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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Guest Blog: Emma Paul: Four Things I've Learned the Hard Way

Four things I learned the hard way as a writer.

Well actually I learned a lot more then four, but if I were to list every one this blog may never end. So, I'll try and squeeze the most humbling into four lessons.

Like most writers I strive to be published. However, it's not the only reason I write. Truth is I've been writing for several years. Since elementary school. I know it's the same story as several other writers. But I believe, the fact we writers have this in common is a testament to how important writing is in our lives.

For me it is both therapeutic and fun. I enjoy my stories just as much as I hope my readers do. Still, even though I've been writing most of my life, I truly didn't know "everything" I thought I did...


Number Four: Just because you can doesn't mean you know how...

Okay, so many of you reading this are probably saying right about now, "what is she effin' talking about?" Trust me there is madness in my method and eventually it will all make sense. Twenty-five or so years, probably more, is how long I've had a passion for writing. In my mid teens, I'd write lyrics for the songs that my heavy metal rock band, Paper Dolls, would one day play for thousands of screaming fans. I never did learn to play that guitar...and...I never did start that band. Anyhow, I did write an awesome song. Well, at the time they were awesome. Now when I pull one out and start to read it...

In the land of paper dolls...
no one knows my darkest hour...
into to the night they hear my calls (pronounced C-O-L-L-S)
the wind takes me away...
I'm amazed by your power...

Okay, okay, I'll stop. Hope none of you lost your lunch on that one.

Hey at least it rhymed...sort of. But that is my point. Not the rhyming part, but the fact that I could write, yet I had so much to learn. And the learning doesn't end. Oh I got better as I got older...and past my "dark Period". However, it wasn't until I took my writing to the next level of "publishing it" that I truly learned how to do it.

Don't be ashamed to admit that you might just need that grammar course or the creative writing workshop...read everything you can about what published books have that yours might not. Absorb the knowledge like it's your first day in kindergarten and you're about to learn your ABCs. I shot my load to fast with my first MS. Thinking it was going to WOW the publishing world...I would get deals up the yin-yang and become the next Kenyon, or Jaid Black...

Boy was I mistaken, the only thing I got up my yin, was a foot full of yang from several editors, who suggested I go back to..."the Basics" and take a few grammar classes. Despite my crushed ego, they were 100% right. Today I have four short erotic stories published with Every Night Erotica, and an MS being considered for possible publications with Sizzler Editions, an imprint of Renaissance E Book Publishers.

Number Three: Never take criticism about your work personally...

When I got back all those rejections on my first MS, I decided, well actually it was strongly recommended by an editor at Loose Id, that I join a critique group. I joined four. I took the suggestion very seriously. My first few crits were eye-openers, to say the least. The master-piece that was my MS, was run through the ringer and then back. Some crit partners were very supportive, and constructive. Still others were straight forward, no-shit-give-to-ya straight-and made me cry. It was the rough ones that almost had me toss up my hands and give up writing forever. Fine, if they hate my work that much then, screw-em all! I'll just go learn how to play that guitar that's been sitting in my attic gathering dust for the last twenty or so years.

Then it hit me. Duh! The rejections from all those publishers, this was what they were talking about. All the areas of work my crit partners pointed out...that's why my MS was being turned down.

"LIGHT BULB" Hey what if I take those critiques, find a few courses and workshops and then apply it to my MS. Slowly the old spark of determination started to get brighter. My dashed hopes turned into sudden realization that the critiques of my work were tools to help me NOT hinder. Tools that would bring me more then half way to my ultimate goal. Eventually I began to get "Bravo" comments from my crit partners. I was so proud of my self.

Number Two: Thank you goes a long way...

Rejections are going to come your way. I don't care who you are. No matter how good you know your novel is, when you finally get it critiqued, polished and ready for submission, someone is going to reject it. Just move on.

Don't send a nasty letter back explaining how you slaved over, revised, edited your ms; and how all your crit partners, some of which are in the publishing industry absolutely LOVED it and that they wouldn't know a GOOD story if it slapped them in the face. First off, do you really think that editor is going to be convinced to give your MS another glance...? I don't think so. If any thing they will most likely take your MS and put a burning match to it.

If you've worked so hard on it, and know it has potential, then send it to someone who is looking for that kind of stories. Like everyone else, editors and agents have different tastes and preferences. It's not you, it's just your particular story was not their forte or they just didn't like it. And that's okay.

However, always, always send a thank you to that editor and/or agent. Keep in mind that you may at some point want to submit to that publisher again. Don't burn those bridges. You may think that it's a waist of time, no editor is going to bother reading your "Thank you for your time or consideration..." And that may very well be true. But what if they do. What kind of an impression do you want to leave with that publisher?

Number One: Stay humble, keep an open mind and never discourage another writer...

Although I've never been one to toot my own horn, I have come across some very arrogant writers. I find it abhorrent for a writer to tell another aspiring author that their work simply sucks. Yes, I have come across some people who have used that very word to describe stories they have read. My preferred genre, writing style, topics, premises...etc...may not be what you prefer to read and yours may not be mine, but don't tell me it sucks...if you find technical issues with some one's work, point it out and make suggestions. If it's not your genre, refer that writer to someone with similar tastes. Never discourage another writer from doing what they love. Everyone has to start somewhere.

I once had a friend of mine email back my short story I sent her with an icon of a cartoon Satan, ripping it in half and tossing it into the fires of Hell. I was so depressed by that. What really hurt was that she hadn't even read the whole story, just the first two paragraphs. She told me the whole sci-fi premise just wasn't what she was "into". Eventually, she apologized. I still kicked her ass, the Bitch. But that was for a whole different reason.

In conclusion Keep writing and let your imagination take off. Here is my motto...,

Read, Write and Live.

Emma Paul

6 comments:

Paris said...

Emma,
I'm so glad that you believed in yourself enough to just keep going. There is always something new to learn, no matter how long you've been writing. Great post!

Tabitha Blake said...

Greag interview Emma and so true.

Kari Thomas said...

WONDERFUL, encouraging Blog post, Emma! I hope many others will read it and "get the picture".

Hugs, Kari Thomas
www.authorkari.com

Emma Paul said...

Thanks for the comments! I'glad at least 3 people read my blog...smile.

Sandy said...

Hey, Emma Paul, I'm blogging next and for some reason I was prompted to read yours first.

It's an excellent post, and I can commiserate with you through all that you've been through to get published. We can never stop learning. Not even the big name authors but some of them may not know that yet.

I can't count the number of times I cried over rejections and nearly quit but something kept me going. Writing gets in your blood and won't let go. Hang in there.

Emma Paul said...

Thank you Sandy, I have a very "persistence is key" mentality and I believe that taking everything all those editors and crits told me has only strengthened it.

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