is that you must have a list of famous authors who will write blurbs for your book. By the time you do all of that, there isn’t much room for humility.

At 2:04 PM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

Okay, who are you and what happened to the real Timothy Fish? After two years you're finally showing us a little of your real self? What you do is learn to do these things with modesty (fake it if you have to.) And when you're with other writers, let your guard down. You're not with them to promote yourself, you're there to share your ups and downs. Yes, promote online, but if you do too much of that it comes across wrong. Find other writers you like and promote each other. And having a list of famous authors who will write a blurb? I'm sorry, but I'd find another editor. If they can't trust their own instincts about your book, they shouldn't be editors.

So with writers, don't promote. Just be yourself. You need friends, not fans, in the writing community.

Sorry for butting in, Kris ;-)

At 3:30 PM, Blogger Timothy Fish said...

Fake modesty. Okay, that one caught be off guard. I don’t even know where to go with that one. I mean, yeah, you’re absolutely right that there’s no reason for all that among fellow authors. But it isn’t quite so simple.

One of the fascinating truths of life is that when you’re in the limelight you never see yourself as important, but those watching do. The unpublished author with the big ego probably looked at the published author of 40 books and saw her as an important person with important friends in the industry who could potentially kick start her career. Naturally, the other side of that exchange looks at the unpublished author and sees a peer.

At 4:52 PM, Blogger jel said...


At 5:10 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

Timothy, trust me, she did not see me that way. In fact, most unpublished say to themselves, oh she only publishes for the CHRISTIAN market, what does she know? Or worse yet, that I write ROMANCE -- which these types generally view with disdain. Some of the most talented writers out there write genre fiction. And they make good money at it, but these people think they're Shakespeare. (Who I don't personally care for. LOL)

I'm not trying to be negative here either. And I didn't want her to gush over me at all. I wanted her to think about the BUSINESS of writing. It doesn't matter how genius you are, you still need to think about the business of it. Even if you plan to self-publish, how can you ensure you won't lose your shirt to a bad publishing company?

She had been with all these Hollywood types (famous behind the scenes people) and she went on and on about how they don't tell you who they are! But she found out.

That's because it can be hard for that kind of big writer to NOT be used. (Not that I would know.)

I don't think anyone should quit. I think writing is good for the soul. I think real writers would write if no one read a WORD. But if your only goal is publication, you have to think about the business/marketing aspect of a publisher.

At 9:44 PM, Blogger Timothy Fish said...


I'll write that off as a bad assumption on my part. I assumed she was something like so many of the unpublished authors I encounter who are so anxious to get published and when someone who looks even remotely respectable says something about the way writing should be, they start patting the person on the back and saying, "Yes, that's right. I try to do that in my writing." But you can tell that they didn't think through what the person was saying.

At 10:59 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

I've been nervous and made a fool out of myself in front of writers and editors. That's par for the course. LOL

At 11:38 PM, Blogger Hannah Alexander said...

Oh! That reminds me of one time at a conference at lunch. Mel was attending with me. I got my food first and found a seat beside Francine Rivers, because I'd met her previously and found in her a comforting presence--someone who never looks down at less published authors. We were talking away when Mel joined me. He was trying to figure out who I was talking to, so he checked her badge. His eyes bugged out and he tapped me on the arm. "Sweetheart," he whispered, "do you know who you're talking to?" Overcome with excitement, before I could reply, he leaned across in front of me and said to Francine, "Do you KNOW who you ARE?"

And then there's the time he chased Jerry Jenkins down the hall at CBA (when it was CBA) asking to take his picture. I hid.

The best thing to do as a writer wanting to be better published is attend conferences, be truly humble about your own work, and be willing to rewrite.

I once sent a manuscript to Frank Peretti, early in my writing years. It's humiliating now to think about it.


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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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