Don’t Give In to Fear – Writing tip from Rula Sinara

Rula Sinara

 

Rula Sinara‘s first book is out from Harlequin Heartwarming this month. Senior Editor Victoria Curran can’t stop talking about the wonderful, emotional qualities of THE PROMISE OF RAIN, and we’re all eager to read it! But first Rula has some words of encouragement…

Breaking Fear

We all have the capacity to fear. For the sake of survival, we’re wired to react mentally, physically and emotionally to danger. Without that ability, we’d be nothing but proverbial lemmings jumping to our deaths. But life is about balance, and when fear is so debilitating that it kills an individual’s ability to go after their dream—their calling—it’s no longer a good thing. It’s bad. Break it. As children we learned (hopefully) the difference between right and wrong. We were taught to make a conscious choice between good and evil. Fear that keeps a writer from achieving their dream is evil.

Don’t give in.

I know. I know. You’re thinking: ‘Yeah, right. Easy for her to say, now that she sold’. But wait. Let me tell you, fears don’t disappear after you sell. Like 99.9 % of writers, I’ve always excelled at being a morbidly shy, insecure, self-deprecating introvert. Sound familiar? Come on. I’m willing to bet that even those of you who are more outgoing, type A’s have moments when doubt creeps in and latches on to your stomach wall like a parasite. Sure, there is a plus side to being a tiny bit insecure about your abilities as a writer. As it turns out, those individuals are probably better at polishing their manuscripts. It’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect. Read this (later 😉 and be proud, BUT don’t use it as an excuse to pick apart the same manuscript (or chapter) for years, without ever submitting it!

You want to know my secret to breaking fear and taking the leap? The secret that helped get me that first sale?

The Mother Bird and the comfort of her nest.

No, seriously. I was lucky enough to be taken under a wing. Little me. A nobody in the writing world. And it just so happens that that nurturing, attentive mother bird—a symbol, as birds are, of wisdom, communication, and the ability to fly high enough to achieve your dreams…a symbol (in some beliefs ) of the power to overcome fear—has her wings spread for anyone who wants to become a better writer. Harlequin gave me what I needed to break through my writing fears.

  1. Knowledge: Knowledge is power. You’ve heard the expression ‘fear of the unknown’. So know. Never stop educating yourself. There’s no better way to battle insecurity or to boost confidence about your plot, conflict, submission process etc… When I began writing romance, I happened upon the Harlequin.com Community. The writing samples, articles and guidelines were invaluable. But beyond that, I was amazed by all the opportunities to learn. At first, I lurked on the forums (remember, I’m shy), but I didn’t lurk for long because the warmth and willingness of published authors, editors, moderators and fellow unpubs to answer questions and share information was phenomenal. Here I’d been warned, by the few who knew I was going to try writing a novel, that the publishing industry was some sort of secret society. Hah! Harlequin fosters a supportive society. I thought the forums, podcasts and links were the jackpot…but then came the first SYTYCW event. It blew me away! Even if I didn’t enter that one, the direct interaction with editors on ‘Meet the Editors’ was…well, there are no words…let’s just say I took notes. At one point, the editors listed their must read craft books. I ordered them all. Among those were books that I know made a difference in my writing…books like Blake Snyder’s ‘Save the Cat’ and ‘Robert McKee’s ‘Story’ and so many more (there’s a list on my blog). Taking advantage of what Harlequin has to offer is like free tuition to a top university dedicated to writing. Empower yourself.
  2. Support and Friendship: Nothing fuels fear and insecurity like feeling alone. Nothing boosts confidence and squashes anxiety like being around people who ‘get it’. I never would’ve had the guts to enter one of Harlequin’s online pitch contests if it hadn’t been for the encouragement and coaxing of writer friends. That pitch led to my first request and it was how I met my truly gifted editor, Victoria Curran. The forums were where I met author, Jeannie Watt, who reached out as a mentor. Her nudge a few years later is what led to my sale—to Victoria, who’d watched me grow as a writer and whose feedback and guidance made the difference. I’m living proof that editors do listen and care, but as much as they want to help, they can’t hear your unique voice in the crowd, if you’re not in the crowd. Step in. Whether it’s the voices in your head, analyzing your rejection letter or obsessing over margin size, it’s all considered normal here. It’s like being at a year round Star Trek convention, only for romance writers. 🙂 True friends are those who want you to achieve your own happy ever after. Having someone believe in you is energizing. Surround yourself with kindred spirits.
  3. Helping others: Another confidence booster is to give back. There will always be a newbie writer tip-toeing in behind you. What may seem clear to you, might be robbing them of sleep. One piece of advice…one shoulder…can make a difference to you both. There’s a saying I love—‘A person may forget your face, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.’ Helping others puts you in control of fear.
  4. 20 seconds: One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie We Bought a Zoo, with Matt Damon. In it, he tells his son, ‘All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and, I promise, something great will come of it.’ I’ve chanted this even after my sale (like when I sent in my book 2 proposal). For a writer, all it takes is twenty seconds to press submit on a pitch or contest entry. Twenty seconds to hit send on that manuscript submission. Twenty seconds to say hello to other writers. Twenty seconds to stop fear from causing you to procrastinate. Just start typing.

 Sometimes all it takes is a nudge from a friend or simply knowing that someone out there believes in you and respects your goals. I’ve been there. I get it. So…you think you can write? New year. New attitude. New words. Stop thinking and do it.

 And now for some fun—a synopsis of this post. [Warning: Not a legitimate synopsis format. Do not try at home.]

Breaking Fear

If you’re a writer
ringing in the New Year,
then resolve to sing
and have no fear
that your voice will squeak
or your conflict is weak.
Give your story your best
and send it in like the rest
‘cause if you don’t write the words
there’s no chance to be heard

By the Mother Bird

Under the warmth of her wing
You’ll find many things
That will help you fly
If you give it a try

Whether you stay by her nest
Or venture out there
Her wings are wide open
She nurtures and cares
And remember an ‘R’
Doesn’t change who you are

You’re a writer

So banish all fear
This could be your year!
We know you can write
Let your ideas take flight

sytycWRITE!

Thank you Rula, for those inspiring words and a wonderful poem. Follow Rula on Twitter @RulaSinara or her blog or website. And don’t miss her debut title, out January 2014, The Promise of Rain!

P.S.:  Added because of comments below! More info on Rula and her debut can be found on the Harlequin Community site here and you can also find the Harlequin Heartwarming Guidelines and the current Community thread for Heartwarming here.  And here is Victoria Curran’s post on Heartwarming on Romance University. Good luck!

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Comments

  1. Do you think you would have overcome some of your fear had you not had a mentor who was published?

    I’ve been noticing a lot more lately when writers sell how they thank their mentor (a pubbed author) so a seed doubt takes hold and makes me wonder if someone can be pubbed if they don’t have that published author leading the way.
    I know ultimately, YOU still have to write the story and hit send, but having a mentor must be invaluable.

  2. Carol Opalinski

    Rula, wonderful post! Very inspiring especially since I have to fight THE FEAR constantly. But you are absolutely right about the community here with its wonderful and supportive people. They gave me the courage to enter SYTYCW.

    And your words are all the more powerful since I’ve read The Promise of Rain and know what a truly awesome writer you are!

    • Rula Sinara

      Oh, wow, Carol! Thanks for those kinds words (I’m blushing). I’m so glad you liked The Promise of Rain. The real power is in courage…so keep it going! My fingers are always crossed for you :).

  3. Rula Sinara

    Hey Marcie!

    You always ask the best questions!

    You can absolutely get published without having a published mentor! First of all, when you get involved with RWA groups or hang around a place like the Harlequin community…especially one of their subcare threads…you have many mentors (published ones too). The advice, friendship, guidance, support, opportunity to have questions answered and opportunity to win critiques is all there. That’s what mentorship is all about.

    Some writers find those things with a critique partner or group, others prefer to work on their own and some fall under the wing of a ‘fated’ mentor with whom they ‘click’. And that ‘click’ part is important, because, as with any relationship, if it’s not working it can actually hurt your confidence.

    Having a published mentor is magical in the way having a special teacher or a best friend you trust and can turn to for advice is, but it’s not a magic pill. It’s like having that gifted high school teacher who is there for you and understands who you are, but for all their guidance, if you don’t study or fill in that college application, you won’t get in. And at the same time, there are individuals (students) who end up with the short end of the stick when it comes to life and school, but they’re so determined, they succeed on their own. Everyone follows a unique path to publication. Like you said, it boils down to having a well-written story that also happens to fit in with your targeted line or publisher.

    I’m super lucky to have clicked with Jeannie and, for me, she did make a difference because she nudged me when my confidence was waning and somehow the planets aligned and she had me where I needed to be for that pitch. But I could have also ignored her advice, given into my fear and walked out of that room without pitching. So glad I didn’t!

    • I agree on the support within Harlequin’s community, I’ve gotten a lot there myself, but I still have to wonder if that one-on-one personal attention that you get privately helps more than getting different viewpoints from more people. With the support of many – you have to decide who to listen to.
      I know you still don’t have to heed the advice of one single person, but that would seem easier to decide on one voice than many!
      Again, it’s just that I’ve been hearing more about it than I ever have before and I guess I have the mentality of ‘if they’re published, they must know something that I don’t’. Probably a thought I need to banish from my brain, huh?

      Thanks!

    • Rula Sinara

      Marcie, not if the single piece of advice turns out not to be the best. Whether from one or many, you still have to trust your gut and follow only what resonates with you. It’s never easy, but it helps to focus on your own unique journey because there are too many variables out there. I know it’s frustrating, but everything will happen at the right time. Just don’t give up!

      Best wishes to you always 🙂

  4. Melinda Curtis

    Rula, I, too, had a published author friend and several other pubs in my writing group who watched out for me as well. Networking is a big boost (I’d recommend everyone join RWA National and their local chapter – for the networking, learning, and mentoring).

    I’ve written 15 books. In some ways they get easier and in others they are just as hard. As writers – or whatever your goal is – we all need to “just keep swimming”. It will always just be a dream if you let “the hard parts” stop you.
    Melinda

    • Rula Sinara

      Hi Mel! I think we just cross-posted :).

      Wise words from a wise woman. We do have to keep swimming–hard–or our dreams will get sucked down by the under-toe currents. I also highly recommend joining RWA!

      Fifteen books. That seems so far away from where I am now! Best success, Mel :).

  5. Victoria

    Okay, Mary-Theresa Hussey wrote the opening deck to this blog…I don’t talk about The Promise of Rain ALL the time at Harlequin. (Just, um, every once in a while.) You are an inspiration, Rula!

  6. Bron McEvoy

    Beautiful, inspiring piece, Rula. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have published mentors, too, and I reckon it’s cut years off my development as a writer. Less thrashing about in the dark. It may not be a prerequisite to being published but it’s definitely a shortcut! (We’ll, I hope so, anyway!) Congrats on the enthusiastic reception your book is getting.

    • Rula Sinara

      Thanks so much, Bron!

      I have a great deal of respect and gratitude for Jeannie Watt and we turned out to have so much in common that she’s not just my ‘Fairy God Mother’ and mentor…she’s become a dear friend :).

  7. Mary-Theresa

    I do think I received a hint or two from Victoria about how much she loved this book! Enthusiasm like that should definitely be rewarded! 🙂

    Marcie–as they said above, a published mentor can be very valuable, but it’s not a guarantee–or a necessity. I think the level of feedback you get on the Harlequin Community boards, and the back and forth with editors and other authors can give you much the same information. But the personal encouragement and cheerleading can be very valuable. And that’s one of the other things great about hanging out around here! 🙂

  8. Autumn Macarthur

    Fabulous blog post, Rula!

    Good advice that has me wanting to read the Heartwarming guidelines and think which of my stories would be a good fit there!

    I’m so so happy to get the chance to read your book, I’m sure the first of many to come.

  9. Rula Sinara

    Thank you, Autumn!! That would be so great if one of your stories fit the line! I wrote another post (elsewhere) today that looks into the Harlequin Heartwarming guidelines…and it includes a link to yet another post by Victoria Curran at RU. Not sure if this is the right place to post them, but I did put the links on the Harlequin Community Forum Heartwarming thread today :). Hope it helps!

  10. Mary-Theresa

    I’ve updated the end of the post with the new links–everyone is always so busy on their own pieces sometimes the connections aren’t as clear! But thanks for the great information and support!