Thursday, August 21, 2014

My GPS Writing Life: Recalculating

by Elva Cobb Martin

Driving the other day with our GPS, I suddenly saw how my writing life resembles this navigational gadget. My husband looked on with raised brows as I burst into fits of uproarious laughter. If you read on, get ready to laugh and release some healthy endorphins into your system.

In writing I put in my goals and happily slam my foot on the gas doing what I love most these days—writing. But then I find the pavement running out from beneath me, and I must recalculate.

Goal: Write the Dream Novel
  • Fall in love with an idea, a genre, a character, a setting, and a theme.
  • Research, research, and read tons of novel-writing books.
  • Join a writers’ group.
  • Attend an expensive writers’ conference.
  • Plan like crazy getting the main plot points, conflict, and MRUs in order.
  • Gas up to the speed limit, and get the first draft down on paper.
  • Receive email feedback. “Cozy mysteries are no longer selling well.”


Goal: Get an Agent
  • Research sites, friends, writing groups, the kitchen sink, and the fence post.
  • Research query letters.
  • Research agents not on any predators’ list and their submission guidelines and blogs.
  • Revise, critique, and polish the query. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
  • Send it to The Agent.
  • Receive email feedback: “Sorry, The Agent is no longer accepting fiction clients.”


Goal: Submit to an Editor on My Own
  • Research and study fiction editors and publishers. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
  • Learn how to do a great One Sheet.
  • Join or start another writers’ group heavy on critiquing.
  • Attend some more expensive writers’ conferences.
  • Get editor appointments.
  • Get some nibbles.
  • Memorize every word the editors say.
  • Revise; get critiques; polish; check DPOV, pesky words, and tricky errors. Repeat until finished (or ‘til you hate the novel).
  • Send full to first editor ASAP.
  • First Editor Response, “I really like this, but we have just bought a novel with a similar theme and setting. Sorry.”
  • Repeat most of the above.
  • Second Editor Response, “I like this so far, but we are really looking for novels of 90,000 – 100,000 words. You’re about 20,000 words short.
  • Repeat most of the above.
  • Third Editor Response, “I like this, but it’s too wordy. You need to cut about 20,000 words.”


It's the thing I now do best.

What about your writing life? Ever feel like you are on a GPS merry-go-round?

The good news is that my real GPS (most of the time and sometimes with several recalculations) manages to get me to my destination. I hope the same holds true for my writing life, especially since I have the best model on the market—GHS. God's Holy Spirit.

If this article made you smile and feel less alone as a writer on the uphill journey to publication, please leave a comment, tweet it, and share it on Facebook.

Elva Cobb Martin

Elva Cobb Martin is president of the South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a former school teacher and a graduate of Anderson University and Erskine College. Decision, Charisma, and Home Life have published her articles. She has completed two inspirational romances. In a Pirate’s Debt is being considered by a literary agency for representation. Summer of Deception is being considered by a publisher. A mother finally promoted to grandmother, Elva lives with her husband Dwayne and a mini-dachshund writing helper (Lucy) in Anderson, South Carolina. She and her husband are retired ministers. Connect with her on her web site, her blog, Carolina Romance with Elva Martin, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


  1. You made me smile, Elva. You forgot some things - You receive a message from a big publisher that they LOVE your book, but your platform is too small. Recalculate: Become a social butterfly. Create a website (pay a professional to do this); create a blog; become a regular contributor to other blogs; post, post, post; comment on as many blogs as possible; go to conferences and participate in webinars, and buy books to learn how to best use social media; Pin, FB, Tweet, and LinkIn. You get a contract, but there's not a big marketing budget - Recalculate: become an expert in marketing; attend conferences and webinars to learn how to market your book; brush up on your public speaking skills; go to conferences to learn how to speak in front of groups without sweating. Should I hire a publicist, or not? Recalculate: spend time on the Internet seeking the answer to that question. In the meantime, as an aside during your free time, research for and write your next novel and start all over again. Don't you just love this!

    1. Thank you, Susan, for commenting and clueing me in there's a LOT MORE RECALCULATING coming! Since writing this blog I've come up with a better acronym for my mightiest global positioning system that will definitely get me where I need to be: God's Perfect Spirit.
      Hugs, Elva