Thank You

Outtakes 69

 Thank You

By Cait Collins

It’s that time when we begin looking back over the events of the year, assessing the good and the bad, the successes and the disappointments. No matter how tough the year may have been, it’s important to realize that writers have much for which to be thankful. It’s been a good year for me. I have completed HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW and am working on the final edits. I have started a contemporary western short story. I’m working on a short work entitled Borrowed Uncles. There have been disappointments, but the good far outweighs the bad. I sat down and made a list of some things for which I am truly grateful.

  1. I’m thankful for parents who taught me to love books and stories. Even before my sisters and I were old enough to read on our own, Mom and Dad took turns reading to us. They made sure there were books in the house. No matter where we were stationed, they found the public library and took us to get library cards. They encouraged my story writing.
  2. I have five sisters who are a major part of my support group. They want me to succeed. They have encouraged me to investigate publishing my novels as E-Books. (It’s on the agenda.) The great thing is they don’t gloss over my mistakes. When something is not right, they tell me.
  3. I have a great critique group and a reader. Natalie, Dee, Craig, Sharon, and Joe give good advice. They temper the problems with positive comments. Cynthia takes the completed work and gives it a final read. Their support and friendship means more than they will ever know.
  4. I’ve been blessed with good mentors. Successful writers tend to give back. They’ve been through the early struggles, have been given support by their peers, and now they reach out to newer writers who are finding their footing. Michael Cunningham told me to write my story. Author/actor Bruce Campbell showed me how to treat fans, Michael Blake spoke of keeping on in the face of rejection. Nicholas Sparks honestly told a group of writers at a book signing that being successful doesn’t make the job easier. It means you have to do it better next time. Jodi Thomas, Phyliss Miranda, Linda Broday, Kim Campbell, Jenny Archer, Gail Dayton, Terry Burns, Candace Havens, and the late Rhonda Thompson guided my early efforts and told me never to give up. I could fill this page with other writer friends and mentors. There are so many who have been part of my growth.
  5. I’m grateful there are a limitless number of stories to tell. Okay, were told there are only about seven stories. That may be true, but there are so many ways to tell them. The challenge is to create a unique version of the theme.

This is just a sample of a writer’s list of blessings. Each of us can add more and more to the list. Recognizing the endless blessings and expressing our gratitude helps us through the dark times when we stare at the screen and nothing comes. It makes the rejections easier and the critics less upsetting. Thank you to all of you who read and follow this site. I appreciate every one of you.

Consider It

Outtakes 37

Consider It

I have spent many hours training others to do a job. The process can be very rewarding. It’s so much fun to see someone “get it”. There’s the bright eyes, the grin, the high five. That’s the joy of being a trainer. Unfortunately, there have been some disasters. No matter what I tried, or how many time we went over the information, the trainee just couldn’t or wouldn’t catch on. Often they blamed me or their fellow employees for their failures. I really hated the angry scenes, the bitter accusations. In the early days, I blamed myself for a trainee not making the grade. Over the years, I’ve realized it’s not always the teacher’s fault. If the student does not pay attention, does not take notes, doesn’t care, then there is little the trainer can do to change the situation.

Writers need training. There are few naturals out there. Most of us struggle with the craft, hoping there comes a time when the work is easier. I’m not sure that happens. Several years ago, I met author, Nicholas Sparks, at a book signing in Amarillo. He made a statement that floored me. When asked if each new book was easier to write, he told the young writer, “No, in fact it gets harder.” He went on to explain that the expectations were higher with each novel and keeping up the standard became more challenging. He even admitted he was struggling with his new novel. It made me feel hopeful; less alone. I was working on my second novel and often felt as if I hit a wall. This best-selling novelist made me think I could succeed.

The road to success is paved by the writer’s attitude. I’ve been in critique groups with writers who would not listen to honest suggestions. The author would read his chapter; look around the table. You could feel the resentment before the first word was spoken. Reviewer number one starts by complementing elements of the setting or a character. Then he gets down to the problems. The interaction between the antagonist and his son is off. In fact, there’s little chemistry between the two. The scene lacks emotion. Instead of listening and asking for suggestions, the writer hotly defends his work. We’ll understand it all in chapter ten. Sadly, I won’t be around for chapter ten. If I’m not hooked in the first twenty or thirty pages, you will find the unread book in my box to donate to the library.

Even experienced, successful authors have readers. These trusted souls take on the task of reviewing the work, catching mistakes and inconsistencies. The smart author listens and corrects the scenes. Let’s be honest, no one likes criticism. But if you don’t want help, why join a group or work with readers? If you don’t plan to take the advice, don’t waste your time or someone else’s evening.

I’m thankful I have a good critique group. We respect each other and want every member of the group to be successful. We would never intentionally lead another member of the group astray. In turn, we listen, accept the critique, choose what makes good sense and use it to build a better story. A good writer will always be a student. After all, the more we learn and understand, the more exciting the work we will produce.

Cait Collins