The Fear of the Known World

In case you aren’t aware, this year’s Harlequin/Mills & Boon sponsored mega writing contest, So You Think You Can Write, begins taking submissions of first chapters and pitches on Monday. As you may know, I entered one of my inspirational romance WIPs in the contest last year on the very last day that you could submit, not expecting much. I didn’t make it into the top 50, but I made a ton of writing buddies. I threw myself into NaNoWriMo with a completely different type of manuscript and started taking the possibility of a writing career seriously. It was this contest that started it all for me. One year and a slef-published Christian non-fiction book later, and I again have the opportunity to enter. I’m a year better and wiser. I have a new WIP that scored high in a contest this year and that all of those judges are confident would catch an editor’s eye. You would think I’d be falling all over myself to hit the submit button. Except…

…the sales of that four year labor of love, Altered before the Altar, aren’t exactly soaring. I have no idea what I’m doing, marketing wise. No one is buying it, and I don’t know how to fix it. The things I do know to do, I can’t seem to get myself into position to do–get reviews, garner attention through guest posts, host giveaways, etc.

…I’m a nobody. Nobody knows about my blogs, twitter, facebook, or Instagram. No one is beating down my door to represent me or buy my books. The people who matter in publishing have no idea that I even exist. I haven’t gone up in followers/friends very much in all of my posting and commenting. I’m just as stuck and below the radar on social media as I am in real life social situations.

Of course, none of this has any real bearing on my reluctance to participate in SYTYCW2014. All of this was true last year, minus the book I can’t seem to give away, let alone sale. So let’s get to the real reasons, shall we?

…I’ve racked up three rejections and an almost contest final in romance submissions. That’s a real stab in the gut. All of the feedback for the submissions is the same: promising, but not quite there yet.

…I have an even greater chance of not making the second round this year. Instead of a Top 50, SYTYCW2014 has a top 25. My chances are half as good as last year for getting to the second round. If the same number enter as entered last year, that’s over 650 authors vying for 25 spots, or a 1 in 26 chance.

…The timeline is much tighter. SYTYCW2014 will announce a winner nearly a full month sooner than last year. If I make the second round, I have less than a week to get the complete manuscript turned around. There’s not as much time for revising and editing and such this time around, so whatever I enter has to be written, revised and edited before they pick the top 25 October 6, or about 3 weeks from now.

…I know what to expect. I know my work will be seen by editors and other participants. I know that feedback can be brutal. I know I can get to the Top 25 and not make the Top 10, or make the Top 10 and not win. I know that they could still contact me after the contest if they want me to submit my full, revise and resubmit or etc. I know how hard, how improbable, but still so possible all of this really is. I know what needs to be done better this time around in my writing. And it’s scary me stupid.

…I am still finding things in the story I need to fix. There are still places where the motivation needs to be clearer, the conflict stronger, still places that can be wrung out for more emotion. There are still a couple of places I don’t want to go with it but I have to go with it to make it a real contender. I don’t know if I have it in me to take it to that next level.

But there are some good reasons for me to enter this year:

…my writing is stronger.

…Everyone who has read even a chapter or two of this story loves it. I knew from the moment I had the idea for this story that these characters were the kind that don’t let go. The idea feels fresh and the conflicts feel impossible to overcome initially. It has the makings of a great story.

…because all of the judges in the Valerie Parv Award Contest think this story should be in front of an editor (even the published author, who pointed out the areas for improvement as well as the things I nailed).

…because of that contest, I already have a synopsis (and pointers on how to make it stronger).

…because this might be one of those defining moments where everything changes and nothing is like it was before.

…because I know I’m not going to give up on this dream. If no other copies of Altered before the Altar get sold, or everyone hates it; if I don’t sell a romance for another five years, and when I do the reading public pans it; if the only thing about my writing anyone could say at my funeral is “at least she isn’t writing anymore”–I’m going to keep writing and reaching for this dream.

So, anyway, I say all of this to say: I’m entering my first chapter in SYTYCW 2014 this year.

XOXO,

Erica

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I’ve been facing a dilemma for a while now. I think it’s a silly dilemma, but unless it’s life or death, most usually are. They are usually not of your own making as well, at least in my case. My current writing dilemma is making me a little bit irritated, but maybe you guys have some thoughts on it that will help me decide what to do.

As you may be aware, I attempted my first romantic suspense story during NaNoWriMo. The characters were the easiest I’ve ever written–the story flowed from my fingertips with few moments of “what the heck should they do now?” or “what is she going to say to that?” Some of the characters are a little too fond of sexual innuendo and some of them are alpha males, so while the book doesn’t contain more than a simmer, it’s too much for a line like Love Inspired Suspense.

Not only did I fall in love with these, the two tamest of the characters so far, ideas for other people in their world took off. I have outlines or ideas for three more romantic suspense offerings. But beyond these four stories that I am happily charting? I don’t know if I have any other suspense books in me. The first book was a fun adventure into something new, and the others are characters from that bold new thing that just clamored for their own story. I don’t have any other suspense ideas waiting in the wings. But I have a TON of Love Inspired things waiting.

I have a big connecting event that links eight stories I’m tentatively calling the Always Series. I’m still getting to know the characters, but I love them and their stories. I have a little something from most major tropes and I can’t wait to twist them into something that’s uniquely mine. They feature strong Christian characters whose beliefs are put to the test and the things that they’ve held onto that aren’t like God are stripped away by this life changing event. And there are other stories beyond this series–Pleasure’s story, Josie’s story, Hope’s story, Patience’s story–that are not connected but would fit with the Love Inspired line. Not to mention stories that fit neither of these modes. I love and read all sorts of stories and want to write all sorts of stories. I still haven’t given up hope of branching into memoir, literary fiction, and non-fiction Christian living. But it doesn’t seem possible to do it all the way I would like.

I spoke to some people familiar with Harlequin, my dream home for my romances, and they have said that Harlequin prefers that as a new writer you build your audience in one line. Only veteran authors write across lines after establishing their audience and building a solid fan base. So if I sell my romantic suspense first, I would be committed to romantic suspense for the foreseeable future and then would have to speak with my editor and agent if applicable to try and work out writing for another line. Also, there is the general rule of thumb that if you write for the inspirational lines you should write across lines. I’m sure I didn’t say that correctly, but that’s the gist.

The only options I could think of are to write one genre under a pen name, go with another publisher for one genre, self-publish one genre, or give up on a genre…for now. I’m not new to writing by any means. I’ve spent 25 years with all of these stories backed up in me waiting to spill out. I’ve taken classes and attended workshops and have followed forums, boards, and threads. I have developed my voice if not my following. I don’t want to give up on getting ALL of the stories I have within me out to the masses.

One other option presented was to try and gear the romantic suspense stories to Love Inspired Suspense, but the characters won’t work within that line. For example, Mallory’s best friend Emma is bawdy and full of sexual innuendo and Jake’s body makes Mallory think about liking her way around his abs, even if she doesn’t do it. A lot of the fun of the stories is this offbeat humor and flirty fun. I’ve been told that not having premarital sex may not fit with the other romantic suspense lines, so I may have to submit my romantic suspense elsewhere for that reason anyway.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Does anyone know of another reputable publisher I should be considering? How do you solve your writing dilemmas?

XOXO,

Erica

P.S. A couple of things:

1. I am going to be adding reviews to this site! That was part of the original purpose, and I have a few reviews on here, but I want to start reviewing some Harlequin titles and get my readership up to be approved for Love Inspired titles through NetGalley. I will create a tab for reviews and link all of the pertinent details. I also review Harlequins (not inspy) on Harlequin Junkie. All my reviews have Erica tags.

2. There will be other changes to the site that I am working on but they aren’t ready to be revealed yet. Any changes you would like to see?

Write, Revise, Repeat

I have to be honest: I was crushed when my entry wasn’t chosen to be in the top fifty. I thought my entry was amazing, and it was–just not for the place I submitted it. All of that advice that led me to believe I’d started the book in the wrong place, that the opening line wasn’t strong enough, that there was too much backstory, and that the hero and heroine didn’t meet soon enough was great advice for the publisher I was targeting. When they announced some people had to pull out or were disqualified and they were choosing a few more, I saw a chance at redemption. Perhaps someone had liked my story enough to take a chance on it. In the end, this wasn’t to be, either. So I had a decision to make: revise to fit the publisher and try again or work towards getting a different publisher.

At some point after a rejection with no more explanation than a form “not what we’re looking for at this time,” the author has to decide if the manuscript itself needs fixing or if they are targeting the wrong agents/editors/publishers for the manuscript. Looking over what I wrote in the frenetic time of the competition, I realized that my book wasn’t targeted to the wrong line; it was just bad.

Pleasure’s Payne is a great story. It focuses on a young woman who has recently lost her father and may lose the company he worked so hard to build to a board that doesn’t believe she can be a leader. Her father’s best friend and former fiancée are plotting against her. She is just trying to preserve what she has–until she meets the hero. The hero doesn’t want to get involved with another damaged woman after what happened last year. He knows that the heroine wouldn’t be interested in him if she knew about last year, and his association with her can add fuel to the incompetency fire regarding her ability to lead the company, but someone has to help her. The things they face together while trying to restore their faith and find meaning in their shattered lives brings them together in such a sweet way. The story excites me so much. Too bad it needs a LOT of work.

It turns out those editors are right. There IS too much backstory at the beginning. It DOES start in the wrong place. There are also some plot inconsistencies, shifting POV confusions, and sequence problems that need to be worked out in the revision process, not to mention some extensive editing to fix the tense in some areas and make better word choices in others. Being defiant and self-publishing my masterpiece in its current state wouldn’t do me any favors.

Learning how to incorporate constructive criticism, give yourself time to revise and edit to a polished work, and writing queries, pitches, and synopses that will hook the right person is not an exact science, and neither is knowing when to self-publish. I’d like to think I’m learning how to make my writing the best it can be, and send it in where it should be sent. This time I only got it half right, but someday soon, I’ll light upon the right combination that leads to getting my books in reader’s hands.

How do you decide to revise, self-publish, or discard? Any tips for writers new to submitting?

XOXO

Erica

Found an Editor; Now to Write a Book…

I can’t believe I did it again! Someone I follow on twitter recently released a book, and it is selling like ice water in Hell (or like I imagine ice water would sell in Hell if there were ice water and people could buy it). This woman wrote the book in about three months (how, I have no idea) an then had it edited. Since she wrote a Christian non-fiction book, as I am striving to write, I wanted to know who she got to edit her book. Once she gave me a name, I reached out to this editor. I wasn’t expecting a fast response, but I received one in a day or two. The editor wants to see three pages of my work and get the page count to determine price. She will start editing for 2013 on the 22nd. So by my boyfriend’s birthday, I need to have this book finished. That’s 19 days from today.

I always do better with deadlines, so this is good, right? Except I’m not done writing. Or revising. I think that I can be done by the 22nd. I already know what I want to say, for the most part. The most arduous things will be picking the quotes from interviews and revising the manuscript once I have it all written down. I’ve never worked with an editor, so it should be interesting. I know everyone needs an editor, but my arrogance is cropping up again in this area. I feel like she won’t have a lot to do and I will be paying her for nothing. Ha! As many errors as I find in pieces I am “done” with, I should know to be humble and check everything again once I think it’s perfect. I don’t know if this is the right editor for me, but I am excited to get started on the next phase, to delve into what happens after the writing and revising. I am excited for someone else to evaluate my work, even if only clinically and not for enjoyment. The next step will be beta readers, someone to write a forward, and that most dreaded aspect of writing, building a writer platform/getting published.

Does anyone have any tips for working with an editor or any stories on working with one? I’d love to hear from someone who has been there and done that.

Taking Myself Seriously

Personal Photo. Where they kept powder for the cannons in the Castillo de San Marcos, a fort never taken in battle. St. Augustine.

It’s been such a long time, friends! I’ve been working so hard on my book and feeling like I have nowhere in the world to talk about all the stress, struggles, triumphs and decisions I have to make. Then I remembered I do have somewhere to talk about these things to people who might get it; here!

I worked up the courage to approach the man about the book from my last entry. A while ago, I sent an email, but I never got a response back. I felt a little crushed. I really wanted his perspective on publishing and help with this book. But what I realized is this is my vision and my book, and it’s up to me to get it out there to the world. I wasn’t even close to being ready to share anything that I’d written of the book; I wasn’t even done writing it! I didn’t have a completed chapter yet. I was a mess. I should know better than to reach out before I have anything to send if someone should be interested. It was a rookie mistake.

Since I’ve gone back to the drawing board, I have discovered an interesting thing about my book: I can tie nearly every chapter to the story of Adam and Eve without stretching too much and overselling it. Everything else I want to talk about flows easily out of this pivotal beginning. What I decided to do is to make the Adam & Eve chapter my introductory chapter, to introduce each topic that will be in other chapters as well as to say something of its own. The way that the organization of the book is coming together is really a blessing.

The second inspiring thing happened when I was speaking to my minister a couple of weeks ago. He mentioned that he had read some of the things I had given him to read from my book and he really enjoyed it. It was so encouraging that he had actually read it and took the time to let me know he enjoyed it. There’s nothing like having someone come up to you and give unsolicited praise of your work. When I was in high school, this happened to me a few times and I remember feeling so pleased, especially because of who it was that was speaking. It opens you up like a flower to sunshine. It makes you want to write even more and let’s you know that no matter how fruitless it can seem while sitting with your butt in the chair, it really is worth it. I love when my writing touches people, causes them to look at something a different way, takes them to another place. It’s the best feeling in the world.

What I’m learning with this book is that there is so much depth to writing that I hadn’t touched. By not doing all of the rewriting and extensive proofreading before, I missed out on these stunning revelations and connections that make my writing so much better. I don’t have to read a published piece and regret that I didn’t do more with it or dig deeper now, because I have. I am learning to concisely convey what my book is about, to pitch it to someone and get them excited about it. I am learning that I don’t have to be a one take writer and that I CAN market myself and my work. I am learning to get my butt in the chair even when I don’t feel like it. I’m learning to enjoy the hard work as well as the moments when lightning strikes.

In the coming days, I hope to share many more things about this book and writing with anyone who’s still reading me, or begins to read for the first time.

Happy Writing,

2blu2btru

I Propose I Write A Book

One thing that is different about this Some College project for me is that I think I have a story I can approach an agent with, something that could be shopped around and sold. The only thing is, I didn’t know the first thing about that. Luckily, I follow a blogger with an agent who is working on her book proposal to send to said agent to shop around for a publisher (or there is already a publisher interested? I’m very fuzzy on the details). Through the powers of internet research, I find that a book proposal is a great way to get your work into the hands of a publisher. Apparently, agents can shop these around, and book publishers can get a good idea of what your work is about and whether or not they want to advance you money for it.

The first thing that really brought this into focus for me was reading Eat Pray Love. Elizabeth Gilbert publisher purchased Eat Pray Love and advanced her money for travel before she embarked on her travels. I don’t know how involved of a book proposal she wrote, whether she knew that she would use the unique structure she decided to use or if she included statistics and comparison titles in it, but I do know that she was able to secure a LOT of money and, more importantly, time and experiences.

My purpose in writing a book proposal wouldn’t be the same as Ms. Gilbert’s. I don’t need the money to have the experiences to write the book; I had that for free. My purpose in writing a book proposal will be to have something concrete to send to an agent that proves that my little book deserves a chance to sit on a shelf and be picked up and read by someone other than my mother. Aside from the aid in finding a publisher, do the statistical research and evaluating the market is a great way to get thinking about what happens once “butt in chair” has accomplished all it can and it’s time to try and sell this thing.

I’ve taken a look at the methodology for a study that was done regarding the very thing that my book is about, and I have noticed that I am EXTREMELY qualified to write this book. They “disproportionately-stratified” a sample to “over-represent” me. There was a program on American Radio Works specifically targeting this issue. The group of people who fall into this category is growing. The government attention is being drawn to this issue. This is the perfect time to get this book out into the world. That’s why I couldn’t write it any sooner.

All of this is a long way of saying I’ve started working on a book proposal for Some College. Prepare to see many angry posts about how I never should have started this stupid thing, how I’m never going to find an agent, let alone a publisher, and how I’m going to have to lose a ton of weight and get staggeringly beautiful to deflect from my otherwise failure at life status at my 10 year high school reunion in 2013. Please, please, please pray for me and my sanity.

On a totally unrelated note, I have contacted a graphic designer to create a logo for me, which is step one in my journey to self-hosting my own website. I think I may have a domain name and overarching concept for the site (which will not affect this site…for now), I am playing with color schemes and a possible theme for the  look of the site, as well as an updated About me section. I have been looking into a good camera to start adding pictures to my entries, as well as finding a photographer for a professional photo shoot to capture my whole vibe. Next will be trademarking and licensing, etc. This is a long term project, a one step at a time thing. I’ll keep you posted as things progress. Wish me luck!

Genetic Bonds & Writing Magic Wands

Hefner Publications

Image via Wikipedia

My father is sending me his second book to edit and format for publication of Smashwords. I’ve read and given him suggestions on a couple of the individual chapters before, so I’m pretty well aware of the topics and subjects he’s covered. However, this will be a completely different book than those first attempts suggested.

My father started out writing a book about relationships with a Christian slant. There were, as in his previous books, Bible passages and examples used to illustrate points and make connections between the idea and the practice or application. But over time, this began to change. Hoping to appeal to a broader audience and better focus his book, my dad began to scale back on the Biblical angle. From a marketing standpoint, this was probably a good move. From a writing standpoint, it pushed his book in a new direction, necessitating rewrites and pushing his release date back from a possibly more profitable Valentine’s Day release.

I don’t know how critically taking out the Biblical emphasis changed my dad’s book (I’ll know when I read it), yet I understand why he did it. It does bring up an interesting question. What am I willing to change about my work to get it published?

This is something I’ve been pondering for a while. Always two or three steps ahead of myself, I’ve thought about my book being accepted for publication. After listening to many writers in the industry tell their stories, there’s been one step in the process that has always caused me trepidation: the editing stage. Ironically, these are the duties I’m expected to perform for my father’s book.

It’s odd to me that I can labor through writing a book, revising and rewriting my way to a “finished” product, as well as the query process, and then find myself doing further rewriting, quibbling with an editor over proposed changes. It’s hard to imagine having to change my title or switch the order of something. I know that editing is largely beneficial. It’s always good to have another set of eyes go over it. My own experience with having a teacher I respected edit my work led to a far better piece than I had initially had, even though we butted heads a bit at first. But this relationship still makes me a little queasy.

It’s a daunting prospect, editing my father’s book. My father and I have different, distinctive voices in our writing. His organization is different than how I would order things. There are probably going to be structural changes and word choices that I will disagree with. At the same time, I don’t want to translate his work into my voice–which is, I think, what scares me most about editors. This should still be his work, his creation at the end of the process.

I guess, then, that what scares me about the editing process (in the publication realm) is that I will lose the creative power I’ve had over my work up to that point. It’s the fear that I’ll have this beautiful healthy baby, and when they bring it to me after cleaning it up, it will be unrecognizable as mine. It won’t have any of the expected features like my doe in headlights brown eyes or the whimsical upward tilt of the tip of my nose. Whose book is this? Where’s my book? (Ooh, that would be a good story!…sorry, got side tracked)

So far, I haven’t had much contact with my NaNoWriYear buddy, so my issues with sharing work and editing haven’t come up. But now that I have my dad’s book being emailed to me, the question returns. Being a writer myself, I will of course be firm but gentle with his book. I will have the disposition of a parent. I will use the skill of a surgeon. I will be a fairy Godmother with a magic wand, simply allowing the opportunity for this Cinderella book to go to the ball. I can only hope my manuscripts fare as well.

Feeding the Beast

Creative writing class-fine arts center (40269...

My name is Copywrite1985, and I can't stop expanding on my stories... Image via Wikipedia

“How’s your writing going?” My dad asks me. I’m trolling Books A Million, my third book related stop of the day. I’ve already been to the public library to get my library card, as well as to the used book shop in the quaint little downtown area I finally got a little time to explore. I still haven’t found the book club book that I’m looking for, but I’ve found a lot of other books that I find equally enticing.

“I’ve been busy with my blog–the content and learning about hosting my own site,” I respond, surveying thick computer books with a critical eye. I’m looking for a book on Java, which, my boyfriend has explained to me, is completely different from Java Script. Who knew? It’s a birthday present for the boyfriend; I hope he likes it. I want to show that I’m interested in helping him progress as a person, that I actually am listening when he goes into tech speak.

“I have to buckle down and work on my book. I don’t know when it’s coming out now,” my dad laments. He was shooting for a Valentine’s Day release, as his book centers on relationships. I’ve recently introduced him to the wonders of Smashwords, a program I myself haven’t had the opportunity to use, but is highly recommended for self-publishing. “Everytime I get close to finishing, there’s something else. The book keeps changing at the eleventh hour.”

I know how that feels. You think you know where you’re going, then all of a sudden, there’s a detour. Has this ever happened to you? You’ve thought you were done with a story, then you go back to revise and find yourself going in another direction entirely?

I have a short story that I wrote for a creative writing class. Our teacher required us to make a large revision (we had to change/refine at least fifty percent of the story, I believe. These were significant changes, not merely proofreading and adding a sentence). I don’t write that way. Usually, when I finish writing, aside from proofreading and revisions for clarity and style, it’s done. So I wasn’t excited about having to change my story.

After taking into account some of the things that people in class pointed out weren’t working, I see an entirely different angle that makes one character’s agreement to even meet for the climactic moment more believable. I add in backstory on another character that explains a bit of her brass attitude.

The revisions go well and my teacher asks me if I considered publication for it. I put the story away for a while, intending to give it one more fresh look before I sent it out for possible publication. When I pulled it out again, I found even more areas to expand upon, more places where I wanted the writing to be more concise. I wanted to concisely reveal more detail/personality of a supporting character. I’ll just tweak a bit here. I handed in the story revision in the Spring semester of 2008; the story has been sent to zero publications.

I’m having a bit of trouble letting go. I know that this isn’t all of the story, that other short stories may follow with the focus being characters that are supporting characters in the current narrative, maybe, but I can’t seem to get this story out of my hands and into the hands of publishers.

How do you know when a story is “done”? How do you force yourself to declare it a finished product and begin the (possibly) long process of trying to get it published? Someone help me let go, already!

Too Old for Success?

Sample of old russian сensorship. Book "N...

Will I ever have my name on pages like these? Image via Wikipedia

Someone told me once that if you don’t publish anything by the time you’re twenty-five, then you aren’t any good. All of the greats published before they were twenty-five–some of them were even dead by then, you know. Of course, I knew this was all rubbish, but in the back of my mind, the idea took root and persisted. I had to be published by twenty-five. I had to be published, not because it meant I was successful, but that I was one of the greats.

I’ll be twenty-six in a little over a month. Though I’ve been published in a newspaper and a required reading book for my high school, I haven’t had that great bit of success. I’ve not been recognized as great, despite entering contests, winning medals, getting As. Everyone was shocked I hadn’t been published yet. I remember how well you wrote in high school; when is your book coming out? Have you found an agent? What happened?

Since I’ve been out of school, I’ve seen many people get published. I’ve seen people get published who were only slightly interested in writing. Maybe I’ll write a book. I’ve seen people published whose passions lie in other areas. I’ve seen people published that, being honest, I didn’t think had good ideas or wrote about trivial things.

I began to be a hater of published authors. I could do that and be published, but I’m not compromising my art! I thought. Then I started a book in a genre I never had an interest in writing that sells well. It was something I wanted to write and was still good writing, but I felt like I was writing it now, pushing forward with it now, because it fits the current trend in publishing (and no, there are no vampires, shape shifters, or angels). I was obsessed with being published before twenty-six, even though I didn’t have many things worth sending to a publisher.

The writing wasn’t fun anymore, nor was it rewarding. I wasn’t trying to tell a good story well; I was looking for recognition, for validation. I wanted someone to say, officially, Yes you can write well, and people are interested in what you have to say. I was even developing an unhealthy attachment to my blog stats.

Now I’m settling back down. I’ve refocused myself. Now, I realize I don’t just want to be published; I want to publish something I’m proud of, something that’s ready to be out in the world. I realize that either people want to read what I write or they don’t; it has no bearing on the fact I feel compelled to write, and I will keep writing no matter if it’s published in my lifetime to worldwide acclaim or critically and commercially panned, or not published at all.

What are your thoughts on an “age” for publication? Do you have an age you are aiming to be published by? How important is publication to you?