Friday, February 24, 2012

How to be a Successful Writer

Today the Rockville 8 welcomes New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Anita Clenney who shares about the proper care and feeding of that fickle animal, Lady Luck. Anita will give away one copy of Embrace the Highland Warrior to a randomly chosen commenter (US or Canada addresses only).

Take it away, Anita!

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a formula for guaranteed success? Unfortunately, we don’t. For one thing, success is relative. What makes me happy might not be enough for you. But success is possible. Look at Stephen King, JK Rowling, and Janet Evanovich. All very successful writers, but I bet if you looked at each one, you would find no two success stories the same. This business isn’t one size fits all. However, each of those writers has one thing in common. They’re great storytellers. Even being a great storyteller is no guarantee. I’m sure we all know talented writers who should be published but aren’t. It takes more than talent and hard work. It takes luck. And by luck I mean timing, circumstance, and opportunity. But we’ll call it Lady Luck. It sounds cooler. The key is to do all you can to attract Lady Luck to your door. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts while you’re waiting.

DO write a book so compelling it makes the reader forget she lives in the real world. DO write characters so real, so memorable, the reader can’t stop thinking about them even after she puts the book down. DO write a plot that drags the reader into the story kicking and screaming, crying and laughing. DO keep your stories and characters fresh with unique twists that are all you. DO be persistent. We all know these things, but we need to remind ourselves from time to time. It’s easy to forget how the story looks from outside our heads. The DON’Ts are basic too, but crucial.

DON’T write a boring book. If it doesn’t thrill you to write it, it won’t thrill Jane Reader to read it. Actually Jane Reader will never see it because Jane Editor won’t buy it. DON’T have characters so bland and lifeless that the reader doesn’t care if they’re eaten by alligators. DON’T leave plot holes so big a UFO could land in them. DON’T GIVE UP! If you do any of these, DON’T hold your breath waiting for Lady Luck.

When I started writing, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but without realizing it, I had the most important thing. Enthusiasm. I was so excited about this story that when I realized what I’d gotten into and that I would probably never be published, I didn’t care. I was going to write this story and it was going to be the best story in the world. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but I was excited about my story. I think that’s even more important than writing degrees, proper grammar, and knowledge of the market. You can learn writing craft, show don’t tell, POV, what’s selling, what’s not, but enthusiasm is what gives life to your storytelling. So dig inside that talented head of yours like a miner searching for gems. Dig out the most intriguing jewel, then cut and polish it until it shines. And don’t give up. After you finish that story, start digging for another. When Lady Luck finally knocks, you’ll be ready.

About the Author
NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Anita Clenney writes mysteries and paranormal romantic suspense. Before giving herself over to the writing bug, she worked in a pickle factory and a preschool, booked shows for Aztec Fire Dancers, and has been a secretary, executive assistant, and a real estate agent. She lives with her husband and two children in suburban Virginia. To find out more information, please visit, follow her on Twitter @anitaclenney, or like her on Facebook ttp://

Some places you can buy Embrace:

And I’ll leave you with an excerpt:

Cody sighed. Might as well get it over with. He removed the shackles, returned them, and bent over her. “Shay, wake up.”

Her eyes flew open. She planted both hands against his chest and shoved, knocking him on his back, then sprang on top of him. “How dare you handcuff me to a bed?” she yelled, punctuating each word with a shake that rattled his brain. He didn’t fight back. She had to get it out of her system, and he didn’t blame her. He’d be more than pissed if someone shackled him.

She landed a fist into his stomach, and the breath rushed out of him. Okay, enough was enough. He captured her hands and rolled, trapping her under him.

“Get off me, you oaf.”

“I’ll get off when you stop beating the snot out of me.”

She let out a war cry and lunged for his throat, teeth bared. Intrigued, he hesitated a second too long, and she sank her teeth into his neck. A jolt of desire shot straight to his groin. He’d never been one for the rough stuff, but damn! He pulled back before she could do more than leave a bruise. He trapped her legs with his and held her hands above her head, letting his full weight press her into the soft mattress. She still struggled but could move only enough to get him excited.

“I’m sorry, Shay. I had to do it. It was too dangerous to let you go traipsing through the woods. I had to keep you safe.”

“What if he was hiding in one of the other bedrooms and sneaked in here while I was handcuffed to the bed? You left me so I couldn’t even protect myself.”

“Lach heard him out in the woods, but that’s why I locked the door, just in case. If this guy had broken it down to get to you, you would’ve screamed, and I would’ve come running. I was never far from the house.” He’d heard every name she called him.

Her eyes still flashed fire, but her breath was steadier, and she kept glancing at his mouth. He thought that was a good thing. He wondered if she’d calmed enough not to hit him, because he should move. She had to notice the effect all the wiggling around was having on him. He felt her hips push against his, and he groaned. He relaxed his grip and lowered his head, letting his lips touch her chin. He kissed his way to her mouth, and she head butted him in the nose.

While the stars exploded in his head, she shoved him aside and bolted out the door. He jumped up and went after her as she pounded down the stairs. He caught up with her outside. She was swinging her purse like a whip, headed for the car.

“Where are you going?” he demanded.

“Get away from me.”

“You can’t leave.”
“Watch me.” She opened the door. “I’m tired of people hiding things from me. I thought you were going to stop. Now you’re handcuffing me to the bed.”

“I explained it to you.”

“Don’t touch me,” she said, jerking away when he grabbed her arm.

“You’re not leaving.”

Shay straightened her shoulders. “You can’t stop me.”

He grabbed her, tossed her over his shoulder, kicked the car door shut, and stomped up the steps.

“Put me down!” Shay kicked and twisted, cursing at him. He dumped her on her feet inside the door.

She blew her hair out of her face, and as soon as she could see, she threw a punch at his chin. He deflected it and grabbed her arm. “Stop hitting me.”

“How dare you throw me over your shoulder like some kind of caveman,” she spat, trying to wrench her arm free. It didn’t work, so she used her knee.

“Ah, not there.” Cody trapped her knee. “I made the mistake of letting you leave here nine years ago without listening to me. By God, I won’t do it again. You’ll listen if I have to sit on you,” he growled.

She drew back her other arm, and before she could throw the punch, he had her on the floor and was sitting astride her, pinning her wrists to the floor. She bucked and twisted, but he held her down. “We can do this all night if you want, but you’re going to listen to me this time.”

“Listen to more lies? You’re still hiding things from me. Like the fact that you have Nina’s entire house under surveillance. Like the fact that you’ve got a Bat Cave in your basement. Like the fact that you were in Scotland when the stalking started.”

“You think I’m your stalker?” he yelled. “Me! I’m trying to keep you alive. We’re all trying to keep you alive. That’s what the clan’s been doing your whole damned life, trying to keep you alive! And just like always, you’re making it hard as hell. Your father wasn’t a bloody spy, and that thing in your living room wasn’t a man!”


  1. Very good advice!! I enjoyed the excerpt and interview! Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Anita! Welcome! "Don't write a boring book." Seems like simple advice, but wow, when you get to that saggy, draggy middle, these are really words to live by!

    I completely agree that you have to put in the work in order to be ready when Lady Luck knocks on the door. I've had her knock a cople of times and NOT been ready. Ouch does not begin to explain the pain of a missed opportunity!

  3. Anita,
    Wonderful blog. Passion is a very important factor, it drives us to persevere when others doubt our goal. Determination is a wonderful thing as believing in ourselves. And story, yes, always a wonderful story.
    So proud of you for pursuing your dream, and wishing you continued success!

  4. Whoo-hoo! LOVED the excerpt! Wanted to just keep reading. *g* Guess this means it's on my TBR list!

  5. Hi Jennifer. I really like that excerpt. It shows the sparks between Cody and Shay.

  6. Keely, all writers know this stuff, but it's so easy to forget. And speaking of missed opportunities, I almost missed mine back when I got my agent. She had told me, before she agreed to represent me, that writers had to have their manuscripts ready in case an agent or editor asks to see them. Well, she asked to see mine, and guess what? I realized it wasn't ready. AND it took me ten months before I thought it was. By then she wasn't accepting submissions. But thank goodness she made an exception. I probably wouldn't be published if she hadn't.

  7. Hi Diana. Thanks so much! I think you've hit on it. Passion and Perseverance. I remember my first writing instructor (who had been writing for a long time) told me later that she always knew I had a good chance at making it because I had perseverance. She said as an instructor she didn't always see it in students, but it usually made the difference between getting published or not.

  8. Lynda! Yay. I love hearing that. The Kindle versions of both books are on sale. Awaken is only $1.99.

  9. Anita, your point about needing to tell the story, even if it's never published, is the key to writing a story that's publishable, IMHO.

    BTW, you sure know how to build tension! Whew!


  10. Marilyn, I do think it's so important to get so lost in the story you don't care if it's published. Eventually, you'll wear the "I'm desperate to sell" hat, but while you're writing, I think you need to be just caught up in your story. I can't wait for yours!

  11. Hi Anita and welcome to the Rockville 8. Really enjoyed your blog and love the line about enthusiasm. It certainly can propel us deep into a story before we realize what we've gotten into.

    I also liked your line: DO write characters so real, so memorable, the reader can’t stop thinking about them even after she puts the book down.

    What's the most memorable character you think you've created and why?

    Shellie Williams

  12. Hi Shellie, I'm excited to be here! My most memorable character...hmmm, I started to say Faelan, because he's slept through one and a half centuries and he has to figure out how he fits into this new one. That makes him rather unique. But another warrior, Ronan, who originally was intended to be a very minor character, just took over the story. Everybody keeps asking about Ronan, begging for his story, so I suspect my readers would say Ronan is the most memorable. And then I have these two crazy old ladies in Embrace who are so funny. I've had readers tell me that every time they think about them they laugh.

  13. Great post, Anita! I think enthusiasm is soooo important. But it's definitely so easy to lose it in the middle of revising, rereading, plotting, revising, outlining, studying the market, revising... you see where I'm going. ;-)

  14. Ronan! Hands down Ronan is the most memorable for me!

    Thanks for all the great advice Anita! It is so true... enthusiasm, perseverance and luck. It never ceases to amaze me how many successful writers I've talked to who have a stack of rejection letters because either their manuscript wasn't ready the first time around or the story or timing weren't right for a particular editor at the time it was submitted. It just goes to show that if you stick with it, turn out the best story you can write and believe in your manuscript good things can happen.

  15. Anita, thanks for hanging out with the R8 today!

    I love that you said you started with one thing: enthusiasm. I think we get wrapped around the axle about all the publishing issues we can't control. But enthusiasm? I can bring that to the table!

    With enthusiasm, the rest, like finishing that manuscript, having the guts to query, etc, should follow. At least that's my plan. And I'm sticking to it enthusiastically!

  16. Kerri, I totally see where you're going. It's hard to keep it all flowing sometimes.

  17. Hey Dana, how did I know you would say Ronan. :) Speaking of perseverance, you'd better be writing and not on your Kindle Fire!!!

  18. Nicole, the Rockville 8 has been fun! SOme of this stuff we can't control, but we can write a story we're excited about. That's the first step!

  19. Great blog, Anita. You're your usual inspiring self. PERSISTENCE rang true for me. The odds are so against even finishing a first novel, persistence (and writing to please yourself) are the difference that will get a writer to those two special words: The End. Then polish, polish, polish.

    And hello, Lady Luck. Invite her in. I believe we're lucky if we say we're lucky. And at the very least, don't talk yourself out of success. Allow your luck to come through. Give yourself a chance.

    Your wisdom always rings true, Anita. It's a delight to read your blog posts. And huge congrats on your bestseller status.

  20. Great advice, Anita! Enthusiam goes a long, long way. Sometimes, I think, in the craziness of life we forget what brought us to writing in the first place and the reasons why we love it. Thanks for the reminder!

  21. Anita, thanks for visiting with The Eight. I enjoyed your post and the excerpt. How fun! Your wisdom about inviting Lady Luck is fabulous. I love that your enthusiasm got you over some of those writing bumps we hit along the way while we work hard and wait for Lady Luck to smile upon us. We should never underestimate the power of a positive attitude and positive energy. People are attracted to it. I'm sure your enthusiasm was contagious. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

  22. Rochelle, great comment. I think it does help to believe in ourselves. We need to worry about writing a great book and not worry about publication in the beginning, but after that book is polished and ready, then we need to think positive and expect to get published.

  23. Coreene, I found that after a while, I let the deadlines and craziness take away the joy of writing. I just recently got it back again, and it's such a great feeling.

  24. Candy, it was great being here. Your comment reminded me of a conversation with my agent. She said I was always so enthusiastic about my story that it made her excited about it, and when she would pitch it the editors saw her excitement. Enthusiasm is contagious.

  25. Thanks so much for having me guest blog, ladies. The comments were great. I had a blast.

  26. Welcome to the Rockville 8, Anita! I loved your advice about having enthusiasm for your writing. I think if the writer is not excited about what they're doing, then the reader won't be either just as you were saying about being bored with your own book. Loved your excerpt as well. Can't wait to read your book.

  27. Hi Lisa, I had so much fun here with the Rockville 8. As someone else mentioned here, enthusiasm is contagious. If you're excited about the story, that spreads down to your agent, your editor, and the entire publishing team.

  28. Hi Anita! Thank you for blogging with the R8, and for the words of wisdom. I'm still digging for the right jewel, and hoping Lady Luck comes knocking!

  29. Hi Evie, it was great to be here. Keep on digging, and hopefully you'll find that unique story that the publishing world is waiting for.