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I want to talk about discipline and patience in this industry (writing), and how both pay high dividends. Recently I finished yet another round of rewriting for my current novel, which I’ve been working on for roughly 3 years now. This is a big deal. Those of you who’ve been paying attention to my progress therein know that I sent the book out to agents a few months back and, though I received some requests for more material, all ended in rejections. This, of course, is very common and is part of the package of “being a writer.”

At first, I’ll admit, it was tough to face the rejection and move forward. When so many people tell you, “Unfortunately…” you start to get down about things. But, not long after these rejections occurred, and I stopped submitting to agents, two things happened, and both changed my perspective. The first is that I found out I’m getting two nonfiction stories published in “aaduna” magazine, which has a pretty huge following. That is exciting. What better validation than to have some of your work, even in a small press, published, after having gone through the [emotional] wringer a la rejections from agents while seeking representation for your book?

Seeking representation for your book, whether nonfiction or fiction, is a really big deal. It means that you’re feeling fairly certain that you’ve achieved a particular level of writing craft and storytelling ability, and that, furthermore, you feel ready at this given time and place and point in your career, to show the world what that craft and story is. Even simply being at that spot as a writer is a big deal. But then, of course, there is the not-so-subtle reality that follows: It is freaking tough to get an agent in the 2015 writing world. Real tough.

But it’s possible, and I know, personally, that I am going to get my book out there. It’s just a matter of time; waiting. And of having discipline and patience.

The second thing that happened after the rejections, besides publication from a small press for those two stories, is that I decided, finally, to hire an editor. Actually, I hired two editors; one a younger female and one an older male. I wanted two different perspectives. This turned out to be a blessing, and it gave me more to think about in terms of my own book editing clients, seeing as I am a freelance book editor. (If you want to read an excellent, powerful memoir, read my client Christian Picciolini’s book: Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead, about his experience falling into and then out of the first wave of white power skinheads in America in the late 80s. He redeems himself, don’t worry. You won’t regret the read.)

One editor—the male one—basically liked the book (well, the first 50 pages, which I hired him to look at). He had some more technical comments, which I did find mildly helpful, but he didn’t really criticize the book in any way that I could hook into and say, “Ah-ha! That’s the problem!” He praised the pages, saying he had enjoyed the read, was invested in the characters, and wanted to read more and do the full edit.

The woman, however, struck literary gold. She pissed me off, which is always a good thing. She struck a vein and was right on the money. She said my characters were flat, that there was “no emotion,” that the voice was weak, that there was too much “info dumping,” that I was “telling and not showing,” and that I needed to use more action and dialogue and less summary. In short, she bummed me out. Big time.

But it wasn’t long, as is my process, before I came around to her side of thinking. She was right. No doubt about it. So there was only one thing to be done. I waited for a bit, got busy with other stuff, took a deep breath, and dove back in. After all was said and done, I had rewritten the entire book for the 2nd time, believe it or not. And I think this version is MUCH stronger. I added emotion to the characters. I had them talk and argue more, creating relevant tension. I had the characters DOING things more instead of telling the reader and summarizing. I allowed the reader to EXPERIENCE the story as the characters lived it, instead of constantly trying to directly fill the reader in, which insults their intelligence and isn’t useful. In short, the characters began to bloom and become more interesting, and the plot thickened. I asked a published writer friend to read it and they started the first few chapters, immediately commenting on how much stronger it was.

So, in essence, this has been a learning experience for me. I know that I do the best when I let go and stop getting neurotic about my writing or my need to control the outcomes (will an agent like it?), and to simply do the next right thing, take the simple action required to write the best book I can write. I still have a ways to go in terms of tightening and editing, cutting, adding, etc, but I can see that this version is much stronger. It’s only because I have cultivated the hard discipline over the years to be able to write daily, while also working on clients’ books at the same time (not literally), that I have arrived at this attitude. That’s a tough balancing act. Then again, the rejection no doubt takes its toll. But I think, at the end of the day, it’s all about letting go and being patient; cultivating a regular routine. Some of you are in weekly writing workshops; that’s great. Others get up at 5 A.M. to pump out that 2,000 words per day. Some only write three times per week, but they do it every week without fail.

Keep at it. I never thought I’d ever get anything published. I have about 15/16 stories published now. The novel is coming soon, I can feel it. First I have to nail an agent. I know how they work; I used to work for one. My time will come. So will yours. Don’t give up. Unite and fight. Keep going, past the rejections.

We’ll do it together, if only in spirit. I hope to see you all at the San Francisco Writers Conference, Feb 12-15 at the Mark Hopkins Hotel.

Write on.

Michael Mohr

(If you’re interested in my editing, please email me:

I apologize for missing last week; I was in the middle of temporarily moving after a water damage issue with my now-old apartment. Long story. But here I am, back again, as usual. So, we’re approaching the San Francisco Writers Conference, held annually in February at the Mark Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill. This year it will be Feb 12-15. The conference, if you haven’t been before, is a great way to meet other aspiring (or already established and climbing) writers, meet agents, connect with editors (like me) and other industry professionals, and hear great talks about the publishing industry, listen in on panels of agents, publishers and editors, and attend fantastically helpful classes about the craft of writing, the industry, and landing a literary agent, which is perhaps the toughest thing in the world to do in 2014.

This will be my 4th year in a row at the SFWC. It is held by Michael Larsen and his wife Elizabeth Pomada, both very experienced and established literary agents in San Francisco (both from New York City originally). The biggest conference in the area, the event reins in roughly 300 attendees for up to 3 days of dizzying fun and informative chaos. By the end, your knees will be weak, your mouth will feel broken from talking so much, you’ll have drained your energy completely, and you’ll have walked away likely having handed over your book and/or sample chapters to at least one literary agent, if not several. In short, you’ll be emotionally, mentally, and probably spiritually spent after 3 days of hardcore connecting, talking, laughing, and taking vigilant notes (which I recommend you do).

Bring a pen, thick notepad, recorder, some extra food and water, and a good attitude. Because you’re here to play ball, meaning here to get things done, kick literary ass, and make some new friends. IF you’re paying $700 for 3 days, it better be good, right? Well, it is. Do yourself a favor if you haven’t done this already: Go out there and create professional writer cards. Make sure the cards include your name, email address, and the genre/word count/title of your book or book-in-progress. Maybe make the card look nice and professional. Hand those puppies out to as many people as you can. Get ‘er done, basically. That’s the name of the game. If you’re pitching to agents at the Pitch Session, practice your pitch for hours, ask your husband or wife to listen and critique. Bring copies of your whole ms (I handed a whole ms over at the SFWC 2013), sample chapters, and copies of your query. Come prepared. Read the whole SFWC website thoroughly for upcoming info and changes. Pay attention.

If you’re a newer writer trying to get connected, and you’re convinced you are on the path towards success, you are really fooling yourself if you don’t attend this conference. I’m not getting paid to say any of this, and I have to shell out the $700 just like everyone else. But for me, it does add up financially, because I’m a book editor. So for me, I can shell out the money a little easier because I know I’ll be picking up new clients at the conference; that’s how it works for me. For the rest of you, I would view it as a literary investment. Think of it as investing in your writing career. Many of us are too busy for extreme social media—Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc—regarding our writing, and so we mostly rely on a website, blog, work shop groups, our friends, and, if you’re smart, conferences.

I try to go to at least 2-3 conferences a year at this point. As a book editor, it’s kind of essential. This past summer I went to a conference in New York City, and a conference in Surrey, Canada. Both were excellent, but in my opinion the Surrey Conference blew the former out of the water: It had better speakers, straight-up. But the point of all this pushing and banter is: go! There is also a contest you can enter into at the SFWC; they announce the winners while we’re all gathered in Peacock Court.

John Lescroart (The Keeper), Michelle Richmond (Golden State), and Judith Curr (President/founder, Atria Books), among others, will be the SFWC 2015 keynote speakers. Come on down and check out the camaraderie, fun, entertainment, and focused information that spouts like champagne at a wedding in the Mark Hopkins Hotel Feb 12-15. There is an after-party jazz celebration one night, and attendees frequently meet up after the daily classes and walk to dinner around Nob Hill, enjoying the city lights and San Francisco. Many people come out from around the country to enjoy this event. Not to mention that often people like Anne Perry, Robert DuGoni, and other big-name authors, can sometimes be seen at these events, showing up to bring more positive writerly energy to the festivities.

And if you do go, make sure to walk up and say hello. I’m hard to miss. I usually wear some kind of nice, button-up shirt, jeans, carry a SFWC bag over my shoulder (that’s a little joke; we’ll all have those bags), and I have tattoos running down my arms. I am 32 years old and you’ll realize it’s me when you see me. So come say hi! And please, come join those of us who are journeying toward the golden land, the place where books get published and deals are made; the place where editors are hired and writers flourish; the place where writers live. It can be such a solitary and lonely profession, as many of you know. This is, truly, a great way to step into the light and see for yourself what transpires when you get hundreds of separate, lonely writers together that make some noise.

It’s pretty cool. Hope to see you there. Till next week, writers.

Michael Mohr

(By the way, if you’re interested in my editing services I am now booked tight until at least mid February. If you have interest, you can email me at:

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