Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Did You Think It Was Going To Get Easier?

So, here's what happened.

On Saturday, I dragged my butt out of bed at six so that I could be at THE MEETING by seven so that I could step on the SCALE and be found acceptable or NOT based on whatever number the scale spewed out.

So, I stepped on the scale. It spewed out a number. The cult WW leader said, "Wonderful! You had another good week."

And, I said, "No. I didn't. It was a hard week.Every week, I come here, and I think...next week will get easier. But it never does."

And this woman, this trained enthusiast, this constant source of inspiration and never-ceasing you-can-do-it attitude said, "Did you really think it would get easier?"

I looked at her with what must have been absolute horror, and I said, "Yeah. I guess I did, but I guess it doesn't."

And we both laughed, but I wasn't laughing inside.

Because I WANT it to be easier.

Seriously, Saturday was my 25th Weight Watcher's meeting, and I have lost over 46 pounds. Shouldn't it be easier?

Probably, if you came here to read about writing, you're wondering where I'm heading with this.

Well, friends, here is the deal. I've written eighteen books for Harlequin. Eighteen books. Now, I've launched myself into book nineteen, and I'm thinking, as I plod through one page after another, shouldn't this be getting easier?

I mean, in some ways it is. I understand the flow and feel of a story much better than I did when I began. I get it. I know how to create a story out of an idea, how to create likable (usually) characters, how to write chapter one, the end and everything in between.

Yep. That has gotten easier.

The other stuff has not.

I still struggle to balance my two very diverse roles. On the one hand, I am the traditional stay-at-home mom. I've added a twist to that by homeschooling my clan, but, in all other respects, I am the woman who cooks and cleans (sometimes) and does the laundry (usually) and scrubs toilets (yuck) and bakes cookies.

On the other hand, I am Shirlee the author. I have deadlines and copy edits and AAs and art fact sheets. I go to conferences and I try to connect with other writers. In the past couple of months, I've talked about the writing process at an elementary school, talked about achieving life goals at any age at a senior luncheon and talked about fulfilling dreams at a community college GED class. I love what I do, and I am passionate about it.

But it has not gotten easier, this balancing act. It is not a simple thing to stay on track with writing and while maintaining quality time with kids and husband and friends.

Maybe that is what it is all about, though. Not the destination, but the journey.

And this is my journey. Tough as it may sometimes be. Challenging as I might sometimes find it.

Does it get easier once you're published?

In some ways, yes. In others:

Did you really think it would?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In, Out, and In Again (or...So, You Think You Want A Writing Career)

I've decided that there is a difference between being a writer and having a writing career.

When I am just being a writer, I write stuff like this, or this.  I write because the words are there and because I can and because it's fun or cathartic.

When I am working as a career author, I write because I must. That is not to say that I don't want to, but simply that sometimes I must force myself to. Words don't always flow freely when a writer must write. Sometimes, pulling words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into chapters is as painful as pulling a tooth that isn't loose.

The thing is, if a person wants to have a career as a writer, she must learn the art of beginning, following through and ending.

That seems so basic and simple, but it is not. It is very easy to begin something. Ideas (at least for me) come like sunshine in the desert. Words, though, words must be crafted into scenes that transcend page and ink. Once the idea is born, it must be babied and coddled and raised into a fully developed story.

And, then, it must be patted on the head and sent out into the great wide world.

In comes the idea.

Out it goes.

In comes the next (yep, that's my new contract!)

Out it goes.

Over and over and over again.

And that means writing and writing and writing, people. Whether we're in the mood or not. Whether the kids are grumpy or not. Whether there are piano recitals and ballet shows and homeschool field trips and cat vomit on the floor or not.

We must write.

Because we want to. Because we can. Because we're being paid to.

A career means a job. No matter how much of an art writing is (and, believe me, it is), if we want to have careers we must work every day.

In with the idea.

Out with the words.

In with the next idea.

Out with the words.

That's the way it works, if we want to have careers as writers.

Monday, August 09, 2010

It Is Possible

To rewrite a book five times before you send it in and survive.

Just thought I'd share that tidbit of information.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Wherein, I Eat My Words

I have made it known that I do not think a Love Inspired author needs an agent. I have said (and I quote), you don't need to have an agent to sell to Love Inspired. I have said that if an author can sell herself, she doesn't need to worry about such people as agents.

Today, I am eating my words.

The plate is piled high, and I am chowing down.

Because, I have decided that, while it is true a writer does not need an agent to sell to Love Inspired, having an agent is a good thing. Nay, a great thing (like the way I used 'nay'???).

Perhaps you think I'm saying this because of my new contract, and that may be partially true. The fact is, I don't think I would have been offered a six book deal if not for Melissa Jeglenski. So, while I do believe I would have sold the proposal, having an agent did up the number of books I was offered. That is not, however, why I think an agent is a good thing.

So, let me explain my change of heart.

As many of you know, I had an agent (many eons ago). I signed with him after I'd sold four books to Steeple Hill. He had (and has) a great reputation. He sold (and still sells) many projects to many publishers. He had (and maintains) a diverse and impressive client base. He was (and is) the dream agent of many a Christian writer.

But things didn't work out. I was writing lots, and I was burned out and things just....well, they just happened. Not his fault. Not mine. Just a series of misunderstandings and lack of communications that led me to say goodbye.

Goodbye to him and to agents in general.

I did not, after all, need an agent. I was selling and selling and selling. So...what was the point?

I learned the point at RWA this past week.

It is true that I signed with Melissa Jeglenski weeks ago and that she negotiated a wonderful new contract for me, but until I sat across from her and watched her listen to me, I still thought I could do this thing on my own. This thing being building a career and a reputation and all the stuff that come with being published.

So, Melissa and I sat down, and she asked me a few questions about goals and such, and she listened to the answers. That's when I realized that a good agent, like a good friend, provides a sounding board. She listens and she gives feedback. A good agent knows the market, he knows his client's strengths, and he is able to exploit both to the benefit of the author. A good agent manages to appear both hands-on (as in....what are you working on? what is your time frame for that? what are your goals?) and hands-off (as in....You don't feel you need me to read every contracted project before it's mailed in? That's fine. Just email me when you send it to your editor.).  A good agent knows the market and the publishing houses better than the author ever can, because that is her business, AND a good agent exudes confidence. He has answers to the questions you ask, and if he doesn't, he knows where to find them. Not only that, but he acts like it is exciting to answer your questions even if, like me, you ask way too many of them. In other words, a good agent does a great job of making you feel as if you are her only client. Not only does she make you feel that way, but she treats you that way. This individual approach is what, I am convinced, builds a career.

That is why, when it comes to having an agent, I am beginning to see that a good agent is much better than no agent. While I still maintain that a bad agent is worse than no agent.

What does that mean for you?

Research agents like you'd research a writing project or a publishing house. Look for a good fit. Find someone who loves the genre you write, someone who has a loyal client base and who has a good reputation.  

Oh, and make sure she likes to eat dessert, because discussing business over salad in not nearly as fun as discussing it over this:

And, yes, it was absolutely as yummy as it looked!!!!