Thursday, June 21, 2012

Angela Ackerman Shares The Key To Success (I Promise!)

By Angela Ackerman

Part of the How They Do It Series   

JH: The Amazing Angela Ackerman and I are doing a blog swap today, so you can find her here and me over at The Bookshelf Muse sharing some tips on style (from a prose standpoint of course). When you're done here, pop on over and take a peek there and join in the fun. Angela's blog is a treasure trove of information and her extensive thesaurus posts cover everything from emotions, to character traits to settings.
Angela is one half of The Bookshelf Muse duo, and co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression. This show-don't-tell brainstorming tool contains lists of body language, thoughts and visceral sensations for seventy-five emotions, ensuring writers will find the right description for any emotional moment.

Take it away Angela...

I tell you, there is probably no more attractive a phrase in the English language than the words above. It doesn’t matter what we do, what industry we’re in...we all want the same thing: to succeed. People will tell you there is no golden monkey, no genie in the Coke can, no magical slurpee. And they’re right. But there is a key to success, and I’m about to give it to you. Are you ready?

Make Your Own Luck.

Yes, that’s right. These four words hold the key to your success. Read them again, and cement them into your brain.

Each of us knows how to work hard at writing. We read, we study, we write. We join critique groups, network and find mentors. This is the biggest part of success. But often hard work alone isn’t enough. We can hang there on the cusp, feel the air vibrating with greatness. Yet it dangles just beyond our fingertips.

This is where we need to do something that many of us don’t like. Something that goes beyond our writerly, keyboard-between-me-and-you selves...move out of our comfort zone. We need to learn to Make Our Own Luck.

It would be nice if Success would be decent enough to slide over an inch or two and meet us, but life doesn’t work like that. So we need to grab it. And how we do that is by filling in the blanks:

If I could ____, then it would help me succeed.

If I could catch the eye of an agent, then it would help me succeed.

If I could build up an audience online, then it would help me succeed.

If I could launch my book well, then it would help me succeed.

Whatever your blank is, instead of thinking that it’s too hard to do, or something out of your control, I want you to remember to Make Your Own Luck.

How can you increase the chances of getting an agent’s attention?

We all know there are a billion blog posts on this. Butt in chair, read them, then put everything you have into research, perfecting your query and making sure your manuscript is amazing before sending it out the door. Don’t accept anything less but your very best. This is how you Make Your Own Luck.

How can you build up an audience online?

Think about who your audience is for starters. What do they need most? How can you give it to them? Where are they now? Create a list of where your audience can be found and strategize on how you can interact with them in the places they frequent. Then plan a way to bring them to you. This is how you Make Your Own Luck.

How can you market your book well?

Think about your target book buyer. Where are they? How can you reach them? How can you think outside the box and catch their eye? What new marketing ideas can you try that will cut through the ennui of Social Media promotion? How can you make people pay attention to your book release over someone else’s? Come up with a plan that is unique, ties in with your book, and do whatever you have to do to create a Break Out Book Launch. Dare to be different. This is how you Make Your Own Luck.

Making Your Own Luck is also about thinking creatively, and taking the “I” out of the equation.

Define your gatekeepers. Who is the ambiguous ‘they’ that’s keeping you from success? Whoever it is (agents, competition, publishers, etc.) think about what they need and want. What you can do to be different, better. What will make you stand out. Open your eyes to opportunity, and take advantage of it.

Each of us have something we must face. There are lots of things I hate, situations outside of my comfort zone. Things I would happily avoid...if you know, they weren’t in the way of me making my own luck. For example, I am terrified at the idea of standing in front of a room full of people to present about writing. All this negativity clouds my headspace just thinking about it--who am I to teach anyone about anything? I’m a total poser and everyone will know it! Yet I know that for The Emotion Thesaurus to succeed, I need to reach writers. I need to convey how the book can help them with emotional showing. So...after finding out about a local writing conference, I put myself out there. The result? I’ll be presenting at When Words Collide this August.

And I’m still terrified. But, I’m making my own luck. I hope you will too.

About The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression

One of the biggest problem areas for writers is conveying a character's emotions to the reader in a unique, compelling way. This book comes to the rescue by highlighting 75 emotions and listing the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each.

Written in an easy-to-navigate list format, readers can draw inspiration from character cues that range in intensity to match any emotional moment. The Emotion Thesaurus also tackles common emotion-related writing problems and provides methods to overcome them.

This writing tool encourages writers to show, not tell emotion and is a creative brainstorming resource for any fiction project.


  1. I'm sure you'll do terrific, Angela! Way to put yourself out there. :)

  2. Thanks for sharing your great advice on how we can take control and make our own luck.

    I'm terrified of public speaking too but I'll remember your post when I get there. I'm sure you'll be awesome.

  3. @Laura & @Natalie, I hope it will go well. But I do know that the things that scare me are also the ones that are holding me back, so it's important I face them. :) Thanks so much for the encouragement!


  4. You go girl! I think getting up in front of a crowd is hard for most writers. We are such hermits at heart, introverts more comfortable with words than people.

  5. Well said. This is why I'm okay with rejections. Because if I'm not getting rejected, I'm not actually sending anything out. And if I'm not sending anything out, I can't possibly succeed.

  6. I've always struggled with putting myself out there, but I after reading Matthew's comment, I've realized he's so right. Time to put it out there. Great post Angela.

  7. Yay, Angela! Thanks for the post, for shifting my thoughts on what it means to make my own luck. Good luck at the writers' conference! I believe in you! :)

  8. Thanks for sharing Angela. I love your line: -who am I to teach anyone about anything? I’m a total poser and everyone will know it!

    I am not sure why it is so hard to give ourselves credit and tell that evil little voice to shut up.

    For those of you who haven't bought The Emotional Thesaurus, go order it NOW!

    I love this book. I've used it a ton already. I don't always use exactly what's in it, but it makes me think of reactions I wouldn't have otherwise. Then I tweak it and make it fit for my character. Just what I am sure Angela and Becca intended.

    Love it! What are you doing still reading? Go buy this one.

  9. I agree that you make your own luck. One way I did was to start my blog and meet wonderful people like you! The writing community is so supportive!

  10. Thanks Bish :)

    Matt, I'm with you--Rejections don't usually bother me, because they mean progress. I also don't think in terms of acceptance or rejection--instead I set my goal as 'feedback'. For me, getting feedback on how to make a book stronger is a win.

    @Patti, You know I'm in your corner. When you feel a book is ready, go for it. :)

    DB, Thanks you! That means a lot!

    Glacier, I agree, we need to get that voice to shut up. I can do so much damage when we let it speak. And thanks for the endorsement! I am super happy you're getting a lot out of the book. When you succeed, I succeed. That's how I see it. :)

    Thank you Rena--glad it helped you. :)

    @Kelly, you are on the right track. I think your other blog about what the rockers are reading is making your own luck too. This is different, aligns with your your interest and is so.... YOU! And, you never know the opportunities it might bring your way down the road. That's what i think!

    Thanks everyone for the comments. It took a bit for me to admit my fear, and your support and kind words have really made me feel better about it. :)


  11. Great advice, as always. You're definitely the master of making your own luck--and some of mine as well :). I love the question you ask about what we have to do to succeed. In order to succeed we've got to figure out what's standing in our way and how to get around it. It really is as simple as that--not easy, but pretty simple.


  12. Awesome! Thanks for sharing. I have to say, I love the Emotion Thesaurus. I've used it quite a bit the last six months.

    Thank you!

  13. FANTASTIC post, but I would expect nothing less from Angela!! :-)

  14. This is AMAZING! Love, love, love this perspective. By the way, just yesterday I was telling myself I'm a poser. Funny how we think alike :/

  15. Becca, you are my rock you know that? I swear, if I didn't know you believed in me, I wouldn't try half the stuff I do :)

    Amelia, so glad you're happy with it and using it a lot. :)

    Julie, thanks so much! Great to see you here!

    Julie, I think all of us feel that way. I think it's the whole 'trial by fire' we go through when we start submitting. It makes us question ourselves and our ability on so many levels.

    Hugs everyone--I appreciate all the comments, and thanks again to Janice for letting me steal her blog for the day :)

  16. I appreciate the wonderful advice! You are right, one has to go out one's comfort zone which can be hard at times.

    Thank you, Angela!

  17. Great stuff - and I'm so excited by the new thesaurus that's coming too.

  18. Your thesaurus was a great help!