Wednesday, January 29, 2014

20 WOW Wednesday: Don't Quit Before The Miracle by Robin Constantine

Robin Constantine's debut YA Contemporary came out on the brink of the new year, and so far, people are falling in love with Wren and Grayson's love story. Go read THE PROMISE OF AMAZING. It is adorable people. We are SO happy to have Robin with us today!

Don’t Quit Before the Miracle by Robin Constantine

We’ve all heard publishing fairy tales, correct? You know, the ones that go something like this: writer has brilliant idea for a story, writes novel in two months, subs novel and within a week has five offers of representation, signs with dream agent, manuscript then sells at auction for a six figure advance and multi-book deal. All of this and the author is like, fifteen. Right? Okay, maybe that’s a bit of exaggeration, but there are many less glamorous variants to this story – your crit partner signed with an agent after three queries, that guy in your SCBWI workshop who only joined a year ago landed a multi-book deal on proposal alone or your friend is fielding movie offers and you just received your fiftieth rejection on your X-Men meets Romeo + Juliet dystopian paranormal. You get the picture.

On my journey to publication I usually had two ways of responding to such stories:

“Wow, that’s incredible! That makes this crazy pipe dream of getting published that much more accessible. If I work hard, that could be me!”

OR on my less enlightened days…

“I wonder if I still have the LivingSocial coupon for that “Skeet Shooting and Brewery Tour Adventure” in my inbox?”

The reality of publishing is simple. It’s hard. Yes, there are a handful of people who it appears to have come easy to but for the vast majority of us, breaking into publishing takes years.

So how to survive those moments when you’re on the brink of “I can’t do this anymore?”

Find Live Support
I’ve met some awesome people via social media but I’ve noticed when I spend too much time on Twitter or Facebook or surfing the blogosphere, I get grumpy and scattered. I rarely feel like this when I have coffee with real, live writer buds. Even lunch with a (gasp) non-writer friend or a phone call home is enough to make me realize there is more to life than a computer screen and a blinking cursor. Face time with real people can help you put things in perspective so that when you go back to that behemoth of a manuscript, you can see it with fresh eyes.

Nope, I’m not being funny here. If you’ve hit that brick wall of frustration more times than you can take, see if you can quit for a week, a month, even a year. Do something else entirely. Sometimes that feeling of “I can’t do this anymore” is just the need to take a break and let your subconscious do its thing. I took a break from writing when my daughter was born because I wanted to fully experience those early years without feeling guilty that I wasn’t spending enough time with her or conversely, that I wasn’t actively working to further my writing career. I didn’t stray far. I still critiqued other people’s work, read extensively and went to conferences. I just treated writing as more of a passionate hobby than the Holy Grail. I knew I’d made the right decision because when she was finally old enough to attend half day preschool, the first thing I did (after I wiped the OMG-my-baby’s-growing-up tears from my eyes) was open up a new Word document and start the manuscript that eventually connected me with my agent.

Focus on the upside of rejection
One of the most critical blurbs that’s still in my mental ‘you stink’ loop reel is from a rejection letter that I received on my birthday one year. Yes, really. My birthday. 365 days in a year and it had to come on that one.

“The writing is just not there.”

Ouch. It hurt. Tears were shed. Teeth were gnashed. I quit. I went to the beach. Ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant and got serenaded by the staff. I slept. I thought about that letter again. I read my manuscript. Darn it. Said editor had a point. Maybe my opening paragraph was a little lazy, the story too predictable, my heroine not interesting enough. I wanted to crumble with this one. Seriously. To this day, it’s still a phrase that my inner bully throws at me when my writing mojo is on the fritz, but I’ve learned to use it to my advantage. It made me determined to put my best on the page, to consistently improve, to do everything in my power to make my writing sing. In short, it made me a fighter.

Surround yourself with Inspiration
My tattered copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is usually within reach when I’m working at my desk. If I’m feeling particularly low, I can open to a random page and find some writing wisdom that makes me see things from a different perspective. Sometimes, it just makes me laugh. (In particular the chapter titled Radio Station KFKD). Maybe you find your inspiration in a song, or a long walk, or a quote from one of your favorite writers. It may feel hokey, but having a mantra even as simple as “I can power through this” can help you get back on track if you’ve lost your way. A favorite of mine is “Don’t quit before the miracle.” – I can’t really attribute the quote to any one person because I’ve heard it used so many times in sports and inspirational venues, but it’s a good one and can be applied to the very looooooong waiting game that is trying to break into publishing.

Understand that it Takes Years
This is different for everyone. I’m on the higher end of the “how long did it take” spectrum. I joined SCBWI in 1996, so you do the math. At one of the many conferences I’ve attended over the years, I heard someone say the average time for a writer to break into publishing is seven years. I know someone who took about three. Guess what? It’s not a contest and less time certainly doesn’t mean less work. Publishing is a notoriously glacial business. Understanding that is half the battle. Selling a book or getting a book deal doesn’t mean you’re done. You’ve only just begun. You are in it for the long haul, no? Cultivate patience.

Accept that it Might Not Happen for You
This is a hard one, and I know it sounds harsh and counterproductive, but real talk time: you can do everything right and still not land an agent or a publishing contract. Just think about it for a moment. Let it wash over you. In a weird way, realizing this, made me feel less pressured to ‘make it happen’. And while sometimes pressure is a good thing, living your life under constant pressure of “If I don’t do this, my life will amount to bupkis” is an unhealthy way to go through the day. Undaunted? Congratulations. If you can accept this and still want to write that story…I truly believe with a deep well of determination, a wish or two on the right star and a little thing called luck…you’ll find your spot on the shelves.

About The Author

Robin Constantine is a born and bred Jersey girl who moved down South so she could wear flip-flops year round. She spends her days dreaming up stories where love conquers all, well, eventually but not without a lot of peril, angst and the occasional kissing scene.

Her YA debut, THE PROMISE OF AMAZING, will be released in 2014 by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

About The Book

Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who's always done what she's supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn’t know how.

Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn’t know how.

One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love.

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads


  1. Lovely post! I've had Bird by Bird forever and haven't finished it. Guess I better be hauling it out. Today, in fact. I have an appointment that will surely include wait time. I'll read it then. THX!

    1. Bird my Bird is probably my favorite - maybe because it was the first book I bought that was not only a 'how to write' but 'how to survive' the mental aspect of it!! I love Anne Lamott!!

  2. Yes, rejections hurt like hell. So does the pressure of getting published. I have heard a lot about Bird by Bird. Will have to read it now. Love the sound of The Promise of Amazing.

  3. I needed to read this today. Thanks! I sometimes feel like quitting, but I can't. Nope, just can't. If I mention quitting to my writing friends, first they kick my butt and then they pick me up and soothe my soul. One threatens to steal my story if I'm not going to write it! I couldn't do it without my critique partners. Best friends ever!

    1. I can say confidently, I would not be where I am today without my crit partners. Nope!! They have definitely kicked my butt more than once :)

  4. It's not a race. Of course, if you never find that finish line, that doesn't help much.
    After my third book, I was tired of writing. Never intended to write more than one story. So I took most of last year off to focus on my guitar playing. Made me feel a lot better.

  5. I find that the more time spent on social media, the easier it is to start feeling like everybody else is "making it." Great advice about seeking out real world friends. I always feel uplifted and inspired when I do. Great pep talk, Robin. Thanks!

    1. Hi, Ruth! Social media can be so draining - and I think also give you a false sense of what's really happening out there and make you forget there's a wider world beyond the computer screen. So important to take a break now and then.

  6. This post is fantastic, Robin. So inspirational!

  7. Love this perspective. We're each on our own journey, and as long as we keep real life up front, real people up front, we can handle just about anything.

    Love the book title, love the cover!

  8. Yup. Going to take a break now. That's right. I quit! (For today, that is.) ;)

  9. Just what I needed to read right here, right now.

  10. Great post, Robin! I feel the same way about Twitter/blogosphere vs. meeting in real life. So here's the solution: come back to Orlando and let's go hang out! =)

    1. Yes, I definitely need to visit the Sunshine state again and soon!! We need to hang out :)

  11. Excellent post. Good reminders throughout. It's interesting to me how many writers keep Anne Lamotte's Bird by Bird at hand. I need to pull mine out and flip through it a little more often. I think The Promise of Amazing sounds like a terrific book. Thanks for all of this.

  12. I have the "it takes years" down pat. Still not wanting to embrace the "It might not happen to me." And like SA Larsen, I need to dust off my "Bird by Bird." Thanks for the post.

  13. Really wise words. Thanks for this!

  14. Such a great, and kind, post. Thank you.

  15. I'm in the had it once but lost it category. It never gets easier. I've illustrated over 50 published picture books and have had five of my own stories published, but suddenly it all came to a grinding halt and the last few years have been a drought. Part of it was my fault in that I guess I thought after 30 years I should have an established career, but in this business for most of us
    there is no such thing. Add to that the brave new world of technology, and trying to get back into the game is pretty daunting for this senior citizen. For me, right now, just writing the stories will feel like an accomplishment. If publishing comes of it, so much the better. Your post was very encouraging, while being realistic. Thank you.

  16. Thanks so much for stopping by!! I'm glad if even one part of my journey could help someone!!


Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)