Thursday, October 27, 2016

I used to be a writer like you, but then I took a contract to the knee

I know I’ve sort of already talked about how the time for writing shrivels up as soon as you sign a contract, so people stop writing on their blogs, but life after contract can really mess with your ability to produce words of all kinds.

And when the words don’t come, a writer doesn’t feel like a writer. All over the internet—right now—there are memes that basically say you’re only a writer if you write EVERY SINGLE DAY!!! I know, that’s sort of a gold standard, but it’s also, for some of us, completely impossible. I simply cannot write every single day. I work 10 hour shifts, ride herd on a child reluctant to eat dinner/brush hair/teeth/do homework/clean her room, cook the foods, and other wise do all the things that make a normal house a normal house.

So yeah, sometimes, I don’t have any words at the end of a day—after all, I can only throw hot dogs at my daughter for dinner so many nights in a row. It happens. But the world is busy stuffing this idea that only true writers—writers who really deserve success—are even capable of writing every day. It’s as if I’m only a really real writer if I punish myself by toiling on my novel every single day. Now, not to put too fine a point on it, but there’s a word for that—insane. Because that’s what I’ll be if I write at the end of every day.

And this impossibility adds to the impostor syndrome many writers are already feeling because not only is the editor “just being nice” but now I can’t even manage to write every day? Total fake.

Oh, but there’s more (there’s always more). When I do have time to write, instead of running off into the sunset capturing some new novel, all that “free time” is now shoveled into editing that novel that just got the contract.

And editing is something of a shock initially. Every comment from the editor (you know, the one just being nice?) feels like a personal attack. So not only are the words not coming, there’s independent confirmation that all the words you ever made sucked. It all confirms the self fulfilling prophecy of mediocrity.

This, to some extent happened to me to the point that I haven’t finished a new novel in two and a half years. I’m hopeful to finish a rough draft real soon, but this is a big reason why writers with newly minted books seem to dry up and blow away with the dust.

In truth, like all things in publishing, it’s different for everyone. Good luck, and keep your chin up (it’s easier to breathe when the water is closing in over you if you keep your chin up).

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Being my own third wheel: The Bio

Welcome back to my weekly series about Life After the Contract where I talk about the things that happen after you have a contract that largely go untalked about. Last week I talked about how as soon as a contract exists you need a bazillion things previously not needed, causing a huge emergency time rush. One of the most agonizing things is the biography.

Under normal circumstances, I don’t mind talking about myself. In fact, I tend to think of myself as a key eyewitness in my life. Perhaps my deductions into the reasoning behind certain actions are somewhat amateurish leading to the occasional emotional outburst (hey, if I were a professional, I’d be able to channel that stuff properly), but otherwise, I’m something of an expert.

But once there is a needed to describe myself to other people as though it isn’t me doing the describing… let’s just say it got interesting. Oh, and did I mention that I basically needed it yesterday?

In a nutshell, the bio has to tell the world who you are, why anyone should care, and what you’ve done. And you have a very short space to do it in. Oh, and did I mention that there are literally millions of people who have written bios, and no one is ever going to pick up your book base off your bio? But everyone knows that some people might pick up your book based off your bio, it just depends on if it can stand out (which is different for every person, because, you know, some people like Papyrus font and some people would like to burn Papyrus from every word processor).

And it’s traditionally done in third person.

I talk about myself as though I am not myself? Which sort of makes me feel like I should wear a sign along the lines of “Pay no attention to the writer behind the curtain. She is in no way biased about this bio currently being read.”

In short it makes me crazy to talk about myself like that. Worse, if a writer had been at all prepared—and as people will no doubt recall, I was not—this should already have been written. Which means a writer with contract in hand has a sudden need to talk about themselves as if they were someone else bragging about themselves and might potentially be suffering from the solid sting of embarrassingly knowing they should have done something sooner. This knowledge that you should have written it already REALLY give the imposter syndrome some nice material to work with. And, because you’re rushing, it’s not your best work. Which means, you might be pushing that imposter alarm a few more times. *sigh*

In short folks, learn from my fail.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

In which I forget it's Insecure Writer's Support Group

Zang. How'd I forget that?

Right, so see previous post, I guess.

I haven't missed one of these in a... ummm, maybe ever? I'm confused. And this is exactly what happens as soon as you sign a contract. Once upon a time, I was super organized and I never missed deadlines.

That time is a Distant memory.

Worse, I even used to be insecure about how I don't have my $h!7 together. Alas, I've given up on caring about it because it was taking up too much brain space. In short, I'll see you all for the Next IWSG

(I think I'll set a reminder in my phone now!)

Did I mention memory is the second thing to go, I just can't remember the first!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Wait, it’s Tuesday? How did that happen?

Welcome back to Life After Contract where I talk about how things get suddenly different but also exactly the same.

After signing, one of the things that almost immediately happens is your time just drains away. Gone. Like, “Yesterday I had 24 hours in a day, and magically, mystically, today I only have 10. And I’m working my day job for 8 of them!”

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but almost the instant you get a contract, there’s now a million different things you have to do: edit the book, build a platform (if you don’t have one), edit your book, clean up your online profile (or delete a few as you never know how good your fans will be at digging), edit your book, and of course building marketing.

And all of that stuff is really boring. You shouldn’t talk about editing so much, at least not in any way that is actually interesting. The nitty gritty of editing is really boring and, in some cases, confidential. So no talky.

Building or dismantling profiles, well, no one wants to talk about deleting all those very personal posts on the very public blog. So nothing to talk about there.

Other boring writerly things that are suddenly important: Writing a bio, getting author pics, coming up with a plan for marketing, and unless you have a bunch of money to spend on advertising, now is the time to start selling your services to help launch your book, or to start pitching to all those reader blogs. This stuff swallows time in unreasonably large doses, eating away at all the other time, like the deadline bound editing, and the holy grail: writing the next book.

In the light of all those new responsibilities, many of which are grade A not interesting, it’s no wonder writers suddenly stop blogging so much. It is however part of the whole experience. And you can literally spend hours and hours on those tasks with nothing to show, nothing to point to. So yeah, right after the contract is a very exciting time filled with new tasks—some of which a writer may or may not be good at—and the book news is all exactly the same. So there’s not a lot to say.

Blog posts from this time go like this, “I did more writer stuff today. It was boring and confidential, so nope, I can’t talk about it. Some of it has me happy. Some of it has me sad. I’ve been told that I will sell more when I am happy, so don’t pay any attention to the part that isn’t happy. Besides, it’s not even real unhappiness, it’s disappointment that my contract didn’t come with all the great trappings of fame and fortune like those movies showed me—specifically, I’m not JK Rowling yet. PR refuses to work on that for me.”

For those of you reading who’ve been through the weird post contract-suddenly-my-title-changed-to-published-author-and-it-isn’t-like-the-movies, what parts were the hardest for you? 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I’m so happy for you! Don’t mind the green, it’s a seaweed wrap

Sometimes, in my youth, I imagined that one day, all of my dreams would come true, and I would get a sort of ticker tape parade where everyone honored me and my accomplishments. As I got older, the confetti parade morphed into the book deal and the signing with an agent and all the trappings of success in publishing. Obviously, this is all some sort of dream. It’s not like confetti launches when you sign a contract (how cool would that be?).

To make things somewhat worse, right after signing, not only is there no confetti parade, there are no great lights blinking over your head to let everyone around you suddenly know that you’re a signed writer and your really, real book will be out in the world (soon—okay, soon by some very lengthy scales). There’s nothing to see, and for many writers, there won’t be a thing to even hold in your hand for a year, so it doesn’t feel real.

And then, to make it worse, all around people are having what looks like the Confetti parade. They have the Signed With AWESOME AGENT posts; the I SIGNED A 6Figure Contract; The MY BOOK LANDED ON THE NYT Bestseller list. Oh, it’s exhausting sometimes to hold your little candle of success up in the world so noisy and filled with blowtorches of success—and wishing your little candle was more like a Hollywood special effect. But it isn’t (well, not yet you tell yourself, but there’s this feeling that it might never come true). And then after being inundated by all this noise, all this bluster threatening to blow out your little candle of success, there comes One More Person with GREAT News.

Oh, dear folks, I will tell you jealousy is an emotion you are not supposed to have. It’s not supposed to exist. I’m supposed to be a gracious and magnanimous person. And I am—most of the time. Right after I signed, I suffered from this emotion I’m not supposed to feel. I’d been taught that jealousy is bad. I’m supposed to ignore it. I’m supposed to be able to “just get over it.” So there it is, jealousy in all its hideous—shameful—presence. And the book that lands on the bestseller list is a fan fic of a fan fic, widely panned by critics as the worst stinking pile of poo ever, and it’s selling 100,000 copies a day.


And I’m jealous of that pile of poo, an unenviable position to begin with, but the very act of being jealous is also shameful. AAAAGH!!!

There is only one response: grin and bear it. If I can’t manage that, then I’ve got to find a way to at least make sure that there is no evidence I ever suffered from that shameful emotion. So it’s time to crawl into a hole, or become a smiling automaton.

This is what society has dictated, and, if you’ve been watching social media, any other responses are absolutely skewered in the public view. So writers with contracts drop out of the race. They hide. They take the shameful emotion and hide the fact that they ever had it. Because we aren’t supposed to be jealous—we’re supposed to be happy.

I know, it’s not very original, but it’s the truth, sometimes, the emotions are hard to deal with. And if you're wondering, this might be among the reasons a writer drops off the radar.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Congratulations! You’ve signed a contract! Welcome to Imposterville, Population 1

Pretty much the first set of feelings I had as a “really, real” writer was imposter syndrome. I felt like a fake. Worse I felt like the acquisitions editor was “just being nice.”

This is laughable.

It’s not that acquisitions editors sit around drinking scotch and smoking cigars—I mean, that’s a lovely pastime, but sometimes there’s real work to be done—but they certainly aren’t the evil overlords looking to destroy the world and crush the hopes and dreams of writers. Well, not today at least. So yeah, the idea that the person trying to acquire my book was just being nice rather than being a professional trying to convince me to sign a contract is, in retrospect, kind of na├»ve.

But there it is, I felt like I’d somehow bamboozled my way through the gate. Largely, this was because I didn’t know what to expect or that there were even people in the world who might like my book. I had over 200 letters telling me that my books weren’t what people were looking for, that in this crowded market, they weren’t likely to stand out, and that the premise seemed engaging but the actual book was in the unenviable position of not having been fallen in love with (It’s okay, poor book, there’s a special lobster for your too).

So I thought I was a fake. And if I’m a fake, so is the contract.

That’s right, I deluded myself into believing that the whole book getting published thing wouldn’t happen, and that all of this was just a big joke. Lucky for all parties involved, I decided that I wouldn’t be the first to break and call it a joke, and that I would follow all of my contractual obligations leading up to the release of my book. In my head, it became some sort of complicated game of chicken.

You might ask why it was that I was so convinced of this was fake. There are some precedents in my life where I’d been led along like something was real and had the rug ripped out from under me, but for the most part, those were little events—right up until it was a thing I’d been working on for a decade. When that fell through, I sort of lost faith in the Universe. (Sorry Universe, it’s me not you? No wait, that time it was you.)

But I had to look at myself and accept a few things: I had some signs of classic depression, and more than a little bit of clinical anxiety. Depression and anxiety were the ones telling me that my writing had sucked and that my work wasn’t worth anyone’s time and effort. All those rejection letters had just given my anxiety the words it needed to really hunker down and make some logical sense. My anxiety and depression had convinced me that other people, the ones saying nice things about my book—the ones offering me contracts for my book!—were lying about liking it.

Clearly, they weren’t. The book got published—much to my surprise—and now there are a bunch of copies out in the world. And it’s sort of amazing and wonderful, and more than anything, I’m glad I decided to follow along and jump through the hoops to get my book published, because, I like my book. I never expected to be in a place to admit that I love my own books, but I do, and that one in particular.

So pretty much this goes down as a learn from my fail. I wasted a ton of head space and time thinking they were going to pull the plug. And pulling the plug does happen in Publishing, NONE of the signs were there. Literally none.

I’ve talked to a ton of writers and this isn’t an isolated incident. Mine might have been stronger than many, (mine might have been actually a weak case all things considered, I just like to build mountains out of mole hills) but it’s not an isolated feeling. Imposter syndrome is real, and it will warp your mind.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Arrow of Time Points in a Circle

I’ve noticed something in my time in the Bloggosphere: I’ll be following a writer, they’ve just signed with their agent, they’ve just released their first book into the world, and then crickets. They were all over the place, and then, suddenly, dramatically, they’re gone. The blogging records are really good right up until release day. When I was querying madly and trying to figure myself and my own writing out, I always wondered why that was. Why did they get to that spot and stop? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to ramp it up?

And to be truthful, some writers get to that point and they did ramp it up—with promotions for their book. They completely stopped writing about all the things I’d gone to their blog for: writing tips and how to, and the like.

I get it. You publish a book, and it’s time to sell the book. I get that. I really do. But the thing I was always curious about were the thoughts writers had after releasing a book.

And then I looked back at my own blog and saw EXACTLY the same thing. *Sigh*

Turns out, I’m not all that special. Turns out, I’m just like all the other writers. Turns out, I have many of the same insecurities and fears as all the others. Turns out that when things got rough, I abandoned my blog because as writers, we’re supposed to happy and supportive and exciting. Turns out, it’s easier to go silent than it is to process the feels while you’re in a place that many other writers are envious of.

With writing, there are some things you’re allowed to shout from the rooftops, and there are things you’re supposed to hide (terms of contracts, for instance). So I’m going to start a series of blog posts that I intend to go from now through the start of NaNoWriMo (you are getting ready, right?) to cover some of the things that don’t get talked about as much (largely because they’re boring).

What they will be: A look at writing; what’s changed about writing since publication; a look at some of the challenges after publishing that don’t get talked about a lot; ways to cope; thoughts on strategy; learn from my fail; and quite a bit of Just Keep Swimming (sorry, it’s the nature of the beast).

What it won’t be: Woe is me, look at how my success ruined my life (because it didn’t, but there are definitely feels, and those feels are very real elephants come to trample you and your muse).

This’ll be a weekly engagement (should I say weakly, my blogging hasn’t been that good lately), and I’ll intersperse some other posts (reviews, costume related, fangirl moments—you do know Flash season 3 airs in October, right?).

If there’s anything specific you’d like me to talk about, send me an email, comment here, hit me up on Facebook, carrier pigeon—I’m easy to contact, and I want this series to be a resource for people going through the process. I know that parts of this topic exist in the blogosphere, but they were often stories about “when I was a young writer” and not nearly that much about the way publishing is now (and publishing changes faster than a model during fashion week—but it’s all the same which is paradoxical and complicated).