Today we welcome long-time RU supporter Mary Jo Burke who shares the highs and lows of being a writer.
So glad to have you here, Mary Jo!
With a bow to the late great Dear Abby, I’ve decided to give advice to a young aspiring author. I don’t pretend to all the answers, but I’ve learned a few things along the way.
What does it take to be a writer?
What does it take? In a word, EVERYTHING. Being a writer means the switch is flipped on. In the middle of the night or a car ride or a grade school band concert, an idea will pop into your head. It has a limited life span. In other words, it demands an immediate response. It won’t be calling back when you have time. Seize it, even if it’s a line that seems meaningless and stupid. Eventually, it will let you know where it fits. Characters are needy and clingy. Ignore them at your peril. I have strategic notebooks stashed around my house and in my car. When you’re in the groove, it doesn’t shut off. Be vigilant and ready.
When you decide to share your profession with others, don’t expect immediate congratulations. Some see writing as a hobby or a waste of time. Even people who love you may not be impressed. I told a longtime family friend I had published my book. He laughed out loud. Shocked, I walked away. Ten minutes later, he asked how I went about getting my manuscript into the hands of an editor. He had a story locked in a desk drawer.
Then I laughed.
Even established writers may not be supportive. As a romance writer, I entered many contests sponsored by local RWA chapters. Back in the day, it involved mailing about one hundred pages; four sets of my first chapter, out with SASE enclosed. I dipped a toe into the historical romance pond. Boy, did I get swatted back.
In error or not, the three judges included copies of their personal e-mails. “The worst thing I’ve ever read,” wrote one to the other. The worst I’ve ever read is James Joyce. I guess I’m in good company. Even J K Rowling gets one-star reviews.
This sets up the real life part of writing: rejection. Editors, agents, critique partners, even the love of your life won’t like what you write. Woolly mammoths had the right idea: thick hides and layers of fur to cover bruises and scars. Once you step into the arena, be prepared to withstand a few uppercuts. I sent a query to an agent. According to her website, I should wait five to seven business days for a response. I got a no in four hours. Another time, I sent the first chapter to an editor. Thumbs down in nineteen minutes. I’ve heard rejections over Twitter can take seconds. Nothing personal, it’s strictly business.
If these points discourage you, do what I did and quit. I threw out all my notes, gave away craft books, and deleted files. I was relieved, until I heard the siren’s song for one more contest. I gave in and didn’t win, place, or show. I sent my thank yous to the judges and considered my career closed. I heard back from two of them. Notes of encouragement, a publisher’s name, and I was on my way.
I signed my fourth book contract this morning.
If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. Persevere or divide and conquer, pick a side. And never stop writing.
All the best,
p.s. My initials are all I have common with Michael Jordan. Or are they? What if a young woman tries out for an NBA team? She skies and slam dunks over the star player. What if he’s an FBI agent uncover monitoring the franchise owner’s stepson’s money laundering scheme? I’m telling you, this writing thing is addictive.
As writers we’re faced with writer’s block and imposter syndrome, nasty judges’ comments and rejections. How do you cope? Tell us what keeps you tappping on the keyboard.
Here’s a blurb on Mary Jo’s MOTHER NATURE’S MAN.
I, Siobhan Bolyn, Goddess of the Flame and Keeper of the Land and Water, must give birth to the next goddess before my three hundredth birthday. My mate must be the preordained champion, so not just any man will do. But where to find a champion in this modern world?
When Niall Calhoun walks into my life, he’s everything I’ve hoped for. Tall, dark, sweet, and gorgeous: the true four food groups. A mere touch of his hand and my libido roars to life. But is he champion material?
Meanwhile, dark forces are plotting against me and calling my abilities into question. I’ve got to battle forest fires, soothe the oceans, appease my mother, turn Niall into Mr. Exactly Right, and have a baby in the next year. Can a goddess and her champion handle all that and still find time to fall in love?
Join us on Wednesday, February 8th when Anna Sugden presents Surviving Nearly There.
Bio: Mary Jo Burke writes paranormal, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She lives with her family in the Midwest. For more information on Mary Jo’s books, please visit www.maryjoburke.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter.
- And the winners are…
- And the winners are…
- Cut and Run: Signs it’s Time to Retire from the Contest Circuit by Kelsey Browning
- Contests: A Great Stepping Stone Towards Publication
- Weekly Lecture Schedule, February 4 – February 8, 2013