Friday, May 18, 2007

Is All Feedback Equal?

by Billie A Williams ©2007

We have a tendency to think anything negative — is—well, negative. Did you ever stop to think that it probably has more to do with YOUR attitude than the feedback? Jack Canfield has been my mentor this week, as you no doubt can tell, and boy does he ever change your attitude about things.

Let’s take negative feedback – such as we might get with a rejection. What if you were to take a look at that rejection, that negative feedback and say: “Hey, this is information that I can use. This is information about an improvement opportunity.”

Say what? An improvement opportunity? Ask yourself these questions.
Does caving in and giving up gain you your objective, your goal?

No it keeps you stuck in the same place you were before you got it.

Does getting mad at the source of the feedback pull you out in front of the pack?
No—it pushes the person away from you. They tried to help or tried to guide you and you rejected them as a person instead of looking past the anger to see what they were saying.

Does ignoring the feedback get you closer to your goal?

That is a loaded question because you do need to weigh the feedback you are getting. If it seems right, after you analyze it in a non-combative state of mind, then you owe it to yourself to incorporate it into your path toward your goal.

You need to think of feedback as correctional guidance, as a steering force in your pursuit of that brass ring – whether that is publication, an agent, a 6-figure contract with a big-name publishing house or the New York Times Best-Seller list

Be willing to ask for feedback. If you don’t ask for it, you may be missing the opportunity to improve what you have. Make a good novel great—a good attempt a breakout best-seller. Don’t be afraid to ask. When you do ask LISTEN with all your heart and mind. “Feedback is the gift that helps you be more effective,” says Jack Canfield.

He also cautions that not all feedback is accurate. One test he recommends is looking for patterns. If several people are telling you the same thing you may as well accept that there is likely some truth to it. Would you rather stand your ground and feel you are right? Or, would you rather be successful? Accept feedback, use it to build by reconstructing, re-thinking what you are trying to do.

Responding to being off course, or your reaction to that feedback…So what do you do once you get some feedback?

Acknowledge and accept that you actually did the best you could with what you had at the time. That includes your skills, your knowledge, and experiences.

Look back on what you have done so far. You survived. You can cope with the end result so far…you have finished your manuscript, it needs work – you can survive that. You can re-do with constructive feedback, make it what you thought you had created — a piece of work that will garner respect and admiration for your talents.

Write down everything you learned from the experience, your insights, your lessons and ways that you can do it better next time. Or, in the case of this manuscript tweak it until it sparkles with your very best work.

Now here is a biggy!

Thank everyone for their feed back and insights. Gratitude is the most significant Karma you can cultivate. If that feedback is hostile feedback, use what you can and dump the rest, but thank that person for their time, and consideration, their willingness to give you their opinion.

Another caveat, do not try to hide failure. Clean up the mess, apologize if it’s necessary – and move on. This probably would apply to other areas more than writing except if you’ve done sloppy research and purported facts that weren’t true etc.

Take time to go back and review your successes. Sometimes, negativity seems to hit you below the belt and you owe it to yourself to review the good that you’ve done and do. Regroup and spend time with some positive, loving friends, family and coworkers who can reaffirm your worth and contribution. The very fact that someone likes and cares about you is enough to rebuild your faith in yourself.
Now that you’ve wallowed in some good vibes its time to refocus on your vision, your dream, your major goal. Incorporate the lessons you’ve learned. Recommit to a new plan of action to get you on course and out there. You are ready – so do a Nike™!


Thursday, May 17, 2007


By Billie A Williams © 2007

According to Jack Canfield (Chicken Soup for the Soul, author) “Some will, some won’t, so what—some one’s waiting.” That, he calls the SWSWSW principle. A returned manuscript is just a signal you need to move it to the next one, the editor you seek is not at the address where you sent it THIS time.

He should certainly know. He and his co-author Mark Victor Hansen – received a total of 130 rejections for the first Chicken Soup for the Soul book. Even after they pounded the pavement and got over 2,000 people to agree to buy the book if it ever got published, publishers wouldn’t touch it. So they self published….and then — as Paul Harvey says, ‘the rest of the story’ you are well acquainted with. Wouldn’t you be inclined to believe someone who believed so adamantly in his book, so strongly that he went on until it was published — that book alone sold 8 million plus copies and was the beginning of an 80 book series of best selling books that have been translated into 39 languages.

Canfield also says that you must ask for what you want. Don’t be vague, because a vague question gets any number of answers from the universe. “Asking is, was and always will be a numbers game,” he says. Asking specifically for what you want is the only way to get it. You must keep asking until you do get it. Eventually, you will.

The first no, whether it’s for a job, money, a date, or even publication of your manuscript means you are just not a match. There is nothing personal about it. Just say next! The view from Canfield’s position is that when someone says no – you haven’t lost anything, you haven’t been rejected – you are no better or no worse off than you were before you asked – so status quo is maintained, you have not failed. The situation didn’t get worse, it didn’t change – you are no worse off than before – however, if you internalize it and beat yourself up, you could make yourself believe you are no good, you are as low as they come on this earth. But, why would you do that? Instead, why not just accept that you didn’t match and move on to NEXT! Who or whatever that might be.

There are over five billion people on our planet earth. Someone, somewhere, sometime will say yes. “Don’t get stuck in your fear or resentment. Move on to the next person. It’s a numbers game and someone is waiting to say yes.” Canfield says.

An observations shared by Barbara Kingsolver author of The Poisonwood Bible.
“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.”

The record for the largest number of rejections today (so far at least) would be John Creasey, a popular British mystery writer. He collected 743 rejections before he sold his first book. Over the next forty years he published 562 full-length books under 28 different pseudonyms! That’s equal to a book a month for 40 years. I just found my new goal. If I can’t break the record for the most books published (and that may even be doable) perhaps I can catalog the most rejections.

My new motto SWSWSWSW
Some will, Some Won’t, So What! Some one’s Waiting!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


And your first line
by Billie A Williams © 2007

Spending a lot of time on that first line, that first paragraph — the hook of your story-- Is it worth it? Compare what you have come up with now with that of a couple authors and we’ll look at something that speaks of perseverance and polishing, and pushing through to get there.

Michael Crichton wrote State of Fear, here is the first line from that book.
“In the darkness, he touched her arm and said, ‘Stay here.’ She did not move, just waited. The smell of salt water was strong. She heard the faint gurgle of water.”

We talked about that first line before. Well ,what we didn’t discuss before was Michael Crichton’s career. He won both Emmy and Peabody awards. Crichton created the TV show ER and his books have sold over 100 million copies in 30 languages, 12 were made into films and he directed 7 of them.

Crichton’s books and films include: Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, Congo, Twister, and Westworld to name a few. He was the only person in the United States to have the number-one book, the number-one movie and the number-one television show all at the same time. That is some kind of record to emulate, wouldn’t you say?

“Books aren’t written—they’re rewritten,” Crichton says.

That may be true. Ernest Hemmingway wrote Farewell to Arms 39 times (or should I say re-wrote) before he was satisfied that he had ‘gotten it right’. Let’s look at his first sentence in that book.
“In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.”

Is that enough to pull us in? Sure, we think 'so what?' and 'What year?' But is it enough? Hemmingway probably knew it wasn’t. But the rest, the first paragraph, speaks to us further, let’s read on.

“In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white [emphasis mine] in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.”

This paragraph presents a nearly ominous feeling of troops marching and leaves falling early. Is he hinting that the men who marched by were too young to fall like the leaves off a tree early—early in their lives? He starts and ends the paragraph with the “dry – and white", then bare and white”—neatly packaging what he wants us to see and feel.

If Hemmingway could rewrite A Farewell to Arms 39 times to get it right, what makes us think our first draft is perfect, what makes us think once is enough? Not that we should be paranoid and never let go, never finish tweaking. You need to be satisfied at some point. But working on it is never a waste of your time.

Another example of going the extra mile, persevering, for your career is M. Scott Peck – his non-fiction book—The Road Less Traveled — he believed so strongly that it was a good book worthy of being read and re-read he invested himself in the marketing and promotion of it by being interviewed on 1,000 radio shows in the first year after it was published. Did he stop there? No, for the next 12 years he did at least one interview a day at the minimum on radios wherever he could.

His book hit the New York Times Best-Seller list and stayed there for over 540 weeks (a record) selling 10 million copies in over 20 languages.

I venture to extrapolate that the messages here are perseverance pays off whether it is in tweaking your story for the 39th or 100th time, or getting out there and hawking your wares once it is published.

If you want to succeed in this game of becoming a highly successful author you have to walk the walk and talk the talk, but then you have to get out their and promote until you make it. INVEST IN YOURSELF! As Mark Joyner would say “Hit it until you hit it!” or put another way “Fake it until you make it!” as Wayne Dyer says.

Monday, May 14, 2007


by Billie A Williams © 2007

“For your writing to have depth, you must experience life to the fullest.” [Rob Parnell, ]

Does that mean you have to go out and sky dive even though you are afraid of heights just so you can write well? I think not! I doubt even John Grisham or Patricia Cornwell have sky dived. Your background can provide a rich tapestry from which to draw or intense fantasies provide varying degrees of depth and intrigue to your writing.

For instance fantasy author Brenda Kleager isn’t satisfied to sit and dream up fantasy worlds – she is continually experimenting with new ideas, new venues—researching and developing her worlds, her characters. And, when she is not designing characters or worlds, she designs jewelry and book thongs and more for authors [ ], or she is writing books on natural/holistic topics. She is a teacher, she is a mother, she is a student, and she can move across town or across states without taking a second to pause for a breath. In my book, she is a prime example of living life intensely, going for the brass ring every day in everything she does. She is the Literary Specialist (Little Professor) at offering her abilties to help others.

As writers we come to discover, writing itself seems to add intensity to our lives. The very act of thinking on the page, developing characters to people our stories, designing plots to wrap around the guidelines of the genre we are patterning our story to fit, personal growth, achievement and spiritual fulfillment help to develop the writing and the person/author.

Dealing with rejection takes a certain kind of chutzpah and writers become adept at handling it and moving on. That takes intense living. Believing in yourself enough when some others don’t seem to, takes a certain kind of courage and perseverance. It is an experience, it is growth and it is living without walls when you defy that rejection and dare yourself to try one more time.

Think of yourself as Einstein – not 10,000 failures but 10,000 experiments that didn’t yield the desired outcome—yet! If dyslectic Einstein can be an inventor of great things, how could one little rejection stop you who are living intensely, while wringing every drop of power out of every second of life?

Becoming a successful writer is the ultimate gamble as you risk your self-esteem, your livelihood, your ego on the belief that you can succeed. Living life intensely doesn’t need to be living recklessly; it just means challenge yourself to do the thing you fear. Stretch yourself, to do the thing that helps you grow, helps you gain experience that can be used in your career. Fear is the energy for change that fuels your growth. Fear nothing.

There is a saying around that “nothing is wasted on a writer” and I think this is true. What other profession lets you use every single thing that— rules your day, or spoils your mood, or elates you, or crashes your dreams, yet allows you to further your career? Live it for all you are worth, whatever the day may bring and you will be living your life intensely. Look at those dreams in your background while you were still young enough to dream, before someone told you you couldn’t, that it was a foolish waste of time – dream again—it isn’t a waste of time – it’s time moving you to stretch and try and be all that you can be! YOU’RE UNSTOPPABLE! Live your life that way.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Write What You Love to Read

I’m sure if you’ve read any books on how to write you’ve run into this phrase or something similar “Write what you love to read.”

Okay, someone will say, “I don’t have time to read. I want to be a writer.” My question is then; would you like to be as prolific a writer as Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, or even Nora Roberts? Would you like to gather fans like Janet Evanovich or Rita Mae Brown? They all will tell you, “if you don’t have time to READ you don’t have time to WRITE. If you don’t read you can’t write.” Reading what others write in a genre that you would like to write in, is like working toward a degree at the University level. You see how your favorite authors do it. You see how the best sellers among them got to be ‘Best Sellers.’

Researching markets to sell your writing to is useless if you don’t know the subtleties of writing for that market. What are the constructs? What do those readers expect in their books? After all it is your readers that you need to write for, not some publisher although eventually you need to please that publisher. The route to that publisher is still—what do his readers want? Know that genre and know it well and you will find a publisher.

Reading a Janet Elaine Smith novel – where the reader always is guaranteed a happy ending is quite different than reading a Stephen King novel – where you learn to expect the unexpected. Smith’s novels lean toward humor, though she writes mystery. King’s lean heavily on shock value to grab his readers. Smith turns ordinary into warm, relaxing and fun reading. King turns the ordinary to chaos or terror. You need to know the genre you are writing in, inside and out.

Reading one of my novels – depends greatly on the constructs of mystery and suspense, or in my Young Adult book Watch for the Raven, historical suspense. While the style is suspenseful, it still needed to conform to the young adult genre’s expectations and rules.

Thankfully, when it got to my editors, they found the flaws in my work. Being it was a historical; it also had to follow historical guidelines. You cannot fluff just because the past may be documented by interpretation, you still need to have basic facts that everyone believes to be true, which have been thoroughly researched to support those facts – correct in your novel. I learned that from my editors. Thankfully it wasn’t an angry reader who would never pick up another novel I wrote because this one disappointed her.

If you read those genres you want to write in, you will know what the reader has come to expect from them. Fiction cannot be a lie when it purports to use facts. I learned that lesson in Watch for the Raven and I am very thankful for knowledgeable and exacting editors at Wings ePress for that book being all it could be. That is another reason why taking courses in your chosen genre is an excellent idea. It gives you the framework to support your writing. You can do without the classes if you are good at tearing apart a book and finding its structure. If you can determine where the author uses red herrings and why in a mystery, or how Angela Verdenius, or Bradley James Simpson created their worlds to support their novels and design a formula similar to that you are ahead of the game. How do they make their worlds believable is only one of the many questions you need to answer if you want to write Fantasy or Science Fiction. Reading in those fields will show you the way if you read like a writer looking for the formula.

If you can’t or won’t spend time immersing yourself in the works of writers that you enjoy and want to emulate, how can you expect to come out of the gate as number one or even in the race? The publishing world is looking for the next big seller—they don’t care how long you’ve worked on your novel. They don’t care if you’ve lived it—unless you are a celebrity. What they want is a book in the genre their readers expect but unique from all the others. Here is a big secret – don’t worry about the uniqueness – you already are that. There is only one of you and therefore, no one can write your book—only you. Now all you have to do is cater to the genre rules and guidelines know them and know how you can break them without losing readers and you will get published.

So grab a stack of books by authors you’d love to write like and get busy reading, like a writer reads. If that happens to be mystery/suspense or young adult historical, I hope you will choose my books. Whatever you choose I wish you luck and a best seller. READ ON! WRITE ON!

Friday, May 11, 2007


I could put a number in front of that title— say-- 10 habits or whatever – but why would I? If you’ve followed my blog for long, you know that I say “Successful Writer’s Write Every day" no matter how they feel, what’s going on in their day, or if they don’t have a pencil to their name. Anyone who wants to be a writer will talk the talk, and walk the walk. So if I were numbering these points I would call number one the “Develop the will to write daily,” priority, number one on your to do list – Let's start by calling it what I prefer to call it, your goals list.

Everyday you meet people who say "I want to write a novel. I have this great idea," yet they never sit down to get page one started. As Rob Parnell ( ) has said on numerous occasions “If you want to write novels you have to start NOW [emphasis mine] immediately, and not put it off any longer."

In this world ,we can save money for a rainy day – but we have not found out how to save/bank time for when we want it at some future date – NOW is all you have. If not NOW, When?

Setting goals for yourself is one way to get a finished project. Say you agree to write three pages a day – hey, if you do that everyday, you’ll have nearly 1,100 pages in a year – that could easily equal three novels.

Be sure when you are involved in that goal setting that you commit to finish projects. Getting 300 books, or articles, or essays started—does not equal a finished, saleable project. Check those idea faeries at the door. Write down their intrusion with a great idea and then continue on to finish your current project before you grab up one of her sparkling new ideas.

It has been said that it takes 21 days to create a habit. My challenge to you is, if you want to be a writer – write at least three pages every day for the next 21 days. Pick a time convenient for you —morning, evening — it makes no difference when. What does make a huge difference is that you do this. Twenty-one days isn’t a long time, it isn’t a month, it isn’t hardly worth mentioning time-wise, but once you do it—you have formed a valuable HABIT, a precedence, a ritual, a practice, which will eventually get you to your goal of becoming a writer, perhaps even a published author.

So get started today. What have you got to lose, except perhaps your fear of getting started.