books with Athena

books with Athena

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Writer’s Enemy List: Dream Smashers, Crazymakers and Groucho Marxists

 When you start a writing project, whether you’re diving into the intensity of NaNoWriMo, or just carving out a few hours to peck away at the keyboard on weekends, it helps to get emotional support from friends and family.

But be prepared for the opposite.

Some people in your life may find your new interest threatening, and if you’re not emotionally prepared, they can derail your project and undermine your self esteem. They’ll work to sabotage your writing and confidence in dozens of subtle—or not-so-subtle—ways.

Here are some non-supportive types to watch out for, and tips on how to deal with them:

Dream Smashers

These are the know-it-alls who specialize in discouragement.

  • They’re full of statistics showing the odds against getting published. 
  • They’ll send links to articles with dire warnings about carpal tunnel syndrome and back injuries due to long sessions with the computer.
  • They have an unending supply of stories about suicide and depression in writers.
They may appear to be supportive at first, and may even express an eagerness to read your WIP—only to give entirely negative feedback.

  • They always “know” some rule that you’ve broken—probably mis-remembered from their 5th grade grammar class.
  • They’ll criticize your premise in a way that’s also a personal attack: “nobody wants to read about women over 40/washed-up athletes/teenagers with disabilities.”
  • They’ll criticize anything in your work that doesn’t promote their own world view, and suggest the story would be much better if the hero were more like them. 
These people have given up on their own dreams, and want you to do the same.

Encourage them to write their own damn books.

Crazymakers

Creativity guru Julia Cameron described these people as “storm centers…long on problems but short on solutions.”

They are the drama queens, emotional vampires, and control freaks who crave your full- time attention and can’t stand for you to focus on anything but their own dramas.

Writers are magnets for these people because we tend to be good listeners.

  • You tell your Crazymaker friend your writing schedule, but she’ll always “forget,” and show up at exactly the time your story is on a roll. She’ll draw you into a weepy tale of woe, saying you’re the “only one who understands.”
  • Have a deadline for a difficult article? That’s the moment Crazymaker will stomp into your office and confess the affair he had four years ago when you were on a relationship break. 
  • Got an agent waiting for a rewrite? That’s the week Mrs. Crazymaker calls to beg you to babysit her sick child because she can’t take off work. After all, she has a REAL job
Crazymakers need to be center stage, 24/7. Nothing you do can be of any importance: your job description is “minion.”

Resign.

Groucho Marxists

The Groucho Marxist manifesto is, to paraphrase the great Julius Henry Marx: “I do not care to read a book by a person who would accept me as a friend.”

Groucho Marxists are your family members and buddies who assume your work is terrible because it was written by somebody they know.

I’m not talking about those helpful beta readers who comb through your unpublished manuscript looking for flaws to be fixed before you submit.

These are the folks who feel compelled to ridicule and belittle your work, whether they’ve read it or not. No amount of success will convince them you’re any good.

  • You get a story published. Groucho can’t be bothered to read it. But he’s always bringing you stories by other writers in your genre, “so you can see how a REAL writer does it.”
  • You get your big call from that agent. Groucho will try to convince you she’s a scammer. Why would a real agent represent a nobody like you?
  • You sign with a publisher. Groucho thinks he's heard a rumor the company is about to go under: look how desperate they must be if they’d publish your book.
  • You get a good review. Groucho doesn’t have time to read it. But he has lots of time to research other pieces by that reviewer to show the reviewer has terrible taste.
  • You win a Pulitzer. What? No Nobel?
 These people are highly competitive and feel your success will make you “better than them.”

Remind them of their own skills and accomplishments and reassure them that any writing success you achieve won’t change your relationship.

It’s hard enough to live with the constant rejection we have to deal with in this industry, so when you’re attacked in your personal life, it’s tough to hang on. You have to erect strong boundaries and be fierce in defending them. But if you’re serious about your work, the people who really care about you will learn to treat your time and work with respect.

The others will evaporate.

Chances are you won’t miss them.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

NaNoWriMo—Seven Reasons To Join in the Silliness

For the uninitiated: NaNoWriMo is the National Novel Writing Month project. Started a decade ago by a young San Franciscan named Chris Baty—and 21 of his verbally ambitious friends—it challenges you to write a complete novel in a month. That month is November. Last year 165,000 writers—called “Wrimos”—joined in the merriment.

Entering the contest—now run by Mr. Baty’s non-profit outfit, the Office of Letters and Light—is free. Anybody who finishes 50,000 words by midnight November 30th is a winner. No prizes that I know of: completion of your novel is its own reward.

To enter, you register at NaNoWriMo.org so you can have your word count verified at the end of the month, and on November 1, start writing.

Crazy? Absolutely. But all fiction writing is crazy, so why not? Of the 250 commenters on Nathan Bransford’s blogpost on the subject most intend to try it. Some are going to be starting a first novel, but a lot of others have participated multiple times. (Nathan promised to devote all of next week’s blogposts to NaNo.)

But…don’t they write a lot of crapola?

Yup. And that’s the point.

It’s all about creating a *&%#ty first draft.

As Anne LaMotte wrote in her classic book for writers Bird by Bird :

“The only way [most writers] can get anything done at all is to write really, really, really shitty first drafts.”

NaNo forces you to get that dung onto the page. 

Here are some benefits.

1) No time to agonize over your first chapter. You’ve read endless carping on blogs like this one about how the first chapter has to hook the reader, introduce all the major themes and plot elements, begin with the world’s most exciting sentence, etc. But when you’re writing your first draft, none of that matters. You’re introducing yourself to your characters and their world. You can worry about your reader when you start editing next January.

2) No frittering away time on research. If you’re one of those writers who has procrastinated for years, piling up reams of historical and biographical detail, this is your chance to actually write the damned book. The truth is, most of those details would bore the reader silly if you actually put them in your novel, anyway. You’re better off writing the book first and figuring out later whether your reader needs to know what they used for toilet paper in 13th century Scotland or what kind of underpants Genghis Khan wore.

3) No time to censor yourself. You can’t afford to agonize over whether your brother–in-law/former teacher/ex-girlfriend will recognize him/herself. Or if your mom will find out you weren’t really at band camp that summer when you and your buddies took the road trip to Cabo. Besides you’ll be amazed how characters/situations inspired by real life take off on their own and create an alternate reality. And excuse me, when did your brother-in-law ever read a book anyway?

4) You won’t be tempted to save your best ideas for later. New writers are often terrified they’ll run out of ideas. But it’s amazing how many more will show up once you’re in the zone.

5) You’ll give up trying to control the process. If the story goes somewhere you didn’t expect it to go, or you can’t stick to your outline, you’ll have to run with it. When your muse is talking, you can’t take the chance of pissing her off for even a couple of days.

6) You’ll have a great excuse for skipping the family Thanksgiving with all those relatives whose politics make you despair for the future of the human race.

7) It’s fun—and a great way to meet other writers all over the world. Look in the NaNo website forums for online and in-person discussions and groups. (Locals: they’ve got regional groups in Fresno, Bakersfield, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, and a few San Luis Obispans are reaching out to each other in the forums.)

If you decide to jump into the craziness, here are the NaNo rules:

  • Register at the NaNoWriMo website before November 1
  • Write a novel (in any language) 50,000+ words long between November 1 and November 30. “Novel” is loosely defined. They say “If you consider the book you're writing a novel, we consider it a novel too!”
  • Start from scratch. Previously written outlines & character sketches are OK—and highly recommended—but this can’t be a work in progress.
  • Be the sole author. Although you can use the occasional quotation.
  • Write more than one word. No repeating the same one 50,000 times.
  • Upload your novel for word-count validation to the site between November 25 and November 30.

Chances are pretty good you aren’t going to write a polished, publishable novel in four weeks (although Charles Dickens is said to have written A Christmas Carol in six, four of which were in November, so there’s some precedent.)

But PLEASE don’t start querying agents until you do a serious, in-depth revision: you’ll just clog the pipeline and make the agents cranky, which isn’t good for any of us. And when you do query, it’s not wise to reveal that the book began at NaNo—unfortunately, a lot of participants send off the unedited crapola. Also, most agents won’t look at a novel of less than 70,000 words, so even the Chuck Dickenses among you will have further work to do.

But if you do that work, maybe you’ll have the success of NaNovelist Sarah Gruen, whose phenomenal best seller Water For Elephants started as a NaNo project.

And the important thing is you’ll have a draft to start revising. And you’ll have finished a novel. How many people can say that?

And for those of us who are in the middle of several projects and can’t start a new one this month, YA author Natalie Whipple has suggested a companion November challenge: NaNoReaMo. You read at least three books a week for the whole month.

That’s the one I’m going to be going for. I already have a pile of sucky first drafts to edit.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

CAN YOU WRITE A PUBLISHABLE FIRST NOVEL? 8 DOS AND DON’TS TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCES.

Gearing up for NaNoWriMo? Good for you. You’ve always wanted to write a novel and next month you’re going to do it.

But remember that most first novels never see print. Editors call them “practice novels.” Like any other profession, writing requires a long learning process. But there are a few things that will give your first novel a better chance in the marketplace.

1) DO write in a genre that’s being read. You may have always dreamed of  writing a sweeping Micheneresque saga, a Zane Grey western, or a stream-of-consciousness Kerouac ramble, but the sad truth is it’s not likely to see print. Publishing has fashion cycles. I’m not telling you to follow every hot trend—what’s sizzling now will be over by the time you’ve got the book finished—but do be aware of what might be a tough sell down the road. Read lots of book reviews. Be aware of what’s selling. Visit your local bookstore and library often and read, read, read.

2) DON’T write a novel that imitates a screenplay. If you’re under 65, you probably have the TV screenplay format seared into your consciousness. This means that when you’re writing a first novel, you have stuff to unlearn. In a novel, we don’t have to rely so heavily on what the characters say. In fact, they often don’t say what they’re feeling at all.

A reader perceives the action from INSIDE the head of the character/s rather than viewing it from OUTSIDE. In a movie, we’re peeping toms, watching the action through a camera lens; in a novel, we’re experiencing it. A novel is a mindscape, not a landscape.

3) DO avoid an omniscient point of view or constant head-hopping. Choose fewer than three point-of-view characters and you’ll save yourself a ton of grief later on. Omniscient and multiple points of view aren’t “wrong” but they’re old-fashioned and tough to do well. They tend to slow and confuse the reader and turn off agents.

4) DON’T depend on a prologue to initiate tension. There’s much debate about prologues out here in the blogosphere, but a vast majority of agents and editors dislike them. My blogpost on prologues is here. 
Why shoot yourself in the font?

5) DO make sure your story has a protagonist and an antagonist. There has to be one main character. Equality is ideal in the real world, but in narrative, one person has to dominate. If another character walks in and tries to take over, tell her you’ll put her in a short story later. Otherwise, change the focus of your novel. (Not always a bad idea. Sometimes we start with the wrong point-of-view character.)

And remember an antagonist isn’t necessarily a mustache-twirling villain. It can be a situation, a disease, or society itself—anything strong enough to thwart your character for the whole narrative.

6) DON’T choose a protagonist who’s easily satisfied. Your main character has to want something. Badly. Satisfied people make lovely companions, but as soon as your characters get what they want, your story is over.

7) DO activate your inner sadist. Never let your characters get what they need. Throw as many obstacles into their path as possible. Hurt them. Maim them. Give them cruel parents and girlfriends who are preparing to kill them for alien lizard food. It’s OK. You’ll solve their problems in the end. Then won’t you feel good?

8) DON’T put something in a novel “because that’s the way it really happened.” Even if your story is based on your own experiences, remember real life is mostly boring. That’s why we read fiction.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A GREAT PUBLISHING ADVENTURE Warning: includes scenes of hard-core Anglophilia

Beth Nevis, author of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE  which debuts from Razorbill in January 2011, is running a contest on her blog this week, asking readers to write about their greatest adventures. I thought of a piece I wrote it in 2005 for the Canadian zine INkwell Newswatch, when I was riding high after the publication of my first novel, FOOD OF LOVE. I try not to blabber on too much about myself in this blog, but I thought some of my readers might enjoy this. I’ll post my regular how-to article on Sunday.

********

When I started writing funny literary women’s novels twenty years ago, if anybody had given me a realistic idea of my chances for publication, I’d have chosen a less stressful, more rewarding hobby, like do-it-yourself brain surgery, professional frog herding, or maybe staging an all-Ayatollah drag revue in downtown Tehran.

As a California actress with years of experience of cattle-drive auditions, greenroom catfights and vitriolic reviewers, I thought I had built up enough soul-callouses to go the distance. But nothing had prepared me for the glacial waiting periods; bogus, indifferent, and/or suddenly-out-of-business agents; and the heartbreaking, close-but-no-cigar reads from big-time editors—all the rejection horrors that make the American publishing industry the impenetrable fortress it has become.

But some of us are too writing-crazed to stop ourselves. I was then, as now, sick in love with the English language.

I had four novels completed. A fifth had run as a serial in a California entertainment weekly. One of my stories had been short-listed for an international prize, and a play had been produced to good reviews. I was bringing in a few bucks—mostly with short pieces for local magazines and free-lance editing.

But meantime, my savings had evaporated along with my abandoned acting career; my boyfriend had ridden his Harley into the Big Sur sunset; my agent was hammering me to write formula romance; and I was contemplating a move to one of the less fashionable neighborhoods of the rust belt.

Even acceptances turned into rejections: a UK zine that had accepted one of my stories folded. But when the editor sent the bad news, he mentioned he’d taken a job with a small Northern UK press—and did I have any novels?

I sent him one my agent had rejected as “too over the top.” Within weeks, I was offered a contract by the company’s owner/editor—a former BBC comedy writer—for FOOD OF LOVE. Included was an invitation to come over the pond to do some promotion.

So I rented out my beach house, packed my bags and bought a ticket to Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, where my new publishers had recently moved into a 19th century former textile mill on the banks of the river Trent—the river George Eliot fictionalized as “the Floss.”

George Eliot. I was going to be working and living only a few hundred yards from the ruins of the house where she wrote her classic novel about the 19th century folk who lived and died by the power of
Lincolnshire’s great tidal river. Maybe some of that greatness would rub off on me.

At the age of…well, I’m not telling…I was about to have the adventure of my life.

I knew the company published mostly erotica, but was branching into mainstream and literary fiction. They had already published the first novel of a distinguished poet, and a famous Chicago newspaper columnist was in residence, awaiting the launch of his new book.

But when I arrived, I found the great Chicagoan had left in a mysterious fit of pique, the “erotica” was seriously hard core, and the old building on the Trent was more of the William Blake Dark Satanic variety than George Elliot’s bucolic mill on the Floss.

Some of my fears subsided when I was greeted by a friendly group of unwashed, fiercely intellectual young men who presented me with generous quantities of warm beer, cold meat pies and galleys to proof. After a beer or two, I found myself almost comprehending their northern accents.

I held it together until I saw my new digs: a grimy futon and an old metal desk, hidden behind stacks of book pallets in the corner of an unheated warehouse, about a half a block from the nearest loo. My only modern convenience was an ancient radio abandoned by a long-ago factory girl.

I have to admit to admit to some tears of despair.

Until, from the radio, Big Ben chimed six o’clock.

That’s
six pm, GMT.

Greenwich Mean Time. The words hit me with all the sonorous power of Big Ben itself. I had arrived at the mean, the middle, the center that still holds—no matter what rough beasts might slouch through the cultural deserts of the former empire. This was where my language, my instrument, was born.

I clutched my galley proof to my heart. I might still be a rejected nobody in the land of my birth—but I’d landed on the home planet,
England. And here, I was a published novelist. Just like George Eliot.

Three years later, I returned to California, older, fatter (the English may not have the best food, but their BEER is another story) and a lot wiser. That Chicagoan’s fit of pique turned out to be more than justified. The company was swamped in debt. They never managed to get me US distribution. Shortly before my second book was to launch, the managing partner withdrew his capital, sailed off into the mists and mysteriously disappeared off his yacht—his body never found. The company sputtered and died.

And I was back in the slush pile again.

But I had a great plot for my next novel.

Did I make a mistake? Oh yeah—a full set of them. But would I wish away my great English adventure?

Not a chance.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

How to Promote your Book with a Blog Tour—essential information for the 21st century writer

As promised, here’s a guest blog from Janice Hardy. I’m a long-time fan of her blog, The Other Side of the Story. It’s always full of great, solid advice on craft and navigating the publishing business. When she said she was doing a blog tour to promote her new YA Fantasy book, Blue Fire, the next installment in her Healing Wars trilogy,  I asked her to write something for us about the new phenomenon of the blog tour: how it compares to the old fashioned in-person book tour, and how to conduct one of your own.

Going On Tour? Just Go Online
Guest Blog by YA author Janice Hardy

Book tours have always been a great way to connect authors to readers, but with the travel and expense, it’s not something every writer can afford do on their own. It’s also not uncommon for publishers to only send their “bigger” authors on tour, since those are the folks who will draw the largest audience to the store, making it effective as well as cost-effective. Unless you’re one of those breakout debut bestsellers, odds are it’ll be a few books before you’re sent on tour.

My debut novel, The Shifter, came out last year. I did four local bookstore signings. One had about 25 people, one had around 15, one had maybe 10 and one had six. That’s actually not bad for an unknown author, but add them all up and that’s 51 people I spoke to about my book. For the second book, Blue Fire, I’m doing 52 blog tour stops. Even if no one but the people hosting the blog tour read my posts, I’m already ahead.

I have three local in-store signings set up so far for Blue Fire. I imagine the turn out will be bigger since more folks know about me now, but it still won’t be anywhere near the numbers I can reach on a blog tour.

So what exactly is a blog tour?
What you’re reading now. An author writes a guest post about a topic, or does an interview with the blogger, and they post it. The author does a lot of these guest posts during a set period of time, usually the month of that book’s release. Readers can “stop by” the blog on their schedule and follow the author from blog to blog. Author and blogger both publicize the tour, drawing new readers to each.

How do you arrange a blog tour?
Since I already blog about writing, I simply asked my readers and fellow bloggers if they’d be willing to host me on my tour. I also asked my Facebook friends. Most of them are book lovers, so they have blogs that will help me connect to other book lovers. My only cost was postage to send out some ARCs (advance reader copies) to those who were doing reviews.

Most of the people I contacted I “knew” in some fashion (even if it was just a friend on Facebook or someone I saw frequently on a blog or forum) so it didn’t feel as awkward as reaching out to a total stranger. But those friends offered suggestions for other blogs I might want to contact, so I grit my teeth, sent an email, and figured, why not? Worst case they ignore me. But most of them were happy to help out.

How do you pick which blogs?
Book reviewers, other writers, readers who talk about books are all good prospects. If you spend any time online, you may even read a lot of these blogs already. Beyond that, look at your book. If there’s a tie in with, say, cooking or horseback riding, look for blogs about those.  You can talk about that aspect of the book and how it inspired you.

What happens next?
Once you set up your tour, then the hard work begins. You have to write all those posts. Getting them done ahead of time is important, because it takes more time than you’d expect, and you’ll probably have other things to worry about when the book actually releases. You also want to be courteous to your host blogger and get them the post ahead of time so they can schedule it. And don’t forget to include the cover of your book, an author photo, links to your website, blog, and a place to buy your book, as well as a short blurb about the book, and an author bio. Not every blog will use all of it, but it’s nice to offer options.

What do you write about?
Once someone agreed to host me, I asked if they had an idea for the topic. They know their blog readers, so they’d know best what might interest them. As with any kind of blogging, you want to provide content someone wants to read about. No one wants promotional fluff. Most bloggers had an idea and made great suggestions. Those who didn’t said I could pick.

Now, this is where it got tricky. With 50+ blog posts over 30 days, I had to make sure that I wasn’t saying the same things over and over. Each post had to be different so those following the tour would get fresh material every day. The pure guest posts (like this one) were easy. If someone wanted the same topic, like say world building, I made sure I approached each post from a unique angle and covered different things.

Interviews were the hardest ones, because I had no control over the questions asked. For any similar questions, I tried to angle my answers so they focused on a different aspect. For example, if someone asked where I got the idea for the book (very common) I picked one part of where the idea came from instead of going through the whole story every time.

How did you keep track of it all?
I used a spreadsheet and listed the blogger, the address for the blog, the date, the topic, and the status. Trying to keep it all straight wasn’t easy, and having that spreadsheet made a world of difference. It was also a good way to make notes on folks who still needed to get back to me or who needed ARCs sent.

How do you promote the blog tour?
I have a master schedule on my blog, plus each day my blog links to the blogs on the tour stop for that day. To show the different topics, I give a little description so folks know this post on point of view is not the same as the point of view post from last week. I also link them to Facebook, and announce them on a writer’s forum I frequent (Absolute Write). The bloggers I’m visiting usually promote the tour as well, as they want to drive new readers to their blog. Just use websites, Facebook, Twitter, whatever networking tool you have available to you.

What do you do on tour day?
Another important aspect of the tour is to follow up. The whole point is to connect with readers, so I make sure I check back and read the comments, join the discussion, answer questions, and be a part of that blog’s community. If the blog offers the “email me on new comments” feature, use it. That way you can keep up with what’s going on and not have to constantly check. It’s also helpful to arrange a schedule for checking back so you know every two hours (or whatever you pick) you click over to that day’s posts, or even the last few days if the comments are still active. Bookmarking the tour in its old folder makes it a lot easier to follow up.

Isn’t a blog tour an awful lot of work?
Absolutely. My average post runs about 700 words (this one is actually twice that), and over 50 blogs, that’s 35,000 words. I wrote blog posts every day for weeks, several a day, to get them all done. But here’s the thing—all this work is going to reach more readers than if I went store to store. I’d never be able to arrange 50 book signings, and if I did, I’d spend months going to them. Better still, these posts are on the web now, so months and even years after this tour is over, folks will continue to stumble upon that post. The promotion never ends as long as that blog is active.

Wait a second, if this is about promotion, why haven’t you said much about the book?
Remember that “no one wants to read promotion fluff?” That’s why. Would you have stayed with me this long if all I was doing was talking about my book? But hopefully I’ve given you helpful and interesting information, and you might click over to see what my book is all about. Most bloggers provide a little bio and some information about their guest bloggers, so there’s probably a little something about my book at the end of the post.

I’m finding the blog tour a fun and effective way to reach out to readers and let them know I have a book out there. It was hard work, but it was work I got to do on my own schedule in my own way.

And I didn’t have to stay in any cheap motels to do it.
*********

Blue Fire 
Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.

Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.

Janice Hardy Bio
A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy THE HEALING WARS, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her books include THE SHIFTER, and BLUE FIRE from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins.  She lives in Georgia with her husband, three cats and one very nervous freshwater eel.

Link to Blue Fire Online Retailers

Website

The Other Side of the Story Blog

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Welcome New Readers!

With special thanks to the 203 of you who’ve jumped through the hoops to “follow”—and everybody who has left comments. I love you guys! Every new follower and comment helps me keep on keeping on in this ridiculously brutal business.

Also many thanks to Jane Friedman’s Writer’s Digest BlogAdventures in Children’s PublishingPublitariat, Sierra Godfrey, and so many others who have posted and tweeted links to this blog. Each one of those mentions brightens my week.

A slow, once-a-week blog takes longer to gather followers, but it has allowed me to work on my other writing, which includes a new novel I’ve just finished that I’m really excited about called THE GATSBY GAME.

Like most of my novels, it’s pretty literary—but also fast-paced and comic—so I have to find a way to camouflage it as something else. I’m trying women’s fiction, although it’s also a mystery. If there were a genre for “literary chick lit” that’s where I’d fit. Think Muriel Spark or Dorothy Parker.

Don’t do this. If you can write pure genre fiction that fits within a prescribed structure, or anything YA, or at least resist putting humor in anything with a literary theme (or be a Brit) you have about 1000 times better chance of selling your work than I do.

I’ve already had a partial requested and rejected by Nathan Bransford (in the space of a few hours) so I guess I’m officially on the query road once again. Bloodied but unbowed.


Tomorrow you’ll get to read the promised post from YA writer Janice Hardy on how to conduct a blog tour. Something we all need to learn. A must-read!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Enjoy the Luxury of the Unpublished Life

 “WTF?” Sez you. “Luxury? Getting daily rejections? Living in this mousehole on a diet of ramen and generic Froot Loops? While the few friends I have left laugh at my “delusions” of being a published writer? I’m supposed to #%&!ing enjoy this?”

Well, yes. It’s the only time in your career when you will have the freedom to just…write.

OK, calm down. I know sometimes you think you can’t stand this torture one more day. How long can anybody be expected to live on hope alone? Time’s wing├Ęd chariot hurries near! You’re tired of the rejection, humiliation and frustration!! You’re desperate to—

  • Show all those skeptical friends and relations you really do have talent.
  • Let your significant other know all those pep talks weren’t wasted.
  • Show up at Thanksgiving dinner and tell your brother-in-law who always makes digs about your “career in navel-gazing” to #%&! off.
  • Say to all those condescending customers at McChili’s that you may be bussing tables now, but you’re a WRITER dammit.

I know how it feels to be filled with that desperate longing to see your work published. I lived with it for over a decade. And felt the euphoria when I finally got my first book contract—I doubt there’s a drug in the world to match that high.

But it doesn’t last long. Because after you sign is when your real work begins. And if you thought you were finished with rejection, humiliation and frustration, think again. This is what could be in store—

  • Hate-hate-hating that stupid cover that makes your dashing Scottish hero look like David Lee Roth in a dress.
  • Praying your new editor will see your book through after the old one leaves to start her own literary agency.
  • Sending out press releases, blanketing social media sites, haunting forums & being nice to people you’ve been trying to ignore for years.
  • Sucking up to the local talk radio guy whose show has always pissed you off, begging for an interview.
  • Groveling to the editor of the local fishwrap to get him to run maybe an inch on your launch.
  • Begging bookstore managers to let you do a signing—and get enough copies into the store to make it worthwhile.
  • Typing your fingers to the bone in a marathon blog tour. (There will be a guest post here next week from YA writer Janice Hardy telling all about blog tours. A must-read.)*
  • Getting your obnoxious friend who went to film school to help you put together a book trailer.
  • Traveling to strange cities on crowded planes to talk to people who don’t have a clue who you are and care less—if you’re lucky enough to get a book tour at all.
  • Checking your amazon ranking twice a day and agonizing every time it goes down.
  • Trying to wheedle reviews out of anybody you can press a free book upon.
Ah yes. Reviews.

Begging someone to do a review is daunting. But dealing with a bad review is soul-torture. If you had trouble dealing with that guy in your critique group who hated your heroine because she didn’t get herself a blunderbuss and smoke that cheating hound of a duke, wait until the trolls hit your amazon page and give you a few of those clueless, nasty one-star appraisals that bring down your ratings..

Bad reviews. Everybody gets them. They can be brutal. More on that in a couple of weeks.

And remember—all the time you’re launching your new career in marketing, you’ll have to be writing a second novel. Probably in less than a year. While still bussing those tables.

Won’t you be happy you’ve got all those rejected novels stacked up in your files? Think of them as inventory. A novel that might not be the break-out blockbuster to launch a career may make a nice follow-up once you’re established.

So revel in the luxury of writing in your mousehole. With no marketing responsibilities. Or the public humiliation of bad reviews. While you build inventory.

But tell off your brother-in-law anyway. And let those condescending people at table three know you really are a writer, published or not.

*******
*Tune in next Sunday for a fantastic guest post from Janice Hardywho writes the super-helpful blog, The Other Side of the Story . She’s going to give us an in-depth look at the newest book promotion tool—the blog tour.