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Be Positive by Lea Schizas

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Mother Hen's Bin - Editor - Lea Schizas
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As a writer, but most importantly, as an editor, I have come across emails from writers who have doubted their writing capability. To them I want to say "Be Positive".


The writing world is a hard business. You need dedication, persistance, and above all, perseverance if you are going to make it. And by 'make it' I don't necesarily mean a best seller, but to complete a writing project.
We each have our dreams of what 'making' it means:
-to finish a tale to present to family and friends
-to finish a tale for publication for the whole world to read
-to see our book made into a movie
-to get to the Oprah Writing Club and mention/interview by Oprah herself
-to simply finish a writing project for our own self-gratification
Whatever reason you have, you need to get out of a slump and back on that writing table every chance you have.
Some of the emails I have received go along this line, with my responses immediately after:
"Hey, Lea. I don't think I'm cut out to be a writer. I've been reading some of the work from other members and I don't think I have the same caliber as them."
My response: "Everyone's style is different, depending on the genre they write. What you need to do is NOT look and compare your writing to theirs but to study their writing voice and see how yours can improve or differentiate itself from other styles out there. Once you begin to doubt yourself, it will show in your writing. So go back and ponder why you began to write in the first place, and that writing feeling will inspire you once again."
"Can you tell me how to get published?"
Now, I have to say this question always makes me smile, but in the same breath, it also brings out a side in me which wants to shout. I am not a mean person but this type of a question gives me the impression this writer has not read enough on the subject on writing. There is no simple answer to this question as there is no easy way of getting published. Even self-publishing is not as simple as some may think. Money, time, effort, editing...all these elements are needed to get published, in one form or another.
My response: "You need to look at the books you have in your library at home. These are books you have chosen which means you are interested in this type of genre or style of writing. Study these writers, look up  their publishing houses, then hop on over to their website and study their submission guidelines before you submit your manuscript to them. Also, research agents who accept these types of genre, and make sure to check who they've published and where. Getting published is hard work and alot of reseach on your behalf. Omit these steps and your chances of publication are lessened. You just may be one of the lucky ones to have a friend who knows a friend who knows a publisher. Well, then good for you. Go for it. Otherwise, get up and begin reading everything you can on writing to heighten your writing knowledge in every aspect of the game: marketing, writing itself, promotion, agents, publishers, formatting, etc."
"Lea, I submitted this to PUBLISHING HOUSE NAME HERE but it was rejected. I don't get it. Everyone said they loved it."
My response: "NAME HERE, your story was good and did merit publication. However, I hopped on over to the publishing house and checked out their guidelines. They asked for no more than 2000 words and yours was nearly 5000.This could be the reason. Some houses simply hand out a formal rejection letter with no other explanation, while others take the time to give you a heads up on their reason for rejection."
This type of an email riles me because most writers know that NOT following a guideline is one of my biggest pet peeves. It is a simple step: you want to go with a certain ezine/mag/publishing house, then check out their submission guidelines and follow them to the 'T'. Don't stray, don't be cute, don't add flavoring if they haven't requested any. Why up your chances of getting rejected? Always make sure you miss the slushpile and land on the Editor's desk by being careful with your manuscript-edit, edit, edit, check, check, check guidelines.

I wanted to begin my colum for 2006 with a 'get up and go' feel, to instill in you the need to be diligent in your writing and in your research. With each passing day, your writing will improve and to check this out all you need to do is take out an old writing project you have stored in that desk drawer over there...yep, that one. Open it, take out that old story and read it. I am sure within the first paragraph, you will spot a word or two that could have been edited, a sentence that could have been tightened or even eliminated. If you did, then kudos to you because your eye as a writer has now been upped to one as a future editor.
This year, I made a resolution NOT to make a resolution. I figure the safest route to take is to state to do the best I could, which I always do anyway. This way, I don't end up being disappointed. Is it a cop out? No. I have found over the years that all 'to do' lists have an excruciating deadline or a 'must accomplish' feel to them. What I've done now is break them down to acheivable steps:
1-Write the next chapter has been changed to 'continue the next chapter. This way, whether I pen 100 words or 1000 words is not the case. I accomplished part of the next chapter and I feel successful.
2-Send out an ms each week has been changed to send out an ms each month. I'm sending something out each month and a winner is what I feel like inside. The other way, I would be disappointed when a week went by and an ms wasn't submitted.
What I am trying to say is give yourself attainable goals, not unrealistic ones. If you find you need to push yourself by stating "I will write 10,000 words a day", then go for it. But when you find yourself feeling blue and can't figure out why, go over your goals and see if you haven't overstretched yourself at some point. Lessen it, feel better, and perhaps you just may end up writing 10,000 words anyway each day.
If you want to be a wanna-be writer, then forego all the rules of the game, write, store them in your desk drawer, and be content.
If you want to get published, then seek out critique communities, such as The MuseItUp Club, which cater to your genre, study your favorite authors to get a know-how of their writing style and how they have managed to capture your attention in their books, research publishers and agents, learn the craft of editing, and above all, keep submitting your work even after those rejection letters come in. For every 9 no's there's that 1 yes just waiting to read your story/article.
To begin this glorious New Year, I am seeking out everyone's GOALS FOR 2006. As some members of the Muse will attest, I have a knack for 'whipping' these goals into shape. So if you need a second person to pop in every once in a while and ask 'Hey, how's that project coming along?' to keep you focused and motivated, then I'm the gal for you. But be warned, I always check up on you when you're not expecting it. :) 
Send me your goals via email to:
Place 2006 GOALS on the subject heading and your goals with your name and email address within the body of the email.  Then let me 'whip' you into shape. It will be my writing pleasure.
I hope this opening column was inspirational to some of you. I would love to hear back how you manage to keep your writing focused. These will be published in a future issue of Mother Hen's Bin.
For now, I'd like to wish everyone A HAPPY NEW YEAR and may 2006 bring us all new contracts to rejoice in.

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