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Month: July 2015

Editors Don’t Go Under Busses

I had a bit of a coaching conversation with someone who wrote for the website where I manage content. He seemed like a super cool person. (Always a plus.) And as soon as his article went up, he started responding to the commenters. (Awesome!) And then he threw me under the bus. (#$%@.)

He didn’t mean to. But that’s the thing. I don’t think most writers mean to, but they/we do it anyway. We’re so excited about our work and how it’s received, and at the first sign of something even remotely approaching a criticism, we spout off things like:

  • Don’t ask me, I didn’t choose that picture.
  • The editor changed my title.
  • The publisher marketed it wrong.
  • That’s not what I wrote. I don’t know how that happened.
  • I think that got messed up in publishing somehow.

So there’s this story-cloud of distancing and excuses you can whip up – and then there’s reality. And reality falls in one of two categories:

  1. You messed up.
  2. The editor/publisher messed up.

And guess what? Either way, you don’t complain. If you messed up, you need to own it. That’s all there is to say about that. If you’re not someone who can own your stuff, then you’ll be mighty hard to work with no matter the industry.

But you might be inclined to argue that you have a right to complain if the situation falls under category number two. And you might have some myserious “right” to – the editor/publisher/agent might have made a real mistake – but you still really shouldn’t ever publicly (or even socially) complain. And here’s why:

  1. Editors are people too.
  2. Publishing is a small, tiny, tiny, small world.
  3. You might like to keep working.

The other day someone signed up for my Internet writing class. Turns out I met him some half a dozen years ago at the gym I managed in Los Angeles, and then just recently he met one of the writers for Breaking Muscle…while in Thailand. How random is that?

It’s pretty random. And yet, it happened.

The publishing world is highly active on the Internet. Twitter is ROBUST with editors, agents, writers, and publishers. Do you think if you are unhappy with an article, book, or eBook, and you grouse about it on Twitter that someone won’t notice? Does it make sense to brag to your publisher about your reach on Facebook and then use it to complain about said publisher’s treatment of your work?

Do you think maybe, just maybe someone might worry about working with you if they see you complaining about your current and/or previous business relationships all over the web?

So let’s look over those three reasons not to complain on social media again.

  1. Editors are people too. – Give space for human beings to make human mistakes. Send your editor/publisher/agent a message and be respectful and mature about the situation.
  2. Publishing is a small, tiny, tiny, small world. – Big brother, big sister, Uncle George, and Cousin Suzie are all noticing what you said about Editor Joe.
  3. You might like to keep working. – Nobody wants to join Editor Joe under that bus. It’s nasty under there.

And then of course on top of all that is the nebulous AREA NUMBER FOUR. You know, the part where your editor/publisher/agent didn’t actually mess up at all, but you’re trying to cover your own a$$ so you just dump it all on them. How’s that for a big “thank you for getting me published and making my stuff better,” huh? You might not have realized it came across that way. But typically when we protect ourselves in a reactive, defensive state, we take someone else down in the process. Don’t do that.

So, to recap:

  • Editors notice.
  • Agents notice.
  • Publishers notice.
  • None of those people go under busses.
  • If you mess up, own it.

So what do you do when things go awry and you really think it’s not your fault?

If “they” messed up, send them a love letter and ask them if it’s fixable. If it’s not fixable, then go buy yourself something nice with the cash you took in exchange.*

*If you didn’t earn cash, then relish the exposure you earned because apparently you thought it was worth it.

Schoolbus photo by Nsyrbus (Own Work, By [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.

It Doesn’t Matter How Long It Takes, If You’re Working

Chuck Wendig is my new favorite Twitter account to follow. I have learned that every link is worth the click-through and every Tweet is a gem in itself. For example:

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 6.17.57 PMSometimes I lament that I’m approaching two years of work on my first novel and am six months into my second novel. I see people online churning them out in a couple months. People who are selling these books in droves. I read about famous authors who’ve published four dozen novels in their lives. And I’m thinking, “Wow, I’ve got one and a half that nobody but my family has read so far. What the heck am I doing with my time?”

Well, actually, I can tell you the answer to that. In 2011, I moved from Los Angeles to Oregon with the idea that I could focus more on my writing. Since then, I’ve been:

  • Working full-time for a living as a writer and editor
  • Writing every single day in one form or another – copy writing, ghostwriting, fiction writing, article writing
  • Editing other writers five out of seven days per week
  • Taking courses non-stop through local writing institutes like The Attic, as well as UCLA Writers’ Program, MediaBistro, LitReactor, and more
  • Doing freelance work as a ghostwriter and proofreader
  • Reading craft book after craft book on fiction writing
  • Reading book after book on grammar and the English language
  • Reading article after blog post after article on how to write for the Internet, for novels, for short stories, for copy, and for just about anything else you can imagine
  • Reading, reading, reading, all day long
  • Teaching other people to write (this one is big)

So yeah, I’ve got one “finished” novel that I’m now querying the bejeebus out of (ask me about South Central if you’re an agent reading this – thank you!) and half of a second novel I have half an inkling I might actually be able to sell. And yeah, a whole lot of other people have like half a million novels to their name.

But most people don’t.

Most people don’t have one.

But really, that’s kind of a snotty way to think (but let’s not kid – it does make a person feel better). Really all that matters is that I said I would write a novel and I did.

Now I’m saying I’m going to finish this second one, and I will. And I already have an idea for number three. So even if every one takes me three years from beginning to end, I’ll have spent nine years writing three more novels than 99.9% of the people I know.

And, most importantly, I’ll have spent nine years doing what I love, getting better at what I love, and sharing what I love in some form or another. That is hardly a description of wasted years.

So what are you working toward? How long have you been doing it and what are you doing to keep moving forward? Click “continue reading” to post your comments.

The Work Is the Thing

Don’t make stuff because you want to make money—it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous—because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people—and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts.

Maybe they will notice how hard you worked, and maybe they won’t—and if they don’t notice, I know it’s frustrating. But, ultimately, that doesn’t change anything—because your responsibility is not to the people you’re making the gift for, but to the gift itself.

– John Green

The work is the thing. If you do not enjoy it, if you would not enjoy it if it never became something “more,” then you might be happier if you didn’t do the work at all.

You might be happier not writing. You might be happier doing something else, giving up, and letting go. You might not really want to write. Or rather, you might want to write, but you haven’t the need.

If You Build It, They Probably Won’t Come

There’s a myth about the Internet that if you put up a website people will just magically visit it. There’s another myth about guest posting. That if you write an article for another website, people will just magically gravitate to yours.

Neither of these is reality, and there are a lot of reasons that guest posting fails. But today I’m going to focus on what I believe to be one of the main reasons: you’re stingy with your Internet loving.

If You Build It, They Will Come

Just because you are published on a website as a guest author, doesn’t mean that site’s readers will come to your site. And depending on how you behave, that site may never ask you to guest post again either.

I love the Internet because I believe it is, at its heart, an egalitarian place. All sorts of people can offer each other all sorts of opportunities, and there is space for the “little guy” to build his way up to being a “big shot.” There really is no cap on traffic, audience, readers, or whatever you want to call it. And by helping each other out, we can all contribute to the success of each other. Everyone actually can win on the Internet.

True, some people try to make it otherwise. They want the Internet to work just like Walmart. But most of us can spot those sleaze balls miles away. We know that the stuff we love best is the stuff that’s about giving. It’s about free information and free cross-promotion based on genuinely good people and genuinely good products and/or services.

And when I run into an authentic and generous person or entity on the Internet, the irony is that I’m more willing to pay him/her/them than the person who’s overtly trying to sell me, anyway. You know how it goes: “Wow, I’ve read twenty articles on this site that are awesome, so I’m totally going to buy her eBook when it comes out.”

If You Build It, They May or May Not Care

So what does this have to do with your guest post and why it failed and why no one wants you to guest post again?

If you build something, you’ve got to tell people about it.

The “everyone wins” ability of the Internet is based on generosity. And generosity on the Internet looks like sharing. So if you want your guest post to amount for anything in terms of your own success, it’s got to be a successful experience for the website hosting you, as well.

Spelled out – it means you need to do the following:

  • Post on all your social media about the site you’re guest posting for, even if it’s not the day your guest post goes up.
  • Follow that site on all your social media accounts.
  • Share some of their other posts by other authors (Hey, maybe they’ll follow you back and share your stuff! Wouldn’t that be cool?)
  • Share your own post when it goes up. Do this promptly, frequently, and on all your social media outlets. You’d be shocked at how few people do this. It actually hurts my mind to think about how commonly overlooked this step is.
  • Make the experience of working with you an overall net positive for the hosting website.

Remember, everyone can win, but you have to be interested in others winning and trust that the Internet is not a zero-sum game.

If you approach every guest post with the question, “How can I make this experience awesome for the website hosting me?” then you’re on the right track and they’ll show up to the table with the same question in mind. The result? We all do win, every time.

Breakfast time (7560191024)” by Berit from Redhill/Surrey, UK – Breakfast time. Uploaded by russavia. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

My Greatest Fear as a Writer

I’m going to share with you my greatest fear as a writer:

That I am not good enough.

My fear is that I am not good enough to tell my own story. That I can’t live up to the story inside me. That I’m not a good enough storyteller to get it right, to get you to see what I see. To do justice to the thing the muse has gifted me with.

But I take heart in the fact that I am not alone in this. I am a story structure junkie. I love reading books about story structure. But from time to time, I prefer to read books about an author’s experience of writing. Books like Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Stephen King’ s On Writing, or Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.

And the theme of inadequacy runs deep in all these books. Not that they truly think themselves incapable or inadequate, but even the most successful writers have moments of doubt. Moments of thinking this isn’t the right gig for them or that they’re just faking their way through and no one has noticed yet.

But these moments aren’t reality. Check this out:

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

—Ernest Hemingway

Who hasn’t studied Hemingway in everything from high school literature class to college-level writing courses? And even he says, “we are all apprentices.” That includes himself.

My Transition From Day Job to Dream Job

Recently, I was a guest on a new podcast from Adam Stanecki of Fill Your Gym. So, in a former life, I was a personal trainer and group fitness coach. I’ve had a few former lives. I’ll tell you the Mariah Carey stories another time.

Making Writing Dreams a Reality

But today, I’d like you to listen to the stories in this podcast. While I do talk about the fitness industry, I also talk about my transition from a job where I worked on everybody’s schedule but my own to a location independent full-time writing and editing gig. And I firmly believe I’m not so special that you couldn’t do something similar, as well.

So please, listen. It won’t take all that long – it’s about 47 minutes total. And I may not be an objective party, but I personally quite enjoyed listening to it, even though I said it all myself.

What Joyce Carol Oates Teaches on Twitter

Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most celebrated, successful, and prolific authors of our time. But did you know she is also prolific on Twitter? Yes, that’s right, JCO is all over Twitter and makes a regular habit of instigating controversy there, as well. Over dinosaur hunting, no less.

But a couple years back, she went on a tweeting spree intended to share her advice on writing. As both an esteemed author and teacher, she is someone worth listening to. And can you really resist the easily readable nature of tweets? They apply to all types of writing, no matter your medium, genre, style, or intentions.

Here are ten tips on writing from Joyce Carol Oates via Twitter:


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