Wednesday, June 13, 2012

8 Publishing Landmines & Helpful Tips for Writers

Katie Ganshert was born and raised in the Midwest, where she writes stories about finding faith and falling in love. When she’s not busy plotting her next novel, she enjoys watching movies with her husband, playing make-believe with her wild-child of a son, and chatting with her girlfriends over bagels. She and her husband are in the process of adopting from the Congo. You can find her online at her blog and on Facebook.  

A little over a month ago, one of my lifelong dreams came true. I officially became a published author. My debut novel, Wildflowers from Winter, hit the shelves.

I’m a reflective person by nature, so I often ask the question: How did I get here?

The simple answer: I did some things right and I did some things wrong.

I thought I might share both with you today.

When it comes to navigating this huge field called publication, we run the risk of stepping on all kinds of landmines—those hidden dangers that knock us on our rumps. Here are eight of the more popular ones I’ve seen. I know because I’ve stepped on a few of them.

Be on the lookout for…

1. The Comparison Landmine
We pay attention to how long it takes other writers to get an agent, who’s getting book deals, who’s self-publishing, who’s selling more books, who has more blog readers, who’s winning awards, who’s receiving accolades, etc, etc. Before we know it, we’re wishing for so-and-so’s journey instead of our own. Remember, everybody’s writing journey is unique. God has us on our own path for a reason.

2. The Book One Landmine
So many writers get stuck on book one. Polishing, polishing, polishing, unable to let go and 
move on. Might our first book get published? Sure. Will we make a career out of one book? No. At some point, we all have to set aside our first effort and write something new.

3. The Contest Landmine
Contests are great. We get feedback from judges and winning can be a huge foot in the door. But sometimes, we get so focused on making those first fifteen pages perfect that we neglect the remaining two hundred seventy-five. Fiteen shiny pages does not a novel make.

4. The Defensive Landmine
Critique is part of the writing life. Whether it’s from a fellow writer, an agent, an editor, a reviewer, or a reader. Are we listening—really listening—to the critiques? Or are we letting our predisposition to like our own story get in the way of growth and improvement?

5. The Cosmetic-Obsessed Landmine
It’s a whole lot easier to get rid of adverbs and tighten our prose than it is to address the serious problems. Here’s the thing. We can write the most beautifully, tightly written novel in the history of all novels, but if the plot, structure, or character development is flawed, all the cosmetics in the world won’t help. Jody Hedlund recently blogged about this in a post titled Why Skimping on Macro Editing Could Cost You Readers.

6. The Immediate Gratification Landmine
Publication is a long journey. There’s nothing immediate about it. Letting impatience dictate our next move will often lead to regret.

7. The Recluse Landmine
The days of holing up in our offices and turning out novels for our publishers is long gone (not sure they ever existed). The act of writing might be a solitary endeavor, but being an author isn’t. If we have a do-it-alone mentality, we’ll either never get published or we’ll miss out on the rich relationships that often come when we reach out to encourage and be encouraged.

8. The Social Butterfly Landmine                                                                    
Social media is good and necessary. But if we’re putting more energy into Twitter and Facebook and blogging than we are into our stories, than we’re stepping into dangerous territory.

On the flipside of what not to do, I believe there are things we should do. Things that help us reach our goals.

Here are eight things I did that I believe helped me get to where I am today:

1. I sought and listened to critique.
Whether that meant paying a professional, reading feedback from contest judges, or finding a critique partner, I did my best to push past my defenses and learn from the feedback.

2. I read LOTS of craft books.
I spent an entire summer devouring every craft book known to man and frequently revisit some of my favorites.

3. I read LOTS of fiction.
In my genre, sure. But more important than that, I’m always searching for high-quality fiction, regardless of genre. The kind that will challenge and inspire me to be a better storyteller.

4. I joined ACFW, (American Christian Fiction Writers)
Support, networking, and education. Three huge benefits to joining a writing group.

5. I went to a conference.
I know conferences are expensive, but they’re worth every penny. Especially if you feel like you have a story that is truly ready for publication. Having a face-to-face meeting with an agent or editor is so much more effective than a query letter.

6. I learned about the industry.
Not only did I make a point to study the craft, I made a point to study the industry. This is a great starting place. So is my agent’s blog, Rachelle Gardner.

7. I kept writing.
I wrote three books before getting an agent. Five before getting a book deal.

8. I persevered.
Rejection is a part of the process. So are the excruciatingly long waits. Writers who get published are writers who persevere through both.

Let’s Talk: Have you stepped on any of the landmines mentioned above? What has been helpful in moving you forward in your writing journey?

Wildflowers from Winter

A young architect at a prestigious Chicago firm, Bethany Quinn has built a life far removed from her trailer park teen years. Until an interruption from her estranged mother reveals that tragedy has struck in her hometown and a reluctant Bethany is called back to rural Iowa. Determined to pay her respects while avoiding any emotional entanglements, she vows not to stay long. But the unexpected inheritance of farmland and a startling turn of events in Chicago forces Bethany to come up with a new plan.
Handsome farmhand Evan Price has taken care of the Quinn farm for years. So when Bethany is left the land, he must fight her decisions to realize his dreams. But even as he disagrees with Bethany’s vision, Evan feels drawn to her and the pain she keeps so carefully locked away.
For Bethany, making peace with her past and the God of her childhood doesn’t seem like the path to freedom. Is letting go the only way to new life, love and a peace she’s not even sure exists?


Elaine Baldwin said...

I would say I have stepped on all eight of the landmines and continue to work on the tips.
I would add two landmines. Seeking man's approval over God's and thinking my writing journey should look like someone else's.
Thank you for your insight and God Bless.

Katie Ganshert said...

Hi Elaine! You are SO right - the approval landmine! I've found that particular landmine to be abundant and so very dangerous on this side of publication!! It's a landmine I either step on or come close to every single day. God is doing SO much with my heart through this journey.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I love that you perservered because look where it landed you. For you, for us, for God.
~ Wendy

Wendy Paine Miller said...

persevered (that's me persevering to correct my spelling).

Rajdeep "call me Raj" Paulus-Writer of Young Adult Fiction said...

Thanks Katie!

Great list! Definitely can see myself in many of those scenerios. Especially the social media web of wasted time. Need to get my BFF to ask me how much time I spend on writing and how much on FB/Twitter/Blogging. I realize how, like the microwave does to popcorn, so blogging does to my writing fix. But stove top popped, although it takes longer, tastes so much better. So I best get to poppin' out some pages for my WIPs! Thanks for the encouragement!! :) -Raj

Ane Mulligan said...

Thanks for landing at Novel Rocket, Katie. This is helpful advice for a whole lot of writers!

Lisa Jordan said...

I've dealt with the comparison landmine and its counterpart--the jealousy landmine...wanting what another writer has instead of appreciating my own journey. I'm so thankful for the places God is taking me. I'm learning something new with each book--both mistakes and accomplishments. By wishing for someone else's journey, I'm missing out on the blessings God has in store for me. Thanks for a great post, Katie!

Dani Pettrey said...

Thanks, Katie. Great post! Perseverance is huge and I really love Elaine's comment: thinking my writing journey should look like someone else's. That really highlights your Comparison Landmine and it's so true. God made us all unique. Embracing the writing journey He has for us and discovering the stories He created us to tell is tremendously important and freeing :)

Gina Holmes said...

Great post, Katie! Hey Dani, just saw that you made July's CBA bestseller's list. That's 2 months in a row right out of the gate. Thrilled for you!!!

Brandi said...

Congratulations, Katie, and a great post! Your tips are helpful. The ones about comparing ourselves to other writers and being a social media butterfly spoke to me. Sometimes I get discouraged because I feel like I simply can't keep up with the blogs and Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/Goodreads posts. I'm learning that you don't have to be everywhere online at all times to connect with people, though.

Lori Ann Freeland said...

Thanks for sharing. I had to smile over some of the landmines. Especially the first. That's kind of where I'm at right now:)

Julie Sunne said...

Working through all your points, Katie--one step at a time! Thankful for your perseverance as your Wildflowers from Winter is a fabulous read. Thanks for the tips.

Carrie Turansky said...

Hi Katie, these are great tips! Thanks for sharing. I've talked to so many aspiring writers who rewrite their first book for years and never get past that. Let it go! Write the next book and the next. You will grow and improve as a writer when you move on and keep writing.


Heather Day Gilbert said...

Thank you for those tips, Katie! WAITS....argh! Just wondering what the average wait is on submissions that are ACCEPTED? Do they typically stay out longer with prospective publishers? Or is there any hard and fast standard there?

Neurotic Workaholic said...

These are all great tips, especially the one about the immediate gratification landmine. I think that impatience is one of the biggest reasons why so many people never finish their first novels; they're so anxious to get published that they don't understand how long it takes to finish writing a novel and actually get it published.

Katie Ganshert said...

I wish there was an average, but unfortunately, they are ALL over the map!

Dawn Crandall said...

Thanks for the awesome post, Katie! I've been spoiled with a little of the instant gratification in regards to getting an agent, but now I am feeling the impatience of THE WAITING. Yeah, and it's only been 6 weeks. :) I loved this post--it was full of so many good reminders!