Monday, February 10, 2014

Persistence Trumps Talent

by Susan Craft

I’m hesitant when asked to talk about the process of writing, because each author has his or her own way of going about it. I’ve been writing professionally for over 40 years. Granted, some of it was, I told myself at the time, not what I really wanted to be writing—articles for agency publications, informational materials, speeches for the agency director.

It was the day job I couldn’t quit because I couldn’t get anyone interested in my novels.

Over the years, I have come to the realization that any writing hones your craft. It’s wrapped up in the thought processes required to come up with an idea and the utilization of resources to research thoroughly. It’s the time to learn correct grammar and spelling, as well as the willingness to learn from the masters. Mixed in is the discipline to sit in the chair and work, along with the development of thick skin in order to learn from, and not resent, criticism. It’s learning to develop the humility that comes with rejection, and the absolute joy that comes when someone really likes what you’ve written and says those magic words, “I couldn’t put it down.”

With that realization came the light-bulb moment when I understood that employees and their families were honored by my articles published in our agency newsletter. The mental health patients and their families deeply appreciated the information about their or their loved one’s illness written in such a way that they could understand what was happening to them. And the audiences hearing the speeches gained insight into what our agency was trying to accomplish and were inspired to partner with us to achieve those goals. My writing actually helped some people. How rewarding is that.

I still work full-time and continue to plug away at novel writing. The speaker at a writers’ workshop I attended last year made the statement, “Persistence trumps talent.”

Well, brothers and sisters, I’m here to tell you that I know a little bit about persistence. Over the past 30 years I’ve attended more writers workshops and conferences than I can remember. Sometimes the information would contradict something I had heard in a previous conference. This happened mostly in the area of marketing—what genres were selling, what publishing houses were looking for, what agents wanted to see, the acquisitions editor who threw manuscripts into her sludge pile because she had had a lousy breakfast. I listened and I learned to sift through the information and glean the good stuff to incorporate into my writing.

My persistence was rewarded when in November 2011, the Ingalls Publishing Group released my inspirational Revolutionary War romantic suspense, The Chamomile. When wonderful reviews started showing up on places like Amazon and Goodreads, I truly was amazed and excited. When The Chamomile won the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Okra Pick award, I was over the moon.

So, here’s my advice boiled down into the format I like best—a list:

  • Write every day, preferably in the same place and at the same time. (I don’t follow my own advice about the same place, same time, but I write every day.)

  • Get up early one morning and start writing without stopping; especially don’t stop to edit. Try switching off your monitor when you’re typing. You can’t edit what you can’t see.
  • After editing on the screen or in print, read your work aloud. You’ll be amazed at how many awkward sentences you can fix this way.
  • Join a critique group, preferably with people who write in your genre. (Or find a critique partner.)
  • Attend as many writers’ conference and workshops as you can. These things can get very expensive, so thoroughly check them out for those that sound helpful to you and your level of writing. The networking is invaluable.
  • Read—a lot, especially the great writers. You’ll soon come to recognize what excellent writing is.
  • Keep notebooks describing the interesting people you meet and the places that give you “vibes” (sorry, I’m a 60s girl).
  • Enter writing contests; sometimes you get tremendous feedback from judges and you get name recognition, awards, and rewards if you win.
  • Volunteer to work at your local Book Festivals. They are the ones who will invite you to speak once you’ve been published. You’ll meet some fine people and network with published authors who usually have good advice.
  • If you write historical fiction, PLEASE, make every effort to assure that your facts are correct and your history is good.
  • Self-publishing is separate from writing. Not every writer has the time, the talent, or the interest. Both writing and publishing take work. Self-publishing demands the work of both. Even if you land a contract with a traditional publisher, you must still work at self-promotion.
  • Get an agent. Some writers complain that this is unnecessary and ask why they should give another person a piece of the royalties.
  • My agent, Linda S. Glaz, with Hartline Literary Agency, is fabulous. She is my best ally, she knows where my books should be, and she knows the people to send them to, and they respect her opinions. While she’s out there promoting my novels, I’m free to write. I’m the first to admit, though, that finding an agent is just as difficult as finding a publisher.
  • This last one is for Christian writers. Pray about and for what you are writing. Ask yourself, will this glorify His name? Will it lift up your readers? Will he or she be a better person for having read what you’ve written? Have you done your absolute best to honor the absolute sacrifice that was made for you? Will you handle rejection with grace and accolades with humility?

Susan F. Craft’s Revolutionary War romantic suspense, The Chamomile, won the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Okra Pick.  Susan has a degree in Broadcast Journalism, and her 40-year career includes working for SC Educational Television, the SC Department of Mental Health, the SC College of Pharmacy, and currently for the SC Senate.

Susan wrote A Writer's Guide to Horses, available on the website of the Long Riders' Guild Academic Foundation,  The Guide provides authors comprehensive information about horses to assist them to accurately portray horses in their works.

An Army brat, she has lived in Columbia, SC, sixty years. She married her high school sweetheart, and they have two adult children, one granddaughter, and a granddog.

An admitted  history nerd, she enjoys painting, singing, listening to music, and sitting on her front porch watching the rabbits eat all her daily lily bulbs.
Susan is represented by Linda S. Glaz, Hartline Literary Agency. Connect with Susan on her website.


  1. Susan, this is so beautifully written and so true. You have to believe in yourself enough to do the work, make the contacts, and let others know about your capabilities. I'm going to keep a copy of your list as a reminder for keeping my eyes on the prize and doing it all for the right reason. Many thanks!

  2. Paula, I'm so happy that this resonated with you. Keep your eye on the prize and do it for the right reason -- what fantastic goals.