My Writer’s Toolbox

Welcome to the G.O.T.H. Series!

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Thirty-one years of teaching adolescents thickened my skin considerably, but I faced different challenges when I embarked on a writing career. I had to learn how to deal effectively with rejection letters from agents and publishers, critiques from editors, and less-than-favorable reader reviews. Most important of all, I had to acquire that coveted rhino skin. Here are five strategies in my writer’s toolbox:

Get the Back Story

Whenever I attend readings, I pay special attention to the author’s back story. I like hearing the details about his or her writing journey and the challenges encountered along the way. Occasionally, I pick up valuable nuggets of advice that help me along my own journey. For example, Guelph writer Nicholas Ruddock (The Parabolist) established his platform by entering and placing in short story contests. When New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny couldn’t find a Canadian or American agent, she crossed the pond and approached a British agent.

Read Bad Reviews

If I have enjoyed reading a book, I look up the one-star reviews on Amazon. That’s right, I gravitate toward the negative. While shaking my head at the nitpicking and negative comments, I realize that no author is immune from criticism. Not even authors of best-selling novels can please everyone.

Eliminate the Negative

Some writers file and keep all their rejection letters. I suspect they refer to these letters often and get discouraged all over again. It is important to keep accurate records, but it is not necessary to keep these negative reminders around for future reference. After reading a rejection letter, I update the information on a spreadsheet and delete the file.

Throw More Irons Into the Fire

We’ve all heard the advice. Send out the manuscript and then immediately start on another one. Easier said than done. After writing 70K words and looking at multiple drafts of that manuscript, the thought of starting all over again can be daunting. Instead, I like to work on shorter pieces: book reviews, short stories, articles, and more blog posts. Entering contests and taking online writing courses also keep my skills sharp. It is important not to sit around waiting for a response. Some action—any action—is needed.

Get Support

I belong to Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, Guppies, and Romance Writers of America. I also participate in discussion boards for The Wild Rose Press and Soul Mate Publishing Authors. I try to attend writing workshops, panels and readings offered within a fifty-mile radius. While interacting with these authors, I receive valuable advice and feedback about my work.


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