Monday, April 4

Never Grow Up & Other Contrarian Advice


Please welcome our guest blogger (and president of my local RWA chapter!) Sharon Buchbinder. And don't be shy about checking out her brand new release, Desire & Deception at www.sharonbuchbinder.com


As a recent arrival to the realm of “Published Author,” I am here to provide the contrarian’s guide to achieving this status. There truly is no one route to publication. You really don’t need an MFA. You don’t even have to have majored in English, although being able to use the language correctly is a plus. You don’t have to starve in an attic writing timeless prose or poetry. You don’t have to have lived in the belly of the underworld and struggled with alcoholism and addiction, although that has worked for others. You don’t even have to have designated office space. What do you need? Here are my top ten tips of for becoming a published author.

1. Never grow up. Be curious about the world around you and wonder, “What if?” Grownups (i.e., anyone who is done growing) are boring. Childlike curiosity is not childish. It enables you to see the world with fresh eyes and to bring a new perspective to a story. Look at F. Paul Wilson’s The Keep. Paul is a physician who started writing medical thrillers. Then he had a wild idea: what if Nazi’s encountered vampires in World War II? The result is a cult classic. Keep saying, “What if?”

2. Be yourself. There is only one you and you have your own voice. Don’t try to be a clone of another author. And don’t promote yourself that way. Do not say, “Oh, my work is just like Nora Roberts.” Um, no it isn’t. You will only be a pale imitation of that author--but you are unique.

3. Get a job that pays. Money. Preferably with benefits. Because you have to live. Another contrarian posted that the worst career advice is to do what you love. While this flies into the face of common platitudes, her comments make sense. Seriously, do you want to live in your parents’ home forever?

4. Seize the moment. You can write in 15 minute blocks, at lunch, on break, in a fast food restaurant, on a napkin (yes, I’ve outlined entire books on a napkin), before the kids are conscious, in the bathroom, in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep. If you are passionate about writing, if it is an obsession, you will be unable to resist the urge to write. Where ever you go, have a notepad or phone and jot or text your ideas to yourself. I used the notepad app in my phone and made a list of story ideas. When I looked at it 3 years later, I had written all those stories. Carpe diem, carpe noctem, carpe wheneverem.

5. Get rejected. Yes, get rejected. You will learn from those rejections what works and what doesn’t. I was rejected by 82 (no, that is not a typo) agents. That experience taught me to look at other avenues to publication. I discovered that agents do not control the publishing world. Shocking news, I know, but true. Paper your office with your rejections.

6. Have trusted readers. When I started writing my first novel, I needed a cheering section to keep me going, to give me the courage to keep writing. That first stage should not last more than a year--at most. The next step is to put your work out there for others to read and critique. No smoke blowing allowed. Regardless of what path you go--paid editor, critique group, critique partner--you must have other readers. Otherwise, it’s like well, dare I say it? Masturbation. It feels good for you, but it wasn’t good for the other person. Be brave, get alpha and beta readers and listen to their constructive criticisms.

7. Be persistent. Did I mention I received 82 rejections from agents? If I hadn’t been persistent, I would have never had the courage to send my work to contests, I would have never won writing awards, I would have never had the chutzpah to send my little story, Catastrophe, to the Wild Rose Press. You must press on.

8. Do not whine. No one, and I do mean no one, likes a whiner. If you get rejected, allow yourself no more than 24 hours to cry, stomp your feet, and have a pity party. After 24 hours, STOP. Be child like, but not childish.

9. Don’t take it personally. While the story of your heart is your baby and you know this is the best (fill in the blank) story ever told, publishing is a business. The publisher is not going to take a story that doesn’t fit with their lines or needs. They are in business to make money.

10. And finally, if it doesn’t fit, find another publisher. In writing Desire and Deception, I wanted to tell a sexy suspenseful tale about smart, powerful women and the men who love them. I wrote about society’s expectations of what a woman should be versus what a woman wants to be. The only problem I had with the book was getting an agent, editor or publisher to give it a complete read because it had “too much sex.” But, I couldn’t take it out. The sex was integral to the telling of the tale. Isabel is a man eating sex goddess on the prowl and Sarah is a newlywed trying to get pregnant. Hello? Sex, anyone? I was not taking it out. Then at the suggestion of another romance writer and friend, I attended the Red Sage Publishing session at Romance Writers of America annual meeting in Orlando, FL. After the session, I introduced myself to Alexandria Kendall, CEO, Red Sage Publishing and said, “I have this book–but everyone tells me it has too much sex.” Alexandria’s eyes lit up and she said, “Send it to me!” I am delighted that Red Sage gave my story a chance and that Isabel, Sarah, Sean, Dan and all the other characters finally have a home. I hope readers enjoy the story–and the sex!

So, there you have it, my top ten contrarian tips for becoming published. Does anyone else have counter-intuitive comments and advice they’d like to share?

35 comments:

  1. Good morning, Sharon. Great advice, esp. the first one. Be child-like. I'm always astonished by how many people I meet who have no curiosity about the world anymore. Even some of my friends are just "there." I always find it sad.

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  2. Great advice, Sharon!
    Beth

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  3. Thanks, Keena and Beth--Thanks for reading and commenting. When I *finally* grow up, I want to be like Betty White. LOL!!

    Sharon

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  4. Brilliant! Words to live by! Honestly, as one contrarian to another - the worst advice I've ever heard is, do what you love. I think I prefer, find something to love about what you do.
    I think for a writer, it's important to assume that creaking noise you hear under the bed is a monster, not a broken spring. :)

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  5. Hi Sharon!

    Congrats on the new release! Desire and Deception is next on my TBR list.And... there's no such thing as too much sex! LOL
    Can't wait to read it.

    Roz Lee

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  6. Hi Julia--Yes, I love to eat chocolate and float in a warm swimming pool. That's one way to keep paddling around in the same safe place. And JAWS would have never been imagined in that environment. Unless you live in Florida, and that tugging feeling at your leg is an...ALLIGATOR!!! AAAAAAGH!GLUBBBBBBBBB!!!!!

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  7. HI Sharon, I loved this blog - you gave some great advice and I am so happy you are now with the Red Sage family!

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  8. Hey Sharon,

    I have the rejection part down pat. Now I wish I'd actually counted them!

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  9. Thanks, Roz! I know. Too much sex? What language is that? Not English? Some ancient tongue? I have LOTHARIO and I'm ready to travel. LOL!!

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  10. Jannine--I think I have the folder somewhere in my files. I kept count the old fashioned way--on the cover of the folder with marks(four verticals, then the 5th diagonal mark). It almost became a game. "Oh, let's check the mail/email. See who's rejected me TODAY." Stay strong.

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  11. Thanks, Jennifer! You and the other Red Sage authors have been so warm and welcoming. I am grateful to have my baby in this home!

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  12. Super post, Sharon! I would add one more--don't listen to the naysayers (including that little voice inside of you that says "you suck").

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  13. Thanks, Magda! You are so right. Earplugs are available cheaply at Home Depot!

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  14. Woo hoo! Good advice. I think I'll steal your carpe wheneverem mantra.
    Your story is a testament to perseverance and staying true to your words.

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  15. Thanks, Kathy! Please do! Embroider it on a pillow! LOL!

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  16. Masturbation???

    Gotta warn a gal--I choked coffee, some spewed out of my nose! LMAO! But you're right.

    Great post!

    Thanks for coming to Wordwranglers.

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  17. Sharon,
    As an author who has only recently decided to seriously pursue my obvious life long love, writing for my eyes only for 30 years, your advice was positive, challenging, and spoke the much needed words so many of us were anxious to hear! And as for too much sex, it makes me think of one of my all time favorite country songs, "Too Much Fun"....seriously, I ain't never had too much fun or too much sex!!! Keep writing woman!!

    Susan Bloomingdale

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  18. D'Ann--Didn't Christi warn you??? Sorry. Hope your keyboard and monitor are coffee proof. LOL! Thanks for your kind words. And thanks for allowing me to be a guest on your lovely blog.

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  19. Susan--

    Thanks for reading and commenting--and persevering! You can do it! Share your work with the world and strut your stuff! ;)

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  20. Happy Monday, Sharon! Great advice... thanks for sharing with us today!

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  21. Sharon, thanks so much for hanging with us today. Loved, loved your post.

    One of my favorite lines from the movie Fame, is when Mr.Shorvsky (Sp?) tells Bruno (the pianist) that not sharing the music he creates is like masturbation, because you're only pleasing yourself. LOL.

    I kind of always thought that about writing, so it was good to see another writer voice the same thought :)

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  22. Hi Kristi--

    Happy Monday to you, too! One of my favorite lines is from the movie, DAVE. "It's MONDAY! And you know what that means? It's time to go to WORK!" Thank you for reading and commenting.

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  23. Great blog! I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Thanks for spending your day with us!

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  24. Hi Margie--

    Thank you for allowing me to be your guest today. What a fun group of readers! Yes, it is hard to get over ourselves, isn't it? The key is to finding a safe space to build up your self confidence, then taking increasingly bigger risks. Thanks to MRW and RWA, I finally found my writing niche and the courage to be bolder. Erotic romance was NOT my first foray into writing. I built on horror, mystery and romance pubs--then realized that story HAD to be the way it was. Without my previous experiences, I would have doubted my voice and my sanity! LOL!

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  25. Shawn--

    I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for having me. The tea and crumpets were tasty, too. ;)

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  26. Sharon,

    You do so keep us all real. Thanks very much for doing that.

    Nice way of putting that age old advice - Never give up on your dreams.

    Margo Hoornstra

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  27. Hi Margo--

    Thank you for reading and commenting. I think many of us come to this late in life, so we need to cheer each other on! ;)

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  28. Great blog Sharon. Once I let go of my conservative conscience and turned off the "tsk-tsk" voices (present and past tense), I was able to really write. First naughty scene and f-bomb dropped was like opening a window and taking flight. Too much sex? Never! Thanks!

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  29. Hi J. Coleman (or just J?)--

    Thanks for stopping in and commenting. It is such a RELIEF to let go and let the inner Diva fly free. And, btw, she ain't never going back in that cage. LOL!

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  30. Terrific advice! I recently sold my book without an agent, too. It's time for authors to take back the writing world. And nothing kills creativity faster than neglecting one's inner child.
    Sally Carpenter

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  31. Hi Sally--

    Thanks for reading and commenting. You go girl! Yes, it can be done. The publishing world is changing and I think that we need to pay attention and be prepared to knock opportunity over the head. ;) (Yes, I did mangle that metaphor.)

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  32. Hi Sharon,
    Thanks for an insightful and entertaining blog. Some of the best advice I heard just recently was to write sex scenes as if nobody was ever going to read them, especially your mother. Just let yourself go! I wish I'd heard that advice ages ago!

    Best of luck with 'Desire and Deception.'

    Jana

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  33. Great post and great comments, too. I'm almost glad I'm so late!

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  34. Hi Jana--

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I think you've let your inner child out to play on more than one occasion! LOL!

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  35. Thanks, Liz! Yes, an awesome and smart bunch of readers on this blog!

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