Facing Rejection

I hear myself telling DD1 all the time that it doesn’t matter if she succeeds or fails, I’m proud of her for trying her hardest. For really putting in the effort. She sometimes believes me, and other times I get the annoyed preschooler look.

fear1
I totally don’t deserve it.

But, I have to walk the walk now that I’ve written, edited, rewrote, edited, rewrote again, and finally polished Crowned Prince.

I decided I wanted to try getting an agent and go the traditional publishing route if possible. There are pros and cons to both indie publishing and traditional, but I at least wanted to try traditional. Partially for their experience, but mostly for their amazing editors.

I know, I know, but one is not in the budget for us right now. While I take my writing seriously, I also take paying for two kids in daycare seriously. Don’t know if it’s like this everywhere, but where I live, my daycare bill is about twice the cost of an average mortgage payment. So, yeah, not much else is in the budget right now.

If I’m going to find an agent, I need to either meet one at a conference or query one. As a mom with two small children who works full time already, finding time or money for a conference also isn’t in the budget. So that means querying.

fear2
Not this kind of querying.

And being rejected A LOT.

I have a feeling your chances of getting in to Harvard are probably better. After all, they accept 5.2% of their applicants. But, if I want to get an agent, I have to query them.

This is like a lot of things in life.

  • Maybe you don’t like your job, but that means putting yourself out there to find a new one.
  • Maybe you’re single and want to meet someone.
  • Maybe you want to be an actor, but that means showing up for the auditions.

Everything is life is scarce. And the more you want it, the more of yourself you have to put out there to get it.

That means facing the very real risk of rejection. Of failure. Or not being good enough. Talented enough. Just not enough.

The platitude of at least you tried your hardest feels less genuine then, though, really, that’s when it matters most. Trying. Not giving up.

fear3

Persistence in the face of rejection is especially hard when you put so much of yourself into something. Like a job. Or a relationship. Or writing a book. Because this feels like a personal rejection. And we’re a heard animal. It’s ingrained in us to be part of the pack as those that weren’t usually didn’t have a happy ending.

But, I must face failure. I have to try, as I tell my daughter she must.

So I started the process. Looking up agents, trying to see who they represent and what they sell to see if I’ll be a fit. I even queried a few.

And got my first rejection.

It hurt less than I thought it would. But it still hurt.

 

How about you? Ever put yourself out there for something? Maybe a new job? A relationship? A book query? How did it go? Did it go better than you thought? If it didn’t, was the rejection or failure as bad as you thought it’d be?

 

A Professional Editor and the Indie Author

I am contemplating self-publishing, and one of the things I have considered is hiring a professional editor.

But I can’t afford it.

money-1428594_640
Yeah, about what it feels like

Yes, yes, I hear many of you now saying, “of course you must hire an editor. It’s how you get your best work.”

I’ve heard this refrain a lot, and I mostly agree. But I still can’t afford one.

Let’s do the math together.

Most content editors charge anywhere from $0.01 to $0.03 per word. If you calculate that out for a 75k romance novel, that’s anywhere from $750 to $2,250. The higher end of this is more than I gave for my first car. I get that they’re spending a lot of hours on the process, so the price is the price. Line editors are around the same cost-per-word from what I’ve gathered as well.

I understand these people are putting forth hours of effort and are probably (depending on the editor) worth it. But, I maintain the indie model can’t really support it.

Most indie published books sell around 250 copies over the life of the book.

No, I’m not missing a zero there.

If you price your book at $2.99 and sell 250 copies, the total gross made by the book is $747.50. Yeah, not enough to pay for a single edit by the least expensive editor. And let’s remember, the author doesn’t get the full $747.50. Depending on where they sell it, they can expect about 80% of the total. The percent they get drops if they ever discount the book to $0.99.

So, assuming the author keeps it at the $2.99, and sells all 250 books at this price, they are looking at $598 in lifelong earnings. I’m not even going to bother discounting this for the time value of money. Because really, it’s not worth it.

kitten1
Okay, forget I mentioned the time value of money.

But, but, but, you say. My book is going to do so much better! I had an editor.

Okay, I hear ya. Maybe it will help. And giving you the benefit of the doubt, I will say you do two standard deviations better. You sell 500 books at $2.99 each. You’re still looking at total author earnings of $1,196. Barely enough to pay for the base editor.

And the chance of selling that additional 250 books? Depends on the standard deviation to the mean, which I don’t have the underlying data to calculate, but given the standard bell curve, we can assume it grows increasingly less likely.

bellcurve
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Still, there are other expenses like marketing, book cover, etc. that also need to be considered beyond just editing. And, that’s assuming you’re looking to just break even and not make anything for the time the author devoted to writing the piece.

This doesn’t mean don’t hire an editor. If you can afford one, do it!

But what this usually means for me is when I can’t afford to have a professional do a job, I learn to do it myself. Like back when we first bought our house and I learned to paint a room and lay Pergo flooring.

I’m working on perfecting this process, but it does make a sound argument for trying to publish via a traditional route, if for nothing more than the professional editing.

But if it doesn’t work out, and I do go indie, I’ll look forward to the day I can afford an editor.

6 Reasons We Don't Take Good Advice

Whether romantic advice, career advice, or financial advice, there are a a slew of professionals out there that offer it . Some free of charge. Some we pay for. Yet, I (and I suspect many of us) are not always good at taking it.  Even advice we’ve paid for.

How many stories revolve around a hero or heroine not wanting to listen to their aunt, brother, sister, mother, uncle about who the right person is for them? Especially if it turns out that person was right?

After doing some digging, here are the reasons I’ve come up with:

1. The Advice is Bad – We’ve all been given bad advice, even by a professional.Sometimes it’s because we haven’t given them the whole story. Sometimes because they don’t understand. And perhaps sometimes because they really don’t know.

advice2
Tried this. It didn’t work. Co-workers looked at me like I was from Mars.

2. The Advice Conflicts With What We Want – I know i’m guilty of this. Not one, but two financial advisers told me not to try to pay off my mortgage as quickly as possible. I didn’t want to hear them. I lived through the Great Recession and remember how much belt-tightening we had to do to get through it when our primary income was cut by 50%. I don’t ever want to go through that again.

advice

3. Discouraging –  You see this less with professional advice as they are (usually) in the business to help you succeed.

4. Gut Instinct Takes You Another Direction – This is so nebulous, but sometimes, you just know something is wrong. It intrudes on your thoughts during quiet times. You find yourself mulling it over again and again. I have no idea what gut instinct is, (although I suspect it’s your brain working on a problem in the background) but it seems to be right most of the time.

5. It Differs From Other Advice You’ve Gotten – This is always difficult, especially when you’ve gotten advice from two professionals or two very trusted friends/family members.

6. Anger – Or other negative emotions make us much less likely to take even good advice. Here are other good reasons from real psychologists. Granted, these are mostly work related, but they could be applicable.

 

I guess this means I need to look at Point #2 and reconsider the advice an editor gave me on my manuscript. Just because I don’t want it to be true, doesn’t make it wrong.

 

 

How about you? How willing are you to take advice? What makes you willing or unwilling to take advice? How about offer it?

Character Analysis: Heroines Part 2

After taking a look at heroines I didn’t like, the next step is to take a look at those I did like. When I first started this post, I thought it would basically be the exact opposite of what I didn’t like. It turned out a little more complex than that.

I have to have the basics from my last post: characters doing something, not being stupid, and the author not telling me one thing and showing me another. But as I think through what I like about the characters, there’s more to it.

RedRiding

Finders Keepers – I loved Trilby Elliott. She was getting by with shoestrings and duct tape to keep her ship intact. She’s a hacker extraordinaire. She cared about her friends, once had a little childhood crush, and was still stinging after being jilted by her ex. She had compassion and skepticism, and used both to make decisions.

Stephanie Plum Series – I liked Stephanie at the beginning of the series. It felt fresher and funnier to me than later. I liked her tenacity, practicality and New Jersey “manners”.

Earl Next Door – I liked the heroine’s tenacity. I liked her courage to go out on her own. I liked that she still loved and missed her father. She was not the refined sophisticate you find in many romance novels, but I liked her spunk, wit and determination. I like the way she stands up to an earl and marchioness.

Mad about the Marquess – I liked the heroine’s practicality. I liked her witty dialogue and unconventional approach. I liked her compassion for the less fortunate as demonstrated through her giving all of her ill-gotten gains to the poor.

Militess and the Mage – I  liked how strong the heroine was. How unrepentant about her lovers and her scars. She was the protector, and she never expected anyone else to come to her rescue.

 

So, where does this lead me? It tells me it takes more than just not making me hate a character to make me like them. I need the characters to not do stupid things, but I also need more to go from feeling meh about a character to liking them.

 

Active Characters – I like characters that are actively out there doing something.

  • The heroine in Finders Keepers trying to fix her ship so she can take another run so she can better fix her ship.
  • Stephanie Plum trying to pick her life up after being laid off.
  • The heroine in an Earl Next Door trying to start a new life.
  • The heroine in Mad about the Marquess trying to help the poor. The Militess trying to prevent war.

You can identify with them in some way – I may not be a hacker or freighter pilot, but I understand some of what the heroines are going through.

  • I get the heroine in Finders Keepers being dumped and struggling to get by.
  • I sympathize with Stephanie Plum trying to pick her life up after being laid off.
  • I get the family troubles of the heroine in an Earl Next Door.
  • I understand the overwhelming helplessness in the face of human need that drives the heroine in Mad about the Marquess.
  • I can see the pain of the Militess feeling unattractive and being the bastard daughter of the king.

No Damsels – This ties back into active characters, but as the heroines are doing their thing, they don’t need the hero. Yes, he helps them. Possibly more than they could’ve done on their own. But they’re not Princess Peach waiting around for Mario to rescue them. They’re bringing the fight to Bowser. And were doing so long before they met the hero, and will keep doing so long after they’ve met him. They’re sassy, practical, tenacious, and never doormats.

Another Rejection

I still have yet to have an agent ask for a copy of my manuscript. I am not certain if my query is terrible, my subject matter unappealing, or my work genuinely not publishable.

Another rejection. Another standard form letter.

sea-of-fog-373782_1280

I have spent over 6 months now sending out queries and being “lucky” to get a form letter back.

At least it’s e-mail so I’m not paying postage.

Perhaps I should sign up for one of the expensive classes through Writer’s Digest. At least they’re somewhat reputable.

But that gets back to the issue of writing as a hobby. Do I want to be published? Yes. Do I want to be a best-selling author? You betcha. Would I love to be the next Stephen King? Of course.

I know the likelihood of any of these things is right down there near zero.

Sure, I finished a book, but lots of people manage that.

I put together a blog.

Need to get a Twitter account, I guess.

But the actual business of getting published? I am starting to see it as an impossible dream.

I have a good-paying day job. Two wonderful kids and an awesome spouse. All the time I spend writing is time I’m not spending with them. It’s time I’m not spending reading, or playing video games, or going for walks. Or doing any number of other things I enjoy.

It takes a long time to write a book. A longer time to edit it, rewrite it, and edit it again.

After 20 months of working on my two novels with nothing to show for it other than a couple handfuls of e-mail rejection letters, I’m growing weary.

The writing itself has been hard lately, too. So many things in real life keep getting in the way that there isn’t enough room in my head for my characters to talk anymore.

I have heard some people tout self-publishing. But that gets back to trying to sell your work, and I am awful at that. I already know that about myself.

So where does that leave me?

Back where I was a few months ago, I suppose. Considering quitting this nonsense and refocusing my time.

DH encouraged me to keep writing if I love it.

While I do enjoy the character creation and storytelling of writing, the constant edits, revisions and rewrites? That’s work. And I already have a day job. One that actually pays me.

I’ve considered sending it out to a professional editor to review, but that’s extremely expensive (think cost of a used car expensive) and not in the budget right now.

I asked myself what does it cost to be done with trying to get published, load my baby onto Amazon, mashable, or whatever other platforms are out there and call it a day?

I’m not sure. Maybe that’s why so many people do it.

And maybe I’m just feeling contrarian and don’t want to be like other people.

For now, I’ll give the query letter another try and at least consider the class.

Back to Business

I rewrote my query, and after taking a deep breath, I sent my “baby” back out into the big mean world.

I have been trying to push myself so that if I am not feeling inspired to write, then I can work on the “business” aspect of writing.

team-spirit-207319_640

It’s gotten me to at least get my work back out there. I need to push myself a little harder on this, but frankly, it’s probably not going to happen. It’s asking me to change a fundamental part of myself that pushes hard to succeed, but tends to push in areas where I know I can be successful.

Failure is painful and not something I have ever taken well. Probably because for most of my life failure wasn’t permitted. I never learned how to do it with grace.

This article in Elle that states women are much less likely to takes risks than men because we are punished more for failure really resounded with me. I saw myself in several aspects of the article, up to and including why I changed my major in college.

But, as I told DD1 in the car this week, you can never succeed if you don’t try. Time to put my keyboard where my mouth is.

I have also contemplated trying to find some quality “craft” books. Books that teach you how to be a better writer. I’ve read Stephen King’s autobiography. It was a good read, and perhaps I should reread it as it’s been many years since I read it.

Interestingly, I haven’t been able to find any craft written by Nora Roberts, Stephanie Laurens, J.K. Rowling or the like. Not sure how much stock I put in a craft book written by someone that isn’t a bestselling author. It does seem that a lot of people make a lot of money on writers trying to get published.

I do follow some blogs on the craft of writing, but I don’t feel like I’ve ever gotten much out of them. Partially, because none of them are geared to Romance writers. And partially, I think, because I learn by example. Theory does little for me. I learned more my first year in public accounting than I did all four years of college.

I also contemplated a writer’s conference, but that is out of the question. The expense makes it impossible, and DH would kill me if I thought I was leaving him alone with the two girls for a week. And, being an introvert, going to a conference where I wouldn’t know anyone would be a personal hell.

For the moment, I’ll stick to reading and see if that helps my writing. I will go back and pull out Stephen King’s autobiography. I’ll keep reading blogs. And I’ll keep clicking away on the keyboard.

3 Ways NOT to Write a Query Letter

I am struggling to write a query letter. To write those gripping few lines that makes an agent say “hey, why don’t you send me the first three chapters?”. I am an accountant because I learned very early on I couldn’t give away food to a starving man. There was never going to be a future for me in sales or any aspect of the business world that required selling.

And that is exactly what a query letter is. That foot in the door, that sales pitch that I’ve avoided most of my life.

sea-of-fog-373782_1280
About as much progress as I’m making

Here are three things I don’t recommend doing while writing your query letter.

  1. Reading book blurbs and buying books rather than writing your query – I have spent hours on Amazon reading book blurbs in various genres, but really focusing on romance.I had thought this would help sharpen my sales skills, but I’m not sure if it has done anything to help me write my query. It has, however, added a few books to my backlog.
  2. Researching how to write a query on the internet – Oooooh, shiny flashy things! Contradicting advice. Gotta get a Father’s Day present, and that’s something I can actually achieve . . .
  3. Staring blankly at the same 10-15 sentences – I have spent all of my writing time this week staring at those same few sentences. Adding, deleting, and rewriting them sometimes. Only to dislike the changes and start back over. It’s so bad, I barely see the words on the page anymore. Query is still not worth sending out.

Frankly, I am to the point of seeking help from a professional. Or at least DH again.

Three Things I’ve Learned Revising My Second Book

I have been revising my second novel while procrastinating on writing a query for my first. Yeah, I know. But this whole query thing sucks. As does the rejection that goes with it. But here are three things I have learned revising so far.

Magic

I Fall Apart at the End

I had been clipping along with my revisions pretty well through the first half of the book. It was better written than the first draft of my first book, which I chalked up to the experience of writing and revising a whole book. Of course, I’d thought this was going to continue throughout the novel. Boy was I wrong. Once I got to the middle of the story, the writing got more . . . well, it needed work. A lot more work.

Revision progress slowed.

Then I got about 2/3 of the way through, and the writing went from rough to bad. Very bad. More like a glorified outline. There’s still dialogue and the like, but the transitions (which I struggle with normally) are beyond bad. Description seems to have been tossed out the window, the villain is poorly developed, and the heroine seems to be regressing rather than coming into her own.

I have my work cut out for me, but that’s what revision is all about. This is why it takes me so much longer to revise than to write.

 

Character Arcs

As I have been revising this piece, I learned something about how I have been writing character arcs in my first two books.

My heroines both have external conflicts to resolve: escape from a necromancer to save her soul; escape slavery so her children will be born free.

Both of my heroes have internal conflicts: let himself find happiness beyond duty even after all he’s seen and done for a righteous cause;  learn the humility, compassion and sacrifice it takes to be a good king.

I’m still not sure if it’s good characterization or not. I want my female characters to be perceived as strong, even if they need the hero’s help. These are romance novels. I need to find a reason to keep the hero and heroine together even if they aren’t two people that would normally be together. I also need to make larger than life heroes feel more human.

As I think through the many romance novels I’ve read, this seems to be a somewhat common theme.

I need to think more on this, but for the moment, I’m not sure I have a better solution.

 

Motivation

My motivation has been flagging during these revisions. Some of that is due to a sick child. But more of it is due to the draining process of revision. It’s more fun to create, to let the characters come to life and see what’s going to happen next. It’s less fun to deal with character arcs and plot pacing. It’s even less fun to work through transitions, descriptions, and the like.

All are important. And the work isn’t ready for external feedback until all have been dealt with.

Time to pull myself up by the bootstraps and get to it.

3 Things I Learned From Not Wanting to Write Anymore (and Sticking with It)

If you saw my post the other day, you read the culmination of a couple weeks of frustration and not wanting to write. I finally decided to admit what was going through my head, and it actually helped. A lot. Here are three things I learned that helped get me back to being excited to write again.

Magic

Revision is Important, but so is Creating Something New

The first draft of the first novel I’ve written in over 8 years was . . . rough. Okay, as I have heard other bloggers call it, it was brain vomit on the page. I spent three times longer revising this piece of work than I spent writing it. Yeah. Three times. Some of the revisions were fun, especially the early ones where things were still being fleshed out and there was a lot of additions and even more changes. The later revisions were less than fun, but they needed to be done.

During the months of revising Knight of Valor, I started work on a second novel. Need a better title than Devil’s Due, but that’s what I’m calling it now. I finished the first draft of this novel while I was still tinkering with revisions on Knight of Valor.

Now I have two novels that needs to be revised. So I didn’t start work on a third (even though I have several ideas percolating) because I was spending all my writing time revising. As important as revising is, it doesn’t keep me nearly as engaged or as happy as writing something new.

DH had recommended I write something for myself, something I would never try to publish, so I could enjoy it and not worry about revisions. He recommended I write fan fiction so it wouldn’t even be a temptation. I heard his words but didn’t listen (sorry DH!).

When Mariah Avix over at 600 Second Saga reminded me that creating was important, too, it really hit home.  Guess DH had to soften my thick skull up first.

 

Talk to Someone (and Listen!)

It really helped to hear other people remind me how important creating was. How there is more to the process than the end product. Sometimes the process itself is important.

And I love creating new characters, new conflicts, and finding a way to have them conquer it and live happily ever after. Yeah, romance writer here. You can tell.

I had lost perspective of that. And I hadn’t spent much time fleshing out new characters in months.

And, er, well, listen when people tell you something, even if you don’t want to hear it. (Sorry, DH!)

 

Keep Reading

This, honestly, helped. Way more than I thought it would. I picked new-to-me-authors, and while I really disliked some of what I read, I really liked others. Or parts of others. The reading in and of itself helped a little. Hearing a new voice has it pros, but the way my brain works when I read is that I no longer “see” the words on the page. So I don’t learn much on the craft piece just by reading. What I do learn more about is storytelling, but only when I ask why. Why did I like or dislike a heroine? Why was I bored and skimming through sections? How did an author craft a believable romance versus one that made me roll my eyes? What did I like about a hero that made him memorable? What parts of the steamy scenes drew me in? Bored me? Made me skim them to get them over with?

I am going to try to keep up with reading more, even if it means writing less. We’ll see if I still feel this way in a couple of weeks, but I am hoping it helps with the quality of my writing (and revising).

Besides, I love a good book.

3 Things to Do When You Just Don't Wanna Write Anymore

I am supposed to be doing yet another revision then packaging up my manuscript for submission. Again.

It didn’t start out as a terrible revision. Give the heroine a bit more backstory and a secret about what she did to survive as a serf in a land ruled by undead. Make the hero want more than just to take her to safety. Make him want to know the ins and outs of how the home she’s escaping from works to give his side an advantage should it come to war.

Seemed easy enough.

Then I started worrying that maybe the hero came off as too soft and needed to make sure his alpha characteristics came through. Also doable.

But I don’t wanna. I just don’t.

Sure, I spend my hour a day sitting in front of the computer screen, but it’s not the same. I feel like my creativity disappeared and took any desire I had to write with it. I used to skip off to my laptop after the kids were in bed and try to snitch a few extra minutes here and there. Now, I boot up Word and just sort of look at it before letting Time Thieves steal into my thoughts.

  • DD could use a new raincoat. And maybe a swimsuit for this summer.
  • Do I need to put another order in for diapers for the baby?
  • Ooooh, MacBook in rose gold with the new skylake processor. I need a new laptop. When does the MacBook pro come out with skylake?

I’d love to give you three steps I used to get my mojo back, but I haven’t found them yet.

DH asked me why I write. I have thought long and hard about it, and I don’t know. It’s a lot of work. Hours and hours of work. I have been writing on and off since I was a kid. I write for a while, get discouraged and put it away, only to bring it out again years later.

So why do I get discouraged? I have finished several novels in my lifetime. None of them published.

lake-dusia-111994_640

And there it is.

All this work, all this effort, and never the validation that its even worth someone else reading.

I “know” publishing isn’t the end all and be all of being a writer, but it is a part of it. How many artists would spend 150 hours or more on a painting only to stuff it in a closet for no one to see?

I’d love to give you a list of what I’ve done to get back my mojo. I don’t have one yet. But here are:

Three Things I’m Doing When I Just Don’t Wanna Write Anymore

  1. Sit at the computer every night – I am still spending my hour working on my manuscript every night. No, it’s not as productive as it was, but I don’t want to lose this hour I’ve carved out for myself
  2. Read More – I’m still a much bigger fan of printed books than ebooks, but I am learning to be okay with ebooks because there are so many more titles available for them. I then went and bought (read some, still reading others) a couple of books I normally wouldn’t have. Thinking through what I like and don’t like about a new-to-me author has helped me think about some of own work in a different way.
  3. Exercising – I still have issues with the ankle I broke back in November and am starting physical therapy for it. Part of this process included the doctor giving me clearance for low impact exercise, so I can now walk or use my elliptical again. If I’m on the elliptical, I read. If I walk, I chat with DH or just let myself think.