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If your inbox and Internet pages are like mine,
they’re flooded with messages from self-proclaimed experts.

Woman in computer room with many cups of empty coffee around her
A self-proclaimed expert (SPE)
 is…

  • a speaker on a topic for which he or she has little or no education or experience
  • a self-published author of a book for which he or she has little or no education or experience
  • a coach with little or no education or experience on the topic
  • a fill-in-the-blank/you-name-it person — again, with little or no education or experience on the topic

In other words, you can call yourself anything.
And people will believe you.

Young pensive business man in eyeglasses sitting on a chair

Granted, there are “degrees of knowledge.” Someone who has been there done that to any degree before you does have something to share… perhaps in a conversation, over coffee. But to stand and speak before a crowd, charge money, and publicize “professional services”…

Um. No. And ugh. And sigh.

(Most early-on-ers, myself included, thought we knew what we knew, but we didn’t really know… you know? It’s the downfall of many — if not all — SPEs.)

I know true professionals and experts, don’t you? 
True experts worked hard to get where they stand. They didn’t (intentionally or mistakenly) buff up reality and create a belief system proclaiming expertise. They did the work to get where they are.

architect on construction site

They’ve put in the down-and-dirty hours of brain-building, learning wisdom from those who’ve successfully gone before and practiced that knowledge within guided education, eventually earning certificates and degrees to show their commitment to their skills and craft. (It’s true, you don’t have to have a degree — but education is condensed experience and, by its nature, takes a person towards wisdom and skill.)

True experts have spent hours and hours in the trenches of doing the work in multiple jobs, communicating with numerous people in all kinds of levels of challenge. They’ve encountered so many experiences on the job that they can spot the issues, fix the problems, and give hard-core, powerful answers that make a difference. And this work isn’t solo; it’s through professionally interacting with many others, being accountable for your work quality and personal, professional growth — to someone else (many others) besides one’s self.

These are the true experts.

These are the people I want to reach out to, engage with, and learn from. These people, I’ll spend money on. I’ll spend time with those who invested and already made the mistakes. I’ll look to their failures and successes as a pattern for my own learning, growing, and becoming.
Pretty cheerful young woman drinking coffee.

This is the age of self-proclaim. You can self-publish a blog and a book, create social media accounts that look and feel professional, and hire a marketer. So much is said online, with people nodding heads and believing words that have no base in reality, little significance to help to those who need it, and off-kilter advice that takes dreamers and doers down meandering, even wrong, paths — away from healthy results and learned-it, earned-it satisfaction.

We’re truly being pushed and tossed by a flood of incompetence. And in that flood, the SPEs wave arms and reel in unsuspecting clients — when they should be taking their time to grow expertise, through education and experience: coming alongside the true experts to be mentored, sitting at their feet (as it were), soaking in their understandings. Putting in the hours learning. Earning the title, earning the trust. And becoming, so that at the right time, they can wear the badge, with honor and truth.

Good newsThe good news is this: Like the single boy with his finger in the dam, it only takes one true expert to block the flood and build solid competence in our personal and professional lives.

Let’s go for the experts.

*Thup
coffeeJune10-17
Erin M. Brown, MA/MFA (aka author Erin Brown Conroy/EB Conroy), is a professional writer/author/editor with a terminal degree in writing and over 20 years of experience, including as the author of eight books; thousands of articles and professional materials; marketing and web writing; multiple curricula on writing, reading, leadership, and communication; and over 50 online courses created and used across the world. A former professor of writing, research, leadership and management, and interpersonal communications at two different universities, Erin writes, coaches, and speaks internationally.

As an author, I’m obsessed with narrative. And maybe, just maybe, you could benefit from being obsessed with narrative, too.

Not because of the thrills of story writing– but because understanding narrative and its influence on you (and me) will make life easier, happier, and all around better.

 Honestly.

open book of family story

 A narrative is simply a story. People love story, and story is infused within all of life, externally and internally.

We live and breathe narratives.

Check it out:

  • Your day has a beginning, middle, and end. Like a story.
  • Your meals have a beginning (getting ready), middle (enjoying or not enjoying the food), and end (cleanup). Meals exist in a storyline.
  • Your work has places to go, things to do, people to meet. As in a storyline.
  • Your personal perspective makes you the hero. Your friends are the supporting characters. Those milling on the street or sitting next to you in the coffee shop are extras.

Narratives are cool. Storylines are exciting. They make us think, feel, and (ultimately), consider our own lives.

We translate and make sense of our lives through storyline.

WonderWoman
Watching the latest Marvel or DC blockbuster, we vicariously live the story, translating the hero’s feelings to ourselves, subconsciously asking, how would I respond?

Couple in a Serious Conversation

Listening and nodding when a friend recounts her day, we translate the feelings through our histories, subconsciously asking, what does this mean to me?

Personal narratives—what we tell ourselves about our experience—help us logically unfold what’s happening around us, decipher the challenges, and construe meaning from circumstances.

But the truth is, the internal story gets us into trouble.
Let me say that again.

The internal stories we tell ourselves get us into trouble.

Here’s why:

 Rubbing temples

You and I interpret the narrative wrongly, creating false stories. We don’t fully understand what’s going on, miss what someone means, and misconstrue the meaning of entire situations. For whatever reason, we fail to check for details, fail to check for understanding, and don’t have the perspective that will create positive meaning.

We jump to conclusions. Oy.
And the conclusions we tell ourselves can be quite off.

In fact—because we can only interpret the narrative from our “hero” point of view—our internal narrative, unless checked, is always skewed. Always. It’s skewed toward our biases. Skewed away from our prejudices. Twisted ever-so-slightly by our preconceived notions. Pushed back by our lack of knowledge or lack of experience with a topic or situation. Nudged away by our assumptions, bumped away by our history whispering its influence, and thrown away by our hurts.

false-rubber-stamp-print-vector-illustration_MyhjxG_u_L

We create false narratives: gap-filling parts of the story that are our own creations. They aren’t Truth. But we believe them as Truth. (As a human race, jumping to conclusions is our forte.)

And now the trouble begins. 

depressed business man
We act on the false narratives.
What we’ve said so many times in our heads becomes our Plastic Truth.  Over time, these fake parts of the story—the pieces that we’ve made up—actually cement into the gaps between Truth.

They feel real. We treat them as real. We call them real. And we don’t check for any other reality (true reality, not our created reality) because we’ve closed that door—it’s a done deal. We’ve turned the page and moved on to a new part of the story.

But we don’t see it. To our story-seeking minds, it doesn’t matter that the story parts are made up. Not at all. Our story-seeking, narrative-loving selves can’t be bothered with Truth.

blindfold

We believe the lies. And lies are destructive.

They just are.

3D man with red check mark

False narratives create negative thinking patterns, interrupt positive momentum, and destroy relationships. Yes, it’s that bad.

False narratives become a crutch. We tell ourselves internal stories to avoid facing mistakes. We create stories about others to pass the blame for our errors and to avoid the responsibility of changing. It’s oh-so-much easier to create a story where someone else is to blame than to confront tough things of life.

But the destruction of false narratives doesn’t stop there.

Teenager Fishing

False narratives grow. They simply don’t stay the same size. They expand, becoming the fish story of the one that got away, bigger and bigger, until Truth isn’t recognizable.

habits
False narratives become habits.
Filling in those gaps with story is, again, so much easier than engaging in conversation, seeking Truth, and dropping bias, prejudice, presumption, and preconceived notion. We slide toward what’s easy, and it’s a slippery slope.

Life doesn’t operate well when immersed in false narratives. Plans deteriorate. Projects fail. Relationships are lost, for the false stories we’ve crafted and rehearsed to ourselves and others. And for those reasons, Truth is our friend; false narratives are our worse enemy.

What’s the answer to fighting false narratives?

light bulb

Truth seeking. Opening minds to possibilities. Conversations. Admitting that we’ve fallen into authoring a filled-in narrative of our own making. Dropping anger. Admitting you may be approaching the situation without all of the information. Believing another story.

It takes a big person to seek true narratives. Big thoughts. A big amount of energy. And an even bigger amount of humility, openness, and kindness.

To “get it done” and make an impact, to be healthy in our work and play, and to be creating relationships instead of destroying them, true narratives are a must-have.

Here’s to being big.

*Thup

coffeeFeb5-14

Erin M. Brown, MA/MFA (aka author Erin Brown Conroy/EB Conroy), is a professional writer/author/editor with over 20 years of experience, including eight books; hundreds of articles and professional materials; marketing and web writing; multiple curricula on writing, reading, leadership, and communication; and over 50 online courses created and used across the world. A  former professor of writing, research, leadership and management, and interpersonal communication at two different universities, Erin writes and speaks internationally.

This is short. Fast. Easy to read.
And it’s important.
(Because if you want people to read what you wrote,
what’s here can help.)

Fact:
Whether it’s a web page, blog post, or article,
most people won’t read what you write.  

Seriously. Think about it.

Your long Facebook post.
Your blog page.
Your article.
Your web pages.

Web pages?
Yep. Most visitors read only 20% of your web page.

alseep at computer.jpg
“What?! 
All that time, energy, and money that I put into my site…and you’re telling me people are snoozing at the keys?” They’re doing more than that. They’re not even starting to read your words.

Truth. 

Bored at computer.jpgJust like this guy, people are bored, overworked, and bombarded by messages.

They want something meaningful — and they want it fast.

NOTE: If a person does share your words, most will share without reading them. People skim, smile/gasp/react, and share. Trust me. It’s true.

Even for fancy-schmancy academic stuff.
Only half of academic papers are read by someone
other than the author him/herself.

So. Here we are. And the question screams:
“What do I do, to make someone read my stuff?”

Happy businesswomen working late at night with office computer

Here are 4 simple ways to get people to read your page.
beach.jpg

  1. Get rid of visual noise.
    If pages had sound, most of our pages would be unbearably noisy.Like the beach picture here — with a strong focus and no distractions — make your words focus.

    * Bold, too-large, and all-cap letters yell at the reader.
    * Long paragraphs are hands waving in our faces to stop before starting.
    * Long lines, long phrases, long ideas are as background noise in a coffee shop:
    Soothing, perhaps, but not meaningful…and certainly not memorable.Think visual clarity.

    DO THIS:
    * Give yourself white space.
    * Make form clear and singular.
    * Write text narrow and simple.
    * Use bullet points, indents, and visual shape for clarity.

    boxing gloves.jpg

  2. Write short. Punchy. Powerful.
    Write fewer words: less is more.
    Choose words carefully; take time creating text.Get to the point faster.

    Enough said.

    white-men-holding-sign-one_zkgldv5O.jpg

  3. Stick to one point. Just one.
    Think benefit-action.

    What is the benefit your reader came for?
    Make sure it’s on the page first.

    Answer the reader’s nagging question, Should I stay?
    with, Yes. Here’s a benefit. Let me tell you about it. And
    now here’s what to do with it.

    googlemagnifyingglass.jpg

  4. Use competitive intelligence.Notice which pages you read and why you keep reading. Pattern your pages after successful existing pages.

    Big name companies, such as this one and this one, usually have concise, powerful pages. News sites like this one and this one show great headline writing. No need to reinvent the wheel. Pattern.

    * Note the lack of text on major company home pages.
    Note the easy click-through text directions.
    On secondary click-through pages, note the short, powerful text.

    Use the pros as guides.

    On this page — what you’re reading right now — what’s the point?
    Change the way you’re writing, and you’ll
    get more readers.

    It’s the way things are. Don’t fight it.
    More people will read your work, take action, and engage.

    * Thup
    coffee.jpg

    Erin M. Brown, MA/MFA (aka author Erin Brown Conroy/EB Conroy), is a professional writer/author/editor with over 20 years of experience, including eight books; hundreds of articles and professional materials; marketing and web writing; multiple curricula on writing, reading, leadership, and communication; and over 50 online courses created and used across the world. A  former university professor of writing, research, leadership/management, and interpersonal communication, Erin writes and speaks internationally.

This warning needs to be plastered high and low, all over the Internet.

I admit it: I’m angry. So this post will be strong. If you don’t mind it, read on.

There’s no way to say this nicely, but there are people everywhere calling themselves qualified writing coaches — who simply aren’t. These days, anyone can call themselves anything. Aspiring writers, beware!

Just saying you’re a coach simply doesn’t make you qualified.

Training and success concept
As a professional writer who has spent years and money perfecting the craft, the idea that someone is telling others what to do when they themselves truly don’t know but a surface knowledge — it creates more than an ew feeling — it leads to wha…? and oy! and argh! and grrr. 

Yes, I get upset over the arrogance and thievery. Leading others into falsity and lacking the moral integrity by doing so is just wrong. (And I hate it when unsuspecting people are “taken.”)

Please. Don’t be taken.

close-up-of-a-business-mans-hand-hiding-money-in-his-suit-jacket-pocket_SYVzguPRHj.jpgNews flash: Writing a blog does not make you a book-writing (or article writing) coach.  Writing basics — punctuation, grammar, sentence and paragraph structure — can be likely lacking…big time. Focus, style, and so on are VERY different from professional, published writing. And the know-how to write books that are publishable (keywords, are publishable) is special and learned over time and experience with education and training.

Blog writers calling themselves book writing coaches aren’t qualified and are wrongfully taking your money.

And another news flash: Writing or publishing one book does not make you a book-writing coach. Far from it. Qualified professional editors have coached that so-called coach/writer’s often bad writing into good text, and the manuscript has gone through significant editing multiple times — making the meandering, unfocused text into something linear and believable. The “coach” with the first-time published book had help. TONS of it. They do not know what they do not know. And now they THINK they know. They don’t. Again, this “coach” is wrongfully taking your money and most likely giving “advice” that’s off — simply trying to copy-cat the real coaching and professional skills that he/she has received (but lacks the experience to wield correctly).

There are basic guidelines in EVERY field for EVERY kind of coaching and consulting. And writing is one of them.

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So to help us all become grounded in reality (said with tongue in cheek) — and to be able to find a real, accomplished, capable, competent, equipped, knowledgeable, experienced, proficient, talented writing coach — here are eight critical questions and tips for choosing that QUALIFIED writing coach:

1. How many books or articles are published by the “coach” — books or articles that have been commissioned/hired out/they’ve been paid for the writing? (Note, again: We’re not talking about writing a personal blog.) Does this person have more than one…or two…seven or eight books published? Now it’s time to hire that coach.

2. Assuming the person has a number of published books, how are their sales? A couple hundred books sold does not make for a credible coach. And the sales should be stretched over time…as in years. Is he/she published with many years of sales? Hire that coach.

3. Is this person published by others or only self-published? Self-publishing is fine for those with a large professional platform — people who have been speaking or working in the professional realm and have a ready audience to buy the book (and has sold thousands of books at their speaking engagements). And those who have sold self-published books are approached by paying audiences for more. Note: If someone isn’t a seasoned speaker or educator with a ready audience, and they’re not selling their books at speaking engagements regularly, the self-publishing doesn’t count. Look for the coach who has had multiple books published by a reputable publishing company and has regular speaking engagements on how to write.

4.  How long has this person been writing professionally — actually being paid for their work in professional environments? True, people can write for years (and call themselves a writer), but to be paid to write, hired by others to write, is another matter. I’m not talking about being paid as a coach because you call yourself a coach and people may believe it and, unfortunately for the unsuspecting young writer, pay as an innocent, unknowing, trusting — but duped — “client.” Qualifications include being hired professionally as someone who knows and can wield the craft of writing. Has this coach been paid for his/her writing for years? Yep. Hire that coach.

5. Who has this person coached over the years (operative word, years), and has his/her coached clients’ results been noted publicly? Those with credible coaching experience have clients with paid-product results. Those under the tutelage of a credible coach have successes for all to see.

6. What is the person’s education — with the how-to’s of writing? Does he/she have any degrees or high-level training in the craft? Does he/she regularly travel and engage in professional how-to-write activities for writers (conferences, training). Is he/she a member of professional writing organizations? In writing, degrees, professional training, and being plugged into credible professionals counts. Does he/she have four years in English (or a related field such as education or literature), a master’s degree, or a terminal degree in writing? Hire that coach.

7. Does he/she professionally edit others’ work, and if so, how long has he/she done so? Editing is another skill set that takes years of training for excellence. If hired by reputable companies, institutions of higher learning, and high-level professionals for editing services — and they recommend the coach — then hire that coach.

8. Has this person designed or taught courses in the craft of writing (again, professionally, as in actually being paid for their teaching of writing)? Better yet, has a professional company or educational institution hired him/her to share the skills of writing with others? If reputable companies and educational institutions put their faith in — and money toward — that person, then hire that coach.

If you can’t answer more than one or two of these questions with multiple experiences as a paid professional writer, steer clear of the “coach.” Please. Check qualifications carefully. Don’t be taken. Save your money for those who really know what they’re doing — and have the experience, pay, and backing to prove it.

I care about you getting the BEST coaching — the TRUE coaching — that can actually help you become the writer you want to be.

Always my best,
Erin

*Thup
CoffeeApril19-17.jpg (Yes, this is my real coffee cup today. I don’t allow my coffee cup to pose as something it’s not. )

P.S. And to those of you reading this who are calling yourself a coach and you’re not qualified (you know who you are). . .  Please. Embrace integrity. Stop stealing people’s money and (if giving away “free coaching” deals) leading people astray. If you want to be a true, qualified coach, then keep writing, build your skills, and get the qualifications listed here. But don’t pass yourself off as something you’re not. Bad form.

P.P.S. This is not an advertisement for my coaching — although, I have to admit, the issue of unqualified “coaches” lying to the public about their abilities and taking people’s money drives me to want to get REAL information out there. I don’t care which qualified coach you use — simply (please) do the homework and avoid those newbies posing as qualified coaches. That’ll help me sleep well at night. Thanks, friend.

You’ve heard it said, fail to plan, plan to fail.
A strategic plan gets us places.

Or does it?

That can’t be, we say.
Our parents, teachers, and mentors taught us: without a plan, we’re ruined.

Before you (and I) get all depressed over the list of doomsday declarations on planning, let’s yell SPOILER ALERT and cut to the heart of the authors’ meaning:

It’s about action.

You (and I) can write business plans from here to kingdom come. In the end, you (and I) must act.

It’s a simple checklist:

  1. Focus on a viable idea.
    Do you have an idea that fills a need? That solves a problem? That goes where no man or woman has gone before, making something uniquely familiar accessible and enjoyable? Good. Go with it.
  2. Create a direction and first steps. 
    Plans change. Always. So let’s not spend all that time on details into infinity and beyond. In focused, quality time with focused, quality thoughts, frame the blueprint and pick up the hammer.
  3. Act. Move. Do.
    Stop making maps and scribbling sentences. Ask key questions. Think clearly. Make that frame and go.
  4. Tweak.
    In writing, in any creative endeavor, and in business — hands down, tweak is my favorite word… because tweak is code for regular assessment. It’s in the tweaking, the adjusting, that we keep the ship on course.

    To think, to plan, to do.
    Always tweaking.
    Always acting.
    Moving.
    Producing.

    May the chant of ACT! ACT! ACT! be a rally-cry to us all.

    *Thup
    coffee-mar-5-17
    Erin M. Brown, MA, MFA (aka author Erin Brown Conroy/EB Conroy), is the author of eight books; the owner of Celtic Cross Communications, a small media publishing group; a former university professor on writing, interpersonal communication, leadership and management, and strategic management; and a speaker on the ground and online. Contact Erin here.

Traditionally, the New Year is all about goal setting. We all know: Goals are standard, healthy, and good for us — both individually and as organizations. As entrepreneurs, creators, writers, and people of thought and action, we plan and set goals regularly. But sometimes life gets in the way, even at the start of the New Year, and we find ourselves not creating or revisiting solid goals.

Goal concept


Have you set goals recently?

No worries.
Today’s a good day to do it.

Even one goal is worth your time, this week.

As you set a date with yourself to create New Year’s goals, consider:  To set deep, meaningful, accomplishable goals, we need quiet. Quiet is where our minds speak the clearest. The place of being aware. Of listening. Of uncovering what’s holding us back. Because we all have things holding us back. And quiet can be hard to come by.

Enjoying life

Right now, I can’t sit on a beach like the person in the photo is doing. Michigan’s snow and ice takes me to a place like this:

coffee-shops
The coffee shop. 
It’s not quiet. It’s not private. But it’ll do, for now, until I can get to the beach or the woods or wherever my soul can listen. You and I can blur out the coffee shop’s surroundings and focus for a short time. We make it work.

Within quiet, you and I feel, hear, and see things we don’t usually feel, hear, and see. Through quiet, we’re able to open and examine whatever’s blocking our ability to act on our hopes and passions. Quiet has the power to lay bare the ropes entangling our souls.
fiber-rope_mjfxaiou
We all have ropes. History. Emotions. False beliefs. Each of these ropes causes confusion, not clarity.

To focus, create, and repeat,
we must have clarity.  


So as you get into your place of quiet for clarity’s sake, know that I and others who are reading these are doing the same, this week.
Because getting to healthy places, with goals and dreams and desires — and actions — is what we do.

Raising my mug to you,
Happy New Year and may it be highly successful
for you and yours,
* Thup
coffee-jan-1-2017

Most likely, you’ve been told a lie:
“Writing is hard.”

Writing is not hard to do. But it’s special to learn.
Special 
in that it’s a skill, just like anything else.
And learning skills is hard work.

                     1480707463_icon-154howcolour
Writing is the perfecting of multiple skills —
those little things to know and to practice
until you get really good at it
(once again, just like anything else).
_______________________________________

So if you want to write well, then you must
master the small things of writing.
_______________________________________

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The problem is,
there are so many darned small things.
(So many pieces…)

  • Choosing right words (“diction”)
  • Putting words in an order with the best sense (“syntax”)
  • Knowing (and using) the power of punctuation 
  • Choosing the sentence length with the right power to
    carry  the idea
  • Understanding and carving the form in line and paragraph
  • Choosing and molding complete ideas into bells that ring
    with concise, clear, crisp melody
  • Listening to the music of the words on the page, and then
    learning to tweak (edit) for the perfect symphony of sounds,
    rhythms, and ideas.

Yes, writing is music.  The clicks and pops, the lulls and smooth
waves of words washed together; the murky dirge or the poetic,
radiant light flitting across the page, forming the silvery line or
jagged intimation with power.

So.

I don’t believe writing is hard to learn. It’s just a lot to learn.
And it’s hard to perfect.
Yeah.

0000ofcomm-series-collapsed-1533808-639x436
Getting the pieces is work. Hard work.
Especially if you want to write a book.

George Orwell once said, ““Writing a book is a horrible,
exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful
illness. One would never undertake such a thing if
one were not driven on by some demon whom one
can neither resist nor understand.”

And another favorite…
neil-gaiman-writing-quote
(More like this…)

Well, then.
You want to write?
You 100% can.

(And you can do it well.)
But.
You have to really want it.

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Stoke the desire.
(set your mind and heart)

And find those places to learn.
Find the mentor. Take the class.
Read. And read some more.
Try out what you learn.
Grow the skills.
Work it.

Because the payoff is amazing.
It’ll feel so good, to master the pieces,
to hold that book, to leave the legacy,
to create, and to know that you finally
did it.

* Thup
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Today:
Dark Roast with a touch of soy milk

Hey, All — Great News!

“Simplified Writing 101: Top Secrets for College Success” just launched on Amazon!

(WOOHOO!)

SW101onAmazonMay31-16
You can get it here. The fun, how-to text for mastering academic writing has actually been used for 10 years in colleges and online, in AP English Language and Composition courses and now in high schools across the US.

I actually gave the content away for seven years. Why? It just seemed the right thing to do. Then, three years ago, the book was published digitally, and I can’t tell you how many emails I got, asking for the book to be in paperback.

So it’s here, in paperback. (And it’s SO cool.)

Again, if you’re interested, you can get it here.

Enjoy!

And to those of you who buy my book today — a heartfelt thank you. You’re amazing.
* Thup
CoffeeMay31-2016

old fashioned envelope
I received this email, today:

Dear Erin,

I am a professor at the University of Dallas, and I have been running a writer’s group for teenagers for about four years. [A student of yours] is one of the most active members. When he read a novel manuscript of mine, he recommended that I contact you for advice abut publishing.

I am very familiar with academic publishing–I can place nearly anything I write–but I really don’t know how to proceed with fiction; it seems a more difficult market to break into, and the sorts of credentials one needs aren’t the same. I’ve only made two tentative jabs at placing the manuscript–both over-the-r transom, unwise attempts.

If you can help, I’d like to make contact.

Many thanks,
[signature here]

typewriter
Here’s my response:

Dear [fiction writer person],

Hello, and thank you for connecting.

You’re right: Fiction can be more difficult to break into.

worry
Now, if you’re like me, you read that sentence and immediately, something inside slumped. Fight the feeling. Because agents and publishers are looking for new writers every day. Who’s to say you’re not the one they’re looking for?

(Encouragement of the day. Because writers, like everybody else on the planet, need encouragement.)

content folder
Regarding credentials to be a writer,
 I found it important to go back and get an MFA in fiction writing. And today, my learning continues to be constant…reading books on craft (always), listening to books on tape (for the flow and sound), being a member of professional groups (SFWA and SCBWI), and so on.

But credentials aren’t the end-all.

Because sometimes, along comes a newbie at a conference who makes you (and me) do a royal double take, injecting doubt into our writer world. You know who I’m talking about — the person who was published with their first book, the person with little to no background or training in writing — and POOF! They have a three-book contract and people drooling all over their work.

When I see that, BAM, my mind is uber-boggled and my spirit’s super-deflated. (Whoever decided at that conference to put a newbie in that speaking spot, um, please don’t do that again. She’s not the norm.)

wooden bodies
Oh. And all writers doubt themselves.
So, on that note, I say make peace with the doubt, buy some work gloves, and plow ahead.

Let me throw out a few more ideas on writerly success.

critical
Making connections at conferences is critical.
Being known in your circle is critical. Who you know does open doors.

On manuscript submissions: Follow the must-follow bits — and make sure you’re submitting to those agents only looking for your kind of story (the old, do your homework on the agents to whom you submit thingy).

Which brings me to agents.

Time-to-go
For fiction,
yes, getting an agent is important — because the agent’s relationship to publishers is much more imperative for selling your fiction book than for your non-fiction work. An agent has the special relationship where he/she can jump out of the fishbowl, visit the other side, and make the connection for us.

For nonfiction: Especially if you’re a speaker or have any kind of ready-and-waiting audience, you can publish non-fiction on your own and, by golly, make some good money doing it. In fact, in today’s market and social media frenzy, if you have a platform and audience, I believe self-publishing a given. Do it.

But for fiction — again, we’re juggling the proverbial apples and oranges. Seek and land the agent.
gold key

So. The question of the day:
Is there a lock turning gold key to getting published in fiction?

Not really.

But I can leave you with my five-point advice list (because five is a cool number for these kinds of things) that can up the chances of it happening sooner than later. 

performance 1 - notebook and pen
1. Write.
Then write some more. Keep the craft honed. Join a writing group to keep you accountable, or have a good friend who keeps tabs and asks for a daily word count.

My writing time has to be purposefully planned. I meet a group of three other writers monthly; I’m in an online group with alumni from my MFA program that posts monthly; and a screenwriter/director friend I meet with a few times a month, too. Then, on my own, I have writing dates (with myself) that I regularly schedule into my calendar.

Make your in-the-chair writing a calendar priority.

Story-book
2. Read.
Then read some more. Know what’s getting published and why. Be a competitive intelligence geek, to find what makes good writers tick, tock, and trounce the market.

As I said earlier, I like to listen to stories, in order to feel the pace, hear the rhythm, and catch the power of crisp dialogue.

Whether reading in print or listening on audio, we’ll find the reasons why certain books are published. Understand the reasons. And when you come across a “bad” book, be encouraged that you can do better.

iphone
3. Learn.
Never stop growing the craft. Ever. My bookshelf overfloweth. My Kindle and Audible account droneth on and on. Blogs? I read ’em. Videos? I watch ’em. To learn is to become is to up the chances of publication.

If you want to be a fiction writer, truly, then always grow.

microphone
4. Develop your voice.
Voice in fiction is critical. Heck, voice in any kind of writing is critical. But for story, that extra pizzazz can be what the agent and publisher have been looking for.

It took many years for my writing voice emerge. I say, be like Dori: Just keep swimming. And, because it’s a part of who you are, your voice will emerge.

links
5. Attend.
Go to conferences. Get to know people. Build relationships. Pitch to agents. Then sit across from the agent at lunch and get to know her. Don’t, mind you, follow her into the bathroom to ask a question (oh my!) –and do be a normal person who isn’t cray cray or google-eyed in their presence. Resist the urge.

A highlight of my MFA program was hanging with multi-published (“famous”) authors and absorbing cool-beans-know-how from them. Squeezed into a booth and eating pizza with Kevin Anderson is up there on the list…not because I learned some fabulous, single-gem nugget of knowledge that magically took me to breakout-novel status — but because his demeanor and everyday how-he-runs-life-as-a-writer stuff grounded me into the fact that we’re all just people trying to tell stories.

So there you have it. My simple thoughts. They’re not ground-breaking, and I’m sure you’ve heard most (if not all) of it before.

We both know: The knowledge is there.
And we also know: It’s what we do with it that counts.

Here’s to keeping on.
* Cheers
(*Thup)

Erin

 

On writing, Neil Gaiman once said, “You sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy and that hard.” And another wise mind once said, “Do or do not; there is no try.” Though Yoda and Neil have the same idea – that the bulk of writing is found in physically sitting on the divan and simply doing the stuff of it – there’s more to writing than meets the chair.

It’s true: To write, one must do. But to write with style, ah—now that means going beyond the doing to exercising the five must-haves of great writing.

First, good writing is logical. It makes sense. Whether writing truth or fiction, good writing flows in a linear path—a path natural to both the writer and the reader. It’s important to know how to write plausibly, rationally, and reasonably, so that others understand our mind’s path from beginning, to middle, and to end.

Second, good writing moves us—both in the physical rhythm of the text and the content’s compelling, progressive nature. Like good music, good writing has a physical sound and pace naturally stirring us forward. Aside from the clicking consonance or mellow-o assonance of the singing sounds that all words possess, creating a rollicking or lulling movement, the emotions embodied within our text must also move. Like birds on a wire, one after another stretched along the dotted-line cable and, eventually, rising to fly away, the compelling internal nature of the meaning of the phrase must lead us along and, with lifted wings, move us to act.

Third, good writing engages. To engage is to touch emotion that pleases, allures, rivets, or even horrifies. Engagement can incite terror or pleasure, rage or contentment. Whether in the smiling hail of a friend or lodged in the highway accident coercing the eyes to stay on the wreck, you and I are drawn to emotional engagement.

Fourth, good writing is powerful. Even in academic settings, a writer’s goal is to unleash the power of the word. Powerful writing takes breath from our lips, makes our heart race, and creates desire. The power of writing lies in our ability to choose single words as well as smoothing and stacking words into phrases eliciting powerful feelings.

Finally, good writing is clear. Clear writing gives understanding. Without following the phrase’s meaning, as displayed by the reader’s every thought walking in the very footsteps of the writer’s intention, the reader looses her way. In great writing, clarity reigns supreme.

 To write is to do. By capturing the skills and practicing the art, writing becomes easier as we do, and do, and do. As Philip Roth says, writing is to “turn sentences around” and then to look “and turn it around again.” It’s in the turning that we find our writing becomes logical, moving, engaging, powerful, and clear.

* Thup
coffeeMay21-14

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