Thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog, Marie!
Today, we are talking about the wild and crazy ride of getting from "It was a dark and stormy night..." to "Yaaaay! You're officially published." There was an article I read by Dave Barry who talked about a flight he took to California. Everyone boarded and while they were waiting to take off, he randomly started asking people how much they paid for their ticket. The answer was not surprising: No one on that flight paid the same fare. So is it with authors: No one's journey is the same.
122 Rules is my second book, published by Pandamoon Publishing. My first one, Birth of an American Gigolo, I chose to self-publish last January. It's been a crazy crazy whirlwind adventure. Surprising, as incredibly different as these two books are, they actually started out as the same story. I'm a bit of a rabbit trail follower. In the middle of writing 122, a side story of a woman and her cheating husband emerged. Even at the time, I knew I'd have to pull it because it didn't fit, but Lindsey is a bit assertive and would not rest until her tale had been told. After I wrote it, I put it on a shelf, where it collected dust for the better part of four years.
In the interim, I finished 122 and joined a critique partner group. I was paired with a wickedly smart (and incredibly beautiful) woman, Erin Rhew, to help with my grammar (my books are basically long-winded emails) and to critique the story. She did Birth first, then worked on 122. We started talking in the comments sections of those manuscripts. Those conversations lead to emails, which lead to phone calls, which lead to FaceTime. Erin and I have been married for almost two years now. So no matter what happens I'll always be a smashing success because my love of writing led me to the love of my life.
See how I told you no two authors' paths are the same?
Okay, so the books...Well, I wrote query letter after query letter and have a wall of rejection letters to show for my efforts. I never got a single request for more. Not a full request, not a "send more chapters." Zilch. I got my break during #PitMad on Twitter. Since Erin and I were really busy preparing to sell a house, I was going to skip the event, but she told me to take a few minutes and write some tweets. Maybe it's because I didn't have time to overthink that it worked? I received several requests for my manuscript, one of whom, Pandamoon, offered me a contract.
Fast-forward through the long, arduous editing process, creating a cover, sending out ARCs, so on and so on, and here we are. My book has been out for almost six months, and I couldn't be happier with it.
You need to be prepared for your editors to teach you some lessons. Erin is so super smart in grammar, and I can't even begin to tell you how much she taught me about passive voice, leaving "this" dangling without pointing to things, the evils of adverbs, and so forth. My content editor, Anya, is so good at the macro level of a story. We moved, removed, and added things like crazy for the better part of five months. Some of it hurt SO bad. Erin's friend, Heather, taught Erin and I both about "talking heads"--long strings of dialog without any character action--and how to fix that.
It's indescribable how much better this story is because of all the people who've helped me learn the writing craft. I've still got a ton to learn, but I'm beyond grateful to have such wonderful peeps willing and able to help.
I think the biggest takeaways from all of this are:
A) Be patient - This is a SLOW process. You are learning a new craft, and the writing/publishing process NEVER moves as fast as you want it to.
B) Be humble - You will think your story is pretty good. It will resonate with you, and you'll nod and pat yourself on the back. Then an editor comes and throws cold water on your warm fuzzies. This isn't personal. The road to getting better is anything but easy.
C) Listen - These people are trying to help you become a better writer and to make your book better. Listen to them.
D) Learn - Everyone wants you to succeed, but you have many many lessons to get there. Learn the lessons and incorporate them. Do NOT listen, nod, then go back to what you were doing.
Remember: You can always be better.
I’ll leave you with this little story. Before I started writing I played bass as a music major. One of the things you have to learn in jazz is how to solo. You can prepare for one, plan it out and know exactly what you are going to play, but generally solos are usually made up on the fly. My private bass tutor Tom Wakeling gave me the best advice I’d ever heard and it applies to most anything you are learning.
He said that you have ten thousand turkeys—a.k.a. “bad”—solos in you. The sooner you get them out, the sooner you can start giving good solos.
In writing, you have ten thousand turkeys—a.k.a. writing mistakes—in you. The sooner you get them out, the sooner you will be writing well.
Until next time, my friends. Adventure on!