Sunday, April 24, 2005

Dream No Small Dreams

I've had an eventful week (more later!) but the most influencial part of it was having the chance to hear the Rt Hon Jenny Shipley, ex-Prime Minister of New Zealand, speak at a conference for rural women.

Her words were aimed at women who are, or want to be, influencial and entrepreneurial in rural communities, but they spoke to the writing heart of me. So much that she had to say could be applied so directly to the female-dominated (sorry, guys!) romance writing world that I wanted to precis her talk here, and add my own romance-spin to it.

Get comfy. This is a long 'un.

Change is inevitable. What matters is how we manage it.

It's a time of change in the romance publishing world. Markets are in a state of flux. There is argument about whether readers' attitudes are changing, or if publishers are putting their energies into seeking after new readers, with different tastes. We can't - and shouldn't want to - 'keep things as they are' so we've got to manage the change that affects us, right?

Timeframes are condensing, complexity is increasing

Okay, so if you're waiting on an MS, it doesn't feel like timeframes are condensing. But the huge rise of e-books has certainly changed some publishing from a slow business to a fast one. And in that 'the more I learn, the less I know' tradition, I certainly feel like the publishing world is getting more complex. Alison Kent's TMI post at RTB touched on this - there's a sea of information out there.

Work out how you can grab the knowledge that enables you to deal with this

That sea of information includes blogs, newsletters, magazines and publisher's guidelines. Hang out on loops or in eHarlequin's Submission Care Group and find out why MSs are being rejected. (I know, that sounds really callous, but it's honestly a great source of information for those submitting to the Harlequin group). Take time to read. Make time to write.

But you have to be discerning. Find what you need. Discard what doesn't work for you. And be ruthless in that discarding.

...seriously engage in these respectful conversations.

Here, Jenny was talking about the importance of consultation. Which I think brings us to readers' blogs, a wonderful way to engage with readers and find out what they like or don't. BUT - and, like mine, it's a big but - when gathering reader opinions, there's a danger of generalisation. One reader rant does not a market trend make. Beware the silent voices with big book budgets.

She also made the point that you can't make change by railing at people. She emphasised that respectful conversations.

Plan to take on new challenges

This one I noted down as 'don't just manage change, be willing to change.' Scary thought....

think about the who-ness, not the what-ness

Jenny is a wife and mother, and a farmer. She was that when she started to run for office, and she's still that, now. She spoke of her need to be a person in her own right, standing in her own space, and of her fantastic husband who told her he wanted her to be herself in all things. She made the point that we should think not about WHAT we bring to a situation, what we can do - but WHO we are. Who we are is part and parcel of what we offer our readers, our stories, ourselves.

I have a bad habit of splitting myself up. There's writer-Anna, dayjob-Anna. Anna-the-Wife. Emotional Anna. They're all me.

Do you write erotica? Are you a mother, too? Do you split those 'personas' up in your head? Nuh-uh. The sooner we learn to reconcile all those parts of ourselves, the sooner we can apply all of ourselves to a thing, and make it magical.

There are three ways to influnce decisions

Activist - Is this RTB? Readers' blogs?
Lobbyist - Reviews, perhaps?
Decision Maker - To an extent, I think this is all of us, although the temptation is to slap this title on editors, or marketing departments, or even higher...

Set your Agenda

This is where it got even more interesting. I got so much out of this! I'm only hoping I can do it justice.

1) Identify the issues - that's part of that finding the right information bit, right?
2) Plan every move - self-explanatory.
3) Goals - Set goals with the expectation of achieving them

Yeah, that's right. I'm going to say that again. Set goals with the expectation of achieving them

I'm blushing. I'm sitting here, blushing, as I was sitting in that conference on Wednesday with my mouth open. Because I realised something fundamental about my writing process that I HAVE to change.

I realised that most of my goals are set with a fatalist, defeatist attitude. I set goals with the expecation of failure.

I used to expect to sell (still blushing). Now I expect rejection (blushing and squirming with embarassment).

Now that's all about managing hurt. I still haven't figured out how to be positive, and not be more devastated when the worst happens.

Ugh. Look! LOOK AT THAT! I just said WHEN the worst happens. IF the worst happens. IF.

Now, it's my fault I got into that habit, but in my defence, part of it was a result of continuing to write for submission when I was physically and mentally unfit for it.

In future, I'm going to set my goals with the expectation of success. It's going to be hard, but I'm going to, do it. Yes.

Where were we?

4) Co-ordinate your actions - Plan your time, people. And think about those other activities that are a part of writing, too.
5) Leadership matters - For us, this probably means not letting our characters bully us.....
6) Manage your people - okay, so first we need to become multi-published bestsellers with a team of publicists, right? Wrong. Your family is part of your team. Your friends. CPs. Chapter-friends. Communicating your needs for writing time to your family and making concessions in turn is a part of managing your team. If your writing time depends on you sneaking off somewhere and hoping no one notices you're gone, you're NOT managing your team. And since you're thinking about the Who-ness, your writing is a part and parcel of YOU, so they're going to have to accept that, right? Right.
7) Celebrate success - however small. Set a goal for a page this week? Met that goal? Celebrate.
8) Dream No Small Dreams.

Dream No Small Dreams

There's no need to interpret that for writing romance. I'm just going to write it in big letters and stick it up above my monitor.

Happy Dreaming.


At 11:28 am, Blogger Biddy said...

Great post!! So many things ring true.

"Dream No Small Dreams"

I think that is going to be on my computer as well.

At 3:10 pm, Blogger The Mom said...

I'm a big fan of your voice already but WOW! What an inspirational post.
Thank you.

At 4:22 pm, Anonymous Kate Walker said...

Wonderful post, Anna love

Great! I didn't have time to read but but I got absorbed - and I'm so glad I did.



At 4:58 pm, Blogger Nell Dixon said...

Sounds like a truly inspirational talk, Anna. I guess I'm another one who's guilty of the expect to fail group. It's funny but I had a pep talk from a friend the other day on just the same thing. Serendipity!

At 7:26 pm, Anonymous Kate Hardy said...

Anna, that's such an interesting post. And for me it rang bells about all life issues, too, as well as publishing issues. (Publication brings a whole new raft of questions - are you still trying to make this the best you can write NOW (aka Julie C's post), are you keeping in step with the market, and a few more that I'm too tired to think about now because I've spent the day doing research.) This is inspirational stuff. And I'm going to keep it in mind at my school governors' meeting tomorrow night. Thanks for sharing.

At 7:57 pm, Blogger Anna Lucia said...

I'm so glad this stuff is reaching other people, too! If you ever (by some strange chance) have an opportunity to hear Jenny Shipley speak, take it!

Thanks, Peggie :-D Nice to 'see' you.

At 4:48 am, Anonymous mary beth said...

FABULOUS post Anna. Wow!

At 5:24 am, Blogger Michelle Styles said...

Great post Anna.
Dream no small dreams indeed.

At 8:57 pm, Blogger Jaye said...

What a great post, Anna. :-) Food for thought (& dreams).


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