A Writer Needs a Bullet-Proof Vest and Helmet

I’ve always heard that a writer needed a special hat to wear when he/she is writing. I believe that a writer also needs a bullet-proof vest and helmet to filter negative criticism. The trouble is when you wear such a bullet-proof helmet and vest, you stop the bad things from going through, but you also stop the good things from going through. Even when wearing a bullet-proof vest, the impact of the bullet may be enough to knock you down.

What you, a writer really needs is a shield around you to filter the words and translate them into words you can use to better yourself and get to your goal. You want these words changed into words that inspire you to reach higher and enable you to grow in your personal skills and your writing skills, too. Just like a character, you have inner conflicts and outer conflicts to deal with about your writing. Keep a journal. Write down your feelings and body reactions to the comments of editors and agents. Then put these descriptions into your writing. If your own and other people’s negative words and actions are put into the filter and stirred in with God’s graces and blessings, they come out in words and actions you can use to become a stronger person and a better writer.

Realize that just because one person says something bad, that doesn’t make it true. It is one person’s opinion. It does not make the statement a fact.

Just because one publisher said, “This doesn’t mean our needs,” doesn’t mean it doesn’t mean any publisher’s needs.
It means you have to search a little deeper for a publisher of similar books and explain how your book has a clever twist to it.

Just because one editor says, “The market for this book is too small. We won’t make any money on it, therefore we won’t print it.” This doesn’t mean there isn’t a small publisher or a magazine editor who might take a chance on this small niche and make more money than you can imagine from it.

The thing is you have to believe in yourself and your stories. You have to believe in them no matter what other people say. You have to believe in them, no matter what other people do. Like Flip Flap Floodle, you have to believe in your song. If you don’t believe in your story, it will never be published. Treasure your stories. Hone your skills. You will succeed.

Clothing may make the man, but writing skills make the story.
Two kinds of rejections you can eliminate.

1. Grammar and punctuation

Chances are no editor or agent one will write and tell you your grammar and punctuation stink.

Your writing group will. Coming through the filter, you can tell you need help in this area, be especially careful to get other people to proof read your story before sending it off.

When I worked at the Pentagon it was my job to type a Colonel’s speech for him. I proofed it myself. When he practiced his speech, it read, “in order to obtain, in order to obtain, in order to obtain to obtain.”
He said, “What is this? Some kind of song?”
My boss sat down with me and asked me if I had proofed it. I told him I had read it over to myself.
He said, “Did you have someonelse to read it with you?”
I said, “No.”
He said, “Next time make sure someone else reads it with you. Let them read your copy and you look at the notes of what it’s supposed to say. Then switch and you read it from the notes and they will read along on the printed copy.
I learned two valuable lessons. One is that my boss respected me enough to continue letting me work for him. He trusted that I would be more careful in my typing. He was forgiving and so was his boss…the Colonel. I also learned to have a sense of humor about my work.

My advice to you: Proof your work. If you feel you have a definite weakness, take a course at a community college in grammar and punctuation. If you enjoy the challenge of self-study, check out books from the library. I hate the name of the Dummy books, but they have good information inside them. When you study to learn new skills, you are a smarty. Here are resources that may help you.

a. Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation http://www.grammarbook.com/grammar_book.asp by Jane Straus. This site also has videos to teach grammar and punctuation.

b. http://www.amazon.com/Writers-Inc-Student-Handbook-Learning/dp/0669471860 Some people recommend the book, Writers, Inc by Patrick Sebranek.

c.Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White.

2. Follow the directions in the guidelines provided online by publishers and agents.

Read the guidelines three times out loud. Have someone else read them to you.

Many agents and editors say they do not even look at manuscripts of people who do not follow directions. This is a mistake you may be making that no one tells you about. This is something you have to figure out yourself, unless you have someone checking it out with you, your personal writing “sidekick.”

If it says, email submissions only and you send it by snail mail to a publisher’s address in New York city. What do you think will happen to your submission? You’re shaking your head saying, surely no one would do something like that. People do it. I’ve heard the editors and agents say so. Don’t sabotage your own success. Follow the guidelines.

Add the following ingredients to your manuscript to increase the chances of a “YES, I’d like to publish your story.”

1. Make certain your manuscript has all three story essentials:

Unforgettable Character with a flaw and a goal he/she is willing to climb mountains or jump off cliffs to achieve an outer goal or to overcome an inner conflict.
Plot – Beginning, middle, and a satisfying ending filled with tension of inner struggle and outer struggle, anticipation of good or bad consequences of the available choices each character has. Tension on each page. (Beginning)Exposition, Rising Action, (Middle) Climax, Falling Action, Denouement, Resolution, (End)
Setting -where does this character have these problems? Why here? Why not somewhere else? Put your character with people, circumstances, and settings that make his flaw more noticeable in the beginning and his strengths to be more noticeable at the end.

2. Put emotions into your story
How you put all these story essentials together so that the reader feels the emotions the characters feel. Let the readers know the contradictions that goes through his mind. What are the things happening in their lives at one time that cause them stress and/or worry? What causes them great happiness? What causes your character anguish and sadness?

3. Decide which person…First Person, Second Person, Third Person.

Here are two articles

“How to Start Writing in Third Person” by
Ginny Wiehardt

4. Put your own distinctive voice into your writing.
An article that explains voice well is “Looking for Quality in Student Writing” by Stephen Peha.
Ten Steps to Finding Your Writing Voice by Holly Lisle.

5. Study the best selling children’s and adult books.
If you’re writing non-fiction (informational) books, read 100 non-fiction books.
If you’re writing children’s fantasy book, read 100 children’s fantasy books.
If you want to write like a best selling novelist, read 10 books by ten different best selling novelists.

6. Spend as much time writing your story as you want your readers to spend reading it.
If you want a reader to spend 20 minutes reading your book, spend 20 minutes every day for 365 days: 7,300 minutes or 121.6 hours.
If you want a reader to spend 60 minutes reading your book, spend 60 minutes every day for 365 days: 21,900 minutes or 365 hours.
You may spend more or less time working on your writing. Many novelists spend years working on them. Some novelists spend less.
My point is that you have to spend time writing to get better at it.The more you read, the better your write. The more you write, the better you read. The more you read, the better you understand a part of the elements of writing.

I hope I’ve encouraged and enlightened you. However, if you still feel you need a bullet-proof vest and helmet, helmet, read the article “How Can A Bullet-Proof Vest Stop a Bullet?” by Richard M. J. Renneboog and check out the helmets at the following link: http://www.blackarmor.com/Vest/Helmet.htm.

Happy Writing
May God protect you and empower you!

Please leave a comment, question, or resource.

Never Give Up
Live Today
Joan Y. Edwards
Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Joan-Y-Edwards-Author/111310278911077

Copyright 2010 Joan Y. Edwards. All rights reserved.

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6 thoughts on “A Writer Needs a Bullet-Proof Vest and Helmet”

  1. Joan,

    I loved the helmet link. Too funny! A bargain at $300+. I imagine we’d all run out and buy one if we thought it would guarantee to keep the pain of rejection away.

    Thanks for all the great tips and for always encouraging others.

    Linda A.

    1. Dear Linda, Thanks for writing. I’m glad you saw the humor in my helmet link. You’re right. The pain of rejection may penetrate even the best of bullet-proof helmets. We have to change our way of thinking about them. Good luck with more publications of your writing.

      Have a Flip Flap Floodle Day!

      Joan Y. Edwards

  2. Yes, I need a shield and especially that helmet. I’ll not only use it against hard words tossed my way, but I’ll also wear it while rocking on my porch amongst the fighting hummingbirds!

    1. Dear Bonnie, Thanks for leaving a comment. I hope the helmet comes in handy when among the fighting hummingbirds. My sister-in-law who lives in Jefferson, Colorado has a lot of hummers. She sets up about 4 feeders for them. Their sound is distinctive. They do fly pretty close at times. I usually spend a good bit of time trying to get pictures of them when I’m out there. Good luck with your writing and publishing!

      Have a Flip Flap Floodle Day!

      Joan Y. Edwards

  3. Very good article. And, although I know some people rave about it, I’ve found Strunk and White to be virtually useless to anyone who knows a bit about grammar.

    1. Dear Katie, Thank you for saying I wrote a very good article. I only checked out Strunk and White’s book a long time ago. It wasn’t helpful to me, but many people recommend it. So it’s a good reason for a writer to check one out at the library and see if the book is a good fit for him/her. What works for me might not work for you. What works for that person, might not work for another person. Which book do you recommend for grammar and punctuation?

      Have a Flip Flap Floodle Day!

      Joan Y. Edwards

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