Writing Tips

Tips on Getting Your Romance Novel Published

Love writing. Love love. Love the process of love.

Write a good book using the following ingredients: love, character, voice, dialogue, movement, intensity, chemistry, obstacles, conflict, backstory, frontstory, sidestory, denouement, climax, third rail hell, and an ending that fuels eternal hope in a reader’s heart.

Don’t do it for the money–even though money is nice, money is important. The writing that you love to do comes first.

Don’t do it because it sounds easy. If I had a nickel for how often I’ve heard, “I want to make some money, I’m going to write a romance.” If only people knew how difficult it was…

Try not to get too attached to the outcome: I must get published. I’m desperate to get published. If I don’t get published, I’ll be miserable forever. Please publish me now. When you write because you love to write, an editor will feel that.

Make one new contact a day with fellow romance-aholics/industry professionals, even if it’s just following someone on social media.

Have other people read your good book and take their suggestions seriously. Reciprocate by reading their work. This is how you learn to critique and develop your expertise in the genre.

Know how to weed out those you don’t help you. That can be just as important as letting the right ones in.

Map out your publishing ambitions: traditional publisher vs. self publish. If the former, which houses would like your book? Do research on publishing houses’ lists. Check out the writing guidelines. I suggest doing this when you’ve completed a rough draft of your book.

If you’re into self-publishing, awesome. Talk to writers who do this often and well. This avenue may be perfect for you or you might prefer a combination of self and traditional.

Have your next story in mind. If you meet with an agent or editor and they aren’t into your project, tell them what else you have. They’re still not into it? No problem because you have other professionals you can pitch to.

Aside: Rejection is part of the process. It takes some time, but you just need to take in the “no” and then put it behind you. You have more writing to do.

Write the query letter, three targeted paragraphs. So easy and nothing to sweat over. Write a synopsis–no biggie.

Go to conferences, Zoom workshops, webinars, and chapter meetings. Follow up on the inspiration you get from these outings, i.e. read the books you find, chat with new friends, go through your notes from the workshops and revise your book accordingly. A supportive network of writers will help you thrive as a writer.

Rewrite as much as you can, until your brain nearly explodes. When you read your book without an iota of boredom/frustration/misgiving, unleash it and see what happens.

It is hard to put yourself out in the public world as a writer. Give yourself lots of credit.

Patience is a virtue (I had to throw that in there). There is a lot of waiting. It’s part of the deal. What do you do while you wait? See the second tip.

Writing Tips

Conflict–Can I finish this before SVU airs?

A very long time ago, I thought that sharing my depressing stories would attract boys and friends. This might be a Gen-X thing since we have woes tacked to every inch of skin. Remember how hard it was to find a job in 1990? There was crack, the Cold War, not enough cigarettes, our unhappy childhoods, undiagnosed mental illnesses that didn’t get diagnosed early enough, our unhappy adolescences so filled with apathy, weed we had to smoke from a pipe, and worst of all, shoulder pads in all women’s clothing.

Maybe it wasn’t that bad, but I know how to embellish, so I gave myself a stream of sob stories to woo a potential suitor. Needless to say, my MO acted as a repellent. Those who stuck around for my recounting of Bad Thing 1, Bad Thing 2, the dishonor I brought to my family when caught smoking in my room, my Did Not Pass in Economics, well, they were not to be trusted.

I’ve learned a lot about romantic conflict from my work as an editor. It’s not about sitting in a bar and talking about your problems. The main character usually doesn’t relay their tragedies to attract a partner. First, you have a spark, an encounter, a bit of inching closer together before the knowing: This is a love story. Revelation happens gradually and often under duress. Those extraordinary circumstances force characters to confront their bad stuff and reveal it in order to graduate to happily ever after.

Lately, I’ve seen submissions where a main character will unleash every ounce of suffering over pages, just to set up that they deserve love. But love is the last thing I’m feeling as I reach for an extra anti-depressant. Pandemic, global distress might be contributing to a low tolerance for depressing things. Also, I understand how one needs to tell us why characters act in certain ways. But here are a few thoughts on showing character conflict without metaphorically clobbering us with sorrow.

It’s always a good idea to write down for yourself all the feels of your characters. Why does your heroine have trouble going outside? List the details of their backgrounds. First loves, first heartbreaks, parents. Strange things they don’t want to tell anyone. Secrets–all the secrets. Keep this in a folder and try not to reveal any of the details within the first few pages. Those opening pages are about whetting the reader’s appetite.

If you have one character’s emotional conflict figured out, think about what would totally bruise them. It’s not as simple as putting a pilot with someone who hates to fly. But if you did something like that, think of the layers underneath these characters’ conflicts. A pilot who might be trying to combat their own fears as they get on a plane. A person scared of flying because they saw a plane explode in the sky. What is the last thing your character wants (but might secretly need)? Give your character that thing, only don’t make it perfect. I am a strong believer that a person’s issues don’t get solved at the end, but love does make them a whole lot better.

In helping authors through the editing process and my own writing, I’ve learned that conflict can change or reveal itself as the story evolves. This can be one of the most exciting parts of writing, the discovery. Keep shaping the conflict and guiding it carefully. If you ever feel stuck, watch your favorite movie again or flip any channel and dissect the characters who have to interact with each other. What creates the friction between them and keeps them golden for viewers?

Happy writing to you.

And, yes, I can.

Writing Tips

How do I get paid to read?

A lovely follower of this blog asked me to write about how to read professionally for publishers. How does one go about this? I have a lot to say because I read professionally and it *is* a dream job. If that’s what you want to do as a side hustle, awesome. Even as a career, that’s cool, too.

To begin, know that publishers have mountains of submissions to read. They used to come via post office and, literally, you would see piles on editors’ desks. We would even gets phone calls to find out the status of a submission. Now, many of us use different systems to receive these submissions, what we used to call “the slush pile.” Instead of piles, we have pages and pages of submissions on a computer screen. It’s much easier to submit projects to publishers, and in some ways, tracking submissions is less cumbersome. This old lady likes the old way of doing things, but I’ll admit the technology is good.

With greater efficiency comes tedious other systems that shorten an editor’s time to read. This is a slightly cryptic and long-winded way of saying, we rely on freelance readers a lot more these days. Despite this, getting into freelance reading can be tricky. Often, it’s who you know, where your experience lies, and what pockets of publishing are open to new people. In my experience, our submission-reading freelancers are former employees. Who knows what we want more than someone who’s worked for us? Before you get depressed, I know that publishers are definitely on the lookout for more freelancers, who would be new to the company. It’s been a rough couple of years with a lot of turnover in most fields. So there’s hope.

Here are some tips for breaking into freelance reading for a publisher:

Get to know a publisher’s list, inside and out. If you love thrillers, search for imprints that focus on thrillers. There aren’t *that* many. Be sure to read a whole lot of thrillers before you apply.

Scrutinize your experience. Figure out how to put your best foot forward. Did you major in English? Have you worked for a publisher, interned, edited someone’s dissertation, ghostwritten, anything that has to do with writing, books, literature? Publishers are not likely to just hand you a reading assignment. But we may give you a test to see how you do.

Start talking to friends about your dream to do freelance reading. You might know someone who can introduce you to someone else. This may feel awkward, but it’s a way forward.

Visit blog sites that review books. There are the big ones like Publishers Weekly, New York Times, Huffington Post, and countless others. Read less flashy, obscure blogs, if you can. This will help you get a feel for what’s floating out there.

Go to publishers’ job boards. There may be links to freelance jobs, though I think a lot of times, these jobs aren’t posted anywhere (not 100% on this). Of course, go to other job sites (www.bookjobs.com, http://www.indeed.com, which might list freelance work).

Another, perhaps more fun, avenue would be to research literary agencies. They get tons of submissions, too, and in fact, this may be the best way to get in the door. If you build a relationship with an agent/agency, it might lead to any number of exciting things. Agents definitely rely on outside readers.

Major caveat, you won’t make Wall Street money doing this. But it’s fun! And why not? Finding a freelance gig is like any other endeavor. Just do one thing every day that moves you forward. It might be a fabulous accident that lands you in a nice reading situation. You just never know.

Lastly, if you have any other topics you’d like me to write about, please share.

Romantic Life Lessons, Writing Tips

What Should You Do Once You’re Finished Your Book?

You’ve written this amazing novel. Your first one, maybe second, but it’s a good one. Over months and years, you have been rocking that prose and seeing your name on the bestseller lists. Oh, the revenge and joy you’ll feel when it arrives into readers’ hands. Your ex will want you back. Those thirty pounds you gained from writing 23 chapters are melting away already! Black sheep? You’ve totally nudged your sibling into second place. The mean girls of your high school will clamor for your attention. Can you taste the success? Absolutely and you deserve it.

What do you do first? Where does one even begin?

Getting your book out there is an awkward process at best, unless you are married to the owner of a publishing company. Even then, the process is tumultuous because you are forced to deal with deadlines, numbers, contract clauses, marketing, agents, editors, everyone’s opinion of your blood, sweat, and tears.

First things first. Before you submit your work, let’s evaluate your your writing personality:

Are you prone to wanting to make the process as anonymous as possible, sending off your work and quietly waiting for the news, never telling people what you’ve done, like it’s a crime? It’s true that no one really takes writers seriously, unless you’re able to buy a mansion with your royalties. This introversion can work, but you have to just keep going, keep sending your work out, and never let the rejection get you down.

Are you a writing Type A and go to every conference, pitch session, and ravage LinkedIn for “editor” acquaintances you’ve never met and write to them asking them to read your book? Just typing this, I’m in awe of you already because I’m more the wilting flower. Good for you! (Please don’t write me, just kidding sort of)

At the very least, have you casually talked to friends who know people in publishing and asked them to arrange an introduction, you know, casually?

Or are you more of a lurker who stays in the background of Type A writers, gleaning from their experiences but not feeling comfortable even trying to publish the seven novels you’ve written?

I can only speak for myself in offering a few nuggets of advice. Twenty-six years ago, I was just entering the field of publishing and had *no* experience. None! I didn’t know what editing symbols were, my friends weren’t editors, but I did have a friend of a friend who knew someone at Simon & Schuster and that person gave me great advice. Then I met a freelance developmental editor through my brother, and she gave me a lot of insight into her work. It went on from there, and decades later, I’m doing okay.

With publishing your book, there’s a similar hill to climb. The first thing you need to do when you’re done is ask around. Ask and research. Even though you’re a writer who does introverted, hermit-like, and quiet things, seek out articles about how to publish. Look at the books you like and note who publishes them. Ask your friends if they know anyone in publishing. Keep notes of this and flesh them out. Make yourself do one dreaded task to honor the book you’ve written.

The more you do, the closer you are to achieving your publishing goals.

But there are some things you probably should not do:

Try not to cold call an editor you don’t know and ask them to read your book. Or better yet, ask them to go to a link to see your work. Each editor has guidelines for submissions and those should be respected. The volume of books editors read is astounding. Most of the time, and by most I mean 99% of the time, we have to read after hours because of everything else we do during the day. Making us work harder to read something we likely won’t buy is futile.

Don’t keep sending revised versions of a book after receiving a rejection letter. Or even responding to the rejection letter. The key is to keep writing. Focusing on the outcome of your book usually prolongs the pain. The writing itself is the joy. If you are attached at the hip to one book over years, that is a red flag for editors.

Don’t be too afraid to ask for advice. It’s what editors are supposed to provide. I get a lot of requests and I never mind this. If I don’t answer right away, it’s because I’m swamped, but you can ask again (after a month or two). My first bit of advice is to do research on where you would send your book and then what the writing guidelines are. Finding a publisher or publishing yourself can be every bit as strenuous as writing the actual book. You have to deal with personalities, not all of whom are welcoming.

Definitely do not send your manuscript to publishers without knowing anything about their guidelines. This will result in an automatic rejection. The editor won’t see your unique sparkling gem of a fantasy novel and publish it in their historical romance line.

You can be smart about writing your book, but also make sure you develop your skills in bringing your book to an editor’s desk. Oh, and don’t do that, literally bring your book to an editor’s desk. I’ll be the one running in the other direction…with love, of course.

It does get better.

Writing Tips

Top 5 Reasons Why I Reject Submissions

It’s been twenty-five years since I started editing, and I still love to read submissions. There is no greater editor-high than to find a new author. Helping a writer shape a story is a thrill for me, and I enjoy witnessing the excitement when the book hits the shelves. The downside of being an editor is that I have to reject many submissions. It is never personal. And if I may say this, I have been on the receiving end of such rejection–a lot.

The key to getting over the rejection is more information and patience with the writing process. My general feeling is that one must read the rejection and move on immediately. But before moving on, maybe think about why you received the rejection. From my side of the desk, here the top reasons why I reject a book.

Nothing is happening. The book begins with a perky POV, chattiness, setting-up, a lot of thinking about this and that. The scene moves from one person’s setup to the other person’s, and the chapter ends with no excitement, no movement, no zing. Some writers can write “nothing is happening” chapters but it’s very rare. Be bold! Get those characters out of their heads and hopping merrily down the street.

Your book is not even in the same ballpark of what I edit. 85% of my submissions are not targeted for me or my line. 99.9% of the time, it’s an automatic rejection from me. I don’t edit memoirs (though I love them), historical romance, nonfiction of any kind, or even general fiction–though I read all of the above. Be sure to read the publishing guidelines and editor profiles before you send.

The submission is unedited. When you send a manuscript to a publisher, let it be polished. If your book is riddled with typos and bad grammar, I’m not likely to read the whole thing. It would have to be absolutely amazing for me to keep going. Would you keep going? Putting your best work forward is always a good idea.

Same old, same old. One of the problems with popular tropes is that everyone wants to use them. It’s smart for writers to keep an eye on what works, but don’t take it too far. We do see a lot of the same thing, so you might as well write exactly what you want. Also be mindful of what we tend to buy.

Weak storytelling. We have so many guides for how to tell a story. There is story structure, plot points, arcs, character development. Between you and me, I don’t really know how to tell a story on the fly or in person. It’s a rambling mess before I get to the end. But when I think about good storytelling, I see a person sitting in front of a campfire and regaling an audience with a ghostly tale. If you don’t feel a crackling energy to your novel, fix it. Throw out things, try another way, rewrite like your life depends on it (it doesn’t). The more you invest in your book, the stronger it will become–or the more you’ll know it may not be The One…this time.

When you get that piddly notice that it’s not quite right, I always suggest to keep going. Rejection letters are very subjective. Publishers have different needs at different times, but they always need good books. So if you continue writing, you’re keeping story alive, which makes people happy, keeps publishing people employed, maybe keeps your family afloat, and at the very least, keeps you expressing yourself. That is a very good thing.

Writing Tips

My Favorite Books about Writing

Hello, Superfriends, and welcome to Day #2 of Nanowrimo. Are some of you feeling empowered by your quest for 50K-word greatness? Or is your greatness achieved just by breathing in oxygen and other things and exhaling that Co2?

It may seem like a copout that my post for today is a list of my favorite books about the craft of writing. I’ve kept this list for over 20 years and it keeps growing. I’m proud of it! There are so many more I’ve read and can only blame my enfeebled brain on their not making the list.

Here are the books that have inspired me over the years. Feel free to recommend others in the comment section!

Story Genius by Lisa Cron

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

Will Write for Shoes by Cathy Yardley

On Writing by Stephen King

Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose by Constance Hale

Still Writing by Dani Shapiro

Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon

Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder

Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward

Beyond Heaving Bosoms by Sarah Wendell & Candy Tan

STORY by Robert McKee

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, by Alexander Chee

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer

Four Screenplays: Studies in the American Screenplay by Syd Field

Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies by Leslie Wainger

The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner

Romantic Life Lessons, Writing Tips

25 Things I’d Tell Myself If I Joined Publishing Today–The COVID Edition

Four years ago, I ambitiously worked up 50 things. Even 25 things is a massive undertaking and pandemic attention span says no way can I do this. Just resist the lists, people. Or say yes to an amber liquid on the rocks first.

Because of pandemic(s), there are things you won’t tolerate anymore. Honor the new truths that blossomed out of way too much tragedy. Knowing your boundaries will help you navigate any industry that tries to suck your well dry.

Balance the boundaries with an amazing show of skills–consistently. It will freak everyone out.

It’s easy–and temporarily satisfying–to get angry on social media at the many injustices in publishing, especially when you are doing more for less. Like Charmins toilet paper, you are nine rolls smushed into a four-roll package for thirty cents less. That’s publishing–and most corporations. Social media is one of the few places where you can let it rip. Do that–and take concrete action to further yourself: job search, join a group that does active things and speaks truth to power.

One of the best ways to succeed is to figure out every nook and cranny of your job and your boss’s. Anticipate the needs of your manager and conquer what they don’t even realize they need. A lot of knowledge is power, not to mention swagger.

It’s okay to edit late at night while heavily medicated or intoxicated. Just go over it again in the morning. Don’t tell anyone.

Reward yourself RICHLY for every accomplishment. Also, as I said in Fifty Things, write it down immediately. Not only do you have a living document of your achievements, but you can also relive how great you are at times when you really need it. There’s no greater pleasure than whipping out your Scroll of Excellence for The Aboves. Even though they won’t read it, message received.

Make friends/be friendly with anyone in Managing Editorial/Production departments. They are the best.

In life and at work, there is always someone you can’t stop loving even though they’re unvaccinated. But you shouldn’t have to work in the same office with them.

Avoid assholery of any kind, even though it’s tempting to engage because real life can be damned boring. This is not the 1950s or the 1980s or even 2020 anymore. Mad Men is just so…gross. You absolutely don’t need to bear the degradation of anyone’s bad behavior. Keep careful notes and visit HR as often as you need.

The best way to get through a remote workday is to break down the day by half hours (like Hugh Grant does in About a Boy) and take many window-shopping breaks. Bonus points for suggesting makeup tutorials to me since that is my heroin.

Always wait at least a day before answering a pissy email from a “professional,” especially the kind who doesn’t give two shits if you’re wheezing with COVID.

It doesn’t matter what you wear to work anymore, but it kind of does.

Email triage is a sick, twisted game corporations dreamed up to raise your cortisol levels, especially as we remote. Don’t fall for the flimsy communication with the human types we miss. As noted by work gurus, hyper-email-vigilance negates productivity.

Stay in touch with your work buddies who are resigning. It doesn’t have to be a daily email. Over a long career, you will see each other again and why not have more friends?

When applying for a job or sending a submission, write a charming and targeted cover letter. Even if they don’t ask for one. They are more fun to read than a resume.

Everyone’s social skills have deteriorated. Maybe there’s one person who hasn’t been affected by this whole mess, but let’s believe they are crying softly in a dark corner the way I was last week.

Many things can be accomplished by turning off all electronics and jotting down ideas on paper. It’s so simple it’s crazy.

You don’t have to explain why you listened to every second of the Johnny Depp v Amber Heard trial. As an editor, you need to know everything. Plus, you’re kind of a lawyer.

Always have a question in your pocket, but use it wisely and not just as the meeting is ending. Exception if your meeting is with one person, who is likely desperate to prolong human contact so please keep talking with the more questions.

Never ingest things from communal fruit plates, bins, urns, refrigerators unless you know exactly where the grub has been, who touched it, and in what century.

Get back to reading for pleasure. This can be one of the first things to go, but very easy to pick up again.

Do keep track of whether or not Kim Kardashian finishes law school. Your laser focus on this is everything.

Don’t beat yourself up for keeping twelve different notebooks tracking different versions of the same thing. I see you.

If you can envision working in a field other than publishing, investigate further. That quiet jotting-down-ideas thing works really well for this. Sometimes you don’t know another path even exists.

But if you love books and editing, you might be stuck with this complicated soulmate. Publishing is going through things right now–though it’s always been like a mission to Mars via roller coaster. Take a hard look at the years ahead. Do you believe in the work you are doing? Will you ever make a livable wage? This is where you pull out the self-awareness and determine what you want, what you can bear, and what you can do for books.

Now excuse me while I go back to The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.

Writing Tips

Fleshing Out Yossi’s Journey

There are numerous places where editing and writing intersect. One of these is when a manuscript reads as if it’s been written in a rush. Action, action, line of dialogue, action. The scene might call for fast-paced movement, but weaving in a little description or POV won’t necessarily slow down the pacing. On the contrary, it can save your reader’s wandering eye.

When I edit, I read the jumpy, too rushed text “out loud” in my head. If the writer’s voice is consistent, shows command of the unfolding scene, I make mental smiley faces. But if the narrative feels vacant or confusing–with characters moving like robots–I wonder how the writer has skipped a few steps to get to the end and omitted adequate description. Sometimes writers (and editors) just want to finish their quotas for the day. I feel that pain myself and then suffer for it later when I have to go back and do the job right.

A few times, I’ve been given the task to flesh out stories (mine or someone else’s) where the need to rush to the end is strong. It feels fine when you’re getting down all those words. But then, it’s flat. Diagnosing the problem is easy, but sitting down to fill out empty spaces can be daunting yet thoroughly exciting. One suddenly has lots of room to play. Why not play?

As an example:

First of all, who is Yossi and why does he need to leave? He must be Alexander the Great since he needs to conquer. But also, he fears the elevator. How interesting that there’s only one adjective. Basically, the reader can only gauge so much. This is where you roll up your sleeves and go to town.

Don’t glossy moth carcasses sound awesome? You have to wonder if Yossi is about to engage in some kind of mating ritual. I don’t want to see what comes next. Or maybe I do? It’s not like I ever look away.

Maybe we need a sentence or two about why he needs to leave. Is it just because of the Bichon Frise or is it something else? What’s driving him–aside from what we could assume to be dog sex?

You never know where a story’s going to go, do you? This one definitely isn’t finished.

The moral of the story is to fill in those cracks even if you think your story is fine. In the end, Yossi may have a simple journey from Point A to Point B and we don’t need all this crap. That’s why the delete button is there for your pleasure. Part of the joy of writing is discovery. So what you feel is filler could be the darling touch that the reader will remember forever.

Glossy moth carcasses.

Shameless Promotion, Writing Tips

2022 Is Up to You

I usually make resolutions on New Year’s Eve, put them in an envelope, and seal it until years later when I’m feeling nostalgic. This time I bailed. I kept thinking I should continue this tradition, but just put it off. As an ardent fan of resolutions and lists in general, I wondered if something was wrong (pandemic, Betty White).

Maybe this year should be different. I don’t know. What do I know? With questions like this, I typically pick up a book or watch a show. It’s an easy save. Taking in someone else’s creativity helps me figure out what to do next. Today, though, I have no such desire. It’s time for a little introspection sans outside noise.

Often, when I need guidance or inspiration I have this trusty exercise. The best part is that it’s free and entirely up to me. No astrology, Fitbit, Noom, or pulse oximeter to show me the way.

It involves asking myself one question:

What do I need to know today?

I find a blank piece of paper and pick up my crappiest pen (à la Natalie Goldberg). The question hands in my head and I wait. Then, my hand just moves along, creating words, sentences, paragraphs, and pages. I’m never quite sure what will emerge but when I reach an end, I go back and read. What I find always shocks me. Asking this question usually unleashes powerful feelings, benevolent ones. There is a message from somewhere that turns out to be exactly what I need to know today.

Writing reveals so many mysteries about who you are.

A secondary advantage to this exercise is loosening up the creative muscles, which don’t get a lot of use during Below Deck: Mediterranean marathons. I remember that I have my own stories. They need to get out somehow, so a little guided scribbling can be the right brain’s perfect Drano.

So what do you need to know today?

Romantic Life Lessons, Writing Tips

Quitting Writing Can Help Your Writing

When asked for my best writing advice, I usually say, “Never quit writing,” and it took me centuries to come up with this genius. I consulted vocabulary lists, did focus groups, and finally pulled this sentence from an angelic stream of wisdom.

But seriously, the inspiration comes from the many years of watching writers get discouraged by rejection and the knowledge that good things do happen from time to time in publishing. Not to mention, everyone’s path is different so who am I to say anything other than, “Go forth and multiply those words?” If anything, I’d want to be proven wrong over and over with creativity as a global superpower. There have been times when I’ve thought “this writer should stop” and have turned around to find them soaring on bestseller lists.

The only thing I can say is that the desire to quit writing can be an important period in a writer’s process. I’ve gone through this myself–maybe even a couple times in the last decade. A writer will feel that she has nothing left. It’s over and there are no good outcomes to this craft. All she hears is No and there are limited venues for publishing or getting paid to write. It can be a mind-numbing, thoroughly depressing way to live.

As an editor, I’ve had many heartbreaks over a writer delivering a couple books and nothing after this. I see the struggle and have always wished I could do more. I totally relate–but sometimes, nothing helps. The writing isn’t working. No advice or reference book refuels that writing engine. Sometimes, it’s not meant to be. Giving up can be a freeing experience.

Just think: You don’t have to do this anymore. You can dream about other things again. Think outside of the story you’ve been raging about since forever.

Maybe you could open up a bar/library/cafe. And during free moments, you could write blog posts. Just for fun. But nothing else related to publishing. No more writing, no more conferences, no more pitches, no more asking for someone to read your stuff, and no more “No.”

The desire to quit does mean that something has to change. It doesn’t have to be as drastic as stopping writing altogether. Maybe you need to kick your own butt in a different way. Or the story needs to be put aside–or calls for a radical rethink. Maybe you need to reconsider who you’re sending your projects to. Your characters may not be ready for prime time. Whatever your block, it’s okay to acknowledge the block and look elsewhere for clarity.

Live life normally again. Discover birds. Discover your husband, wife, children, friends, pets!

The only thing I will say is: Observe what happens after you decide you’re done with writing. Are you relieved, even more distressed, or happily taking tap dancing lessons?

Do you see the name of your protagonist everywhere? Does the answer to your plot problem hit you as you’re pouring milk into your Grape Nuts? Do you find yourself on an entirely new–happier–path because you had the courage to set aside a project? Or is your brain not letting you leave that blank page?

You should never give up on yourself, but there are times when quitting can bring you back to what you love: which could very well be writing.