The Price of Putting Things Off

By Chris Manion

Three aspects of the writing craft furthered my career and cost me something. I put them off initially because I didn’t want to pay for them. It costs you nothing but a few minutes to consider what I learned.

1.     Conference Jolts
Before I was a writer, I was a direct sales independent contractor. I knew the isolation of working alone in a giant industry. My experience as a home-based businesswoman paralleled many obstacles writers face: procrastination, doubts, fear of failure, discouragement, and questionable self-image.

Eight months into that career that generated a six figure income, I attended my first business conference. After saving money to pay for it and lining up babysitters, I ventured into a crowd of 300 people who did the same at-home work. The experience invigorated me. Reading can’t provide the myriad of human experiences and observances our senses collect at conferences. We store this knowledge in our minds like rain in barrels for when our ink dries up and computer screens act like deserts.
Part of your identity as a writer comes from your tribe. Conferences are one of the best and easiest places to find yours. As blueberry plants need a mate to pollinate, so writers need partners and a tribe to flourish.

Your first pitch usually takes place at a conference. If it’s anything like your first kiss, it probably won’t be your best. Mine was rushed and full of awkwardness. A pitch is like asking for a date. You experience rejection, false hopes, letdowns, and delight. The respect and help you receive at pitching sessions, especially at Christian writers’ conferences, is something you deserve.

2.     Consistent communication
Before becoming an award-winning author, I was a business writer. A business writer with a team that grew from five to over five thousand. My role as a leader relied on consistent communications through monthly newsletters: one for my leadership team, another for my entire organization. These newsletters had a self-imposed deadline and a purpose: to connect my team and me.

At first, I was inconsistent in writing or sending them. When team members didn’t feel acknowledged, they didn’t feel connected. When they didn’t feel connected, their sales were inconsistent. The result? My income dropped and they missed their goals. Lesson learned: consistent communication and acknowledgement matter.

When we forget the lessons we learn, they show up. Again. After retiring and publishing my first book, little work got submitted. The problem? I needed a consistent writing habit, a new tribe and new inspiration.

After meeting with local critique groups, a dilemma arose. I was a Christian writer. Local writing groups gave meaningful feedback but didn’t provide the spiritual support I craved. I Googled Christian writers’ groups and discovered Word Weavers. With the closest group six hours away, I formed a new chapter.

Writers who opened and closed meetings with prayers inspired me. Understanding nods at scriptural references encouraged me. Chapter meetings simulated writing deadlines and editor critiques. I found my tribe and my purpose.

This group helped me grow exponentially as a writer. I encourage you to join writing guilds, societies, and organizations. Get your work before others. It is scary but essential.
Tips to get started:
·       Google writers critique groups in your community. Try one out.
·       Pitch a column idea to your local paper – something you’re passionate about.
·       Sign up for guest posts or articles or contests.
·       Find an accountability partner who loves you and shows up.

3.     Editing: How, when and with whom?
When: An electrician worked in our front yard recently when the heat index rocketed to 118°. He met our suggestions to finish the work another day with stubborn refusals. His recessed eyes, reddened face, and sluggish movements pointed toward symptoms of heatstroke.

Writers can be just as stubborn about letting go of cherished chapters or being edited at all. Unedited writing risks rejection. Before submitting your work, invest in an editor, beta-readers, and critique groups.
With whom: Without my developmental editor’s counsel, I probably wouldn’t enjoy multiple awards on my first book. I didn’t know enough about story arc to realize I had written past the ending. She did. I didn’t know there are three kinds of editors—line, copy, developmental—who improve writers’ works. Now you do, too.
How: Editors’ comments on manuscripts teach us how to improve our writing. Before investing in an editor, a critique group or writing partner may introduce you to editing rules you never knew existed. Read classic writing craft books like The Elements of Style by Strunk and more current works like Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors by Kathy Ide. See more book recommendations here.

Invest time and money into editing. Don’t put it off. Discover how each person finds something others missed, how publishers hate adverbs, and how a few tweaks in your work make the difference between acceptance and rejection.

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master,” wrote Hemingway. I love to learn. While some apply Stephen King’s advice “kill your darlings,” I’m learning to surrender my adverbs. Editing is the heart of writing just as chiseling is the heart of sculpting. Editing is well worth paying for.

In summary, attend a conference; join a critique group and invest in an editor to improve your work.


Click-to-Tweet: Three aspects of the writing craft furthered my career and cost me something. I put them off initially because I didn’t want to pay for them. It costs you nothing but a few minutes to consider what I learned.

Take action prompt: Write for five minutes about what you are putting off in your writing. What price are you paying for this behavior? Or write a personal ad seeking a match between you and your ideal writing group.

Chris Manion is a honors graduate of the University of Dayton. She is an inspirational speaker and award-winning catechist from the Archdiocese of Chicago. Chris lives with her husband of over forty years near Destin, Florida where she kayaks, plays the cello, and photographs the beauty of the Emerald Coast.

She is the author of the book God’s Patient Pursuit of My Soul.

Drop by and visit her Facebook Author’s Page to learn more about her writing and professional endeavors. Or, connect with her online at:

Working With the Industry: Meet Jr. Agent Hope Bolinger

Hello, friends! In the writing world, it’s good to know about the industry and the people who work there. Today, I interview Hope Bolinger, Jr. Agent at Hartline Literary Agency. You’ll enjoy hearing what she has to say in response to our thought-provoking questions–Jennifer

Writer journaling in a book

Hi, Hope! Please tell our readers, what is an agent’s purpose?

Hope: Essentially, being an agent boils down to two things: coach and cheerleader. We want to steer our clients in the best direction in the publishing industry. We pinpoint snags in contracts and try to help them attain the best deals possible for their books. We also want to be the author’s biggest advocate when approaching publishers. We don’t take on clients unless we love their work because we have to sell it again with equal or more vigor to the industry professionals who can help make their dreams become a reality.

How hard is it to be an agent in today’s publishing industry?

Hope: It’s difficult in the aspect that publishers are inundated with hundreds, thousands of manuscripts. Even as an agent, you have a lot of competition with other agents who are trying to help authors break into the industry. I will say it becomes easier the more you connect with editors at writing conferences and in one-on-one meetings. In the traditional publishing world, especially with the biggest houses, an agent is almost a  necessity.

What three things can a new author do to catch the attention of an agent?

Hope: Great question. I would boil it down to this:

(1) Meet the agent in person if possible. I remember the authors most who pitched to me at writer’s conferences or talked with me after a session. Follow-up emails from conferences are extremely helpful as well.

(2) Make that first page shine. I can usually tell by the first chapter whether or not the client would be a good fit. If the third chapter has good writing, but the first chapter or prologue (please don’t send us your prologues) is an information dump, we’re less inclined to want to take you on.

(3) Build platform before sending your books to us or to a publisher. Especially in nonfiction. It breaks my heart when I have a client with an excellent book, but the publisher turns it down because the author doesn’t have a large enough platform.

What three things can a new author do that will discourage an agent?

Hope: This will be harder to funnel into three main points, but I would say the number one problem I have is an author who comes off as a stalker. As agents, we look for authors who can strike a balance between professional and personal, but the latter half often seeps through more than the former. For instance, we’ve gotten love letters from queries before (even to some of our agents who are married.) 

Second, an author who swings to one of two extremes on platform. We have those who say, “I have no social media whatsoever.” And then we have authors who think they’re hot stuff. Show us all the platform you’ve accumulated, but don’t come off as arrogant or as if agents are doing you a favor. We want this to be a partnership that can last for several years, or even a lifetime.

Third, sending several emails to the agent at once. It’s best to send all the submission materials (Please don’t send all twelve of your books to us at once!) in one email. You can follow-up after 6-8 weeks, or whatever the certain agent has listed on his or her website. But agents receive literally hundreds of emails a day. If twelve of them are from you, they will be less inclined to take you on.

 5. Are you open for submissions? What are you looking for?

Hope: I am personally open for submissions (some of the agents at C.Y.L.E. are closed right now). I do a mix of fiction and nonfiction, but my sweet spots are YA (Young Adult), MG (Middle Grade),  Historical (especially anything ancient), Thriller, and Humor. I’m especially looking to sell in the ABA markets (American Bookseller Association.) Please no memoir (unless you have a significant platform), horror, self-published books, poetry, stage plays, or erotica. If you have a submission you think would be a good fit, send a query to hope@cyleyoung.co

Thanks so much, Hope for all the great advice. And readers, make sure you keep a watch for Hope’s novel, Den, to be released by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, June 3, 2019

Check here for details about the progress of her book: http://www.illuminateya.com/books/comingsoon/den/

Click to tweet: What three things can a new author do to catch the attention of an agent? Hartline Literary Agency Jr. Agent, Hope Bolinger, answers this question and many more. #WritersLife #amwriting


Den

Danny was told sophomore year was supposed to be stressful . . . but he didn’t expect his school to burn down on the first day.

To add to his sophomore woes, he—and his three best friends—receive an email in their inboxes from the principal of their rival, King’s Academy, offering full-rides to attend the prestigious boarding school. Danny says no. His overbearing mother says yes. So off he goes.

From day one at King’s, Danny encounters horrible hazing initiations, girls who like to pick other people’s scabs, and cafeteria food that could turn the strongest stomachs sour. As he attempts to survive, he will have to face his fears or fall prey to the King’s Academy lions.


ABOUT HOPE BOLINGER

Literary Agent. Published Novelist.

Hope wants to help authors understand the publishing industry.

Since she started writing novels at 16, she’s been trying to crack the tricky code of how to catch an editor’s eye. She’s learned a lot along the way and wants to help authors find an in in this crazy industry.

Hope Bolinger is a professional writing major at Taylor University. She has served in various roles at IlluminateYA Fiction, Hartline Literary Agency, N 2 Publishing, and The Echo. Over 200 of her works (plays, poems, articles) have appeared in various publications. Her most recent success is having her YA novel Den contracted by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, scheduled to release June 3, 2019.