As you know, on Thursdays I do a column for the Social-In Network. Last week, I did the first of six or so videos in the Inspire Me! series. Today, I intended to do Part 2, but saw greater value in getting another seasoned authors practical experience on the first video. We all get knocked down in this business and need inspiration and guidance on getting up. So this week, I sought the expertise of noted author, Maureen Lang. It seemed like a good idea to run the article here as well. It’s posted in On Writing, but the concepts work for any career to help you get back on your feet. Here’s the article as it appears on the Social In Network:
Inspire Me Part 1
“When You Get Knocked Down”–Practical Experience
Last week, I started the Inspire Me! Series, which was based on writers and writing but with universal challenges applicable to you and your life in whatever you’re doing.
That was part 1, and it dealt with “When You Get Knocked Down.” Who among us hasn’t been knocked to our knees or onto our backsides a time or two?
I originally intended to proceed to part 2 today, but I saw greater value to you in bringing in another perspective from someone who’s walked in these shoes. Between the video and insights from a second seasoned author, I think you’ll have a strong, constructive grip on not only getting knocked down, but on getting back up!
So that you know who is “talking” to you, let me share a bit about this author. She writes stories inspired by a love of history and romance and has been an avid reader since childhood. That’s when she started writing the stories she wanted to read. She’s won both the widely respected RWA Golden Heart and the ACFW Genesis awards. Since publication, she’s won the Inspirational Readers Choice and Holt Medallion awards, and she has been a finalist in the prestigious Christy, RITA and Carol awards. And so that you know she’s she’s more than the admirably accomplished author and also the writer next door, know that she lives in the Midwest with her husband, children and her Labrador retriever.
Meet the talented, practical and forthright, Maureen Lang.
Maureen watched the part 1, Knocked Down video. (If you missed it, you can catch it at: http://youtu.be/QKyGhKbeLiI.) Here are her specific insights:
One of the things I really appreciated in the talk Vicki gave about being knocked down is that it proves you were standing. Well said! We can’t get anywhere if we don’t stand up, and that shows more courage than we sometimes realize. The outcome is never certain, but only nothing comes of nothing—so we work, and then we stand up and take that next step toward our goal. There just isn’t any other way to succeed.
So how do you get to that standing position? How do you move forward? There’s only one way, and that’s through work. It may not seem like work if we’re doing something we love, like writing. There’s an old saying about never working a day in your life if you do something you love for a living. But the truth is, even something we love to do includes work.
We gain experience through our work, even if we start out needing a whole lot of help. It should be easy to spend time doing something we love to do, to learn how to improve every chance we get—by reading or talking with others, then applying what we learn to our own circumstances.
I’ve always thought we learn best from our strengths. I write best when I’m feeling confident about what I’m doing, when I’m most familiar with my characters and their setting. So I do a lot of research, and I read a lot of books that inspire in me the feeling I’m trying to create in my own books, that connection between the page and the reader.
In my most recent book, All In Good Time, I didn’t know much about my western setting. But one of my strengths is that I love doing research. It was a challenge at first, because my local library didn’t have much to set me on the right path. To be honest, I’ve researched all kinds of topics from the Vikings to the First World War and I didn’t think Denver in its early days would be especially challenging. But my library didn’t have a single book specific to Denver, and when I asked the research librarian he came up with literally one paragraph of information that was basically very little help. I think he must have been preoccupied with something else but I couldn’t wait. I needed to start my research and not wait for someone else.
Well, I wasn’t going to be knocked down. The world is at our fingertips through the Internet, and I’ve learned a lot of it is pretty reliable, though I do try to verify things with more than one source.
What I was looking for were actual books, though, that I could thumb through and rely in and return to whenever I needed them. After a search for “Denver prostitution 1880s” I found a book by a retired professor who had done quite a bit of research on this topic. So I looked at his books, ordered a couple, then wrote to him asking if he had any research tips for this topic.
He provided me with a whole list of wonderful books, most of which I ordered for my own library as reference material. My book would not have the detail or the historical authenticity without these resources.
I didn’t read all of the books from cover to cover even though I was tempted, I just didn’t have the time. So I concentrated on what I needed for my book and my characters. I also researched as I went along, not knowing everything I might need until a new twist in my plot revealed a new element that needed to be explored. So it’s important to be flexible.
The longer I’ve been in this business, the easier it’s getting to spot something in my research that I can use. If I can envision my characters seeing some element through their fictional eyes, chances are it’ll get worked into my book. That comes with experience, but it’s something that anyone can develop with a love for making history—or really any setting—come alive. Because that’s what writers do. We put all the puzzle pieces together, and research provides the framework.
In what Maureen shared, we see that her local library’s lack of information was a knock down. But she stood back up—she went to the Internet and explored and found herself an expert who had what she needed. She didn’t stay down or quit, she persevered, took an alternate route, and found another way. She suggests remaining flexible. That willingness to be flexible and seek another route is what netted her access to the professor and exactly what she needed. The result? Her book! All in Good Time didn’t die on the shelf because she got knocked down. It’s a published book because she stood back up.
That’s the bottom line. We can’t avoid being knocked down. It happens to us all. But it proves we were standing, that we can stand, and that, if we’re flexible and seek alternative routes, we can find what we need to fulfill our goals and dreams.
Vicki Hinze is the award-winning bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest releases are: Torn Loyalties (romantic suspense), Duplicity (mystery/thriller), Maybe This Time (paranormal romance), One Way to Write a Novel (nonfiction). She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s website:Facebook. Books. Twitter. www.vickihinze.com.
A special note: Tomorrow I’ll be doing a special article on my agent, Chip MacGregor’s (MacGregor Literary Agency) blog on Mailing Lists. (You’ll see Chip’s blog at the top of his agency’s site.