Guest Post by Author Liz Coley: The Six C’s

It’s not unusual for someone, especially an aspiring writer, to pick up a book in the store and say, “I can write better than that! How come I’m not published?” 

That aspirant is looking at only one of vital C’s of authorship—CRAFT. Writing craft, like pottery or painting, is a skill learned through study, apprenticeship, and practice. Developing facility with words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes, and story arcs requires a combination of observation, book learning, constructive criticism, and day after day effort. It’s been said that you have to spew a million words of junk before you become a writer or spend 10,000 hours, the usual threshold for expertise. It’s true that strong writing craft is (usually) necessary to becoming a published author, but it’s not sufficient.

COMMUNITY is the second C. Although putting words on paper/screen usually takes place in isolation, it’s essential to join the larger community of writers. First, they understand what you are going through—goals, dreams, setbacks, frustrations, triumphs, etc. In your journey to publication, you’ll need shoulders to cry on and palms to high five (either in person or over the internet). Other writers, whether behind or ahead of you, are qualified to help you improve your own work through thoughtful feedback. And beyond that, they will link you to opportunities—calls for manuscripts, speaking gigs, drinks with an agent or editor at conferences, and eventually guest blogs about your work.

COMMITMENT is the third C. I mentioned the proverbial million words. I mentioned the daunting ten thousand hours. We’re talking years. Besides committing to putting in the time (butt in chair), you need to commit to putting in the dollars to attend conferences, and you need to commit to putting yourself out there for hurt feelings and rejection. I had a writing workshop instructor/role model who set himself the goal of getting 500 rejections. That’s serious commitment.

Originally, I thought those three C’s covered it, until I realized there were more indespensible elements along the route to publication.

Number four: CORRECTIVE LENSES. And by this, I mean you need to have a sustaining vision of why you are putting yourself through this long apprenticeship and where you hope to end up. Corrective emotional lenses will help you see a rejection letter as proof that you finished something and sent it out. You’ll see that form “no thanks” letter with a handwritten positive comment as a huge win—someone has taken an interest in you. You’ll see the “not quite, but do send me something else” as a badge of success for you as a writer instead of a failure for that particular story.

Number five: CHOCOLATE is an absolute requirement—or whatever rewards you give yourself. External rewards from the industry are few and far between. You have to compensate by rewarding yourself—for trying, for losing, for winning. Just for showing up to your blank screen. Just for putting a query in the mail. This is the one case where everyone who plays deserves a trophy. I had a deal with a writer friend that whoever had the most recent rejection was treated to lunch by the other one. Talk about an incentive to submit!

Finally, the sixth C is COFFEE, figuratively speaking. You’ll need to develop ways to recharge a tired soul. It takes a lot of energy to get started in writing, a lot of energy to keep going, and even more energy to break in. And after that? Well, it takes a ton of energy to see it all the way through to the day your first book hits the shelves.

Carpe diem. C’s the day.

As a preteen, Liz Coley was hooked on science fiction thanks to alien Tripods, space-time warping tesseracts, and a Martian maid named Thuvia. Her science fiction short stories appear in Cosmos Magazine and several print anthologies. While self-publishing the time travel/alternate history/Mayan end of the world novel OUT OF XIBALBA, Liz received “The Call” that all aspiring novelists dream of. 

PRETTY GIRL-13, her debut novel with HarperCollins, will be published in the US and in nine translations on five continents in print, ebook, and audiobook formats.

Liz lives in Cincinnati, OH with her husband, her teenaged daughter, and an elderly orange tabby by the fire. The older two boys have moved on to college and graduate school. When she isn't writing, Liz enjoys singing, photography, tennis, and cooking.

Find Liz on her website, Twitter, or Facebook.

About the book

Reminiscent of the Elizabeth Smart case, Pretty Girl-13 is a disturbing and powerful psychological mystery about a girl who must piece together the story of her kidnapping and captivity.

Angie Chapman was thirteen years old when she ventured into the woods alone on a Girl Scouts camping trip. Now she's returned home…only to find that it's three years later and she's sixteen-or at least that's what everyone tells her.

What happened to the past three years of her life?

Angie doesn't know.

But there are people who do — people who could tell Angie every detail of her forgotten time, if only they weren't locked inside her mind. With a tremendous amount of courage, Angie embarks on a journey to discover the fragments of her personality, otherwise known as her "alters." As she unearths more and more about her past, she discovers a terrifying secret and must decide: When you remember things you wish you could forget, do you destroy the parts of yourself that are responsible?

Liz Coley's alarming and fascinating psychological mystery is a disturbing - and ultimately empowering page-turner about accepting our whole selves, and the healing power of courage, hope, and love.

Find out more on Goodreads, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.