What is your goal? Your end game in your writing? You might be struggling to get an agent, get a contract, get five thousand sales. These things can be driving you forward, giving you purpose day to day.
Or, like, me they could be driving you crazy.
I have been querying on and off for several years, with several different manuscripts. I have felt highs and lows. many many lows. Putting out twenty queries and getting nothing back at all. Getting rejections that came back almost as soon as I hit send. Waiting and waiting and waiting only for that two line rejection to come through half a year later.
It was my goal. What I was working for every day.
And, honestly, it sucked.
There is nothing wrong with querying, with wanting an agent, to get published, with having something that you are working toward, but when you set your sights on that mountain, it is easy to lose track of why you are doing it, and it is easy to feel like every day it doesn’t happen is a waste of time.
Then you spend you time analyzing why it’s not working. You didn’t write to the trends. You don’t have the right voice. You need to cut your word count down. You just are not good enough.
Then it sucks even more.
The last year has been strange for me. I started setting personal goals, against myself instead of career goals that I need other people to fulfill for me. I challenged myself to write short stories again. I pushed myself to edit several manuscripts. I queried, a little, and then I let things go. I got some good responses and some rejections. I said thank you for positive feedback even when it didn’t come with an offer.
I still got rejections. Plenty of rejections, and I will not say I didn’t care. But it didn’t crush me. Because when I get an agent, then what?
I need a publisher. and I get a publisher, then what?
I need a great book sales. I get a great sales and then what?
I mean, does it ever reach a point where now I am suddenly satisfied? Where i have suddenly hit that magical goal where I know I am validated in all this work I have done?
I mean, I dunno. Maybe. I’ll let you know when I get there. If such a state does exist, it’s a long way off. To be completely honest, if I’m not happy with what I am doing now, with my work, then I don’t think I can ever be validated by someone else.
This past year I have been trying to hold off on the hard goals and make my day to day work of writing great shit my priority. It hasn’t always been easy but I’ve seen a big improvement in how I feel about what I do and where I am going.
My writing has gotten better. I’ve made awesome writing friends. I published a piece in an anthology. I’ve created some work I’m really proud of.
I am not THERE at whatever hard goal I arbitrarily set for myself as the pinnacle of success. Because I don’t think there is a pinnacle. There is no end point to this game. Never a place where you plant your flag and say, I’m done. I made it. Now I can enjoy my life and be happy.
Happiness is now, in the work you do. In knowing that everything will come when you no long need it to validate you. When the work you do is what sustains you, you know that you can keep going, no matter what.
A year and a half ago when Writers Block conceived of writing an anthology together, we were just trying to have some fun. But as we got to work, as everyone turning in their first drafts, we realized that we also wanted this to be an awesome book
We worked so hard on this. There were many challenges, late nights, emails for miles. There were also a lot of laughs, friendships cemented in words and the support of our friends, family, peers and each other.
But we still never expected our little project would make it beyond kindle oblivion.
I don’t know how to convey the feeling I got when The Lost Colony of Roanoke: A collection of utter speculation hit the amazon chart for debut sci fi alternative history yesterday. I cannot describe how it felt to close out the day with it at number two, and number six for all sci fi alt history books.
Our little project that became something so important to all of us, went out into the world with a bang.
I am still reeling, but I want to thank every single person who supported this project, in whatever way. The messages I received yesterday was amazing. The people who shared links to our books. The people who actually bought it! Who reviewed it!
I am so grateful, humbled.
The Lost Colony of Roanoke: A collection of utter speculation is a best seller, guys!
ebook still isn’t linked to the paperback, but we’re on it.
and ebook (they should be on the same link at some point)
are now available. This has been such a weird and fun and crazy and frustrating and overall awesome process that I could not have gotten through without my fellow authors, River Eno, D R Kinter, and Susan Tulio, obviously because we all collaborated on the book, but even more we had the fantastic cover design by Adam C Allingham, the original artwork illustrations by Patricia A Carlson, and the amazon editing and publishing experience of Di Freeze, who was the only one who knew what she was doing.
We also had the fantastic Tiffany Morris to help steer us and a lot of support from friends and family and fellow writers.
Here is my first book baby. guys. She had four parents and and she’s kinda short and quirky, but we all love her and we’re releasing her to the world.
I hope she’s the oldest in the a big family.
With four genres: romance, fantasy, horror, and fictional realism, we think there is something for everyone. The members of Writers Block, DR Kinter, River Eno, Susan Tulio and LCW Allingham (ah! that’s me!!) have put together their first anthology.
The Lost Colony of Roanoke: A Collection of Utter Speculation
This message, carved into a tree, was the only clue to the fate of the colonists on Roanoke Island. For centuries, stories have circulated, theories were explored. But to this day, no one is really sure what happened to those first English settlers in the Americas.
These stories may offer a clue:
– A road trip through dystopian United States brings adventure and danger, and perhaps answers about the mysterious disappearance of the settlers.
– Gods of different worlds converge but their people may not blend as well as they do.
– A history teacher’s quest to liven up her lessons leads to a startling discovery about love, roots and the fate of the missing colonists.
– A young mother thrust into leadership struggles to establish peace between the English and the Natives of Roanoke. But a greater threat lurks in the dark forests that may consume them all.
Four stories from four authors, all exploring the fate of the missing colonists. Are any of them the answer to the greatest mystery of the United States?
So mark your calendars for Tuesday if you want a paperback or ebook copy! Link will go live at midnight!
The Lost Colony of Roanoke: A collection of utter speculation will soon be available on Amazon! Its a collection of four short stories by four authors with different idea of what happened to the lost colonists of the first English colony in America.
Its long been a dream of mine to collaborate on a short story collection with other writers and last year when some awesome writers and I formed an online writing group, we were able to start making this dream something real.
But I had no idea how much work would be involved! We spent months writing our pieces, editing each others work, and rewriting. And that was the easy part.
With the help of an awesome editor and an amazing sensitivity editor, we are just about ready to release this baby to the world. Featuring original artwork for each story, The Lost Colony of Roanoke has taken a village to deliver, but the things we’ve learned have been invaluable and we are all so excited.
I don’t know why I haven’t learned, because it happens EVERY TIME. I go strong and then I hit the midway point of the book. Loose ends start flying in every direction, I’m not getting to the climax fast enough, there are things that have to happen that aren’t ready to happen yet. I want to rush, I don’t know where to go.
And I generally decide the whole books sucks.
At this point I start to lose the momentum that has been pushing me steadily through the first hundred pages and maybe pick up a new show to start binging on Netflix rather than writing at night.
It the death of the book.
I might pick it back up again, I might peck out a few more chapters from time to time, but if I let that initial momentum die, then it is more likely that the manuscript will languish on my hard drive than reach the end.
I am aware of this and in the past I’ve buckled down and pushed ahead when it’s a book I have made some great progress on. The thing about momentum is that it’s a lot easier to smash through a wall if you come at it running from a mile away, than if stop you stand in front of it for a while, kicking at it.
I’m currently hating a new story. Well, i don’t hate it. I just don’t like where it’s at right now. I had it well mapped out and its meandering too long in the early stages when there is so much more to come. If I go backwards and start editing now, it’s never going to happen, but the idea of forging ahead it daunting, because it’s already so long and we’re hardly half way.
I have a day or two left to get back to it with some momentum. I’ve been balking. I’ve been watching Future Man.
The truth is, I don’t know if the effort of pushing through this saggy middle is going to be worth it. I might reach the end and it still doesn’t work. I might not know how to fix the problems when all is said and done.
The loose ends could tie themselves up. The end might wrap itself up sooner than expected. A book acts like a living thing. It makes it’s own decisions, it carves it’s own paths, and a writer is just the scribe that charts the progress.
I really won’t know until I reach the end.
I’ve lost my excitement for this story, but I’ve lost my excitement for my dog too when she shredded my sofa in the fifteen minutes I left her home alone. It doesn’t mean I don’t love her. It doesn’t mean she hasn’t redeemed herself a hundred times. Books at the same.
So the best thing I can do is to keep going. Use the remains of my momentum to crash through that wall, even if it doesn’t make sense at the time. Learning to do this, consistently, no matter how difficult is what makes you an author and now just a dreamer.
Keep writing, friends. I look forward to seeing your books on my shelves.
A labor of love for over a year is finally coming to fruition. Stay tuned for more information. I can’t wait to share everything we learned along the way.
So it has been a weird year with many ups and downs, but as it comes to a close, and I have failed to meet my primary writing goal, I am reluctant to call it a failure. I keep thinking about all the ways I have grown in my craft this year. All the people I’ve me and all the things I have accomplished, and to be honest, while I still haven’t found a home for any of my novel babies yet, there were so many unexpected and awesome things that happened this year on the writing front, I’m gonna have to grade it a solid B+ year.
So lets make a list! Yay! Lists!
1. Philadelphia Writers Conference
This was so far out of my comfort zone that I might as well have been taking a spin through outer space (side note, I never want to go to outer space). I had to force myself to start conversations with other introverted writers. I literally shook as I delivered an unexpected pitch to an agent. And by the end of the event I was exhausted, but I also had a table full of people I never met before who were suddenly my buds, had learned some great things about writing and the industry and had a cramp in my back that lasted an entire week!
Oh, wait, that last thing sucked, but the other things were pretty cool, just because they showed me I could do it when I had been pretty sure I could not.
2. The Writer’s Block
At the end of 2017 I was reconnecting with some old writing friends I’d lost touch with, and suggested starting a brainstorming group. One of the most helpful methods for working out plot points is to just talk about the story and it’s problems. We have a weekly chat online and after a solid year, we are stronger than ever. We don’t just brainstorm, although I have recently worked out three outlines with the help of these lovely people, we also support each other through professional and personal struggles AND we have a…
3. Group Project! Weee!
A theme and wildly different writing styles and genres. It has been way more work than we anticipated but oh man, it is finally almost ready to be revealed to the world. It has been fun and infuriating and so much has been learned. Hoping for the reveal in the first weeks of 2019!
4. Friends with Books
I have also been very lucky to be part of a local workshop full of exceptional writers who have been kicking the ass of my rough drafts. The only way to get better is to work with people who are better than you and some of these people have publishes some exceptional and well received books this year.
I also have friends who went the indie route this year. Having all these brains to pick from is exciting.
5. What’s almost as good as offers to rep?
Personalized rejections with notes for improvement!
Okay, maybe not ALMOST as good, but when you’ve been in this game for a while, it’s pretty damned exciting to get feedback from an agent or editor, and this year was exceptional in that I got a few pages from several different sources that had been interested in a novel i was pitching.
It not only gave me specifics for where to improve but saved me the time I would have wasted if I continued querying with problems I wasn’t aware of.
6. Lots and lots and lots of edits
I spent so much time editing this year that by the time August rolled around I made a call to take an editing break. I worked out a much better system for edits than I had been using before, and I am much more confident about serious edits in the future.
7. Working with a sensitivity editor
I won’t say what project this pertains to, but I will say I am so glad I had this opportunity. We all have biases that we’re not even aware of and it’s simply not possible to know all the struggles and issues that another culture deals with. Instead of shying away from any portrayals of marginalized characters, TALK TO PEOPLE WHO ARE MARGINALIZED! Not only will it improve your piece (or kill one that shouldn’t be out there) but you will learn. Too often we assume that since we have experiences our own struggles that we are fit to speak for others. We are not.
8. Two shortlists
One was for an anthology that ended up not being published and the other was an eventual rejection, but I branched out into short stories after years of insisting I just couldn’t do them, and I found out that I wasn’t so inept after all.
9. Expanding on social media
I am still learning, but slow and steady progress has brought some pretty awesome people into my online life.
10. Self worth tied to production
I broke a 3 year hot streak this year and did not finish a first draft. I really struggled with this because I thought this was my thing. At the same time, trying to come up with frequent blog posts had me banging my head against the wall. In the past I could write about things as they came up, as I learned, but I ended up staring at a lot of blank screens this year. Trying to force it did not make it happen though and I had to rethink how I was doing things and what my priorities were. Do I want to write just to have words on a page or do I want to write what I really want to share? Is my worth as a writer in what I produce or in how much I produce?
11. Lots of new beginnings
While I didn’t finish any novel drafts, I have some new starts that are really promising. I also have several outlines that I can’t wait to tackle (when i feel like it). So this year I didn’t finish anything, but I have a head start on next year and the years to come. I may run out of steam, but I have yet to run out of inspiration.
This isn’t really related to writing, except for me, it kinda is. That post is forthcoming, but having my childhood hero come back this year, full of her fem-power awesomeness was just a little reminder that if I want something, and I am patient, sometimes the universe will bring it.
If you mark your worth in what you’ve published there are going to be a lot of worthless years. I hope you can look over 2018 and find the places where you grew, where you learned, and where you got to do things that were just really cool.
Best of luck in 2019.
So here is the actual deal. This year has sucked in a lot of ways. I think I’m ready to admit it.
There have been some serious bright spots too. I will not deny that I had many good times this year, but the suckage, it did cometh. one of the biggest points of contention for me this year was that I could not seem to complete any new novels. I had WIPs in hoards and I love them all so much.
But they did not love me back.
So that, along with certain lifey things, is why you haven’t seen much from me this year. I haven’t had many revelations. I haven’t been neck deep in a new project, which is when my creativity is flowing and I’m also inspired to write here the most.
It wasn’t a total loss. I can honestly say I’ve improved my craft and really gotten some fantastic edits done this year. But that creative process… oh I miss it. Every time I would get warm on a story, a big plot or character problem would set up a huge wall and I haven’t been able to work around them.
A few examples:
- A character I love that readers don’t like. I can’t figure out why they don’t. They can’t figure out why they don’t. So the manuscript sits.
- Can YA characters smoke a lot of pot without life changing consequences? I have been looking for a solid answer on this one for a while.
- How do I end a story that has stacked one shock onto another? Especially when I have no shock to finish it with?
- Seriously, why the hell do all my teenager characters smoke so much pot?
- Did I make these characters fall in love too soon?
And that’s it. With everything I’ve written, I’m plagued with questions that stop my story in it’s tracks. Powering through is like pushing a big ass boulder down a narrow road. It’s still in the road. There’s still no way around it, but at least you moved it ten feet?
Whats the point of this post? Well, two things. One, to really truly explain why i haven’t posted here. I’ve had the best intentions this year but it just hasn’t happened. I don’t want to post trash or drivel i just spat out to meet a deadline. I want to post things I think can be helpful and I’ve had very little.
Two, I wanted to assure other writers who might be hitting a dry patch like me that it is okay. I need to remind myself of this too. It’s been a hard year for a lot of people and that isn’t always conducive to good creating. What it is good for is buckling down, getting edits done, learning technique, reading and reading and reading some more and planning strategy. And those things are important.
So I am taking a break. I dunno what it will entail, but I’m taking it, because trying to push that boulder is frustrating work.
And because I have a sneaking suspicion when I tell my brain to stop thinking about my stories, it’s going to rebel and offer me the perfect solutions to my problems.