Tag Archives: writing life

D.H. Aire: Rearview Mirror

Rearview Mirror

By D.H. Aire

Looking back, I could focus on the number of books I published by June and say, “Look what I accomplished.” But that’s not how I see the business of being a writer.

I always have to be working on another book or three. I figured that if I was to get noticed as an author, I needed to write a series. That turned into writing four series at the same time this year. Or it was supposed to be.

I was working on the concluding book of my main series and was getting bogged down. So, I played with a short story and wrote it as a novella. TOR’s looking for novellas these days. Alas, the novella seemed to be missing something. So, I found myself re-writing it as a novel. Possibly a stand-alone, but the odds are it may be the first book in a YA series.

Then I told myself, focus, you need to finish the last book of your series. So, I worked on one of the other books in need of a second and third draft for a while, then I put that aside and finished the last book in my series and sent it to my editor.

Ta, da, now that was an accomplishment. I was behind schedule, but it was done—until my editor sent me the draft back. Yes, draft. She felt it wasn’t polished and pacing was off in the beginning of the book. So, I’ve been working on that. Too slowly as life and work keep tugging at me.

So, here’s what I think as the U.S. elections approached and my sales dropped. Something I’ve heard friends in the business remark about, too. The polishing of the climax of my series is damn important. Yes, I want to send off copies to beta readers, but my editor could see that I had something still too close to second draft in places.

I’ve completed a third of the work and hope my editor gives me the nod, but if she doesn’t, I’ll do what I’ve always done. I’ll let the story evolve and get better and better. My writer’s fear is that I’ve written too fast at times, knowing I need to build my brand, produce book after book to earn more money. Last year my biggest accomplishment was qualifying to join SFWA (the Science Fiction Writers of America). That was my dream.

The reality is writing is hard work. I’m a creative writer. I enjoy writing. I can’t help but write. Fine, it’s a sickness. I love the genre and I’m now playing a part in it. Likely not a big part, but I connect with readers and potential fans at conventions and book fairs and network as best I can.

That’s in some ways the easiest part of my becoming a professional writer.

Working on the seventh book or a seven book series, one I started writing over twenty-five years ago, that’s an accomplishment I’m proud of. No one who knew me would have thought, hey, he’s going to be a sci fi and fantasy author one day. Who am I kidding? I had teachers who wrote an IP on me saying I was learning disabled and needed remedial reading assignments for years.

My revenge was reading all of John Carter of Mars in a couple of weeks, my father complaining about my buying them at the book store rather than getting them from the library. My mother was a teacher, she slipped me more money to buy books. I bought the Foundation Trilogy and the Dragonriders of Pern Series.

So, looking in the rearview mirror, I know I’m accomplishing what I need to, knowing I need to do so much more. But I’m writing, I re-writing, and I likely won’t publish as many books next year. But I will publish a kick-ass climax to my series and that will get me noticed just a little bit more. And isn’t that what being a writer is all about?

 

Bio

D.H. Aire has walked the ramparts of the Old City of Jerusalem and through an escape tunnel of a Crusader fortress that Richard the Lionheart once called home – experiences that have found expression in his writing of his fantasy/sci fi Highmage’s Plight and Hands of the Highmage Series. He is also the author the Dare 2 Believe and Terran Catalyst Series.

His most recently published short story appears in Street Magick: Tales of Urban Fantasy (Elder Signs Press).

Follow him at: Twitter @dare2believe1, Facebook (Dare 2 Believe), and his blog on www.dhr2believe.net.

L.J. Hachmeister: A Tale of Disappointment, Fear, and Murder

 My Year in Review: A Tale of Disappointment, Fear, and Murder.

By L.J. Hachmeister

2016 started off with a bang. I just finished my first out-of-state convention with a group of established authors, and got asked to join their touring group. On top of that, I was promised a seven-book contract for my science fiction/fantasy series, Triorion, by the managing editor of my favorite publishing house. For the first time in my literary career, after years of frustration and despair, I had hope. And hope can be a dangerous thing.

In February, I attended Superstars Writing Seminars. Being a frugal person, I balked at the ticket price, but after the first hour, I realized it wasn’t an expense, but an investment. In that conference room were some very big names in the industry as well as up-and-coming authors, and talking to them without the craze of a Comic Con or being under the stress of selling books allowed us the time to trade secrets, and give each other insight into our publishing experiences. Finally, after years of feeling alone in my literary struggles, I felt like I had allies.

Things started to unravel not too long after Superstars. The seven-book contract fell through, and the touring group disbanded. My mentor, someone who I had deeply trusted, disappeared, leaving me stranded in a strange author limbo. Because of this, I felt plagued by disappointment and frustration, and full of doubt. Triorion was the most important story I had every written, and landing a publishing contract for that series was my greatest wish. Having hope like that—feeling like the publishing contract was right in front of me, only to have it evaporate—left me shattered.

I vowed to never hope again.

In the early spring, one of my good friends called me up and asked me to critique the short story he wanted to enter for the Superstars anthology, Dragon Writers. When he found out I didn’t have a story to enter, he gave me some much-needed encouragement. Still, I didn’t feel like I had much to offer. I was experiencing manuscript burnout from working around the clock on the Triorion series, and I didn’t like dragons. Seriously. Dragons frightened me; they represented a genre I didn’t feel comfortable writing in, and I feared what I didn’t understand about them.

Still, part of me understood that you shouldn’t pass up opportunities, no matter how intimidating or out-of-reach they may seem. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t terrified with every word I typed out for my story, Heart of the Dragon.

In the month it took the editor to get back to us about our entries, my fear turned into anger. I no longer hoped that Heart of the Dragon would be accepted; I knew it wasn’t, and I was all the more frustrated with myself, the writing industry, and all the blood, sweat, and tears I had put into my stories. Triorion fan letters dulled some of the hurt, but I felt beaten down.

And yet, I didn’t stop writing. I can’t tell you exactly what keeps me going. Encouragement from fans is fantastic, as is that ineffable feeling when a character truly comes to life on paper. But there’s something else. Perhaps it’s a mix of insanity and unrelenting desire, but even before I heard back about Heart of the Dragon, I made a decision: I wouldn’t stop, ever. There is no other choice. Writing is a need of my soul.

Now, keep in mind I had vowed off hope and prepared myself for rejection for Heart of the Dragon, but when I opened the email from the editor, and I didn’t see the words, “we regret that we will have to pass,” and instead, “congratulations,” I screamed. Finally, something real—and it was born from my lowest point.

But my biggest challenge was yet to come. Despite a successful convention year, I finally acknowledged something I had been down-playing: I needed to write something other than Triorion. It sold well, but it wasn’t catching fire like it needed to if it was going to get picked up by a big publishing house.

The truth about killed me. After all, I had already written book five, and was well into book six of the seven-book series. How could I stop now? Even with my meticulous notetaking, I was bound to forget some nuance, some critical component of the nearly million-word saga—and I left my characters right in the middle of a terrible intergalactic battle!

As I struggled with my decision, my editor gave me feedback on a short story I had written for another anthology. Along the top of the paper, she wrote in big bold letters: “murder your darlings.” A google search later, and I realized what she meant: I had to kill what I felt was brilliant and precious in my work if I wanted to be successful. I found that it didn’t just apply to that story, but to my biggest decision this year. I had to put aside Triorion.

Inspired by my friends and martial arts training partners, I sat down and wrote, Shadowless: Outlier, the first book in an illustrated novel series. I thought it would be difficult to write something new, especially since I had been writing in the original Triorion storyline for twenty-nine years. However, my 10,000+ hours of writing experience really smoothed out the process, and I ended up writing the entire novel in less than five months.

My year was tough, but in the end, I met a lot of cool authors, sold out at every convention, got published, wrote a new novel, and landed a literary agent. If I could go back and give myself advice about how to manage through the toughest times, I would tell myself this: Stay flexible, say yes to as many opportunities as you can, and get everything in writing.

And it’s okay to hope.

 

Author L.J Hachmeister writes and fights—though she tries to avoid doing them at the same time. The WEKAF world champion stick-fighter is best known in the literary world for her epic science fiction series, Triorion, and her equally epic love of sweets. Connect with her at: www.triorion.com

Welcome to December – 2016 in Review

This month, the Fictorians and a slew of guest authors are going to share their successes, failures, lessons learned, and insights to the writing journey that we’ve experienced this year. December is usually a time of reflection for everyone as the calendar winds down. Looking back on our year is often a measurement of how far we’ve come as writers and human beings. To that end, this month’s theme is “2016 in Review.”

Each of us will share memorable events from the last twelve months and maybe a few lessons learned. A lot can happen in a year, even one that passes as quickly as 2016 seems to have gone. For me, 2016 has been a watershed year and as it comes to a close, I’m a bit humbled by what’s happened and, if possible, more excited about my journey as a writer than I’ve ever been. A tremendous amount of wonderful things have happened this year for me, and yet as I write this I’m slogging through a work in progress that I don’t want to write, but must finish (damn you, Heinlein!). As a firm believer in perspective, especially at the end of the calendar year, I wanted to coordinate this month for my fellow Fictorians and get all of thinking about the good, the bad, and even the ugly from the last twelve months.

I’ve already talked about my ugly, but I’ll define it. I’m working on an alternate history novel that’s kicking me in the pants every day. I have a solid story, a great outline, and good characters, but I’m constantly chickening out of actually writing the damned thing. I’m 20,000 words in (90,000 projected) and it’s tough to just write. Granted, I’ve started a new job and been taking care of my spouse after a complicated food surgery (which involves the care, feeding, and parenting of two munchkins), but I’m way behind where I wanted to be on this book. And it’s due in February. Sigh. I’d feel terrible about this except that I know I can write fast, and especially write clean and fast. I think I’ll make my deadline, but I’ve got to settle a few other things in my head. Among all that stuff is dealing with the good things that have happened so I can celebrate but not rest on my laurels.

Before I retired from the Army, there was a wide-reaching movement for leaders to consider their “work/life balance.” If anything, mine’s way skewed to the work side right now and not unlike it was when I wrote the first drafts of SLEEPER PROTOCOL in 2012-2013. I was still able to write then, and I can now, it just takes a little self-discipline and determination. When I need that extra motivation, all I have to do is turn my head to the right and a shelf over my desk. This year is framed beautifully by that image and it’s been the kind of year we dream of having.

SLEEPER PROTOCOL was published in January, was reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly, and has sold way more copies than I would have imagined. Just a week later, another publisher released my military science fiction novel RUNS IN THE FAMILY. That book also sold incredibly well, but the small press who published it shuttered just last week. I have a couple of options working right now to get it back into publication (though the audiobook is still available!). I also had short fiction published in several different venues including the DRAGON WRITERS anthology alongside Brandon Sanderson, Jody Lynn Nye, Todd McCaffrey, and David Farland to name a few. I qualified as an Active Member in the Science Fiction Writers of America. The sequel to SLEEPER PROTOCOL is in the final stages of content editing right now. It’s been an incredible year, but I’ll share my own personal highlight at the end of the month.

The stories you’ll see this month will highlight the good, the bad, and the ugly. This is what we writers deal with on a daily basis. Sometimes our efforts culminate in great years, and others not so much. The key is perseverance and determination – we’re sharing our successes and challenges in the hopes they’ll help you and each other out. I hope this month’s posts do exactly that for all of us.

Editors: Angels or Demons

Editors: Angels and Demons
Editors: Angels and Demons
Image found at: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/544372673681409283/

We’ve already had great posts about dealing with rejection , handling criticism, and taking a story back down to the studs when it has to be done.

Today I want to focus on a different aspect of shepherding your story through those difficult growing pains between completing the first draft and clicking “Publish”.

Getting the critique from your editor.

Whether you’re a traditionally published author working with the editor from the publishing house, or an indie author who hired their own freelance editor, this is a required step. An editor must work over your manuscript, and they return it dripping with red ink.

Talk about damage control. What happened to that perfect draft you completed, reviewed twice, and sent out absolutely READY. You were confident that all the editor would have to say about the story is that it’s the best thing they’ve ever read, and can you autograph the manuscript for them?

If only.

It’s always shocking to get that edit back. How can there be so much wrong with this story when I poured so much of myself into it? The most startling situation is when an editor says, “I really loved this story.” But accompanies that positive feedback with a thirty page critique and hundreds of minor corrections.

The first time I received an edited manuscript, I felt a flood of emotion, from “there’s no way they understood me” to “I’m such a hack and I’ll never make it as a writer” to “Are you kidding me? Did they even read the story?”

edited manuscriptI handle it a little better now. Mostly.

Editors are not paid to be sweet. They are paid to tell the truth and to point out far more than simple grammatical errors. Sure, line edits are important, but a story needs a pass from a good content/developmental editor who can point out logic holes, problems with pacing, character arc, emotional beats, and much more.

Here’s a few keys to handling that traumatic day when you get your edits back:

  1. DO NOT build a giant pyre in your backyard and burn your manuscript.
  2. Do make sure you hired a professional, competent editor. Sure, your cousin who took some English classes might offer some helpful insights, but they’re not an editor. Indie authors often want to skimp on paying an editor, which can be one of the biggest financial investments of writing a book. Don’t be one of those writers. The investment is absolutely worth it.
  3. Take a deep breath and read through the entire critique before diving in and making changes. Make sure you understand their points, and give their feedback time to sink in.
  4. Put your pride in a drawer. You can take it out later. Maybe. Yes, you’re awesome and you’re welcome to hold onto the dream that the story is going to change the world and be more widely read than Harry Potter. But it’s still a draft, so it needs work.
  5. Remember, you have blind spots. No one can see them all. You cannot afford to release a sub-par novel. Your editor can point out those holes and blind spots. Use this as a chance to learn.
  6. Editing is how your story shines. Sometimes you need major edits, sometimes only minor polishing, but why spend months creating a story only to resist that last 10% that will turn your story into a masterpiece?
  7. Learn to enjoy the process. It takes practice, but through editing, you can grow your writing skills, learn new techniques, shed bad habits, and see your blind spots. If you loved your story the first time you work through it, you’ll love it even more the fourth time, when it’s fully realized.

At first, you may think the editor is a demon incarnate for ripping into your story like they do. If you follow the process to the end, though, you’ll realize they were really angels in disguise, helping you bring forth a much greater work.

If you’re lucky, you’ll only need to go through the full editing process once for that novel.

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinA Stone's Throw coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers sci-fi time travel thrillers, check his website: www.frankmorin.org