Monday, April 14, 2008

Christie Craig on Motivation

Christie Craig
Weddings Can be Murder
Publisher: Dorchester
Pub date: June 2008
Agent: Kim Lionetti



(Click to Pre-order)
I will never forget how I felt the first time I gave my work to a critique partner to review. You know that fluttery feeling you get in the pit of your stomach, like a child waiting to get just a bit of praise? I was full of flutters that day, and it wasn’t anything I’d eaten, either. I was a new writer, holding my breath, wanting to know if my words had touched someone.

We had exchanged work the week before and were meeting to discuss it. I was so green, so na├»ve, but I knew I was the next Linda Howard. Did I mention I’m an eternal optimist?

You see, I was working on a Commodore computer (Am I showing my age?), no spell check, no grammar check. Oh yeah, and I’m dyslexic. That sort of makes writing a challenge. And while I hadn’t been up to a challenge at sixteen when I quit school, I was twenty-three when I went to that critique session. I’d learn a thing or two, heck, I’d given birth without pain medicine, so I damn well knew I was invincible. (I’ve learned a lot since then.)

Needless to say, you can probably imagine what shape my manuscript was in. But remember, I’m an optimist. So when my critique partner looked me in the eyes and said, “Wow, you amaze me,” I went from scared to feeling like a junior high girl who’d just gotten asked out by the captain of the high school football team.

Then my critique partner continued, “To even think you want to be a writer with everything you have to learn.”

I won’t lie; it hurt like having my fingers jammed in a car door, twice. Even reminded me of childbirth. But I knew she was right. Nevertheless, I had the optimist thing going for me. And as crazy as it seems, the dyslexia had helped me grow a thick skin.

So me and my thick skin kept writing, kept learning, kept giving my work to others to be read. I got raked over the coals numerous times. My rejections poured in, too, from publishers. “We’re sorry but . . .” “Unfortunately your work . . .” “You don’t meet . . .“

Yeah, I got a lot of those.

Poor me, right?

Nope.

Sure, it wasn’t easy. But every successful writer I’ve known has a story to tell, a list of hurdles they’ve jumped over, scooted out of the way of, knocked down, and basically kicked butt to make their dreams come true.

Hurdles and rejection in this business are the norm. If it was easy, I don’t think half of us would aspire to do it. (It says something about writers, doesn’t it?)

However, because I know we all need a shot of motivation, here are a few of my hurdle-jumping tips.

1. Don’t deny your weaknesses; until you admit you have them, you can’t overcome them. Acknowledge your strengths, and build on them.

2. Use your personal rejections as stepping-stones. Go ahead, call the agents and editors idiots . . . for about five minutes, then try to see if their criticisms have merit. But never forget a rejection doesn’t mean a work isn’t great, or even publishable.

3. Find a support system and avoid negative people. I have numerous friends/critique partners and one writing partner on my nonfiction projects. Together, we believe we can conquer the world. Seriously, we’re gonna do it, too.

4. Nurture your passion for writing. Don’t make the payoff all about publication. Set small goals then celebrate each minute accomplishment. You have to enjoy the journey, because the destination—publication—can be long way away.

5. Don’t get caught up in rewrite-itis. Write a book, polish it, but then start another one. Each book is a learning experience and to be a successful writer, you’ve got to do more than write a great book, you’ve got to be able to write great books.

One last piece of advice: Use visualization. Its power is amazing. I saw myself signing a contract, autographing books, and when I got bad news (during the five minutes of idiot calling), I saw myself bury numerous Weight Watcher leaders, contest judges, editors, and even a few agents in my backyard compost pile. I even rent out compost plots to fellow writers. Cheap. Call me.

In all seriousness, this business isn’t for wimps. But if you love writing, if you want it, you just don’t give up. And let me assure you, if I can do it, so can you.

Click here to see a video of Christie on the Houston Chronicle.com about her overcoming the difficulties of being dyslexic.

51 comments:

Diana said...

This was a really great post, Christie. It was just what I needed to hear!

Congratulations on your upcoming book! I really enjoyed Divorced, Desperate and Delicious. I'm looking forward to the next one.

Faye Hughes said...

Christie,

Great post - very inspiring! And what a fabulous video essay, too.

If anyone would like to see the video for WEDDINGS CAN BE MURDER (I've read the book and it's GREAT!), just click here: WEDDINGS

Faye

Anonymous said...

I knew Christie was destined for greatness! A couple of years ago, I judged three of Christie's entries in different contests--LOVED THEM! Loved her voice and couldn't understand why no one had bought her novels. She is an inspiration and I'm glad I was able to get a preview of her fabu writing.
Margaret A. Golla

Maria Zannini said...

Good on you, Christie! You are an inspiration to all of us.

And your tips should be on every writer's desk. I live by 'em. And they work.

Congrats on Weddings Can Be Murder! The trailer is a hoot!

Kristi26 said...

What an inspirational post! Thank you Christie for telling us all "how it is" when you get started, and for motivating us to keep learning and keep trying! Congratulations on your newest book!

Aimless Writer said...

I loved Divorced, Desperate and Delicious! I can't wait to read this one too.
Stories like yours help keep us all writing.
Thanks!

Christie Craig said...

Diana,

Thank you so much!

How's your book coming? Here's to seeing you someday on blog telling your story.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Faye,

Thanks girl. And just so everyone knows, Faye is my partner in writing non-fiction and my partner in crime. She reads my work, rough draft, missing words, backward sentences, and never complains. She tells when I do good; she tells me when I can do better. She listens to me whine, and then kicks me in the rear and tells me to get back to work. And when I'm burying editors in my compost heap, she's there shovel in hand. Everyone needs a Faye in their life.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Margaret,

Wow! Thank you sooo much. The positive feedback in contests played a big part in my ability to keep going.

Seriously, you are my champion.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Maria,

Thanks for stopping by. I always wonder how many exceptional writers give up right before they would have made their big break. Sticking to it is a must in this career.

And thanks for popping over to see the Wedding's video. When I told Faye I wanted to put a flushing toilet in the video, she just about came unglued.

And I think that convinced Kim that I really was nuts. Of course, that wasn't her first clue.

CC

Faye Hughes said...

Also piping in to say that Christie is featured at Barbara Vey at PW's blog this morning:

Barbara Vey

Christie Craig said...

Kristi26,

Thanks. I have that cartoon of the bird attempting to shove a frog down its throat and the frog has it hands wrapped around the bird's neck. The caption says..."Never give up."

I have felt like that frog so many times.

Thanks again.

CC

Christie Craig said...

aimless writer,

Thanks so much. I had a great time writing DD&D. It's crazy, but sometimes I actually miss my characters. Does anyone else experience that?

CC

Keri Ford said...

Great post Christie and how terrible to hear that in the very beginning! It doesn't take long for the skin to thicken up, does it?

And I always miss my characters. How can we not after creating them and spending hours working with them. I still remember things about my first characters (who will never again see light) from 3 years ago!

Angie Fox said...

Fantastic post, Christie! And here you made it look so easy with Divorced, Desperate and Delicious. I loved that book.

And now I have to see the trailer for Weddings Can Be Murder. A flushing toilet? I can completely see you making that work...very well. Off to go track down your trailer. Thanks for taking time to share your story today. I really enjoyed it!

Deborah K. White said...

I often refer to myself as an eternal optimist, but I've never heard anyone else use that exact phrase until now. It's nice to find someone else who belongs to the club. :) Hmm, and I'm also dyslexic. Maybe those two go hand-in-hand somehow.

Since you mentioned your critique partner:

I just got a critique back on my first novel. This kind (in that he took the time) critiquer said I sometimes slipped out of my first person POV--but the story is written in third person, limited. *sigh* I've only found one critique partner who can point out problems, and I agree with every last one and immediately see how to fix the problem. I recognize he's a rare gift, but is only one "plot and storytelling" critiquer enough for future books? I've got another one for spelling, grammar, and confusing points. Just how many critiquers do most published authors have?

RedDuck said...

Wow! Thanks so much for sharing your story. What motivation.

Jeannie Ruesch said...

Hi Christie. What a great post on inspiration, and something we ALL need to keep stamped on our foreheads (backwards, of course, so we can read it in the mirror) when we start to lose sight of why we do what we do.

I recently watched a primetime special on Randy Pausch, a man who has terminal cancer and will inspire you to the very tips of your toes. In his "Last Lecture" he talks about brick walls:

"But remember, the brick walls arethere for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the OTHER people."

It helps me to think of what he said whenever I hit a brick wall, because I realize those brick walls are there to stop someone else, but NOT me. :)

Thanks for such a great Monday morning reminder to keep positive!

Bill Peschel said...

"1. Don’t deny your weaknesses; until you admit you have them, you can’t overcome them. Acknowledge your strengths, and build on them."

This needs to be repeated as often as possible.

It used to be in self-help books that you were told to work on your weaknesses. However, you get a much better "rate of return" devoting your efforts to improving your strengths. Otherwise, for all your work, you end up being merely mediocre and frustrated that you can't seem to get rid of those negative areas.

Great, great advice.

Gina Robinson said...

Great tips, Christie! Count me as another writer who struggled through many rejections before getting the call. It pays to have a sense of humor about them, as you obviously do. I was once rejected for requesting writing guidelines. I have a friend whose thank you note to an editor was rejected. This is a tough business.

Kim Lenox said...

Great advice, Christie!!

Paty Jager said...

Christie, I love your list and optimism. I have always felt optimism, perserverance, and being open to always learning and expanding your craft are what get you published. Oh! And a good story!
Great blog, thanks for sharing!

Christie Craig said...

Hi Keri!

Good to see you here. Ahh, that thick skin starts getting thicker around rejection 100.

I'm glad someone else sort of misses their characters. But hey, if the book didn't sell, you can always pull them out, dust them off, and throw them into another book.

Thanks for posting.

CC

Vicki said...

Awesome post! Thanks for sharing a bit of your journey and inspiring those of us sitll on the first leg of the trip to continue on.

Christie Craig said...

Hi Angie,

Someone once said that if something looks easy, you can bet your boots, someone worked overtime to make it appear that way.

Hey...I'm still waiting to get a copy of The Accidental Demon Slayer. I know you are excited.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Deborah,

I tell people all the time that I don't think I succeeded at writing in spite of the dyslexia, I succeeded because of it. I not only grew a thick skin, but dyslexics have a tendency to be very intuitive.

As for the number of critique partners. I think everyone is different. I know a lot of writers who don't have anyone other than their editors read their work. Me, ha! I generally go through four. And then I still see missing words. Oh, the more creative my mind is working, the more mistakes.

Good luck Deborah. I'm rooting for you. Thanks for posint.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Thanks Redduck.

It's been a wild ride. I've loved every bit of it. Well, not the rejections, but I guess they are like growing pains.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Jeannie,

Wow. I love the brick wall story. And it's so true. As sad as it is, I've seen so many writers, much more talented than myself, throw in the towel. They had more talent than I, but there's something to be said about gumption.

Thanks for posting.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Thanks Bill!

I'm a self-help book junkie. I think my favorite read is The War of Art and then Who Moved My Cheese. Both gave me boost.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Gina,

Thanks for the laugh. The worse rejection I got had a garbage bill tucked inside. I thought they were trying to tell me something, but I learned that my manuscript had never arrived and another piece of mail, the garbage bill, got slipped into my SASE and was returned to me. Thank goodness!

Hey, I also got a rejection from a magazine, and then a month later, I got a check for the piece. The editor had slipped the wrong form letter in my SASE. That was a neat surprise.

Christie Craig said...

Hi Kim,

Ahh, here's another author with a book, Night Falls Darkly, that I can't wait to read.

She also has a very handsome cat. In July, Kim and her kitty will appear in Cat Fancy Magazine.

Thanks for stopping by, Kim.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Paty,

I couldn't have said it better. I think one thing that kept me going was knowing that I was still learning, and as long as I could learn, my odds were always getting better.

Thanks so much for posting.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Vicki,

Here's hoping your journey is amazing. Good luck snagging a contract.

Thanks for posting.

CC

spyscribbler said...

That is such an inspirational story, Christie! I can tell by your post I'd love your voice. Plus, Aimless said your book was great so it must be true!

I'm weird, in that I love finding a weakness. I've been focused on my endings for about half a year. It's so much fun! I spend, now, twice as much time on the endings as I do the books. I rewrite them a ton, too.

To me, weaknesses are a blast. I've even started reading books backwards so I can analyze how everything before it is rooted in the end.

But I'm so grateful I didn't know how much I didn't know when I started. And I'm grateful I made as much progress as I did before I realized I wanted to be a writer. Looking back is daunting, but looking forward is exciting!

Chessie said...

I'm with you, Christie, as long as I know I'm learning and I can see progress, I feel like I'm going forward not backward.

Sometimes I feel like I'm going forward on a treadmill, but at least I'm facing the right direction.

THE GRIND GUYS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elyssa Papa said...

What a great blog, Christie! I have DD&D on my TBR pile; it's the next book I'm reading.

SLING WORDS aka Joan Reeves said...

Hey, Christie, good blog. If you run out of empty spots in that compost pile, come on over. Just started a new compost behind my loquat trees.

Faye Hughes said...

Holy crappers! How did the Grind Guys find out about that Jessica voodoo doll Kim keeps in her office?

Christie Craig said...

Spyscribber,

I'm with you. Keying in on our weaknesses is the best way to overcome them. I don't like writing setting, so I'm forever working overtime to make sure I give enough details.

I love your saying..."looking back is daunting, but looking forward is exciting." It's so true.

Thanks for posing.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Chessie,

Lol! Going forward on a treadmill really hits the nail on the head to how a writer feels sometimes. I rode that darn treadmill for years.

However, take heart that the closer you get the harder it feels. So when you are feeling totally runover, know that you are getting closer.

Good luck and keep learning.

Thanks for posting.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Grind Guys,

Thanks. Here's hoping Weddings doesn't disappoint.

Hmmm...voodoo dolls?

CC

Christie Craig said...

Elyssa,

Thanks so much. Here's hoping you enjoy the Lacy's and Chase's story.

Let me hear from you.

CC

Christie Craig said...

Joan,

I'll remember your compost pile if I need some more room. LOL!

The crazy thing is that I put editors in that heap, and the next thing I know I hear people talking about the editors back at work in NY. The best I can figure is that some of them manage to crawl out.

Thanks for stopping by.

CC

Julie Weathers said...

Ms. Craig;

I'm so very impressed with your determination. I also want to thank you for sharing your story.

Last, but not least, congratulations!

Julie

Christie Craig said...

Julie,

Thank you so much. It's been so exciting and maybe even more so because of my journey. Here's hoping you achieve all your publishing dreams as well.

CC

Carla Swafford said...

I never can get enough of ya, girlfriend! Great blog!

Carla Swafford from Southern Magic

THE GRIND GUYS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christie Craig said...

Carla,

Thanks girl.

How my home state doing?

CC

Sarah L. Catherine said...

Christie -- congrats, again, on all your MAJOR success!! Great post!

Christie Craig said...

Sarah,

Thanks, girl.

Here's to your time that is right around the corner.

CC