Sunday, February 26, 2012

Never Lost in Translation: The Lure of the Foreign Bestseller

The largest publishing industry in the world speaks English. With so many books published in that language, there is barely time to read what the foreign literary market has to offer. Moreover, a foreign novel has its caveats, such as the thorny translation factor. Are we really reading what the author wanted to convey? And yet, once in a while, a foreign book creeps up the Anglo world bestselling list. What would prompt such a feat?

Going over those foreigners who made it to American bestselling lists in the Twentieth and Twentieth First Century, I find several factors that could explain them beating the odds of translation and cultural differences. The first is good references. American readers would be interested in novels that have made it big in the European market, especially if critics have praised the style and prose of novels. That explains the success of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s work.

 Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist has also achieved worldwide recognition, but its fame rests not exclusively in the critic´s recommendation. This Brazilian novel includes thought-provoking ideas and a sort of comforting mysticism that makes the reader cling to the book despite its exoticism. In its universal message, The Alchemist manages to cross-over cultural differences.

Almost the same magical message and universality was found in another foreign bestseller. Written in French, but originally published in the United States in 1943, The Little Prince is still one of the most loved books on Planet Earth.  At first glance, it may seem a children´s book, but its content hides profound lessons for all the adults who confuse hats with elephant –eating boas.

I was not surprised to find Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate among foreign bestsellers that did well in the American Market. Food is a universal subject, and Esquivel’s depiction of a repressed household in turn- of-the century Mexico, is swamped with themes of food and cooking. The story of Tita, who breaks free from her mother´s machismo via the magic of Mexican cuisine, would seem close and full of identifying factors to cooks, gourmands and women who have known repression. The book, which included several of Tita´s best and most aphrodisiac recipes, opened a new trend of novels dwelling on the relationship between food and sensuality.
                                               One of Tita´s magical meals

Another factor that helps propel a foreign book to the American bestselling lists is genre. People will read mystery novels, historical romances and fantasies regardless of where they take place. That explains the worldwide fascination with the adventures of Inspector Maigret, born from the fertile mind of Belgian writer George Simenon, and our current love affair with Stieg Larsson´s trilogy of Swedish thrillers.

In the post-war period, Finnish author Mika Waltari made it to the American lists with his historical works, particularly Sinhue, the Egyptian. It was one of the favorite novels in the United States in 1949. Sinhue returned to bestselling lists in1954 after it was turned into a Hollywood sword-and-sandal epic.
                                             Dame Jean Simmons in The Egyptian

Another historical novel that became a rage throughout the five continents was Giuseppe Di Lampedusa’s Il Gatopardo, the story of a Sicilian aristocrat in the changing Italy of the 1860’s.Two decades later; it was the turn of another Italian writer to cross oceans with a historical novel that was also a thriller. Umberto Eco´s The Name of the Rose had conquered Europe and would go on to become both a bestseller novel and a film in the English-speaking world.

If a foreign book arrives to American bookstores already wrapped in controversy, it is bound to sell well. It happened in the Fifties, when Francoise Sagan’ scandalous first novel Bonjour Tristesse was translated into English. Tristesse’s plot centered on the antics of an epicurean playboy and his spoiled, free-spirited daughter, but what the public found wickedly tempting was its author. At eighteen, Sagan was a high-school dropout who led a fun-loving   lifestyle that appealed to the repressed readers of the McCarthy Era as much as her tale did.

Jean Seberg and Sir David Niven in Bonjour Tristesse

Less notorious but equally noisy was the arrival of Doctor Zhivago. Boris Pasternak’s chronicle of the Russian Revolution had been refused publication by Soviet authorities. Smuggled to Milan by Sir Isaiah Berlin, the novel was published, in 1957, simultaneously in Italian and Russian editions. Soon, its publisher Giangiacomo Fertrinelli (who was subsequently kicked out of the Italian Communist Party) secured its translation to eighteen languages.

In 1958, Pasternak was awarded The Nobel Prize in Literature. Pressed by the KGB (that threatened to send his mistress back to the Gulag) Pasternak had to decline the award, but that didn´t stop Zhivago from becoming a universal bestseller. According to the Publisher´s Weekly´s list, it was the most popular novel in the United States for two years.
                                                Doctor Zhivago's Trailer

There is a final factor that may influence a reader into sampling a foreign novel, and that is a plot revolving around current or recent events. Two bestselling   authors in the 1920’s made it big, both in book-selling and in Hollywood, thanks to their Great War novels. But Vicente Blasco Ibañez and Eric Maria Remarque deserve an entry for themselves.  That is my promise for March.

Do you have a foreign novel (modern, not a classic) among your favorite books? Do you remember what made you read it? Do you think there is a bit of snobbery in the English-speaking world against foreign works? Have you ever read a foreign novel that turned you off because its content was too alien for your taste?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Writing Romance: An Interview (And a Giveaway!)

Like many English majors, I was brainwashed in college against reading any genre fiction. Growing up as a reader has involved letting go of that arbitrary prejudice and learning to enjoy a variety of genres: in the last year alone I've read a fantasy, a mystery, several YAs, and a thriller. Excellent writing exists across genres, and the tagline “literary” is no guarantee of artistic merit, much less reading enjoyment. This week, I’m delighted to introduce our readers to Gabi Stevens, author of the Time of Transition series, classified as “paranormal romance” and described by one Amazon reviewer as “a mix between contemporary romance and Harry Potter.” (Ms. Stevens has also kindly offered a book giveaway: see end for details.)

Q: When you tell people you write romance novels, what kind of reaction do you get?

A: Here are some of the actual quotes I’ve received and the answers I wish I could say in parentheses:
“When are you going to write a real book?” (As opposed to the fake one you’re holding right now?)
“When are you going to write something serious?” (You mean the ones that leave you feeling like you need Prozac?)
“How can you write such trash?” (I’m sorry you have such an opinion on novels celebrating love. How sad you’ve never experienced it.)

Here are some of the more positive ones:
“Oh, I love trashy novels.” (Then you won’t like mine because it isn’t trash.)
“Did your husband pose for the cover?” (Sure, because a middle-aged engineer is just who readers want to see.)
“Is it based on real life?” (Yes, just like Agatha Christie’s many murders and Stephen King’s encounters with preternatural beings and events. What part of fiction don’t you understand?)

I have to say that those reactions come from non-romance readers. People who read and enjoy romance are excited to meet an author. I’ve never had anything but a truly wonderful experience with readers. And it’s a large community. Romance comprises the largest segment of the fiction market. With sales exceeding 1.3 billion dollars in 2010, romance beats the next largest segment (religious/inspirational) by nearly 600 hundred million dollars.

The word is getting out however. There are now academic conferences on the romance novel, books on romance (Beyond Heaving Bosoms by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan), articles and web sites.These examples are only a small sampling of information on Romance. Romance Writers of America (RWA) is a national organization with over 10,000 members with local chapters across the US and online.

Q: For a genre that has such strong and enthusiastic support, romance seems awfully misunderstood. What would you say is the most common misperception about this genre?

A: I’d like to address three misperceptions actually. The first is that writing romance is easy. Nathaniel Hawthorne said, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” Authors who have never attempted it seem to think that they can pop out a romance novel in a weekend. Sorry, folks. We study our craft. We worry about characterization, plot, theme (I’m giving a talk on theme this summer at the RWA national conference in Anaheim in July), story arc, turning points, wordsmithing, conflict, etc. What one discovers if one studies the market, editors, and agents is that romance authors, especially the members of RWA are better prepared than other authors. They understand the business and the craft side of writing. Be prepared to learn a lot before you write romance.

The second is that the books are formula. And here it is: a romance is the story of two individuals in a central love story with a satisfying ending. Okay, genre romance tends to have the HEA—happily ever after, and that’s what people object to: that all the books are the same. What non-romance readers don’t realize is that the novels aren’t about whether the two characters get together; they’re about how the two characters get together. Within the genre are such varied subgenres as historical, which has its own subgenres such as regency, British, Scottish, western, medieval, etc; contemporary; romantic suspense; paranormal, including vampires, werewolves, ghosts, time travel, sci fi, and my own, fantasy; inspirational; category; and single title. There are light romances and dark ones, humorous and serious, short and long. One last thing about formula: I defy you to name a genre that isn’t formulaic. When was the last time you read a mystery where the detective ends the book by saying, “Oh well, I couldn’t solve it. Better luck next time”? A better word for formula is reader expectation. All genres, including literary fiction, have reader expectations, and if those expectations aren’t fulfilled, the book fails.

The third misperception is that romance novels are all about the sex. Porn for women. In my last book, As You Wish, the story is told in 306 pages. Of those, ten pages describe sex. That’s approximately three percent of the novel. And the rest is describing the characters’ clothing. Just kidding. There is an actual story. (I know. You’re shocked.) Depending on what type of book you pick up, the level of sensuality and the amount of sex will vary from having events occur behind closed doors to explicit erotic romances. And besides, what’s wrong with sex?

Q: As a big fan of Diana Gabaldon’s (quite sexy and wildly popular) Outlander series,  I wholeheartedly agree! Next question: In researching sci-fi and fantasy, I discovered a number of rules, such as “each magical ability must come at a cost.” Each genre has such properties and peculiarities: what can you tell us about the romance genre?

A: If you are writing for the romance market, the book must have a couple and a happy ending. A book can be romantic but not be a romance (think Nicholas Sparks or Danielle Steele), or have a happy ending and not be a romance. Otherwise the parameters are wide open. I would contend that the best romance novels hold their own against the best novels in any genre. Yes, there are bad ones, but, really, every genre has bad ones. Great romance novels are sublime, just as any great novels are. Books one considers great comes down to taste (after grammar, sentence structure, etc.). We all have different tastes, which is as is should be. I would hate to have only one type of book to read. If you want to learn more about the genre, do check out And if you’re planning on writing a romance novel, love them. It’ll show up in your writing if you don’t.

Q: When one of my manuscripts developed a strong romantic subplot, I went to the library and checked out a few books on writing romance. I think this is one thing that sets romance apart from the other genres: non-romance writers can turn to this genre for ideas on their own plots, because so many novels have a romantic element. This can't really be said for westerns, sci-fi, fantasy, or horror.

A: The point you bring up is why I find the critics’ and (snobby) readers’ reaction to romance so baffling. Love is such a central and deeply ingrained human emotion. So many, many stories focus on love of all kinds. So many great books have strong romantic subplots—look at Stephen King’s latest book, 11/22/63. Suzanne Brockmann gave a keynote speech that I was privileged to hear. She left us in tears. In the speech she said, when the towers were falling on 9/11, people didn’t call their banks, or their businesses. They called their loved ones to say that they love them. JK Rowling’s great villain (Voldemort for those of you living under rocks) is defeated because he cannot understand love.

Q: The process of deciding which genre to write in is rather mysterious to me. I am still genre-hopping, myself, trying to find the best fit. I've toyed with YA, fantasy, historical fiction, and that vague category known as "women's fiction." Paranormal romance is such a specific subcategory: what led you there? Is it because that's what you enjoy reading, or was it something else? 

A: I loved reading since I was tiny, and romances specifically since I was 16 (I can still distinctly recall the first romance I read. My mother gave it to me—Johanna Lindsey’s Captive Bride. The second one I read was Kathleen Woddiwiss’s The Flame and the Flower. Woddiwiss’s book is widely acknowledged as the birth of the modern romance novel and changed women’s fiction forever). I also have a degree—two actually—in literature. I’ve always preferred genre fiction or 19th century fiction, and, well, one can’t write 19th century fiction in the 21st century, can one? Paranormal romance is a logical choice for me because I’ve studied the Grimm fairytales extensively, and many of the books I loved as a kid were paranormal—The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, The Borrowers, The Phantom Tollbooth, the E. Nesbit and Edward Eager books, etc. (Just stop me now.) I’ve always loved mysteries as well, and went through a long period of reading horror, and still love science fiction. But romance remains my favorite and I have written historical romance as well under a different name.

The greatest thing about being unpublished is that you can genre-hop. You have the freedom to write whatever you wish. Once you sell a book, the publisher will want to see similar books from you. That doesn’t mean that you can’t someday write in other genres—many authors do—but bottom line is that writing is a business once you’re published (and should be before as well) and some of that freedom disappears.

Q: One thing my writer friends sometimes say is that they won't, or can't, consider themselves Real Writers™ until they get published. When did you first self-identify as a writer?

A: I finished my first manuscript after five years of picking it up and putting it down. It was a hobby, nothing more. I was still so far from being published, but having finished a manuscript was such a thrill, I immediately started on a second. Only after finishing my third did I really consider that writing was something I could see myself doing as a career. At that point I started a fourth manuscript, actively sought an agent, and joined writers’ groups.

While getting published is certainly one of a series of steps with different goals, I believe you must identify yourself as a writer before that event. Why? Because if you aren’t taking yourself seriously, taking your craft seriously, making goals for yourself, then you won’t get to the step of publication. Even before I was published, my kids knew that when I was writing, I was working. My husband respected my need to spend money I hadn’t earned from writing on writing. Because I was a writer. After publication, you’re just a published writer.

Q: What was the process of getting your first novel published? For example, was it the first novel you'd actually written, or did you have abandoned projects? How many queries did you send out before you got a bite, and how did you decide which agents to contact?

A: The first novel I sold was in fact my first manuscript, but it’s not that simple. I went back to my first manuscript and rewrote it after my fourth manuscript. And revised it more times than you can count. So really, it no longer resembled my first manuscript by the time I sold. I definitely have unsold manuscripts (three complete, four partials). They aren’t abandoned—due to changes in editors, the market, different stages in my career, they remain unsold or unfinished, but definitely not abandoned.

Once you’ve decided what type of novels you write, the agent search can begin. There are all sorts of databases to explore—on line and off. Make sure to do research. You don’t want to send a children’s book to someone who doesn’t represent that genre or fiction to a non-fiction agent. Look at the acknowledgments and dedications of books you love. Very often the authors will mention their agents. And join a writers’ group. Talk to other writers and find out their agent stories.

As for the queries themselves. . .I always laugh when an article appears about a best selling book and the writer drags out the number of times the author was rejected. Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, was rejected sixty times and people are shocked by that number. I’ll tell you right here, that number is common and higher numbers are just as common. The opportunities for rejection abound. In one of my outings in this business, I was rejected closer to eighty times. What I give Ms. Stockett credit for is perseverance. My first agent gave me the following words of wisdom: There are three elements in a successful writing career—luck, talent, and perseverance. Of the three you need only two, but one of them must be perseverance.

Q: Regarding famous rejections, like Kathyrn Stockett’s and JK Rowling’s: I, too, have marveled that so many agents could turn down such obviously well-written manuscripts. Is there really such a glut of fabulous fiction out there that agents can afford to be so choosy? Then someone pointed out that these manuscripts may not have been nearly so polished when the authors first began pitching them. Perhaps the rejections came with feedback that helped the authors slowly revamp their stories into the current bestseller incarnations. What are your thoughts on that?

A: Frankly, editors and agents don’t have the time to give much feedback these days. Your manuscript has to be almost publishable when it comes across their desk because they don’t have the time to teach you. There are exceptions of course, but really you have to know the craft before you think of submitting. Learn, learn, learn. Write, write, write. This doesn’t mean that my agent or my editors haven’t helped me, but I do know the craft.

A large number of competent manuscripts cross editors’ and agents’ desk these days, and I can’t think of a worse adjective than “competent.” They want a manuscript that sings. And a manuscript that sings to one editor won’t to another. So much is subjective.  So editors and agents choose what they like. I’ve heard enough editors and agents say exactly those words—they choose what they like—that I absolutely believe it. I also believe most of the stuff that hits their desks is terrible and not ready for publication. Not to sound mean or superior, but a lot of writers have an unrealistic opinion of their abilities. That doesn’t mean they can’t learn; it just means they aren’t ready.

Gabi Stevens writes paranormal romances. Her next book, Wishful Thinking, is the third book in a series featuring fairy godmothers and will be released April 24, 2012. The first two books, The Wish List and As You Wish are available now. Gabi would love to share her books with new readers. One lucky winner will receive a copy of The Wish List  and another will receive As You Wish Just leave a comment here and a way to contact you. Winners will be chosen March 1.

You can find Gabi at,, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Picking and Choosing Character Traits

Raise your hand if you've ever read a novel, then went to see the movie and the first thing out of your mouth was, "She shouldn't be playing that role! That's not at all how I envisioned the character to look! Whoever cast this thing didn't know what the heck they were doing!" (Or more flagrant wording if you are so inclined.)

Yes, my hand is raised.

Jennifer Lawrence
The Hunger Games
When it comes to movies, nothing seems to annoy us more than when a beloved novel gets made into a film and gets miscast. But why? Well, a lot of it has to do with how we've interpreted the characters on the page, and believe it or not, most of us interpret those characters much differently than how another reader might. I've heard more than my share of grumblings over Jennifer Lawrence playing Katniss in the upcoming The Hunger Games film. She's to old, not the right build, not a strong enough actor to believably play the part, etc. Take a look at the movie poster, and I'll let you be the judge. I'd have to say my personal favorite to this day is Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight, a sizzling story about a bank robber (George Clooney) and a US Marshal (Lopez) on a case to catch him in the act. The book was nothing more than a throwaway heist novel written by Elmore Leonard that I read a couple years before the film was made. In the novel, the US Marshal is a willowy blonde, nothing like how Lopez's character looks in the film. I'm sure you have a specific film character that to this day just bugs the heck out of you.

No matter how the film world ends up interpreting the characters we write in novels, we still need to take care in how we portray them. After all, it is the characters a reader falls in love with (just take a look at the Twilight series, because I don't believe it's the writing that's winning over fans). As writers, how does one go about crafting a striking character that will stand out to the reader and make the story come alive? Here are a few pointers:

  • Avoid clichés -- Don't make every cop crooked, every blonde busty, every school teacher gentle and sweet, or every lead male flawless in appearance and backstory. I once reviewed a novel (The Art of Murder by Don West) and the whole thing made me cringe. To this day, I think it's one of the most character clichéd books I've ever read. You want your characters to be unique. Give them qualities that will stand out to the reader, like a fascinating backstory or quirky characteristics. I recently heard a statistic about hitchhikers. Hitchhikers who wear ties are more likely to get picked up off the side of the road than those who don't. Well, then give your hitchhiker a tie!
  • Don't just focus on physical appearance -- Although we fall in love with a character at first sight (or first read) we always want to know what makes that character tick. What kind of story follows this character around? Is it a tale of woe? As the story unfolds, the reader wants to peel back the layers of what's hiding underneath. Make sure to give them that opportunity! Take the hitchhiker for example -- Why is he out hitching a ride in the first place? Why does he wear a fancy tie, and yet he carries a backpack on his back as a displaced homeless man would? Bring the reader to that point where they just have to know!
  • But don't be vague about physical appearance -- When characters tend to be poorly fleshed out in appearance, the reader tends to feel a sense of disconnect. Although I've never read it, I remember reading reviews about Toni Morrison's 2008 novel A Mercy, a novel that seems to have flat characters, mainly because she doesn't physically flesh them out very well. And a lot of times, this is why we get disappointed at the box office. The director just had a different vision of a vague character.
  • Give your main character a flaw -- Nobody relates to a perfectly written character, mainly because in the real world we all have flaws. As readers, we want to empathize with the main character. After all, we're invested in him/her for the next 300+ pages. This has a lot to do with those layers I spoke about earlier. The flaw could also be physical, like a bad memory or scars with a story the reader is definitely going to want to know. Back to my hitchhiker -- What if he has a mysterious tattoo on his hand that peaks the reader's interest? That marked-up piece of skin could be a clue to this man's past. What if it depicts something especially violent? Now the reader is going to wonder if the person who picked him up is having second thoughts about that misleading tie.
  • Need a lift?
  • Look for people in the real world who best reflect your main characters -- It doesn't hurt to envision a certain actor as that mysterious hitchhiker with tie and tattoo and thumb out for a ride. Who comes to mind? Maybe keep a picture of that individual on hand so you have a reference back to how he looks. It can make the writing process less confusing.
Those are just a few ways when it comes to crafting your characters, but what if you're still struggling to figure out if what you're creating is going to work? Since we tend to pick and choose character traits from people we know in our lives, then here's an exercise for you to try.

When it comes to the people in your life, who is:

  • The sexiest
  • The smartest
  • The most educated
  • The most emotional
  • The best well-dressed
  • The slyest
  • The dumbest
  • The most creative
  • The happiest
  • The saddest
  • The quirkiest
  • The most ruthless
  • etc.
The list could go on and on, but chances are, we know of someone who could fit into any one of those given categories. Don't be afraid to glean from the crop you have growing right in front of you. Your characters' pieces will fit together properly if you just know where to look. And hey, you might be able to figure out what the hitchhiker is really up to!

Do you struggle with creating believable characters? Do you have any tips you'd like to share when it comes to putting together a main character?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Post-First Novel Syndrome

I have been observing myself and my closest writer friends for some time now (they don’t know this, but I have!) We all seem to be stuck somewhere between our second/third novel and query limbo. And we’re all suffering from similar symptoms:

- Chronic disappointment
- Cynicism
- Inability to fully engage with other works of fiction
- Indecision about what direction to take
- Apathy/dread when asked about our work
- Mood swings with regards to publishing/writing
- Loss of “innocence” and optimism

To name a few.

All of these are indicators of a malady I like to call the “Post-First Novel Syndrome” (PFNS). Just like the loss of virginity, once a writer has finished that first novel and rendered it to the world, she will never be able to go back to that innocent era of carefree writing where there weren’t enough hours in a day to complete the stories sketched in her mind. The pleasure of writing without restrictions of word count, plot structure or character arc will never come back. The second/third-novel-writer knows now that he may not be the exception (like he thought as he heard rumors about word count, POV, or other atrocities) but he could—sadly—be the rule, and there may be some validity to the advice he didn’t want to hear back when he was immersed in first-novel bliss.

Once a first novel has left the safety of a writer’s hard drive to receive feedback from critique partners and industry professionals, a shift takes place in the novice writer’s psyche. Pain, surprise, denial, embarrassment are some of the first emotions she may experience—as tender as blisters in the palm of a child’s hand after playing at the monkey bars for too long. After some time, when rejection letters start coming in and a second novel has been written, a sort of numbness sets in—the callousness of too many recesses hanging from a metal bar. Except that this callousness is not tangible. It’s embedded in our souls and in our confidence (or lack therof) as writers.

Most manuals and classes focus on getting that first novel written. They call it a big accomplishment (and it is) but I haven’t seen a lot of advice on how to continue after/if that novel doesn’t get published.

And it’s harder to write once we’ve had a bitter taste of reality.

Trying to find a solution to this common dilemma, I came across a couple of interesting articles. One blames writer inertia on fear, while this one tries to shake us all from our comfortably numb state.

As agent Rachelle Gardner states in this post, the test of persistence doesn’t come when we’re writing and revising our manuscripts. It comes when we’ve gotten 40 + rejection letters and yet we continue to polish our manuscripts, start new projects, or query more agents.

They say this is the period where most writers get weeded out.

(Not while penning their first novel, like we would like to think.) I know many people dream of writing a novel and never do it, but THOUSANDS are completing novels every year, and they’re competing against us. They’re being persistent, while we commiserate. Or research. Or take time off. Or develop our platforms.

There was a time when you would have laughed if someone suggested that you implement a writing schedule to force yourself to sit in front of the keyboard every day. (You needed a schedule for everything else you were forgetting to do while you wrote your novel!) Sadly, your new cynic self may have to trick your brain into doing just that in order to get that next project written. Back when you started writing and you relied on a dial up connection, your internet visits were short, to the point, and then you logged off to focus on your WIP. You didn’t know what blogs were and Facebook were two separate words. You were able to focus and concentrate in your story. You were so productive.

Now, as a PFNS writer, you have many good reasons for not writing:
  1. You’re doing research.
  2. You’re busy and don’t have time.
  3. You’re trying to be productive elsewhere.
  4. You need time off to think and plan your next move.
  5. You have priorities and writing is not one of them.
One of the things that helped me get out of my endless revision stage was to sit down with pony-tailed colleague and write down a list of concrete writing goals (with deadlines) for the fall.

Sample list:
  1. Send manuscript to beta readers/critique partners by X-day (whether revisions are ready or not!)
  2. Enter such and such contest on Y-day.
  3. Query 10-20 agents by Z-day.
Doing this simple exercise with someone else gives you a sense of accountability and makes you realize, after you’ve completed your short-term goals, that you are making progress in your career—even if it’s in turtle steps. Another idea is to get out of your house and go to a library and/or café to write. This prevents you from constantly checking emails or going online for research (as a historical writer, I know how important research is, but I also admit that it constantly interrupted my writing momentum.) One last, but important, tip. Stop thinking about what Mrs. Agent or Mr. Critique Partner are going to think about your writing. Write for yourself. Tell yourself “nobody else is going to read this” (because, really, nobody HAS to read it if you don’t want to.) Remind yourself that you’ll fix it later. Give yourself permission to make mistakes.

In the end, though, it all boils down to being honest with yourself. Do you really want to be a novelist? Maybe it’s an old dream and the reality of a writer’s life doesn’t excite you as it once did. And that may be fine for you. You may find another passion. After all, writing is a gamble. This is not a four-year college where you know that if you work hard, you’ll be guaranteed a degree. No guarantees here. But if you're just shutting the inner voice that keeps telling you “what if” because it’s just too difficult/painful, you are the one who’ll be miserable. It’s your dream. No one else’s.

Please share your thoughts. Do you feel drained after years of writing/querying? Have you lost your love for writing or you still haven’t found another occupation as gratifying as the written word? Do you still see scenes in your mind? Are total strangers (potential characters) talking to you?

Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb

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