Guest Blog by Suzanne Casamento

August 25th, 2010 • Kate

thinkbigSince I’m out of the office this week on vacation, I’ve turned my blog over to my clients, who wanted to share their thoughts with you on a variety of subjects. I let them have free rein because otherwise, well, just trust me, it’s for the best. Today’s post is by Suzanne Casamento. Growing up in a slow New Jersey town (complete with horse farms and cornfields) gave Suzanne Casamento plenty of time to dream up stories. She earned her BFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston, where she studied under Andre Dubus III. Her stories and articles have been published in Seventeen, Teen and All About You. Her debut novel FINGERPRINTS is loosely based on a piece that appeared in Seventeen. Both stories are a lot like her 16th summer in New Jersey, when suddenly life wasn’t so boring anymore. Suzanne now lives in Los Angeles and is an active member of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. Take it away, Suzanne!

Things I Know For Sure About Being a Writer

On Sunday, Amy Spaulding and I met up for Umami Burgers. (As Amy says, “Epic poems should be written in its honor.”) During out first meeting we swooned over burgers, talked about writing, what we write and why we write it. We discussed writing contemporary fiction in a paranormal crazed market.

Then guest blogging came up. Neither of us were sure what to guest blog about. Since I have yet to publish a novel, it’s hard to write about the business end of things. But during our fabulous meet-up, I realized I do have thoughts to share about being a writer:

• If you write, you are a writer. There’s no “I want to be a writer” or “One day I’ll be a real writer.” If you write, you are a writer.

• Not everyone likes to read. That means your family might never glance at your manuscripts. But when it comes to people you can choose, like your spouse, find one who wants to read your work. Otherwise, you’ll resent it.

• When you hear other authors lament about waiting six years to publish a book and you’re on your 16th, don’t get discouraged. Your journey is your journey.

• Some people will think you’re crazy. They’ll call your writing a hobby and snark at your publishing dreams. If you can, keep your distance from those people.

• Believing is everything. If you don’t believe your work is worth publishing, no one will publish it.

• Surround yourself with other writers. The best thing you can do is join a critique group. You’ll learn more from other writers, their work and how they feel about your work than you can imagine.

• Apply for grants and scholarships. Attend workshops and conferences. Take classes. Use every tool and do everything you can to become a better writer.

• Think big.

• Envision your goals. Create a vision board or write out what you want to achieve. When you specifically ask for what you want and back it up with hard work, you’ll get it.

• Get your butt in the chair. Envisioning does you no good unless you do the work.

• Sometimes life interrupts. When life changers occur, your writing can get derailed. That’s okay. Take the time to heal then get back on track.

• Try not to let rejection get you down. Sure, rejection sucks. But it’s a business. Don’t take it personally. Just continue searching for the right match. The right agent/editor will “get” your stories.

• Delight in the little joys. When your critique group loves your work, celebrate! When you get a response from an agent that says, “This manuscript isn’t right for me, but I’d love to see more,” get excited about the “I’d love to see more!” (Then send it!)

• When you feel defeated and tired and want to stop, go for a walk, take a break, do whatever you have to do and shake it off. Because you know you’re not really going to quit. You can’t. After all, you’re a writer, aren’t you?

What do you know for sure about writing?

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19 Responses to “Guest Blog by Suzanne Casamento”

  1. Rena Says:

    Great post, Suzanne! One thing I know about writing is that it's a huge learning process. As I look back on my books that are already out, there are a lot of things I'd change simply because I've learned so much since they were first accepted.

  2. Sarah Laurenson Says:

    I've been pounded with the "it's subjective" lesson a lot lately. Not sure why yet, but it does help to realize that rejection is not the end. It's only a signal to move on.

    Great list!

  3. Elena Says:

    Along the lines of what Rena said, writing is like everything in life: it takes practice, and there's no way to learn from your mistakes other than actually doing it.

    Also:

    If you're bored while writing and/or reading back a scene in your work-in-progress, scrap it. If you don't like reading your stuff, no one else will.

    Listen to advice, but also be aware of where it's coming from.

    When it comes to critiques, I have a rule. If you hear the same comment from at least two people, then they're probably right. One comment from one person could very well be a personal preference of theirs, and does not mean that you need to change anything.

    Reciprocate. Don't expect critiques on your work unless you've critiqued others. Don't expect comments on your blog unless you've commented on others'.

    Avoid negativity. Always.

  4. Krista V. Says:

    "Get your butt in the chair. Envisioning does you no good unless you do the work."

    This is what has motivated me to write the past few months. I'm great at envisioning success, but that vision won't become reality unless I do the time.

    One thing I know for sure: You have to be content with where you're at in your writing journey, because if you can't be happy without it (whatever "it" is), you'll never be happy with it.

  5. Sue Harrison Says:

    Here's what I know about writing, Suzanne. I love it. I love to create my characters, develop their world, and put them in impossible situations then watch them claw their way out because they're tough and smart and won't give up. And that's another thing I love about writing, to succeed as a writer I have to be tough and smart (at least sometimes) and not give up.

    Thank you for a terrific post.

  6. Bish Says:

    Good stuff here. What I know for sure about writing is that it's been a part of my life since I was very young. Even when I'm not physically writing I'm thinking,reading, and/or researching about writing.

  7. Carrie Harris Says:

    I would add: Some people will think you're crazy. This is not necessarily a bad thing. 🙂

  8. Suzanne Casamento Says:

    Thanks everybody for adding such great "things you know for sure" to my list! I think we're on to something. 🙂

  9. Ara Burklund Says:

    Great post, Suzanne! Awesome insights!!! I love the part about not begrudging writers who've sold. I have to admit–selling in six years does sound like overnight success to me at this point.

    My advice would be to keep learning. There's always more about craft and the industry to know.

  10. Shannon Says:

    Thanks Suzanne. Wise words at the perfect time. I'm on the "derailed" part at the moment and it is comforting to know that, as in childbirth, I'm not the only one in the world who has been there – or done that. 🙂

    Thank you again.

  11. Kristen Says:

    Excellent post Suzi! You rock!

    It's funny how I'm a writer by hobby, not "by trade." But with all of your posts and blogs, I never ever feel left out. And that is exactly because of what you said – "If you write, you are a writer." It may not be "my job" or something I earn money on, but it's something I enjoy VERY much.

    Now, it's funny about the reciprocation thing (thanks Elena!) and the "some people don't like to read" thing. If you ask me whether or not I like to read, I will say no. I like to read the right stuff – and that's the thing, our writing is never for every single human being in the entire world. And that's an extremely important thing to remember so that one does not get discouraged. And it's also important because that is what makes this world go-around. If we all loved the same thing, what fun is that?!

    Here's an example: Am I a young adult? No. Do I love reading young adult books? Yes. Remember, Suz, I read your last manuscript in 4 ours and reveled in it. I am in the Information Technology field. Do I like reading IT stuff? Heck NOOOOO!

    Rock on all you fabulous writers! You give so much to our world, and people appreciate you 10000x more than you'll ever know. 🙂

  12. Sara W.E. Says:

    Yes. Yes. And YES! These are all brilliant and true tips:D I do the vision board too and I'm often adding little notes from friends and my own 'pictures' of success. It helps remind me what I'm working towards.

  13. Sherrie Petersen Says:

    Great list, Suzanne! I'd add learn from your mistakes. We all make them, but hopefully they also help us to become better writers.

  14. nancy Says:

    Trust your instinct. If something in the book doesn't feel quite right, but you think nobody will notice . . . trust me: they will.

  15. Sherri Says:

    I'm going to print this out and put it near my desk. All of these things I've learned as well, but I forget sometimes. Thanks for laying them out for me.

  16. Erika Marks Says:

    Such great responses.

    My addition would be that writing takes perseverance above all. Whether or not your goal is to be published, it takes time to work on your craft.

    And be courteous and professional in all your exchanges. It's a much smaller industry than we might imagine!

  17. Olivia Says:

    I agree that having a critique group is (can be) one of the best things ever. It depends on who they are. Mine is awesome.

    I'd also like to add that writing is not just a job. You said to ignore people who refer to it as your "hobby." But it IS a hobby! It's a hobby that lot's of people (and you too) can make money from! Although I'm not one of those people yet…Ha, maybe Daphne will like my story. I sent her my query the day she left for the beach. Bad timing on my part in terms of responses, but maybe she'll be in such a fantabulous mood when she gets back that I'll have an advantage…**smiles maliciously**

  18. Stephanie Perkins Says:

    LOVED this, Suzanne.

  19. Amy Says:

    You forgot "Eat burgers"!!