Damn the Rejections, Full Speed Ahead!

Maralys Willis, memoir writer, teacher, and author of the book Damn The Rejections Slips, Full Speed Ahead, spoke at an IWOSC event back in early March. The following is her advice to writers on how to keep up your stamina and make your manuscript shine.

It’s All About Attitude:

  • When is different from if. Your attitude about your own writing shouldn’t be “If I get published…”, but “When I get published…” This small change will help you keep your momentum.
  • Maraylis has received 139 rejection slips in her writing career. But that never stopped her. It shouldn’t stop you either!
  • Publishing is a two-pronged attack. You never stop making your manuscript better, and you never stop sending it out! All you have to do is find that one someone who loves it.
  • You must have massive determination to be a writer!
  • “An author never finishes a book, he only abandons it.” -Willis

Do You Need a Platform to Be a Writer?

  • Platform is a new word in the publishing industry. It only started to show up in the last ten years. And books were published long before the word platform came around. So yes, it can help, but it isn’t essential.
  • An Agent once said to Willis on this subject: “There is a misconception that the person is more interesting than the book.”

Some Tips on Craft:

  • Keep scenes that are similar away from one another. You can’t get away with putting three scenes with the same amount of importance, similar style, or similar setting next to one another. It becomes redundant and hurts the flow of the work.
  • End sentences with strong words. This will upgrade the power of your writing.
  • White space is appealing on the page. It makes you want to read it.
  • Dialog is not real life. Real life dialog is boring. Book dialog is the “best of us”.

How To Survive as A Writer:

  • Be prepared to support yourself.
  • Be prepared to self promote your work.
  • Try to stick to one genre. If you jump all over the place it  makes you hard to brand as a writer, and can be hazardous to your career.
  • If you make it big you’re just lucky. Or it is because the publisher sees you as a potential best seller and puts a lot of money behind your project. Be happy if you are working and living on your writing.
  • Don’t start with self publishing! Your book won’t be very good. You need to be tested first. You need an editor. An honestly, you won’t sell very many copies.

Basic Plot Structure:

  • Part One: We are introduced to the hero, setting, and a goal is set up. In addition, barriers meant to keep our hero from achieving his/her goal are put in place.
  • Part Two: The hero attempts to overcome these barriers. Action creates change. This is the bulk of the book.
  • Part Three: The rug is pulled out from under our hero. Things go terribly wrong. This is often the low point of the book.
  • Part Four: The hero returns to fight and achieves his/her goal.
  • Note: Beware of an episodic plot, it can become redundant and lack dramatic tension.

The Ugly Truth About Beginnings:

  • I’ve dedicated a whole post to what Maralys has to say about beginnings. Read the Ugly Truth Here.

Maralys Willis is the author of twelve books and memoirs including Higher Than Eagles, a  poignant memoir about her son’s tragic hang gliding accident. She is also a college-level teacher of creative writing and novel writing, and her most recent book is the acclaimed “How To” book on writing novels entitled: Damn the Rejections, Full Speed Ahead

This seminar was presented on March 20th, 2010 by the Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC). Learn more about IWOSC events and membership at: www.iwosc.org

4 thoughts on “Damn the Rejections, Full Speed Ahead!

  1. Really good points, as always Ingrid! I particularly like ‘you never stop making your manuscript better’ – and I’d add ‘even after an editor has bought it’! I’m tweeting this.

  2. Pingback: Ten Ways to Upgrade Your Manuscript (Part One) « Ingrid's Notes

  3. Pingback: Ten Ways to Upgrade Your Manuscript (Part Two) « Ingrid's Notes

  4. Pingback: A Tale of Two Cities…er, Genres | Martin Greening

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