Tag Archives: bullies

Basketball, Bullies and Beta Readers

The playground is such a big place. 

Over the  years, my youngest son has enjoyed the attentions of his fellow classmates.  Granted this is his first year of formal education, but preschool and a few hours a week at daycare have made him a tiny legend.

He’s sweet, smart, funny, self-assured and just enough of a dare devil (read little sh*t) to win him the awe of his peers and caregivers.

Apparently, however, this charm of his does not extend to the school-yard bully.

When I dropped him off this morning, he immediately rushed to the basketball hoops where he likes to spend most of his free time.  As I have to drive around the entire playground to get back home, I had the opportunity to watch him shoot a few buckets and get pushed down by a BIG kid.

It wasn’t one of those accident–oops, you got in my way–things.  This was a malicious shove that landed Youngest on his kiester.

It took everything I had not to slam my truck into park, wade through the wet grass and push Bully Junior down.  Sometimes it hurts to be a mom.

Needless to say, I refrained.  But it did get me thinking….  Emerging from our safe little worlds as aspiring writers into the big world of submissions is not an easy thing.

Our beta readers and critters love us on some level.  They are inspired by our ability to write an entire novel.  They are charmed by our styles.  They gently steal the ball from us and shoot their own baskets, but inevitably, they pass the ball back to us and let us try another shot.

They do not shove us to the ground, tell us we stink and go off to play with a different circle of friends.

Nope.  That pleasure is reserved for us when we venture into the bigger world of publishing.

The second we start submitting, we open ourselves up to a vast playground of rejection.  We are bewildered by the fact that agents and editors don’t fawn over us the way our betas and critters do.  Bruises from from getting our egos battered and our manuscripts returned.

We learn rather quickly that the publishing world is not always a kind and loving place. 

I read a statistic once that 88% of people surveyed said they wanted to be a writer.  That’s a big playground.

I’ve not yet found the statistic that tells how many of these wanna-bes give up before penning 80,000 connected words.  I can guess by the NaNoWriMo stats that roughly fifteen to twenty individuals out of 100 who attempt to write a novel actually complete one. 

Neither have I stumbled across a stat that lets me know how many individuals submit past the first rejection.  I have no clue how many aspiring writers have enough gumption to stand back up, stare Bully Junior down and refuse to walk away.

Instead of crying and pouting up against the wall, Youngest stood his ground.  He got up, hitched his back pack over his tiny, little shoulders and held his arms out for someone to pass him the ball.

Eventually, someone did.

I can’t help but wonder: is it his charmed life before school that allows him to stand up to the bully and keep playing?  Have those kind words from caregivers and the belly-busting support from his peers given him the confidence to know he has as much right on the playground as Bully Jr. does?  Or is he just one of those stubborn kids who refuses to give up when someone shoves him down?

On some level, I think that being a beloved in one group makes it easier to venture into another group.  Yet it also makes the blow of rejection sting more and could potentially make one languish in the comfort of the loving group and refuse to live outside the realm of that comfort.

As a writer, do you think the support of betas and critters helps you withstand the rejection of the submission world, or does it make the transition into the cold, ruthless playground more difficult?  How? 

Could this possibly be the driving factor in procrastination? 

Conversely, is the drive to prove the bully wrong the reason some writers refuse to give up even when their only byline will be through a vanity press?

Where in this process are you?

Fresh Garlic, Fresh Writing and a Winner

While working on a major project for our church, I had the wonderful opportunity to strike up conversations with dozens upon dozens of people I had never conversed with before.  One of the hot topics became cooking.

Hands down, my favorite ingredient is fresh garlic.  A clove or three, minced and sauteed in a bit of extra virgin olive oil, can push  a tasty dish to the next level. 

One of the ladies (who is an amazing  cook with over 50 years experience in the kitchen) claimed she had NEVER used fresh garlic to cook with.  EVER.

That confession  was akin to blasphemy in my book. 

But it got me thinking.  Writing is like cooking.  We get stuck in a rut.  We cook the same dishes over and over again because we know our families will eat them.  We use the same ingredients and cook them in the same ways, never venturing too far out of the box for fear that our kids will turn their noses up and our spouses will no longer declare us Top Chef.

When we write, we tend to fall into the same patterns.  Our MC’s are of similar ages with the same fundamental personality traits.  We strike up boy/girl relationships, throw in a conflict or two and add a bully for good measure.

In essence, we cook up a story using the same ingredients.

Our job is to keep our writing fresh.  We need to strip our manuscripts of the canned phrases and salted story lines.  We need to give up on processed plots and go with the freshest ingredients available to us.

Instead of changing our fifteen year-old, female’s hair color from blonde to auburn and making her two inches taller, we need to infuse our MC with a flavor all her own.  She may pick her cuticles until they bleed when she’s nervous.  She might have a habit stepping over every crack in the sidewalk because she truly believes the old childhood ditty–even though she doesn’t believe in anything else.  She might have a touch of OCD.

Whatever the case, we need to write outside the box. 

What happens when the requisite love triange includes a same-sex friendship instead of two hot hunks?  What if the bully is the scrawny, smart kid instead of the lumbering idiot?  What happens when it’s the spouse who has committment issues instead of the detective?

These are small changes–a bit like adding fresh garlic instead of garlic powder–yet they can have a big impact on how our characters act and react.  In essence tiny details can change the entire flavor of a story. 

They can also make the difference between another formulaic storyline or the fresh manuscript that agents and editors are clammering to bite into. 

What do you have cookin’?  What are the most commonly used “ingredients” in your writing?  Can you tweak them in a fresh way to enhance your story as a whole? 

After writing this, I realized my bullies are so yesterday: the petite, cute cheerleader and the blundering idiot.  It is not until my NaNo YA that the bully is a braniac hottie with a penchant for misusing those around him. 

Why is it so hard to take your own advice?!?!?

And so, I shall heed the words of wisdom written by successful authors before me, including Rick Frishman and Robyn Freedman Spizman. 

I hope Lisa finds something useful too.  Lisa Gibson posted the winning comment for my Slumber Party Bash contest.  For her awesome entry and great party idea she will receive a copy of Author 101: Bestselling Secrets from Top Agents.

If you have never visited Lisa’s blog, you should do so today.  Her blog is one of peace and inspiration.  Thanks, Lisa!