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A Conversation With Dara Girard Author of The Writer Behind the Words: Steps to Success in the Writing Life

Click Here To Purchase From Amazon The Writer Behind the Words: Steps to Success in the Writing Life

ISBN: 978-0-9770191-5-1
Publisher: ILORI Press

Today, Cindy La Ferle, reviewer for is pleased to have as our guest, Dara Girard author of The Writer Behind the Words: Steps to Success in the Writing Life.

The literary life demands so much more than clever ideas and a room of one's own.  Whether you're a widely published novelist, freelance essayist, or fledgling poet, at some point you'll face rejection, disappointment, envy, isolation, lousy reviews, and writer's block. While there are dozens of books available on perfecting the writing craft or landing a book contract, few deal with the emotional challenges of a professional writing career.

Offering support and honest advice, The Writer Behind the Words: Steps to Success in the Writing Life serves as the ultimate survival guide for every writer who refuses to give up.

"I wrote this book as a gift to other writers who are discouraged, feel hopeless or useless in a world that can make us – the artists – feel insignificant and invisible," notes author Dara Girard in the book's introduction. The Writer Behind the Words was chosen as a Finalist in the Business: Publishing/Writing category of the National Best Books of 2007 Awards. Girard has also written seven novels and numerous articles for e-zines and print newsletters. She is a member of Novelists Inc. and Romance Writers of America. Speaking from years of experience in a variety of genres, Girard shared some thoughts on the ups and downs of the writing life with Cindy La Ferle, for Bookpleasures.

Cindy La Ferle:

In The Writer Behind the Words, you discuss the "Six Hard Truths" of the writing life, one of which is, "Talent isn't what you think it is." Can you elaborate?

Dara Girard:

In the publishing world, talent isn't enough. If you aren't able to convince others to pay you to write, your talent doesn't matter. You can write the most brilliant book this side of the ocean, but if you can't convince anyone to read it, it might as well be a rock or a toothbrush. Many authors don't realize that publishing is about marketing and persuasion. That's why bestselling authors get criticized for their poor prose or familiar plots, but they are talented because they have the magic ingredient: They know how to persuade people to buy their work. That's considered talent in publishing.


What's the difference between a goal and a mission—and what does this mean to an aspiring writer?


A goal has a limited time frame; a mission is timeless. For example, a goal would be to lose weight; a mission would be to be healthy. Those authors who understand the difference build their careers on goals set on top of the foundation of their mission. For aspiring writers, this means uncovering why they want to write. What is your mission to write? Is it to educate? If so, a goal could be to publish a nonfiction book, write articles for trade magazines, etc. Also, goals can change; mission statements do not.


New writers who are trying to get published are often encouraged to write for free in order to build a portfolio of clips. But in your book, you advise working writers to aim for higher-paying markets and to avoid giving their work away. How does a new writer break the cycle of writing for free and begin to value his or her work?


New writers need to change their mindset. In addition to being artists, they need to also see themselves as businesspeople with a product others are willing to buy. Professional writers get paid. It's that simple. No one expects a lawyer or doctor just out of medical or law school to provide services for free -- and writers need to think of their careers in the same way. Their time and services are worth payment.  If beginning writers feel awkward at first, they can start with a small paying market and work their way up until they instinctively treat their writing career like a business. All artists deserve to get paid, but no one else will say so if they don't do so first.

Working writers will eventually encounter a few editors who don't have their best interests at heart. How does a writer spot a bad editor?


Any editor who makes you feel insignificant is a bad editor. They can do this in many ways: Not returning your calls or emails, comparing you to their more successful writers, changing your writing style, insulting your writing style or not editing your work at all. In publishing, everything is built on relationships. Just as you wouldn't accept a boyfriend or girlfriend putting you down, belittling your work or standing you up on a date, you have to apply the same standards to your relationship with an editor.  


As you note in The Writer Behind the Words, rejection letters and bad reviews aren't always your worst enemies. Can you tell us more about the "Wet Blankets" you mentioned -- and how to cope with folks who seem to be undermining our efforts?


Over the years I have had a lot of practice dealing with Wet Blankets. I started submitting my novels at age twelve and heard many comments such as, "You'll never make it," "Who wants to read what you write?" and so on. They were very hurtful comments. You can cope with folks like this by keeping your distance. First you have to identify them. A lot of damage can be done if a writer mistakes a Wet Blanket for a close friend. You don't need to analyze 'why' they are undermining your efforts you just need to recognize that they can take you off track. Consider the Wet Blankets as pebbles you need to remove from your shoes. And don't forget that Wet Blankets can be authorities in your field. Once again, if they say anything discouraging, they aren't worthy of your time.


And how does one handle family members or close friends who might be envious of our literary success?


This was one of the most painful things I had to face as my writing career took off. Close friends and family members became jealous and sometimes said cruel things. I discovered there was nothing I could do to stop them. I saw that only if I failed would I make them feel better and I certainly wouldn't do that.  With some individuals, I decided to stop talking about my writing career with them. Sadly, some relationships can't survive success. But you'll survive. As you become more successful, you will meet people who will be supportive of the person you are and those who won't.

You've made many wise observations on depression and the writing life. How does a writer know when it's more than a mild case of the blues?


When writing is no longer a joy or you can no longer get pleasure from anything you enjoy doing, then you need to seek help. We all get in ruts or dark moods, but when going to a movie, taking a walk or doing some activity you usually enjoy no longer can penetrate the darkness, it's more serious. Creative depression is a warning sign. When you have absolutely no ideas, no thoughts, and you find that you are numb, that's when you're headed for the abyss.


In the section titled "Disappointment," you discuss the need to make a "career autopsy" when all else fails. As you noted, many authors make the mistake of trying to follow a popular trend in publishing. How can we tell when a particular market is already saturated?


When that particular market starts to get parodied. When I saw an article in a popular magazine spouting it had a formula for writing chick lit, I knew there would be a problem. However, if you like a particular trend, you can still penetrate it by coming up with your own angle. Some people who started out writing in the chick lit genre expanded the market by writing mysteries or paranormals with older characters, different careers. They created their own brand in a crowded market while other books fell away.

If a writer can put a new spin on a market, they don't have to worry about saturation. But to specifically answer your question, a writer can tell a market is saturated when key elements start to sound similar. If you can pick up a bunch of books with the same plot points, then the market is saturated.


To be successful, writers need to establish a schedule and keep working at their craft. But what if a blocked writer takes a sabbatical from writing? Is that a good idea?


That's a brilliant idea! Writers need to remember that their bodies are like machines. Humans need to be refueled. When a writer runs on empty, they'll burn out all their creative juices. What do I mean by this? Travel, go to a museum, read, meet new people, try a different hobby, if you don't have a hobby then start one. We are fed by life. We are observers, but we cannot share our observations if we don't live.


Earlier, we talked about goals and missions. What are yours for this new book?

My goal for The Writer Behind the Words is to get as many writers as possible to buy it, but my mission is to help writers, at all stages, to know that a successful writing career is possible with the right strategy. 
For more information on The Writer Behind the Words and Dara Girard's writing career, visit

The above interview was conducted by: Cindy La Ferle: Cindy's articles, reviews, and essays have been published in the Christian Science Monitor, Reader's Digest, Literary Mama, MetroParent, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Writer's Digest, and many other regional and national publications.

Her new essay collection, Writing Home, won four awards for creative nonfiction. She serves as Writer-in-Residence for her hometown library in Royal Oak, Mi. She writes a weekly column/blog on her Web site, Cindy's Home Office.

To read more of Cindy's reviews and articles CLICK HERE and to read a conversation had with Cindy by Click Here

Click Here To Purchase From Amazon The Writer Behind the Words: Steps to Success in the Writing Life

Click on Images Below To Read More About Dara Girard and Her Books (Note: May not work in all browsers)

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