Ernest Hemingway:

As Ernest Hemingway once said...
'All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.'

Thursday, June 21, 2012

author blog challenge #21 - on being polite and gracious

Well, I figured that since I don't have a job right now (except chasing after my little monkey), I should get back into the swing of the challenge. I'm starting to think maybe working made me focus more since I had so much less time. Not that it's hard to focus. Just that there are so many other things to do.

And I'm going to the loveliest lake (Bull Shoals) to stay in the loveliest cabin (my in-laws retreat) and spend the weekend on the lake sans child with my handsome husband to celebrate our eleventh wedding anniversary. Needless to say, since it's in the middle-of-nowhere-Northern-Arkansas, there won't be any blogging. But there will be writing. Oh, yes. There is no better place to write than in a remote cabin perched on the edge of a fading mountain overlooking a crystal-clear, spring-fed lake. No ma'am.

Okay. Onto the post:

What is the single best piece of advice you've ever received about the publishing process  and/or what advice would you offer to a first-time author?

Oh boy. I've gotten so much advice over the past few years, all from online buddies/colleagues, mind you. Honestly I don't even know where to begin. Maybe it's about having thick skin. Though I do have thick skin, I have a tendency to fly off the handle without thinking things through. I think one of the best pieces of life advice I've ever gotten is when something upsets you, sleep on it, and go fresh in the morning. Never react right off the bat.

This does apply to writing too. I've gotten some really crappy critiques. My first instinct is to fire off an email telling the person exactly what I think about their nonsense advice. But in the end, it only makes me look like a hothead, and what good is it going to do? If someone accuses me of having bad grammar (which is ridiculous - I'm a grammar nerd) and points out times when I've purposely used a question mark in dialogue even though it wasn't grammatically correct (because sometimes people say statements as questions even if they aren't) then no amount of firing back is going to change his opinion. The best thing you can do is say thank you and move on.

Same is true with agents/publishers. I've gotten a couple of rejections (see this post for one in particular) that were either misinformed or just blah, and of course, my first reaction is to fire off a letter pointing out the things I thought were wrong. And of course this is a very bad idea. A publisher will remember you for being polite and graceful. They will also remember you for being a nasty player. Always opt for the former. And? (see the question mark usage?) There is always at least a smidgen of advice you can use even in the most awful critiques. It's a talent, being able to wade through sludge to find the useful bits. Hone it. Someone took the time to read your writing. No matter how off they are you owe them a thank you.

Of course, with much that's true about writing, it can be applied to the real world. Like when I got fired. I could have blown a gasket, could have told my boss all I thought was wrong, all the frustration I've felt over the past two years, and lamented the fact that I was never offered a chance to voice those frustrations (no one was interested in hearing it). But I didn't. Mostly because I wasn't given a chance (big surprise!). But in retrospect I'm glad. I walked out quietly with my head held high. If given a re-do I would have taken my last paycheck, said thank you, and walked out the same way. Because seriously. Thank you for forcing me to do something I should have done long ago.

So my best piece of advice for a first-time author (I'm not sure what that means, by the way - am I a first-time author since I've not published? Is a first time author one who hasn't completed a novel?) is this:

Always be gracious. Even when you want to rip someone a new one, or maybe even two. Because being gracious and polite is much more powerful than being a loud-mouthed, opinionated hothead.

Point in case - the next time someone really pisses you off in the car (I never get road rage) and you want to yell, honk, or throw the finger, wave and smile. It's an amazing thing.


Jo Michaels said...

"Someone took the time to read your writing. No matter how off they are you owe them a thank you." SO TRUE! I don't get road rage either. Grace is a wonderful thing, huh? WRITE ON!

Lisa Cherry, said...

I agree with you and Jo. If we ask, then we have to deal with the consequences of that which might mean hearing what we don't like or don't want to hear. It's hard, but you are right...

Lisa x

S.P. Bowers said...

Excellent advice!