books with Athena

books with Athena

Sunday, June 24, 2012

11 REASONS WRITERS GET REJECTED—AND WHY ONLY 3 OF THEM MATTER

by Ruth Harris

I‘m a TradPubbed NYT bestselling author gone indie. I was also an editor for over 20 years (Macmillan, Bantam, Dell) and the Publisher of Kensington—so let me put rejection into a little perspective.

Let’s be clear: Manuscripts get rejected; not writers. Trust me. (Most of the time) it’s not personal. Let me count the ways.

1. THE BASICS: The reasons for rejection start with the basics, i.e. the ms. sucks. Author can't format/spell/doesn’t know grammar, is clueless about characterization, plotting and pacing.

Maybe, though, it's not that bad and with competent editing, it's publishable. But the days of Maxwell Perkins are long gone. These days, staff editors don't have the time and sometimes not even the necessary skills.

If you need an editor, hire one.

2. WILDLIFE INFESTATION:
Occasionally, other hazards present themselves. Way back when I was a child working at Bantam, a would-be author showed up at the office, ms. box in hand.

As the least important, most expendable (what if this guy turns out to be a nut & has a gun?) warm body on the staff, I was sent out to Reception to find out what he was offering. Shook hands, introduced myself, he yackety-yacked, blabbity-blabbed about his masterpiece.

Then he opened the ms. box and a cockroach jumped out. True story. Ms. rejected. Politely, I’m pleased to say.

3. WOW, BULL’S EYE:
Timely subject, credible characters, good plot, well-executed pacing. Lots of us really like it BUT...

Here’s only a partial list of the buts:

4. OVERLOAD: We have too many thrillers, Regency romances, zombie epics etc. already. We need to trim the inventory so right now we’re not buying any of your particular genre. Sorry. Right now it doesn’t fit our needs.

5. PMS/LOW TESTOSTERONE: The boss (or my secretary or DH or teen-aged kid) is giving me or the editor-in-question a hard time today & I'm/he/she is in such a lousy mood we'd turn down War & Peace. So fuddgetaboutit. You’re Tolstoy? Tough. You’re toast.

6. CAN’T SELL ICE TO ESKIMOS:
The sales dept just informed us that books about trans-gendered pigmy werewolves in Lower Slobovia aren't selling the way they used to so we’re not going to make an offer for your (well-written, scary, hilarious, fabulous) novel about trans-gendered pigmy werewolves in Lower Slobovia. Sorry. Right now it doesn’t fit our needs.

7. SOMEONE YOU NEVER HEARD OF HATES IT: The boss (or his/her wife/husband/best friend/shrink/third cousin) hates (insert genre) so be glad your ms. got turned down because even if we bought it, it would be published badly.

Very badly. You’ll get a crappy cover, miniscule print run, zero advertising, promotion or publicity, positioning spine-out on a top shelf in the poorly-lit back of the unventilated, un-airconditioned third floor next to the men's room. You won’t be able to find your own book. Not even with a state-of-the-art GPS.

Your book is guaranteed to be a floperoo. You’ll be miserable and you’ll blame us and you’d be right.

So frame your rejection letter & be happy.

8. CASH CRUNCH: Of course we’re never going to admit it but the company’s in trouble, maybe even on the verge of bankruptcy & we’re not buying anything. Nada. Not right now and not for the foreseeable future. Not until/unless said crunch passes and the money’s flowing again.

Bottom line: you don’t know it and you never will but your timing sucks. Not your fault.

9. CORPORATE CANOODLING:
A major “reorganization” has taken place. The decision has come down from somewhere Up There in Corporate and half the staff (at least) has been fired.

A new regime is hired & they hate all the genres & authors the previous regime loved. The new regime wants to prove that their predecessors were stupid, incompetent and a toxic blight to literacy and that they are going to turn the company around by doing exactly the opposite.

Not your fault, has absolutely nothing to do with you or your ms. but your ms. is going to get turned down.

10. OOPS: Plenty of times editors and publishers are just plain wrong...zillions of examples of that all over the place from J.K. Rowling to Steven King. We turned down your ms.? Maybe we made a mistake. We’ve made plenty of misjudgments in the past and we’ll make plenty more in the future and we know it. Turning down the ms. that becomes a hot bestseller is an occupational hazard. We don’t like it any more than you do but it’s a fact.

11. WE HATE YOU: Once in a while, it is actually personal. We’ve published you before or a friend at another publisher has and we know from experience (or the grapevine) that you’re a whiny, demanding, narcissistic, high-maintenance PITA. No one wants to take your phone calls and everyone who’s had the misfortune of working with you hates you.

We’ve had it with you and your diva-like tantrums and we’re never, ever, ever going to publish another book of yours again.

Except, of course, if you’re making us a boatload of money. Even then, we still hate you and we’ll tell everyone (off the record, of course) that your books “aren’t as good/aren’t selling as well as they used to.” Payback is a bitch.

Just like a lot of things, rejection isn’t always what it seems to be and writers need to put that stack of rejection letters into perspective. Self-published novelist Tracey Garvis Graves, whose debut romance, ON THE ISLAND, was rejected by fourteen literary agents, just signed a two-book deal with Penguin Group's Plume imprint for "seven figures, a good seven figures." We’re talking OVER A MILLION DOLLARS for a book no one wanted.

I once got a form rejection letter for HUSBANDS AND LOVERS while it was on the NYT bestseller list.

No kidding.

Who knows why? I don’t and never will. My agent and I laughed our asses off and I went back to my computer and continued working on my next book.

You should do the same.

EXCEPT if you’re being rejected because your manuscript sucks (#1)—or your behavior does (#11) ...oh yes, and absolutely, positively check for wildlife before submitting (#3). 

In the first case, re-read & re-write with a critical eye and/or hire an editor and pay attention to what s/he says. In the second case, remember the Golden Rule and Do Until Others As You Would LIke Them To Do Unto You. You know, just like your mother said…and maybe get out the Roach Motel?
***
What about you, scriveners? Have you got a rejection you suspect was for one of these reasons? Have you got an outrageous rejection story to share? Does it help to know it’s not your book, it’s the editor’s hormonal imbalances?


Anne will be out visiting this week. On Tuesday, June 26th, she'll be stopping by Meghan C. Ward's Writerland. Anne will be talking about how to choose the publishing path that's best for you. On Wednesday, June 27th, she'll be visiting Catherine Ryan Hyde's blog to talk about the perils of blogging.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend: New Research Helps Writers Fight Depression



I started feeling it this last week: that dark heaviness lurking somewhere just below my conscious thoughts. It makes me burst into tears for no reason. I get clumsy and out of touch with my own body. I feel raw and unprotected. My joints ache. All I want to do is sleep, but sleep won’t come. My digestion gets wonky. Food has no taste.

Depression: I’ve had bouts with it all my life. It runs in my family. I lost my father and brother to suicide.

But I have better ways of fighting it than I used to. I now understand why it happens, and how to fight it off before it gets worse.

If you’re a writer who fights depression, know you’re not alone: a lot of great authors tend to be depressives. From Plato, who was reported to suffer from “melancholic disease,” to recent suicide David Foster Wallace, writing and depression seem inexorably linked. In Nancy Andreasen’s famous study at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, 80% of writers surveyed met the formal diagnostic criteria for depression.

Until recently, nobody knew the reason for this. But new research is giving us fresh data on the anatomy and purpose of depression. In his bestselling new book Imagine, How Creativity Works Jonah Lehrer gives some fascinating information concerning what he calls the “common cold” of mental illness.

He says brain function researchers have discovered the part of the brain active in depressive episodes is the same area we use for complex thought.

That’s right: CREATIVE THOUGHT IS ANATOMICALLY IDENTICAL TO DEPRESSION.

As a result of the new research, some evolutionary psychologists are hypothesizing that humans developed depression—with its accompanying rumination and lack of interest in normal activities—as a mechanism for focusing on problem-solving.

In other words, when Gog’s BFF died trying to spear that saber-toothed tiger, Gog got sad, mooned around not eating, sleeping or making little Gogs, and…invented a longer spear.

So there’s a reason for the darkness: if humans are too happy to see there’s a problem, they can’t become problem-solvers.

These studies show depressed people have enhanced reasoning power. In an article in the New York Times on the subject, Lehrer quoted one researcher who said, the results were clear: [depression] made people think better.”

This seems especially true for writers. Lehrer quoted another researcher who discovered “sadness correlates with clearer and more compelling sentences,” and Lehrer concluded, “because we’re more critical of what we’re writing, we produce more refined prose, the sentences polished by our angst.”

See—you’re not crazy, you’re just a really smart, creative writer!

Lehrer does admit:  “To say that depression has a purpose or that sadness makes us smarter says nothing about its awfulness.”

Whether or not you buy the evolutionary cause-and-effect, this research gives us tools for understanding—and perhaps managing—the depression that overwhelms so many of us.

If we accept that depressive episodes are going to come with long periods of building complex worlds in our heads, maybe we can cope by making sure we take frequent breaks for physical activity, social interaction or non-cerebral tasks (who knew that boring day job was saving you from mental illness?)

It’s like those folktales about journeys to fairyland: you can only stay in there a certain amount of time, or you'll die/go mad. The land where magic happens is also full of demons.  

I know exactly why depression has been attacking me: I’m about to launch my sixth book in less than a year. Nine if you count the anthologies and the Kindle single. I’m pushing to finish number seven/ten. I've been overusing that dark, creative part of my brain. 

It’s ironic that my newest book is called HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE…AND KEEP YOUR E-SANITY!


I was starting to lose my own sanity—because I wasn’t taking my own advice. I've been spending too long in the brain territory where creativity lives side by side with the depression demons.

But I’m not going to get stuck there. Because of this new research, I’m not afraid of the darkness any more. Now I know it’s part of the creative process. When I see the pain as part of the package instead of a disease, I don’t have to label myself “crazy”—a sure-fire way to trigger the self-loathing that leads to severe depression.

I’m going to work with the darkness instead of medicating it away with pills. Those pills have always decreased my creativity and now I know why. If depression lives in the same place as creative thought, when you block out one, you’re going to interfere with the other.

NOTE: I’m not telling people with severe depression to forego the meds—they can be life-savers.

But to treat my incipient version of the disease, I’m going to lighten my load, spend more time away from the computer and shut out the noise that tells me that whatever I do isn’t enough. Last night I was invited to a fun party with a lot of creative, intelligent people. Earlier in the week, I decided I'd pass. I was supposed to bring a potluck dish--and it would be too much work and my digestion was a mess.

But as I started to think about this post, I realized I had to go. I knew it would be good medicine. And it was. My tummy is fine and I'm feeling amazingly more cheerful. Fun conversation and great food is one of the best ways to get out of your head and into the real world.

Of course I had to fight a little guilt.

When you spend most of your time on the Interwebz, you can feel as if you’re surrounded by superpersons who all have more hours in their days than you do. You’re bombarded by voices that say, “you can’t succeed unless you do this! And that! And these other 100 things! How dare you eat/sleep/read/have a family? You obviously don't really want to succeed!"

So you keep pushing yourself more and more. You become like the evil CEO who never hires new workers but expects a  higher and higher productivity level from an ever more stressed-out staff.

So I've stopped being the evil CEO of my own body.

I came across a fascinating fact last week in a post from Robin LaFevers on Writer Unboxed:

Suzanne Collins has almost no Web presence.

Really. The phenomenal bestselling author has no Facebook page, no Twitter account, no Goodreads, Red Room, Library Thing, or Kindleboard profile. She’s got one tired website and has only written 8 books in her whole career.

But none of that seems to have hurt the sales of her HUNGER GAMES trilogy, does it?  

So it IS possible to succeed as a writer in the 21st century without churning out a book a month and being online 24/7! You can be a successful author and take care of yourself, too.

This gives me hope.

And for any of you out there who are prone to depressive episodes, it should give you hope, too.

Depression is indeed awful. But it helps to know why it exists. And it helps even more to know that you can nip it in the bud by shutting out the voices who push you to stay too long in that creative place that is equally full of magic and danger.  

What about you, scriveners? Have you ever had a bout with inner darkness?  Did it come after a long period of intense thought? Are you feeling depressed by the demands that you do too much?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hey, James Patterson Stole my Plot!


Plot theft. It tends to be on the minds of a lot of new writers.

You were planning to write that book some day. You had this brilliant plot. Now that *#%! Patterson/Nora Roberts/Stephen King has written a bestseller with the exact same premise.

Or the story is eerily similar to the one you pitched to an agent at a writer’s conference.

Or you're sure your plot will be stolen if you talk about your book online or in critique groups.

What should you do?

Nothing.

Writers have a lot to be wary of these days—bogus agents, inexperienced editors, overpriced coders/designers, scam publishers, draconian contracts, trollish critiquers—but plot-purloiners should not be high on the list.

Consider the old saying: “There are no new stories, just new ways of telling them.”

Experts don’t agree on the exact number of narrative plots, but there aren’t many:


The number seems to be shrinking, but everybody agrees it is finite.

So—no matter how original your story feels to you, somebody has probably told it before.

Maybe a bestselling novelist like James Patterson.

They didn’t steal it. They thought it up just the way you did.

It’s amazing how often an idea that sprouts in your brain from the seeds of your own imagination can take root in other people’s brains at the same time. Human minds often respond in similar ways to prevailing news stories, music, weather patterns or whatever—and end up generating similar thoughts.

Evolutionary biologists call this phenomenon a “meme.” The term—from the Greek mimema—meaning something imitated—was coined by biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene. He observed that certain stories, melodies, catch phrases and fashions can flash through a whole culture in a short amount of time, changing and mutating as they go. Darwin and Wallace simultaneously came up with the theory of evolution while on different sides of the world. Newton and Liebnitz simultaneously invented calculus.

This explains why we can’t copyright ideas. Everybody has them. Very often the same ones at the same time.

Unfortunately, new writers don’t always realize this, and we can embarrass ourselves with plot-theft paranoia. That’s why you never want to mention copyright in a query letter. It red-flags you as an amateur.

Of course, if you’re having severe anxiety about it, you can indeed copyright your magnum opus, although it’s not necessary under current copyright laws. And if you’re really sure nobody ever thought of mixing classic 19th century fiction with B-movie paranormal creatures, you can even copyright that logline for “Silas Marner meets Gremlins.”

 Just don’t mention this to industry professionals.

This is because delusions about the uniqueness of story ideas can get pretty off-the-wall.
Victoria Strauss at WriterBeware wrote last year about some guy who was trying to sell his plot idea on eBay for ten million dollars. He said, “It can be compared to stories like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Matrix, Indiana Jones…and will bring in endless fame and money to anyone who takes it.”

And he’s not the only starry-eyed doofus who’s combined delusions of grandeur with total cluelessness about the effort required to actually write a novel or screenplay.

In the thread of the same post at Writer Beware, children’s author Kathleen Duey said, “I have been approached so many times by people who want me to buy a story, or who are willing to share half the proceeds if I will just do the writing. I never know what to say. I am not rude, but...really? Try that split on any other kind of business person. ‘I think that a colony on Mars would be awesome and I am willing to give a 50% share of all eventual proceeds to anyone who can make it happen.’ I am always careful to walk away, if that's what it takes, to keep anyone from telling me the idea…just in case I ever write something similar by accident.”

I’ll bet a lot of writers have been approached in a similar way. I sure have.

I have a feeling this delusion is as old as writing itself. I imagine Virgil probably met a guy at the Emperor Augustus’s orgy who said, “You’re a writer? Hey, I’ve got this idea for a book about a guy who sails around the Mediterranean. Meets up with big storms. Monsters. Some hot nookie. You can write it down and we’ll split the proceeds 50-50.”

I hope Virgil had a good lawyer.

Kathleen Duey’s instinct to run is a good one. These people can get scary. (They’re more likely to resort to lawsuits than murder, but I used it as a plot device in my comic mystery set at a small publishing house: SHERWOOD, LTD.)

When somebody approaches me with this “proposition,” I say, “the going rate for ghostwriters is $50-$100 an hour. I don’t provide that service, but I can get you a referral.”

Thing is--most writers have plenty of story ideas of our own. Our biggest fear is not living long enough to write them all.

But what do you do when somebody big like Patterson does publish a book that’s similar to yours? Even if they didn’t literally “steal” it, you can feel kind of ripped off.

Don’t despair. Memes can work in your favor. If you’re writing the final draft of your version of your Silas Marner/Gremlins mash-up, and somebody else comes out with a Silas Marner/Poltergeist  mash-up, you’re now part of a trend.

Readers tend to be sheep. If the first book is popular, they’ll want another. And if yours is better, you’re way ahead. It’s not about being first.

You can be pretty sure you’re not.

I’ll bet some guy told Virgil when he first pitched the Aeneid, “a lost dude sails around the Mediterranean after the Trojan War having adventures? Sorry, that’s been done. Haven’t you heard of that Homer guy’s story, the Odyssey?”

Hey, Virgil stole Homer’s plot!

I suppose he did--in a way. But it doesn’t seem to have hurt sales for either of them for the last couple of millennia.

It’s the telling that makes each story unique. And that’s going to be true of your story, too. It’s not about the plot. It’s about the writing. Nobody can steal that.

You should be more worried that your plot has been overdone.

Unfortunately, memes have short life spans. So it's important to keep up with what's selling in your genre. You need to know when the reader-sheep have moved on to greener pastures..

I'm not telling anybody to abandon a WIP with an well-used plotline. But be aware you're going to have to work a little harder to make it stand out. I thought I'd never want to see another vampire movie, and then Dark Shadows came out. And I laughed my head off watching Vampires Suck last night. You can always take something tired and make it fresh with humor. Or Johnny Depp.

Here are some overdone plots I see agents and readers complain about:

1) The thinly disguised memoir/rant

  • The Health-Crisis Survivor: The protagonist has cancer, lost a loved one, or has a disabled child—and after much agony, learns what’s important about life. Heart-wrenching, but misery won’t sell books unless you’re Joyce Carol Oates.

  • My Terrible Childhood: Child abuse is tragic stuff, but after somebody has seen 1000 versions Bastard Out Of Carolina, she gets calluses on her eyeballs.

  • Days of Wine and Roses: Too many addicts have twelve-stepped before you. It’s hard to make a story of  “I was soooo f***ed up” sound fresh. Journal about it, and use your insights in other work.

  • The Government Sux: Most of what you’re ranting about will probably be old news by launch date, even if you self-publish. This is why we have blogs.

2) The wish-fulfillment road-trip fantasy

  • Me and Bobby McGee: Unappreciated husband leaves soul-stifling life for the freedom of the road. He picks up a sexy hitchhiker who teaches him what’s important about life and some nifty things to do in bed. Been there, read that.

  • Thelma and Louise: Unappreciated housewives leave soul-stifling lives for the freedom of the road. Sounds fun, but we all know how it ends.

  • Zen and the Art of… Same story, with motorcycle/sailboat/classic Corvette.

3) Obvious or copy-cat plot devices

  • Grail Quests: J. R. R. Tolkien provides some pretty stiff competition in the “searching for a magical object” category. If you saddle this old warhorse, make sure it takes you somewhere wildly original and/or funny.

  • Wardrobing to Narnia: I’ve seen a lot of agents kvetch about the proliferation of “portals” in SciFi/Fantasy queries. Pop your characters to fantasy worlds by magic toaster or something.

  • The Chosen Hero: the ordinary Harry Potter-type kid who doesn’t know he’s the anointed hero destined to fight the Evil One and save the school/civilization/planet. Old when young Arthur pulled the sword out of that stone. 

  • Improbable high school love fantasies: Dorky new kid in school attracts the most popular kid of opposite sex. Been done. With sparkles. Just once, we’d like to see dork meets dork.

  • Creatures of the Night: The curtain has fallen on werewolves and vampires.

  • The Da Vinci Homage: If your hero has found a secret code or artifact that holds the key to a shocking revision of ecclesiastical history, you’d better set it on Mars or reveal the fetid meatballs at the Pastafarian heart of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or you’re going to have a hard time.

  • A writer writing a novel: We’re told to write what we know, which is probably why most writers try this one. But you’ll do better with a story about your day job at the laundromat.

On the other hand, oldies can be goodies in the right hands. Nothing was more tired than the English boarding school melodrama before J. K. Rowling put her spin on it.

The way to avoid this is to read books in your genre before you start. It’s essential to know what’s out there. You may think you’re the first person ever to think of mashing up B-movies with classics, and unless you look at your local bookstore shelves and see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, you won’t know it’s been done, and you’ll think “Seth Grahame-Smith stole my plot!”
***

What about you, scriveners? Have you ever had your brilliant plot show up in somebody else’s book? Have you had somebody try to sell you a plot or use their plot and split the proceeds 50-50? What did you do? Have you tried to write a book with one of the overdone plots? (I sure have: writer writing a novel—still have it in a drawer.)


Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Slow Blog Manifesto...and 8 Reasons Why Slow Blogging Will Help Your Career, Your Love Life, and Protect You From Angry Elephants


What is the Slow Blog Manifesto?

It’s an essay written in 2006 by Canadian software designer Todd Sieling at the height of the everybody-must-get-a-blog frenzy. You can read the Slow Blog Manifesto here. Slow Blogging is modeled on Alice Walker’s “slow food” movement (the opposite of McBurgerish “fast food.”) The point is quality over quantity.

Todd wrote:

“Slow Blogging is the re-establishment of the machine as the agent of human expression, rather than its whip and container. It’s the voluntary halting of the light-speed hamster wheel dictated in rules of highly effective blogging.”

He urged people to write a few thoughtful, well-researched posts a month rather than daily blabber. A number of influential journalists, technicians, and academics joined his movement. It built steam until mid-2008, when it merited an article in the New York Times. 

It’s a principle that’s caught on. I see a lot of publishing industry bloggers cutting back on their number of posts—even uberbloggers like Nathan Bransford and Jane Friedman.

But unfortunately, not everybody has got the message. This week I saw a post on a popular writing blog telling new authors they should blog every single day.

I couldn’t disagree more. I think new authors, especially, need to limit their distractions. Yes, authors absolutely need social media these days, but we shouldn’t give it any more of our writing time than absolutely necessary.  (Especially since we are all supposed to write 12 books a year—more on that nonsense in another post.) 

Also, in order to get a readership in this saturated blogosphere, it seems to me we should be stressing quality over quantity. People don't want more stuff to take up their time.

If you aren’t quite sure what to blog about, check out How to Blog Part III: What Should You Blog About?   in my "How to Blog for Authors" series.

BTW, you’ll find all of my "how to blog" posts—plus a huge amount of helpful, positive information in the new book I’ve written with Catherine Ryan Hyde: HOW TO BE A WRITER IN THE E-AGE—And Keep Your E-Sanity! Which will debut later this month.  

I didn’t start out to be a Slow Blogger. 

When I started this thing three years ago, I was simply too busy bloodying my knuckles on the doors of the publishing industry to have time to post more than once a week.

But now, largely thanks to this blog, I’m about to launch my sixth book in a year. Tenth if you count anthologies and singles. ( But no. I don’t intend to make a habit of that.) The blog has won dozens of awards—and even made the list of finalists for Best Publishing Industry Blog in the Association of American Publishers/Goodreads Independent Book Blogger Awards. (Many, many thanks to all of you who voted for us!)

I did this without blogging more than once a week. In fact, thanks to a wonderful blog partner (the spectacular Ruth Harris, who joined a year ago) plus some fabulous guest bloggers, I usually now blog only twice a month.

Which is why I get really annoyed when I see new authors getting hammered with advice to blog every day.

Don’t. Just don’t.

Need more reasons?

1) A slow blog has a longer life-span.

The average life span of a blog is three years. But you want your writing career to last longer than three years, don’t you? A neglected blog hanging in cyberspace is worse than none.

Of course some people can blog brilliantly every day. But I don’t know a lot who can sustain that pace AND write book-length narrative every day.

So you’ve got to plan a blog that’s going to beat the odds. A slow blog is more likely to do that.

Think marathon, not sprint: slow blog.

2) You reach more people by commenting on other people’s blogs than by madly posting on a blog nobody reads.

Author/publisher/social media guru Bob Mayer pointed out on his blog recently:

 “One of the best networking tools is to go to people’s blogs and leave cogent comments.”

Yes, an author needs a blog—it’s more dynamic than a static website (and free) so it’s the best way to interact with readers and fellow writers. But it’s not your best sales tool, especially when you’re starting out—it’s more like your Internet home. If nobody knows you, they won’t come and visit.

Think of it this way: would you reach more people by sitting in your basement making a thousand signs, or by making one sign, standing in a public place, and getting it filmed for a clip on the nightly news?

So use your blogging time to visit other blogs, and only post on your own blog when you have something to say that you can tell people about on other blogs. Then they’ll come visit. See how that works?

Get your sign on the nightly news: slow blog.

3) Busy people are less likely to subscribe/follow a blog that’s going to clutter their email inbox/rss feed every day.  I sure won’t. I don’t read ANYBODY’S blog every day. I’d be so glad if they’d only send notifications of the good ones. Or—even better—only write the good ones. (Which, um, is called “slow blogging.”)

When you write mostly good posts, people will know a visit to your blog is a valuable use of their time and they’ll spread the word. Then maybe an agent or publisher will visit and like it so much they’ll ask you to send them a novel and you’ll end up published. That’s what happened to me—twice. Seriously. Both my publishers contacted ME because they liked this blog.

So if you want to get published, slow blog.

4) Everybody has bad days. When you have to think of something to say on the day you got that nasty/clueless review/rejection, your emotions are going to leak out. 

You’re going to write what you really think about that agent who has hair like Medusa and the literary taste of an orangutan. You’re going to call that agent Monkey Medusa on your blog. Then it will turn out she wasn’t actually the agent who rejected you. That was a different one at an agency down the hall. Monkey Medusa actually loves your book and was about to offer you representation. So she visited your blog to find out more about you and got seriously offended and you lost your big chance for a major book contract.

If you don’t want to lose out on a major book contract, slow blog.

5) Nobody can come up with that many interesting posts. When you slow blog, and you don’t have anything to say, you don’t have to say it.

But if you succumb to pressure to blog every day, you’re going to blather-blog. You’re going to talk about your stupid boss who’s been acting like b***  in heat since the hot new guy joined the department. And it will turn out your boss’s husband is an aspiring writer who subscribes to your blog, so he’s going to dump that b***. She’ll be so mad she’ll fire you. You will not be able to get another job in this economy and you’ll lose your apartment and end up moving in with your girlfriend who will be so PO’d at you for blogging all the time, she’ll break up with you.

Don’t blather-blog and wreck your relationship: slow blog.

6) Writing nonfiction—which is what you should be writing on your blog—uses a different part of your brain from fiction.

When you’re on a roll with a novel, and have to stop to write something perspicacious on the subject of sentence structure, you can stop that flow dead. Maybe you won’t ever get it back. Maybe you’ll have to give up your writing dream and join the circus. When you join the circus, you could get stepped on by an angry elephant.

Don’t get stepped on by an angry elephant: slow blog.

7) You write narrative--remember? The blog is supposed to be about getting your name out there as a creative writer. It’s an aid to your serious writing, not a substitute for it.

If you spend every day working on your blog, you’re going to neglect your novel. When you neglect your novel, you’ll forget why you wanted to be a writer. So you’ll accept that promotion at work where you have to work all hours with no overtime because you’re management now. You’ll wake up one day and discover you’re middle-aged and have nothing to show for it, so you’ll buy yourself a very fast, very expensive car. But you’ll be so exhausted from all that work that you’ll drive your fast, expensive car off a cliff and die in a fiery crash.

Don’t die a fiery crash: slow blog.

8) Trying to blog every day is impossible to keep up, so you’ll constantly feel guilty. Guilt is bad for your mental health. When you feel guilty you eat/drink/smoke too much and then feel guilty about that too.

See where this is going…?

My apologies to the people who write the Direct TV commercials for the “don’t do this…” silliness.

But seriously: slow blogging rules.

Yes, I am aware these comments aren’t true for everybody. There are always the superpersons who can do it all—and I’m in awe of them. But if you don't have tights and a cape in your closet, don’t succumb to the pressure.

Two examples of successful slow bloggers are:

The insightful Nina Badzin, whose thoughtful, eclectic blog has become wildly popular. In fact, her essays now appear in the Huffington Post. She’s recently discovered she’d rather blog than write fiction. (The world needs more thoughtful essayists, so this is a great thing.) But she continues to blog once a week.

My publisher, the esteemed Mr. Mark Williams of International fame, sometimes doesn’t post for six weeks. But when he does—he always informs, entertains and tells us stuff we never knew we needed to know. So his Alexa rating is higher than most daily bloggers.

And the late, great pseudonyminous agent, Miss Snark was all for slow blogging, too. In spite of all the pressure to “build platform,” she advised new writers to always put their writing first:

“Your job is to write…
…There's a lot to be said for sitting down with your ownself and writing. Nothing, literally NOTHING replaces that. Focus. You're wasting time.”

Tell that to the idiots who say you have to blog every day.
****