Category Archives: Agents

Reframing Failure

A few years back, I had a conversation about horses that changed how I viewed my writing career. A dear friend of mine was telling me a story about when she was teaching her son how to ride a horse. She had grown up on a West Texas ranch and wanted to pass that legacy on to the next generation. One day he was thrown by the animal and landed hard. My friend went to her son to ensure that he hadn’t been seriously hurt. Once she had confirmed that he would be okay, she stood over him in the dust and heat of the Texan summer. Her boy was on the verge of tears, but she didn’t try to sooth him. Instead, she told him that he needed to choose if he really wanted to know how to ride. If he didn’t, he could sit and cry, and that would be fine. But “cowboys don’t cry,” and if he really wanted that life he would need to show her how tough he really was. He’d need to stand up and go show that animal that he wasn’t afraid of it. He needed to take back his power, right now or not at all.

There’s a reason that the phrase “get back in the saddle” is a cliché for starting again after a failure. If you’ve never ridden a horse, you can’t know what it feels like to have a thousand pounds of animal underneath you. To feel the shifting of muscle and sway of the saddle as your mount walks. Or know the sensation of speed and power as the horse runs. As a rider, you are only in control as much as the mount’s training or your own skill allows you to be. All the while, you are aware that falling or being thrown can be a bone breaking, paralyzing, or mortal experience. For new riders, it’s frightening. And for good reason.

Most humans are programmed to avoid painful situations. Sometimes it’s something we’ve already experienced, and others it is simply the anticipation of harm that warns us away. While this instinct helps us survive, it doesn’t allow us to grow. We only develop as individuals if we are challenged, pushed to leave our comfort zones, and are forced to adapt. In doing so, however, we risk mental, emotional, or physical hardship. And no one gets through life unscathed.

Little did my friend know that when she told me that story, I was struggling with my own fall, just of a less literal nature. I had recently been rejected by an agent that I had queried a few weeks before. It wasn’t even a personalized rejection, but rather a form letter that was addressed to “Dear Author”. I was embarrassed, angry with myself, and ashamed of my failure. I was still lying in the dirt, hurt and wallowing. However, I needed to make a decision.

I wasn’t considering quitting writing. Storytelling was and still is my passion. I had been warned that rejection letters were inevitable and that I would need to develop a thick skin to being told “thank you, but no.” However, rejection letters have a powerful effect on us writers because they feed the part of our brain teeming with doubt. I was trying to decide what that particular rejection meant for me and my story. Did I still believe in these characters? Did I still believe that the work represented the best of my skills? Was the problem something in my query letter or my manuscript? I didn’t know and so was paralyzed by indecision.

My friend’s story reminded me that I was letting the letter have power over my actions and needed to show it, and myself, that I wasn’t afraid of it anymore.

And so, I decided to reframe my problem. Quite literally. I went to the store and spent about five dollars on a plain, black, plastic picture frame. I printed out the first page of the rejection and hung it on the wall in my office. I stepped back, looked at my framed failure, and told myself aloud that this was a step in the process. I would fail again. I would succeed. I’d hang each on my wall because I owned them, they did not own me.

In the years since, I’ve added many more black frames to my wall. However, I’ve also added a few silver frames, my wins. There aren’t many silvers in comparison to the blacks, but they would not exist at all had I not decided to move past my fear and self-pity to keep pushing myself to grow. Each time I look at that wall, I am reminded of what those failures taught me, and that I have persevered. Despite the failures, I am still writing, still submitting, and still growing. With enough hard work and determination, I will have my writing career. I just need to keep dusting myself off after each and every failure and choosing what I really want.

From Self Published to Publisher

Guest Post by Aubrie L. Nixon

Most of you know that I self-published my first book in November of 2016. It is the first in a trilogy titled The Darkness Series. I had a plan to release the trilogy and a few novellas to accompany it. I was living my dream, I had written a book (Darkness Whispers) , AND published it. My sales were steady, I had a growing fanbase, life was good. Then, out of nowhere, I was getting offers from agents and a few small publishes houses. I had no idea what to do. I was enjoying being my own boss, setting my own schedule etc.. I turned down the offers just because none if them felt like the right fit. Does that make me sound snobbish? I really hope not… I am just as shocked as you are that in the process of all of this I have now turned down 5 agents and 1 publishing house. Like, who does that? Apparently anxiety Aubrie does…
Anyway, back to my topic this month: Starting Over. This topic is perfect for me this month because I get to start over! I recently signed with Winterwolf Press, and I am happy to say we fit well together! They are kind, and creative and have my best interest at heart. When I first got in touch with them, I knew that they were the ones, that I needed to be apart of their pack! And so I am! I have become faced with a rare opportunity. I get to rewrite the parts of my book, Darkness Whispers, that I wasn’t so keen about. I’ve heard every author has regrets about their book that they wish they could change. And I get the awesome opportunity to change the things that I wished had been done differently. Essentially, I get to start over. Isn’t that exciting?
I am so thrilled to be venturing back into the world of Darkness Whispers (soon to be retitled), and get to work with this story again. I have been loving writing the sequels to this book, but I can’t explain the feeling I have that I get a do-over. I LOVED writing Darkness Whispers. I love the fresh, nostalgic feeling I get when revising the scenes and characters. I am beyond ecstatic to flesh the story out a little more, and rewrite a few things. I am so blessed that I get to start over. Except his time, I have a big team behind me, rooting for me. This time, I have a fan base of people, just as excited as me to get this newish book out there!
Staring over may seem like a hard and tedious thing, but it isn’t always. I’ve learned that if life gives you a second chance, take it and run! Start over, do the things you couldn’t do the first time, and learn to love every minute of it!
Has there ever been a time you had to start over? Good or bad? Tell me in the comments below!

aubreyAubrie is 24 years young. She plays mom to a cutest demon topside, and is married to the hottest man in the Air Force. When she isn’t writing she is daydreaming about hot brooding anti-heroes and sassy heroines. She loves Dragon Age, rewatching Game of Thrones and reading all things fantasy. She runs a local YA/NA bookclub with 3 chapters, and over 200 members. Her favorite thing to do is eat, and her thighs thank her graciously for it. If she could have dinner with anyone living or dead it would be Alan Rickman because his voice is the sexiest sound on earth. He could read the dictionary and she would be enthralled. Her current mission in life is to collect creepy taxidermy animals because she finds them cute and hilarious. She resides just outside of Washington DC.

Kristin’s 2016 Year in Review

Although the urge is strong to write a piece a la David Foster Wallace and title it, “2016: Consider the Dumpster Fire,” I’ll resist.

But also I can’t resist and here’s a picture of a dumpster fire.

It's small, it's compact, it's perfect.
It’s small, it’s compact, it’s perfect.

Oh c’mon, Kristin, it wasn’t so bad. (Pause to picture me straining to find really good things about 2016.) If I’m doing my math right, which is rare, all of the good things were canceled out with two bad things. I’m not saying this to garner any pity. Quite the opposite. I’d be happy if you joined me in watching it all burn in the dumpster fire above. Ah, bonding over warm flames. 2017 is looking better already!

In 2016, I finished editing a book I completely rewrote, hoping the huge improvements could snag an agent. Instead, the manuscript was declined by seven agents. I decided perhaps it’s time to table that book for now and move on to other things. I wrote two short stories, one of which has been declined four times so far.

via GIPHY

You know, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but sometimes this writing thing is hard. And I have never felt that more deeply than this year. And I know what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to take a good 15 minutes to feel sorry for myself, then get right back on that horse, nose to the grindstone, ass in seat.

Part of me thinks that’s a fine approach. But the other part of me thinks that’s just more of the same.

If you’ve started on the same crazy choice of careers, you know the one thing there is no shortage of: writing advice. Everyone from your aunt Carol to Stephen King has something to tell you about how to do this thing. The right way, the wrong way. Write, write, write! Write when you have something to say. Write your first three books then throw them away. Don’t let any time go to waste, be deliberate. All of it’s well intentioned. All of it has at least some merit.

But the second part to the advice that they don’t tell you is: now reflect on who you are, and if that advice can be applied to how you are.

I wish I had a greater epiphany this year, but perhaps this is just one of those sleeper-epiphanies that I’ll be thankful for when I’m 80. I learned I have only a few truly great ideas, and I have hundreds of good ideas. And I just want to write the truly great ones.

That means advice I followed before does not apply. Like: write, write, write! Get those million words in! Any writing work counts!

Instead, it means: slow down. Fully develop the story. Allow myself to think on the idea for however long I need to. Don’t write a good book. Only write the great ones. No matter how long that may take.

That’s not everyone’s road. But that’s what 2016 taught me personally. I don’t want to get merely paid for doing what I love. I want to be damn proud of every word in every book. I want it to mean something. I want it to be more than entertainment.

But first, I just gotta get out of this dumpster fire.

See you all in 2017! It might be better! What did this dumpst… I mean 2016 teach you?

 

 

Damage Control

Guest Post by Aubrie L. Nixon

Damage Control is such an odd concept to me. How can you really control damage? By the time something is labeled as “damage is is far past the point of being able to control. Damage is essentially uncontrollable. Yet, as human beings we still feel the need to give everything purpose to make things matter, even damage. As a writer, who is working on getting published, I have made my fair share of mistakes. One that stands out the most is rushing into sending out Query letters.

Being the creator of my fictional world, I hold it very dear to my heart. There can’t possibly be anything wrong with my baby, I would know! I created it. How very, very wrong that attitude is. My current work-in-progress, while awesome, is far from perfect. It took multiple rejections from agents for me to realize that. Now, I like to think I got overly excited in finishing my precious book, and sent it out too early. And that very well may be the case. But, I should have never had it sent out without proper revisions and edits to begin with.

I should have realized that while I see my baby as perfect, I would need an outside perspective to love my book enough to help me make the rest of the world see it as perfect. Thankfully, I have awesome friends and beta readers who helped me see that my book can be so much more than it is right now–perfectly imperfect.

I have been hard at work revising and adding the changes that my world needs. The thing about edits and critiques is that you need people who aren’t afraid to tell you what they think. Though, it might be painful to hear, those extra set of eyes are needed in order for you to become a better writer. You owe it to yourself and those characters that you have created to give them the best possible chance to succeed. You need to find people you trust and respect to help keep you motivated when you’re at the end of your rope.

People who will continue to love your world and the characters in it, even if they have to help you tear them apart first. Revising is one of my least favorite things. But, it is essential to do it. In order to get better, you need to revise. I have never in my life heard of someone who had a perfect first draft. It is called a first draft for a reason.

While I like to think I am all that and a bag of chips, and my writing is the tops, it’s not. I need my friends and beta readers to knock me down a few pegs and pull me back into reality sometimes. Looking at where my manuscript was, to where it is now, and where it is headed… phew, I could have never done that on my own.

I shudder to think if I had sent my baby into the world unprepared. It would have been torn to shreds, my career and potential as an author would be ruined by my own ego. So, to say the least, my people saved me from myself and utter humiliation. I have since learned from my mistake, and laugh at how terrible my first draft was.

So fellow humans and lizard people, don’t pull an Aubrie. Learn from the mistakes I made, that could have very well ruined me. Get yourself a few critique partners, take the advice you agree with, even if it hurts. Scrap the advice you don’t like, and revise, revise revise. You owe it to yourself and the world you have created to make sure you have done your very best. Trust me on this.

aubreyAubrie is 24 years young. She plays mom to a cutest demon topside, and is married to the hottest man in the Air Force. When she isn’t writing she is daydreaming about hot brooding anti-heroes and sassy heroines. She loves Dragon Age, rewatching Game of Thrones and reading all things fantasy. She runs a local YA/NA bookclub with 3 chapters, and over 200 members. Her favorite thing to do is eat, and her thighs thank her graciously for it. If she could have dinner with anyone living or dead it would be Alan Rickman because his voice is the sexiest sound on earth. He could read the dictionary and she would be enthralled. Her current mission in life is to collect creepy taxidermy animals because she finds them cute and hilarious. She resides just outside of Washington DC.