I hope you don’t mind the huge vat of coffee sitting beside me as we talk. I’m trying to stay up and alert enough to—in true Seekerville fashion—have fun banter in my comments but I’ll need copious amounts of caffeine for that because my five-week old baby kept me up most of the night. To take a page out of dear Ruthy’s playbook, here’s a picture of my cute daughter.
One thing having a child has quickly taught me is that I have to be flexible. Nothing happens on my timetable anymore. And know what? I’m okay with that (she’s lucky she’s cute).
Now, if only I could swallow that same lesson as easily when it comes to my writing career.
The truth is you have to be nothing short of a contortionist to make it in this industry. Some of us really need to dig down and do some writer stretches and work on our ability to bend.
The fact is, if you want to be a published author you have to be flexible with your work, teachable in your spirit, and always willing to change aspects of your story.
How do we work on our flexibility?
1) Seek tough feedback
"Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things." -Winston Churchill
Two years ago, I walked into my first writer’s conference. I sat down for my first ever agent appointment. She asked to see my first chapter and she maybe read the first three sentences before looking back at me and saying, “You have good ideas, but if this is your best writing, I don’t see publishing in your future.”
I had two options. I could allow that agent’s feedback to kill my dream, or I could use that feedback as a challenge. I chose the latter. I stuck the old manuscript in a drawer, and pulled out four recently published CBA books. I gave myself one month to read them all, mapping out their plots as I went. I took what I’d learned and wrote a whole new story.
Learning from criticism paid off. I won first in every contest I entered with my new manuscript and I had offers of representation from all three agents I sent proposals to. All in less than four months since the day an agent told me she didn’t see a future for me.
The best news? That manuscript that I wrote…It’s my debut novel, Home for Good.
2) Be willing to have your story chopped
When I wrote Home for Good I hadn’t crafted it as a paperback romance. The manuscript was 78,000 words long and everyone knows that Love Inspired stories are much shorter than that. With the help of my super-woman editor Melissa Endlich, I had to hack away 23,000 words.
Words that I have carefully crafted, metaphors I’d felt like a genius for creating, and characters that I loved all had to fall on the chopping floor.
That experience showed me that I can’t be married to any one scene or chapter or character. Ever.
3) Be willing to change your story
My debut was a romance, but I also write young adult. I have a young adult series that I’ve written and loved that was originally written in third person. I met with an editor and they said that they wanted first person stories – could I change my manuscript to be first person? You bet.
And know what? I think it’s ten times stronger now that it’s written in first person.
Another writer friend loves to write stories set during Regency, but the editors came back saying Regencies aren’t selling as well as they hoped but people are looking for Edwardian set books now thanks to Downton Abbey – would she be willing to rewrite the book set during the Edwardian period? Sure thing.
4) Stretch yourself
Lastly, we can become more flexibly by widening our own horizons. Take that class at the Y or that dance lesson through your park district. Stick to that goal of running a half marathon by the end of the year. I’m amazed how much new experiences stretch me and make me remember that being moldable can be a good experience.
All right, coffee’s on and I brought my Death by Chocolate Cake for everyone to share. Double helpings for anyone willing to help with diaper changes and feedings today!
I also have a prize basket for one of the people who comment today. I’m calling in my Mega Montana Prize Pack! Home for Good takes place in the Bitterroot Valley, Montana, so in the pack there is huckleberry jam, a white chocolate huckleberry candy bar, a stuffed mountain lion, a card with the Bitterroot flower on it, and a signed copy of my book.
As a child Jessica possessed the dangerous combination of too much energy coupled with an over-active imagination. This pairing led to more than seven broken bones and countless scars.
"I made a promise to protect you."
But pregnant Ali Silver's husband broke his vow and walked away from her. After being injured in combat, Jericho has finally come home to Bitterroot Valley to make peace with his father and regain Ali's trust. But the single mom's keeping secrets of her own. And someone's killing off Ali's cattle and sabotaging her horse therapy business. Jericho will do whatever it takes to protect his wife and be a real father to his son. Because when it comes to love and second chances, he's one determined cowboy.