The Fictorians

The Light at the End of the Publishing Tunnel

31 October 2014 | No Comments » | Leigh Galbreath

Happy Halloween, everyone!

You know, in some circles, it’s considered advantageous to end endeavors before and begin new endeavors after the sun rises on November 1st (the official end of All Hallow’s Eve). In a sense, Halloween is a kind of spiritual New Years.

Thus it seems appropriate that over this last month, we Fictorians have shared the not-so-enjoyable aspects of our writing careers, from health issues to saboteur computers to fears of Bisquick, we’ve hit a lot of the big issues we writers face in our attempts to finish projects, build an audience, and further our careers.

And so we finish our journey into the darkness of the writing life today, Halloween, when it’s best to bring dark things to an end.

After reading the posts this month, I’ve been struck by how varied our fears and dislikes are, yet how uniform our reactions to them. It comes down to one word: perseverance.

With every setback, each of us has pressed on like the protagonists we write about. We try, we falter, we get back up (sometimes bloody), and we try again, repeating the sequence until we get it right. While few of us get the tidy denouement of our imaginary heroes, it’s important to remember that we get something they never will. We get a story that doesn’t end. Not really. There’s always another chapter, and we can either help drive the plot of our lives forward or let the twists and turns defeat us.

Not everyone can do it. Many don’t get back up after being knocked down. They don’t finish the book, don’t submit to their dream agents, don’t put themselves out there for possible ridicule, humiliation, and scorn. These are not the people who achieve the goals we all share — a thriving career as a published author. Whether out of fear of the unknown, or dealing with a failed attempt, the only way of getting past these rough spots is to persevere.

My dad used to always counter the phrase “There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel” with “Yeah, it’s the headlight of an oncoming train.”

To be fair, yeah, sometimes it is. But oftentimes it isn’t, and the only way to find out the difference is to walk the track.

The Horrible, No-good Launch Party, Part 2

30 October 2014 | No Comments » | Colette

scary popcornSo, today’s post was supposed to be about the terrors of planning the second launch party. Will people show up again? Will the hype of “I finally got a book out” turn into the flop of “been there, done that, who cares” from my friends and fans? But it turns out there are other concerns that take precedent, like where the %&+@# do I have my launch party and can I even make it happen?

I started out wondering if I should have the launch at the same place as last time, even though it’s on the very outskirts of the city in which I live or if I should choose a more central location. I’m giving out candy, maybe I should have the launch near a candy store in the mall. Or maybe I should find an independent bookstore and coerce them into letting me in with a table for a couple of hours. Between making that choice and getting managers to return my calls, I still don’t have a location. And then I start to wonder if I’m going to be able to make it happen at all.

These kinds of dilemmas relate to the fears that can really get to me as an author; do I even have the slightest clue what I’m doing? We post on social media, enjoy engaging with people at conventions, do some launches and book signings, win awards, but when it comes down to it, is any of this resulting in greater awareness and sales? And that’s the real fear that often gnaws at my insides. Am I destined to go down in the silent flames of obscurity? This is the question we have to put behind us so we can find courage and move on.

So what if I don’t have a launch party; my first book in the Mankind’s Redemption series just won the Howey award. So what if sales aren’t high; I’m just getting started. So what if my fans are few; they’re giving my book five-star reviews. We look at the bright side so the scary parts don’t overwhelm us. Making writing into a career can take a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a fair amount of time going unnoticed. But if we keep working, Kevin J. Anderson’s popcorn method of success is bound to happen. The more kernels in the pan, the more opportunity for something to POP. So good luck to all and enjoy the popcorn.

Will It Satisfy?

29 October 2014 | No Comments » | Evan Braun

When I published The City of Darkness last year (Amazon|Kobo), I was full of anxiety. Lots and lots of excitement, but also anxiety. Why? Because it was my first crack at a sequel. And you know what they say about sequels, right? That they’re never as good as the original. As an author, I was (am!) really concerned about both creating a great story and pleasing my audience. I want to write satisfying stories—and when necessary, satisfying sequels.

I suppose there’s probably a point in time when an author becomes so successful and/or confident in their creative vision that they no longer stress out about this. Or perhaps not. Nonetheless, in many long-running series, fans start to sense that the author is treading water in the middle of their book runs. In my case, my Watchers Chronicle will only be three novels, so this effect isn’t going to have the opportunity to set in.

But if my anxiety was high over The City of Darkness, it’s even higher over my current project, The Law of Radiance—the third book and series finale. I badly want to create a satisfying conclusion. My current readers haven’t seen any non-Chronicle titles from me yet, so this is going to be their first taste of how I wrap up a long, continuing story—something I plan to do a lot of in my writing career, as I’m a huge fan of long-running series.

Finishing any novel is difficult, but finishing a trilogy, I’m discovering, is a cut above. The Law of Radiance has to tell its own contained story, and every aspect of it needs to have a narrative payoff, like all good novels. But it also has to explore a lot of themes established in the previous two volumes. And, of course, there are a lot of dangling threads here and there in those first books that now have to be wrapped up. It’s amazing how many little plot and character details start to slip out of mind four years into a project. There’s a lot to keep track of.

It doesn’t help that I’m three or four months behind schedule, but I can live with the slight delay—and hopefully my readers can, too—because I won’t have another chance to finish a series for the first time. I have to get this right. Or at least as right as I’m capable of getting it at my current level of skill. Twenty or thirty years from now, when I’m a much more accomplished and sophisticated storyteller, I might look back at this book and shake my head at all the ways I could have written it better. That’s a scary thought! Talk about fear and loathing; my greatest anxiety probably comes from comparing myself to the Evan Braun of the future.

But I’m getting off-topic.

The good news is that despite the pressure I’ve put on myself, I’m proud of the way the work is going so far. You might even use the word “satisfied.” I can only trust that my own level of satisfaction in this book will be shared by the general public when the time comes. And I can hardly wait to find out.

My Computer is Trying to Destroy Me (And Other Writing Fears)

28 October 2014 | No Comments » | fictorians

Guest Post by Megan Grey

With Halloween only a few days away, this is perfect time of year to explore the fears we writers often face. And if my own experience is any indication, we writers have lots of things that can strike terror into our neurotic little hearts: Rejections. Pitch sessions. Criticism. Rewrites. More rewrites. Our laptops deciding to drunk-query our dream agents.

Maybe I should explain that last one.

With my first novel (at least, my first submission-worthy novel) written and rewritten and rewritten again, I faced the much-dreaded next step. It was time to query agents. I spent weeks crafting the perfect query, and researching which agents would (in my estimation) be the best fit. Then I spent a few extra weeks procrastinating sending it, for a host of what seemed like perfectly reasonable excuses at the time, but really boiled down to one: fear.

Late one night, after bolstering my courage with approximately 8.3 pounds of dark chocolate M&Ms (as a Mormon, I don’t drink alcohol or smoke, so I heavily abuse chocolate instead), I readied this perfect query email to one of my top agents, took a deep breath, and hit send.

I was pleased with myself for conquering my fear, and yet something—writers intuition? An extra power of foresight granted me by obscene over-consumption of chocolate?—made me check my sent folder to make sure the email went through.

A quick scan revealed it had indeed sent, and seemed to be formatted fine. I was just about to close it and ease my paranoia with a few extra M&Ms when something horrible caught my eye. At the end of my query, where I could have sworn I had written “Thank you so much for your time“, this email read “Thank yo.”

Thank YO?!? After about a millisecond of debating whether I had the street cred to pull that sort of nonchalance off (I don’t), I quickly decided to send another one. Surely if agents see two of the same queries in their inbox, they’d only read the most recent, right?This seemed my only option. I re-pasted my query into another email, read it through about a dozen times to verify that each and every word was in place, and sent it again.

This time, when I checked the sent folder, my horror doubled. Not only did this one also end with “Thank yo“, but my computer had somehow deleted the latter half of several of my sentences. So now I had two queries to one of the top agents in publishing, both of which made me appear that I was querying while intoxicatedOr a complete idiot. Or, most likely, both.

Full-on panic set in. In between planning the destruction of my laptop, which I was convinced was turning all Skynet for the sole purpose of ruining my writing career, Ienvisioned being blacklisted by every agent and editor in the business. Being unable to show my face at any writing conference, ever. Having to enter the witness protection program just to lead a normal life again.

After a fit of weeping and swearing off both computers and M&Ms forever (obviously not in a sane frame of mind), I crawled into bed next to my peacefully sleeping husband,who was frustratingly unaware that every hope and dream I’d had of a writing career was shattered. As I lay there in bed, it occurred to me to try one last desperate ploy to salvage things. I would send my query again, rewritten from scratch (no copying and pasting) on our desktop computer, one that I could only hope didn’t have some vendetta against me.

So I did. In the subject line of this email, I wrote “Query (please disregard my previous emails, my computer was having issues)”. I sent it. And, lo and behold, after checking thesent folder, this email appeared to have sent exactly as I wrote it. No sentences that mysteriously lead to nowhere. No awkward and ungrammatical uses of slang. Now I could only hope. (And totally run my laptop over with my car in the morning. That was still happening, regardless of the outcome.)

The most I felt I could hope for from this was that the agent would have enough pity forme to not put me on some industry watch list. So I was completely shocked when, only a couple days later, I actually got a partial request from this agent. And though I was eventually rejected, it was a very nice rejection, and didn’t include any kind of restraining order. Since then, my query (my actual query, not the one my laptop decided to send on my behalf) has gotten me several partial and full requests, so I think it’s safe to assume I’m not on an agent blacklist somewhere.

The moral of this cautionary tale (besides never trusting computers) is this: my career didn’t end because of a computer mistake. It didn’t end on my first rejection, or my twentieth. It won’t end if I flub a pitch session, or if some reviewer hates my work. My career will only end if I give in to my dozens of fears about writing. It will only end if I give up.

And the same goes for you.

Guest Writer Bio:lady_photo_home

Megan Grey’s fiction has appeared in FiresideSybil’s Scriptorium, and One Horn to Rule Them All: A Purple UnicornAnthologyYou can find out more about Megan by visiting her website at www.megangrey.com. 

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