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?