I have a lot on my mind that I want to cover for today. It could be quite the lengthy journal entry. It might not. It’s very hard to say.
Some of this, I am going to say right now, is pretty much geared towards one person. I know the chances of her actually reading this don’t actually exist. She’s made it clear, twice now, she has no intentions of learning more about me and allowing me to learn more about her. Staying in a particular comfort zone for friendships is a thing, but it’s also rather boring, at least for me. I’m the type of person I don’t care if we have a whole lot in common, if you have a good energy about you, I want to know you and hear your story.
Anyway, some of this is primarily for an audience of one. If she reads this, she’ll know who she is.
In regards to everything that happened in the past, so what. You received a few rejection letters from an agent. Less than a handful, if I remember correctly.
So what. Stephen King and J.K. Rowling received more than that before they were finally published the traditional way, and look at where they’re at now. Amanda Hocking received more than three rejection letters, kept on writing, and self-published everything she’d written. She became the first self-published author to earn a million dollars on Amazon. Publishing houses began to court her after that.
You’ve had a lot of people tell you the “right way” to gain publishing success, so much so, you bought into it, allowed them to douse the flames of your passion, allowed them to whip “the horse” to the point of being broken and nearly dead. You’ve started a few novels since then, but you’ve completed nothing. The fear you’ve allowed into your heart over the rejection, the verbal and mental abuse of the critique group, the idea you have to write something “marketable” has dictated to you that somehow you’d be a failure no matter. You didn’t get your instant gratification, like we’ve all become accustomed to receiving in this day and age. And, yes, I, too, have succumbed to instant gratification. How can I not? The internet is this amazing thing! Post a story to a website, a piece of art, a video, and it’s available, immediately, to millions of people. Everything we could ever want is available at the tips of our fingers, next day delivery sometimes guaranteed.
You wanted the traditional route over self-publishing. That route is filled with pain and determination. What would our world be like if every author who has published a story did so because they feared the rejection and the pain and humiliation that comes along with it? What would our lives be like if we didn’t have the magical, allegorical world of Harry Potter in which to entrench us and to teach us? What would our mental states be if we didn’t have the darkness that pours from the pages of Stephen King and Dean Koontz to confront us on the deepest, darkest aspects of our souls?
You don’t see self-publishing as real publishing yet every self-published author will tell you how thrilled they are to have copies of their books in their hands. Self-published is also not for the faint of heart, those seeking that instant gratification and success. It’s hard work. It puts the fate of your career in your own hands. It’s your chance to prove to the world that you can do this, that you are strong enough to handle this.
The flames only die, the horse only reaches death, when you allow it, when you stop feeding and nurturing the very things you claim to love and care about. Yes, take that criticism. Learn, grow, IMPROVE. Don’t take every negative remark to heart about how “lousy” your writing can be. Not everyone who leaves criticism has your best interest at heart, even if they claim otherwise.
Why, you might ask?
Because there is no clear path to success. The way there is filled with turns. Sometimes you have to trace backwards. It’s a mess of scribbles, blood, sweat, and tears, but the final product is well worth the sacrifices along the way. Because what has worked for one author may not necessarily work for you.
Now, I can’t make the decision to be a writer for you. For anyone. That’s something everyone must do some serious soul-searching on because writing is HARD WORK. It’s hours and hours of rough-drafting, second, third, editing out, revising, and loathing the process. It’s moments of hair-pulling stress and aggravation. If any tells you that they haven’t done such a thing, chances are, they’re either lying about being an author or just don’t care enough about what they’ve written to put the effort into the project. This path is not easy. And, yes, you need a day job before greater success comes your way, but there is always success in every little thing you did. You got a rejection letter? Great! What did that actually teach you? Did it fill you with dread and despair? Or are you going to decide to learn to do better? Are you going to decide to keep taking the chances on yourself and prove to the world that you are worth the time and investment?
A wise man once said we invest in what we value.
So, if you see this some day, maybe even today (I don’t know – again, while I hope that this person will see this, I do know she feels I am not worth the time of day), let me ask you this:
What are you going to do when the desire to create becomes too much? What happens when the strong desire to crank out something true and authentic to you overrides all of your senses? Are you going to kill those urges? Or are you going to listen to the voices of your guides, who truly know you better than me or anyone else on this planet, and follow your heart? If you are a positive thinker, negative thoughts about writing should not exist in your heart or your mind. Positive thinking chases out the negative. Warmth and love banish it even further.
I truly believe if you didn’t love to write, you wouldn’t have tried again. Chase away your fears. Silence the voices of your naysayers, and just write your blessed and beautiful stories.
Do this because it truly makes you happy. I know you’ve experienced the thrill and the rush of completing a story. Remember that. Draw that exhilaration into you, and use it as fuel to propel you forward!
Now for everyone else.
I have experienced from family the encouragement to do other things with my life. To pursue the more “practical” side because getting published was a long shot. It just didn’t happen to “ordinary” folks such as ourselves. Yet, if you stop and think about it, what was truly extraordinary about Stephen King? J.K. Rowling? Dean Koontz? Anne McCaffrey? Or any hundreds of authors out there who have been published? Was it luck?
Perhaps but not as nearly as much as we’d like to believe. Most of these authors were, at one point, ordinary folks. Just like you. Just like me. They, too, experienced rejection. Words of discouragement. Everything every artist has ever endured since humans started to veer away from artistic pursuits in favor of the office cubicle or industrial work, yet such people have still relied on the arts as a means to ease the mundaneness of their lives.
Remember my last entry where I spoke about what of my biggest influences for my life?
The Bangles. One of the biggest, most popular bands of the mid-1980s comprised of four women who learned how to make music, either by learning on their own or being taught by a family member. Four women who spent copious amounts of time practicing their craft, working out the kinks to lyrics, drumbeats, guitar chords, and keyboard arrangements.
What separates the wannabe author from the published author is the following: Grit, determination, faith in him/herself (self-doubt is present, too, don’t get me wrong on that) on his/her success, and a strong desire to succeed. I can tell you there is nothing like holding a copy of a book you’ve spent countless hours on. It’s such an indescribable sensation. It’s giddiness, it’s disbelief (is this actually real? Oh my gods, it’s real), and it’s just sheer . . . joy.
It doesn’t matter if the book comes from a traditional publisher, a hybrid publisher, or through a site like Lulu or CreateSpace. I will say that again. It doesn’t matter if the book comes from a traditional publisher, a hybrid publisher, or through a site like Lulu or CreateSpace. YOU WILL FEEL THAT JOY, THAT DISBELIEF, THAT EXCITEMENT. It can be your first book, your fifth, or your tenth. That happiness will always be with you, that testament to persevering, and accomplishing a goal. Everything else after will fall into place.
And, yes, you, as an author, will need someone to keep you in check – always believe yourself capable of learning and improving your craft; if you feel like you don’t need an editor or a critique group, you will fail – so here are some basic steps to help you improve.
1 – Find a critique group.
I’ve joined three, but I’ve only utilized one. Trust me, there are more out there, but the three that I know of are AbsoluteWrite, Critique Circle, and Scribophile. Critique Circle looks interesting, but I’ve not popped over there to use them just yet. I can’t give any testimonials for or against them.
AbsoluteWrite left a bad taste in my mouth (and was also the same site the person I spoke to utilized; her experiences were enough to make me wary, but I forged ahead anyway).
Scribophile is where I’ve had my success.
To beginning authors, I recommend joining the sites and hanging out in the forums. If a critique group gives you a negative vibe, listen to that and walk away. I don’t care if it’s Scribophile or some other group. Trust your instincts. You know where you’re going to have your success at by gauging how the older members of the groups interact with the newer members. Mind you, some of the older members can be bitchy and will give inane advice on “be grateful for anything you get because you’re not owed anything” but trust yourself in that you know what works best in improving your work. If you don’t know what type of critiques will work for you, you soon will. I discovered at Scribophile that I detested other people rewriting my sentences for me. Why? Because it didn’t teach me how to rewrite sentences for myself. The critiquer in question wasn’t allowing me to use my own critical thinking and creative skills by coming up with the solution for me. (If someone’s doing line editing for you, too, they’re also not taking into consideration that the line they’ve spent some time on editing for you may end up deleted. That is the painful part of editing – deciding what’s no longer working and cutting it loose.) Striking out the things they thought were unnecessary and not saying as much is also an aggravation. Truth, I’m looking for content, cohesion, flow, character development, and overall flow. Mechanics mean nothing if your story’s content is utter shit.
Don’t be afraid to say what it is you’re looking for in a critique, okay? However, if someone tries to focus on the story but can’t because of bad mechanics, fix those errors and try again! You have no idea how much bad mechanics can ruin a story. If someone tries to tell you that a certain critiquing style is the only way they can be effective, gently remind them that effectiveness is in the eye of the beholder. We all learn what works best for us!
If you can’t find a critique group, create one. Don’t be afraid to critique, either. I’ve found my skills as a writer improving when I take the time to actually critique someone else’s work. I find where I get repetitious or overuse words.
Never underestimate that value!
2 – Set aside the time to actually write and some daily goals.
Writing is just like going to a regular job. If you don’t show up, you don’t get paid.
3 – Build your audience.
We’re in the lovely age of technology so building an audience before you query out or self-publish is a good thing! I wish I would have taken a bit more time to build up more of a prospective audience by the time I’d published Portal to Gaming.
4 – Be prepared to promote and write at the same time.
Unless you’re Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, whose names sell for themselves, you’re going to be spending as much time promoting yourself and expanding your audience base as you are writing. Even if you go the traditional route.
5 – Don’t just pick up pen and paper (or open that word document) to write. Know what you like!
This is actually something I’ve seen happen a few times in some group on Facebook. A new person joins, they want to write a book, but they don’t know what to write about. This problem can actually be oh so easily avoided by knowing what it is you like to read about. That’s what you’re doing as a writer. You’re writing the stories that YOU want to read. I can’t pick the type of story for you to tell. I can only pick the stories that I want to tell.
I’m keeping it simple here. There’s more you can do, but you have to decide what it is you want to do. This is simple preparation. It’s up to you, the unpublished author, the “I’m testing the waters” author, as to what you want to do and how you want to get there.
One thing I look forward to doing upon either getting into a larger room in this new house or upon moving out of this house (whichever is likely to happen first) is creating a writing atmosphere. Being science-fiction and fantasy, I would love to have dragon, wizard, and unicorn figurines decorating my small but wonderful writing desk. Yeah. I’m not going after the behemoth Stephen King had, the one that took up an entire room. I actually love my little writing desk that I have right now. It’s just doing dual work of writing and spiritual. (And both are a bit one in the same for me, too. My only problem is the number of my Oracle decks and rune sets keep expanding! I need a different table for them! LOL)
To the person I initially spoke to at the start – I wish you the best of luck. If you were to publish your first two novels in two weeks to Kindle and to other PoD sites, you’d have enough in sales to make everything worth it. You’re the only one who can truly determine whether or not you’re a failure. Not me. Not the rest of the world. Success is how we define it!
In regards to Ravensrealm, I’m debating if the current fight I’ve engaged my party in is going to be part of the final chapter of the book or if I’m going to keep pushing forward to the questing group’s final destination. I have a feeling a few things are going to be cut.
And that’s okay!
In the meantime, I have a notebook and a pen to retrieve.
Please check out my ebooks at Amazon and Barnes and Noble