The Secret Word
I’ve spent a good portion of today manhandling the slobbering beast into his crate, and neither of us are best pleased. Our neighbors are having work done on their yard, and Harley is convinced the contractors mean us harm. Normally he’s very docile, but there’s something about strangers carrying heavy equipment that really makes him mad, particularly when they are doing it around me or the kids.
I kept wishing, as I wrestled him into the house, that there was a secret word to make him understand what was going on. He knows the command quiet, and stopped barking (mostly) when I told him to, but it was clear he was not happy about the situation. Which I appreciate, but everyone would have had a better day if there was a way to help him differentiate between threatening foe who must be reminded not to trespass and uncoordinated contractor carrying fence posts.
And speaking of secret words, I’ve had three different people ask me about how to get published in the past week. It’s interesting, and I have to admit, kind of weird to be the person getting asked — I’ve spent so much time asking others along the way, I’m not sure I feel qualified to be dispensing advice. However, three is some kind of a trend, so here goes, and I hope it helps:
Read, read, read, read. Pull your favorite books apart to see how the authors handle characters, plot, pacing. Then read them again.
Write. You don’t have to do it every day, but do it regularly. Compare what you write to what you read and see what the difference is. Put what you’ve written away for a few days, then pull it out, reread it, and make it better.
Get helpful feedback. Join an online writer’s community — there are a bunch out there — join the writer’s group at your local library, take a class, or attend a conference. Whatever you choose, find a place to get thoughtful feedback on your work. When someone takes the time to critique your stuff, say “thank you.” Do not get mad, do not tell them they don’t get your writing, do not explain what you were trying to accomplish. Listen, take notes, say thank you, and put your writing and your notes away. In a few days, when the criticism isn’t as fresh, pull everything out again, look it over, and you just might find they were right. If not, fine, but make sure you give it a chance.
Research. There are lots of blogs out there written by professional agents and editors. These blogs talk about how to revise your manuscript, research an agent, write a query letter. Read them. (Three of my favorites are listed at the bottom of my bio page on my website.) Study them. Listen to them.
Do this, and I can’t promise you’ll get published. But I can promise you’ll be a lot further along the path to getting published than you would be otherwise. These four things are exactly what I did, and they are (unfortunately) the only ‘secrets’ that I know.