Friday, February 8, 2008

Guest Blogger Patricia Sargeant

Our guest blogger today is Patricia Sargeant. I met Patricia during a contest and we became fast friends. In the midst of her amazing journey from contest final to publication, Patricia wrote an e-mail series called the Road to Publication where she shared the nitty-gritty details of what it was like to go through the process. Her trials and tribulations inspired me and yet cautioned me that being published is just the first step . . . there is so much more that comes after. So please, put your fingers to the keyboard and help me welcome Patricia Sargeant!

Closing doors, opening windows

How Julie Andrews kept me sane

Thank you very much, Anitra, for inviting me to visit with you and your Title Magic community. It's an honor to be here. This is a beautiful blog, and I can definitely feel the magic.

A couple of weeks ago, Anitra and I were discussing how important it is to remain optimistic during the publishing journey, whether you're published or aspiring to become published. She told me her mother often remarked that, when God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.

I love that line. It's full of optimism and inner strength. I'd heard it in the Julie Andrews movie Sound of Music. There's a scene in which Julie Andrews's character, the novice Maria, confides her heartache to her Mother Superior. In response to Maria's pain, Mother Superior assures her, "When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window."

Recently, a door closed for me--with a seemingly resounding thud--on a romantic suspense proposal. My agent explained my editor didn't want the proposal. Before my heart could shatter and blow away with the wind, my agent continued, "She doesn't want that proposal, but she wants you. Can you write something else?"

Can I write something else? Quick, someone pass me a block of wood so I can prop open that window.

Rejections sometimes seem never-ending. Every whisper of hope I hear, I hook up to my surround-sound stereo system. Let me know if you want to borrow it.

So the window's propped open, and the whisper's nicely modulated on a repeating loop. My Muse is being generous and kind. Little did I know Julie Andrews was about to make another appearance.

I submitted a new story idea to my editor and waited nervously for her feedback. She liked the idea, but needed it to be bigger. Can I make it bigger? After a critical look at the synopsis, I decided yes, I can make it bigger. I fleshed out a couple of plot points and submitted the revised version.

We're going in the right direction, my editor responded. But it needs to be even bigger. Can I make it even bigger?

My stomach heaved. I got chills. My forehead started to sweat. Does anyone else recognize the symptoms of Self-Doubt? Then in walked Julie Andrews in her Mary Poppins costume. Do you remember that movie? If not, run--don't walk--to your nearest video rental store. Julie offered me a "Spoonful of Sugar" to help the medicine--also known as revisions--go down.

I recognized my editor was making me stretch beyond my perceived limitations. My options were to take the medicine and grow, or crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head. I did what every writer does; I knuckled down and found a way to make the story even bigger. My editor was satisfied and I was thrilled. Best of all, the revision tips my editor shared with me will help me make other stories "even bigger." Powerful medicine, indeed.

That's how Julie Andrews kept me sane.

Anitra, thanks again for the invitation. I've had a blast. Best wishes to you and the other Title Magic bloggers for great writing success!

Win an autographed copy of On Fire by Patricia Sargeant! Simply enter a comment, then check back Monday afternoon to see if Patricia chose your name in the random drawing. Patricia will post her email for the winner so they can contact her to collect their prize.


patricia sargeant said...

Thanks again for inviting me to your blog, Anitra.

Marcia James said...

Great blog! I love the connections to Julie Andrews! This should be required reading for all authors, since rejection is such a large part of our professional lives.

I think another song from Sound of Music also applies -- when Julie Andrews sings "Ive Got Confidence" to bolster herself for her nanny interview. Maybe writers should sing that in the shower each morning so we keep sending out those submissions!
-- Marcia ;-)

patricia sargeant said...

Marcia, hilarious! I love it. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Donna MacMeans said...

Patricia -

I have a hard, hard time imagining you as ever disheartened. You are truly the most upbeat, optimistic person I know. Or - maybe that optimistism only extends to friends and not to one's self? Hmmm... Anyway, I know the next book will be great. Why? Because I read the last one *g*. Have a great day.

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

You are so welcome! I love the cover of your book--very sensual.

I also wanted to ask you to explain a little about making the story bigger. What kinds of things did she suggest?

patricia sargeant said...

Donna, hi! Thank you so much for stopping by, and for the wonderful compliment for On Fire. I'm loving every minute of Mrs. Brimley. Great pacing! I can't ***wait*** for Trouble With Moonlight! Oooh!

You probably have a hard time imagining me ever disheartened because it's hard to be anything but upbeat around someone as enthusiastic and energetic as you.

patricia sargeant said...

Anitra, thank you for the compliment on On Fire's cover. The designer did such a beautiful job. I'm beyond thrilled.

Regarding making the story bigger, my editor wanted me to further develop the subplots. An example of how much detail I eventually provided, the original synopsis was six or seven pages. The final version of the synopsis was 11 or 12 pages. A lot of detail there. LOL!

Donald Maas talks about the need to create subplots - in the plural - for your story in his book, Writing the Breakout Novel. Subplots add layers, thereby making a bigger story.

Let's take the original Star Wars trilogy as an example, "A New Hope," "Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi." These three movies are one story and the main plot is defeating the evil empire. The story's subplots are Luke becoming a Jedi, Luke redeeming his father and Han's conflict with Jaba the Hut. Three distinct subplots that carry throughout the story and affect the main plot.

Thank you for the question, Anitra.

Any other thoughts?

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Actually I heard you are involved in an anthology where the proceeds will be donated to a women's shelter--can you tell us a bit about that project?

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Patricia, that is a sensual beautiful cover, the tones and shades are gorgeous.
The Sound of Music was my Dad's favorite movie, I think mostly because of Julie Andrew's singing, and the whole idea of hope. The first time I saw it, I found the movie very inspirational.
What a wonderful way of explaining how to add more subplots to your story by using the Star Wars' analogy. I never thought of it like that. I think it's just because I do it naturally. Usually, I have to narrow my scope, go in reverse.
It's so wonderful to see your success and your willingness to share how you arrived and what it takes to keep on publishing. Mucho success.

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Patricia,

Love the Julie Andrew's analogies. Her films always take me back. You're right. It is so easy to be disheartened by rejections. One has to look for the small crumbs of hope and follow them. My husband and I were speaking of the same thing the other evening. He'd just watched one of the Rocky films and told me Sylvester Stallone's character had said something that really resonated with him: Winning is not about how hard you can punch, but how many punches you can take.

patricia sargeant said...

Anitra, thank you so much for asking about the benefits anthology. The anthology is titled The Power of Love. The release date is June 2008. There are 11 other authors involved in the project - Lori Foster, Dianne Castell, Erin McCarthy, Toni Blake, Janice Maynard, LuAnn McClane, Rosemary Laurey, Kay Stockham, J.C. Wilder, Karen Kelley and Lucy Monroe. The anthology is the brainchild of Lori Foster and Dianne Castell. The authors and agents are donating all of our proceeds from the anthology to the Hamilton County (Ohio) YWCA's battered women's Shelter. The theme of the anthology is female empowerment and the healing power of love.

patricia sargeant said...

Savanna, thank you so much for your kind words. I really appreciate them.

Very best wishes to you for continued writing success!

patricia sargeant said...

Helen, hi! I love the Rocky quote. It's perfect. Let's all keep rolling with those punches. Best wishes for continued writing success!

Trish Milburn said...

Great blog, Patricia. And a great name, btw (says another Patricia -- hee hee).

I love Julie Andrews, so this was a cool visual to have. I'm on the verge of starting two sets of revisions, so maybe I'll hum "Spoonful of Sugar" as I'm working. :)

Marcia Colette said...

Don't pick me because I already have your book on my TBR pile. ;-)

I just wanted to pop in and say I love you blog post, Patricia. I had an a-ha moment when you mentioned your editor gave you such good advice that you could apply it to future stories. I can finally say I know the feeling. Editors are awesome!

Holli Bertram said...

This is a great blog. A lot of writers I know keep inspirational sayings by their computer (and I love the Sound of Music and Rocky quotes!). Overcoming self-doubt - or at least learning to tame it - seems to be a big part of writing for a lot of us.

I also appreciate the Star Wars analogy, and layering in more subplot, as an illustration of the way to make a story "bigger." Thanks!

patricia sargeant said...

Trish, thanks so much for posting! I love your nickname. :)

Good luck with your revisions, and very best wishes for continued writing success!

patricia sargeant said...

Marcia, how wonderful to "see" you! Unstable Environment is May 2008, right? So exciting! I can't wait! Congratulations and best wishes for great success!

patricia sargeant said...

Holli, that's very well put - learning to tame the self-doubts. I don't think there are any writers who actually overcome them. I know a best-selling, multi-published (70+ books) author who still has doubts. That shocked yet somehow comforted me. So I'm going to concentrate on taming the self-doubts - each and every time I start a new scene. ;)

Thank you so much for posting, Holli. Best wishes for continued writing success - and the strength and courage to tame the self-doubts whenever they visit you. :)

Mona Risk said...

Thank you Patricia for a great story of encouragement. I knew the sentence: When God closes a window, He opens a door. But I tend to forget it at the critical moment. I should remember it now more than ever, as a big door closed in my face. Thanks to your advice, I'll work on pushing the window open.

And Helen, your hubby is right. In our job too, we have to learn to take punches and keep going.

Lexie O'Neill said...

Dear Patricia,
Thanks for blogging with us! I appreciate your love of Julie daughter and I just shared the Sound of Music for the first time in her young life a few weeks ago. Did anyone notice how it wasn't Julie's character that remembered the line about God opening the window, but a friend/a mentor? And, later, said friend basically told Julie to put her big girl panties on and get back in the ring?
How is that for mixing metaphors? :)
Thank you!
Thanks again,

Lexie O'Neill said...

Dear Patricia,
While I did mean to end by thanking you again, something went wrong when I thanked you for a third time!
Ah, well, the importance of previewing is pressed home to me...

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Thank you so much for spending time with us this weekend. I appreciate you taking the time to share your insights and suggestions. Truly, you are the most generous person I know. :)

I can't wait to buy the "Power of Love" and your next book. :)

All the best!

patricia sargeant said...

Mona, hi! Isn't it funny how sometimes we just need a friendly reminder to keep reaching for our dreams. That's what friends are for. To remind us. :) Now, let me help you pry open that window.

Best wishes for great success!

patricia sargeant said...

Lexi, thank *you!* I've been telling Anitra how I've enjoyed being with the Title Magic community these past couple of days. I love the sharing on this blog. We're all going through similar experiences between the opening doors and the opening windows. But it helps to hear we're not alone. Do you know what I mean?

What did your daughter think of the Sound of Music?

Best wishes for great success!

patricia sargeant said...

Lexie, I'm so sorry. I spelled your name wrong. I apologize.

patricia sargeant said...

Oh, Anitra! Thank you so much for your kind words and especially for this great experience. I hope you don't mind if I stop back periodically. I've had such a great time with you and your friends. This is a fun community.

Mona Risk, I would be honored to send you an autographed copy of On Fire. If you're interested, could you contact me at

My thanks again to everyone for making me feel like a part of the family!