Snoopy advice

Joe’s Post #166

Super busy week for me so just a few fun things for the writers out there who are struggling…

There are fewer wiser dogs than Snoopy

There are fewer wiser dogs than Snoopy











I think I got one like Snoopy did.

I think I got one like Snoopy did.












It was a dark and story night















I hope everyone is well and writing up a storm. Even a dark and stormy storm.





When to kill it

First of all, a big thanks to all our readers, followers and posters!!!! We hit 1082 followers this week, and of that, only 1081 think I’m an idiot. So, wow, awesome, and thanks!!! I love that people are reading about our journey, I love when people post their thoughts, (even when it’s not to say how awesome I am), and I love that we’ve kept up a barrage of material for over a year now (since Sept 2012)!

If anyone ever wants to guest blog, reblog, bloggie-mc-bloggie-blog, let us know, we’d be honored.

Joe’s Post #86

Thomas edisonHere are the three signs you’re working on a story that doesn’t quite work.

1) You haven’t put ass in chair to write it. I mean, if it’s a story you HAVE to tell, you’ll want to write it. Lemme give you an example. I HAVE to write my blogs. I hate that I don’t have a laptop to be able to write anytime, anywhere. But I find a way to get to a computer and write. I HAD to write my last novel. Took me a bit to get it right, but it had to get written.

2) You’ve written three outlines and still can’t make one work. That’s a sign that either the story or the character or the plot or something just isn’t working. It’s your subconscious telling you there’s a problem and no amount of cleverness is going to solve it.

3) When you pitch the idea to friends, other writers, your dog… they aren’t blown away by it. In fact, they usually hit you with questions about the very thing that’s bugging you. Like, “So, uhm, what if Indiana Jones had done nothing in Raiders of the Lost Ark, would the outcome have been any different?”

Make sense? Any of this ring true?

I remember one writer, soon to be famous and very rich, chucked out an entire novel that he’d written because it failed. Not that it was bad writing, not that it didn’t have a lot of what makes a novel good (great characters, unique settings, surprises, a bit of sex, a fast pace), but it just didn’t … work. (And that really goes to plot and structure.)

thT0P7JK8QSo after thrashing around for nearly a freaking month, I decided to let my story idea go.

And you know what happened? Yesterday, despite no laptop, despite being sick as a dog, I got the first chapters written and the beginning of an outline done. Now why I did those first chapters BEFORE an outline? Well, that just goes to the “I have to write it” thing. I had a scene that was burning to get out, a character that needed to be on stage, a plot that I couldn’t wait to dive into.

It felt… wonderful!


So, for me, letting go allowed me to move forward (one of the lessons I will have to learn and relearn a lot in this life).

It’s a pretty solid idea, though not as ‘big concept’ as the other one. But more importantly, it’s a story I’ll be able to write.

Let the writing begin!


Blogs Done This Week: 1

Movies Seen in Theaters: 0 (too sick)

Times I Muttered, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired!”: Just under a billion

Queries out this week: 0

Rejections for the last week: 3.

Queries Still Out there: 3

Hope Meter: 30/100 (Something new. The higher the number, the more I have hope that I’ll get published. It’s based on 50% facts and 50% feelings 10% on intake of alcohol and 15% on a failure to understand %s. Should it ever each 0, I’ll need some serious love. Should it reach 100, I gotz me a sale!)

Shhh – great secret revealed

Joe’s Post #79

secretsOk, get the kids out of the room. Close the blinds. Stop looking at Pinterest (seriously, stop looking). It’s time for a secret to be revealed. It’s the secret of how to keep writing in the face of daunting obstacles, both real and imagined.

This secret is so secret it doesn’t have a name. At least before now. Now, I shall call it the Reset Secret.

So, for any of you out there, me included, my 5/5/5 partners included, this is for you. For you, too Stephen King. And James Patterson. I know you have your dark moments, too.

One of the things that drags us down as writers (hey, even as non-writers, though I know not how you people thinketh), is the past. For writers it’s I didn’t get anything written last week or I had a lot of rejections or the dog at my outline.

Worse, we go farther back. I didn’t get a novel written on time. I have some many rejections that I could publish a novel of rejections. The dog ate my hard drive and peed all over the portable back-up.

It piles up and piles up until we’re so heavy with guilt or regret or disillusionment that we stop writing.

So, why not do what any child would do in any video game that locks up?

resetRestart. Reboot. Reset.

It’s simple in theory. Harder to do in practice.

But it can be done.

Today is day 1. Throw out all the old mind-f*cking junk. It’s day 1. It’s not the 30th day you haven’t written. It’s the 1st day you have a chance to write.

You’ve just come back from vacation and can finally sit down and write.

You’ve just got your computer repaired and can finally write again.

You’ve stopped for a moment in the coffee shop and have a few minutes to write.

Reset your mind. The past if full of things we cannot change (at least until I get my time machine in my basement to work). The future is full of possibilities yet unrealized. So, we have only the present that we really live in. In the present, we can write.

Living in the present is how I survived the death of my wife. The past had been devastated and the future looked hopeless and full of pain. Only in the present was there any sense of peace.

And there were bad days. Make no mistake. Many of them. But I tried to start each day as if it were day one.

As if I’d reset my life.

zenSo that’s what I do now. In my writing life. Reset. Today is day one. What can I get done today?

It’s the secret to the long struggle that is, for most of us, the writing life. At least for me.


Blogs I’ve read that are awesome: Blurt . Funny and cool.

My opinion on unicorns: They are the Kardashians of the mythical equines.

Number of blogs written: 2 – Parenting and Hockey.

Number of times I felt smug: 2

Number of times I nearly had a heart attack while watching the SF vs Seattle game: 35

Number of queries done: As of 9am, 0. RESET!

Number of short stories sent out: As of 9am: 0 RESET!


Fear of trying?


Silk’s Post #57 – Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap.

That’s for a magnificent performance by fellow 5writer Joe Cummings, our solo star this year at the Surrey International Writers Conference. Joe did two amazing things this past weekend.

First, he whipped off a monster number of highly entertaining blog posts documenting his experiences and learnings at the conference. Nine of them in four days. NINE! Go read ’em. This is a record that is unlikely to be broken. Ever.

Second, he overcame all the terrors every writer harbours, and put himself – his ego, his work, his ideas, his heart and a number of other unnamed body parts – out there to stand or fall at the whim of the marketplace. He pitched a ton of agents. He submitted his query letter for open critique. He tossed his manuscript in to be publicly lauded or savaged at the SIWC Idol. And then he told all in his blog posts. This is a considerable feat, even for an extrovert, which Joe certainly is not.


And now I’m convinced that Joe is truly serious about getting published. At all costs. Because sometimes that’s what it takes. In fact, maybe it’s the rule.

Forget all the Cinderella stories you’ve ever heard (or dreamed of) about some hermit of a writer getting discovered almost by chance and becoming an international bestseller. Oh, yeah, sure, the writer’s nephew stole a few pages of manuscript and sneaked it off to a publisher who fell under the spell of the story and sought out the shy author, advance cheque in hand. Now there’s a lovely piece of fiction.

Nope. The whole marketing ball-of-wax is hard, sometimes discouraging work. For introverted writers with tender hearts it can be excruciating. You think your job is done when you’ve actually completed your first draft? Done your rewrite? And your second, third and fourth rewrites? Written your query letter and your synopsis and your elevator pitch? Well, sorry to be harsh, but you’d be wrong.

The next step in the process is like stepping off a cliff into thin air. It’s putting it all out there. Your book, your self, your dreams. And that’s not even the hardest part.

The hardest part is what happens next … when NOTHING happens. Maybe you get a few echoes back along with the rejections. Some words of encouragement, if you’re lucky. After months, maybe years of work. It’s the possibility of that NOTHING that keeps writers, even great writers, from putting themselves out there.

The risk of losing your belief in yourself as a writer is terrifying. We’ve all felt it. And the more it matters to you, the scarier it is. Talk about a barrier to action! This is our Mount Everest. Our dragon-infested, unexplored ocean.

Those who overcome their doubts and plunge ahead with open eyes are not fearless. They’re brave in spite of their fears. They’re heroes.

Fear of failure can become fear of trying.

For those who can’t abide risk, who are too sensitive to bear disappointment, who aren’t compelled by some inexplicable obsession to express themselves creatively and publicly, discretion is the better part of valour. But for writers with a calling, nothing will do but to take that plunge.

It takes courage. Often it takes a kind of blind self confidence, even in the face of rejection. Some might even call that ‘faith’.

Here are just a few authors you would never have heard of if they hadn’t kept the faith:

John Grisham – whose first novel, A Time to Kill, was rejected by 16 agents and a dozen publishers.

Robert M. Pirsig – who apparently holds a Guinness record for most rejections of an eventual bestseller, with Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance garnering 121 rejections before it was finally published.

ee cummings – who had to self-publish his first book, The Enormous Room, now considered a masterpiece, after rejection by 15 publishers.

Louis L’Amour — who’s reported to have received 200 rejections before getting his first book published.

L. Frank Baum – who collected all his many, many rejections in a journal he titled Record of Failure, before publishing his first book Mother Goose in Prose, followed by a collection of poetry and then The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (after yet more rejections).

Irving Stone – whose biography of Vincent van Gogh, Lust for Life, was rejected 16 times before going on to sell 25 million copies.

Frank Herbert – whose beloved sci fi blockbuster, Dune, suffered 20 rejections.

Margaret Mitchell – who received 38 rejections before getting Gone With the Wind published.

J. K. Rowling – who famously suffered a dozen rejections of her spectacularly successful Harry Potter series, resulting in 12 publishers who are now very, very sorry they were so dumb.

No wonder few topics have been addressed by writers more often or more eloquently than rejection. Some of my favourites …

“First remember George Seither’s rule: ‘We don’t reject writers; we reject pieces of paper with typing on them.’ Then scream a little …”  — Isaac Asimov

“You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.” — Ray Bradbury

“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.” — Barbara Kingsolver

“There is nothing like rejection to make you do an inventory of yourself.” — James Lee Burke

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” — Samuel Beckett

“I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his own judgment and to say in his heart of hearts, ‘To hell with you.'” — Saul Bellow