When You Have to Start All Over, Again!

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Photo by Steve Johnson

Writing is not for the faint of heart. As writers, we know from the onset of any new project that the first draft will not be perfect. Actually, it will be far, far, far from perfect. We expect rewrites, revisions, critiques, and edits, but what happens when you spend years on a story just to come to the conclusion you need to start over, again?

One key to sustaining a writing career is perseverance. You can’t give up. Every writing project is different, some come easy and some … well, they can leave you in tears.

In my own experience, I spent ten months working on a second book in a series only to have my Beta readers tell me they didn’t like my heroine at all. She came off as harsh with a chip on her shoulder.

I spent the next two months trying to figure out what was wrong with her and how to fix her.

When I finally diagnosed the problem, I realized that I needed my one character to be two. This meant most of the scenes were either rewritten or taken out altogether.

By the time I finished, I had physically taken the book apart scene by scene, rearranged the sequence of events, added a character, and wrote the necessary new scenes.

As I endeavored to complete this fourteen-month quest, I thought my eyes would cross from the amount of time I spent looking at the thing.

However, the end product exceeded all my expectations. The story flowed so much better, and the romance between the hero and heroine bloomed beautifully. The happily-ever-after caused a slight sigh to slip from my lips when I did the final read through before sending it to the editor.

But the only reason that story exists is because through God’s grace and a push or two from friends, I persevered.

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photo by Pexel

Here are a few tips that helped me when I had to start all over, again that I’d like to share with you.

  1. Pray. This is the one essential. Give your feelings of frustration to the Lord and let Him fill you with His peace. He has answers.
  2. Talk with other writers. They can encourage you with their own war stories. You’ll be surprised by how many authors go through this, and all are willing to share their experience and how they handled it with you.
  3. Seek out books on revision. First Draft in 30 Days by Karen S. Wiesner has some excellent advice and worksheets to step you through the process, and I am sure there are others out there that can work for you.
  4. Call a friend. Ask a friend to act as an accountability partner to keep you from quitting. Frustration and the feelings of defeat can pull you down, making the task in front of you seem impossible. A friend holding you to your goal of finishing can be a great motivator. Plus, they can act as your cheerleader along the way.

Did I enjoy starting all over again on that fifth draft? No.

But am I glad I did it? Yes.

Just know, every writer experiences the ups and downs of emotions as they meet the challenges set before them in their writing journey. The difference comes in how you persevere in those challenges.

Remember, crying is allowed, as long as you move forward once you’re done.

Click-to-Tweet: “…every writer experiences the ups and downs of emotions as they meet the challenges set before them in their writing journey.”

Writing Prompt: Sarah shut her laptop, fighting back the tears. The critique pointed out all the bare places in her manuscript. Beef it up was the consensus. For whatever reason, the story didn’t work.

The Emotional Highs and Lows of Writing

I went out for a walk after a long night of rain. The sky overhead was a brilliant blue. On the sidewalk at my feet, an earthworm washed up by the rain writhed in agony. I felt sorry for it, but I couldn’t bring myself to touch it. Yuck.

I couldn’t help thinking about it, because sometimes I feel like that earthworm. Ecstatic one moment, curled up in a fetal position hours later.

We’ve all been there. It’s not just you, and it’s not weird.

I remember the euphoria when I’d met an actual published writer at my first regional writers’ conference who befriended me like I was someone with promise. She was an encourager, and I basked in her attention. She suggested I go to the ACFW conference. “You’ll meet big names, agents, publishers!”

I thought long and hard about it. This conference would be an investment. It was expensive and I’d have to fly there. More expense. My husband decided we should both go. He could play golf while I attended the conference. I was beyond excited and so, so nervous.

I prepared everything I would need for my very first meeting with a publisher. I had recently completed my novel, a wonderful fantasy with a strong spiritual message. It was gonna WOW him!

Photo by Wokandapix via Pixabay

Some of you can probably guess what happened. He smiled politely. “This is not ready, and not only that, it’s not even believable. And fantasy in the Christian market,” he shook his head. “It’ll never sell.” And then he proceeded to tell me not to quit my day job. I wasn’t ready, my story wasn’t ready.

Not ready, not believable? It’s fantasy, for goodness sake!

I’m stoic. I don’t like to show my emotions, especially in front of strangers. So, I plastered on a smile and thanked him for his time.

My husband was playing golf. Our room was empty so, I left the conference and went there. I curled up in a fetal position and cried. My heart was broken. Crushed. I was convinced I would never recover. It was over. (Only stoic in public, quite dramatic in private.)

The fantasy I had been living for the past year had ended in a devastating crash.

I got up, washed my face and repaired my makeup. Then, I put on my mask and returned to the conference. Weeks and months would pass before I fully recovered from this experience. Weeks when I never touched my manuscript. Why should I? It was over. I was not a writer.

Gradually, I crept back into the world of writing. I read about writing. I attended local writers’ meetings. I talked to other writers. And after that long, hard year passed, I went back to that regional writers’ conference. I took the classes and soaked it all up. I began to breathe again. And hope. And dream. And finally, to write.

Such is the life of the person who dares to identify as an author.

Our proclamation of, “I have a fantastic idea for a story!” is met with, “Meh! It’s too cliché. It’s been done. Blah! Don’t waste your time, because it’ll never sell.” Yada. Yada. Yada.

Don’t even get me started on what happened when I joined a critique group. Talk about trauma and anguish—oh my!

Thankfully, my story has a happy-ish ending. That original fantasy is Indie published. I completed two three-book series for Write Integrity Press and I’ve started a third series, soon to be contracted. I LOVE my critique group!

My sales haven’t rocked, so I still experience the highs and lows associated with our chosen profession. It’s never been easy. Each new story brings fresh challenges and sometimes, I’m convinced they will never work. I’m wasting my time! What makes me think I can write? There’s so much competition! When I’m all “Woe is me,” I’m still that earthworm.

Then, I’m stopped by a reader who gushes over my latest book and my emotions soar! Maybe I can write, after all.

I sit down and begin to write and the joy returns, especially when I get to write posts that will ultimately encourage young writers and help them understand the struggle we face.

Click-to-Tweet: The Emotional Highs and Lows of Writing might be your everyday reality, but you don’t have to let them rule you.

Writer’s Prompt: Close your eyes and imagine yourself sitting in a chair, conversing with your prospective agent. Your heart pounds, you take deep breaths and struggle to remember your elevator pitch, then something happens. You start talking, but it’s not what you’d planned…

I Think I Did Pretty Well

Steve Martin quote by Gail Johnson on Inspired Prompt

I pray you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Until next year . . .

ClicktoTweet: “I think I did pretty well . . .” ~ Steve Martin  #writing #quotes @InspiredPrompt @GailJohnson

Writing Prompt

Sandra ripped the red metallic paper from the box and lifted the lid. Seeing the crisp white pages inside, she squealed with delight. The first thing she would do . . .

Easy Beef Stew

Good morning, dear reader. How’s that writing project coming along? Have enough time in your day? I think we’d all agree we could use less time in the kitchen and more time for writing. Let’s get started.

 

One of my favorite things to do, especially during the winter months, is throw something in the crock pot and cook it all day. It’s amazing what you can come up with by adding a little of this and a whole lot of that.

Here’s a picture of my upcoming recipe. Nothing like a warm bowl to wrap your hands around to ease your worries and comfort your soul. Let’s get right to the recipe

Ingredients

kristian-ryan-alimon-683430-unsplash2 ½ lb. Beef Chuck Roast
1 cup low sodium beef broth
1 large onion
2 stalks celery
4 medium potatoes quartered
4 large carrots
Salt and pepper to taste
Your choice of herbs

Instructions

Cut all vegetables into large chunks. Add roast and vegetables to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. Serve with homemade biscuits.

Hope you enjoy the recipe. Happy writing!

Click to Tweet: Need more time for #writing? Easy #recipes for busy writers this month on Inspired Prompt. @InspiredPrompt @GailJohnson87

Writing Prompt

Patsy rushed through the door. She was home and her manuscript was waiting. Only one problem. Dinner. She opened the fridge to find only three ingredients . . .

Second photo courtesy Unsplash

Who You Gonna Call? Ghostwriter!

By Kristy Horine

The Great American Novel. It’s the dream of many a writer, but it’s not the only way to break into publication. During the month of July, the Inspired Prompt Team will bring you other publication options to explore. It is our prayer that you are drawn to just the right one at just the right time! Thanks for reading and write on.

Me? A ghostwriter?

I was nearing the end of a writers conference and I still couldn’t figure out why I was there. After all, I was a journalist, sitting with a bunch of fiction writers.

As I stood at the fringes of the group, a man I hadn’t seen before came up and asked, “So, what do you write?”

I took a deep breath and pushed out air and words, “I’m a freelance journalist.”

He paused. He stared. Then, he smiled.

“Cool,” he said. “I know someone who is interested in telling her story, but she doesn’t really write. Ever thought about ghostwriting?”

Since that providential meeting, I’ve learned much about ghostwriting, about me, and about the way God moves to equip and encourage His writers to work with excellence.

If you are considering ghostwriting, here are some aspects you need to think on:

Prayer

Ghostwriting is an intense endeavor. Cover every aspect in prayer. Pray not only for your writing abilities, but for your client’s storytelling abilities. Pray every day, for every step.

Compatibility

symbiosisIn science, a symbiotic relationship is one where two organisms live really close to one another, sometimes one within the other, in a way that could be beneficial to one or both of the parties involved. This is ghostwriting.

As a ghostwriter, you must be inside your client’s story, mind, and voice. You must be compatible enough – especially in your differences – so you can get the job done. How do you know if you are compatible? Compare your values and your missions. If those two things align, you’re probably going to be okay.

The Story

Ghostwriters can be contracted to work on many different types of writing:

  • Business Writing (web copy, newsletters, press releases, policy & procedures manuals)
  • Full-length non-fiction or fiction
  • Memoirs

No matter what type of writing you will produce, you must decide if you are willing and able to live with the moral, ethical, social, and cultural impact that the writing might have.

For example, if you are a vegetarian, you are probably not going to write for a meat packing plant. If you are a devout Christ-follower, you are likely not going to write the memoirs of a person entrenched in witchcraft. These are hyperbolic examples, but they do make good points. Can you live with the entire story that may or may not have your name attached to it?

Anonymity

“Am I willing to spend hours/days/weeks/months on a project that might not ever mention my name?” If the answer to this question is no, you might want to run now. If the answer is yes, then continue reading. Find out what your client has in mind in terms of attribution. Some clients don’t mind sharing the author spotlight and will include the ghostwriter’s name on the cover. Some clients will mention a ghostwriter in the acknowledgements page. Some clients want the world to think they alone are the brilliant writers. Most ghostwriters give up bylines in what is called a nondisclosure agreement.

Understanding where you are in terms of anonymity is very important.

  • If your name is on this story, is it a story you want to be associated with in ten years?
  • If the client doesn’t want anyone to know they hired a ghostwriter, what are the terms of your silence?
  • Will the client be willing to be a reference and acknowledge your work to a future client?

Decide what you are willing to live with and put it in writing.

Method

This is basically how the project will move from your client’s mind, through you, to the page.

  • Will your client hand you a box of papers and say, here are my notes, go at it?
  • Will your client write the bones and you fill in the blanks?
  • Will you transcribe recordings and write from them?

In addition to how you will gather the facts of the story in the first place, you also need to know what your client expects in terms of editing, marketing, revision, and so forth. Writing is a process that involves so much more than scratching words on a paper. Ghostwriting is no different in that respect. Make sure you talk about how your client expects you to gather information, write, and revise.

Fees

This is the hard part, right? Deciding how much your work and time are worth is tricky. To know the best fee scale for your business, and your life, you need to find out what your rhythms are, how good you are at record keeping, and the parameters of each job.

Consider:

  • Will you apply a per word, per hour, or per project fee?
  • Is there travel involved?
  • Will you be required to purchase extra supplies for the project?
  • Will you need to pay an attorney for contract fees?
  • Will you be responsible for marketing? For editing and revising?

Consider, also, that little issue of anonymity. Now, if you are like most people who are writing a book, you want to make sure that you receive every penny people are willing to pay for your work, not just now but in the future. Will you receive royalties? Will you give up royalties? If you ghostwrite a memoir that becomes a smash best seller for six months straight, that’s a lot of royalties to give up. How will you feel about that? What does your contract say about that?

contract

And speaking of contracts, make sure your ghostwriting contract addresses all of these questions according to each project. If you are writing web copy, you won’t mention royalties. But if you are writing a non-fiction book a publisher asks to be re-written or edited in any way, make sure your initial contract makes room for these contingencies.

One day after the writers conference where I first felt the tug of ghostwriting, I received a phone call. The potential client was a very high profile personality. She and I went back and forth. She interviewed several ghostwriters. I did a lot of research and offered a bid, or a proposal, on the project. Yes, she would include my name on the front cover. No, there would be no royalties. Yes, she was willing to pay a tidy sum for my ghostwriting fee. Yes, the book idea had already been accepted by a publisher, with a promise of more books to come.

After a few more weeks of negotiations, I had to write a hard email. I turned the project down, even though it would have meant more than a year’s worth of freelance income for me and my family.

Why?

Because even though the client initially said she wanted to glorify God and lead others to Christ, she didn’t want the names of God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit in the book at all. She wanted to use curse words in the narrative, and she didn’t mind being explicit in glorifying worldly passions and pursuits because she wanted to “be real.”

At the end of my days, I will stand before the Lord. I will make an account for my actions, my inaction, and every single word, even those I write that belong to someone else. When I stand, will the ghosts come back to haunt me?


Click-to-Tweet: No matter what type of writing you will produce, you must decide if you are willing and able to live with the moral, ethical, social, and cultural impact that the writing might have. Who You Gonna Call? Ghostwriter! via @InspiredPrompt

WRITING PROMPT: You are a ghostwriter. Your client is the only granddaughter of an heiress in your small Arkansas town. Before she can receive her inheritance, the granddaughter must find someone who can take an attic full of notes and transform them into a memoir to top all memoirs. You accept the project, are firing on all cylinders, until you find the box that will change the entire town forever. What does the box contain?