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2006: The Year of No Excuses

January 26, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

By Louise Knott Ahern

This time last year, I was heading back from the holidays fully resolved to meet all of my writing goals: Finish my book, send it out, get published, and earn a fabulous advance.
It didn’t happen. A year later, I’m still working on that work-in-progress. I haven’t sent out a query in more than two years. And that fabulous advance check is just as far from my reach now as then.

I could list all kinds of reasons for my lack of achievement in 2005. I could say, legitimately, that my full-time job as a magazine editor and PR pro left me scant creative energy at the end of the day. I could say that my two-hour commute drained me physically and ate up precious writing time. Let’s not forget that I was pregnant, and my first trimester was a blur of puking and sleeping. Oh, and there was that cross-country move in the middle of the year that was just too stressful for me to be able to focus on writing.

Yes, my dear fellow writers, on any given day in 2005, I could have listed any number of obstacles blocking me from my writing dreams.

But let’s face it. Those aren’t REASONS for my lack of success. They’re EXCUSES. Nothing more than whiny, pathetic attempts to justify my own lack of discipline. The fact is, nearly all of my published friends landed their first book deals while juggling full-time jobs and, in most cases, parenthood. They managed to finish their books, find agents, and get published with just as many other responsibilities as me. Did they whine about lack of time? No. They did whatever they could to FIND the time.

So, as we enter 2006, I have just one resolution. NO MORE EXCUSES.

I am just as busy now as I was a year ago. (Busier, actually. I have learned that being a full-time mother is far more draining than being a magazine editor with a two-hour commute.) But no matter how busy I am, the fact remains that I will never see my dreams come true if I don’t crack the whip against my own back. There will be no book deal if I don’t finish the darn thing first. And I will never finish it if I continue to make excuses.

Happy New Year! Happy Writing!

OCC member Louise Knott Ahern is a freelance journalist
and public relations coach who writes contemporary romances.
She’s the author of “Opting Out:
A Career Woman’s Guide to Going Home Without Going Crazy,”
a blog for mothers at www.optoutguide.blogspot.com.
She is also a contributor to The Writer’s Vibe (www.thewritersvibe.typepad.com),
a blog for professional writers.
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Hobby Vs. Career

January 24, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

By Dana Diamond

What do Tupperware consultants, Olympic hopefuls, entrepreneurs and unpublished writers all have in common?

They all sacrifice inordinate amounts of time, energy and (often) money on careers that may or may not reap any financial benefits…even though they know the odds of are stacked against them.

My question isn’t why they are insane enough to do this, but rather, why is it that three out of the four are considered careers, but the fourth is often mistaken for a hobby?

Now I know there are writers who don’t care to be published. They are known as hobbyists. And I know there are entrepreneurs out there that are dabbling just for the fun of it; also hobbyists. And therein lies the key; “for the fun of it”.

But if an unpublished writer is consistently writing and working toward their goal of a career as a published author, why would someone take the time to try and convince them it is a hobby?

Just because we love what we do and can’t imagine doing anything else (even if it pays bubkis) doesn’t mean it isn’t work.

Of course, I recently debated this double standard, which is why it’s on my mind. I bring it up to you because I know I can’t be the only writer who’s had this conversation.

Hopefully, revealing the double standard for what it is will help other writers and their loved ones gain perspective.

Or maybe the dictionary, my all-time favorite book, can settle it:

n. pl. hob·bies

An activity or interest pursued outside one’s regular occupation and engaged in
primarily for pleasure.





a) A chosen pursuit; a profession or occupation.

b) The general course or progression of one’s working life or one’s professional
achievements: an officer with a distinguished career; a teacher in the midst of
a long career.

2) A path or course, as of the sun
through the heavens.

3) Speed: “My hasting days fly on with full career”
(John Milton).


1) Doing what one does as a permanent occupation or lifework: career diplomats; a
career criminal.

God, I love a good lexicon.

So, I ask you:

Do you consider the pursuit of a career as a published writer a hobby or a career?

What is with the double standard?

And most importantly, why would anyone go out of their way to inflict their “hobbyist” opinions on a poor unsuspecting, unassuming, under-the-weather, unpublished writer?

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January 19, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

by Michele Cwiertny

Some of you may remember from a previous post of mine that recently an editor, who will always have my heartfelt thanks, had sent me a revision letter for my historical manuscript, TO REIGN EDEN. Although the changes were hardly complicated, it took me awhile to figure out how to take apart my story like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and put it back together to form a different, but definitely more beautiful, picture.

Now I can step back and study the new picture with all the pieces intact. And you know what? I’m even more in love with the story and the characters than ever before.

I scrutinized each piece, each scene, each character, and forced myself to focus on how to make it all behave differently, how to make it all ring truer, how to put together a more complete picture. And you know what I found? My characters and their motivations are stronger, each scene serves its purpose in expressing the need and wants of the characters, and sparks fly between my hero and heroine.

It wasn’t easy for me to do that. No way. Writing is never “easy” for me, but that’s probably because I expect my stories and characters to convey so much to the reader. I know what I want to experience when I pick up a book and those standards apply to my writing, as well, which can very well lead to a massive headache, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Oh, and those of you brilliant published authors out there who have no problem creating beautiful stories so quickly—I bow to your genius and talent!

And even though those standards of mine are high, there are always ways to raise the level of the story. Such was the case when the editor read my story. Yes, I had definitely written the story to my best ability before I’d sent the manuscript to the publishing house, but with a little guidance and a few suggestions, I managed to learn more about how to write a compelling novel. Boy, I hope I’ll never stop learning.

No, I’m not telling you that the story is perfect and will never be revised again (don’t I wish!). Rather, I’m saying that I am open to becoming a better writer each time I sit down to the computer and visit my stories.

Okay, now it’s time for me to polish my proposal again…

Happy writing!

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Reflections on Rejections

January 16, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

By Sandy Brown

We’ve all received at least one. Many of us can line our offices with them. Rejections! I’m one of those who have gotten more of the dreaded things than I want to admit. Usually I feel badly for a few minutes and, then, suck it up and move forward. Recently, however, I received a rejection that threw me for a loop. I mean this “pity party” would not end!

Second Chances is so close to my heart. I poured my blood into this manuscript, spent more time than I should have perfecting it, and pitched it at National Conference. When I was told that I had pitched a good outline and would I please submit a written synopsis and the first three chapters, I fairly floated out of the room. This was it! So it was with supreme confidence that I put the requested material lovingly in an envelope and mailed it off to Harlequin Superromance. I just knew it was exactly what they wanted. Surely they would beg me to let them purchase it!

Three months later the thick manila envelope showed up in my mailbox. My heart sank. I felt sick to my stomach. I knew what the letter lurking inside would say.

I have talked to Lara Hyde, Editorial Assistant for Superromance, on the phone. She is a lovely young lady who obviously has a kind heart. I think the rejection letter she sent to me went beyond any obligation she may have felt to let me down easy. She described the writing in the beginning of Second Chances as “solid.” She stated that the reader is “given a good sense of how my heroine is feeling in the situation and the reasons for her anger.” Then, she told me what was wrong with the plot and why it didn’t work for Superromance.

To say I was devastated is putting it mildly. I called my critique partner, Tina Ralph, to cry on her shoulder. Being the positive person she is she immediately took steps to pull me out of my “funk.” A real pity party would do the trick! Here she came to my front door with a Crème Cheese Pastry. I made hot chocolate, and we settled in for an afternoon of commiseration. Soon, we had moved beyond the realm of rejection letters and were laughing over events taking place in our lives. Our pity party had turned into a party. We ended the day with a plan for how I should proceed with my book.

Reflecting back on that rejection, I’ve come to realize why it affected me so dramatically. The recent death of my mother was part of the problem, leaving me vulnerable to depression. Blind confidence that I had written the very best book I could left no room for rejection. After all, if they didn’t want my best, where did that leave me? Where could I go from here? And finally, when you write—no matter how loosely—on an event that has happened to a loved one, you have a vested interest in the success of the story. The rejection discounts the event!

I’m back at work now at my computer, pounding out another heartfelt romance. Putting my blood, sweat and tears into my new characters. I just know this will be the best…

My advice is to write the best book you can, but don’t let yourself believe it’s the best you can ever do. We all have room for improvement each day. Keep writing, keep submitting, and don’t lose your belief in yourself and your abilities. Above all, don’t let a rejection letter take away your confidence.

And finally, if you do get broadsided by a rejection, I hope you have someone like Tina to help you pick yourself up. Thank you, Lara Hyde, for taking the time to write such a lengthy rejection letter, which helps me to see where my story went wrong. Thank you, Tina, for being there for me.

Sandy Brown
OCC/RWA Ways and Means Director
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What I Learned From A Leprechaun…

January 10, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as ,

By Mary Castillo

Last year I dreamt that I was trying to become a leprechaun. I was determined to fit into the green suit coat with a plaid vest, black Pilgrim shoes and knickers. No matter how much I took in the seams and contorted myself to jam my arms into the coat sleeves, the costume was either too tight or too loose. It was only when I woke up that I gave up this primal need to be a leprechaun.

But I couldn’t go back to sleep because I had no idea why I wanted to be a leprechaun. I would’ve had to have grown a beard. When I drifted back to sleep, I realized the dream was telling me that I had been spending way too much time and energy trying to be something I could never be. But first, let me give you some background.

Last year on February 1st, I walked into Barnes & Noble and saw my book on the shelves for the first time. I was living every author’s dream. Cosmopolitan Magazine picked Hot Tamara to be its Red Hot Read for April 2005, I had the honor of speaking to OCC RWA, I was on TV and in the newspaper and I was flown out to Phoenix for a booksigning! But as a writer, I was caught in a nightmare.

In December of 2004, I decided to branch out and try writing a drama about two sisters who never knew the other existed, and a young adult about a teenaged curandera. Even though my fingers bled at the keyboards from writers block, I fought the good fight and finished those suckers. I should’ve seen the signs that these stories would not end so happily ever after. The young adult was rejected by almost every house in New York, even though the New York Daily News touted Hot Tamara as a Hot, Hotter and Hottest Read. Oh, did my ego feel the sting! As for the drama, it was so bad, it will never see the light of the day. Or so I thought.

My agent told me I had some good stuff in that drama, all of which were the comedic relief scenes. The young adult had some great stuff, too. Yep, you guessed it, the comedy bits with my heroine’s pug, Vinyl. Shortly after my leprechaun dream, I came up with a new idea about two best friends – a stay-at-home earth mother and a wild single girl – who switch bodies and have to live each others lives until they can figure out how to go back. When I sat down to write the proposal, I was laughing so hard that I had to type with one hand and wipe away the tears with the other. My agent sold it within twenty-four hours.

Remember that drama I was telling you about? Those sisters, Sela and Dori became the wild Orihuela girls … the kind of girls boys dream about, and good Catholic mothers feared. In their story which I called, “Till Death Do Us Part,” they make a pact at their hoity toity brother’s wedding to see who can land the blue-eyed hottie at the bar. I rallied up some of my buddies – Berta Platas, Sofia Quintero and Lynda Sandoval – to create a fun, sexy anthology of stories about sisters. We sold it by auction within a week.

For 2006, I resolved to stick to my roots as a romantic comedy writer. I’m not a dramatic writer and perhaps I’m not a young adult writer (although that heroine still lingers in the back of my mind so who knows where she’ll end up). But comedy and a hot sex scene are what I do best and by gum, I’m proud! So I urge you to sit back for a moment and think about what you do best as a writer. Okay if you can’t come up with anything, ask your critique partners or look at comments on your work to see where the reader remarked, “good job!” Is it plot, setting, historicals that take place between 1843 and 1845, alpha males … whatever it is, resolve to do it and do it well. Don’t waste time trying to be what you aren’t, or trying to be your favorite author. Trust me, I’ve tried and it isn’t pretty!

Mary Castillo
Author of HOT TAMARA
and soon to be released IN BETWEEN MEN
Please visit http://www.marycastillo.com/ or
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