How to Get Published: Big 5, Indy, or Self-Publish?

Very helpful insight on traditional, indy and self-publishing!

Disjointed Jottings by Robert Smith (A.K.A. TyCobbsTeeth)

How to Get Successfully Published TODAY: Big 5, Indy, or Self-Publish?

It’s the greatest time in history to be a writer. There are more ways to get published than ever before. While it’s great to have so many options, it’s also confusing. But when you break these many different ways down, they sort themselves out into just three primary paths: 1) The Big 5: HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hachette and Macmillan, 2) Independent presses that ranges in size from the hefty W.W. Norton to the many university presses to the numerous one-person shops. 3) Self-publishing. In our over 35 years experience in the publishing business as agents, writers and book doctors, we have walked down all three paths–and we have the corns, calluses and blisters to prove it. To help you avoid such injuries, we have mapped…

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Liebster Award Nomination 2 (With a Slight Twist)

I have been generously nominated for the Liebster Award again, this time by fellow writer and blogger Hannah Heath. (Thanks, Hannah!)

Just a refresher:


The Liebster Award originated in Germany. The German word Liebster means kind, loving, cherish, sweet, endearing, beloved, and welcome—or so tells me. The award is designed to give up-and-coming bloggers with promising content and little followers the chance to be recognized for their talent and to “welcome” them to the blogosphere.

The nomination is also a challenge where you pass along the nomination to more bloggers.

The rules are:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog

2. Answer 11 questions from the person who nominated you

3. Nominate other bloggers (ideally those who are just starting and would benefit most from this exposure, but of course nominate whoever you wish!)

4. Give these bloggers 11 questions to answer and let them know they have been nominated.

The nature of this challenge requires a new set of questions to be asked each time which creates a unique spin to each nomination post. Not only are Hannah’s questions widely different from Liza’s, (Liza’s focus more on my love for books and reading, while Hannah’s are about getting to know the nominees on a personal level) but it seems that the version of the challenge Hannah was given includes an extra rule:

5. Give 11 random facts about yourself.

Like I said in my previous post, these kinds of challenges are fun because they encourage you to build a community of bloggers and writers. Writing, blogging, and reading can be lonely careers/hobbies. By doing the challenge, you can connect with people who love what you love, make new friends, and get your name out there in the blogosphere which is always a good thing. For these reasons, I am happy to accept the nomination and do the challenge again because in truth, it won’t be the same challenge. Now onto the new rule:

11 Random Facts About Myself

1. I speak fluent Spanish and French.

2. I could live off of bread, chocolate and wine.

3. I’m really good at memorizing lines from movies and TV shows.

4. I will randomly burst into song without warning, and it will be off key.

5. My favorite color is yellow.

6. My name has been mispronounced and misspelled too many times to count. I’m sure this will continue until the end of my days. For future reference, it’s PA-O-LA. Think, Pa-Hola (Spanish word for hello).

7. The book I’ve re-read the most times to date is Queens Own Fool by Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris

8. I pronounced nonchalant as “non-kalant” for the longest time because I had only ever read it in books and never heard it spoken before.

9. I can’t whistle and it makes me sad.

10. Selling my Nintendo 64 is one of my greatest regrets.

11. “You have to learn how to write in cursive because when you’re an adult you won’t ever be able to write in print again,” was one of the biggest lies told to me by my primary school teachers. As it happens, I write in a bastardized version of cursive and print that only I seem to understand.

Hannah’s Questions:

1. Have you ever been to California?

I’ve only been once: to San Francisco in 2013 for a journalism conference with my fellow editors of The Minaret newspaper. I loved the city and the feeling of being on the west coast– a markedly different feeling than being on the east coast, I can assure you! I would love to go back to visit other cities across California. It’s a pretty cool state.

2. If you could get any famous writer/blogger to start following and commenting on your blog, who would it be?

I would have to say Ksenia Anske. I follow her on twitter and she is hilarious! She’s always pushing writers to keep writing and never give up– things I try to do for others and for myself. I think she’d be a great catalyst for my blog.

3. What kind of music do you listen to while writing?

I talked about this in a previous post, actually!

4. What are your top three goals in life?

1. Have my writing (or anything I do) make a positive impact on at least one person’s life.

2. Be happy and live life to the fullest.

3. Travel and experience new cultures as much as I can.

(All cheesy and vague, I know. :P But there you have it.)

5. What do you hope to gain through your blog?

My blog is my outlet to write about all things writing, books and the literary world. I hope it can be a place where others feel happy and safe to share their writing experiences, advice, or simply their love of literature.

6. Ebook, audiobook, or just a plain book?

Booook! BOOOOKK! I need to physically hold the book in my hand and smell its pages and feel its weight in my bag. Anything else is just not the same.

7. Is there a particular movie that you’re looking forward to seeing this year?

Star Wars!! I have to wait all year though :/

8. What is a pet hobby of yours (one that you don’t blog about)?

I wouldn’t call it a hobby, but I love listening to music and discovering new bands.

9. If you had to dress up as any book character, who would it be?

Legolas from Lord of the Rings, Katniss from The Hunger Games, basically any badass fighter with a bow and arrow.

10. What’s your favorite social media to use?

Twitter has been a fun way to connect with people and meet new writers.

11. How many more followers will you need to gain in order to feel justified in throwing a huge party?

I don’t have any number in mind really. Besides, I prefer small parties to big ones. :)

As for my 11 bloggers and questions, I’m afraid I already nominated everyone I could think of in my last post. Thank you Hannah for nominating me! :)

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Liebster Award Nomination 1

I was nominated by elizaturrill  for the Liebster Award/Challenge last year. For some reason I never saw the message and so I am participating late. (Sorry again, Liza!) I was also just recently nominated again by another awesome blogger and twitter friend (Hi Hannah!) and will be responding to her nomination soon too in another post.

The Liebster Awardla1

The Liebster Award originated in Germany. The German word Liebster means kind, loving, cherish, sweet, endearing, beloved, and welcome—or so tells me. The award is designed to give up-and-coming bloggers with promising content and little followers the chance to be recognized for their talent and to “welcome” them to the blogosphere. 

The nomination is also a challenge where you pass along the nomination to more bloggers.

The rules are:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog

2. Answer 11 questions from the person who nominated you

3. Nominate other bloggers (ideally those who are just starting and would benefit most from this exposure, but of course nominate whoever you wish!)

4. Give these bloggers 11 questions to answer and let them know they have been nominated.

I don’t usually participate in chain-reaction challenges like this, but I think this award is a great way to get to know more blogs and in turn more writers. There are a lot of us out there; this is a fun way to interact with other people who share similar interests, and make some new friends. Plus, the person who nominated me is really nice and I loved her responses to her questions. I miss her and this is a fun way to catch up! So without further ado, my 11 questions and answers:

1. What was the last book that made you cry?

Looking for Alaska by John Green. I know, I am super late to the game. I read it over Christmas and kicked myself for not reading it sooner. Coming up on my list of books to read is The Fault in Our Stars. When I finish it, I am certain that it will take Alaska’s place.

2. What is a really underrated book that you would love to see on the big screen? Why?

I loved reading D. J. MacHale’s Pendragon series growing up and always thought it would be a great addition to the other fantasy-books-turned-movies that were being released during that time. The series was engrossing, well thought-out, action-packed, had great relatable characters including some badass females and hilarious best friends, and addressed various social, philosophical and political issues that added depth to the story. The series is 10 books though, so I’m not sure whether a TV series would be best suited for it rather than a movie series.

3. What is something in a book that has to be well-done for you to like it? (For me, it’s characterization.) Is it plot, setting, characters, etc?

Characterization! Hands down. A good plot is always needed to keep me engrossed, but I must say my favorite thing about stories are the characters. They have to be well developed, their motivations must be clear and plausible, and they must have an interesting story arc where they are left changed at the end of the story. And please for the love of chocolate, No Stereotypes! If you write great characters that I fall in love with, I could read about them all day. I would even be happy to just read about them going to the super market to get squash.

4. Is there a book that you consider your guilty pleasure? If so, why?

I used to feel guilty for liking to read most of the books I read: fantasy, sci-fi, young adult etc. I used to worry that people would look down on me for choosing to read a commercial fiction book over a literary classic. (Don’t get me wrong, I love stories that are considered literature too. I read a variety of things.) Now, I shrug it off. I like what I like and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. So I don’t consider any book a guilty pleasure anymore.

5. What is your favorite book setting? (Stuff like this -> Fantasy AU, Boarding School, Hollywood, New York, Foreign Countries, etc.)

I love medieval settings. I’m a high fantasy kind of gal, but I also love urban fantasy. I’m not picky. I like any setting as long as it is well described. It annoys me when I can’t envision the characters’ surroundings when I read.

6. What is a book that you want to read purely for the cover?

The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier. It was my first Chevalier novel and my favorite. I remember being drawn to the book by its cover (Plume’s reprinted 2003 edition) with the painting of the red haired girl and her sad blue eyes. The painting was just so beautiful and her expression so tragic that I instantly wanted to know her story. And once I finished the book, the painting took on a whole new meaning. One of those rare book covers that actually add to the story!

7. Is there a book that you’ve tried to read innumerable times but have never been able to finish? What is it?

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

8. What is your OTP (One True Pairing)?

There are too many (not just books but also TV shows etc.) for me to choose from.

9. Why and when did you start your blog?

I started it last August 2014. I had recently graduated from college and was finally diving into my writing projects without interference from classes or assignments or work. I love writing and all things books, and I have opinions on certain literary issues so I decided to try blogging as a platform for all of those things. Unfortunately, I’ve been on somewhat of a hiatus of late (thank the holidays and my new-found 9 to 5 for that). But I’m finally gearing up to start blogging again.

10. If you estimate, what is the most books you’ve ever checked out from your library?

I don’t ever really check out books from libraries. I love going into bookstores and buying loads of books at once. I prefer to own my books and keep them on my bookshelf.

11. What is your favorite type of post to write for your blog?

I love to write my Literary Thoughts posts. As of now, I don’t have many of those, (hope to write some more soon!) but I loved writing them because I get to express my opinions on things in the literary world. I’m pretty passionate about certain things and I’m grateful to live in a place where I can safely express myself. It’s fun to connect with people who share your views, and even with those who don’t. As long as it’s an educated, civil and respectful dialogue, I like debating certain issues with people who may have a different point of view than mine. It allows for the opportunity to broaden one’s perspectives and maybe even learn a thing or two. Unfortunately, such mature discussions aren’t always the case. I was the Opinion editor for my alma mater’s newspaper, The Minaret, for two years so I can say I have plenty of experience with the latter.

My Nominees

I’m supposed to nominate 11 bloggers, but most of the people I would nominate have already done the challenge, are already nominated by someone else, or have nominated me. So my list will be shorter. Also, I didn’t necessarily consider whether these bloggers were new to blogging or what their number of followers is. These people are just awesome people I either met on twitter or in real life and I wanted to give them a shout out. Nominees, you only have to do this if you want to. If you don’t want to participate, that’s fine. No hard feelings :)

1. by Elle Cox

2. by Angela MCaldwell

3. by Janna Kaixer

4. by Julie Chang

5. by Emma Lindhagen

6. keithwwillisauthorsite by Keith Willis

7. by Chris Eberhard

My Questions

I actually really liked the questions I was given. They made me stop and think about the past books I’ve read and I went down nostalgia lane which was fun. (Thanks, Liza! Your lazyness paid off :P) So I’m going to go ahead and let my nominees answer the ones I answered. Have fun!

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Need Some Writing Inspiration?

“Hello, blinking cursor. We meet again.”

We’ve all said this at one point or another— or, if you don’t speak to your laptop as I do, at least thought it. The blank page has mocked us and we have all struggled to get words onto the page at various points of our writing careers. Most of the time this unfortunate epidemic is caused by a lack of inspiration for creative ideas or even a lack of motivation to actually sit down and write. This happens when we’re missing our muse.

The Muse

Some writers argue that a muse does not exist: the abstract idea of the muse was designed as a vehicle to which attribution could be credited for the creative process and to which blame can be placed when a writer needs an excuse for their lack of writing. A little pessimistic maybe, but that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to believe what they wish. If they’re able to work just fine without having a “muse” or attributing their creative process to something with that name, kudos to them.

I, however, am one of the writers who thinks there is such a thing as a muse— I’m talking about the figurative force thought to provide inspiration to poets, writers and artists, not necessarily the mythical Ancient Greek goddesses. I believe so because I can attest to situations, and many others have had similar ones I’m sure, where a story just popped into my mind and has flown from my fingertips without me having the slightest clue of where it came from, why it came and where the story is going. The story simply wrote itself. It is as if some unknown force used me as a vessel to write the story. And once the story is complete, poof. The force is gone and I stare at a strange story that apparently came from my brain.

You think I’m crazy? Well okay, maybe I am. But the point is, I consider that unknown force to be my muse. Even when I am in control of the story I’m writing, I sometimes need to call on this force for me to write.

In this post, I will go over some of the things I do/use to trigger my muse and get me in the creative writing groove. Hopefully some of these will resonate with you too or they can help you come up with your own inspiration/muse-inducing techniques.

Find your Writing Music

Some people like loud music to drown out the world or any straying thoughts: heavy metal, punk rock, or the screeching vocals of a screamo band because their bleeding ears actually enhance the quality of their words…. :P But hey, whatever works for you. I prefer soft, psychedelic, indie music. Calming. The kind of music that blends into the background and seeps into the subconscious as you write. Everyone has different tastes and you should account for that when reading this, but I think it can be reasonably argued that music (of any genre) can help writers get their keyboards a’clickin.’

There is also a distinct difference between your “jam” and writing music. I would advise against playing music that makes you want to party instead of quietly sitting to write. Although I am definitely not averse to a good desk-chair dance, the music shouldn’t distract you from your intended mission: writing. And there is also nothing wrong with having absolute silence to write. Whatever works for you!

Here are some bands that get my creative juices flowing:

Alpine, Tame Impala, Ulrich Schnauss, Alessi’s Ark, Explosions in the Sky, and Warpaint. If you also like soft, psychedelic, indie music feel free to check them out! (I linked my favorite song from each one in their name.)

Are you an Early Bird or a Night Owl?

Figuring this out can lead to a lot less stress. I used to make myself wake up early every day so I could sit myself in front of my laptop and write. Problem? I am NOT by any means whatsoever a morning person. Before I have my tea, and even after I’ve had two cups, I am a grumpy dragon and I will burn you. Therefore, this exercise soon proved fruitless. I’m your typical night owl. I could be completely blocked all day but when the clock strikes midnight, boom! All my ideas come in and I’m typing away until dawn.

Don’t try to fight against your nature. Find out when you are at your most creative and create a writing schedule around that.

Of course, most of us have work or other obligations that prevent us from writing exactly when we want/need to. Try to adhere to your writing time as much as you can while  working around your other obligations.

If you are a morning person (for whatever ungodly reason :P), maybe you can wake up a little earlier than usual and squeeze in an extra hour or half hour before you get ready for work. If you are a night owl (woot!), maybe instead of participating in other post-work activities, start writing as soon as you can. If you really need the mystical hours of post-midnight to write, then perhaps some scheduled naps during the afternoon can make sure you get enough sleep while also being able to do your nightly writing.

Find out whatever works for you and play up your strengths!

Change your Setting

Most of us have our little havens where we do most of our writing. But is your work space the best fit for you? Where/how you write can be as crucial as the writing itself. Setting can affect your eagerness, creativity and ability to write. The wrong setting can negatively influence your work and productivity.

I prefer working at a desk, and try to avoid a window that faces a street or area with a lot of activity. I can get easily distracted while watching kids play or a cat trying to catch a lizard or when a lightning bolt strikes down a bird— I swear this has actually happened while I was writing. But then again, these things sometimes spark ideas— especially the lightning thing. I’ve even heard people say a certain smell triggers their creativity. They go sit in their garden and the smell of lavender makes them go into a writing frenzy.

Experiment with setting and see what works for you. And when you find a space, stick to it. If you make a habit of only writing when you are in this space, you can condition your brain to be ready to write whenever you sit in that spot.

Important note: wherever you choose to write, for goodness sake get a comfortable chair! Unless it’s on a bed or somewhere without an actual chair in which case make sure your seat is comfortable and has back support! As writers, we already subject ourselves to hours of inevitably hunching over a keyboard or, for those brave souls who hand-write everything, paper with pen clenched in hand. Don’t make your backs and shoulders hate you even more. Also remember to stretch and exercise every now and then. Finishing your story is important, but keeping your body healthy is important too.

Setting that helps me focus on writing:

A desk facing a window which looks out onto nature (garden, field, flowers, open sky, etc.) but has little activity. A swivel chair is also fun for those mini wheel-around-the-room breaks in between chapters— this is totally a thing.

Find your “Lucky Hat”

No, not a figurative lucky hat. I mean literally. Sometimes when I’m stuck on a scene or have writer’s block, I put on my lucky hat and I suddenly feel less blocked— yes, it’s the same hat displayed in my twitter avi and the picture in my blog’s bio. Thanks again to all who complimented me on it ^.^. Maybe it’s my inner desire to project the serious-fedora-wearing writer stereotype, maybe the pressure of the hat’s brim on my skull has a physical effect on my creative brain cells, or maybe I’m just coocoo. Either way, it’s worked.

An even more random phenomenon that gets me writing: cutting my nails. This may sound crazy— and okay, it sort of is— but whenever I cut my nails, I get instant creative writing flow. Every time. I think it’s because having long nails makes typing a little more difficult. When there isn’t that factor inhibiting my ability to type, my fingers feel free and the keys call to them lovingly. I’ve heard other people attest to something similar. A friend says that she notices an increase in productive writing when she has nail polish on her nails.

Find your lucky hat and use it! Even the most random of things can inspire you to write.

My lucky hats:

My actual lucky hat, cuticle care, my laptop (can’t seem to write on any other device), and wine (yes, wine. *mischievous grin.*)

Great ideas can come from the weirdest places

Over the summer, a rat jumped out at me from the communal garbage bin in my neighborhood and it scared the begeeses out of me. I did a pretty good rendition of Psycho‘s Marion Crane. Except the rat wasn’t stabbing me a bunch of times… but it might as well have. Anyway, it freaked me out. But it also gave me an idea for a scene in my novel so… Yay? Random events like these can be great catalysts for creative ideas. Weird? Yes. But at least they get us writing.

Dreams are the epitome of weird. Consequently, they are great writing material. The idea for my current novel-in-progress came from a dream I had as a child. I write stories based on my dreams all the time. Coming soon: the adventures of Paola and her giant talking cat as they fly through space and fight off gnomes… Just kidding ;)— but I wouldn’t be opposed to such a story or fun dream!

I’m one of the lucky people who remember (most) of their dreams, even with significant detail. Others say they forget their dream the minute they wake up. My advice is to have a dream journal next to your bed. When you wake up, the first thing you should do is write it down. Immediately. If you wait too long, you will start thinking of something else or someone/something may distract you and your dream could slip right out of your fingers. You don’t have to remember every step of the action or overall plot of the dream. Chances are, they won’t make much sense to use as actual plot lines anyway. But they can sure help shape story plot lines. Even the simplest details from dreams can spark ideas for stories.

Go out and observe the world

Interact with the world you are trying to emulate with your words. People watch. It’s quite entertaining and strangers can make for great characters. You can borrow descriptions, dialogue, personalities, motivations, interactions, you name it! They can even be the basis of a great story.

One time at the mall food court, I saw a little girl in a tutu, jeans and light-up sneakers with furry bumble bee ears on her head sitting with who I presumed to be her grandfather dressed in a fishing outfit complete with fishing hat. They were eating ice cream and reading from a giant dictionary. I remember thinking there was a cute granddaughter-grandfather story there. This happens all the time. Don’t forget to join the world that you are trying to capture in your stories.

Take nature walks or simply sit out in the garden and observe how animals interact, and the sound of the wind through the trees. Think of it as research. If you’re writing a story that takes place by a lake, try to go visit one so you can get the description right. If your character is a shopaholic, go to a mall and try to see the stores from your character’s perspective. Any bar scenes? Go to a bar, jot down some notes and… since you’re already there you might as well take a glass of something, right? You know, for research… but then get back to writing! :P

Multitask: Bounce between projects

Multiple works in progress can keep you creatively agile. You can switch gears when the muse runs out for one story.

I do this all the time. I live off of this really. The scattered brain I mentioned in an earlier post? It loves having multiple projects to work on. Writing for different mediums can also be effective. When I’m struggling with exposition and description, I switch to a script which doesn’t call for such craft. When I’m tired of working with a large story, I move to the smaller space a poem can give me to work with.

However, it can be disorienting bouncing between script writing, poetry and prose. And it can be overwhelming and exhausting working on so many stories at once. So make sure you don’t take on more than you can handle!


As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the fastest way for me to be inspired to keep writing is by reading. You can’t write if you don’t read. Pick up that book you’ve been putting off and do some active reading. Be aware of things like setting, characterization, dialogue, plot etc. and I promise something will spark an idea for a new story or will give you a new perspective to introduce to your work in progress.

This especially works if you’re experimenting with genre. I find that when I’m working on fantasy, I need to read fantasy stories to keep me in that zone. When I want to write a realistic fiction piece, I pick up a literary novel to orient myself.

You’re not wasting time by reading. Reading leads to writing which leads to your work in progress done. It can also inspire you to finish your novel so you can one day hold it in your hands as you now hold someone else’s work.

But of course, do not strive to imitate or directly copy something another author did. Let other authors’ works inspire you to develop your own ideas and unique craft.

Just Keep Writing

Write EVERY DAY. Even if it’s just a sentence or revising a paragraph. Even if you think it’s all gibberish and gobbledegook. Even if you’re feeling particularly doubtful about your writing ability. Just write. (If you are feeling like your writing sucks, and are on the brink of giving up, please don’t! Maybe this post will cheer you up.) If you don’t practice your craft you won’t improve. Writing begets writing.

I cannot count how many times I have sat down to fix a paragraph and ended up writing for a solid 5 hours when I had absolutely no intention to do so at the time— it’s actually happening right now! I meant to only correct a typo and now here I am at the end of the post. So let go of all of your inhibitions and just write.

I hope these ideas inspired you to write. Sometimes it’s tough to get started or we simply get sidetracked, and that’s okay. The important thing is that we stay persistent and do whatever is possible to get us writing again.

Keep writing! You got this!

Happy Writing,

– Paola ©2014

What about you? What’s your muse? Which bands trigger your creativity? What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you that sparked an idea for your short story or novel? 

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Is That Self-Doubt I Hear? Stop it Right There! Here’s Why You Need to Keep Writing

I’ve been hearing a lot of negativity from writers lately: “My writing sucks,” “Every time I read x author I cry because I will never equal their talent,” “I’ve been working on this WIP forever and it’s still not done/it’s crap/it will never get published.”

STOP. Stop it right there!

Writers, please stop beating yourselves up and talking yourselves down. Why are we such a self-criticizing bunch? What happened? Where’s the confidence? I am by no means excluded from this either. I may talk the talk but I most certainly am guilty of a little self-criticism too— okay, maybe a lot…

So I decided to make this little Confidence Boosting post— along with some inspirational quotes because come on, who doesn’t like some wise words paired with emotive pictures?This is for you, for me, for any and all writers who need a reminder of why they started writing in the first place and why they should keep doing it.

The Mantra

First things first, I have a little mantra I like to use. If you’d like to humor me for a minute, please repeat after me:

I am a badass writer. I can do anything. I am going to kick my novel’s butt. I will succeed.

There’s nothing wrong with starting with a little positivity. If you sit down to write with a negative attitude and the affirmation that you will fail, then you will fail. I know you’ve done it. I’ve done it. I still do it. Therefore, I created the mantra. I know some of you may think that this is silly, and repeating something to yourself that you don’t believe won’t do anything. And hey, maybe it won’t work for you. But if you say it enough your subconscious may pick it up and, believe it or not, it will stick.

BK/, origin Walt Stoneburner/

BK/, origin Walt Stoneburner/

Writing is bravery

Writing is a terrifying profession. You are putting something out there that will be open to scrutiny and criticism. Your work is a part of you. You are basically giving the world a piece of yourself. And some mean people will pick you apart— what were we thinking!? :S

But baring your soul to others is noble. It can be terrifying and overwhelming, but remember that people out there will relate to you and will take comfort and courage in your words. You never know whose life could change because of your story. Your story. You could be helping others overcome their own issues by relating to your plot and characters, or encouraging other budding writers to pursue their dreams, or you could simply be giving joy to someone who really needed a good story.

We’re writers which means we battle our fears every time we put words to paper. By battling that fear and writing your story, you’re contributing to the world. Be proud of that.

Dealing with rejection

Rejection can be devastating, especially when you feel that what is being rejected is part of your very self. But we— me definitely included— need to learn to separate ourselves from our work. What is being critiqued is our story, not ourselves. That one story that may not have been as successful as you had hoped does not define who you are as a writer or as a person.

We also should remember that rejection (when given in good faith) can be a good thing. It means that what we wrote can clearly be better. We can improve our craft. We can be better versions of ourselves as writers. I anticipate my writing workshops with equal excitement and utter terror, and fight a wave of emotions every time someone criticizes my work. I have to remind myself that they are only trying to help me improve.

Be thankful for those rejections and closed doors. I know it sounds crazy, but bear with me here. After the initial wave of despair and questioning your career choices and feeling like your world is ending, there comes a point where you fight back. You realize that those rejections make you stronger, more determined and more resilient in your pursuit to be published. Your hardships will make you more appreciative when life (and a publisher) finally says yes.

What’s important here is to learn not to reject yourself first. Don’t beat yourself up and sentence yourself to the rejection pile before you even finish your manuscript or send it off for review.

Celestine Chua/, origin Mario Mancuso/ and

Celestine Chua/, origin Mario Mancuso/ and

If you’ve been critiqued or rejected or simply have self-doubt, the next step should be to:

Figure out the thing(s) about writing you are badass at

Is it characterization? Are your characters so vivid and complex that you sometimes wish you could meet them in real life or would be terrified if they did come to life? What about description? Are your readers instantly transported to your story’s world within just a few sentences? Do you create mind-blowing plots that leave your readers wanting more?

I never considered myself to be even remotely funny. But when people fell in love with my character’s antics and jokes, it made me re-think. That’s what writing should do. Not bring you down but give you courage! Let you explore and learn new things about yourself, give you a new perspective.

Pinpoint that thing, or various things, and write that ish down. Blow it up and put it on your wall. Don’t let yourself forget that you do have skills in writing, that you are a good writer. It’s easy to forget or put yourself down when you’re in the middle of a rut. But it’s much harder to deny when you can see it every day shining proudly on your wall. You can turn it into your own personal mantra too. I know, some of you may be thinking this is lame. But let me tell you, a constant reminder and confidence booster isn’t going to hurt anybody.

Another thing you can do is:

Get a group of writer friends

These people are your personal cheerleaders. They understand your suffering and fears and hard work more than even your non-writing family and friends could. They’ve been there. They are there. They’ll need your help too.

Whenever I question my skills and my decision about being a writer, I talk to my writer friends or show them my work. And, bless them, they encourage me to keep going. They don’t lie to me and tell me I’m perfect and that my work is flawless. They give honest critiques of my work. They make me a better writer. They tell me the truth and insist that I have talent for writing and that I should pursue it.

Every writer should have a set of friends like these. And yes, other non-writing friends and family who support you and encourage you to keep going.

—Shout out to my amazing family, friends and support system! I love you all!

Now it’s time to:

Squash that little voice that says you’re not good enough

Right now. Do it. Imagine that little bug, all glib and gross and tiny, and stomp on that negative sucker. You can even grind it into the floor for good measure. Wipe off your shoe. Take a deep breath. And let it out.

Now that that’s done, I don’t want to hear any more negativity! Stop that little voice from coming back. How can other people believe in you if you don’t? How will others love your work if you keep hating everything you write? I’m not saying take on this fake confidence and absolutely love everything you do even when it’s not working. I’m saying have a little faith in yourself. You’re a writer for a reason. So write! Being a writer takes a lot of work, but you need to start somewhere. You can’t perfect what’s not written.

I’m going to say it because it needs to be said: the first draft is supposed to suck! And even the second. And possibly the third… What people tend to forget is that writing isn’t just about typing words on a page and expecting them to be perfect from the get-go. It’s about writing and rewriting and more rewriting and revising. You need to turn off editor mode and just write the darn thing. Then you can go back and edit to your heart’s content. And it may take just two drafts, or seven. But this doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. If you’re persistent and dedicated, you will get to the desired, finished product.

Don’t be so hard on yourselves. YOU CAN DO IT. (Bonus points to those who read that in Rob Schneider’s voice.)

BK/, origin darwin Bell/

BK/, origin darwin Bell/


But the most important thing you need to remind yourself daily is:


I know it may seem odd to have to remind yourself of why you’re doing something, especially something like writing which requires so much time and sacrifice. “I’m a writer!” you may say. “Of course I know. I don’t need reminding!” But we do. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that our sleepless nights, our desk-chair-imprinted butts, our aching hunched-over-keyboard backs, and our one or two mental breakdowns are all worth something.

Regardless of whether you have a 9 to 5 job and write in your spare time, or you made the brave and scary decision to quit your job to achieve your dream of getting published, or you’re already a published full-time writer: you write because you love writing. You write because you have a story inside you that needs to be told. You’re doing what you love.

And the great thing is that when all of our hard work is finished, we will be able to share it with others. Writing is rather solitary. We are trapped inside our heads and spend countless hours and intimate moments with our laptops. Alone. But when the story’s done you get to share it with your friends and family and those wonderful fans, bless them, who will read it and love it and all of a sudden, all that hard work was worth it. 

Even if you choose not to share your work. Even if you simply write for yourself. Then do it for yourself and write. Bash that self-doubt and self-criticism and just write. 

You are all amazing and I would love to read your finished books when they are published! Yes, when. I believe in us. We can finish these books and get them out to the world. And damn it, the world will like it.

SO GET OFF YOUR BUTTS AND…get back on your butts… AND WRITE!!!

Happy Writing,

-Paola ©2014

What do you do to boost your confidence in writing? Do you have any mantras or other tips? 

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