My Books!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

AJ Nuest's Three Rules For Becoming a Successful Author

Readers, please help me welcome guest blogger AJ Nuest. AJ is talking today about her three rules for becoming a successful author. Since she has a book coming from The Wild Rose Press in the spring, she knows what she's talking about. Before we get to the guest post I asked AJ to post a blurb about her book, Jezebel's Wish.


Haunted by nightmares, tormented by guilt, Jezebel came to Redemption Ranch to escape the past—except now she's stuck in the middle of nowhere with no redemption in sight. When her mother pushes her into riding lessons with local veterinarian Matthias Saunders, Jezebel balks. Sure, the doctor is gorgeous, but he’s completely obnoxious and knows how to push every one of her buttons.

Only her deep connection with The Reverend, a gentle stallion who guards her darkest secrets, has her agreeing to spend any more time with Dr. Saunders. Caring for the stallion is the first bright spot in her life in months, and if being around the horse means she has to deal with Matthias Saunders, then so be it. Surely a city girl like her can handle one country vet—even one with disturbing blue eyes. Can't she?

AJ Nuest

Forgetful Hearts, May 2008
Jezebel's Wish, Available April 15, 2011 from The Wild Rose Press

And now for AJ's guest blog. AJ, thanks for coming.

AJ Nuest's Three Rules For Becoming a Successful Author

I’m handling these in reverse order (because that’s how they do it on the Miss America Pageant).

Rule #3: Read

If you want to be a successful author, first and foremost, you must read. And I’m not talking about the latest How-To article on drafting the perfect query letter (yes, that’s important, and certainly something you should peruse before submitting). I’m talking about reading for enjoyment, to remember your love of words. Especially for all those workaholic writers out there, like me. You know who you are. Up to the wee hours of the night, editing that latest WIP. When you find yourself looking up the word “took” in the thesaurus, ‘tis time to unplug. Prime example:

Recently, my family decided on a spur-of-the-moment vacation. Emphasis on the word vacation, because this means Mom doesn’t work. Before our departure, I stopped at my local library and grabbed a book from the shelf. I didn’t know the author, hadn’t read any reviews, and could have cared less if it made the NYTimes Best Seller List. I’m a fantasy reader by nature, and this book happened to be within arm’s reach. It had an interesting cover–dark hero shrouded in a cape, sword in hand–and an eye-catching title. I thought “Eh? What the heck.” I put it on the counter and checked it out along with several of my daughter’s selections.

The point to all this? It had been so long since I read for pure enjoyment that I got completely lost in the story. Afterwards, I had an epiphany. Why did I EVER stop reading? Before becoming a writer, I used to read all the time and I loved it…I missed it. But even better than that, now that I was a writer, I learned something by reading that book. This particular author had a very unusual way of handling perspective. Before writing myself, I probably would have never picked up on his technique, so smooth were his transitions between the characters’ internal dialogues. This author broke one of the major writing rules our editors are always telling us to avoid. He changed perspective mid-paragraph–sometimes even mid-sentence. But the way he did it was astounding, and I took away something very valuable by reading that story.

Remember to read, people. Pick up any book that floats your boat and crack the binding. Each time you do, I can guarantee, you will discover a new way to hone your craft.

Rule #2: Pay Attention

Or transitionally: You must be present in life if you want to write about it.
If given the choice, my perfect day is one when I don’t have to leave the house. I can sit inside with my laptop and a cup of Joe, happily clicking away until someone walks in the door and asks, “What’s for dinner?” At this point I spring up from the chair and remember I’m responsible for the care and feeding of my family.

Most of the writers I know are introverts. We have so many different characters inside our heads we don’t need to attend a party in order to meet someone new. However, social obligations notwithstanding, we all need to leave the house at some point. So when you do, PAY ATTENTION.

How many of us have heard this comment before? “You need to show more.” Showing can be one of the biggest problem areas for authors. Paying attention to your surroundings will help address this issue. Look at the sky. No, I mean really LOOK at it. And when you do describe what you see (and do yourself a favor, avoid words like “blue”, “partly cloudy” and “overcast”. Let’s leave meteorology to the professionals.) Listen to the way people talk, watch their facial expressions and body language during a conversation and take note of them. Smell the aroma when you walk into a restaurant. No, really SMELL it! Notice the people at the other tables, the waitress’s hairstyle and the necklace she’s wearing. Feel the texture of the ground beneath your feet. Experience the warmth of your daughter’s palm when she holds your hand. Recognize and name the emotions in your heart when your significant other says, “I love you.”

These little details are what each author must translate into their work if they want their stories to be captivating and create an audience base. Pay attention, people. If you’re writing about life, you have to be present while it’s happening.

And the #1 Rule for being a Successful Writer (Can I get a drum roll please?): PRAY!
Holy cow, did she just say the “P” word? Has the woman gone completely mad?
Evidently, prayer is a hot button these days, or should I say the usage of prayer is a hot button. I open this can of worms and I’ve automatically offended someone–which irritates the crap out of me, but I’ll save that gripe for another blog. I am not attempting to force my beliefs on anyone. What I AM saying is if you want to be a successful writer, for that matter if you want to be successful at anything, you must believe in the power of prayer.

For those of you who already know this rule, I’ve just won myself into your good graces. For those of you who don’t, let’s take a moment and look at this from a scientific standpoint, shall we?

Several years ago a group of Quantum Physicists got together and asked themselves a question. “Is there a God particle?” (These are the guys that smash atoms together and break them into billions of sub-atomic particles, so they can study matter and find out if there is an all-encompassing force that connects all things.)

Here’s what they’ve discovered so far. Matter is not solid. Everything you see, breathe, taste, touch, and smell, is made up of tiny particles of light (photons), functioning at different vibrational frequencies so that human beings can perceive them. Light is energy. Energy is magnetic. And in case you’ve been living in a cave somewhere, magnetic forces attract each other. Some say this Law of Attraction is the divining force which binds all things together. Throughout history many prominent thinkers have believed that human beings, through the force of our electromagnetic brain activity, are able to tap into this Law of Attraction, and through it, draw to ourselves the very things we desire. So, in other words, what Quantum Physics has proven is that each of us, within ourselves, contains a divine power to create the very world that surrounds us.

Hmmm…that sounds vaguely familiar to me. Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.
I find a certain kind of poetic justice in how science is just now proving what the Bible has been telling us for centuries. Prayer works, people. Whether you want to view it as The Law of Attraction or speaking personally with God, bottom line, it works. It is the number one most important thing in determining success in any area of life.

Take a moment to say a prayer each day. I cannot stress this enough. Send that positive thought out into the universe and see what happens. You may be surprised at the results.


Tattered Pages said...

Thanks for having me, Elaine! Love your website and blog~ AJ

Elaine Cantrell said...

I meant to tell you, AJ that your cover is stunning. I appreciate your coming. I wish more people would leave comments for us. We've had quite a few hits today.

LK Hunsaker said...

Elaine and AJ, I LOVE this post! Thank you! And ... yes, exactly. ;-)

I've been known to push an author off my reading list if I ever hear her/him say, "I don't read in my genre" or "I don't have time to read." If you don't care enough to make time to study your craft, I don't have time to read your work.

And yes, our thoughts do create our futures to a large extent. If you don't want to call it prayer, call it meditation. It's all the same.

Tattered Pages said...

I'm chuckling over here. Do you know I actually met someone once who said, "I don't read." I was very confused by this, and of course, responded, "You mean you CAN'T read?" They said no, they could, they just didn't. It was so strange to me. I'm putting that in a book...after all, they'll never read it!

Christina Hollis said...

Beautiful cover, AJ. Your three points are spot on: I bet even Richard Dawkins the famous atheist would have to agree that a few minutes of quiet contemplation outlining aims and objectives to (in his case) yourself is absolutely vital before starting any project.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi AJ and Elaine,
Wonderful blog.

LK Hunsaker said...

AJ, I'm always astounded by that, as well! I know people who don't (other than FB statuses, lol) but I just can't understand it. I hope they at least travel so there's some kind of mind-opening activity going on. ;-)

jrlindermuth said...

Excellent advice.

Marie Beau said...

I loved your post AJ, and Elaine, thank you for having her. I agree wholeheartedly, AJ, on all three counts, but most especially the power of prayer!

Caroline Clemmons said...

AJ, there's a well known author whose books I NEVER buy since I heard her say she doens't read anyone's books. To me, that seems insular and narrow minded. It's bad enough when anyone says they don't read, but for an author who wants people to read her work, it's unforgivable, in my opinion.

Cherie Le Clare said...

Hi Elaine,

I woke up to the power of positive thinking when I was in my thirties, and am now grateful for my Sunday School and Bible Class childhood because it means prayer was formed as a daily habit before I fully understood the benefits.

Cherie Le Clare

Tattered Pages said...

Thanks for all the support wonderful and for the compliments on my cover. When I first saw it, I wept buckets. The horse is a major character - The Reverend - and for the artist to have captured him so well...there aren't words. I love it too! *gush, gush*

Debra St. John said...

Awesome advice.


Word Crafter said...

Great Post AJ I really enjoyed it. And that cover is as Elaine said Awesome/stunning even. I think I'd buy the book just to get the cover, but it does sound like a good read as well. My TBB list has just grown.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Billie A Williams

Monya Clayton said...

How sensible! No esoteric high-falutin' rules, just common sense. My mind, I find after a long hiatus of writers block, needs to be relaxed, happy and fulfilled before I can write. I'm getting there.

Monya (aka Mary)

Sheila Deeth said...

Thanks. I enjoyed meeting you here, and I love your rules.

LaVerne Clark said...

AJ - your rules are so true! It brought tears to my eyes just thinking of the feeling of holding my daughters hand. She is only two, but it is a sensation I will never forget.

And your number one rule is a goodie. Although I'm not a member of any religion, I believe in a higher power and know whole-heartedly the power of positive thinking. I do feel blessed in my own life and wish many others felt the same way about their own. Anything is possible!

Great post Elaine. Thanks for sharing!

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