Knuckle Up Chump. Writing is a Deathmatch #MondayBlogs

I’ve said it before, I’ll probably say it a million more damn times. Writing ain’t easy. And when I say that, I don’t mean writing 80,000 words of coherent story. Don’t even get me started on the countless hours of editing. The soul crushingness of beta readers and further editing. Not to mention the sore throat from reading the entire novel out loud.

I suppose it could end there, but after you’ve written and edited a novel, you probably want to sell it, right? And when I say writing ain’t easy, I’m still not talking about the fight to craft the perfect fucking query letter. Is this concise? Does it convey the right tension? Do I include previous works? What if they didn’t sell well? Should I tell the agent about my overwhelming fear of praying mantises (Manti?)?

After that there’s the always smooth sailing of rejections. Form letter after form letter after slightly personalized form letter, the highlight of the rejection process. But hey, even J.K. Rowling got rejected, right? So you keep plugging ahead. Eventually move from agents to small presses. That shouldn’t be as strict and then you find one and discover that you should have been building yours social network months ago.

It goes on and on. The struggle for sales is real. What about this technique? How about this marketing service? There are probably a million different questions and ten million different answers. And every last one of them leads to work. How much work you put in can decide how successful you will be.

A friend sent me something to the extent of this: Only 5% of people start a book. Of them, only 5% finish the first draft. Of those only 5% have the tenacity to stick through edits. 5% through queries and so it goes. On and on. So do you have what it takes to be in the 5% of the 5% of the 5% of the 5% or whatever? Yes, good. Write a novel and sell some goddamn books. If the answer is no, that’s not a bad thing. Maybe you just really enjoy writing books.

To be honest, I’m at a bit of an impasse. I started writing books because I love it. I started selling books because I’m a narcissist who needs constant approval. Now, I’ve got 4 novels out there that, quite frankly, aren’t selling worth a damn. Recently, I’ve signed up with a book marketing badass (C.D. Taylor) and she has given me a ton of instruction (Read: Work) to market myself. If I follow every bit of direction I’ve been giving, I will surely sell more books, but I will also not have any time to write any more books if I follow all of the instructions. Selling books means a lot to me, but so does writing them. I’ve got a decision to make about how hard I’m willing to work to be successful. So do you. Life is all about finding a balance, my friends. Sometimes that comes natural and sometimes you have to work for it, but whatever you do, never assume writing is easy and know that it doesn’t stop as soon as you get words on the page.

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The Greatest Thing I’ve Ever Written #MondayBlogs

Oh no, this isn’t the best thing I’ve ever written. Sorry, that title maybe a little misleading. This is about the best thing I’ve ever written,  sort of.

I’ve always tried to be upfront with all my readers that I am fairly new at the writing game. It’s not secret that I didn’t start writing novels until about two and a half years ago.

When I wrote my first novel it was the best thing I had ever written. In truth, it sucked. A lot. But since I hadn’t written anything else it was the best ever. The second novel I wrote was even better. (It still sucked, but it sucked less) I mean, I had practice. Of course it came out better. How couldn’t it?

The third novel I wrote (Beasts of Burdin, the first thing I ever had published) was the best up till that point. With B.o.B I discovered how to write in my own voice and that was a huge forward step. It still needed a lot of love before it was ready to be cuddled by tens of readers all over the world, but J. Taylor Publishing saw promise and gave it the through edit it needed.

After that I wrote the sequel to B.o.B. Going through edits with the first book taught me a lot, so clearly the sequel was even better.

Now, I get to my point. The next thing I wrote was an urban fantasy. I liked it. I liked the world and the characters. Beta readers? They all agreed that it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as good as the Burdin books. My big, giant rug of wordsmithering ego was ripped out from under me. For the first time in my life, the newest book wasn’t the best.

I panicked. I wondered if I had lost my touch or if Burdin was the only good character I was capable of writing. I thought for sure I would never write anything interesting again. Who knows, maybe I haven’t.

This is a good time to note that most authors are wound up balls of self-loathing and caffeine (liquor if they’re old school or hybrids that alternate between the two) to begin with. As a matter of fact, author Joriah Wood has probably quit writing forever twice in the time it has taken you to read this post. We all hate what we are working on at the moment, but usually calm down when the project is done. Doubting a project that you have spent HOURS on is pretty crushing stuff.

After a hefty edit by the talented Linda Murphy (who has just started her own editing service, hint hint, wink wink) the novel in question was transformed into something much prettier on the eyes. One day I hope to share it with you guys, but there’s a time and a place for that.

Currently, I’m working on Burdin 3 (Ty Down, for those curious) and guess what? I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. Maybe I am set to write Burdin forever, but I doubt it. Maybe the next novel I write well be the best thing I’ve ever written. Maybe it will be terrible and all my friends will point and laugh at the literary failure I’ve become. It’s quite possible, really.

My biggest point is this: if you are writing novels or short stories or poetry or music or painting pictures or writing out plans for world domination to sell off to the highest bidder; what you’re working on right this moment might not be the best thing you’ve ever done, but that doesn’t make it bad. Or hell, even if it is bad, that doesn’t mean your next project will be. Find out what worked about the “bad” project and reuse that in something else later. Then, find out what didn’t work and vow to not do that next time.

Art, of any kind,  is a skill that can never be perfected. I bet Hendrix found flaws in his music, Hemmimgway probably found them in his writing, and Mr. Keebler may have even find some in his cookie recipes. I have my doubts about that last one,  but the first two are probably solid examples. Maybe. The only way to improve toward deity-esque flawlessness is to keep learning and keep working. That is all.