What next, you winner?

Winner1It’s an unfortunate truth—if there are writing contests, there will be people who do not win them and most of the time those people will be you and me.

So know going into it that, when it comes to writing contests, the odds are against you winning. Does that mean you shouldn’t enter? Not at all! But what it does mean is you need to enter contests for the right reason—getting that invaluable feedback. If you win, great! In fact, stupendous! But if you don’t, what can you learn from your contest scores?

Read more about contests and writing today in my post over on Novel Rocket!


Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Mike-9Michael loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying his playground. He also plays with words as a freelance editor here at WritingOnTheFineLine.com, where he often takes a writer Into The Edit, pulling back the veil on the editing process. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.


Optimistic Voices

With the American Christian Fiction Writers conference just around the corner, I am reminded of The Wizard of Oz. Like almost every child who grew up in the 1960s and 70s, I never missed the opportunity to watch that movie on TV. It was shown annually for almost three decades.

Begin the journey here

As a result, the movie is a part of who I am in a way no other movie ever has been or likely ever will be. The structure of the film (three acts, with a disturbance and two doorways of no return) and the model character arc observed in Dorothy (moving from discontentment to contentment) have affected me deeply. In a real way, the movie marks the beginning of my journey as a writer and storyteller.

So, I’m watching the film the other day and feel a holy nudge. It seems I still have something to learn from Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and even the Wicked Witch of the East.

My witch=The pitch

I am terrified by the idea of pitching my novel to an editor or agent—“I’ll get you my pretty, and your little book, too!” I suspect one of the main differences between published and unpublished authors is that those who are published have overcome the fear.

But, as Dorothy and gang finally approach the Emerald City—the seeming culmination of her quest—they are greeted by a chorus of “Optimistic Voices.”

You’re out of the woods
You’re out of the dark
You’re out of the night
Step into the sun, step into the light

All of this merrymaking is going on and I’m thinking about my pitch. I do not feel “out of the woods.” But after the movie was over, I piece together a few thoughts.

Dorothy had her friends’ help

Surround yourself with friends

Dorothy wouldn’t have arrived in the Emerald City without her friends. They protected her and gave her the courage to ease on down, ease on down, down her road. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my friends and critique partners who did the same for me.

Dorothy faced risks—and overcame them

Dorothy didn’t arrive in the Emerald City without surviving a few hazards.

  • She lived through a tornado. (My life has certainly swirled around me lately as I’ve looked for a new job and opened a new freelance editing business here at WritingOnTheFineLine.com.)
  • Sour apple trees threw fruit at her. (I’ve eaten my share of sour grapes.)
  • Someone (Cowardly Lion) who at first seemed an enemy became a friend. (Don’t get me started.)
  • Exhaustion nearly did her in until another friend (Glinda) helped her become clear-headed again. (I credit the Holy Spirit with my current clear mind regarding my writing.)

Dorothy’s end goal wasn’t the Emerald City

Though it was a grand entry, Dorothy didn’t find what she was looking for—the way home—in the city. Instead, she was forced to face, and conquer, the Wicked Witch.

And here we are, back at the nut of the problem. Facing one’s fears.

Like Dorothy, I’m finding my experiences, though tough and at times frightening, have taught me I do have resources within me I’ve yet to tap—and I don’t need ruby slippers to access them. Oh, I may run between the turrets a bit yet, but when I can no longer run I’ll find the gumption to douse the witch.

Before the flying monkeys come to haul me off to face my fear, I’m going to listen to those optimistic voices of my friends and family once more—and I’m going to redouble my efforts to fight my fears.

Hold onto your breath
Hold onto your heart
Hold onto your hope
March up to the gate
And bid it open. Open!

What help do you need to get to whatever “home” is in your publishing journey?

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line

Quote It! Isaac Asimov

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success – but only if you persist.

–Isaac Asimov, American author best known for his science fiction. (1920-1992)

This is where many authors fall short. They give up too soon. If you believe in your work, and have talent, you must keep at it. You cannot let what seems to be a dead end defeat you. (Preaching to myself, too.)

How do you keep on in the face of rejection and lack of success? Share your tips and encourage someone else.

Michael Ehret, for Writing on the Fine Line