After notification and proper credit, I'm happy to share these articles--just contact me at janet at janetlane.net and thank you in advance!
Nightmare in the Kitchen
by Janet Lane
Before being offered a contract, my goals were pretty simple: advance at a fairly good clip on my work-in-progress, be thinking of ideas for the next book, improve my craft with each writing and critique session, and keep my Hope-in-the-Mail chart active, which means continually submitting to agents, editors and contests where my work will be evaluated and hopefully loved.
The biggest advantage of pre-publication life is its simplicity. I'm a deep-focus kind of person meaning, given the option of juggling several activities at once or diving deeply into one big project, I'd take the latter.
Now, however, I find myself (just as my pubbed friends told me would happen–you guys were right, curse you :-) in a difficult position. Like a chef who has a pot on each of all four burners of the stove and two dishes and biscuits in the oven, I'm glancing in all directions at once to see which pot is closest to boiling over and needs my attention the most.
Most critical is the main course: the manuscript. Burn that, and there'll be no decent meal. Four hundred pages of story, colored with edit marks that need reviewing, approval or compromise. My editor had no big issues with my book--a real plus--so I haven't been flailing in a complicated stew of major revisions.
It is, however, the last time I get to make changes to this manuscript. This is one of those duh-how-basic realities that's taken me by surprise. I'm not ready to surrender the manuscript because, once this book is in published form, my characters will be sealed in time. They will finally escape the constant intrusion of my pen.
You see, they're like good friends by now. I started this novel in summer, 2001 and finished it some time in early 2002. I've been in and out of Trinket-land ever since, revising, polishing, or just visiting, knowing I could change as I go along.
Now this deadline is looming (just a day away as I write this), and I need to coordinate all these dishes, serve them up to the fine company waiting in the dining room, and set my characters free with all the flaws they still possess, despite my best efforts.
Every moment counts. My mind is active, racing as I try to sleep. My characters call. That troublesome back story detail is still not in the right place, Janet. And the hero's marriage proposal. You wanted to polish that just a little more, remember? Toss, turn. Find a better way to reinforce the theme of permanence and belonging. Open eyes wide in worry, see nothing in the darkness. Toss, turn. You overwrote the first meeting scene. Make it sound more natural.
More professional, because you're going to be a published author now.
Pressure. And another day at the keyboard, tinkering with and polishing what I thought was already finished.
And if that isn't daunting enough, my editor has asked for more than the manuscript. She has a long list of required documents, so long a list that she's numbered them, turning what I thought was a simple meal into an elaborate banquet.
The cheese sauce is smoking on the back burner: I need to write a hundred-word synopsis. The microwave dings for the mushrooms: she wants me to send a back cover blurb. The shrimp is drying out: I haven't written my author bio yet. And the first curl of smoke spirals out of the biscuits in the oven; I need to select a two-page scene for the teaser.
I realize I've forgotten a salad: she also wants author quotes about the book, and I haven't even printed an ARC yet. Dessert? What? Five paragraphs of setting and character descriptions for book cover ideas?
Ack! And I don't have my web site up, and I don't have a press kit, and I don't have a ...
My work-in-progress calls to me. The characters are hopelessly stuck, frozen in chapter ten. They've tragically lost their physical features. What color were his eyes? Is she the red-head, or the bleached blond? Which one has the abandonment issues again? Where are my plot notes?
And here's where I tell you my secret: I didn't see any of this coming! Weeks ago I was floating along on a natural high, deep in a state of bliss that after seven years I'd been offered a contract. Having neglected my family during the launching of my most recent novel, I had volunteered for two big events and one field trip at my daughter's high school.
As luck would have it, two of the events - multiple days of volunteering for the library's physical inventory and chaperoning a day-long field trip - fall within the ten-day period my editor gave me to prepare all these materials.
And, on the side burner, I have an email critique session today and this column is now due.
Like an old I Love Lucy episode, I jog through the kitchen wiping up the spills and checking my cookbook again, wondering how the menu became so complicated.
Well, I'm out of time, and I still need to serve all these dishes. Back to my editor's list. Hoping your life is less hectic than mine, and that your writing is going smoothly.
Fear of success
by Janet Lane
Last month we looked at fear of failure and how it can thwart our hopes of getting successfully published or, if already published, how this fear can prevent us from achieving the moderately wonderful recognition we desire.
From Ralph Keyes' Courage to Write we learned there are three reasons a writer won't succeed as an author:
1. S/he won't finish the book.
2. S/he won't find an agent or an editor
3. S/he will get dead-ended.
Fear of success. How sick is that? What drives writers who have sacrificed so much to learn craft, joined writers' and critique groups and battled through first chapters and murky middles, only to throw in the towel in the eleventh hour?
Odd as it sounds, there are pay-offs in not completing or submitting.
1. It's safe. You can avoid being rejected.
2. You can hide. If your material isn't rejected, there's less pressure to change aspects of your writing that might surface as problems with concrete feedback.
3. It's better to wallow in self-contempt than take the risk.
As writers, we're familiar with motivations for our characters. Let's turn the table and examine our own motivations. What would motivate us to sabatoge our own dreams? What aspects of success might scare us enough to keep us from attaining our goals?
Is it writer's heaven, or writer's hell? Remember that cartoon that circulated some months ago? It showed St. Peter accompanying a recently-deceased writer to two doors. Through one door, several writers were hunched over their keyboards, typing away. "These are unpublished writers," St. Peter said, shaking his head. "This is hell."
The writer hurriedly slammed the door and opened the other one. Through the second door, several writers were hunched over their keyboards, typing away. "These are published authors on deadline." He smiled. "This is heaven."
We've seen successful authors, stressed out with deadlines, never having time for social activities and just a chance to relax. Their shoulders are tense, their brows are furrowed, they pour over their sales numbers, worried. They're dissatisfied with their advances, frustrated with rejections that seem to always plague writers, published or not.
"Who needs that?" The subconscience, trying to protect us, takes notice. Do you really want to be tied like a slave to a computer? Do you really want deadlines and an editor's unending whims to dictate your life? Do you really want your joy to become a job?
Good-bye, comfort zone. How ironic that that which we desire so deeply can cause a plethora of problems in the subconscious.
Fear of accomplishment. A successful author must do a lot of public speaking, which just happens to be one of the biggest fears for most people. A successful author can alienate fellow writer friends who do not enjoy the same level of success. This also happens with many marriages when one partner soars with success and the other flounders. You may lose the good friends you have, only to have them replaced by false friends who just want to bask in the warmth of your fame.
Fear of being honored. "I don't deserve it." Yes, that inner voice that tells you you're not good enough. It's strong enough to sabatoge your goals.
Fear of being recognized. To step from the privacy of an obscure, wannabe author to the high-profile world of a very successful author can be intimidating. In this world of crazies who stalk famous people, even kill them and kidnap their children, do we really want to draw attention to ourselves and lose the privacy and safety that we enjoy now?
Fear of gaining success then losing it. Not everyone believes it's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. That goes for success, too. How humiliating to follow success with failure. People may point at us, shake their heads with pity.
We also fear success because it may steal our time, our freedom to do what we want with our lives.
All these factors stew inside us, disturbing that mental alignment I described last month, interfering with our ability to focus forward and courageously reach for the Ring.
Curiously, the cure for fear of success is similar to the cure for fear of failure.
Acknowledge the fear. Use the list above, including those that pertain to you, and amplify it. What scares you about success? Determine the payoff on every fear to see if it's a valid fear, or an emotionally based fear stirred by your critical inner voice that may think, for example, that writing is really a frivolous activity. Once you identify your fears and understand why you've held onto them, you can forgive yourself.
Develop a support system. Find what Margie Lawson calls a Change Coach, someone who understands and supports your dream, someone who has a similar dream. Develop goals, be accountable to each other.
Push through the fear. There are many ways to do this. Consider yourself a rebel and Just Do It. Push yourself past your comfort zone, just for one day. Then look back. Did you emerge unscathed? Okay, then, try it again for the next day. If you encounter hazards, call your support friend and get an unbiased opinion and encouragement.
Some innovative suggestions I've heard about conquering fear:
Write FEAR on a piece of paper. Tear it up.
Use the principles of neurolinguistic programming. Take your fear, close your eyes, play it out in your imagination, the worst that could happen, make it brutally detailed. Then, using the image of a videotape replay, rewind it in your mind and play it back in the most positive way you can envision. Your subconscious will see this, will hear this. With repetition and determination, it will respond to this.
Consider this bit of advice from "The Fear of Success" in Psychology Today: "All fears of success would go away if you totally took your power back. In fact, our very deepest fear is that when we really reclaim our power and succeed, we have to face the knowledge that we have always been powerful to change all along and that we could have changed a year or five or 10 years ago."
Change comes from choice and we have always had that power.
Copyright 2008, 2009 Janet Lane, Author. All Rights Reserved.