Hola, peeps. Just wanted to check in and let you know what’s going on in Soapboxville! I am currently up to my ears in writing projects–I’m finishing up my second novel, Fairville, which is an old-fashioned ghost story set in a small Louisiana town. I’m also working on a non-fiction project to submit to Hay House Books upcoming Non-Fiction Book contest! Added to my pro-blogging and 40 hours a week at The Research Lab (formerly known as The Day Job), I’m seeing a significant increase in claims on my time.
I haven’t abandoned this blog–I hope you are all doing well, and I look forward to getting back to you soon!
Jennifer Ashley, one of my writing mentors and dear old friend, said she really liked my cover for All The Back Roads Home: Little Girl Lost. That makes me feel SO much better, since girlfriend is an expert in all this. Here is the cover for the CreateSpace version. I’ll probably just use the front for the e-book version. I’d really like to know what you think!
It’s not enough to just write a blog or do some fan fiction. Eventually, we all need to stop, take a long, hard look at ourselves in the mirror, and ask that inevitable question: “Am I a poser?”
I’ve been asking that inevitable question for about 25 years now, ever since I wrote my first Star Trek fan fiction story in 1987. It was silly, risqué, and more than a little funny. Now, like every good Trekkie, I’d been telling myself stories for years. But there’s a big difference between speculating on the latest Romulan intrigue at a party with friends (well, my friends speculated on Romulan intrigue at our parties…) and actually writing down a story with plot, narrative, dialogue and description.
Once I’d gotten off my butt and actually written a fan fiction story that didn’t embarrass me, I had to face the horrors of submitting. While I’ve heard nightmare tales of Napoleonesque fanzine editors with delusions of grandeur and their Evil Rejection Letters of Doom, the truth is, for me, submitting fan fiction was hardly a challenge. In all the years I’ve been writing the stuff (I’ve got hundreds of stories to my name), I have never been rejected by a fanzine editor. (Believe me, I tried. Funny story. Different post. Names changed to protect the ignorant.)
But Is It Really Writing?
But like most for-fun writers, the call of The Professional Career beckoned, and eventually I decided to move from fan stories to Real Fiction that Meant Something. For a grueling two years in Phoenix, I wrote original science fiction and fantasy stories, printed them out, and sent them tepidly to the Big Names in Publishing at the time. The folks at Marion Zimmer Bradley Magazine decided my New Orleans-based fantasy tale “horror.” Others sent kind rejections, some sent form letters. One publication sent a photocopy of a photocopy of a form rejection that didn’t even have my name on it.
Now, everybody knows that you can’t be a writer and be thin-skinned. Writing for a living is sort of the artistic equivalent of lion-taming or being an OSHA field agent supervising hazmat waste removal. It’s dangerous, grueling, nerve-wracking and yes, kinda of foolish when you think about it from a self-preservation standpoint.
After that initial two year stint, I gave up writing completely. Seriously, I just quit and focused on writing and arranging music. (Again, not professionally. Mercury forbid I actually get paid for my craft, right?) That was seven years of amazing fun, and I don’t regret a bit of it. Didn’t make a lot of dough, but I did make a legion of friends and got to travel and meet famous people (well, famous in science fiction circles, at least).
Eventually, though, my heart came back where it had always been–writing. Without meaning to, I rejoined the world of science fiction fan writing, this time eschewing the three in the morning trips to Kinko’s required when publishing fanzines and settling into the (horrors!) world of online fanfic. (It’s fanfic online. Heaven forbid you spell out two whole words.) To my amazement, I found a ready audience and something I’d never gotten in the fanzine years–almost immediate feedback. Amazing feedback. Squees of the most girlish variety, and all for my mere little words of fannish goodness.
I have to admit, it was gratifying. I still get wonderful comments on my fan fiction, still get emails from people who tell me my version of this character or that “changed the way they saw the character.”
Still, the siren’s song of professional writing called to me. You see, many of my fannish friends had graduated from Star Trek fanfic to actual, you know, writing. One by one, my fanfic were becoming full-time, paid, quit their day job authors.
Well, that sort of put me in my place. See, in fan fiction, I’ve always had a really easy time of it. I have a natural flow with dialogue, understand characterization, and if there’s a gun to my head, I can usually eke out a plot somewhere. But writing? Real writing? From scratch, invent the characters, invent the universe, etc. writing? No, that was not my thing.
Except I wanted it. Well, no. What I wanted was NOT to be left behind while all my friends went on to Do Things With Their Writing.
So I dredged out the computer and wrote a novel. And after I started trying to market that one, I wrote another novel. And another.
And guess what? I quit after two years again, never selling a thing.
By this time my pride and my patience were up. I knew that I was not going to write fiction professionally. Hell, I didn’t even want to read fiction most of the time (except for the occasional second-hand novel picked up at Half Price Books and Music).
How on Earth could I call myself a writer when I didn’t even care all that much for fiction anymore? All I wanted to read was nonfiction, the more esoteric the better. But a nonfiction writer needs better letters behind her name than I have (or probably ever will have). I’m not an authority on anything. So I created a blog (you’re reading it, hopefully) and decided just to carve a place on the Internet where I could ramble out loud in the hopes of finding an audience.
And I found I like it. I’m not an expert on quantum physics or the paranormal or liberal politics, but I’m interested in them. I’m an expert on me, my thoughts, and my opinions. And after a while, I found myself a little niche where I could be at home.
When You Least Expect It
The irony of this all? It wasn’t until I truly gave up the hope of writing for money that I actually began to earn money for my writing! See, what I never knew is, there is a way to generate income blogging. No, I’m not talking cheesy links and gimmicks, but actual companies that will contract you as a freelancer to generate content for their clients.
On a whim, I signed up with one of these services earlier this month. And on April 12, 2012, my first professional blog posts were published. Of course, they were by nature anonymous (I am ghost blogging). Still, there was money in my account for writing. And the amazing thing is that there’s lots of work there, more than the group of writers can handle. I get to learn about new industries, challenge myself, write interesting posts, and somebody thinks I deserve money for doing that!
So I’m going to fill you in on the moral of this little story. It’s not enough to be good at what you do. It’s not enough to be good at marketing. If you want to reach your goal, you have to love what you do. You have to be willing to do it, sometimes for years, without ever seeing a cent from it. We are creative people, whether it’s music or writing or children or oak furniture. We are never happier than when we are creating, productive, and being all-around exceptional.
It’s so easy to get mired in the trap of thinking that you’re not worthy if you’re not getting paid. Believe me, I’m thrilled to be getting paid now. But all the work I did before, the fan fictions, the unsold novels, the blog posts–that is me. That is who I am, and how I got here. I love to write. I fully intend to do so for the rest of my life. And I won’t apologize for what I produce, whether it’s a novel or a fanfic or a blog post for one of my client companies.
If you are interested in trying what I’m doing, if you’re interested in the challenge of learning to write for other people, please contact me. You may find this is right up your alley. And if you don’t want to do it, just send me the link to whatever it is you’re doing—writing, art, music, whatever. I’m always looking for something interesting to explore.
As of this time yesterday:
1. I did not have a new car (okay, used and bought from the MIL, but the windows and AC work and it does not have a deer-dented front hood).
2. I had not submitted a story to MZB’s Sword & Sorceress 25.
3. I had not organized my queries (read: rejections) on QueryTracker.com
4. I had not sent my first new query letter in weeks.
I’m feeling so much love for myself right now. I think I’ll go have breakfast.
And like spring, my mood is poking out of the cold, barren winter and feeling a bit more hopeful and renewed. I’ve started journaling–three pages a day, rain or shine, sick or well, handwritten in a notebook. This is just to make sure that I don’t go a single day without writing.
I’ve also just about finished my first submission story to a popular fantasy anthology (yay, me!). Since this anthology accepts multiple submissions (submit one, if it gets rejected, submit another, etc.), I am planning on writing another piece as a backup. In the wonderful circumstance that the first piece sells, then I have another to try to market elsewhere. Win-win.
I’m not sure where this journey is taking me, but at least I’m back on the path again rather than cowering in a ditch on the side of the road.
Somewhere along the line, I decided it would be a good idea to pursue a career in the arts during the worst financial times since The Great Depression.
Is this really the action of a stable mind?
Back in the 90s, the world was made of money and I couldn’t write a novel to save my life. Now, I’ve got one and a half completed. Trouble is, half the world is now bankrupt, and the other half is in serious trouble.
My timing sucks.
On the other hand, I have a complete novel and email query letters cost nothing. I lose nothing by continuing to try to sell this novel.
If only I could wring myself enough out of this funk to think the other one is worth the effort of completing…..
35480 / 90000 words. 39% done!
There is nothing like sending out query letters to turn a confident woman into a bundle of nerves. I’m always sure I could have done it better, written it smarter–oh, GAWD, did I forget the attachment? Was I supposed to include an attachment? Did I spell my own name right?
‘Tis true, dear Reader, that I proofread these queries before I send them out.
Just like Aunt Mildred turns off the stove before leaving on vacation, then worries for the first 500 miles that she forgot to.
Well, writing is not for the weak of mind or spirit.